Tag Archives: Greece

From Paros to Paris Pt 1

20130910-223326.jpgIt’s 5:14 PM and I’m on a ferry cruising from Athens towards the Cycladic Island Chain to bring us to the island of Paros, where I’ll be giving the second European Yoga Retreat for 2013. I won’t write too much – I’m much too aware of where I am, of the rolling Mediterranean waves on either side of me, and of the silhouettes of islands rolling by in their salt-and-sun obscured haze.

I’m back in Greece. I’ve come home again. Back to where I first got the nudge from the universe I had asked for back in 2008, when I decided to chuck it all in and leave my career behind because I wasn’t happy with or proud of how I was earning a living. Greece is the one spot in the world where I feel most connected to my spirit. It’s where I feel most connected to rawness of the elements, and where I feel my body exhale and let go of all tensions, more so than at any other time or in any other place.

I’m with Stephane, James and Katie. We landed together and spent our day together, transferring from Athens Airport to the Rafina Port, assuming that the 6 hours we had between arriving and departing for Paros would be taxing. It’s always a test in staying conscious after flying overnight. That first day after a break in the typical sleep cycle is always peppered with sensory overload…squinting at the light that’s just a tad too bright, shrinking from the noise of the foreign sounds that seem to follow you wherever your path leads you. The assumption that today would be a challenge was unfounded. We caught the shuttle bus to the port easily, chowed down on a Greek salad that reminded us what REAL tomatoes, olives and feta cheese was, and then dragged our luggage the 50 metres to the beach. Clothes hurriedly flew off our bodies, and we launched ourselves into the ocean…and time stood still. It was a perfect moment. One to wash off the residue of the flight, one in which the others tasted their first drop of vacation, and yet another one for me in which I found myself tasting the salt of the sea as my body floated weightless, thinking, “I am at work.”

We splashed around for another hour and then walked back to where the ferry picked us up, and here we are, flying through the magnificence that is the Mediterranean towards our home for the next 11 days. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone together, to seeing the faces of those from past retreats, as well as those whose faces I’ve never seen.

The adventure is just beginning.
20130910-223459.jpg

Advertisements

Yoga Retreat on the Greek Island of Paros

Paros4

I have always tended to work in 5-year chunks of time. From buying and selling property to carving out my niche in yoga, I have typically allowed myself a full 5 years to execute what I needed to, knowing that through hard work, dedication, and respecting the process, I would find myself exactly where I needed to be. Without trying too hard to see the end in the beginning, I have learned that the 5-year allowance always brings me to where I can continue to move forward, even if it’s not where I would have envisioned myself.

I told myself late in 2008 that a big change was coming, that I was going to drop everything I had built career-wise up to then and focus on foraging my way to a place where I could help people heal using yoga asana and philosophy. I also told myself that if after 5 years I simply wasn’t content with how things were evolving, I would rethink my plans. Little did I know how authentically I would be pursuing and beginning to live my dharma, and how after even one year I was hope-FULLY devoted to my life’s work.

It’ll be 5 years in November since that fortuitous chapter of my life, and 2013 is indeed the year of fruition. Traveling to Calgary and being received so warmly by the Bodhi Tree Yoga community…my jaunt to Kripalu this Sunday to get my Level 1 iRest® Yoga Nidra training…this summer’s Montreal Yoga Festival…the Wanderlust Whistler Festival…the Weekend Yoga & Personal Development Retreat that I am blessed to be giving with my mentor and friend Jennifer Maagendans…the Yoga City Break in Istanbul that I just returned from and fear putting words to so as not to diminish how truly perfect and magnificent and beaming-with-light it was…these are the just the things on my radar. There is much more waiting to be revealed to me, but there is a new blip on said radar that I am adding to the list of incredible events for 2013: Yoga Retreat on the Greek Island of Paros.

I have known that I would eventually organize and lead 2 retreats annually, and so this year is the year for it. One City Break and one beach retreat. Both set in locations that allow participants to feel truly away-from-home, both with dramatically surreal landscapes. I am returning to Greece simply because of its beauty. And its beaches. And its food. And its warmth (temperature and otherwise). Greece has been so good to my students and myself (ask anyone from the 2011 Yoga Retreat in Santorini), and I have been told by a few Greek friends that Paros is a true gem in the Cycladic Greek Island Chain, and so voilà! Here we go 🙂

The retreat will be a 10-day event – arriving on the island on Wednesday, September 11 and meeting as a group that evening, holding the last morning class on Saturday, September 21. We will be staying at a family-run, environmentally-conscious hotel minutes away from the beach, and where 3 meals daily will be prepared for us. Shuttle service to and from Paros airport or the ferry port is included in the price, as are the 90-minute daily morning classes, intended to instill everyone with clarity and perspective to fully be able to live the retreat to its fullest. Things to do while on retreat include excursions to neighbouring islands (which include Santorini), Greek cooking classes, going for dinner at different locations on the island (already included in the retreat cost), or simply listening to the waves of the ocean crash on the shore.

I am doing this retreat simply from a place of gratitude. Now don’t misunderstand me – this is my business and passion, my livelihood, my raison-d’être, if you will. I hold these retreats to be able to show participants how majestic our world is, and how capable they are of taking a decision to create a moment in their lives that they’ll never forget and always cherish. But I do it all from a place of gratitude. I want to share my passion for yoga and travel, and this is year 5. Join me in Greece as I ride it out as best I can, with humility, love, and gratitude.

For complete details, please visit my website here: http://www.bramlevinsonyoga.com/retreats.html.

Blindsiding Ourselves

How many of you have ever compared yourself to the people around you? How many times have you seen your friends accomplish incredible things and then compare what you’ve done in your life to their accomplishments? How many of you have ever felt crappy about yourself because your siblings or friends make more money than you do?

Four years ago I went to Santorini, Greece for the first time, and the experience was so incredible that I made sure that the first yoga retreat I ever organized on my own would happen there. Those of you who have been there know that Santorini is one of the most magical places on earth – in fact, being there almost feels like you’ve left earth, like you’re on another planet. The geography and landscapes are absolutely surreal, and the panoramas that are found there essentially consist of a whole lot of blue dotted by the white houses hanging off the cliffs. The island made such a huge impression on me that for at least a year after I went there, I found myself comparing it to wherever else I traveled. In 2009 I went to Spain and traveled the country constantly comparing everything Spain had to offer to Santorini’s treasures, and in the process, deprived myself of truly experiencing Spain’s essence. From the food to the beaches, nothing could live up to the magnificence that I had found in Santorini. It was only while visiting my last destination in Spain, Sevilla, that I snapped out of it and realized that if I kept comparing everywhere I went to Santorini, I would be setting myself up to be disappointed. It’s obviously not surprising that Sevilla proved to be my favorite Spanish city.

I came back last week from Germany after leading a yoga retreat in Croatia, and the last city I visited before coming home was Berlin. Before I go on, let me say one thing: I never wanted to go to Germany. I never thought it had anything as a country that I’d want to see, and I, on some level or another, didn’t want to visit the country that I associated with the mass genocide of millions of people. I ended up choosing to go to Germany to once again show myself that I don’t know everything about everything, and that I couldn’t let the sins of previous generations forever stain what could potentially be a great country. I was wrong. I loved Germany. More specifically, I loved Berlin. Loved. Like, I’d pack my stuff and move there in a heartbeat, kind of love. If you haven’t been there, make sure you go.

In the center of Berlin is a tower, similar to the CN Tower in Toronto and the Space Needle in Seattle. Once I saw it, I started drawing up comparisons in my head of the 3 cities, but quickly checked myself, aware of my tendency to cheat a destination of it’s individuality by comparing it to other places, and subsequently fell in love with it.

Being witness to the experience got me thinking about how conditioned we are to categorize and compare who we meet, where we go, and what we experience to people, places and experiences already in our frame of reference. We are used to seeing images of what famous people look like and then beating the shit out of ourselves because we don’t look the same. Instead of celebrating our loved ones’ successes with abandon, we, on some level or another, compare what they’ve accomplished to what we have or have not. We never broach the subject of income with people because that would immediately bring us to a place where we’re asking ourselves why we’re not making the same amount OR feeling superior because we’re making more than others do. From our homes to our clothes, from how often we travel to how often we eat in restaurants, everything gets measured up. On some level, this constant comparing and contrasting becomes a tool for control: we identify, classify, and discriminate all the criteria until we’ve put everything into a nice, compartmentalized category so that we can forget about it and move on, confident in the knowledge that it all makes sense to us. We use it to feed our egos, and we use it to make ourselves feel better about why we don’t live the lives we once hoped we would. We live with the illusion that we have control over that which really is uncontrollable, and the truth of the matter is that we are wasting our time. We are wasting our energy. We are robbing ourselves and others of the individuality that makes us who we are, all to make ourselves feel better about ourselves.

With all this mulling over in my head while in Berlin, I wrote down something that I wanted to share with you: Stop trying to control what is uncontrollable – you live with the illusion of control as you choose what to keep to yourself and what to make visible to others, what to say and what to hold back. The truth is that we have control over very little. As soon as we let go of the illusion that allows us to believe that our actions keep everything tidy and together, we will feel that same letting go in our body’s physiology and our mental energy.

Yoga students are always looking at each other, at magazines, or at DVD’s and comparing their own practice to the one on display. It’s good to have an idea of what a posture or sequence can look like, but it’s also important to recognize that the physical aspect of yoga is secondary to one’s breathing and overall awareness. We need to stop letting ourselves be second best. Every time we hold ourselves up to a standard that was never meant to be the example, we set ourselves up to fail. We willingly accept that we are inferior, allowing ourselves to be smaller and less empowered than we should  be. If you’ve ever read or seen an interview with an Olympic athlete, you’ll know that the only competition that these people have is themselves. They don’t gauge where they are performance-wise based on where their peers are – they do their absolute best and channel all their efforts into that. We need to learn from this. Stop looking at what the people around you are doing/wearing/eating/driving/accomplishing and look at what you have to offer. Do your own thing. Go your own way. You are more capable than you know. You are more talented than you know. You are more of EVERYTHING than you know. It’s time to stop doubting that and accept that by comparing and criticizing and judging, you are wasting time. We are all holding onto darkness and negativity when we should be propelled forward and onward by light. Tap into it and let it show you where you’re supposed to channel your efforts. Do your best, and that’s all anyone else can ask of you. It’s all you could ever ask of yourself.