Tag Archives: Life

My Work

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.

Why We Should Be Grateful For 2016

2016As 2016 winds down to its last days, social media and conversation is abuzz with how this year has truly been THE annus horribilis, the year that everyone wants to see the back of. It seems like there were more tears in the collective fabric of humanity over the last 12 months than in other years in recent memory. From the deaths of some of our most celebrated artists and musicians to the seemingly relentless terror attacks on freedom and those fortunate enough to live where freedom reigns, from the non-stop sensationalist media frenzy that helped elect he-who-shall-not-be-named to the office of POTUS, to the rising wave of intolerance and xenophobia, 2016 has definitely been chock full of shocks. But instead of looking at all these moments as contributing to a horrible year, I can give you all a few reasons as to why 2016 is one of the most important years in this lifetime of ours.

My year has had some of the most challenging moments I’ve ever been faced with. My teacher of 17 years, Joan Ruvinsky, passed away, my dog got critically ill, I was ill and on antibiotics for over 3 months and my partner and I had a major cancer scare over the last 5 weeks. Serious life events that kept coming like a roll of punches that hit just when you find verticality and can see straight again. And I’m not the only one. Almost every single person I know has had his or her share of challenges in 2016. Financial struggles, serious mental and physical health problems, legal issues, you name it, it’s been occurring in my sphere of awareness. Seen literally, it all amounts to trouble and suffering, both of which anyone with half a functional brain would steer clear of. However, seen spiritually or symbolically, something much more significant than unpleasant moments has occurred in 2016.

We don’t learn anything when things are good. We don’t learn anything about ourselves or about how we operate in the world when the sun is shining, when it’s eternal summer, when we’ve got coin in the bank, when we’re a pound or two below our ideal weight, when we look in the mirror and love what we see, when our relationships and friendships are sailing along smoothly, when we love our work and when we feel like everything is exactly where it should be. And understand this above all else: spiritually speaking, success is not measured by what we own, our accomplishments, the amount of money we have or what we look like. Success, when speaking spiritually, is measured by how much we’ve learned. And we don’t learn anything in times of prosperity and abundance. We learn when we have our asses served to us by what typically gets easily referred to as “the universe.” And whether or not we have liked it, we have gotten more successful in 2016.

I have learned, through all of the challenges that this year has had in store for me, how to really work with my thoughts and stay in positivity, hope, realism and productivity. I have learned what it means to work with fear, with negativity, with pain (emotional and physical), to put into practice everything I have studied and taught over the last chunk of my career. And understand this: I knew, as soon as things got heavy in my life, that I was being presented with the opportunity to respond to and deal with hardship, to make sure that a) I knew what I was talking about when I taught about working with fear, anxiety, negativity and darkness, and b) I could accurately empathize with the suffering of others. My role in this lifetime is to help others navigate their Dark Nights of the Soul. And this year, I was presented with my own, over and over. I was meant to be reminded that sometimes it feels impossible to inhale fully, to inflate the lungs, to really take a deep breath in the face of fear and chaos. I was reminded. And I am a better person, author, teacher, friend, son, mentor, brother, husband, godfather and pet owner because of it.

What have we learned collectively in 2016? That sometimes the unthinkable happens. That sometimes events do not unfold the way we would want them to, that the Hollywood narrative is the Hollywood narrative to keep us entertained and always able to depend on the happy ending. We have learned that we will never agree with each other on some of the most fundamental issues that affect us all, and that that is ok. We’ve learned that the freedoms that we are blessed with on this side of the world are not to be taken for granted, that with the election of certain individuals, those freedoms that others fought and died for could be taken away. We’ve learned that we might need to stand up and speak louder to ensure the freedom of all, not just those that look like us, speak the same language, pray to the same God as we do or align with our political views. We’ve learned that anything can happen to anyone at any time, and that every moment is precious. We’ve learned that when we suffer, we instinctively become more aware of the suffering of others and feel an animalistic need to not inflict further suffering on anyone or anything. We’ve learned that we have a choice as to whether we take care of each other or whether we don’t. We’re still learning that lesson. It will be a long time before we get it. I’m hopeful that we will.

Basically, 2016 was a game-changer for us, on a personal and collective level. And while we may have made our way through the year under low-level pressure and resented having to do so, no one can argue that whatever we’ve learned is essential. We need to be reminded of what matters in life, and for me, that is how I work with my thought patterns. Every single one of us will have an experience of the world that is dependent on what our thoughts are, and I believe that hardship and adversity exist for us to do the mindfulness work, to observe where our thoughts go when circumstances and events get less than ideal. We are meant to look beyond the appearance of it all to find the meaning, the symbolism, and, ultimately, the lessons that are ours specifically to learn.

And so, looking back through a different lens or filter, how does 2016 look to you now? Give it some thought and see what arises.

Happy Holidays to all, and the happiest of New Years. Here’s to 2017!

If You Read One Blog Post, Make It This One

More shootings. More terrorist attacks. More opinions being slung into the collective consciousness. More judgement. More blame. More division. More “I am me and you are you and I have nothing to do with you.”

Let’s just get to the fucking point, shall we? I say it incessantly in classes, workshops, lectures and retreats, but I’ll just keep on saying it until it’s understood: this moment in time will be looked back on by historians as a dark age. Why? Because even with all the channels we have of technology, of communication, of interaction and of being able to follow each other’s every breath, move, meal and vacation, one thing, ONE THING, continues to evade us.

We don’t take care of each other. We allow fear to supersede trust, we work from the default that our differences are stronger and allow those differences to motivate the pulling of a trigger, the launching of opinion into social media networks, the creation of a world where we’re divided and, essentially, killing each other.

I also constantly remind people to rise up and meet darkness with light. What that means in real terms is to somehow overcome the differences that keep us in the rigidity of “black” or “white”, “male” or “female”, “straight” or “gay”, “Christian” or “Jewish” or “Muslim”, “you” or “me.” Get over it. We are all trying to navigate our difficulties and successes, all at the same time on the same planet. All struggling. And just because the faces of those struggles looks different person to person, don’t ever doubt that the root causes are the same for us all.

Start making an effort to connect to what you’ve previously avoided or had an aversion to. Come together. Try exposure therapy. Try communicating face to face. Try.

There will be an age of enlightenment that will follow this dark age. Our work now is to not succumb to the darkness. None of this will end until we wake up and start looking after and caring for each other instead of killing each other.

Try.

What We Don’t Know

I am currently studying Islam and the Quran through an online course with Harvard University because I was aware of my ignorance when it came to the religion and belief system that over a billion people ascribe to today. I suspected that what I had been exposed to through media and the opinions of others wasn’t entirely accurate or fact-based, and as someone who believes that all talk of God should be talk of peace, I wanted to investigate.

It turns out I was right. Islam, from my very little time exposed to it, seems to be about compassion and mercy. Aligned with the Judeo-Christian history of revelations compiled into book form, Islam is also very aligned with the Yoga teachings which ask us to place God above all else. Not what CNN would have us believe, apparently.

The first question we were asked in this course is how do we know what we know about Islam and Muslims? A seemingly innocuous question, at least until I really started thinking about it. Which led to asking myself how I know most of what I think I know.

We talk shit a lot of the time. We babble on about topics that we are not properly informed about, and yet we keep on talking.

This week’s classes will bring all of this together by asking students the following questions:

How do you know what you know? About what’s right for you? About what’s right for others? About what’s right and wrong? About what you’re meant to be doing with your time? About how you’re meant to love? About who you’re meant to love? About how you receive love? About money? About sex? About rest? About stress? About health issues?

What is your source of information? Is it Google? Is it your parents or guardians who brought you up? Is it the media? Is it what you overheard from others? Is it through the news wire? And is it viable? Is it a source that speaks from fact or from assumption? Is it based in truth or in fear?

Now let’s look at what you know even though you don’t know how you know it. About the difference between right and wrong. About how to treat others, regardless of their skin color or the language they speak or the god they pray to or who they feel compelled to love. About what your life is meant to represent. About what the lives of others are meant to represent.

1) Know that ideology, on any subject, is dangerous without applying that ideology face to face with the people it involves. One can have a million opinions, but those opinions can also be transformed in a second by seeing the faces and walking in the shoes of those they involve.

2) Trust that if it makes you uncomfortable or invokes fear, you need to know more about it. That sensation or emotion of fear is a messenger begging you to look a little deeper. If we all made the effort to dig a little deeper we would find commonality. Every time.

3) If you’re gonna talk, speak fact. Opinion is already saturating our culture. Opinion is killing us. From the mind-numbing chatter of all the talking heads employed by news media conglomerates to endlessly babble stupidity into our personal spaces to the cowards who sit behind the safety of their black mirrors, puffed-up with their false sense of self-importance, spewing hate and judgement through social media on 140 characters or less. Opinion is harming us. What you put out into the world, whether it be through your word (spoken or written) or your actions, has the potential to heal or to harm. Unfortunately, the default when mindlessness is part of the equation, is harm. We harm easier than we heal. Changing that vibration into one of healing can only happen by speaking fact, not emotionally charged opinion. More importantly, we must be able to say, “I don’t know” when we really don’t have enough information to responsibly contribute to the narrative. Even more importantly? Know when not to speak. Silence, in the proper contexts, is golden. It’s grace, it’s power, it’s action disguised as inaction.

We have got to start taking more responsibility for what we project into the world. If it feeds hate, judgement, separation or fear, then we have to acknowledge that and do the work that is ours to do, a teaching that is rooted in the Bhagavad Gita. If it feeds healing and love, then we are living in alignment with why we are here and what we are meant to do with our time.

We are not here to judge or hate or blame or fear. And why does it take disasters that shake us to the core to wake up to that realization? Because we are asleep. We are encouraged to stay docile and meek because that’s how we can be herded in whatever directions governments and corporations want to us to move in.

Let’s wake up a bit more today. Let’s set an intention to continue waking up a bit more every day. Set that intention every day, and every evening, before sleeping, identify how you’ve become more awake in the day that is ending.

This is up to us. No one is going to do this work for us. For you. For me. So let’s do it. It can only lead to good.

Berlin Musings

As I take some time following the Prague Yoga Vacation to unwind in Berlin, I find myself observing sensations and emotions bubbling up that fascinate me. 

I’m in my favourite city in the world, the one I’d live in if I ever left Montreal. The current weather is hot and sunny, and all is well in my world. And yet, even with all of that in place, I still feel a yearning. For what? No idea. But it’s there. An itch, a restlessness, a hunger. It may be the swell that propels my current creative projects into structure and form, it may be the knowledge that I go back home this week. Regardless, it’s there.

I’m left wondering if we ever really find what we’re looking for, if we ever truly find long-term, full-spectrum, 360-degree peace. And trust me, I know that typical yoga psycho-babble would have me recite some Hallmark affirmation about the universe providing or meditating on it all. My version of that would be to simply observe, to ask questions and know that this experience may seem individual, but is quite the opposite. I believe we live with the hunger of the unfulfilled. 

And so, the conclusion I have come to is that if we live authentically, aligned with our individual dreams and intuition, then we do find what we’re seeking, but only temporarily. Pockets of perfection, I like to call them. I often experience these moments when I’m teaching or lecturing, when I find myself exactly where I want to be (like here in Berlin) and, most intensely, when I find connection with others. 

There’s always a wistfulness when these pockets of perfection, these heartbreakingly pure moments begin to fade, slowly transitioning into what was. But I am awake enough to recognize them as they occur, and even more so when I have faith that there are more waiting for me as I navigate my way through this experience of life. 

The final word here? Make your pockets of perfection. They rarely come to you without effort and perseverance. Make more moments that inspire you to keep making more moments. Have faith that they’re just around the bend. I’ll do the same and we can compare notes along the way 🙂

Loss Lessons


With the passings of some of modern culture’s most influential and prolific artists like David Bowie and Prince, I’ve had some students asking me what I believe is going on and how to deal with such immeasurable losses. 

I do my best to see the symbolic meaning behind literal events. I also spend a large portion of my time and career discussing topics that we’re only collectively encouraged to discuss at the end of life. I choose to talk about these topics in the prime of life because I believe that in doing so, we are more apt to focus on what really matters in this human existence as opposed to the noise and distraction that typically pull us into the superficial and fear-inducing. In keeping with my spiritual teachings and beliefs, the following is my take on why the collective consciousness is taking such a harsh series of blows with the loss of our most seemingly-immortal artists and trailblazers.

The idols we celebrate and hold in the highest of esteem, on some level, are not expected to die, because we, on a very unconscious level, believe that they are immortal. When they die, we are violently yanked back to the understanding that we will all die, that we are all, in fact, dying with every passing second. And that scares the hell out of us, largely because today’s culture does not encourage us to look closely at the mystery of life and death, the miracle of the energy that sparks these bodies into “life” and which, when it leaves the body, results in “death.” 

The fact that this life, for each and every one of us, is a total and complete mystery is not something that the masses are interested in. This age of money as the ultimate deity, combined with the insatiable desire to photograph ourselves and act as if we were the stars of our own reality show, pull us away from examining anything other than the appearance of it all. This is the age of the image, so fix whatever you need to and filter until it you’ve produced the masterpiece selfie, but don’t look past the appearance. Our culture is self-obssessed. And dealing with our own deaths isn’t cute and it isn’t sexy, so why would we bother? 

I think we should bother. I think that to examine how we are living this life can lead us to reassessing what we are doing with this time that we are blessed with, time that is not renewable. I believe that these celebrity deaths are occurring at a faster pace and more dramatically than we are used to for a reason, and that reason is simply universal source letting us know that it’s time to start making the most of our own life-time.

I say this incessantly in lectures, classes and workshops, but I’ll run the risk of repeating myself: if you are spending time in a job you hate, leave it. If you spend your time in a relationship that drags you down instead of elevating you to a better place, get out of it. If you spend a lot of time doing anything that that you’d rather not do, then stop doing it. If you spend your time adhering to the rules of our society but feel suffocated by them, if you do what everyone else is doing but find unhappiness plaguing you, then it’s time to make your own rules and step out of the shadows. If you really understood that there is only one of you in all of time, then why wouldn’t you stop doing what doesn’t allow you to live your way?

We are here to be ourselves, authentically and unapologetically. We are here to follow the path that our intuition is constantly directing us towards. We are here to take care of ourselves and each other, not to ruin our health in the name of keeping up appearances or in the pursuit of money. We are not here to waste time judging each other and spending more time in darkness and negativity than in light and positivity. We are here to choose life, love, togetherness and purpose. And yet we don’t, not as a general rule. 

I see all these high profile deaths as a reminder to live. I see every day as an opportunity to ask if it might be the last one I get in this body, which gives me the fuel I need to get it all done, said and accomplished. I am not afraid of death, but I am afraid of not living. And so I live this life rejecting appearances, not placing more importance on money than I need to and prioritizing love, laughter and inclusiveness as opposed to hate, judgement and division.

We are being asked to wake up from this dream of superficiality and live like this day may be our last. And you know what? It just might be.

To Prince, Bowie, Glenn Frey, Joan and all the others that have slipped off this mortal coil in recent weeks and months, I thank you all for the example you have left in your wake of individuality, purpose, authenticity and brilliance. 

May we all wake up to our own individuality, purpose, authenticity and brilliance and realize that a life lived in distraction is a life half lived, and we are not here to do this half-assed. We are here to burn brighter than we can imagine. The time is now.

Why?

Why would you doubt your worth?

Why would you pretend to be someone else?

Why would you settle for mediocrity?

Why would you waste this precious time by doing what you’d prefer not to?

Why would you do what everyone else is doing?

Why wouldn’t you ask for help when you need it?

Why wouldn’t you reach for your dreams and wildest ambitions?

Why wouldn’t you assume that it will all work out?

Why wouldn’t you passionately respect yourself?

Why wouldn’t you finally just do it, your way, on your terms?