Tag Archives: fundraiser

This Is War

25153f_83cd4e4697ce48038b1d73d9f99c7a52.png_srz_p_525_188_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_png_srzI have often spoken to students about how modern-day western culture has not lived through wartime in the same way our grandparents and great-grandparents did. Wars have, and are being waged globally, of course, but our day-to-day comfort and stability has never been drastically compromised. The Iraq war, the fight against the Taliban, ISIS… these are the conflicts that come to mind when we think about wars waged in our lifetime that affect the global consciousness. But there is a war that has actually hit much closer to home regardless of where we call home, one that rarely makes the headlines because the crimes to its victims, by and large, go unreported and, in some cases, get immediately dismissed, swept under the rug. This war is the war against women.

Women have been targeted for thousands of years. Creation myths in ancient times revered the female as the source of power and life, especially in Pagan cultures and rituals, but this reference for the Divine Mother shifted around 1700 B.C.E. with the Babylonian Seven Tablets of Creation. This story essentially told the tale of a mother who is killed by one of her male children, no less at the moment where her belly is greatly swollen, resembling a woman in the final stages of pregnancy. The murderous son then creates the world out of the dismembered body of his mother and becomes a God in his own right. This God murders and dismembers the divine female and Goddess worship begins its downward spiral until most, if not all, cultures and religions begin to assign greatness to the male archetypes by devaluing and demonizing the previously-held female ones.

In one of my earliest blog posts entitled The Devil and Greta Garbo, I discussed the stigma that left-handed people faced and referenced the Italian usage of the word “sinistra” (sinister) to signify that which relates to the left. In the Yoga tradition, amongst others, the left side of the body is equated with feminine energy, and so I deduced that the correlation could not be coincidental. I believe that the true power of the Divine Female, the energetic force of a Mother Earth and everything she encompasses, stood in the way of the male need to dominate and rule and served as a very real threat. As a result, the power that had once been relegated to the Goddess was not just taken, it was done so violently, shamelessly, ruthlessly and intentionally. All that related to the female was labelled less-than, suspect and sinister.

And so here we are. According to www.canadianwomen.org, “Gender inequality is visible in many areas, including politics, religion, media, cultural norms, and the workplace. Both men and women receive many messages—both blatant and covert—that men are more important than women. This fundamental inequality creates a rationale for humiliation, intimidation, control, abuse, and even murder. In this context, it becomes easier for a man to believe that he has the right to be in charge and to control a woman, even if it requires violence. This is not only wrong, it’s against the law. Violence against women is rooted in the belief that women deserve less social power and it is therefore acceptable – maybe even necessary – to exert power over them. This mindset also drives many other forms of violence, such as racism, homophobia, classism, ageism, and religious persecution.”

Women today carry more than they should in their daily lives. From not being able to walk down the street without the fear of being singled out presenting itself to being called bitch/whore/slut/cunt for the most innocuous of perceived slights by both men and other women, the symbolic and energetic weight of being a women today demands that females draw on that ancient strength and power that initially commanded our devotion to The Goddess. Women have to be more aware, more resilient, more shrewd and more careful then we men do. The double standard is disgusting, and I, as a man who adores and reveres women as the source of wisdom and life, am fed up with violence and abuse towards women being an accepted demon that lives amongst us.

The statistics pertaining to violence towards women are staggering, and to be honest, I’d rather have you research them yourselves than list them here and have people tune out to the point of this blog entry. My life is Yoga, and Yoga is my life, and Yoga is not about physical movement or postures. Yoga is not about breathing consciously or Lululemon clothes. Yoga is understanding that what happens to one of us happens to all of us. Yoga is recognizing oneness and unity and turning wounds into purpose. Yoga is standing up for those who have either been silenced or feel that their cries would fall on deaf ears. I want to add my voice to those cries to help amplify them so they can be heard. I am begging you to raise your voice as well so that WE CAN ALL BE HEARD.

Join me on Sunday, March 8, International Women’s Day, at the YM-YWHA (5400 Westbury Avenue) from 1-3pm as we come together as human beings who have decided that enough is enough. Let’s all stand united for all women who have ever felt diminished in any way simply because of their gender. This is a fundraiser and an awareness-raiser. Bring your yoga mats if you plan to participate in the asana practice, but don’t feel pressured to partake. I want everyone to simply show up authentically, in whatever way they deem relevant.

Bring your cash and chequebooks as well. 100% of funds raised is going to Women Aware/Femmes Averties (www.womenaware.ca) and tax receipts will be issued for donations $25 and greater.  Organized almost 20 years ago by a group of survivors of domestic abuse, this Montreal-based organization is actively making a difference by providing long-term support to victims, increasing awareness to this issue in our communities and working both independently and in conjunction with other local organizations and teams.

This is not going to be an opportunity to rip apart men or point the finger of blame. This event is a moment of healing, of community and of social awareness and activism. If we stand for nothing, we fall for everything. Let’s refuse to fall apart as a society. Let’s refuse to turn a blind eye. Let’s refuse complacency. It’s time to stand. For something and for each other. It can only happen if we’re all in it. Together.

See also: All Hail – a post from 2011 written for International Women’s Day.
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Non Nobis Solum

We’re three weeks away from the 5th Annual Montréal Yoga Mala, one that is slated to be the most successful in terms of attendance, and, potentially, money raised (this year all funds are donated to Santropol Roulant). Dawn Mauricio originally started the initiative five years ago, and I joined her as an organizer last year. The growth in the response from the yoga community, even in the last two years, has been huge. The 2010 Mala attracted 46 yogis and yoginis, who joined us in Parc Jeanne Mance along with the nine different yoga teachers we had enlisted from nine different yoga studios around Montréal for a celebratory 108 sun salutations. Each teacher taught 12 salutations in their own style, and by the end of the event, after all the prize-drawing, post-yoga eating, and mingling, we had raised over $7500 for that year’s charity, Le Garde Manger Pour Tous. In terms of pre-registration, this year has almost double the amount of people, with more expected to join us at the event!

Becoming involved with the Mala allowed me to accomplish two main goals: I was  able to affect change and delve into a little philanthropy, but it also gave me the opportunity to bring the Montréal yoga community together as one united movement. Having been a yoga student far longer than a teacher, I have definitely felt a disconnect from one studio to another, and even amongst teachers. Whereas cities like Toronto often have town hall-like meetings for their yoga circles, where businesses and teachers come together and share their experiences while offering insight and advice to each other, Montréal’s community has seemed more the sum total of many individuals doing their own thing, often struggling through the challenges of starting up as a teacher or studio owner. Becoming involved with Dawn’s project allowed me to actively join forces with a woman I respect and admire so that we could unify our community and allow that unity to be seen by the students that so often rotate from one studio to another in any given week, and who maintain that cycle of visiting different studios so that they can be exposed to different styles and energies. An amazing byproduct of our efforts was seeing the teachers we had assembled mingling, leaders in our community talking together, laughing, and basking in the glow that accompanies a coming-together of intentions that the Mala offers.

This year’s Mala once again brings us to a place of unity, where the excitement that builds as we get closer to the day of the event becomes palpable, enough so that we’re seeing double the amount of people registered compared to last year. Ironically, this year’s Mala is slated to be the last one, mainly due to the demands that the organization and execution of the event places on Dawn and myself. Our teaching aside, we’re both incredibly busy and the preparation and orchestration of everything that needs to be done to make the Mala a success is, in itself, another full-time job for 6 months out of the year. And so we feel that it’s time to let go of it, making this year’s Montreal Yoga Mala the last one of its kind with us at the helm. Having said that, we are actively looking for someone, or a group of people, who are interested in taking the reins from us…who have the time and energy to devote to it. The benefits of being able to bring people together to give up our time and funds to people who could benefit from them are immeasurable, it’s just question of being able to commit to something and then honor that commitment.

If you feel like this is something that interests you, something that you could really be able to manage and execute, then please let me know at bram.levinson@gmail.com or feel free to contact Dawn at dawnmrcio@gmail.com.  Despite the decision that Dawn and I have made, we would be ecstatic to see the tradition carry on with new energy infusing it from new organizers driven by passion and a desire to give back. It has been a highlight in my life and my career to accompany Dawn throughout the process that the Mala offers, one that should be lived by us all…

Montréal’s Yoga Mala takes place on Sunday, May 29th in Parc Jeanne Mance on the corner of Duluth and Esplanade from 10am-1pm. Rain or shine. For all information concerning the event, please visit the Montréal Yoga Mala website and/or Facebook page.