I am thrilled to announce that almost three years to the day, and for the second time in my career, I will be returning to the stage at the legendary Rialto Theatre in Montreal’s Mile End to present my new show, Storyteller. In equal parts comedy, tragedy, inspiration, and soul-baring tales, Storyteller offers hard-earned insight into the journey of life and the perspective necessary to make sense of it all, with words and images spanning the better part of the last century. Don’t miss this special evening at the beautiful Rialto, it’ll be a night to remember.
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.
A few days home after getting back from the Yoga & Meditation City Break in Rome, and a few insights have landed hard. Ten years ago I set a goal to hold three trips per year. I did that in 2019 and what I discovered is that the idea of it was wonderful, the reality incredibly demanding and depleting. I loved giving these trips, don’t get me wrong, because with every trip I plan and execute, I aim to give people memories they will always look back on lovingly, and the feedback I get has shown me that that aim has been realized. But when I give these trips, I am “on”, 24/7, and hold myself accountable for every aspect of the trip and everyone’s experience while on it. This may be unrealistic, holding myself accountable to an unfair standard, but my work ethic is what it is.
That goal in 2009 of having three trips a year needed to be realized for me to learn that it was not sustainable, and so going forward I will be holding two trips a year as I have been doing up to 2019.
The next Yoga & Meditation Vacation will be the annual trip to Paros in Greece, September 5-15. MANY of you have told me that you intend to attend, and as of today, January 11, 7 out of 10 rooms are taken, which leaves 3 rooms available. Priority will go to those who make their $500 non-refundable deposit either through the link at https://bramlevinson.com/retreats/ or via Interac e-transfer to my email address.
My passion to share the blessings and insights that only travel can bring has not dimmed, trust me. If anything, I know better how to harness what needs to be harnessed for it to take shape and be made manifest in its most perfect iteration. Going easier on myself, not pushing myself to do or be more than is necessary, is one of the greatest lessons I have learned in recent years. The work speaks for itself, and hopefully, so does my example.
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
I am extremely happy to announce the launch of The Examined Life with Bram Levinson Podcast! Episodes will include lectures, interviews, occasional rants, and whatever else I feel like sharing with the world that deal with everything from spirituality to the most mundane aspects of this experience of life. Sit back, relax, and enjoy what has already been recorded, and what is yet to come. To access the Podcast page, click on the image below!
I’m lying on my bed in the late afternoon, the sun blazing outside as a Montreal heat wave slowly comes to its end in the crescendo of impending thunderstorms, and I find myself reflecting on everything that my “now” is comprised of. Summer in Montreal is what keeps people living here, and so it goes without saying that there is contentment and gratitude for heat, foliage, sun and seeing my fellow Montrealers (and the annual influx of tourists) out and about. Winter sees the masses huddled in protective winter gear, so it brings much happiness to see everyone basking in the comfort and beauty of summer’s offerings.
Weeks ago, I officiated a wedding for two people I love more than words can say, and I find myself still riding the wave of that beautiful experience. There is pure, untarnished joy related to the experience, which bubbles up now at the slightest thought of the wedding.
I received notice a half hour ago that a relative of mine who has been in my life since my childhood passed on earlier in the day, and so there is grief/poignance/nostalgia/love/gratitude bubbling up as well.
This second half of 2019 will see much travel, with Yoga & Meditation Vacations and City Breaks in Paros, Greece and Rome, Italy, as well as a work trip to Kamloops, British Columbia and some other personal jaunts to other lands, and for all of this, there is excitement and hope bubbling up.
I just spoke to my father, spoke to my mother yesterday, saw my two brothers and their families last weekend, and saw one of my uncles earlier in the week, and there is so much gratitude for still being surrounded by them 45 years into this life.
I played with my dog earlier today and lost all sense of humanness as I brushed her coat and acted like a big goofball with her, and there is such abandon and liberation that arises because of he connection we have.
Upcoming projects will involve passing on the insight and teachings I hold dearest, and there is much responsibility and honour associated to my role in the transmission of the information, as well as deep gratitude to all who have contributed to my role in the world today.
In any given moment, it all exists. The love, gratitude, grief, fear, sense of nostalgia, yearning, inquisitiveness, all of it…it all exists simultaneously for us all. We learn to observe it all, accept it all, be with it all and breathe through it all. We learn that through this power of observation we glean the wisdom that can only be taught through the nature of transience and impermanence. It’s all changing. And so we welcome it all, be with it, allow the humanity of the instant arise and integrate into our world view, and keep going.
This “now” is where it all intersects to form what is. It will change. It already has. So have we.
Take a moment to recognize your “now”, in all its fury and beauty and scary and lovely. Observe it. Appreciate it all. And watch it change.
Peace to us all.
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.
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
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.