Category Archives: inspiration

From Darkness To Light

The only thing, the ONLY thing that we are not encouraged to do by those who have influence and what we loosely refer to as “power”, is take care of each other. With all the resources available to us, with instant, affordable communication options at our fingertips, we are, collectively, more divided than ever.

This moment in time will be looked back on as a dark age because of this one basic fact. The solution? Take care of each other. Be respectful. Honour the humanity in everyone, not just those who have the same skin tone as you, who speak the same language as you, who pray to the same god as you, who believe the same things that you do. Honour everyone. Especially when the buffoons elected to office seem poised to strip already-marginalized communities of whatever rights they have.

Be brave. Be courageous. Be part of the inevitable enlightenment that is coming, the enlightenment that will be the result of us taking care of each other. All of us.

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The Difference A Decade Makes

Facebook reminded me today of what I have been thinking about over the last few days. It’s been a decade. 10 years ago I held up my end of the deal that I made with whatever I believed God to be when I asked for a sign that I should leave the security and stability of my then-career. It’s been a decade. Mind-boggling. A decade of firsts. A decade of working harder than I ever thought possible. A decade of experiencing life at a level of beauty and inspiration that I had never known was possible. A decade of pursuing my intention of helping others heal. A decade of traveling around the world with people to offer them transformational experiences that show THEM how life can be experienced at that level of beauty and inspiration. A decade immersed, without trying to sound trite or cliché, in love and emanating that love outwardly in no specific direction. A decade of stepping onto my true path, the one my life had been preparing me for all the while leading up to October 15, 2008. A decade of support. From you all. From my guy. From my family and my extended family. A decade of wisdom and learning and trial by error.

Thank you all. For paying attention. For allowing me to be part of your narratives, in whatever way that has taken place. Thank you for giving me the space, time and opportunity to do what I am alive in this body to do. Ten years, and yet I feel like it’s just the beginning.

Here’s to the next ten. And to all the tens that follow. 🙏🏼❤️

The Difference A Year Makes

One year ago, to the day, I posted the Top 10 listed above on Facebook. In some ways, I cannot believe that it has been a year since I wrote this, and yet in other ways I absolutely can because of all the conscious changes I have made. A few of the things listed here were written in a tongue-in-cheek manner, but were really bugging me, and it was because of that that I stopped thinking or writing about them and actually let them be the catalysts for positive change.

1) I still keep a keen eye on the price of allergy pills when I’m overseas, but I don’t need them nearly as much as I used to (I’ll explain why at the bottom of this post).

2) I got rid of cable tv and have not regretted it once since I did it.

3) The words “selfie” and “lit” still rub me the wrong way, but the word “excretions” have now taken their place in eliciting visceral, negative responses from me.

4) I no longer feel daily aches and pains, but I did one year ago to the day, and it scared the hell out of me. (I’ll explain why I no longer have them at the bottom of this post).

5) I stand by this one and will until the day this body dies. Grammar matters. (I think I just came up with a future book title).

6) I’ve softened in the last year and am not as judgemental or critical as I was. I find myself feeling much more compassion these days than I used to, but trust me, the judgement is still there, and I actually find it entertaining when it rears its head.

7) I have stopped eating refined sugars and most foods that contain them. (I’ll elaborate at the bottom of this post).

8) I’m fine with emojis now. Language is changing. I get it. (The middle finger and the vomiting emojis have become dear friends to me).

9) I’m paying less attention to my blood pressure. (More on this after #10).

10) My face has changed. Here’s why, and this also ties into #1, 4, 7 & 9.

I have spent years studying spirituality and energy, honing my spiritual intelligence and focusing on what lies beyond the obvious and apparent. In doing so, I seriously neglected this body I live in. Yes, I practiced yoga and meditated, but that was it, and that was all I believed was necessary.

Cut to July 2017. I was looking at myself in the mirror and not liking what was reflected back at me. I felt puffy. I felt like my body was inflamed, which was a word I was reticent to use because it had become trendy in articles posted online, but nonetheless, I felt inflamed. My body was aging. I was experiencing weird aches and pains every day, and each day was a new one that I had never experienced before, which somewhat scared me because I felt like my body was aging in a “this is out of my control” kind of way. I remember telling myself that if I didn’t do anything to help myself feel better, it was only going to continue to go in one direction, and it wasn’t the one I wanted for myself.

I had also become used to getting sick every couple of months. Strep throat here, sinus infection there, slight cold around the changing of the seasons, etc… I had created all kinds of stories around my facility to fall ill. “I’m in contact with so many people every week”, or “it starts with allergies that then triggers the infection”, or “the antibiotics didn’t really kill the infection, which is why it’s happening again”. Allll kinds of stories.

So I decided to face one of my aversions and signed up for a membership to the gym that is, without exaggeration, forty footsteps from the front door of my home. I decided I would start doing some cardio exercises two to three times a week. And I did. I started to feel proud of myself that I was doing it, because I stopped going to the gym in 1999 when I couldn’t deal with the posturing I saw there from others, and I felt like the gym environment was completely artificial and unpleasant. It was because I stopped working out that I started looking for a yoga teacher to see if the asana practice could replace the gym for my physical exercise (so I guess I should be grateful to all those gym posers I saw in the late 90’s). I also started feeling better. So I kept going.

I went to Paros in September 2017 and stopped the cardio while I was away, then came back home and picked right up where I left off. I then decided to meet with a personal trainer at the gym to see if she could give me insight into some exercises I could pair with the cardio, but arranged to delay the meeting until December, as my schedule was packed until then.

Come December, I met with Julie, a kinesthesiologist and personal trainer at the gym I was going to. We sat, talked, and I was honest with her that I really just wanted some cardio and a couple of light exercises. She asked me how long I wanted to be at the gym for when I came to exercise, and I told her an hour at the most. She put together a program for me, we went through it once together, and then I spent the next month doing it on my own three times a week. That is how I ended 2017 and began 2018. I then made another appointment with her at the end of the first month and she designed another program for me to follow for February. And we kept at it. Every month, a new program. And I quickly fell in love with exercising.

I wasn’t expecting to become that gym guy I found so annoying in 1999, but I did. I fell in love with the exercises, as well as with the time I had at the gym that was almost meditative in its intensity. I have never sweat more in my life, and I have never worked harder, on a physical level, at anything like I have done, and am doing, with my workouts. And I love it.

I have been so hesitant to publicly talk about this, because I really don’t want to be one more person sharing his exercise regimen on social media with a photo of some weights accompanied by a #gymday or #justdoit hashtag. It doesn’t sit well with me, and I didn’t want to launch more of that into the world. However, I have been told by people that I trust that I should talk about it, that I should share this part of my story, because the effects have been dramatic and that they find it inspiring.

When I started working out and feeling better, I stopped eating all foods with refined sugars because I knew that they lowered my immune system. Doing that along with the working out has resulted in my immune system being stronger than ever before in my lifetime. Without wanting to jinx it, I have had two barely-there, light-sniffles colds in the last 10 months. My aches and pains are gone. Totally. I have lost twenty pounds of fat without compromising my lean muscle mass, and because I wasn’t a really overweight guy a year ago, it has changed my body and my face. I am leaner and am seeing the body that I knew was under the excess weight all that time, but which I accepted as being a thing of the past, not available to me in my forties. My posture is better because of the exercises Julie gives me to strengthen certain muscles in my back that need it, and paired with monthly visits to my osteopath Keshia, who gives me more information to bring back to Julie, my body is stronger and more functional. And oh yeah – a few months after I stopped eating refined sugars, I decided to have dessert after a meal and I found that the sugary stuff I had once loved no longer tasted as good as it used to. If it didn’t taste as good, then there was no point in eating it, and I found myself losing my appetite for sugar and shifting over to being more appreciative of the savoury foods. This was a big deal for me, because I have always had a sweet tooth. A serious one.

One thing about this whole journey that has really opened my eyes to how weight-obsessed we are as a culture and as a species is other people’s reactions to my weight loss. I’ve had people ask me if I’m sick. I’ve had people get angry with me after they ask me how I lost the weight and I tell them that I’m working my ass off (literally) on a consistent basis (I have kept the workouts going even when I’m working overseas), and have changed how much sugar I eat. I’ve had people tell me not to lose more weight. I’ve had people tell me that I look fit. I’ve had people tell me that I look healthy, less inflamed. I’ve had people tell me that they can’t believe how good I look. I’ve gotten all of it, and because not much has changed in my head (or my wardrobe) throughout the physical transformation, the reactions have really surprised me. I’ve learned that getting my body into shape has taken weight off my face and my neck, and I look older. I couldn’t give two shits about it. I feel incredible. I feel better than I ever have in my almost 45 years in this body. I am well. I am in better shape, mentally, energetically and physically, then I ever have been, and I am so, so grateful to Julie, Keshia, and Caroline, who has replaced Keshia while she takes maternity leave. With their help I have changed the quality of my life, I have improved the quality of my life. I have spent money on doing it, have been disciplined and put in the hours and energy to do it (which hasn’t been difficult, considering I love going to the gym), and have been relatively quiet about it, because, honestly, I didn’t think it was anyone’s business aside from mine and those in my inner circles. But I suppose if this somehow inspires or educates someone, and motivates them to make a positive change in a similar fashion, then it’s worth sharing.

Making a change this significant in my life motivated my to make others. I got rid of my cable tv subscription. I don’t weigh myself unless I’m at the doctor’s office for my annual checkup or at the gym getting the updated statistics on where my body is at. I don’t need the allergy pills as much, and am happy to report that I shopped at record stores when I was in Paris last week 🙂

DM me if you’d like to get in touch with Julie or Caroline (I’ll let Keisha have her full maternity leave before unleashing new clients her way). I hope the events of the last year somehow affect you in a positive way, and feel free to share your thoughts on it all with me by commenting on this post or through a private message.

To The Queen Of All Things, On The Eve of Her 60th Birthday

It was the summer of 1994 and I was in the office of Liz Rosenberg at Warner Music in Manhattan.

“Do you want this calendar?” she asked me.
“I’ve already got it, but thank you!” I replied.
“What about this poster? Or this issue of Billboard magazine? She hasn’t hit #1, but you can have it.”
“I”ve already got it, but really, thank you.”
“Do you want me to get her on the phone?”

My heart stopped.

“No, please. I’d sound like an idiot and I don’t want to sound like some gushing fool.” I replied, my mouth dry and my heart racing from the point where it had stopped.

Liz was Madonna’s publicist and press agent for over 25 years, and I was already dumbstruck to find myself face to face with her in her office (thanks to my cousin Carmela who worked with Liz at Warner Bros), so you can understand why I declined the phone call. I wouldn’t have been able to find the words that I am now able to convey to express what Madonna has meant to me since 1984, and why I am writing this piece now.

Madonna represents the freaks, the geeks, the outsiders, the artists, the ignored, the streetsmart, the rebels, the ambitious and the courageous. Anyone who has ever felt on the fringe of what was considered normal can identify with Madonna, and can also thank her for expanding our understanding and acceptance of what is now considered normal. Through her example, she has taught us all, and trust me when I say that I have been watching, listening to and being inspired by her since the very beginning.

Raised in a family with strong women, Madonna made sense to me. She was in charge, even in an industry and time when record companies controlled it all and when women’s rights had a long way to go (they still do, and she is more vocal than ever about what needs to change). It was a given that she was calling the shots because it was her name, voice and image being released into the zeitgeist, and she was going to have the final say. I took notes.

Within a year of becoming known, Madonna was branching out into other avenues of artistry. Films, tours, plays, books… Actress, author, director, producer, singer, mother, wife, dancer, record company executive, activist, beauty line creator… She showed me what it looked to diversify, to do all things, and to do them even if you might not get accolades for them. She taught me to try. I took notes.

The Madonna we have seen in interviews, on stages, in the pages of glossy fashion, music and current events magazines has been reinvented so many times it boggles the mind. I remember my grandmother coming into my room when I was 19 and my walls were plastered with posters, postcards, magazine covers and newspaper cutouts of Madonna.

“Who are all these women?” she asked.
“They’re all Madonna.” I replied with a massive smile.

Madonna taught me that you could reinvent and reinvent and consciously change, all the while keeping your private self private. Yes, we have seen details of her private life splashed on tabloid shows and magazines for 35 years, but I know that none of us really know the woman who, like the Wizard of Oz, has been the architect of it all. I am still taking notes.

Madonna fought tirelessly to educate us about the facts that we were not getting through mainstream media in the very early days of HIV/AIDS as she was losing her best friends to the disease. This mattered to me as a young boy who believed that if you were gay, you developed the disease. She brought the LGBTQ community to our collective doorstep in 1991’s tour documentary Truth or Dare (titled In Bed With Madonna in Europe and Asia) and helped elevate the community to the mainstream. She continues to tackle our taboos, gender stereotypes, sex and what is deemed acceptable, even after thirty-five years. And because of that, she has survived in the spotlight, in her own words, “in the face of blatant sexism and misogyny and constant bullying and relentless abuse.”

Madonna has always been the example, even when the superficial, judgemental, gossipy public has been too triggered by the appearance of what she was doing to understand. If the content has rubbed people the wrong way, their error was in dismissing her instead of looking past the content to the process, because the process is brilliance itself. She has kept herself in Olympian shape ever since the mid-80’s, and, coincidentally or not, is the last of the 80’s icons to survive this long, thriving the whole way. Her songs have always uplifted, dragging us out of the mire and drudgery into positivity with pro-social and pro-love messages. Her tours, of which I have seen every one except for the Virgin Tour in 1985 that did not make its way to Montreal, are more theatre than rock show. She has been using her fame responsibly to speak for those whose voices are not being heard, and she has put her money where her mouth is, donating and raising tens of millions of dollars throughout the years to various organizations, as well as starting her own, Raising Malawi, which cares for children orphaned in Malawi. Her everything has captured our attention since 1983. She has that ‘it’ factor.

Do I regret declining the offer to speak to Madonna on the phone all those years ago? Nope. They say that you should never meet your idols. I disagree. I will meet her, even if I die trying. But that wasn’t the right time. I needed more time to find the words to express why I wanted to meet her. 24 years later, here they are.

Thank you, Madonna. Happy 60th Birthday! You have changed my life for the better, you have changed our world for the better, and you’re still going. And for that, I am grateful.

Start Your Next Chapter Now Weekend Workshop Aug 11-12

For the vast majority of my career, I have worked on projects and endeavors on my own because I a) felt that what I wanted to convey was deeply personal and had to be expressed as my own unique expression, and b) needed to feel a deep connection with whoever I collaborated with, because without it, I would lose connection to the inspiration that motivated me to share my offerings. I can count on one hand the people I have collaborated with over the past nine years, and it has been a while since the last time. I’m happy to announce that it will happen again in a few months, and I’m beyond thrilled to be working with one of my closest, most inspiring friends, Christelle Franca.

I have known Christelle for almost 15 years, and in that time I have seen her incarnations as sound artist, DJ, healer, Masters student, and so many more that words would only diminish. She has worked in Lebanon teaching students how to express, contextualize, externalize and shift the energies of trauma from living with/in war on a day-to-day basis. She has grown into a woman who shares my belief that there is no greater purpose for any of us than to accompany others through their suffering, through their moments of stuckness. And so it only makes sense that I would team up with my true soul-sister for a weekend workshop of transformation, movement, contemplation, discussion, creation and actualization.

Start Your Next Chapter is a co-creation that Christelle and I have worked on to facilitate whatever changes you may be aching to incorporate but feel too paralyzed to initiate, while also being an opportunity to be exposed to tools that can alleviate the suffering of dealing with changes occurring that are not self-imposed or chosen. Bringing psychotherapeutic tools together with movement, meditation, energy work, writing, discussion and deep contemplation, this weekend is truly going to be the most brilliantly beautiful opportunity to get the ball of change rolling with certainty and clarity. Christelle referred to us both, months ago, as “les gardiens du passage” (the guardians of transition, of change), and this weekend workshop will be exactly that for all in attendance.

This event will take place at Equilibrium Yoga (4812 blvd St-Laurent, suite #101) over the Aug 11-12 weekend, 9h-16h30 both days with a one-hour break for lunch. Space will be limited to 22 people so that we can properly give appropriate time and attention to everyone, and registration is now open, all payment types accepted. See you there!

Start Your Next Chapter Weekend Workshop

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Use Your Words, My Love

This is not a time in history to fuck up in the public forum. Across the world, and even more specifically, south of the Canadian border in the country that tenuously holds onto the “land of the free and the home of the brave” title, a wave of intolerance has been gaining momentum over the past few years. A few months ago I watched the CNN series “The Sixties” and was somewhat educated on how politically unstable that decade was, and how volatile the fight for human rights made the 1960’s. I was pretty shocked to see that regardless of how far we think we have come since then, many of the issues people in the US were giving their lives for to see colour barriers come down and have all humans treated equally seem to be as present today as they were then.

With the current administration in America doing its best to divide people and their opinions, and in an age where those opinions have countless platforms through which they can be expressed, it is no surprise that the US is splintered and fragmented. Those whose history is made up of overcoming hate, genocide, slaughter, slavery, discrimination and dehumanization have every right to be on guard right now, as they do for the rest of time. There are those, goaded on by the president’s apparent refusal to out-rightly condemn hate and intolerance, who take to social media outlets with the sole purpose of instigating conflict. There are organizations with social media bots whose sole purpose is to do the same, resulting in human beings with the best of intentions ending up in Twitter wars with bots designed to amplify the conflict until emotional reaction erupts. We have every right to staunchly stay on guard and be as vocal as the troublemakers so that we continue to fight the good fight and ensure the freedom and happiness of all people.

Late last month, one of my childhood heroines, Roseanne Barr, posted a tweet that read, “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj” to her Twitter account, referring to Valerie Jarrett, who, among other accomplishments, was a senior advisor to the Obama administration. Rightfully so, within days, Roseanne’s career was over, and within weeks the show she had created and which was in a successful reboot was rebooted once again, this time without its namesake having anything to do with its new incarnation. I decided to boycott anything to do with her, and chalked it all up to her being one more casualty of this period of carte-blanche xenophobia that emboldens even celebrities to spew hate.

Today I listened to an interview she gave to her spiritual advisor, Rabbi Shmuley, in which she talked, among other topics, about her spirituality, how inexcusable that tweet was, how she didn’t know Valerie Jarrett was African-American when she wrote the tweet, and how sorry she is about making herself the poster person for hate, or, in her own words, “A hate magnet”. And as inexcusable and horrific as her tweet was, I found myself contemplating the concepts of forgiveness, right speech (written and spoken), the literalist global society that social media has fostered, and these hypersensitive times in which we must be vigilant to hate and intolerance, and in which, for the first time in my lifetime, we need to censor ourselves for any nuance, sarcasm or double-entendre that might get lost in how our words are received.

A few days ago Madonna posted a doctored photo to her Instagram account of a still image from Beyonce & Jay-Z’s new video, Apeshit. The image, taken from the inside of the Louvre where the power couple were looking at a wall of paintings from some of the masters throughout time, had album covers from Madonna’s body of work replacing the works of art, and the caption below written by Madonna was, “learning from the Master…lol”. Fans of Beyonce and Jay Z immediately took to social media to accuse Madonna of being racist by using the word “master”, alluding to its roots in slavery. Madonna removed the word from the post when the backlash began.

Now, anyone who knows anything about Madonna knows that she is anything but racist. But in this moment in time where we are all super sensitive and dealing with the free-floating anxiety of a US administration using its influence to set human rights back to where they were in the 1960’s, it is only normal that we hold each other to stauncher standards in how we communicate. It is only normal that we ensure that our celebrities be held accountable for how their words may be misconstrued or damaging to the communities and cultures who have suffered intolerable mistreatment and are now afraid that history seems to be on the verge, if not the cusp, of repeating itself.

Let me make something crystal clear for anyone who has the intention of taking my words and misconstruing them: I am not defending Madonna or Roseanne Barr. If anything, their examples exist so that we learn from them, so that we understand that we need to adhere to right speech, using words that successfully convey their intention. To not do that, in today’s social climate, is to invite in a tsunami of rage and indignance, understanding that whether or not we applaud or condemn it, this is where we are in time today, this is where we find ourselves.

Do I think that we tend to overreact to judgement these days? Absolutely. Do I think it’s sad? Yes and no. If I were African-American in today’s social climate, you better believe I would be alllllll over that shit, looking for the slightest bandwagon that the troublemakers could jump on to then use a celebrity’s name and influence to jump onto. I get it, and I think it’s an occupational hazard of all this turmoil that has risen to the surface of our collective consciousness. However, yes, I think it is sad that our ability to receive and appreciate sarcasm and deeper meaning is dormant. Yes, I think that it is sad that we are quicker to sling hate towards those who have transgressed instead of realizing that by doing so, we end up contributing to the energy that we object to so indignantly. Yes, I think that it is sad that forgiveness seems to be a concept of the past. Yes, I think that it is sad that we conveniently forget how timely the, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” passage from the bible is. Every single one of us has fucked up. Every single one of us has said things we immediately regret. None of us are faultless. Yet we attack other people from this high horse of superiority when they have a weak, human moment. I remind myself constantly that when I judge others unfairly, I open up the spiritual channel for others to do the same to me.

So what can we learn from all of this? I think that what we are meant to learn is to take greater responsibility for the words and energy we launch into the world, especially through social media channels. We need to mean what we say and say what we mean, and we need to consider how our words have the power to traumatize. We need to speak and write with right action, not emotional reaction. The same way sending that drunken text at 3am is a bad idea, so it is to express ourselves in the forum of public scrutiny irresponsibly, with no regard to how we may be negatively impacting others and making their load harder to bear.

Years ago, as I watched my sister-in-law deal with one of her young children who was being unruly by kneeling down to his level and saying to him, “Use your words, my love”, I made a mental note to do my best to do the same. It looks like we may all need to take a page out of that book.

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