Category Archives: inspiration

Pandemica

We have had a challenging year, challenging on so many levels. Thrust into uninvited change, most of us were forced to look at our relationships to our careers, to money, to our husbands/wives/partners, to our children, to our health, and, most of all, to the structure of life that we have bought into, played along with, lived according to. Livelihoods were, and continue to be, threatened, and we were all forced to look at the life decisions we have made through the lens of “Would I have chosen this if I knew I would be immersed in it 24/7?”

Speaking for myself, when everything kicked off in the first wave of the pandemic back in March and April, I had some hard days, days which made me come to terms with the fact that even the most hopeful and spiritual of us can lose sight of any deeper meaning, can lose sight of all hope, can wonder what the point of a human life is if the suffering experienced in it is unbearable. It brought up a lot of issues from my childhood, memories of carrying around dread, fear and a deep-rooted desire for something, someone, ANYthing or ANYone to just help me feel lighter and better. It was rough, both back then and earlier this year, in moments.

With all of that said, I know that so many people are happy to see an end to 2020, happy to wipe it off the face of existence, happy to refer to it as the worst year ever. While I understand why many feel that way, especially those who have lost loved ones to Covid, I cannot, even with all of the harder moments that I slugged through, jump on board the “burn 2020 into oblivion” train. This year was impossibly difficult to bear, in many ways, but the degree of that difficulty speaks directly to the value of the lessons 2020 had in store for every one of us.

I have been teaching students for years that we had been living in a Dark Age, that with all of the innovation, freedom and technology we had at our disposal, the only thing we were not being encouraged culturally and socially to do was to take care of each other. That one little detail had been conveniently omitted from the syllabus that we had been given for our Life Education, and that one little detail would have changed things drastically. It would have conditioned us to look beyond the superficialities that our governments and corporations use to breed division among us, and find commonality regardless of race, gender, religion, language, sexual orientation, financial status and all the other trivialities that we have prayed to as false idols for so long. I spoke in classes, workshops, podcast episodes and trips around the world about how something would happen that would affect everyone, everywhere around the world, simultaneously, something that would scare the living daylights out of us all, and in that moment, we would start to learn, because the shadow side of the human condition is that we do not truly learn when things are good. We do not learn when we have money in the bank, when we hit our ideal body weight, when everyone loves us and thinks we’re the shit, when abundance flows easily towards us and we feel like we are winning at the game of life. We learn when the shit hits the fan. We learn when the luxuries we foolishly took for granted through the lens of entitlement get jeopardized, when they get yanked away, and we have to finally examine who we are when all the frills and dressings get stripped away and we are laid bare to the world in our uncertainty and confusion. I knew something was coming, knew we were headed for something that would school every single one of us around the globe, but I thought it would be a world war, not a pandemic. And so there we were, caught up in our own little games of me-ness and ignorance until along came a pandemic. And what was the first thing we were told to do? Act as if we had the virus so we could take precautions not to potentially spread it and infect others, especially those more vulnerable. We were immediately told to take care of each other. The irony of the turn of events was not lost on me, trust me. Do I think that we will emerge from this situation having attained a new Age of Enlightenment? Probably not, at least not on the macro level. But I do believe that many of us have something of inestimable value that we gained from this year, something of beauty and true-ness that we will take with us for the rest of the lives we are blessed to live. We are more of who we were meant to be because of the events of 2020, and while many have been lamenting what they had to give up, it would be irresponsible of us all, including those same people, to not take stock in what we have gained from Pandemica.

I believe that we now know the true value and worth of our frontline medical workers in a way that we could never have truly gleaned if we were not all navigating this pandemic together.

I believe that we now know the true value and worth of teachers in a way that we could never have truly gleaned in any other situation.

I believe that we now know the true value and worth of the truckers and delivery people who kept goods coming to our local drugstores, supermarkets and other essential services when we were locked down.

I believe that we now know the true value and worth of the cashiers, stock people, counter people and everyone else who showed up for work when they were scared shitless to be working in supermarkets, drugstores and other essential services.

I believe that we now know the true value and worth of taking care of our health, knowing it to be the most important aspect of life that we could focus on. When one considers how prior to the pandemic many companies and employers operated from the belief that showing up for work was more important than staying home when an employee was ill, one can only stand back in awe at how Pandemica set everyone straight.

I believe that we now know how truly interconnected we are, how quickly we can all find ourselves dealing with the same issues regardless of living on opposite ends of the globe.

I believe that we now know that most politicians, when faced with the task of preserving life or the economy, will align themselves with the latter. And you better believe that we now know that if we do not vote for politicians and political parties which prioritize paying our medical workers and teachers what they have proven to be worth in keeping society going when all else grinds down to a halt, we are shooting ourselves where it hurts most.

On a personal level, what I have gained from 2020 is the understanding that suffering is part of the human experience, and no one is immune to it. I have been reminded that in order to alleviate my own suffering, especially in darker days, it is my responsibility to serve others in the alleviation of their suffering, which, in turn, ends up alleviating mine.  I have learned that being able to hug my mom and my dad is a fucking gift, and I am aching for the moment I can do it again. I have learned that there will always be idiots and fuckwits out there, because everyone of us has sides to our personalities that align with idiocy and fuckwittery. As within, so without. I have learned that everyone has an opinion and feels entitled to blast it out into the world, but few of those people have the guts to stop criticizing and actually start acting for change. I have learned to disregard the wicked, as I was taught through my spiritual teachings, and get on with being part of the solution. I have learned that dogs and cats will inherit the earth, because without them many of us would have crumbled into pieces this year.

Most of all, what I have learned is something that is relearned, originally taught to me when a friend of mine died in one of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, and that teaching is that anything can happen to anyone at any time. And because of that, because I incorporate that into every single day of this life I get to live, this year has reminded me that life is a choice. It is a choice between operating from the belief that I would get the virus and die versus the belief that if I was responsible and careful, I would not. It is a choice between choosing to be kind when anger or indifference might be more easily accessible. It is a choice between staying hopeful or hopeless. It is a choice between staying plugged into all media outlets versus disconnecting from them. It is a choice between seeing us all as one heaving mass of humanity versus clusters of “others”. It is a choice between accepting a term like “social distancing” when we should in fact be practicing “physical distancing”,  understanding that in times like these we need to be more socially cohesive and united than ever before.

Life is a choice. To live or not to live. That is the question. And so I choose to live, big and loud and not giving a flying fuck who has an issue with how I do it. But I live. And I care. And I will keep living and caring and being of service, doing this life thing exactly the way I want to, learning from all the hardship and trials. We all will, as long as we remember the lessons 2020 and Pandemica had waiting for us in our Higher Learning, the education life had in store for all of us.

Happy Holidays to you all. Happy New Year. We made it this far, we will make it to the other side. Stay well and safe and full of life.

The Kindness Calendar

The Kindness Calendar. A beautiful initiative my younger brother posted on social media and which was put out into the world by https://www.actionforhappiness.org/. I am making it my daily Mindfulness practice for the month, and I invite everyone to do the same.

For more information, visit the latest episode of The Examined Life with Bram Levinson Podcast here: https://bramlevinson.libsyn.com/the-kindness-calendar?tdest_id=2107676

Afternoon Friends,

With the holidays fast approaching and all of us pushing the pedal to metal until they land,  it’s important to remember what a hard year 2020 has been on so many and to propagate acts of kindness wherever we can.

Please read and where able, act upon the gestures in this calendar to brighten someone’s day!

Huge thanks Roger Pugsley for lighting the candle so brightly and being such an outstanding human being!

Lessons On The Path Forward

What’s truly fascinating about this entire experience is that in the efforts to find our way back to “normal”, the Canadian government is shedding light on fault lines that I’ve always been aware of in our society.

We go to school and educate ourselves, ramming information into our brain, spending sleepless nights studying, putting our nervous system through the minefield of exams, only to get a piece of paper that qualifies us to get a job that then requires us to spend inane amounts of time in traffic to get to and from work. We do our best to live up to the career standard of working as much as possible, including waking up earlier than our bodies need, going to work when we are ill and should actually be resting, getting home from work a few hours before we need to get to sleep so we can wake up early the following day to do it all over again.

We look forward to Friday evening.
We look forward to the vacation that, when it arrives, our nervous system recognizes as the perfect time to finally let go of “fight mode”, and the body gets sick and demands the rest it needed all the while.
We look forward to promotion so we can get the ever-elusive pat on the back that allows us to feast on scraps and have a reason to keep the charade going.
We look forward to retirement, when we don’t have to spin why we do all this into a reason we can be at peace with. And hopefully we don’t drop dead of a heart attack soon after.
We save for a rainy day. And hopefully we don’t drop dead of a heart attack soon after.

Four-day work weeks. 10 paid sick days per person annually. There will be more discussion as to how we can have the economy run efficiently while keeping people healthy in the process..and I guarantee you that the economy will suffer, and it’s about fucking time it did. The priority should not be how valuable one nation’s currency is in comparison to any other country’s, in fact our notion of currency itself should be reexamined and redefined. This experience has proven to us that the economy is more fragile than anyone dared to fear, and it’s the last thing we should be putting importance on.

The health of a population comes down to their physical and mental well-being. Period. Full stop. This universal truth, however, has been inversely proportional to what governments, politicians and economists have considered valuable. Invest in your people and you invest in the health of your nation, your company, your family, your community. Why is this so revolutionary?

The future I expect to see:

When you feel ill, you are encouraged to stay home. Finally.

When you want to take a break from work to, as is said in our Québécois French, “penser à autre chose” (think of something else) or “changer les idées” (change the thoughts/ideas), you will have the freedom and time to because you will most likely be working remotely, or your company will recognize the mood-fatigue-stress-immune system correlations. Finally.

When you want or need a day off of work because your body needs to rest and relax, you will get paid for that day. Finally.

And by the way, for those of you who end up working for people and companies who aren’t learning the big lessons from this experience and get grief for prioritizing your health going forward? Find a new job. Ditch the bitch and make the switch. Survival of the fittest will be the greatest judge of a company’s longevity now, and being corporately fit will be directly related to the wellness of the employees. Take the leap you’ve suspected needed to be taken all this time and stop wasting time with people and employers who you’ve been so loyal to for so long, but who couldn’t give the slightest shit about you and your well-being.

It only took a global pandemic. Use it as the wake-up call that it is. Today.

Forced Perspective

This is an old meme made about five or six years ago that I stumbled upon this morning, and its relevance speaks volumes in this current situation. There’s a quote from Sadhguru that always puts things into perspective for me, “If your stomach is empty, there’s only one issue – food. But once the stomach becomes full, you have a hundred issues going on.”

We have always had abundance. We have never known scarcity or having to do anything other than what we were privileged to do. And in those times, we had hundreds of issues. The “shoulds” were sometimes crippling. I should making more money. I should be taller. I should be prettier. My hair, my clothes, my house, my body, my intelligence, etc… We have obsessed over what we were not and let that overshadow the miracles of what we are.

In times like this we are FORCED into perspective. We have one issue now, to circle back to Sadhguru: food. Survival. Live through this. And so, consider that there was never really anything wrong. Consider that you were perfect, as you were, as you are, as you will be.

Stop treating yourself the way you don’t want to be treated. Recognize the blessings. And recognize how fortunate you have always been to be worrying about the stupid shit.

Peace to us all! 🙏🏼

Recognize.

A year ago to the week I was trying to get over the flu that was going around the city like wildfire. I could not remember being that sick ever. I found myself curled up on the sofa amazed at how much energy it took to get through one breath, honestly. It was an exercise in witnessing how much illness was present, as well as a reminder to be grateful for the knowledge that I would recover. I recognized that I was healthy, fit and would bounce back from the depth of how sick I was in the moment, and I also recognized that many people suffering illnesses and ailments do so chronically. I may have been fetal and trying to just breathe, but I was fully aware of how fortunate I was.

One year later I can be out in this extreme -30 degree cold and breathe. I can inhale without it hurting. I can be outside without having four layers of fabric covering my nostrils and mouth to take the biting sting out of the cold air before it fills up my lungs. I am so aware of my health, especially when I circle back to last year’s flu, and I am really, really grateful.

I went to the gym this morning and had an incredible workout. I saw a client for a mentoring session. I went to the osteopath for my monthly session and experienced her brilliance as she brought my body closer back to default settings. I saw friends and gave them a yoga class. I came home and made a delicious dinner that was healthy and warming on this frigid evening.

I am so grateful for the life I have. The life I have, in part, made happen with the decisions I have made for myself and the aspects of it that I had nothing to do with, that I didn’t earn but that ended up facilitating the degree of comfort and contentment I experience. I am aware of the privileges I have been afforded, and I am aware of how hard I have fought for the life that only I could have provided for myself.

All this to say that I’m grateful. To be healthy. To be warm. To be comfortable. To be fed. There are many who are not, and I truly believe that we are all potentially closer to the possibility of illness, homelessness, discomfort and hunger than we are to the riches and wealth that we believe our creature comforts will lead to, the ones we take for granted so unknowingly.

If you have muchness in your life tonight, be aware of it, and be grateful. We lose this gratitude for the basics and for the simple things when we take it all for granted, when we expect everything to fall into place, when we feel entitled to abundance. We are not entitled to any of it. We are blessed if we have it, and we work to maintain it and add to it if possible.

Know what you have and be grateful. I am.

Η Σοφία (The Wisdom) Sutras

In a previous episode of The Examined Life with Bram Levinson Podcast I read out a list of musings I had written down and compiled years ago, musings that I felt were helpful to keep in mind when navigating life. For lack of a better title, I quickly (and flippantly) names the list the Brama Sutras, not really expecting it to ever find its way to the general public. That obviously happened when I decided to read it for an episode of the podcast, and since I did, many of you have asked for the list written out, so voilà!

I have retitled the list Η Σοφία Sutras, as Η Σοφία (The Sofia) translates to “The Wisdom” from Greek to English, and it was in Greece where I felt compelled to share that piece of writing. The word “Sutra” means “thread” in Sanskrit, and so these are the threads of wisdom that, when woven together, can form a fabric of wisdom to keep in mind when navigating life.

Here they are, exactly as they were read for the podcast. Enjoy!

Η Σοφία (The Wisdom) Sutras

1) These words are your call to presence, to attention, to this moment.

2) Transformation is the only constant. Everything will change, from the greatest blessings bestowed upon us to the darkest moments we will survive. If it arises within your awareness, it is already in a state of transformation.

3a) This moment is more important than the ones that preceded it and the ones that will follow it, in this moment. This is true for each moment, as with each passing second, a new moment is.

3b) The present moment is your priority. What came before and what come after must be secondary to the present moment, in all moments.

4) Concentration on the present moment is a mindfulness practice. Mindfulness is the practice of working with our thoughts. It is the ability to hone one’s attention in one specific direction, onto one thing specifically, for longer and longer periods of time. It is also the ability to be present enough to notice when the thoughts are focused on something and then redirecting the thoughts to something else.

5) Mindfulness is the art of awakening. Accessing this art requires paying attention. By paying attention, we begin to tune into a different frequency, and the more often we get into the habit of tuning into that different frequency the more we work at changing our experience of life.

6) This experience of life will be wholly and entirely dependent on our perspective and our ability to reframe a situation so that perspective is changeable and fluid.

7) Our unique understanding of “reality” is almost entirely based on our perspective, which informs the understanding we have of our environment and scenarios, of everything that arises within our awareness.

8a) Conflict may arise when one person disregards another’s understanding of “reality” in favour of his or her own, and then attempts to impose it.

8b) Harmony may arise when one person acknowledges and validates another’s understanding of “reality” while allowing it to coexist with his or her own, with no need to suppress the other’s in order to validate his or her own.

9a) Self-conflict may arise when one person adheres to his or her understanding of “reality” instead of welcoming alternate perspectives.

9b) Self-harmony may arise when one person welcomes alternate perspectives that reveal the relativity of “reality.”

10a) The experience of life will be greatly influenced by the honesty and transparency with which we assess whether we naturally gravitate to conflict or harmony.

10b) We have a choice as to whether our time is spent in conflict or in harmony.

11) The human brain, untethered and undisciplined, leans towards the negative aspects of our understanding of events.

12) We ruminate over the fear we have of the negative outweighing the positive in our understanding of events, which takes us out of the present moment and propels us into the abstract, into what is not.

13) Mindfulness is the discipline that allows us to focus on the opposite of the negative, the opposite of what scares us, the opposite of conflict.

14) Mindfulness practices are most useful in moments of turmoil, of chaos, of emotional triggering.

15a) One key mindfulness practice is setting an intention to prioritize harmony over conflict, negative over positive. This is Attention to Intention.

15b) Intention must be prioritized over reaction in moments of turmoil, of chaos, of emotional triggering.

15c) Intention is a commitment.

15d) Intention sets the direction that we commit to move in, the path we commit to follow, the behaviours we agree to override those that only serve to contribute to our suffering.

15e) Time spent without intention is time spent at the mercy of the meanderings of the mind.

15f) Time spent with intention is time spent closer to the energies of that which we wish to be in alignment with throughout this lifetime.

16) Setting an intention effectively and efficiently requires acceptance of what is.

17) Acceptance is the precursor for change.

18) One cannot efficiently move in the most meaningful direction without acceptance of what is and of what life has brought to our table.

19) Acceptance may involves grieving for what was once hoped for, but what was never meant to be.

20) The mind that practices meaningfulness is the mind that seeks to see beyond the literal, beyond the obvious, beyond the appearance of any given moment, person or object.

21) The practice of meaningfulness contributes to our ability to reframe our situation so that our perspective of it is altered. It aids in seeing past the seemingly random so that we find connections where, on a superficial level, none would appear to exist.

22) To find connections where previously none were apparent is to find meaning in the innocuous, to find a deeper understanding that possibly informs events and our relationship to them.

23) The practice of meaningfulness is the practice of finding meaning that serves us to align with the intentions we set for the time and events which await us.

24) Initial stages of practicing meaningfulness include asking certain questions in pursuit of a deeper meaning, questions like, “What am I meant to learn from this?”, “What else is occurring right now in this moment that I may be distracted from due to my mind’s negative bias?”, and “How can my experience of this challenge or moment serve to connect me to others instead of leaving me feeling isolated and alone?” Our perspective is everything. The way we see the world is the way we experience it. It really is that simple.

25) Reframing a situation aids in shifting perspective.

26) Shifting perspective helps us move from the limits of our own personal history and experiences.

27) Shifting perspective helps us move away from the default egocentricity we feed when we stay stuck in our own self-interests and self-awareness.

28) Shifting perspective helps us move from the I and the me to the us and the we.

29) Shifting perspective helps us find the freedom to choose a different interpretation and understanding.

30) Shifting perspective may lead us to growth and transformation.

31) Shifting perspective may facilitate turning the negative into positive.

32) Shifting perspective contributes to practicing meaningfulness.

33) We must never forget the kindness bestowed upon us by another.

34) We must immediately forget the wrongdoing or hurt bestowed upon us by another.

35) The practice of gratitude is the practice of considering the blessings we are surrounded by.

36) The practice of gratitude is the practice of considering how fragile and temporal our blessings may be.

37) The practice of gratitude is the practice of considering how, in this moment, suffering could be considerably heightened, and appreciating that it is not.

38) The loss of gratitude is a key factor in the destruction of the affiliations and partnerships we have.

39) The practice of compassion involves the consideration that all beings operate in the midst of hardship.

40) The practice of compassion involves prayer and action for the end of all suffering, for ourselves and for others.

41) The practice of fearing less involves repointing the mind from the potential of the negative to manifest to the potential of the positive to manifest.

42) Communication is the foundation for the healthiest and most positive of affiliations and relationships.

43) Your story is worth telling.

44) Your story is worth observing.

45) Observing the narrative of your life without personalization will bring clarity.

46) Observing the emotions, sensations and thoughts elicited from observing your narrative will bring clarity.

47) Observing the emotions, sensations and thoughts that arise within you in any and all circumstances, contexts and environments will bring clarity.

48) You are the power of observation.

49) You are not what you observe.

50) There is just this, and it is perfect as it is

Reboot

Today is the first day. A new cycle has begun. Know this. What has been has been. What is done is done. This is the beginning of what is to come, and so today is the first day of new horizons, new paths, new words, a new narrative. Make it be. Every day that we reawaken in these bodies that house the energy that is you, that is me, and that is we, is another opportunity to be reborn, to restart, to wipe the slate clean and begin again with newness, wonder and unwavering hope. Every day that we are able to use these bodies for the benefit of ourselves and others is a miracle, a miracle of being and a miracle of choice, because to choose mindful action instead of mindless repetition is, unfortunately, not our default setting. It is a choice that we make in every mindful moment, especially in the ones when we decide that every “now” is an opportunity to reboot the wiring, restart the cycle, refocus the intention and commitment.

Today is the first day. Know this, and make it be.

Start Your Next Chapter Now Weekend Workshop January 12-13, 2019

Earlier this year, I jumped beyond my usual solo teaching format to collaborate with one of my dearest friends, Christelle Franca, for the Start Your Next Chapter Weekend Workshop. As I mentioned then, I can count on one hand the people I have collaborated with over the past decade, mostly because my approach to healing and wellness is so specific an expression that I am typically hesitant to mix it with someone else’s. Regardless, in August of 2018, Christelle and I presented our workshop for the first time in Montreal, and it was massively gratifying to see it received so beautifully by those who attended. Once it was done, we swore we would keep offering the workshop periodically throughout key moments in the year, and to kick off the new year, we are happy to announce the dates for the next Start Your Next Chapter Weekend Workshop, January 12-13, 2019!

I have known Christelle for almost 15 years, and in that time I have seen her many incarnations as sound artist, DJ, healer, Masters student, and so much more. 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 is 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. It is a real honour for me to partner with my soul-sister to once again present this weekend workshop of transformation, movement, contemplation, expression, creation and actualization.

Start Your Next Chapter is our co-creation, intended to facilitate whatever changes those who attend may be aching to incorporate in a sustainable and realistic way, but feel too paralyzed to initiate. It has proven to be an opportunity to be exposed to tools that can alleviate the inevitable suffering each one of us is exposed to, and it gives those who attend the modules the means to express, examine and re-imagine their narrative, their story. Bringing psychotherapeutic tools together with movement, meditation, energy work, writing, discussion and deep contemplation, this weekend is the most brilliantly beautiful opportunity to get the ball of sustainable change rolling with certainty and clarity. Christelle has referred to us both as “les gardiens du passage” (the guardians of transition, of change), and we will do that once again in tandem over the weekend in January.

This event will take place at Equilibrium Yoga (4812 blvd St-Laurent, suite #101) over the Jan 12-13 weekend, 9h-16h30 both days with a one-hour break for lunch. Space will be limited to 15 people so that we can properly give appropriate time and attention to everyone. The workshop will be presented in both English and French, so comprehension of both languages is required from participants. Registration is now open, all payment types accepted. See you there!

Start Your Next Chapter Weekend Workshop

January 12-13, $260+taxes

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