Category Archives: Yoga

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

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Paros Musings 2017 Pt 2

It’s 5am and I’m awake listening to the roosters and the dogs calling their existences into the pitch black night. Students and friends have begun to arrive for our yoga event that officially kicks off tomorrow, and after showing one of them around last night and hearing her constantly remark about how peaceful it is here, I flippantly remarked how there’s always one night every September where a wedding occurs in the area. And it’s a full-on Greek wedding. The music starts blaring for allllll to hear around 9 or 10pm and lasts until the wee hours of the morning. That conversation occurred at 10:30pm.

The music just stopped at 4:50am. This couldn’t even be scripted. And, ironically, I only woke up when the music stopped. I think that I may be an honorary Greek, after passing this final initiation stage.

And so I’m awake, reflecting. This kind of late-night introspection never happens anywhere else in the world. It is part of how my soul lands here. I effortlessly begin to look back, something I almost rarely do in this way, one that’s devoid of judgement and which is purely observational. And in these early hours of the morning, I’m taking stock of the people who have given me the breaks that have allowed them to see who I really am and what I’m actually capable of, aspects of myself that aren’t visible superficially.

I’ve always known there was something bigger than what I had been exposed to that was waiting for me, ever since I was young. It was because of that knowing that conventional education did very little for me and seemingly asked everything of me. As soon as I could gauge that whatever I was studying was not going to bring me towards that sense of purpose and greatness I knew lay in wait, I left in pursuit of more illuminated avenues. But we judge each other based on the superficial details that the commonly accepted avenues of our culture guide us towards, and believe me when I say that for the first 35 years of my life, I can count on one hand the number of people who saw in me what I knew was there. I take full responsibility for it, as I didn’t understand what form it would take, and so I couldn’t raise my voice and ask anyone to believe in what I could not name, and so know that I have earned my place in the world, I have worked to get where I am. No American Idol/The Voice bullshit here. I earned it by trusting that I knew better than the pressure I felt to just shut up and get a 9-5 job working for someone else to profit off of. That could never represent security to me, on the contrary. That life would kill me.

There are people who have, however, elevated me so that I could make my way down this winding, often bleak, path. My grandmother, Lillian Berlin, who always reminded me that cream rose to the top and that I was that cream. Danielle Cossette, my 6th grade French teacher, who made me valedictorian as my grade finished primary school and left for high school. Rick Hinojosa, who gave me a job at his boutique Juan & Juanita back in 1995 and allowed me to begin earning financially during a time when I felt left behind by the educational system. Jennifer Maagendans, a dear friend and owner of Luna Yoga, who gave me my first job in yoga and one of the most efficient, on-the-job yoga teacher trainings that could never be offered to the public. Kaeleigh Doherty, a friend and then-Lululemon employee who told me that her store wanted me as an ambassador and that they would wait for me to finish my first training to then take me on. The Lululemon team who got me teaching at Wanderlust all those years ago, and who flew me around Canada for mind-blowing ambassador summits. The Wanderlust team who help me up my game with every gig. Kreg Weiss, who gunned for me professionally and who encouraged me to get in touch with Ruth van der Voort at the Toronto Yoga Conference. And these are just the people that come to mind now, at 5:30am.

To those people who let me do my thing and simply held space for it, know that you have my gratitude forever. You have encouraged me to keep finding my way, and I know there are more massive milestones ahead. Keep an eye out, because some of the stuff I’m working on for the near future, like what has unrolled so far, will be unlike anything that could be expected. Because that’s how I’m supposed to do this, authentically and with certainty.

It’s also how you are supposed to do you. Consider that all these words are meant to reflect back to you what’s possible, to keep looking for the ones who will give you a break as you find your way forward your own way, unapologetically and uniquely yourself. Work hard, earn it, be the best version of yourself possible, and don’t give up. Give others their breaks so that energy can come back to you. Live big. And trust that it’s all possible. Because it is.

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.

My Work

I don't want to deal with the state of today's world.

I don't want to find excuses or justifications for what I object to, to the injustices that seem to be becoming more and more commonplace, simply to quell my dumbfoundedness and indignation. I don't want to judge, and I don't want to call myself on my judgements because I know that there's already too much judgement being slung around like stones at a stoning. I don't want to placate myself by attempting to cultivate patience as I wait for the world leaders who are abusing their power to fall into the annals of history. I don't want to see the virtuous and the kind suffer, and I don't want to see those that think solely of themselves, with no regard for the well being of others, effortlessly float through existence. I don't want to see the ignorant venom that gets spewed out in 140 characters or less, and I don't want to see my fellow humans get to the end of their lives believing that what they learn through news channels about other faiths, beliefs and points of view is a proper education.

There's a lot I don't want. But like it or not, this is. It all is, undeniably. And I have a choice as to whether I'm going to rant and rave and object and age into a curmudgeonly, bitter man, or if I'm going to do everything I can to work with my own feelings of anger, disbelief, disappointment and fear so that I acknowledge and experience them fully, and then occasionally alter those vibrations into different ones that lift my spirits. I have a choice as to whether the sensations my body experiences day in and day out are "negative" and harmful, or whether they soothe my senses and help to prioritize calm and clarity above all else. I have a choice as to what I focus on, understanding that the object of my attention will dictate the quality of my experience of every single moment.

And so, I pick my battles. I do great things for other people. I help other people with their most difficult obstacles. I bring laughter to situations that are laughable, even when they're tragically so. I elevate others. I am kind to myself. I make time to do whatever the hell I want for myself to balance out the time and effort I dedicate to my work and mission. I balance discipline and comfort, finally understanding how necessary they both are.

I accept the state of today's world, don't get me wrong. But I am hell-bent on making sure it doesn't get the better of me. More so, I do what I can, exceeding personal expectations, to make this world a better place. It's the only thing I can realistically do.

That's my work.

Yoga, Spirituality & Gender: Interview with Lina Bradford

One of the facets of the Hindu and Yogic teachings that not only resonates with me, but which I find glaringly relevant today, is the reidentification of Self. In multiple scriptures we are taught that identifying with appearances (specifically the bodies we inhabit) equates with ignorance and the wise know to identify with the energy that animates them. We are taught that we are not our bodies, but rather the spark of energy that is embodied by them, a concept that seems to inform and shed light on the journey of many transgender children and adults alike. This teaching is something I learned decades ago before my studies in spirituality began, and my “teacher” was one of the most vibrant and unique people I have ever known.

In 1992 I was going out to clubs in Montreal with my then-partner and our circle of friends, and it was in a club one night that I saw one of the dancers up on a speaker doing her thing like no one was watching. She was sleek and lithe, looking like a glamazon character from the not-so-recent past, and she was PERFORMING. Whereas the other hired dancers were doing their best to not fall off their perches, this girl was working that platform like she was onstage at Madison Square Garden. She was lip synching to the songs, interacting with the crowd on the dance floor, and I. Was. Mesmerized. I had never seen such raw talent before, never been so captivated by someone who so obviously had that “it” factor that stars are made of. In fact, the first time I ever saw Beyoncé perform I thought, “I’ve seen this act before.” The moves, the attitude, the presence, the energy, all of it was done before. And I had seen it with my own eyes, mere feet away from the spectacle.

After casually speaking to her for a while, my friends and I eventually became good friends with the girl who would become known as Girlina to the 1990’s New York City Club Kid community, and who would later morph into Lina Bradford.

Meeting Lina all those years ago was part of my education in gender identity, in truly seeing someone as their personality and how it expressed itself, as opposed to the gender of the body it animated. I had seen drag queens perform at that point in my life, and had appreciated the good ones who had real stage presence. But seeing Lina perform was something entirely different. She was no drag queen. This was no drag. There was no exaggerated flamboyance. Every single time I saw her, whether on a stage or getting ready for bed when I slept over at her place after ordering dirty pizza at 3AM, she was unapologetically herself. Feminine energy with a masculine bite to her sense of humour, compassionate, loving, street-smart and worldly, Lina joked that she was a “gender illusionist,” but the term was really just a tool for those who didn’t know how to wrap their brains around her brilliance. Even her languaging, the way she spoke, was so unique, her vocabulary so of her own invention, that it became known as “girlingo” in the 90’s club circles. To me she was a superstar, a warrior, a Goddess of mythical proportions. And she still is.

Lina is exactly the same woman today she was 25 years ago when we met. She was obsessed with Barbie dolls, often making their couture outfits herself, and that obsession has grown into the theme of her YouTube talk show In The Dollhouse With Lina, now moving into its third series. She is a sought-after DJ, playing for crowds across the globe, corporate events, and even spinning on ABC’s The View for her pal Whoopi Goldberg’s birthday celebration.

Lina showed me what it meant to be authentic, to be unfailingly yourself, all those years ago when we didn’t have a transgender movement and when LGBTQ rights were a distant hope for the future. She did it all with an infectious laugh, killer style, and the ability to leave you emotionally moved beyond compare. She was truly ahead of her time, and the world is now cluing in to her vibration. She was, and is, her own work of art. To label Lina is to limit who and what she is. She is a force. She is an energy. She is everything manifested as newness, charisma, talent and light. Her spirituality runs deep, and one has to only visit her Facebook page to find her daily words of inspiration and affirmation, like this one from April 24, 2017,

“I will speak only positive words of faith and victory over myself, my family, and my future. I will not use my words to describe my situation. I will use my words to change my situation. I will call in favor, good breaks, healing, and restoration. I will not talk to God about how big my problems are. I will talk to my problems about how big my God is. This is my declaration.”

I spoke with her last week and followed up by sending her some questions I wanted her take on. I am so fortunate that we are still in each other’s lives, and I cheer her on with every success she adds to her roster. DJ, actress, dancer, entertainer, talk-show host, board member of GMHC, and friend. That’s who Lina Bradford is to me, and it’s my honour and responsibility to use my voice to help elevate her to the heights that have been her birthright.

Q – Meeting you was the first time I had met someone whom I truly believed had a body whose gender did not align with the energy that animated it, with the expression that was meant to be shared with the world. Talk to me about your experience as a transgender woman.

A – Well I have always been Spiritually connected and with this comes self awareness and discovery. I have never felt disconnected to my body. My Being has always been an alarm clock with which to morph, and when I speak to young transgender children I explain, “Allow yourself 2 know yourself, be a well rounded Being b4 anything, then alignment will bring you where & when it’s meant to be”. So my Essence is & will always be of All & One, of embodying both my masculinity & femininity. It is key in my Life as balance, back then & always.


Q – Do you agree with the spiritual teaching that we are not our bodies, but rather the energy that animates them?

A – I am on another planet with that (philosophy and belief), however in being here with where you’re coming from, it’s a 💯 Yes!!

Q – Tell me what you believe to be true about why we are here and what we are meant to do with our time.

A – I myself have lived numerous moments, so I know that there’s too much out there to be swayed and (influenced) by what mainstream society sells you on!

Q – What do you believe is your dharma, your mission, what you alone are supposed to bring to the rest of us in the world?

A – I have always known by spiritual guides and the two cherubs on my shoulders that I am a people person, and bringing together lights and energy is my job. I know my purpose and live it daily. Princess of light.

Q – In the 25 years that we’ve known each other, I have never seen you defeated, never seen you afraid, never known you to be anything other than powerful and certain with every dance move, career move, acting gig and public appearance. How do you manage fear and anxiety in your life? How do you deal with them? 

A – Thank jew so dearly for those words, I regard you high in my book of love. Being connected and receptive to Energy & The Universe keeps me so rite 4 my blood type, so to say. I am steered away from negativity and kept on my path. Nothing can slow my roll!!!

Q – I’ve spoken and written about our echoes, essentially giving a name to the energy we each project into the world and which trails behind in our wake, outlasting us after our bodies die. What do you want to leave behind for the world after this body goes and the Self moves onto the next phase of its manifestation?

A – I think we all want to be remembered for whatever beautiful accomplishments we’ve done in our life, and what I want to leave behind is the love and light that I see and bring out of the people. That’s what makes me shine on the daily.


Q – What do you want the world to know? Based on your life lessons and overcoming adversity, what wisdom would you share with the world?

A – Never feel defeated. We have the power to heal and take our selves anywhere we want. When you believe in yourself you sell yourself to the rest of the world, you are EVERNESS!!!

For all Lina-related info, visit her website at http://djlina.com/.

The Most Important Decision We Have To Make

A good friend’s father passed away today.

We know that death is a part of life, and those of us who delve into and study spirituality and the faith/belief systems that provide insight into them know death to be a transition as opposed to an ending. But that knowledge does little to alleviate the human experience of grief, of despair, of suffering and of loss. These are biological, mental and somatic experiences that spare no one, much like death itself.

Knowing that suffering lies in wait for all of us gives us the ultimate of choices to make within and for our lifetime. That choice is whether or not we will, intentionally and with total clarity, focus on the positive over the negative, the life-affirming over the faith-depleting, the elevating over the depressing, the ease-inducing over the dis-ease-inducing. Choosing one over the other does not spare anyone from emerging unscathed from this all-encompassing journey we find ourselves on, but it does dictate the quality of our experience of life, and it does determine our core beliefs about ourselves, the world we live in/on, and how we connect to it and each other.

I feel and learn from the poignancy of this life multiple times every day.  The ephemerality and meaningfulness of it all is the spark that motivates me into the world. At times it gets me down, lower than I could ever express in words. At others it propels me to do, teach, help, speak and write even louder and more emphatically than I ever thought I could. But at the end of it all, I choose to live and feel all the feels, all the moments, all the love, all the tears, all the heartache, all the joy and all the sublimity. This is the choice I’ve made, the choice that we will all have to make.

“Despite knowing the journey and where it leads, I embrace it and welcome every moment.” – Arrival

What do you choose?

bow

2017 Higher Learning Weekend 


What fundamental aspects of the human experience are we not taught in school? How are we being set up for a lifetime of settling, mediocrity, frustration and disappointment? What conditioning does our culture endorse and depend on to keep us stuck in what keeps us silent, stationary and skeptical? Where are we getting the skills we need to respond wisely to the more difficult and challenging moments we all face?

Traditional channels of education set us up to be economically accountable and productive members of society, but don’t give us the survival techniques necessary to prioritize our own sense of peace and well-being when tensions land and everything goes wrong. It has been a few years since I have had the intention of creating an educational program that addressed the way we live while providing tools and coping strategies for navigating the ups and downs of this winding human journey. I am so pleased to now unveil years of study, insight and experience with the Higher Learning workshop.

Join me Saturday & Sunday, January 21 & 22, 2017 for the inaugural Higher Learning Weekend of Workshops. Space is limited to 25 places per workshop and students can choose to attend the entire weekend or choose specific modules à la carte. The subject matter is appropriate and relevant for people of all ages, so children bring your parents and parents bring your children. This will be an event for anyone with a pulse and the desire to LIVE this life to its maximum potential. The Higher Learning program is an opportunity to focus on the skill sets that have the potential to influence and inform the rest of your life.

All levels of student welcome, no prior study or knowledge of Hinduism or scriptures necessary.

Contact me at bram.levinson@gmail.com for more info or choose your payment option below.

Sat, January 21
9:30am-12:00pm – The Power Of Intention
1:30pm-4:30pm – The Power of Being/Awareness

Sunday, January 22
9:30am-12:00pm – The Power of Thought
1:30pm-4:30pm – The Power of Time

$300+taxes ($344.93) – full weekend
$90+taxes ($103.48) – individual module à la carte

Equilibrium Yoga
4812 Boul St-Laurent, suite 101 (corner Villeneuve)
*do not contact the studio for information, contact Bram directly*

**I am thrilled to announce Simply Protein as the official sponsor for this event!**