Tag Archives: Gratitude

Paros Musings Pt 3

I just woke up after the deepest sleep I’ve had here over the last two weeks, and as usual, the dogs are barking in a call and response manner, the roosters are crowing (don’t get excited, they do it all day, every day…even a broken clock accurately tells the time twice a day), and the birds are chirping. But instead of just taking it all in, the thought, “It’s the last day” came hurdling through my mind, and with it the onslaught of emotions.

This year’s group of people is a special one. Every year I fall right into the community we create, and every year I feel all the big feels when it’s time to splinter apart and go back into the world to resume where we left off just over a week ago. My hope is that those people who join me for these trips around the world find something unique and worth integrating into their lives, and then go back home and do exactly that. Last night one of the students here texted me to let me know that, “Need you to know this experience has changed my life.” And I couldn’t reply because even though that’s my intention in putting myself out into the world, I get so emotional when it actually happens that I can hardly put into words a response that conveys my gratitude and emotions.

For those of you who are still here, sleeping for the next few minutes before you get up to take our last yoga class together in Paros for this year, I want to thank you. Thank you for taking a risk and coming here for this event, because I know every single one of you did. Whether your risk was a financial one, whether it was related to leaving your family or your kids for this length of time, whether it was related to asking for time off, for yourself, to travel and get some introspection time, or whether it was related to joining a group of people you didn’t know to share an experience you couldn’t have envisioned, I thank you. Know that for me to execute my dharma in this life, I need other people to be on the receiving end of what I put out into the world, and your presence here closes the circle for me and for us all. Thank you for taking your risks. I hope that it either continues the pattern of doing so, or instigates a new one that reminds us all of the glory that is possible when we jump beyond our comfort zones.

I’m going to be the most unprofessional mess of emotions and childish “I don’t want this to end” thoughts today. But I know that although it may feel like the end of something, in actuality, for every single one of us, it really is a new beginning of sorts. I hate to sound like a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason. I wish you all the highest of life’s highs, the wisdom to navigate the lowest of life’s lows, and the presence of mind to know your Self and your potency as you make your way forward. Know that I am here for you all, wherever we may be in any given moment, and always remember this time we had. No one could know exactly how beautiful is has been, and still is. Only us. Take the energy of our community and the beauty of Paros and bring it back with you.

With gratitude and so. much. LOVE,

Bxx

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Paros Musings 2017 Pt 2

It’s 5am and I’m awake listening to the roosters and the dogs calling their existences into the pitch black night. Students and friends have begun to arrive for our yoga event that officially kicks off tomorrow, and after showing one of them around last night and hearing her constantly remark about how peaceful it is here, I flippantly remarked how there’s always one night every September where a wedding occurs in the area. And it’s a full-on Greek wedding. The music starts blaring for allllll to hear around 9 or 10pm and lasts until the wee hours of the morning. That conversation occurred at 10:30pm.

The music just stopped at 4:50am. This couldn’t even be scripted. And, ironically, I only woke up when the music stopped. I think that I may be an honorary Greek, after passing this final initiation stage.

And so I’m awake, reflecting. This kind of late-night introspection never happens anywhere else in the world. It is part of how my soul lands here. I effortlessly begin to look back, something I almost rarely do in this way, one that’s devoid of judgement and which is purely observational. And in these early hours of the morning, I’m taking stock of the people who have given me the breaks that have allowed them to see who I really am and what I’m actually capable of, aspects of myself that aren’t visible superficially.

I’ve always known there was something bigger than what I had been exposed to that was waiting for me, ever since I was young. It was because of that knowing that conventional education did very little for me and seemingly asked everything of me. As soon as I could gauge that whatever I was studying was not going to bring me towards that sense of purpose and greatness I knew lay in wait, I left in pursuit of more illuminated avenues. But we judge each other based on the superficial details that the commonly accepted avenues of our culture guide us towards, and believe me when I say that for the first 35 years of my life, I can count on one hand the number of people who saw in me what I knew was there. I take full responsibility for it, as I didn’t understand what form it would take, and so I couldn’t raise my voice and ask anyone to believe in what I could not name, and so know that I have earned my place in the world, I have worked to get where I am. No American Idol/The Voice bullshit here. I earned it by trusting that I knew better than the pressure I felt to just shut up and get a 9-5 job working for someone else to profit off of. That could never represent security to me, on the contrary. That life would kill me.

There are people who have, however, elevated me so that I could make my way down this winding, often bleak, path. My grandmother, Lillian Berlin, who always reminded me that cream rose to the top and that I was that cream. Danielle Cossette, my 6th grade French teacher, who made me valedictorian as my grade finished primary school and left for high school. Rick Hinojosa, who gave me a job at his boutique Juan & Juanita back in 1995 and allowed me to begin earning financially during a time when I felt left behind by the educational system. Jennifer Maagendans, a dear friend and owner of Luna Yoga, who gave me my first job in yoga and one of the most efficient, on-the-job yoga teacher trainings that could never be offered to the public. Kaeleigh Doherty, a friend and then-Lululemon employee who told me that her store wanted me as an ambassador and that they would wait for me to finish my first training to then take me on. The Lululemon team who got me teaching at Wanderlust all those years ago, and who flew me around Canada for mind-blowing ambassador summits. The Wanderlust team who help me up my game with every gig. Kreg Weiss, who gunned for me professionally and who encouraged me to get in touch with Ruth van der Voort at the Toronto Yoga Conference. And these are just the people that come to mind now, at 5:30am.

To those people who let me do my thing and simply held space for it, know that you have my gratitude forever. You have encouraged me to keep finding my way, and I know there are more massive milestones ahead. Keep an eye out, because some of the stuff I’m working on for the near future, like what has unrolled so far, will be unlike anything that could be expected. Because that’s how I’m supposed to do this, authentically and with certainty.

It’s also how you are supposed to do you. Consider that all these words are meant to reflect back to you what’s possible, to keep looking for the ones who will give you a break as you find your way forward your own way, unapologetically and uniquely yourself. Work hard, earn it, be the best version of yourself possible, and don’t give up. Give others their breaks so that energy can come back to you. Live big. And trust that it’s all possible. Because it is.

A Drop of Kindness

kindness“By cultivating attitudes of friendliness towards the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.” – Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1.33.

I was a quiet kid. Very cerebral (shocking, I know), VERY sensitive and hyper-aware of how I was perceived. Book in hand like it was an appendage I was born with, I was comfortable in my own world, a steady stream of words at the ready to draw me into other realms and imagined realities. Soon my love affair with music began as the pop-rock, punk and alternative anthems of the late 70’s and early 80’s started to resonate with me, and I soon found myself a helpless (and willing) victim to the artistry that period was rich with.

As I mentioned in The Examined Life, once you have things you own, you end up having things to defend, and when I began to fall victim to my ego-self, as all kids do, I saw how different I was from other kids. I wasn’t out playing sports, I wasn’t hanging with the popular kids, and because my inclination was to not do what the kids I held in the highest esteem were doing, I soon began a serious relationship with inferiority as I felt like I had to defend who I was.

I was pretty much left alone by other kids, with a few exceptions. I had friends, absolutely, but what I now look back in hindsight on as being left alone because I was confidently doing my own thing was then interpreted as not being good enough to hang with the others. And yet, on the rare occasion, someone would step out of the fray and approach me or befriend me, and that one act of kindness and friendliness changed everything. That one act, of what I considered bravery, served as a tiny beam of light that would intensify every time I found myself accepted by others.

I obviously now know that the acceptance of others is a by-product of living a life of authenticity and truth and should never be the desired goal that one seeks to attach to, but back then, in those formative years, it came as a huge relief. A drop of friendliness felt like an ocean of acceptance, and I was so hungry to be accepted.

I’ve always been aware that friendliness is a choice, one that many overlook as the selfishness of the ego acts as the decision-maker. I don’t take any act of kindness for granted, and in the majority of my waking moments, I do my best to channel kindness, friendliness and compassion, as a choice. I know full well how far kindness and friendliness go, and as far as I’m concerned, as a student of yoga and one who endeavours to live a life according to its principles, the sutra from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras mentioned above needs to be expanded to include:

“By cultivating attitudes of friendliness towards the happy,  gratitude towards the friendly/kind, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.” – Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras 1.33.

This sutra is said to be the one to take with you, even if you don’t remember any of the other ones, and I realize it’s somewhat pompous of me to tweak ancient wisdom, but in my opinion and experience, I felt the most peace when kindness was shown to me. It brought me back to centre, to peace and well-being.

For more information on Sutra 1.33 check out this interpretation…

 

Gratitude Lost

imageIn February, 2004, I met my partner Stephane. After the initial weeks of testing each other’s boundaries and getting to know one another, we realized that we were onto a good thing, and I remember being filled with immense and overflowing gratitude. I felt grateful for having found someone with whom I was compatible and who loved me the way I needed to be loved.

As Stephane and I approach our 10-year anniversary, I find myself reflecting on the bumps we’ve had in the road that our relationship has traveled down. These bumps have been few in number, but in some cases, mountainous in size and adversity. I am aware today that the mountains all grew out of the molehills of losing the sense of gratitude from finding the love that I had once feared would elude me forever, and seems to elude others constantly. I have been guilty of taking that love and appreciation for granted, and that was one of the main factors that made the rough patches practically insufferable.

When I mentor people suffering breakdowns of communication and breakups of relationships, one of the first things I point them towards is the possibility that they’ve lost the sense of gratitude that once informed their happiness.

Do you, or have you had, parents who loved you? Be grateful.
Do you, or have you had, one person in particular who loved you for you? Be grateful.
Do you have friends with whom you enjoy a shared identity and who consider you extended family? Be grateful.
Do you have a job that you enjoy and that allows you to live the life you’ve chosen for yourself? Be grateful.
Do you have the body that carried you to this article and the eyes functional enough to transmit the words to your brain? Be grateful.
Do you know that you will eat at least one full meal a day for the foreseeable future and that you will have a roof over your head for that same period of time? Be grateful.

We are living in fascinating times in which fame is no longer the by-product of talent, but rather the goal. We can shop from the comforts of our own homes and have our purchases delivered to our doors. The cultural climate, the internet and technology have all contributed to create a false sense of entitlement through the onset of unreal expectations and instant gratification, and it is that expectation and entitlement that lie at the root of the loss of gratitude.

When I was a child, I believed that if I had a talent, then everyone else must have it, and it couldn’t be that special. Yes, that sounds crazy. But the principle applies to every one of us who has attained something that initially bowled us over at the apparent miraculousness it embodied, only to grow accustomed to that gift and lose sight of its brilliance. Every single one of us does this. Even you.

I have found my way back to that state of grace and gratitude in my relationship, which is compounded by the gratitude I’m filled with at having made it through the difficult moments with Stephane. I practice gratitude in every possible moment: when I reflect on how fortunate I am to make a living doing what my soul yearns to do, when I reflect on the love I receive from and reflect back to my partner, when I reflect on the family and community I am continuously blessed with.

Now it’s your turn. Think about it. And get real. Where have you lost your gratitude? Identify it. Then find your way back.

In The Presence of Giants

20131019-020035.jpgLululemon brought me out to Western Canada last week as a way of bringing together 28 of their North American Ambassadors whose stores thought they had something special to offer. What ended up coming together was a grouping of the brightest lights I’ve ever been exposed to. These leaders in their communities brought their hopes, their fears, their inspirations and their souls to BC’s Sunshine Coast. With coaxing and encouragement from the exemplary Lululemon facilitators (absolute and undeniable leaders in their own rights) and the force that is Susanne Conrad, all of our lights joined forces to create a field of energy that permeated everything and everyone around us (including the Stephen King-esque fog that cloaked our nest in the wilderness like vaporous glue). That light intensified throughout our days together, and what’s fascinating is that even once our family started to fragment and break away as we headed back on our journeys home, it didn’t wane. I’m flying somewhere over Saskatchewan as I write this (yes, Ryan Leier, I’m waving down, and yes, they let a 40-year old on the plane ;)), I feel that light coursing through my veins.

Lululemon knows how it’s done. They take care of their people and continuously and consistently check in with us to make sure we’re equipped to continue to maintain the fine balance that we all aim to keep. They’re more than a company. They’re a family. We’re a family. And we’re hell-bent on bringing that light we all harvested back with us to shine onto our communities. The imprint of us may remain on the Sunshine Coast, but the streaks of light that stem from it are stretching far and wide across our continent right now.

Thank you, Lululemon. Again. From the tips of our toes to the crowns of our heads. We thank you. We couldn’t do it as well without you.

The Heart’s Memory

I’ve recently found myself getting involved in some pretty thought-provoking discussions with friends about the state of the world. From politics to religion, from daily dramas to life and death, it seems like there is a common undercurrent of negativity that we are being fed, and given the right company and circumstances, it erupts forth and instigates a healthy dose of communication and debate.

The subjects that seem to get the conversation close to a boiling point always seem to be the same: the apparent (and seemingly inescapable) descent into the realm of complete bigotry, misogyny, homophobia and general insanity from the American Republican candidates…the utter ineptitude of the Canadian population (excluding the province of Quebec) that somehow allowed the egomaniacal lunacy of Stephen Harper to not only be elected, but to be rewarded with a majority government…the mounting tension between Iran and Israel and the countries that support each of them on their way to some sort of conflict…the state of the European economy…the state of the global economy…what separates those who are immensely wealthy from those who seemingly run after the dangling carrot of economic security. This is but a cross-section of a typical evening’s list of topics, and from the point of view of those I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with, these topics are enough to get us all sitting on the edge of our seats in anticipation of the next topic to be thrown into the arena. Throughout all the face time we’ve shared, it’s a true sense of disbelief that we end up walking away with…disbelief that we, as a race of beings, have become so polarized from logic and compassion that we now find ourselves feeling helpless as the age of stupidity drags us even further away from advancement and evolution.

In a yoga workshop last weekend with Dechen Thurman, he talked briefly about how we used to value intelligence, and how we sometimes valued it enough to elect those blessed with it to positions of leadership. He followed up on that by saying that instead of electing people based on their intelligence, we now elect people based on how they make us feel. Rarely have I been exposed to such a succinct summation of where we find ourselves as humans, and with that in mind, in keeping with connecting to how we feel, I’d like to propose the solution to dealing with a propaganda-based, media-driven world of negativity: gratitude.

In the yogic teachings, we learn yogaś-citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ , that Yoga or  state of Union, is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. This cessation insinuates that we hone in on one thing as opposed to allowing the mind and our awareness to be ricocheted around like a pinball, and it’s through this honing that we gradually become aware of the veil of illusion we live behind. This veil keeps us ignorant of our true nature as beings of love and compassion, stemming from the source of all that exists. As long as we allow ourselves to stay behind the veil, we validate the daily dramas that we tend to obsess over and appoint them as a source of importance to be revered and fed. These dramas are simply a trick, something to keep us distracted, focused on the obvious when our nature is to seek out the fleeting nature of the essence hidden behind the obvious. From my point of view, the media outlets reporting on the topics that keep us all flabbergasted at the state of the world are simply feeding us fluctuations….of the collective mind. We are being thrown curve balls at every minute, and instead of trying to catch them all, we should instead focus on that which renders the distractions insignificant. We need to find gratitude. We need to take note of every seemingly innocuous detail of our lives to see where we can find blessings, and then emanate gratitude for them.

You want to know mine? Here goes: I’m grateful for this body that allows me to practice yoga and tap into the essence of the people and events around me. I’m grateful for my family. I’m grateful for my friends. I’m grateful for the people who support and love me and who allow me to support and love them back. I’m grateful to live in a country where I can have in-depth discussions with people without having to watch what I say for fear of being imprisoned for expressing myself. I’m grateful to be able to sleep at night. I’m grateful to the people who live their truths and inspire me daily to do the same. I’m grateful that my words reach people and occasionally make a difference in their lives. I’m grateful to be able to travel. I’m grateful to be able to meld my passions with my career. I’m grateful for the roof over my head, the clothes on my back, and the knowledge that no matter where my path takes me, I’m taken care of. It’s through gratitude that we tap into the heart’s memory, and in one fell swoop, we draw the veil of illusion aside and can see the permanence that informs every single one of us.

We have a responsibility to each other to never take anything at face value, to seek out the truth behind the distractions. The portal to that process is gratitude. Feel it in every moment possible, and see how it changes you. Tap into your heart’s memory.

 

UK Musings

I’m alone. Approaching the end of my latest 2-week voyage over to see my England-based extended family, I find myself in the rarest of situations: Helene has taken the kids out, Kerry is off at a football game…and I’m alone in the house…the always kinetic center of it all, the flurry of activity that starts around 7am and doesn’t stop until the children go to sleep slightly more than 12 hours later. Reuniting with complete stillness after 11 days (obviously excluding those sweet hours of repose I take full advantage of), tapping back into that serenity and groundedness, literally feels like coming home…in a place I consider my home away from home. All of which reinforces my belief that home is wherever you want it to be, at any given moment. Right now, I’m home.

I’ve been practicing yoga here steadily, locking myself in the big lounge, laying down my travel mat amidst the antique-style furniture and directly facing the massive fireplace. Taking a full hour as often as I can to disconnect from everything around me, and re-connect my mind to my breath and my body. I took a couple of days to trek down to London, where I met up with Tara, who joined us on our Mexico retreat in March of this year and who has since become a close friend. Together we caught up, ate in great restaurants, basked for 2 hours in the lovely energy that resides at the Jivamukti Center, and generally just had a laugh. After a couple of days with her, I made the journey back up to lovely Norfolk, and I fell right back into the frantic state of play surrounding the kids, all set amidst the relaxed rhythm of the gorgeous countryside.

After having been in this country countless times, I find myself surprised at how I never tire of it. The panoramic, rolling hills, the foliage in full bloom, the intermittent, dismally chilled and rainy days, the seemingly endless selection of country pubs offering some of the best food I could be treated to, and, most of all, the company of my family out here…Regardless of what I end up doing while I’m here, I can be certain from the outset that I will have the time of my life, that my roots will sink a little deeper into this UK soil, and that I will be able to bring a smattering of all the energies I encountered during my stay back to my life in Montreal to share with those with whom I share my Canadian existence, students and family members alike.

I always come back from these visits feeling a massive sense of gratitude, and incredibly inspired to continue on my yogic path, digging into my soul a little deeper, and hopefully inspiring others in their journeys by sharing my observations and findings. I have a few more days left to bask in the light that I find here among all the people I meet and spend time with…rest assured that I’m aware of every moment, taking mental snapshots (as well as digital ones) that will be filed away in the annals of my mind that will eventually be referred back to so I can tap back into this energy whenever I fancy. The greatest thing about life is that those annals are great enough to accomodate the ever-growing inventory of snapshots, the moments that life does not stop offering up, the pieces of muchness that we all are exposed to, but that which some of us pass by unaware of the significance that often exists in that periphery. So as I wind down my time here, let me offer this up to you: keep your head up, your heart open, and look around you for those moments that are being offered up to you. Let them imprint themselves, and hold onto them as you continue on your journey. File them away, and take note of how they start to grow in numbers, those numbers signifying the richness in your lives. You don’t have to travel overseas to find them, but you have to be open to notice them…Sending you all much love (and even more light) from England 🙂