Category Archives: Travel

Lucky 13

I am in Paros once again, giving the annual yoga vacation that, as of this year, has morphed into the now-annual yoga and meditation vacation. Once again I feel my soul land here. Once again I find myself at home, this time with a very rudimentary grasp of the basics of the Greek language. Once again the group that has assembled is beyond beautiful, as a micro community as well on an individual basis. Once again our senses are oversaturated by the air, water, sun and sand that feel like nowhere else…by the food that never tastes as good elsewhere in the world…by the smells of oregano, salty air, cooking food and sun-soaked skin…by the sounds of the wind propelled by the Anemoi, the crash of the waves, the fizzle of salty water bubbling when one’s head goes under the water in the sea…by the spectrum of blues that beg us to reconsider the color wheel and the soft pink that illuminates the horizon as Eos opens the gates of heaven for Helios to begin the process of streaking the sun through the sky.

This trip is the 13th I have given, marked today, the 13th of September, and reinforced by the endless signs, graffiti tags and digital readouts of “13” that are all over the island. The fifth journey to Paros, the thirteenth overall. It’s a milestone. One borne of luck, good choices and hard work, and which was described to me today by someone here with us as, “the trip of my lifetime.”

Here’s to the years and years to come, replete with more lovely people filled with shared intention, traveling across the world to experience these events that can barely be described, but leave us speechless once living them. And thank you, to every one of you who has been a part of our jaunts, is here in Greece now, and will be with us on future travels.

Barcelona Musings

I was awake last night at 2am with some residual jet lag on my first night here in Barcelona for the Yoga City Break, and as I typically do, I got to reflecting on how really, truly grateful I am to be able to do what I do for work. I shouldn’t even call it work, but it does fall into the “career” category, so it’s the most succinct word I have for the time being.

I began my yoga vacations in 2011. Since then some of you have joined me in Santorini, Mljet (Croatia), Istanbul, Paros (the fifth trip there takes place September 8-18 later this year), Berlin, Bali, Ravello on the Amalfi Coast, Prague, and now some of you are on a plane on your way to join me here. It’s kind of overwhelming to look back at everywhere we’ve journeyed to, and I find myself feeling emotional about being able to instigate these trips around the world.

My intention in working on the planning and execution of these voyages is manifold. I want to bring people to beautiful places in the world so they can experience those moments that thrill and fulfill in only the ways that travel can offer. I want to instigate the shifting of perspective for others so that they can see newness and remember what that is like. I want to remind you all what life can be like when you take a risk and go do something for yourselves, even in the presence of all the responsibility you’ve signed up for in your lives. I want to offer a group travel structure that those who are too intimidated by traveling solo can find comfort in. I want to remind us all what it’s like to live life fuller and bigger and more awesome than we’re typically encouraged to do.

This may sound wholly benevolent of me, but trust me when I say that there is a need in me that is fulfilled by making all of this happen, and trust me when I say that it can be incredibly demanding, grueling, time-consuming and emotionally draining. My purpose in life is to make the experience of life better, more positive and enjoyable for others, and when I succeed in accomplishing that, I am fed on a soul-level. It galvanizes me to use my resources, time, energy, and accidents of life to the best of my ability to make these trips happen, and run as smoothly as they possibly can given all the free agents that exist in whatever environment we find ourselves in.

I realize that the path to roll these vacations out is more unobstructed for me because of my gender and skin colour. I understand how my privilege plays a role in being able to do this, and I try, to the best of my ability, to use it responsibly and inclusively. I also am aware of how, with one tiny change in this narrative I find myself living, all of this could never have been, and how it could also change.

I don’t take any of this for granted. As I type these words overlooking the rooftops of Barcelona, I count my blessings and pat myself on the back for my role in showing up efficiently and responsibly to have contributed to this moment occurring. I don’t expect people to sign up for these trips, and when they do, and when they sell out, trust me once more when I say that I am grateful. Grateful that hard graft and divine grace continue to work synergistically so that I can continue to make my soul hum by offering you all the opportunity to do the same.

For those of you on your way here, I’m waiting to see you with a massive hug and a week ahead of living life awake and to its fullest. For those of you who have joined me on past trips, I hope that you still have the fondest of memories of our time together. For those of you who will be joining me on future trips, get ready for some beautiful moments of community and connection.

Sending peace and sunshine from Barcelona.

Bxx

Paros Musings Pt 3

I just woke up after the deepest sleep I’ve had here over the last two weeks, and as usual, the dogs are barking in a call and response manner, the roosters are crowing (don’t get excited, they do it all day, every day…even a broken clock accurately tells the time twice a day), and the birds are chirping. But instead of just taking it all in, the thought, “It’s the last day” came hurdling through my mind, and with it the onslaught of emotions.

This year’s group of people is a special one. Every year I fall right into the community we create, and every year I feel all the big feels when it’s time to splinter apart and go back into the world to resume where we left off just over a week ago. My hope is that those people who join me for these trips around the world find something unique and worth integrating into their lives, and then go back home and do exactly that. Last night one of the students here texted me to let me know that, “Need you to know this experience has changed my life.” And I couldn’t reply because even though that’s my intention in putting myself out into the world, I get so emotional when it actually happens that I can hardly put into words a response that conveys my gratitude and emotions.

For those of you who are still here, sleeping for the next few minutes before you get up to take our last yoga class together in Paros for this year, I want to thank you. Thank you for taking a risk and coming here for this event, because I know every single one of you did. Whether your risk was a financial one, whether it was related to leaving your family or your kids for this length of time, whether it was related to asking for time off, for yourself, to travel and get some introspection time, or whether it was related to joining a group of people you didn’t know to share an experience you couldn’t have envisioned, I thank you. Know that for me to execute my dharma in this life, I need other people to be on the receiving end of what I put out into the world, and your presence here closes the circle for me and for us all. Thank you for taking your risks. I hope that it either continues the pattern of doing so, or instigates a new one that reminds us all of the glory that is possible when we jump beyond our comfort zones.

I’m going to be the most unprofessional mess of emotions and childish “I don’t want this to end” thoughts today. But I know that although it may feel like the end of something, in actuality, for every single one of us, it really is a new beginning of sorts. I hate to sound like a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason. I wish you all the highest of life’s highs, the wisdom to navigate the lowest of life’s lows, and the presence of mind to know your Self and your potency as you make your way forward. Know that I am here for you all, wherever we may be in any given moment, and always remember this time we had. No one could know exactly how beautiful is has been, and still is. Only us. Take the energy of our community and the beauty of Paros and bring it back with you.

With gratitude and so. much. LOVE,

Bxx

Paros Musings 2017

I’m lying in bed at 3am after getting a solid 3 hours of sleep following 36 hours of transit with a full 15 minutes of snooze time getting to Greece. This world traveler couldn’t sleep on a plane if his life depended on it, and so after the coma-like slumber I fell into at 9:30pm wore off, here I am back on Montreal time.

The balcony doors are open overlooking the sea and the island of Naxos on this full-moon night, and floating directly above the island, in my line of sight from my bed, are the bottom three stars of the Little Dipper. They’re twinkling at me, playing games with my eyes as I try to focus on them, only to have them dance around and have me question the stability of their placement in the universe (as well as my 43+ year vision.) Before I know what’s happening, my index finger has floated up and I’m tracing the line of this constellation, careful not to wake up my husband, who has just fallen asleep, long after I did at 9:30pm. *** TANGENT ALERT*** I find it odd calling him my husband. Male same-sex couples need a new term to refer to each counterpart, me thinks. Boyfriend is ridiculous, as if we’re in the initial stages of dating and are still trying to show each other how much of a keeper we each are. Life Partner doesn’t sit well with me either, as if we’re going yachting on weekends in our topsiders and referring to life as “grand.” I guess husband will have to do for the time being. He’s my husband, and I’m his. I’ll let it lie for now. By the way, this is what the cultural influences of the 70’s and 80’s have resulted in, so maybe I should stop praying for a linguistic revolution and just own my fucking happiness. #thingsnogaymantalksabout ***TANGENT ENDED***

Back to the Little Dipper (no euphemism insinuated.) I’m so happy to be back here in Paros, my soul-grounding, energy-recharging home, that I could cry. And observing the ability to shift that vibration in that way, through tears, has me thinking. There is a cultural belief that real men don’t cry. That no matter what happens, tears are not an option for men. To anyone who actually believes that, I invite you to look at who taught you that, and why.

I cry when grief overwhelms me, when happiness is so palpable that my body vibrates with it, when I’m so afraid that the tension has to shift somehow, when I’m so emotionally touched by someone or a situation that I can feel their emotional narrative, when I laugh so hard that I’m either going to cry or have a heart attack. I believe that boys who are taught not to cry are essentially being told to choose a heart attack over tears, to choose a lifetime of internalized anguish and tension, to opt for physical pain that ends up armouring the body into a hard shell of defence mechanisms, and that, ultimately, might result in a heart attack, or some other life-ending medical trauma.

I’ll choose the tears, thanks. And you can believe whatever you want to believe, but I know that real men cry. Because this one does, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’ll go back now to my first night back here in Greece, where the roosters didn’t get the memo that crowing is supposed to happen at sunrise, not every time a cricket rubs its legs together, and where the packs of barking dogs have me wondering if they ever sleep. These sounds are new again to me, as they are every time I return to this homeland of mine. In a few nights’ time, I won’t even clock them, but for now, I do. And I’m so grateful I could cry.

The Beat Goes On

When, as a teenager, I would complain about something to my mom, she would bring attention to the frivolity of my moaning by asking me, “Have you lived? Have you loved? Have you suffered?” 

When I saw this mural today in Barcelona, I immediately recognized the heart that continues to beat with love even after it’s been stamped on, pierced, shattered and patched up. This is what a heart that has lived, loved and suffered looks like, and it resonates with me.

Post-Paros Musings

I am sitting poolside at Margarita Studios, the location where we have spent the last ten days practicing yoga, sharing meals, laughing, bonding and basking in the Parian energy that keeps me coming back with different groups of friends and students year after year. It is always emotional for me to say goodbye to the people with whom community was built during these events, and this moment is no different. The degree of joy that came from every person throughout our stay and the oversaturation of beauty that we soaked up from this island is simply not communicable through mere words. This time we have shared together is a concentrated moment of intense radiance, one that every one of us will be illuminated by when our thoughts meander back to our time together. 


Once again I am struck by how fortunate I am to be able to bring people from all over the world to experience the incomparable beauty that is Paros. It is because of how affected this year’s group is by what they’ve absorbed here that I have decided to announce the 2017 Yoga Vacation on the Greek Island of Paros. For all of you who have been following our time here through social media and have been feeling drawn to what you’ve seen, begin your planning now! We will return here September 9-19, 2017. Shared/double occupancy – $1550+taxes, single occupancy – $1950+taxes…AND, there will be a $100 discount offered to every person who has previously joined our groups over the last 5 years! Block the time off work, start shopping for your airline tickets and get ready for an experience you will never forget! Contact me at bram.levinson@gmail.com for info or to register!


To all of you whose energies still surround me as I sit here in the space that we have all imprinted through this trip, please know how grateful I am to have been able to observe your experience in Paros. Seeing that joy and experience of wonderment is exactly why I work so hard to make these journeys possible. Sharing meals and laughs, in the spirit of family, was a privilege, and I’m looking forward to reuniting in the near future. 


With love, Bram

The Sights We Have Seen

I’m writing this from the island of Paros in Greece with only a few hours before the 2016 yoga group arrives, and I’m feeling nostalgic. Five years ago I set off on a new branch of my career by organizing my first-ever solo yoga retreat on the Greek island of Santorini. I remember how fiercely I was plagued by doubt when I was about to begin the PR on that event. I also remember consciously pushing aside all uncertainty, firm in the knowledge that because my intention to share wisdom in one of the most beautiful geographical locations on earth was so pure and honorable, I trusted that all would go well. And it did. It has. For five years now. 

I am beyond grateful to everyone who has joined me on the globe trotting we’ve done so far. From Santorini to Mljet (Croatia), Istanbul (Turkey) to Paros (Greece), Berlin (Germany) to Bali (Indonesia), Ravello (Italy) to Paros (again!!), Prague (Czech Republic) back to Paros (AGAIN!!!). We have seen, and continue to see, the world because doing so gets us out of our comfort zones and our routines, allows us to meet people we may never have come across and see just how similar we are, despite language and cultural differences, and gives us the opportunity to make memories that will always be saturated with beauty.

Thank you. To every one of you who has taken whatever risks you’ve taken to invest the time, money and energy in your own well being. Thank you for placing your trust in me. And thank you for your friendship, because the best by product of these trips is the friendships that have grown into family bonds.

Here are some images from the last 5 years. Here’s to the next 5, and the 5 after those, and the 5 after those…you get the gist 🙂 

Re-Repairing My Cabin


Let me set the scene for you: I’m lying back on a zero-gravity garden lounger on the stone terrace that separates the Old Rectory from the sprawling green lawn that rolls away from the house for some fifty meters. The lawn sprawls away into the overhang of the wall of trees that softly shades the spearmint green of the grass into a dwindling palette of shaded greys and muted blacks. The irony of the vibrant morphing into the gloomy isn’t lost on me knowing that on the other side of the fence that borders the immense lawn and gardens is the Litcham church cemetery.

I’m back in England. It’s been a year and a half since I’ve been here, the place and people I have been coming back to annually for the last twenty years. It’s rare to have people in one’s life who have consistently and uninterruptedly been present, in all respects of the word, for almost thirty years. I am beyond grateful to be privy to that rare blessing, and have been coming back to England to spend time with her, her husband and their two boys (one of whom is my godson), all of whom I consider to be my extended family. 


I’m here in July, which is somewhat of an anomaly considering I usually make my jaunts over in the dead of the January winter. That period of the year is usually down-time for me career-wise, but after five years of exposing myself to the cold damp that introduced me to the James Herbert-esque weather condition known as freezing fog, I decided to explore the warmer clime of early July.

I’m surrounded by wild lavender shrubs, serenaded by cooing doves and pigeons and, in the distance, the low-rumbling swishing of passing cars. The sun is out, warming the legs of my jeans as bumblebees, drunk from the pollen of the lavender, dive bomb past my head. I’m relaxing, which might sound typical given the nature of my work, but the last 7 months have been anything but relaxing. Since January 2016 I have succeeded in promoting my latest book, A Year In The Light, and have done more teaching in classes, workshops, teacher trainings and conferences than ever before. I have also over-scheduled myself, running myself relatively ragged until two months of antibiotics were required to help me regain the balance in my health and life that I had lost in the pursuit of helping others. You know that expression, “The carpenter’s cabin is the one most crooked?” I’m repairing my cabin. Again.

And so I am here, with no intention of working or committing to anything other than relaxing for the next two weeks. And yet, with the seemingly easiest of tasks before me, I find myself once again applying everything I have learned and taught. A daunting task now that it is just me and my thoughts, no distractions or commitments. 


My mind is entrepreneurial by nature. I am my own boss, and am passionately dedicated to my career of guiding others down their paths, helping to facilitate their journey. I am constantly thinking. About the next project, students and clients, scheduling, the administrative side to my business, and countless other facets of my career. And that’s just the stuff related to my work that keeps my mind whirling. Add to that courses and continuing education, my relationship, friendships, family, my dog, life, etc… It’s a lot for one brain to process, and I know that I’m not alone, that we all download and store copious amounts of data that either stays stored, gets extrapolated for some purpose or another or pops up in the randomest of moments to remind us of the connectivity and non-randomness of life. And I’m having trouble unplugging my thoughts from the “doing” outlet they are normally plugged into so I can replug them into the “being” outlet where there’s no need to plan the next project or consider how to keep my marketing fresh and compelling.

I woke up last night at 3am, still on Montreal time, but slowly acclimating to the UK time zone. After a few minutes of realizing my thoughts were wandering into aspects of my life that would keep me awake, I did what I always do and refocused on body sensing, the art of noticing sensations in different parts of my body. This exercise of focusing the mind usually lulls me into sleep within minutes. It took longer last night, and I was aware of the extra effort it took to drift back off into sleep.


Today I keep noticing the pull towards doing; filming something for my YouTube channel, starting the new online course I’m enrolled in, working to put together next year’s yoga retreats. With the intention of not working, I instead pulled out a novel from my friends’ bookshelves and started reading, only to observe my thoughts wandering away on a path of their own. 

It will take a few days for me to successfully unplug and replug. The process is, quite simply, fascinating, regardless of how much time I’ve spent in my life practicing the art of concentration. It’s an art that demands one always remain a beginner, and I, once again, find myself at the starting line.

This is the closest to work I’ll be doing for the next couple of weeks, and an essential step in my detaching, as writing usually allows me to process and then let go. If your email goes unanswered, trust I’ll get to it once I’m back home. My absence is intentional, and sorely needed for my sanity and the sustainability of my work. 

Your work? Notice your thoughts, in any and all moments. Notice how you unplug and replug, from one outlet to another. For myself, I’ll refocus my gaze onto the bee-populated lavender and the music of Turin Brakes drifting out from the front door of the house.

Peace to us all.

Berlin Musings

As I take some time following the Prague Yoga Vacation to unwind in Berlin, I find myself observing sensations and emotions bubbling up that fascinate me. 

I’m in my favourite city in the world, the one I’d live in if I ever left Montreal. The current weather is hot and sunny, and all is well in my world. And yet, even with all of that in place, I still feel a yearning. For what? No idea. But it’s there. An itch, a restlessness, a hunger. It may be the swell that propels my current creative projects into structure and form, it may be the knowledge that I go back home this week. Regardless, it’s there.

I’m left wondering if we ever really find what we’re looking for, if we ever truly find long-term, full-spectrum, 360-degree peace. And trust me, I know that typical yoga psycho-babble would have me recite some Hallmark affirmation about the universe providing or meditating on it all. My version of that would be to simply observe, to ask questions and know that this experience may seem individual, but is quite the opposite. I believe we live with the hunger of the unfulfilled. 

And so, the conclusion I have come to is that if we live authentically, aligned with our individual dreams and intuition, then we do find what we’re seeking, but only temporarily. Pockets of perfection, I like to call them. I often experience these moments when I’m teaching or lecturing, when I find myself exactly where I want to be (like here in Berlin) and, most intensely, when I find connection with others. 

There’s always a wistfulness when these pockets of perfection, these heartbreakingly pure moments begin to fade, slowly transitioning into what was. But I am awake enough to recognize them as they occur, and even more so when I have faith that there are more waiting for me as I navigate my way through this experience of life. 

The final word here? Make your pockets of perfection. They rarely come to you without effort and perseverance. Make more moments that inspire you to keep making more moments. Have faith that they’re just around the bend. I’ll do the same and we can compare notes along the way 🙂

Falling Free

IMG_6787I’ve been back from Greece for almost two weeks and one moment stands out in my memory more than others. All the students had left the island and Stephane and I were lying down in the sand dunes on a beach after spending the morning editing my upcoming book. We spent hours there soaking up the heat, going to cool off in the crystal blue waters of the Aegean sea and then coming back to our towels to simply laze around. It had been years since I had lounged around like that and it was wonderful. Once the sun started to descend and the lighting became more of a soft glow on the sand and the sea, we packed up our stuff and started walking back to our car. I was almost overcome by the feeling of fullness, of completeness, of being so, so grateful to be alive to experience this feeling of being alive. I told Stephane how lucky we were, and he replied by saying how we may be lucky to have bodies that are healthy and functional and to live in a part of the world where democracy and freedom reign, but that the rest of it was up to us. He reminded me that all the decisions I make in my life, the ones I make for how I will create space for my students at home and abroad as well as the ones I make that are in keeping with how I want my life to be, have nothing to do with luck. They have to do with intention, hard work, perseverance and a stubbornness to never settle for anything less than exactly what I envision.

I believe that everyone should be living the life they dream of. I believe that every one of us should be making decisions that bring us to a place where we are so grateful to be alive and to experience the wonder and the greatness that is available to those of us who are lucky enough to have food, shelter, health and freedom. Everything I do in my career is intended to facilitate the journey towards living those moments for all of you who read my words, hear me lecture, take my classes & workshops and follow me around the world for our yoga vacations.

Pursue your joy. At every opportunity. Live those moments that leave you vibrating with vitality, gratitude and wonder. A life not lived in joy is a life that will potentially end in bitterness, resentment and regret. That is not how we are meant to live. Pursue your joy and don’t settle for anything less.