Tag Archives: fear

*This Is Just A Test*

Once again, I find myself feeling drawn to write as the end of another year, another cycle, winds down before delivering us into the beginning of the next one. These blog posts used to be my main outlet for expressing myself through the written word, and despite having transferred that outlet to the realm of book-writing, I have to admit it’s lovely to come back to this medium to leave a few words to commemorate this moment in time.

2021 has been, for those of us who have the capacity to recognize it, a microcosm of tumultuousness within which we have collectively been led to inhale sharply and hold our breath, only to exhale once permission was granted. And once that exhalation was passed and forgotten, we found an old pattern of breathing that felt familiar and which brought relief after the season of hollowed fears which convinced us we’d never be permitted to breathe freely again. We knew it wasn’t a one-time thing. We knew we’d be inhaling sharply again and doing our best to get on with life despite whilst holding our breath in anticipation of the permission-to-exhale moment. We knew we weren’t out of the woods. But what we forgot, collectively and in the moments of solitude and isolation, was that perhaps, once again, the literal expression of life as pandemic/variant/fear/inhale/holding pattern/exhale/forget/pretend/uh-oh/inhale was not the sole experience unfolding. We forgot that perhaps the undercurrent of meaning which ties everything together with purpose was having us navigate this experience of life not being easy on purpose so that we could be presented with the opportunity to heal in the face of fear and chaos. We forgot that every so often, we as a race of ant-sized critters scrambling entitledly across this globe we inhabit will be subject to the life education we were enrolled in at birth. The lessons which will be meted out will serve to humble us and remind us that the quality of our experience of life is entirely and wholly dependent on what we do with our thoughts, because the world as we all know only exists in each of our minds. These words exist in your mind, your loved ones exist in your mind, the meaning assigned to a pandemic exists in your mind, as do the ways you will deal with it.

This year brought us way, way down into the depths of despair and then roller-coasted us to the heights of relief and hope, only to do what roller coasters do, which is scare the shit out of us as we breach the crest of the downward trajectory. And as we navigate the ups, the downs, and the sacred moments between them, it would be irresponsible of us to not recognize that life doesn’t present us with turmoil for nothing. The turmoil without mirrors the turmoil within, and the real lesson here is that if we are not ready or willing to work with and find resolution and peace within ourselves, then we have absolutely no right to pass judgement on what occurs without. None. We have no right to judge a pandemic, a government, an anti-vaxxer or those who believe vaxxing is the solution. Understand that life expresses itself as everything, and within that expression will be aspects and elements that make us uncomfortable. We, as those who suffer from the plight of the privileged, have been conditioned to blame others for our discomfort in order to shift it, leaving us feeling better and justified after slinging our shadow onto others. That’s not a fix. That’s a Band-Aid. And there is no healing there. Just hurt.

This year has very much been about testing each one of us to see if and when we will finally be ready to heal. Not from the fallout of Pandemica, but rather from the wounds which we have been carrying with us for decades. Sometimes it takes a pandemic to recontextualize life, and with life recontextualized we find ourselves dealing with old patterns of fear, old patterns of helplessness, old patterns of getting on with life without looking at what’s scaring us senselessly, old patterns of projection/blaming/suppressing/repressing/avoiding/anesthetizing.

This has been a year in which many have finally decided to do the work that will address their shadow, their past, their wounds. The law of karma tells us that if we don’t learn the big lessons initially, cycles will repeat to continue giving us the opportunity to learn. And so the roller coaster speeds along, our stomachs heaving with every lurch and dive, until we understand that we were meant to voluntarily get off the roller coaster and assign the trajectory ourselves. Life has been trying to teach us that we could either be held hostage by what “happens to us” or we could step into the roles that have been our birthright from the first inhalation we ever took and recognize the power and influence we each have in assigning meaning that is helpful and constructive to a life that will present as anything but.

This process of healing requires us to question. Question the thoughts that come into our minds and ask if they’re really valid or if they are the product of years of dysfunction. Question whether being plugged into news outlets is actually helpful. Question whether the “news” should have been named the “bad news” from the get go. Question whether we have been encouraged to thrive in life or encouraged to contribute to an economic system which never had our best interests at heart, but which simply needed our taxes to continue to get paid. And once we have questioned and mulled over possible responses, our responsibility, especially this year, has always been to sit back with it all, find calm in the breathing, the musculature of the body, and the mind, and realize that it’s all just a test. All of it. Every second of all it is a test to see whether we will give our power away to whatever it is that will leave us disempowered and distracted or whether we will be able to witness it all and see it as the trickery of a life that demands that we transcend turmoil and chaos and finally rest in the homeground of our being.

Find rest. That’s the point of the game of life. The game will seduce you into believing that it’s about the race, about the win, about the competition, about the cars, the homes, the travel, the dollars, the stature, the job, etc… The game will demand that you be distracted enough to not realize that to level up over and over until you win the game requires you to find the sword in the stone, the one ring to rule them all, the holy grail, and that is rest. Rest for your mind, rest for your body, rest for your emotional state, rest for your soul.

When faced with situations in life that draw you into fear, uncertainty and turmoil, understand that it is at that specific moment that the game is ON! That’s your cue to find the rest that is yours. Instead of passing judgement on those you don’t agree with when YOU are the one filled with tension, instead of choosing more wound, more hurt, more turmoil, more chaos, choose to finally, at long last, heal. And we heal when we rest. It’s that simple.

I am wishing you all healing. I am wishing you all rest. I am wishing us all that which brings the nervous system back to default settings and which helps center us in calm and clarity, symbolic sight and the reality of truth. Happy, healthy, healing holidays to us all, and may 2022 continue to guide us back to the homeground within which healing awaits.

My Work

I don't want to deal with the state of today's world.

I don't want to find excuses or justifications for what I object to, to the injustices that seem to be becoming more and more commonplace, simply to quell my dumbfoundedness and indignation. I don't want to judge, and I don't want to call myself on my judgements because I know that there's already too much judgement being slung around like stones at a stoning. I don't want to placate myself by attempting to cultivate patience as I wait for the world leaders who are abusing their power to fall into the annals of history. I don't want to see the virtuous and the kind suffer, and I don't want to see those that think solely of themselves, with no regard for the well being of others, effortlessly float through existence. I don't want to see the ignorant venom that gets spewed out in 140 characters or less, and I don't want to see my fellow humans get to the end of their lives believing that what they learn through news channels about other faiths, beliefs and points of view is a proper education.

There's a lot I don't want. But like it or not, this is. It all is, undeniably. And I have a choice as to whether I'm going to rant and rave and object and age into a curmudgeonly, bitter man, or if I'm going to do everything I can to work with my own feelings of anger, disbelief, disappointment and fear so that I acknowledge and experience them fully, and then occasionally alter those vibrations into different ones that lift my spirits. I have a choice as to whether the sensations my body experiences day in and day out are "negative" and harmful, or whether they soothe my senses and help to prioritize calm and clarity above all else. I have a choice as to what I focus on, understanding that the object of my attention will dictate the quality of my experience of every single moment.

And so, I pick my battles. I do great things for other people. I help other people with their most difficult obstacles. I bring laughter to situations that are laughable, even when they're tragically so. I elevate others. I am kind to myself. I make time to do whatever the hell I want for myself to balance out the time and effort I dedicate to my work and mission. I balance discipline and comfort, finally understanding how necessary they both are.

I accept the state of today's world, don't get me wrong. But I am hell-bent on making sure it doesn't get the better of me. More so, I do what I can, exceeding personal expectations, to make this world a better place. It's the only thing I can realistically do.

That's my work.

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!**

Why We Should Be Grateful For 2016

2016As 2016 winds down to its last days, social media and conversation is abuzz with how this year has truly been THE annus horribilis, the year that everyone wants to see the back of. It seems like there were more tears in the collective fabric of humanity over the last 12 months than in other years in recent memory. From the deaths of some of our most celebrated artists and musicians to the seemingly relentless terror attacks on freedom and those fortunate enough to live where freedom reigns, from the non-stop sensationalist media frenzy that helped elect he-who-shall-not-be-named to the office of POTUS, to the rising wave of intolerance and xenophobia, 2016 has definitely been chock full of shocks. But instead of looking at all these moments as contributing to a horrible year, I can give you all a few reasons as to why 2016 is one of the most important years in this lifetime of ours.

My year has had some of the most challenging moments I’ve ever been faced with. My teacher of 17 years, Joan Ruvinsky, passed away, my dog got critically ill, I was ill and on antibiotics for over 3 months and my partner and I had a major cancer scare over the last 5 weeks. Serious life events that kept coming like a roll of punches that hit just when you find verticality and can see straight again. And I’m not the only one. Almost every single person I know has had his or her share of challenges in 2016. Financial struggles, serious mental and physical health problems, legal issues, you name it, it’s been occurring in my sphere of awareness. Seen literally, it all amounts to trouble and suffering, both of which anyone with half a functional brain would steer clear of. However, seen spiritually or symbolically, something much more significant than unpleasant moments has occurred in 2016.

We don’t learn anything when things are good. We don’t learn anything about ourselves or about how we operate in the world when the sun is shining, when it’s eternal summer, when we’ve got coin in the bank, when we’re a pound or two below our ideal weight, when we look in the mirror and love what we see, when our relationships and friendships are sailing along smoothly, when we love our work and when we feel like everything is exactly where it should be. And understand this above all else: spiritually speaking, success is not measured by what we own, our accomplishments, the amount of money we have or what we look like. Success, when speaking spiritually, is measured by how much we’ve learned. And we don’t learn anything in times of prosperity and abundance. We learn when we have our asses served to us by what typically gets easily referred to as “the universe.” And whether or not we have liked it, we have gotten more successful in 2016.

I have learned, through all of the challenges that this year has had in store for me, how to really work with my thoughts and stay in positivity, hope, realism and productivity. I have learned what it means to work with fear, with negativity, with pain (emotional and physical), to put into practice everything I have studied and taught over the last chunk of my career. And understand this: I knew, as soon as things got heavy in my life, that I was being presented with the opportunity to respond to and deal with hardship, to make sure that a) I knew what I was talking about when I taught about working with fear, anxiety, negativity and darkness, and b) I could accurately empathize with the suffering of others. My role in this lifetime is to help others navigate their Dark Nights of the Soul. And this year, I was presented with my own, over and over. I was meant to be reminded that sometimes it feels impossible to inhale fully, to inflate the lungs, to really take a deep breath in the face of fear and chaos. I was reminded. And I am a better person, author, teacher, friend, son, mentor, brother, husband, godfather and pet owner because of it.

What have we learned collectively in 2016? That sometimes the unthinkable happens. That sometimes events do not unfold the way we would want them to, that the Hollywood narrative is the Hollywood narrative to keep us entertained and always able to depend on the happy ending. We have learned that we will never agree with each other on some of the most fundamental issues that affect us all, and that that is ok. We’ve learned that the freedoms that we are blessed with on this side of the world are not to be taken for granted, that with the election of certain individuals, those freedoms that others fought and died for could be taken away. We’ve learned that we might need to stand up and speak louder to ensure the freedom of all, not just those that look like us, speak the same language, pray to the same God as we do or align with our political views. We’ve learned that anything can happen to anyone at any time, and that every moment is precious. We’ve learned that when we suffer, we instinctively become more aware of the suffering of others and feel an animalistic need to not inflict further suffering on anyone or anything. We’ve learned that we have a choice as to whether we take care of each other or whether we don’t. We’re still learning that lesson. It will be a long time before we get it. I’m hopeful that we will.

Basically, 2016 was a game-changer for us, on a personal and collective level. And while we may have made our way through the year under low-level pressure and resented having to do so, no one can argue that whatever we’ve learned is essential. We need to be reminded of what matters in life, and for me, that is how I work with my thought patterns. Every single one of us will have an experience of the world that is dependent on what our thoughts are, and I believe that hardship and adversity exist for us to do the mindfulness work, to observe where our thoughts go when circumstances and events get less than ideal. We are meant to look beyond the appearance of it all to find the meaning, the symbolism, and, ultimately, the lessons that are ours specifically to learn.

And so, looking back through a different lens or filter, how does 2016 look to you now? Give it some thought and see what arises.

Happy Holidays to all, and the happiest of New Years. Here’s to 2017!

The Way Forward

I have been relatively quiet about the US elections over the past couple of years. I have chosen not to contribute to the vibrations of chaos this archaic system of “politics” has instigated. This morning I have no choice but to speak.

There is much despair right now, not only in the good old US of A, but globally. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named is the leader of the so-called free world, apparently. This is. So we must accept and move forward from here.

What we also must accept is that we have the tendency of getting stuck in the human experience when that experience gets extreme. Like it is now. But there is a greater narrative unfolding that we cannot ignore.

The spiritual, energetic experience that exists simultaneously as these chaotic details unfold is occurring on purpose, for a reason that will be specific to every single one of us. In moments of turmoil, the energetic experience is begging us to ask ourselves, “What am I meant to learn? What am I meant to learn?” This needs to be our mantra, because to look for the meaning behind the chaos is to see beyond the literal, beyond what gets us stuck, so we can move forward.

Some of us are meant to learn that we need to speak our minds louder than we have done.

Some of us are meant to learn that we need to stand up for the rights of others who are being persecuted.

Some of us are meant to learn that if we don’t vote, our inaction will turn around and bite us in the ass.

Some of us are meant to learn that the struggle is, indeed, real, that the fight for freedom is far from over, and that entitlement is the luxury of the few and the deluded.

Some of us are meant to learn the names Gloria Steinem, Matthew Shepard, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, Frederic Douglass, Harvey Milk, Ella Baker and the countless others who fought intolerance and ignorance.

Some of us are meant to de-program initial response and wait to see how things will unfold.

We are treading new waters and we don’t necessarily know how things will go. We cannot let fear motivate us into emotional response and hasty action. We must ask ourselves if we want to be part of the problem or part of the solution. We must remain in ACTION and not in RE-action.

We must be awake and alert and ready to support each other regardless of what God we may pray to, regardless of the color of our skin, regardless of gender or money or all the other bullshit details that typically keep us separate.

This is our call to attendance. The time is now, the struggle just got even more real. Be peaceful. Be loving. Accept and make wise decisions that allow you to respond to life, not react to it.

We can do this. All of us, together.

Why?

Why would you doubt your worth?

Why would you pretend to be someone else?

Why would you settle for mediocrity?

Why would you waste this precious time by doing what you’d prefer not to?

Why would you do what everyone else is doing?

Why wouldn’t you ask for help when you need it?

Why wouldn’t you reach for your dreams and wildest ambitions?

Why wouldn’t you assume that it will all work out?

Why wouldn’t you passionately respect yourself?

Why wouldn’t you finally just do it, your way, on your terms?

The Greatest Terrorist of All

We should know better.

As the privileged few on this planet to have our comforts and freedoms. As the surviving few of our lineages. Regardless of our gender, skin colour or religious background, every single one of us, at some point on the historical spectrum, comes from a lineage of persecution. Every single one of us has been the hated, the exiled, the beaten, the rejected, the refused and the despised. Every single one of us knows what it means to be made to feel inferior and excluded. And yet some amongst us still feel the need to perpetuate the cycle of hate that was unleashed on our relatives and ancestors at some point by their oppressors. Some amongst us would prefer to be the new face of oppression instead of deal with their own fears concerning cultures and religions they know nothing about. Some amongst us would prefer to hoard what they consider “theirs” instead of sharing it. Some would prefer to believe that to deny others an iota of kindness is to ensure that their “theirs” will not get stolen by those they fear.

Every single one of you, but for the grace of whatever you understand God to be, could be fleeing tyranny, walking across countries in pursuit of what we take for granted. But you’re not. You’re warm and fed, reading these words. Which means that you have a responsibility to do something to help your fellow humans. This “Muslim problem”, this “refugee issue” is neither about Muslims or refugees. It is about human beings suffering and operating from the instinctual drive to survive. This is your problem, your issue. It is our problem, our issue.

We are given the opportunity to be kind, benevolent and merciful throughout key moments in our lifetime. See this as a sort of spiritual social experiment to see if we have learned anything over the past couple of thousand years. See if we’re really ready to put our efforts where our big mouths are by not letting history repeat itself. Let’s do history, and ourselves, a favour and get our collective head out of our behind and change the record. Let’s help those coming to our “civilized” countries with our material possessions, our money, our time and our energy to make sure that they can settle and get back to taking care of each other so they can process and grieve for what they have had to lose and endure throughout this horror show we see as happening “over there.”

As I wrote in A Year In The Light, what happens to one of us happens to all of us. So let’s do our damndest to ensure that we all have access to happiness, freedom and well being. The fear that is keeping us from doing so will prove to be the greatest terrorist we suffer in our lifetimes, one of our own doing.

Musings On International Yoga Day

internationaldayofyogaOn Sunday, June 21 the world will have its first official International Yoga Day. And while I think that it is fantastic that yoga is getting the kind of recognition that it deserves, this milestone does run the risk of perpetuating certain myths about the superficialities of yoga. If you plan on observing International Yoga Day, consider that posting a photo of yourself on social media in some intricate asana may get you a slew of likes and comments, but potentially has little to do with the significance or essence of this day.

The physical practice of yoga has many benefits, one of which is that it allows the practitioner to move the body in order to shift whatever muscular tensions have landed and gotten stuck in the physical frame. The point to shifting these muscular tensions is so that we can be free of the physical manifestation of that which stresses us and keeps us stuck in the human experience, so that we can begin to experience the energetic aspects of this incarnation. Yoga frees us from the bondage of matter, allows us to stop identifying with the body and helps us come back to love, trust, faith, unity, peace and connection. Most of all, it represents the end of identification with pain and all that that umbrella term represents.

On International Yoga Day, practice yoga off your yoga mat. Embody and express love, trust, faith, unity, peace and connection. Notice how many times you find yourself motivated by fear, mistrust or the apprehension of pain. When this happens, change the record. Set your intention to operate from the opposite point of view that your inclination initially brings you to. If you would’ve operated from fear, operate from faith. If you would’ve operated from anger, operate from love and acceptance. If you would’ve operated from chaos, operate from peace. That’s how you practice yoga. And if you’re going to observe this new international holiday, do it right the first time.

I’ve said and written it before and I’ll do so again now: you could take one million photographs of yourself in beautiful yoga postures that Yoga Journal would rave about, but if you’re behaving like a shithead in your daily life, then you’re not practicing yoga. That’s just posturing. Let yoga change your life, not just the size of your clothes or your ego.

Minority Rising

 
In this moment in time, a moment of almost daily terrorist attacks and overpopulation somehow leading to unheard of statistics of isolation and loneliness, we have a responsibility. 

In a moment in time when women fighting for education and equality in war-torn countries are being raped, tortured and killed for it, in a period of history when unhappiness bleeds into daily life and our leaders react by stripping away basic human rights, in a time when children with every luxury available to them are losing their childhood to the overt sexualization of a society with no direction, we have a responsibility.
In a world where technology affords never-before-seen methods of communication and yet we have an inability to speak face to face about issues that affect our happiness and well-being, we have a responsibility.
That responsibility is to be a source of light and connection to each other, to focus on hope and togetherness, to love bigger than anyone has ever proven capable before. To rise up out of the cesspool of our own dramas and bitchery, to recognize how blessed we are and ensure we stand up and speak for those whose voices have been muted, to prioritize peace at any and all costs.
 
We, in this part of the world, are in the minority. We are the minority who can speak our minds and engage in stimulating debate and not be shot for it. We are the minority who can pursue our dreams and goals and not be struck down in the process. We are the minority who can love freely, without shame or fear, and not tremble as we wait to be forcibly separated and punished for the simple act of loving. We can study, regardless of gender, and we can voice our opposition to our governments and not disappear mysteriously, never to be seen again. We can inspire and be inspired and actually make our lives better through that inspiration.
 
We have a responsibility to focus on everything that cannot be taken from us: love, peace, spirituality, kindness, faith, trust, brotherhood, sisterhood, light, hope and certainty. 
 
Remember that responsibility. Every day of your life. Don’t let yourself get complacent. Remember how good you have it and remember your responsibility. Don’t get tricked into believing that all is lost. We are found through intention and unity. We are found through the ties that bind us one to the other, not through our differences. We are found through the simple energy and act of love.
 
On this Easter weekend, remember your responsibility and focus on everything you’re blessed with, and send a prayer out for those struggling for a fraction of your blessings. Love huge, and be peaceful.

Fess Up and Get Real

Ask yourself: Am I afraid of living or am I afraid dying?

Most people would say they’re afraid of dying, but live their lives in fear. Fear of failure, fear of what others think, fear of others, fear of illness, fear of being fat/thin/short/tall, fear of not fitting in, fear of heights, fear of water, fear of spiders, fear of closed spaces, fear of hurting themselves, fear of drowning, fear of flying, fear of wide open spaces, fear of being crazy, fear of getting to know themselves. The list goes on and on.

Now ask yourself again: Am I afraid of living or dying?