Bram Levinson

As most of you already know by now, the past year has been monumental for me in terms of the changes I made in my career and where it has brought me since. I’ve been practicing yoga for 10 years now, and only after 9 of those years did I realize that yoga was where I wanted to build my career, for so many reasons: primarily to help people grow (physically, mentally, spiritually), but also to see what I was capable of…to “deepen my practice” and see how it affected the rest of my life. I’m so grateful that I have the support network around me that enabled me to jump beyond myself only to find that the boundaries of my capabilities had monumentally shifted and I was so much more than I had ever believed possible. Yet while I find myself more “myself” than I have ever been, there are some things I’ve observed in my community that I still have mixed feelings about…

One of the foundations of leading a yogic lifestyle is practicing Ahimsa, or non-harming. Ahimsa most often gets applied towards the killing of animals for human consumption. I have always been a meat eater. I’m pretty sure that my family falls not far on the evolutionary ladder from the Flintstones (if any of you have ever sat down to a meal with my family, you know what I mean – my partner jokes that after a dinner with my parents all that’s left on the plate is a perfectly and partially intact skeleton). I’m not particularly in love with the idea of eating meat, but whenever I get on a vegetarian kick and try to eradicate meat from my diet, I find my body physically craving it within a couple of days. I try to have at least one vegetarian or vegan meal a day, and I’m doing my best, which is all I can ask of myself or my students when they’re in my yoga class. One’s best is all we need to drum up. And one’s best will change from day to day, even from hour to hour, depending on how rested we are, how hydrated (or dehydrated) we are, how much stress we’re handling, etc…

I am, however, finding my defenses going up sporadically when the issue of meat-eating comes up with fellow yogis or other teachers. It has often been insinuated, and even declared to me. that eating meat completely negates a yogic lifestyle and that to eat meat is to walk around with blood on my hands. I understand the concept, however extreme it may have been conveyed, and I do my best to walk the walk, but at a certain point, I take issue with the whole thing. Living a yogic lifestyle, as far as I’m concerned and as far as I have been able to interpret from my teachings, involves being the best person one can be, with an abundance of love and compassion for oneself and all others, to see the source of all energy in everyone and everything that surrounds us. To be able to bring people to a higher consciousness, and to aid them in discovering the meaning of their lives and to tap into the energy source that we all draw from and carry around with us. Whether I eat meat or not shouldn’t be a source of shame, and anyone in the yogic world who would willingly bring shame onto someone else for their dietary habits (or for any other reason) should reconsider what they’re trying to accomplish with their efforts. I can do my best at practicing Ahimsa by eating less meat, or I can choose to eat meat all the time…either way, it’s not for anyone to judge. My journey through this life is between where I believe my energy source lies and my being, and I haven’t heard any complaints yet 🙂

I believe that in expressing my opinions, especially when they may be slightly controversial considering the environment I find myself in, I am opening the door to an exchange of points of view and beliefs, all of which are valid and have merit. I just want people to know that we’re not all robots walking around stretching and preaching to others about how superior we are because we practice yoga. We are all the same, yet we’re undeniably different, and it’s this play of opposites that fascinates me and encourages me to delve deeper into my studies and my practice. For those of you who have always been intrigued by yoga but thought it was too cultish or unpalatable, I hope this blog entry speaks to you. My aim is to show that practicing yoga is more a state of mind than it is a way of life, and yet in that shift of one’s state of mind comes the desire to make changes in one’s life that makes us feel better about ourselves and the world we surround ourselves with. And all we can ask of ourselves is the best. And that’s all we can wish for others…

Let me know what you think 🙂

0 Responses

  1. You couldn’t have been more on the money here! As you know, Bram, I also teach and did fall into the trap of trying to fit into the stigma of what a yoga teacher should be during my first years teaching. That included not eating meat. Three years and a trip to an Ayurvedic doctor later, I find myself iron and B12 deficient… So I have reverted back to eating meat. For a little while I used to feel the need to justify this choice, but as my practice developed, as did my self-acceptance. Instead of trying to be everything yogic to everyone, I try to do as you, and be my best self, whatever that means in the moment.

    Thanks Bram (and sorry for the long comment)!

  2. Well Bram, I think you’ve touched on a subject that a lot of people are confused about.
    I feel that (and I’m sure you’ve heard me voice this in one form or another already – given the circumstances of our knowing each other) there’s far too much judging going on about any and all ways of living ones life. I believe that having yoga in one’s life is having a vehicle to be closer to and expand oneself beyond the everyday hoo-ha. The key word(s) here is(are) ONE’S LIFE. It is your life to learn in and explore in and to make your own choices with.

    I do practice Ahimsa in my own my life. How this is being done should be of concern to nobody else but me. One part of my Ahimsa practice that I wish to share is non-harming through not telling people how to live their life, keeping my views and opinions as only that (because they shouldn’t have that much importance – read ‘I Am That’ by Sri Nishargdhatta Maharaj) and do what’s best for me because I am the only one who has the last say on my life and how I live it.

    So anyone who is telling you, Bram, that being a meat-a-tarian is negating your personal version of Ahimsa, should look at how their practicing Ahimsa themselves. Is hurting you helping them practice non-harming? I believe not. I urge anybody who is practicing yoga or who calls themselves a yogi/ni to truly look at Ahimsa and find what it truly means beyond someone else’s food choices. I believe people can be taught through good example if you really want to have people follow your lead.
    In any case, thank you for bringing that up. It was well written and obviously brought things up for me! You are a lovely, kind person and you bring me a lot even though we rarely see each other. I’m so glad to have you around whether you eat meat or not.

    p.s. I happen to have been raised and continue to be a vegetarian and don’t so much agree with the meat industry but this doesn’t affect my relationships with my meat-eating friends, boyfriend and brother because my love for them and vice versa is far more valuable to me than my own opinions about what they choose to do.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this Bram! As an on-again-off-again vegetarian it has always been obvious that people feel a need to comment on what is my own, very personal, choice. My reasons for changing my diet have been different at every stage, sometimes with Ahimsa in mind, sometimes simply from feeling hopeless, sometimes inspired by life circumstances. Whether I was vegetarian being criticized by meat-eaters, or eating meat and being criticized by vegetarians and vegans, the fact that I had chosen my diet consciously based on personal circumstances always got me through.

    I think a big part of the problem has been language – as soon as I try to boil my diet down into a label, there will be people who think I am not living up to the ideals of said label. I am trying to learn not to call my self anything, in regards to dietary choices.

    I mostly want to support you in your choice, and in sharing your thoughts about your choice. I don’t feel I have a lot to add beyond this just now, but it has been a funny week for me surrounding just this topic:

    After a recent conversation with a friend, I decided to try out an exercise from a yoga teacher trading of a different tradition than my own practice. They were asked to reflect on one yama/niyama for a week at a time. This being my first week, I have been reflecting on… ahimsa! I started Monday morning, and Monday evening was convinced to stay at a friend’s “spinster night” where they would be watching Earthlings. To be honest, I assumed it was some kind of alien movie. It was actually a very graphic hour and a half long documentary on the various types of abuses inflicted by humans on other species. Out to watch the meteor showers last night I couldn’t help swatting at the various bugs out to suck my blood. We all just do what we can, what is overall the correct action for us given our personal circumstances. Through the practice of yoga I find that I learn to find and trust what is “correct” for msyelf, without reliance on the approval or under the influence of the disapproval of others. I am curious to see what next week’s focus on satya will bring into my life!

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