Tag Archives: inspiration

Pandemica

We have had a challenging year, challenging on so many levels. Thrust into uninvited change, most of us were forced to look at our relationships to our careers, to money, to our husbands/wives/partners, to our children, to our health, and, most of all, to the structure of life that we have bought into, played along with, lived according to. Livelihoods were, and continue to be, threatened, and we were all forced to look at the life decisions we have made through the lens of “Would I have chosen this if I knew I would be immersed in it 24/7?”

Speaking for myself, when everything kicked off in the first wave of the pandemic back in March and April, I had some hard days, days which made me come to terms with the fact that even the most hopeful and spiritual of us can lose sight of any deeper meaning, can lose sight of all hope, can wonder what the point of a human life is if the suffering experienced in it is unbearable. It brought up a lot of issues from my childhood, memories of carrying around dread, fear and a deep-rooted desire for something, someone, ANYthing or ANYone to just help me feel lighter and better. It was rough, both back then and earlier this year, in moments.

With all of that said, I know that so many people are happy to see an end to 2020, happy to wipe it off the face of existence, happy to refer to it as the worst year ever. While I understand why many feel that way, especially those who have lost loved ones to Covid, I cannot, even with all of the harder moments that I slugged through, jump on board the “burn 2020 into oblivion” train. This year was impossibly difficult to bear, in many ways, but the degree of that difficulty speaks directly to the value of the lessons 2020 had in store for every one of us.

I have been teaching students for years that we had been living in a Dark Age, that with all of the innovation, freedom and technology we had at our disposal, the only thing we were not being encouraged culturally and socially to do was to take care of each other. That one little detail had been conveniently omitted from the syllabus that we had been given for our Life Education, and that one little detail would have changed things drastically. It would have conditioned us to look beyond the superficialities that our governments and corporations use to breed division among us, and find commonality regardless of race, gender, religion, language, sexual orientation, financial status and all the other trivialities that we have prayed to as false idols for so long. I spoke in classes, workshops, podcast episodes and trips around the world about how something would happen that would affect everyone, everywhere around the world, simultaneously, something that would scare the living daylights out of us all, and in that moment, we would start to learn, because the shadow side of the human condition is that we do not truly learn when things are good. We do not learn when we have money in the bank, when we hit our ideal body weight, when everyone loves us and thinks we’re the shit, when abundance flows easily towards us and we feel like we are winning at the game of life. We learn when the shit hits the fan. We learn when the luxuries we foolishly took for granted through the lens of entitlement get jeopardized, when they get yanked away, and we have to finally examine who we are when all the frills and dressings get stripped away and we are laid bare to the world in our uncertainty and confusion. I knew something was coming, knew we were headed for something that would school every single one of us around the globe, but I thought it would be a world war, not a pandemic. And so there we were, caught up in our own little games of me-ness and ignorance until along came a pandemic. And what was the first thing we were told to do? Act as if we had the virus so we could take precautions not to potentially spread it and infect others, especially those more vulnerable. We were immediately told to take care of each other. The irony of the turn of events was not lost on me, trust me. Do I think that we will emerge from this situation having attained a new Age of Enlightenment? Probably not, at least not on the macro level. But I do believe that many of us have something of inestimable value that we gained from this year, something of beauty and true-ness that we will take with us for the rest of the lives we are blessed to live. We are more of who we were meant to be because of the events of 2020, and while many have been lamenting what they had to give up, it would be irresponsible of us all, including those same people, to not take stock in what we have gained from Pandemica.

I believe that we now know the true value and worth of our frontline medical workers in a way that we could never have truly gleaned if we were not all navigating this pandemic together.

I believe that we now know the true value and worth of teachers in a way that we could never have truly gleaned in any other situation.

I believe that we now know the true value and worth of the truckers and delivery people who kept goods coming to our local drugstores, supermarkets and other essential services when we were locked down.

I believe that we now know the true value and worth of the cashiers, stock people, counter people and everyone else who showed up for work when they were scared shitless to be working in supermarkets, drugstores and other essential services.

I believe that we now know the true value and worth of taking care of our health, knowing it to be the most important aspect of life that we could focus on. When one considers how prior to the pandemic many companies and employers operated from the belief that showing up for work was more important than staying home when an employee was ill, one can only stand back in awe at how Pandemica set everyone straight.

I believe that we now know how truly interconnected we are, how quickly we can all find ourselves dealing with the same issues regardless of living on opposite ends of the globe.

I believe that we now know that most politicians, when faced with the task of preserving life or the economy, will align themselves with the latter. And you better believe that we now know that if we do not vote for politicians and political parties which prioritize paying our medical workers and teachers what they have proven to be worth in keeping society going when all else grinds down to a halt, we are shooting ourselves where it hurts most.

On a personal level, what I have gained from 2020 is the understanding that suffering is part of the human experience, and no one is immune to it. I have been reminded that in order to alleviate my own suffering, especially in darker days, it is my responsibility to serve others in the alleviation of their suffering, which, in turn, ends up alleviating mine.  I have learned that being able to hug my mom and my dad is a fucking gift, and I am aching for the moment I can do it again. I have learned that there will always be idiots and fuckwits out there, because everyone of us has sides to our personalities that align with idiocy and fuckwittery. As within, so without. I have learned that everyone has an opinion and feels entitled to blast it out into the world, but few of those people have the guts to stop criticizing and actually start acting for change. I have learned to disregard the wicked, as I was taught through my spiritual teachings, and get on with being part of the solution. I have learned that dogs and cats will inherit the earth, because without them many of us would have crumbled into pieces this year.

Most of all, what I have learned is something that is relearned, originally taught to me when a friend of mine died in one of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, and that teaching is that anything can happen to anyone at any time. And because of that, because I incorporate that into every single day of this life I get to live, this year has reminded me that life is a choice. It is a choice between operating from the belief that I would get the virus and die versus the belief that if I was responsible and careful, I would not. It is a choice between choosing to be kind when anger or indifference might be more easily accessible. It is a choice between staying hopeful or hopeless. It is a choice between staying plugged into all media outlets versus disconnecting from them. It is a choice between seeing us all as one heaving mass of humanity versus clusters of “others”. It is a choice between accepting a term like “social distancing” when we should in fact be practicing “physical distancing”,  understanding that in times like these we need to be more socially cohesive and united than ever before.

Life is a choice. To live or not to live. That is the question. And so I choose to live, big and loud and not giving a flying fuck who has an issue with how I do it. But I live. And I care. And I will keep living and caring and being of service, doing this life thing exactly the way I want to, learning from all the hardship and trials. We all will, as long as we remember the lessons 2020 and Pandemica had waiting for us in our Higher Learning, the education life had in store for all of us.

Happy Holidays to you all. Happy New Year. We made it this far, we will make it to the other side. Stay well and safe and full of life.

The Kindness Calendar

The Kindness Calendar. A beautiful initiative my younger brother posted on social media and which was put out into the world by https://www.actionforhappiness.org/. I am making it my daily Mindfulness practice for the month, and I invite everyone to do the same.

For more information, visit the latest episode of The Examined Life with Bram Levinson Podcast here: https://bramlevinson.libsyn.com/the-kindness-calendar?tdest_id=2107676

Afternoon Friends,

With the holidays fast approaching and all of us pushing the pedal to metal until they land,  it’s important to remember what a hard year 2020 has been on so many and to propagate acts of kindness wherever we can.

Please read and where able, act upon the gestures in this calendar to brighten someone’s day!

Huge thanks Roger Pugsley for lighting the candle so brightly and being such an outstanding human being!

A Friendly Reminder

Just a quick word to remind us all that the only thing we are not being encouraged to do in life is to take care of each other. We are encouraged to wear a mask, distance ourselves physically while psychologically internalizing the effects of the term “social distancing”, see each other as potentially fatal and stay alive and well. And yet nowhere in all of this have we been encouraged to take care of each other. At no time before all of this were we encouraged to do so.

I believe that giving a shit about each other, listening to each other, caring for each other, agreeing to disagree with each other, supporting each other and simply recognizing that we’re all doing our best to navigate the fuckwittery of being human is the missing link. It’s what would dismantle all of the systems that have had us in competition with each other for so long, and would allow us to actually learn about each other in ways that our bullshit social media posts never convey.

Try taking care of someone once you’ve read these words. Give your time, hold some space, give a shit about someone else’s well-being. What you’ll find is that in doing so, you’ll end up feeling better in your own experience of life. And really consider how this world would be a different place if we were encouraged, conditioned, taught to actually take care of each other.

Reboot

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.

When Your Accidents Of Life…

…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.

You Had It All Along

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.

Authoring A New Year

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!

We’re Still Here – One Night Only with Bram Levinson at the Rialto Theatre

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.

Event description:

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,
https://www.smashingpixel.com/blog/rialtotheatre

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.