Tag Archives: Bhagavad Gita

2017 Higher Learning Weekend 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What We Don’t Know

I am currently studying Islam and the Quran through an online course with Harvard University because I was aware of my ignorance when it came to the religion and belief system that over a billion people ascribe to today. I suspected that what I had been exposed to through media and the opinions of others wasn’t entirely accurate or fact-based, and as someone who believes that all talk of God should be talk of peace, I wanted to investigate.

It turns out I was right. Islam, from my very little time exposed to it, seems to be about compassion and mercy. Aligned with the Judeo-Christian history of revelations compiled into book form, Islam is also very aligned with the Yoga teachings which ask us to place God above all else. Not what CNN would have us believe, apparently.

The first question we were asked in this course is how do we know what we know about Islam and Muslims? A seemingly innocuous question, at least until I really started thinking about it. Which led to asking myself how I know most of what I think I know.

We talk shit a lot of the time. We babble on about topics that we are not properly informed about, and yet we keep on talking.

This week’s classes will bring all of this together by asking students the following questions:

How do you know what you know? About what’s right for you? About what’s right for others? About what’s right and wrong? About what you’re meant to be doing with your time? About how you’re meant to love? About who you’re meant to love? About how you receive love? About money? About sex? About rest? About stress? About health issues?

What is your source of information? Is it Google? Is it your parents or guardians who brought you up? Is it the media? Is it what you overheard from others? Is it through the news wire? And is it viable? Is it a source that speaks from fact or from assumption? Is it based in truth or in fear?

Now let’s look at what you know even though you don’t know how you know it. About the difference between right and wrong. About how to treat others, regardless of their skin color or the language they speak or the god they pray to or who they feel compelled to love. About what your life is meant to represent. About what the lives of others are meant to represent.

1) Know that ideology, on any subject, is dangerous without applying that ideology face to face with the people it involves. One can have a million opinions, but those opinions can also be transformed in a second by seeing the faces and walking in the shoes of those they involve.

2) Trust that if it makes you uncomfortable or invokes fear, you need to know more about it. That sensation or emotion of fear is a messenger begging you to look a little deeper. If we all made the effort to dig a little deeper we would find commonality. Every time.

3) If you’re gonna talk, speak fact. Opinion is already saturating our culture. Opinion is killing us. From the mind-numbing chatter of all the talking heads employed by news media conglomerates to endlessly babble stupidity into our personal spaces to the cowards who sit behind the safety of their black mirrors, puffed-up with their false sense of self-importance, spewing hate and judgement through social media on 140 characters or less. Opinion is harming us. What you put out into the world, whether it be through your word (spoken or written) or your actions, has the potential to heal or to harm. Unfortunately, the default when mindlessness is part of the equation, is harm. We harm easier than we heal. Changing that vibration into one of healing can only happen by speaking fact, not emotionally charged opinion. More importantly, we must be able to say, “I don’t know” when we really don’t have enough information to responsibly contribute to the narrative. Even more importantly? Know when not to speak. Silence, in the proper contexts, is golden. It’s grace, it’s power, it’s action disguised as inaction.

We have got to start taking more responsibility for what we project into the world. If it feeds hate, judgement, separation or fear, then we have to acknowledge that and do the work that is ours to do, a teaching that is rooted in the Bhagavad Gita. If it feeds healing and love, then we are living in alignment with why we are here and what we are meant to do with our time.

We are not here to judge or hate or blame or fear. And why does it take disasters that shake us to the core to wake up to that realization? Because we are asleep. We are encouraged to stay docile and meek because that’s how we can be herded in whatever directions governments and corporations want to us to move in.

Let’s wake up a bit more today. Let’s set an intention to continue waking up a bit more every day. Set that intention every day, and every evening, before sleeping, identify how you’ve become more awake in the day that is ending.

This is up to us. No one is going to do this work for us. For you. For me. So let’s do it. It can only lead to good.

For The Love of Baltimore

IMG_5152Events over the last couple of weeks in Baltimore have gotten extremely volatile with the suspicious circumstances surrounding Freddie Gray. What we know is that there is a massive race issue begging to be looked at in the USA, especially when it comes to the approach the police have towards the African-American community. The protests that have ended in rioting and a state of emergency officially being declared are slowly dwindling as calm is being restored in the city, and I’d like to take a moment to speak to the community I was welcomed into at M·Power Yoga exactly one month ago.

We did some serious personal digging last month going through the Bhagavad Gita, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the Astavakra Gita, Hindu & Yogic Mythology and meditation techniques and approaches. There were underlying concepts and insights to all the work that we did together that spoke to our individual and personal challenges and struggles. We discussed the need for every single on of us to begin the healing process using practical tools that can bring us closer to shifting from being cemented in the human experience to spending some time in the spiritual and energetic aspects of who we are and why we’re here. We also discussed how stories of battle and war, like in the Bhagavad Gita, are representative of the battles that are waged in every single one of our minds every single day, and that the tools that Krishna offers Arjuna in the book are the tools that we are meant to use to find our own way through life with peace and light, respecting universal laws and concepts.

There are some very fresh wounds in your city with the events of the past couple of weeks. There is collective healing that needs to happen in Baltimore. It pains me to see this occur in a city that was so welcoming and inspirational with its “phoenix-from-the-flames” resurgence I was witness to. And as I remind others of whenever life seems to dip closer to the darkness and further away from the light, our responsibility in moments like these is to rise up and meet the darkness with equal doses of light. We do this by practicing the universal laws of love and mercy: placing the welfare, concern and love for others above the love of the self AND forgiving the errors of others. This may seem impossible to do given the suspicious circumstances surrounding Freddie’s injuries that led to his death, but for the sake of your city, for the love of Baltimore, just do it. Healing will not take place right now with the vibration of chaos that has been stirred up. With peace one has clarity and perspective, the two essential building blocks needed to build a sold structure of community and unity.

You at M·Power now have your work brought to your doorstep. It is yours specifically to do, on a scale you probably never thought you’d be exposed to. You have been presented with a massive opportunity to put into practice what we have theoretically gone over. Ask how the events have affected you and how you have experienced thoughts and sensations of protest, anger, rage, chaos and violence in your own life up to this point. Ask how you can be a vessel for light and how you can help heal this tears in your community. Go out into your city and do your work. Your students need you. Your city needs you. Be a part of the enlightenment that is inevitable following dark passages like this one. Go our there and light up the night with what you know to be true, and do it for whatever you believe in: peace, community, love, unity, your personal dharma. Dedicate your efforts to something bigger than you. It’s your time. For you and for Baltimore.

I’m sending you energy and whatever else you need…I may be back home, but I’m with you. Have no doubt about it.

Weekend of Workshops in Montreal

WeekendWorkshops.I have been intermittently traveling for over a year now to bring my teaching, workshops and book (www.theexaminedlifebook.com) all over the country and the world, so when a student asked me when I would be giving workshops in Montreal, I realized that by bringing my gig all over the globe, I was essentially ignoring my home town. The workshops I typically give in Montreal are either associated to teacher training programs or festivals, available exclusively to those who have enrolled in whatever event I’m on the faculty of. And so I began thinking about creating a full weekend of workshops available to everyone and anyone, here in Montreal. And once I started thinking about it, as one would expect, more and more students started approaching me asking me for exactly what I had started planning.

The dates are now set, the location is cemented and I have begun putting together the entire weekend. Most of the subject matter is information I’ve been working with over the last few years on a regular basis, but I have never been bold enough to bring it all together into one cohesive and cathartic weekend…until now.

The weekend will start off Friday evening with Intro to iRest® Yoga Nidra and will kick the weekend off with basic spiritual teachings as well as the opportunity to simply be with whatever is for each and every participant. The basic outline of this inquisitive and informative modality will be presented along with worksheets for participants to get down in black and white what their experience is. We will examine everything from intention to emotions to core beliefs, and we’ll do it from a place of pure witnessing, where nothing needs to be judged, changed, suppressed or aggressively expressed. A 30-35 minute practice will follow, and we will finish up this introductory module with conversation and observations from everyone wanting to share.

Saturday afternoon will kick off with a module I’ve long wanted to present but wanted to wait until I felt I had the necessary tools to do so – Shedding Fear, Insecurity and Anxiety Through Yoga, Meditation and Spirituality. This incredibly informative and helpful module will carry over from the iRest® module from the previous evening with concepts such as limiting beliefs, mindfulness and intention, while drawing from ancient yogic texts like the Bhagavad Gita and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (allowing us to transition into the workshop that will follow this module). Exercises setting intention as well as mindfulness meditation will be included, and participants will leave with very real, helpful tools to make their way forwards through life with clarity, strength and an accurate and inspired sense of Self. This module will also include a 45-minute asana class incorporating specific postures that assist in the shedding of all that weighs us down so we can move closer to personal and collective freedom.

Saturday will end with The Practical Application of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. This is a module that offers insight into how to realistically apply the ancient teachings of Ashtanga Yoga to a modern world where energy and unity are disregarded in place of the appearance of things and attention to the temporary and superficial. This segment of the weekend delves into how even after thousands of years, teachings that could easily be brushed off as archaic are actually more relevant and useful than ever, all of which bring us closer to dis-identifying with pain and suffering and give us real tools to prioritize direction and peace in our own lives.

The only morning module (and the only posture-focused module) for this weekend takes place late Sunday morning with Activating The Core Body in Asana, an opportunity to lead students through a flow of yoga postures incorporating the basic principles of core strength and stability. We will look at what the core of the body actually is from an anatomical perspective and how engaging the core helps avoid injury, increase stability, strength and balance and play a part in our long-term health and posture. A short lecture/introduction will be followed by the class where we will take time to break down postures and apply what we’re learning to deepen the asanas and the practice.

To end our weekend together, we will explore Applying the Yamas & Niyamas to Modern Living. Picking up where we left off Saturday afternoon with the Sutras, we will explore the restrictions on how we treat others and ourselves in a modern-day context. We will look at how our words, actions, and existences in real life and through social media often completely disregard these guidelines on ensuring a peaceful existence, and we’ll delve into how adherence to them changes the energy we emanate in a simple and immediate way.

In just revising my notes and adding to what I want to communicate over the course of these 5 workshops, I feel a real energy growing. I’m SO excited to bring all this information to everyone, and really grateful to the students for pointing out to me that I was essentially forgetting to bring the teachings to the same community that has and continues to elevate me to a place where I’m being heard. I have reserved the studio space at Happy Tree Yoga (4010 Ste-Catherine St. West, suite 200) for this weekend of information, exploration, intention and manifestation, and registration for the event is in full swing already. For more information or to register for any or all of the workshops, visit my webpage at bramlevinson.com/news.htm.

I really hope to see you there for this weekend of delving into more profound levels of spirituality, insight and personal development. We’ll be doing work and exchanging ideas that really, truly matter through conversation, exercises and worksheets, and of course, movement, breath and intention. Bring your yoga mat, notebook, pens or pencils and an inquisitive mind, and be prepared to expand what you believe to be true about yourself, the world around you, and what your place is in that world.

See you there!

 

Nothing Really Matters

ImageIt’s been a while since I’ve posted, I know, but trust me, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking…of searching…of examining…of reading and studying…and it’ll never be over, which is why I decided to sit down this evening and get some thoughts out to you all…

I’ve got a question to ask you: how many of you believe that you are alive, on this earth, in this minute, where you are geographically, for a reason? How many of you really feel that? That you have a higher, loftier purpose than what you find yourself doing daily?

I have always felt that my life was meant to be lived for a reason, but for many, many years I couldn’t figure out what that reason was, so I simply took opportunities that came to me and assumed that life would bring me where I was meant to go. I was, however, very conscious of my need to stop and check myself before embarking on any avenue that would require a wholehearted investment, because despite not being able to pin down what my mission was, I have always known when something would be a distraction, a waste of time. I left centers of higher education over and over when I felt my studies were wasting my time, and as I instruct people in my “Examined Life” workshop to do, through the process of elimination I repeatedly managed to identify what I didn’t want in my life. And it was through this elimination that I finally figured it out.

My awareness of consciousness (and its subtle layers) has been with me for as long as I can remember, even back when I had no name for it, no parameters within which to define it. And ironically, when meditated and reflected on, it is nameless and undefinable. Over the past week I have been reading a translation of the Bhagavad Gita by Eknath Easwaran, and in all honesty, I haven’t gotten past the introduction…not because it’s difficult or painful to read, quite the contrary, actually. I keep re-reading his words that set the tone for the layers of consciousness that permeate the Gita, and every time I read them, a different phrase or concept rises up to meet me, which I end up reflecting on for a few days. At this rate, I’ll have finished reading the book by 2013, but all kidding aside, he mentions something which succinctly sums up my beliefs and reasons for carrying out my mission of helping people realize their own selves and missions. He brings up the concept of brahmavidya, which translates to “the supreme science” – supreme because it is the science of consciousness, which underlies and informs all other studies and aspects of life.

In discussing the origins of brahmavidya, Eknath tells us that the ancient Hindu sages, through their introspective studies of consciousness, came to three conclusions that have since been backed up by more modern-day scientists: 1) there is an infinite, changeless reality beneath the world of change; 2) this same reality lies at the core of every human personality; 3) the purpose of life is to discover this reality experientially. What does this all mean? Let me give you my take on it: the lives we live spent managing our jobs, relationships, health, passions, hobbies, etc… all fall into the world of change. These things happen, then they’re done. We feel one way, the feeling passes. We work on one project, it ends. Many of us have lived our lives to date confident in the belief that this world is the sum total of our efforts and happiness lies in said efforts and their results. Others have played this game and “won”, only to discover that the satisfaction they were led to believe would be gained from all their hard work remained elusive. The world of change is very real, don’t get me wrong. But there is way more to our existence than what we can perceive using our senses. The sages identified that under the world of change lies another realm, one in which resides a changeless source of energy from which every single thing in existence stems….which leads us to their second point: we stem from that source. We carry that changeless, nameless energy within us and our personalities develop from there. Lastly, they tell us that the meaning of life, the reason we are here on earth is to experience this connection we have to that which is changeless. To understand it, to connect to it, and to remember it so that it alters our perception of the world of change, allowing us to see that everything comes from one source and that we have way more in common with each other than we understand.

Grasping these concepts can be incredibly alienating, giving many the reason they need to not explore further into their own lives and the perception they have of the world around them. It is, however, these concepts exactly which have always been with me, albeit under guises that were harder to explain and justify. It is these very concepts that I try to bring with me to every class I teach, every workshop I give, every lecture I prepare. I believe that as soon as we realize that the jobs we work at and the relationships we partake in and the roles we overload ourselves with are ever-changing and temporary, we find ourselves receiving that much-needed nudge into a place of clarity, where any illusion about why we’re here is dispelled, and we understand exactly the depths of meaning that each and every one of us embodies. We are provided with a clearer framework within which we can stop wasting time and identify the gifts we have been carrying around with us for our entire lives so that we can finally share them with the rest of the world.

So…if you answered in the affirmative to my question at the beginning of this post, has what you’ve read here informed that belief of yours to any extent? Why are you here? And how long has it taken you to figure out? It’s time to pay attention to what really matters. Your time is now…