Today is the first day. A new cycle has begun. Know this. What has been has been. What is done is done. This is the beginning of what is to come, and so today is the first day of new horizons, new paths, new words, a new narrative. Make it be. Every day that we reawaken in these bodies that house the energy that is you, that is me, and that is we, is another opportunity to be reborn, to restart, to wipe the slate clean and begin again with newness, wonder and unwavering hope. Every day that we are able to use these bodies for the benefit of ourselves and others is a miracle, a miracle of being and a miracle of choice, because to choose mindful action instead of mindless repetition is, unfortunately, not our default setting. It is a choice that we make in every mindful moment, especially in the ones when we decide that every “now” is an opportunity to reboot the wiring, restart the cycle, refocus the intention and commitment.
Today is the first day. Know this, and make it be.
…result in having a face or body that our current culture deems beautiful, be humble.
…result in being far more talented than the rest of your peers, be humble.
…result in being born into a family with material abundance, be humble.
…result in having the privilege of not having to worry about being yourself in the world without facing resistance, be humble.
…result in anything that could be misconstrued as being better or luckier than anyone else, be humble.
The body, gender, family, culture, demographics, geographical location, skin colour, sexual orientation and time in history that you were born into, seen through the lens of some faiths and belief systems, are completely random, “accidents of life”, to quote Joseph Campbell. You can take absolutely no credit for any of it, and none of it is a valid measure of your worth. More importantly, stop judging other people based on their accidents of life. Be humble and consider that we have all been duped into believing that this literal, human experience is the sum total of the journey we find ourselves on. “Don’t be small-minded”, we read in the Ashtavakra Gita. “The universe exists within you”. Don’t be duped by illusion, by the appearances your limited senses can interpret. The packaging is simply the container for what you should really get to know, which is the spark of energy that is, truly, who and what we are. Seek that out in others and you will not only get to know who they really are, but you will be making connections that transcend what divides and separates us.
When you look up into the immensity of the night sky filled with stars, maybe a planet visible, what importance or meaning do you put there?
When you look at a happy, giggling baby, what do you see and feel?
When you look past the shore of an ocean out to the horizon where the sea meets the sky in an indistinguishable line of blues, what do you envision?
When you hear the chanting of Hindu sadhus, of Muslim imams reciting the Koran, of rabbis, cantors, priests, bishops and cardinals bellowing out prayers, what response do you observe in yourself?
When you walk through cemeteries or participate in the burial of a loved one, what significance or meaning do you put to the scenario?
We put whatever importance we want to any given moment in time, an importance that somehow fulfills a need in us. A need to defend our beliefs, to change or alter them, to lay them to rest and to adopt new ones. But we see and interpret what we want to. The world as you know it is a construct of your own mind.
Consequently, whatever you fear is in large part a construct of your mind. It is adaptable to change, as adaptable as it was when that fear first landed into a mind that had not associated fear with that particular experience or stimulus. You want change? Then look at your situation differently.
You can look at the night sky in all its splendor and see the impossibility of infinity and oblivion, randomness and chaos just waiting to swallow up this earth and all its inhabitants, or you can see the miracle of what we can barely grasp and the beauty of that not-knowingness.
You can look at a smiling, gurgling baby and feel the fear of the responsibility associated to ensuring the well-being of something so helpless and vulnerable, or you can see the possibilities associated to this beautiful bundle of joy and its potential to grow, learn, lead and inspire us all.
You can experience a funeral ceremony as the grief-drenched ending of the beauty your relationship with the deceased has been, or you can see it as the transformation of what was into what is, with the excitement of seeing what will follow, as no cycle ends without another one beginning, holding the promise of beauty to come.
This entire dream of “life” is just that, a dream. If you don’t like the dream you’re dreaming, change the filter you’re seeing it through. All you need is the knowledge that you have always been able to do it, but you were never told. I’m telling you. Now you know.
As the cycle that was named “2017” comes to its end, and “2018” makes its entrance, here are some intentions to commit to instead of relegating to the realm of the forgotten after a few weeks into the new year.
1) Do your best, as often as possible, to focus on what’s going well instead of what seems to be going wrong. Do this more often when things seem dismal or hopeless. This is it. It’s now. The good and the bad, the uplifting and the horrifying, the light and the dark. It’s all occurring simultaneously. Despite everything that we object to, we have the choice as to whether we spend all our time obsessing over the infuriating or whether we remember to also focus on what co-exists with the infuriating, which is the beauty, the kindness, the connection and the love we all seek.
2) Balance out the time you spend doing with the time you spend being. This means letting yourself have the down-time, or “gap-time” (to quote my late teacher Joan Ruvinsky), necessary to change your thought and behavioural patterns from the constant rhythm they are used to. Let me clear here, this does not mean incorporating some practice you think you should be doing, like meditation or yoga, if that practice will simply be something else you do, but which does not facilitate unplugging from everything else you do. Let yourself simply be, as yourself, with nothing else to do, with nothing else to fix.
3) Make more and more time in your schedules to put your passions ahead of your obligations, and do this consistently and unwaveringly.
4) Welcome all adversity and fear as the life lessons in which you are meant to learn what you’ll need to be armed with for future stages of your journey. Instead of putting the blinders on and just trying to survive through life’s darkest moments, infuse light into them by understanding that you have a choice as to how you respond to them. You do not have to be held hostage by them. Take a deep breath, face what has manifested with your head held high, and keep asking yourself, “What am I meant to learn from this?”, because there is always something to glean from what induces suffering.
5) Disregard what other people believe are “best practices.” Best practices are for sheep who want to conform to other people’s structures and rules in order to attain what is deemed as success in other people’s eyes. Do it your way, how you feel compelled to make it happen, whatever it is.
6) One of life’s truths is that not everyone does their best to be kind, to be generous, to uplift and inspire in the name of the betterment of the world. Some people are just hell-bent on contributing to chaos and destruction. Recognize these people, especially when they present themselves as part of the solution in order to get more power with which to destroy. Recognize them, call them out, speak up against them, keep a watchful eye on them, and then disregard them. They would like us all to focus on them, because any attention is better than no attention. Don’t let them disrupt your peace, your contentment, your intention to be part of the solution.
7) Be kinder.
8) Laugh more and laugh harder.
9) Speak your truth and speak up if you’re not being heard.
10) Consider that these days are golden. Appreciate them, regardless of everything you may believe is going wrong.
All the best for a happy, healthy year ahead!
I am beyond excited to finally announce that I will be doing my own show/speaking engagement at the historic Rialto Theatre in Montreal! After years of lecturing in yoga studios, convention centers and festivals, I’m proud to bring what I do to the theatre, especially one that has played a part in my life and is a Montreal landmark and institution.
For one night only, Montreal-based author and teacher Bram Levinson is taking his wisdom, irreverence and humour to the stage. Join him for an evening of insight, laughter and exploration into life, family, love and what it means to be spiritually awake in today’s world. Brandishing his usual refreshing, deeply personal, edgy approach and sense of humour, stories will be told, wisdom will be shared through his experiences and perspective, and inspiration will be what’s left after everything is said and done. Don’t miss this one night with Bram at the historical Rialto Theatre!
Date: Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Doors Open: 19h/7pm
Show Time: 19h30/7:30pm
Box Office/Tickets: $40+taxes, available through Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/were-still-here-one-night-only-with-bram-levinson-tickets-38155077865
Special thanks to Mandy’s, the sole sponsor for this event!
Photos courtesy of John Dabarno Photography,
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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
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!**
There is no moment in time that is not rife with turmoil, with difficulty, with fear or with obstacles. And there is no moment in time in which peace, ease, faith and trust are not accessible, even when their opposites seem unstoppable. I believe humanity needs to remember a few key principles as we navigate our way through the highs and the lows. Here are those principles:
1) How we choose to respond to life is the most important choice we will make. Any form of discrimination, depression or oppression is unacceptable. To meet discrimination, racism, homophobia, misogyny or any act of hate and intolerance with more hate and intolerance simply feeds the energies that we are objecting to so vehemently. To end negative behavioural cycles, we must be conscious of how we may be inadvertently perpetuating them under the guise of moral indignation.
2) It is not helpful to throw around opinions and judgement. We may feel that in doing so we are disseminating wisdom and the way forward, but we must remember that it is not the subjective understanding of any one circumstance that will help heal what is wounded. Only expressing and sharing our humanity will accomplish that. The former highlights what keeps us separate. The latter highlights what brings us together.
3) We are meant to spend our time cultivating the seeds that will flourish into lasting happiness. We are meant to embody and emanate the vibration of joy. We are meant to have fun with this time we are offered. Getting stuck in that which leaves us resentful, disappointed, ashamed, afraid or sad propels us away from happiness and joy. It is our responsibility to seek out light when darkness smothers, to take action to touch happiness when sadness overwhelms. Our natural state is one of joy, and so we must remember to do whatever it takes to experience the sensations of joy when they seem the furthest away.
4) Setting an intention to make this moment in time better by infusing it with compassion, generosity, kindness and goodness so we can all stand side by side with unfailing support for each other can only end well. We are social animals which thrive on unity and togetherness. We must remember to prioritize this, especially with those who look, sound and act differently than we do. Appearances will always deceive. Don’t allow yourself to fall for that old trick.
5) We must do better than our predecessors did. We must learn from their efforts, their sacrifices, their defeats and their mistakes. We must do better. It starts with every single one of us. Don’t rise to the bait. Deprogram initial response and come back to your intention. This is how we will awaken to the next chapter in history. Not by repeating what has proven to be harmful or useless, but by standing in our own power and ability to effect positive change when it most matters.
6) There is a fraction of a second that exists between stimulus and response, between what instigates fear, sadness or anger and the emotional reaction that it elicits. In that fraction of a second we must remember to breathe deeply. A deep breath not only helps release the existing tensions the body is carrying, but it helps deflect new ones from landing. Breathe deeply to stay in action and avoid falling into emotional reaction.
7) We must remember that “This too shall pass.” Life as we know it is simply a series of moments. Some of them will be pleasant, others unpleasant, but they are moments, pure and simple. We must continually remind ourselves that this moment will pass. Doing so will allow us to hold on when events get rocky, and will also allow us to appreciate the good while it presents itself.
8) Depersonalizing the narrative that is unfolding and affecting us is essential to seeing events as they are and not how we fear they may be. Look at the facts, imagine you were reading an article about them occurring to someone else, and ask yourself what advice you would give to the people affected. Taking ourselves out of the equation, even momentarily, allows us to step out of the emotional stranglehold fear can instill in us so that we can keep a level head and proceed with clarity.
The time is now. Use it wisely.