Tag Archives: freedom

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.

Intention

i don’t have time to pay attention to critics.
i don’t have time for judgement.
i don’t have time to look at all the photos of beautiful bodies in intricate yoga poses.
i don’t have time to get caught up in gossip.
i don’t have time for blaming.
i don’t have time for finger-pointing and name calling.
i don’t have time to try to convince people to pay attention.
i don’t have time for hypocritical speech and false “friends.”
i don’t have time for justification of bad behaviour.
i don’t have time to make sense of any person or organization who believes that anyone is better or more deserving than anyone else.
i don’t have time to get caught up in your bullshit competition game.

i make time for education.
i make time for community.
i make time for compassion.
i make time for the awakening we’re approaching from this long slumber of unconsciousness.
i make time for self-study.
i make time to speak for those whose voices are silent.
i make time for collaboration.
i make time for the advancement of collective freedom.
i make time for helping others move forward on their journey of illumination, understanding and spiritual development.
i make time for embodying love and doing my best to let it emanate with no specific direction.
i make time for the creation of space within which both you and I can do the work that matters.

How is your i spending its time?

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.

Yoga & Activism

26563_409223819257_4397157_nA few years ago I had to miss a workshop being given by local Yoga teacher Allison Ulan that focused on Yoga and activism, and I was gutted to miss it. From my point of view, there seems to be a growing divergence between the physical-only focus of the practice, emphasizing solely how the body is being placed in any given pose from the non-physical byproducts of asana. While I absolutely do not want to minimize the importance of proper alignment and body awareness in the practice to avoid injury and to promote longevity in the practice, I also take issue with yoga being taught with little or no illumination of where the physical practice brings us emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.

The asana practice does a few things: it allows us to release the tensions that have landed in the body by moving the frame in ways that are atypical of a regular 24-hour cycle of movement. Areas that we may not have even been aware of that had been carrying tension on a somatic level are suddenly manipulated to work and gradually release whatever was being carried there, either spontaneously or more gradually. The practice also allows us to breathe consciously for an extended period of time, teaching us that to focus on a deep, nourishing breath throughout a period of physical movement and potential challenge is to teach us that a conscious breath is all we need to navigate moments of challenge, fear and adversity outside of a yoga class. It allows us to detach from external stimuli and spend some time with our bodies, and ultimately, with our Self to check in with whatever is in the moment. There are countless other ways that asana benefits us, but all those benefits, as far as I’m concerned, all lead to the same realization: that we are fully-formed, powerful beings with unique voices and points of view, and that it is our responsibility to speak up, to act, to pursue relentlessly what we believe to be right and true and fair, not just for ourselves, but for all beings. Yoga shows us how unity presents itself as separation, and once we clue into how far we’ve strayed from acting in the best interests of ALL of us, we find our words and the right language to speak up louder and clearer and more peacefully than we ever thought possible.

The philosophical, emotional and spiritual epiphanies that await every person who begins a yoga practice, even if that practice begins for the sole purpose of exercising the body in a non-gym atmosphere, need to be emphasized. Movement and breath and alignment are absolutely essential, but if they’re not partnered with guidelines and insight for spiritual evolution, then they’re no different than a gym workout. Yoga is everything, and it’s my hope that all teachers, instructors and light-bearers understand this.

What I want you to know is this: You are not allowed to have rights and squander them by not knowing how they were hard-fought for, by being indifferent, lazy or dispassionate. It is your responsibility to know who fought for what rights you have, especially those you take for granted, for those that you think are normal in this day, age and geographical location. If your skin colour is anything other than what’s considered “white” (but which is, in fact, more of a pinkish-beige), you better pay attention. If you’re a woman, pay attention. If your sexuality is anything other than 100% hetero, pay attention. If you fall into ANY visible or audible minority, pay attention. In fact, you know what? Pay attention, every single one of you.

Yoga is activism. It is a call to what is and a call to right action in the face of what is. It is finding your voice and then using it to ensure that no one feels excluded or inferior, and to make sure that the freedoms we are blessed with at this point in time are never snatched away in the name of power and oppression. Freedom should never directed towards some, it should be the right of all.

There are moments where I struggle to find inspiration to channel and pass on, but I definitely find it on occasion. I want to thank Allison for inspiring me all those years ago. I want to thank Sharon Gannon & David Life for creating the Jivamukti community and inspiring action, change and freedom for all. I want to thank Seane Corne for living everything I’m trying to express, for being the example, for being an inspiration and for the teachings, past and future, that I have been graced with. I’m doing everything I can to inspire and awaken, and will continue to do so until I can’t find the air to propel my words from my body. Until then, I’m focused on being awake, and on waking everyone else up.

Stay alert, stay together and stay awake. We are changing the world, one unique voice at a time, and, occasionally, as a collective roar of peaceful warriors. Let’s keep it going 🙂

Yoga Votes Saturday – April 5, 2014

voteMy career and my intention has been steeped in directing others to the truth about who we are as human beings, to understand and acknowledge that we are not our bodies, we are not our jobs, we are not our responsibilities, we are not our successes nor are we our failures. All of these things are temporary and transient. What we are is the unchanging energy that animates each and every one of our frames. Without that energy, we are simply dead bodies. This energy existed before we were born and it will outlive our bodies. It is an energy that is untouched by illness or mood, an unchanging observer that perceives the world around itself using the body’s senses.

This understanding of the Self eventfully brings clarity and perspective to students seeking truth and answers in their lives. This perspective and clarity allows us all to stop getting caught up in the ever-changing sea of daily dramas that seems to ricochet us from emotion to emotion, and to start focusing on what really matters: are we loving? Are we compassionate? Are we being loved? Are we free, and are we ensuring that freedom is not selectively doled out to the fortunate, but rather a birthright for all? Are we serving others?

We are in the weeks leading up to a very important provincial election here in Quebec. I’m not going to start preaching or sharing my own political beliefs, because I believe that we are all entitled to our own opinions and don’t want to be that person that polarizes others. I want to bring people together. I don’t care who Quebecers and Montrealers vote for, but I do care that a huge percentage of the population here does not take the time to go vote and exercise a right that others around the world are fighting to the death to have.

It is with the intention of galvanizing people who typically don’t vote because they a) don’t believe their vote will make a difference, or b) can’t be bothered to take the time out of their busy schedules to go to the polling stations, that I am creating one day of classes that I will lead, and I’m calling it Yoga Votes Saturday.

On Saturday, April 5 I will be leading a free yoga class from 9:00-9:50am at Lululemon Greene Avenue, and a paid yoga class at Luna Yoga from 11am-12:30pm. It is my hope that my regular students will bring people they know who are not regular voters to these classes, as well as people who have not yet taken my class. I aim to empower people to find their unique voices through the yoga practice, and it is with this voice that we effect change. I aim to get at least one person to the polling station on Election Day who would not have gone without having heard me speak and teach. It is my aim that we wake up as a society and realize that we have the power to make a difference, to effect real change and to step up in our own lives and start living consciously.

I am asking each and every one of you reading these words to get up off your chair, out of your house and be there at either of my 2 classes on Saturday, April 5 and to help me mobilize fellow Montrealers and Quebecers to stand up, be heard, and, ultimately, be a part of one of the most important elections we will be faced with. It’s not enough to share a Facebook post or Like a status. It’s time to do something real, so let’s do it together.

See you all at:

Lululemon Greene Ave – 1394 Avenue Greene, 9-9:50am

Luna Yoga – 231 Saint-Paul Ouest, Suite 200 – 11am-12:30pm

lululemonls
 

Is Freedom An Endangered Concept?

At the beginning of many yoga classes I’ve taken, the mantra seen above has been chanted, and occasionally even been focused on as the theme for the class. This chant calling for the happiness and freedom of all beings is not simply a channeling and projection of good intentions, it’s a call to personal responsibility. It galvanizes and empowers us to take accountability for other beings by ensuring that everything we think, do and say is done with the aim of creating our own personal happiness and freedom. Sounds simple enough, one would think. However, throughout the past weeks and months, with the American election campaigns in full swing (pun fully intended), as well as the election here in Quebec and the reports coming out of Syria and Russia, I have been seriously mulling over what freedom really is, and how its meaning might differ from one person to the next.

I’m not a particularly political person. I’ve rarely followed any political party very closely in the past, but the rise in global intolerance seems undeniable these days, an intolerance reflected in the heads of political parties that somehow rise to power. The greater the intolerance, the less freedom people have. The two may be inversely proportional, but they’re co-dependent. There is no freedom without repression. We wouldn’t even have to discuss the concept of freedom if mankind wasn’t power-hungry and ego-driven enough to feel compelled to strip away the options and opportunities available from those they feel superior to. Every history book in existence tells of those who, in their blind pursuit to sate their hunger for control, have inflicted the most horrible and unspeakable of atrocities onto their quarries because of the threat they felt was posed to them. Repression has always existed, and judging by the snail-like pace that mankind is evolving at, it always will.

American Republicans include the withdrawal of women’s, gay, and minority rights on their current campaign platforms, and for some reason, even with the direct threat to those freedoms, they still garner a huge number of supporters. Despite the US being the “land of the free and the home of the brave”, Republicans obviously feel that they should instead adopt the political slogan “land of the racist, misogynistic, classist, and homophobic, and home of the ignorant.” Not bad for a nation with 1 in 5 people living in poverty and Caucasians now in the minority.

Our own not-for-much-longer premier of Quebec introduced legislation this year, Bill 78, essentially prohibiting our population from taking to the streets in an impromptu fashion to voice our discontent over how we felt our democratically elected leaders were managing our province. The freedom to come together and communicate dissension had conditions imposed on it, regardless of the fact that the bill itself was a farce and will prove next week in the provincial election to be the Liberal Party’s demise. And now, Russia’s government has pretty much banned homosexuality from existing (have Mr. Putin and Mr. Ahmadinejad started hanging out?), even going so far as to prohibit Russian Gay Pride Parades for the next 100 years. Countless other threats to what I have always believed freedom to stand for exist in every single village/town/city/province/state/country/continent on the globe. They always have, and they always will. That’s what I believe we are working against in the pursuit of so-called freedom.

Let’s now look at those of us in materialistic, industrialized nations. Our children have grown up, for the most part, unaware that the options available to them are the direct result of others who came before them having fought and died in the name of freedom. With them not knowing that only white, Christian, heterosexual men can breathe a sigh of relief with the bulk of history on their side, they stand to lose their own freedoms. People constantly speak about freedom as something to defend, as a basic right, but what are they really referring to? Are they speaking about the right for every single person to voice their dissatisfaction with something? How about the right to carry a gun around and use it? Or maybe what they’re talking about is the right to judge others and strip them of their dignity and livelihood? It’s unfortunate to say, but I believe on many levels that freedom for all isn’t what’s being coveted by the masses – people want the freedom to protect what they believe they are entitled to – they want security at the expense of freedom. Security to make and keep their money, security to sit at home and play video games while the rest of the world fights senseless wars, security to protect their families from the same people their attitudes are repressing.

As an innately empathetic person, and as a teacher of yoga and spirituality, I make it my responsibility to embody the essence of other beings. Yoga has us take poses named after dogs, trees, cats, lightning bolts, and so much more, all for a reason – as crazy as it may sound, to visualize adopting the energy of another being allows us to see how we as humans are simply one drop in the ocean. It shows us that it’s not all about us. It reminds us that the only threat to mankind is mankind itself. We are responsible for destroying our planet. We are responsible for allowing atrocities to take place all over the world. We are responsible for the misinterpretation of freedom and how that misinterpretation allows our leaders to forget that they’re supposed to work for us, not against us. We need to fight for our own freedom without forgetting about peace, to voice our opposition against anyone who tells us that one person is better than another or that what one person believes is more valid than the beliefs of another, and we need to teach our children that the fight existed before them, and will continue throughout their lifetime. Incorporating non-violence is essential, even against those who would beat us down, but we have a responsibility to stand up for. It’s in doing that that we fulfill our responsibility towards the freedom and happiness of all others.

And so with all that said, I ask you: what is freedom according to you? Knowing that the political pendulum swings from the right to the left and back to the right every couple of decades, do you really believe that freedom is available to all of us? Should it be? Do you feel free in your own lives? If not, why? Let me know, because in doing so, you’re letting everyone know, and we are all sharing the exact same experiences, but simply don’t feel free to enough to share. It starts with us.

A Reference To Happiness

I get a lot of people who seek me out to counsel them, to offer advice and an objective opinion regarding their circumstances…this has been a constant since way before I started my career in yoga, I suppose, because I make sure that I give someone my complete attention when it’s requested, and I give advice the way I’d like to get it – cut and dry. If a situation seems interminably convoluted, my response is usually, “NEXT!” I’m a big believer that life doesn’t have to be rife with difficulty, and that the less time we spend trying to manipulate a situation or a person into being or doing what we’d like it/them to be, the more room we create for what would make us happy on every level. I also believe that that kind of happiness, the kind that makes us grateful to be alive, is in store for every single one of us, but we have the inconvenient habit of getting caught up in our dramas and spending too much time on that which is destined to leave us wanting, instead of waving at it as we leave it behind. So I find myself offering advice. Often. And I love being that person that people can come to and be real with, because it allows me to be real with them and treat them like extensions of myself, people who not only want to be heard and understood, but who want to be communicated with at that same level of honesty.

I was thinking about writing out my Top 10 favorite pieces of insight, bits of wisdom that may or may not originate in yoga, but which certainly reflect a yogic existence, one of truth and honesty, of non-harming and of self-study. So here goes 🙂 Here’s my Top 10 bits of wisdom to guide people through whatever it is that they’re struggling to deal with:

1) Understand that everything you have in your life is not yours. You are managing it, but you own nothing. This includes people, as well as the more obvious material objects. Once you understand and acknowledge this, you will be able to maintain perspective and humility that will keep you grounded.

2) Take nothing on trust, see everything for yourself. One person’s inspiration is another person’s misery. Never let someone else’s opinion shape or affect how, when, why or whether you approach that which draws you closer. Only you can truly know what serves you and what doesn’t.

3) Laugh. Always. Especially when you don’t feel like it. You must be able to find the humor in life, even in your darkest hours. Doing this will keep you tethered to light and life, the two anchors that can prevent you from being swept away in the tide of darkness we can sometimes encounter.

4) You are the embodiment of beauty, and of grace, and of kindness, and of light. If the people around you, i.e. family, friends, partners, work peers, etc… do not treat you as such, do not buy into the belief that you don’t deserve to be treated better. People will treat each other the way they feel they are being treated, so each and every one of us is responsible for putting out into the world what we’d like to receive.

5) Where there is no inner freedom, there is no life. If you don’t feel liberated enough to let yourself be truly seen by everyone, regardless of their reactions, then you are not fully living. You owe it to yourself and to the people around you who will be inspired by your self-awareness to step into the light and let yourself be seen.

6) Take 5 minutes a day to shut yourself into a room with no lights on and no distractions, sit down, and just breathe. This will improve your mood, your attention span, and your overall happiness.

7) As above, so below. As without, so within. Incorporate into your life the attributes you would attribute as being god-like. Look at the world’s leaders for peace: Ghandi, the Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa, etc…they all act in ways that allow the energy of the divine to flow through them. Allow what you hold in your heart to be reflected in the world around you.

8) Understand that there is no such thing as luck. There is only being in the right place at the right time, after doing everything possible to prepare yourself for what you’d like to happen so that all the elements can fall perfectly into place…but have no doubt about it, you need to work towards being prepared for what you want so that you’ll know what to do when you’re offered the opportunity.

9) Take responsibility for your life and everything that happens throughout it. Get to know who you are, and understand that self-study will bring you closer to the truth of your existence, but that we typically define ourselves through the references we hold to the people we love and the reasons we love them. Look at those references and reasons and assess what truly serves you and what doesn’t.

10) Give. Give time, give money, give love, give energy. Just give.

These are my 10 commandments…I’m sure there’s room for countless more, so let me know what you think I’ve missed, and what can be shared with the world so that people can live fuller, more complete lives, replete with happiness and contentment…I’m all ears 🙂

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