When I saw this mural today in Barcelona, I immediately recognized the heart that continues to beat with love even after it’s been stamped on, pierced, shattered and patched up. This is what a heart that has lived, loved and suffered looks like, and it resonates with me.
I made a last-minute decision to get lunch from Aux Vivres yesterday, and as I was paying I noticed a blue envelope that had “Love” and “Take Me” written on it. I did. And on my way home I opened it, found an Aux Vivres gift card inside and read that these “little packages have been put out into the world to honor the memory of a sweet, redheaded boy named Ewan on his birthday, May 2.” As I did more research I found a photo of Ewan online and discovered that this project is not only to honour this beautiful child’s memory, but to help pay kindness and generosity forward into the world.
Love4Ewan is an initiative created by Ewan’s parents who, to honour their lovely little redhead’s memory, and to help pay forward the spirit of love, generosity and kindness, began creating Love Envelopes, containing gift cards and other expressions of giving that began to be distributed annually every May 2, Ewan’s birthday.
The Bhagavad Gita tells us to “do the work that comes to you.” This, undoubtedly, came to me. But this is not work. This beautiful, inspiring project is just a nudge for me to pay this beautiful vibration forward, and to dedicate the energy behind it to Ewan, and to also encourage everyone to donate whatever you can to the Hôpital de Montréal pour enfants – Montréal Children’s Hospital, where Ewan was so well taken care of and where other children are being treated, healed and taken care of.
I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t on the verge of tears right now. This is one of the most beautiful moments that has ever come to meet me. In keeping with that beauty, and to “pay it forward,” I have given away 1 copy of my book “A Year in the Light” to the first five people who left a comment underneath my original Facebook post. Those five people who received a book will have only one request put upon them, and that is to continue to pay it forward, and to extend this vibration of beauty, peace and kindness out to others, and have them continue the journey on, all in the name of Ewan.
To Ewan’s parents, who began this beautiful social experiment, I thank you. It has moved me beyond words to be a part of it.
As we creep closer and closer to another calendar year, I’ve been noticing more and more videos, social media and blog posts, webinars and courses on goal-setting as a way to profit from the New Year’s Resolution craze. Personally, I believe that New Year’s resolutions are ineffective and their own form of self-hate, as they typically come about by looking at some aspect of ourselves that we dislike and then vowing to change that aspect by committing to a practice that is not healthy, beneficial or respectful of who we truly are and how we operate in our own lives. I believe that we force ourselves to suffer by trying to tweak that thing that we think is a problem, and from what I’m seeing, there are tons of people ready to not only reinforce that there is something wrong, but that the only way to deal with it is to adhere to some unrealistic regimen.
If you want to take advantage of a new year to create a healthy habit, then work with intention. Set your intention to be loving and kind throughout 2016, especially when you feel pulled into anger or impatience or disregard. Set your intention every day to be loving and kind. Start with yourself and then redirect that lovingkindess outwards with no specific direction. It will land where it is meant to in ways that are unknown and unpredictable. Stop instigating change by using criticism, fear and judgement as catalysts and understand that love takes care of it all. Start there.
Language, while being the primary mode of communication that allows us to interact with each other, occasionally fails us. With countless adjectives to describe ourselves, each other and the world around us, we have the ability to precisely construct the conveyance of our realities. But when it comes to love, flaws in the potency and effectiveness of language become more obvious the same way well-worn areas of a favourite sweater begin to thin out with time.
When we love a newborn child, there is an element of awe, of wonder, of almost touching the miracle that is the embodied soul in human form. There is also an element of protection, the instinctual need to fend for and defend the defenceless of the species. There is a warmth that is enhanced by all the soft, fuzzy fabrics we ache to swathe newborns in, a warmth that is palpable within seconds of holding an infant close.
When we love our parents or guardians (assuming they have loved and provided for us), there is an element of reliance, of dependence, of knowing the stability of those who will always swoop in and save us when we lose our way. There is also an element of kinship, of tribe, of belonging through bloodline that no friendship or relationship could ever provide. There is safety, and because of it, there is gratitude in its purest, rawest form.
When we love another passionately, there is desire, there is physical attraction that draws us to them like a magnet finding its home surface. There is an animalistic urge to remove any and all barriers: from protective defence mechanisms to layers of clothing, we ache to strip ourselves bare. There is the need to be vulnerable and visible and to connect with them in a way that transcends the physical and allows us to graze the spiritual realm in a heaving mass of unity.
When we love a material possession, there is a need that is met through claiming proprietary rights over an object that pleases us on a sensory level. There is a sense of validation that comes from owning something we admire. We viscerally, and often unconsciously, believe that we become more worthy of admiration when our belongings are desirable in our esteem.
When we love art, there is a poignance that is elicited that wells up and reminds us of the heart-wrenching beauty and fragility that this life is illuminated, and often shattered, by. Moments in time are immortalized for us as we race through our routines leaving trails of energy behind us, but with few memories of where we’ve been or who we were with. We find breathing space and heart triggers when we admire art, and the most beautiful aspect of what we refer to as the ego emerges, blossoming until tears spring from our eyes and our lung capacity seems to grow with every intake of oxygen.
When we love the fallen, the injured, the damaged and the oppressed, we revert back to energetic beings that thrive on cooperation and collaboration. We want to give unconditionally, knowing in the recesses of our memory that to give to those in need is to give to ourselves. We find purpose, meaning and fulfillment when we extend ourselves for the happiness, well-being and freedom of others, which brings us closer to the union we crave in a world of missed connections.
In all these cases, we love. But how can one word apply to so many cases? Why does, “I love you” not even begin to describe the sensations and emotions we embody that remind us what it means to be alive? How is it even possible that the same word we use to describe the most meaningful of human connections gets used and debased and diminished until we are using it to describe how we feel about a meal or TV show or a new pair of shoes?
There should be more than one word for love. But there really isn’t. Words will never be able to describe the sensation of the energy of love in all its forms, triggers and destinations. The best we can do is live the word, in all its definitions. Embody it. Breathe it. Ooze it and live it.
The best we can do is live love. To do anything else is a life wasted.
There’s an unspeakable amount of turmoil in the world these days, and as the turmoil mounts so does the free-floating anxiety that emanates outward from it. From rogue terrorists to institutionalized ones, from cyber censorship to blatant corruption, from abuse scandals rocking yoga communities to the mind-numbingly relentless stream of aggression and fury directed towards women…I could go on, but I won’t.
I believe that turmoil in our environments is the direct projection of our inner turmoil. I believe that we find ourselves surrounded by the energy that we usually find contained in our thoughts, and because they’re contained in our thoughts and those thought patterns of rumination are so familiar, we don’t find anything shocking or toxic about them. Until we see them manifest outside of us. And then we pass judgement, criticize, blame and preach the moral highground, when, in fact, all that we’re finding fault with is simply a reflection of what occurs in our human minds on a non-stop basis.
None of us are untarnished. We all get pissed off, we all fall prey to envy, we all covet and we all resent. Every single one of us. We get tired, annoyed, irritated and rude. Every single one of us. There are aspects to each of us that aren’t social media friendly, that would never make it into a status update or into dinner party chitchat. And because our inclination is to relegate those aspects to the hidden recesses of our minds and to unconditionally accept that it’s ok to have a dark passenger that stays in shadow, we deny ourselves complete integration of all that makes up our human identity.
The expression, “You have to learn to love yourself before you can love someone else” has always been somewhat of an enigma to me until I realized experientially what it meant. To love yourself is to accept and respect yourself. All aspects of yourself. To do so is to finally, and completely, find unconditional love for yourself. From there we can love another. Unconditionally. And from there we can show up in the world as love embodied. To express kindness and compassion regardless of who we encounter. To have a smile at the ready for whomever we cross paths with. To honour the energy that animates these human bodies and express its essence of peace and compassion. To literally be love.
All the turmoil we are seeing points to this: we are drifting further and further away from love as a collective. When we move further away from the nature of who we are, we invite in mental anguish which eventually manifests as physical disease in the body. Our collective and individual bodies are riddled with dis-ease because we’ve forgotten to love. In the moments where judgement wedges its foot in the door, we’re meant to remember to love. In the moments where we feel the need to seek revenge, we’re meant to remember to love. In the moments where we feel isolated and alone, we’re meant to remember to love. It’s only by remembering to love that we will heal this fragmented moment where we’re desperate for connection and riddled with fear. We have to love.
And so do it. Love. Without a specific destination for it and without conditions on it. Accept and respect all the magnificent aspects of what makes you YOU, and love. As 2014 grinds to a halt and we move through the energetic shift of another calendar year, set your intention to love. Make your future better than your past so that we can make our future better than our past. With love. Above all else. It will save us. And it will save you.
The longer I live, the more I recognize history repeating itself. I have observed myself date the same kind of person over and over until I understood what I was doing and why I was doing it. I have recognized patterns in my behaviour related to eating, exercising and spending money. I have seen others close to me repeat patterns and behaviours as well, as we are creatures of habit which feed off of familiarity. And, as infuriating as it has been at times, I have also had front-row seats to the Québec language issues and the “will-they-or-won’t-they” issue of Québec separating from Canada.
I’m not gonna lie. When I allow myself to get emotionally caught up in Quebec politics, it ain’t pretty. I’m a passionate person, much like my fellow Québécois (and for those of you who believe that if my mother tongue isn’t French, I’m not allowed to call myself Québécois, I offer you this: I was born and raised in Montreal. Montreal has always been geographically situated in Quebec. I’m Québécois, born and raised. If you don’t like it, bite me). I have had moments of such utter despair at the mismanagement of our city and our province and the seemingly deep-rooted need for our leaders (and I use that term VERY loosely) to promote division and hatred that I’ve often spoken to those closest to me about the possibility of just getting the hell out of what I considered to be a sinking ship. All because I felt like my home was under fire.
I visited New York City for the first time in 1989 and immediately thought that I could live there. It felt right. I’ve had dozens of moments like that in my global travels, finding countries that feel right. When I’ve spoken to my partner Stephane about possibly moving, he’s always been more reticent. He has roots that run deep here in Montreal and Québec, and once pointed something out to me that I found fascinating: I was born an Anglo in a French province, I was born gay and grew up fundamentally believing that there must be something wrong with me because I wasn’t seeing my sexuality mirrored by the people around me, and I was born into a Jewish family and went to Hebrew school for my primary education, taught at an early age that I belonged to a religion whose people had been kicked out of every place they had ever tried to settle in and had to have a state created for them so that they could simply call somewhere home. I have grown up believing that roots don’t grow very deeply, even in a place I’ve called home for what seems like forever. And then yoga found me. Directly across the street from where I was living in 1999, I stumbled across my first yoga teacher. And my roots started sprouting.
I travel around the world teaching yoga now. I’ve just returned from Calgary and Canmore in Alberta and can tell you that there is love there. Whether it’s my brother and his beautiful family with whom I stay during my trips over, whether it’s the blinding generosity and beauty of the studios and communities that welcome me so unconditionally or whether it’s seeing more of the beauty that Canada has to offer, I now know something that has previously eluded me: home is wherever there is love. And those roots that began sprouting when I started practicing yoga have created an interconnected, global web of “home” that I could never have predicted.
I can land in Paros, Greece and be home. I can run my fingertips through the clear waters of Croatia and be home. I can quietly walk through a moss-covered graveyard in England and be home. I can find myself at a Hammam in Istanbul and be home. I can be leading a class under the blazing Santorini sun and be home. I can be teaching at festivals around North America and be home in every location. With all that said, I know this: my truest home is Montreal, and it’s home for the very simple reason that it’s my epicentre of love. It’s where I have the longest history of loving and being loved, and that has created one hell of an imprint.
I know love and love knows me. Well. I often find myself a wee bit overcome at how much love there is for us to observe, engage in and experience. Maybe I’m delusional, and maybe I’m blessed. Doesn’t really matter, to be honest. I’m choosing to focus on Montreal and Québec as an epicentre of love. I refuse to be dragged down to the bottom of the human condition by politicians that have absolutely no consideration for our well-being. I refuse to be affected any longer by the hate that is spread first by the politicians, and then by people via media (social and otherwise). I’m smarter than they are. I’m smarter than that. And so are you. Montreal is my home and there’s room for all of us. I choose to understand that the political landscape will always swing like a pendulum on a grandfather clock, and will continue to travel the globe teaching love, teaching truth, teaching yoga. If, one day, I find myself somewhere with an undeniable pull calling me to uproot from Montreal and make this new location home, then I will. And the more time I spend there immersed in love, then the more that place will give Montreal a run for its money as my primary home.
For now, I’m here, in Montreal, home, with love as a constant in my life. It is with this motivation and intention that I am asking every single one of you to go out on April 7 and vote. Be smart about it, vote with your gut instinct, but understand this: you’re not voting for the party leaders. You’re not even voting for the parties themselves. You’re voting for love. WE are voting for the love of our city and our province. We have been complacent for too long, allowing irresponsibility and corruption to seep into our home.
On April 7 we will stand up together and vote for the love of our city and province. And on April 5, make sure to come out to my classes at Lululemon Greene Avenue (9-9:50am) and Luna Yoga (11am-12:30pm) for Yoga Votes Saturday to participate in a moment that will further empower and galvanize everyone in attendance to use their unique voice to effect change. All for love.
All for Montreal and Québec. It’s time to begin the healing and bring our home back to what it once was, what it will be again.
Stand up with me.
I believe that we are all kids in adult bodies. We do our best to play the game and be mature and make smart decisions and not fuck up, but at the end of the day, we still hope and dream and doubt and ACHE TO BE LOVED like we did when we were 6 years old.
I also believe that love shouldn’t have one particular destination. Yes, ideally we have one person in particular with whom we share intimacy and confidences, who knows us better than we know ourselves, but love should be directed outwards to everyone and anyone.
As you make your way through the world today, see the people around you as the children they once were. That guy panhandling outside the liquor store? Forget the disheveled appearance of the 40-something year-old man and see the boy he once was. That woman you start arguing with who cuts you off at the red light? Look for the little girl she is beneath the facade.
Love is not holding the person who truly loves you up to a standard set by industry to see if he or she ends up buying you flowers/paying for dinner/buys you chocolates/holds the door open/lays you down on a bed of rose petals. Love is coming back to that 6-year old self and removing your filters so you allow your heart to be visible and obvious. Test yourself today. Be love to everyone. Be joy. You will get it back a million-fold 🙂
In 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.
One of the topics I lecture on in classes, presentations and workshops is the reason we practice yoga. Millions of people make their way onto a yoga mat daily, and every one of those people has a motivator informing every step towards the mat, and every motion/breath/thought on it. The most interesting aspect of speaking to people about why we practice is that many of us have rarely wondered what brings the person next to us in class to their practice, and as Yoga is an opportunity to see unity and eradicate division, I like watching that be practically applied in a very real context as students find common ground.
Some of us practice yoga because we want to move and we don’t want to do it in a gym environment. That was my initial motivation way back in 1999 when I grew tired of the testosterone-riddled gym setting that I dragged myself to 3-4 times/week. I found the posturing and obsession on the appearance of things almost as unbearable as the music that was being pumped out of the speakers at distracting levels. And so I started looking for a yoga class in my neighbourhood…and found my first teacher living directly across the street.
Some of us practice yoga because we like exploring how moving the body in challenging/trying/frustrating/exhilarating/revolutionary ways affects our breathing. We want to notice what happens to our breathing when we’re pulled away from our center of calm, because to be able to assess with objectivity how our breathing is affected by what we experience on the yoga mat tells us how we are affected by what we experience off the yoga mat. We start to understand that to be able to control our breathing and maintain a calming breath even when we feel like we might fall out of a posture gives us the tools to control our breathing and maintain a calming breath when we get sick, when things get stressful and hectic, when trauma occurs, when those around us get hurt…in short, when life pulls us away from our center.
Some of us practice yoga because it’s only through this discipline that we find our own unique understanding of a higher power, of light, of energy, of God. The connection that yoga offers becomes monumentally more than the mind-body-intention one. It becomes the connection that shows us that we are way more than our name/job/body/confidence/hairstyle/car/house/watch, and more than the roles we carry out in relation to family and friends. It shows us that we are the embodiment of everything that we have ever hoped and wanted for, and part of something formless and spacious.
Some of us practice yoga in group settings because it’s where we find community. The epidemic of loneliness (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/life-of-solitude-a-loneliness-crisis-is-looming/article15573187/?page=1) seems to be growing exponentially, even with technology capable of keeping us linked at every second of every day. We don’t want to be alone, and yoga reminds us that beneath the appearance of different skin colours, languages, religions, bank account balances, job titles, opportunities and overall appearances, we are all the same, living a human experience and wanting for the exact same things.
Some of us practice yoga for every single reason listed above. And some of us have no idea why we practice. We just feel compelled to do so.
What underlies all these reasons, and what underlies all the differences that present themselves as separation in our communities and the world around us, is peace. We are all seeking peace. Peace of mind, peace in our heart, peace in our soul. We are already the embodiment of that peace, but we’ve lost track of that in many cases, and so yoga helps us find our way back.
As 2013 comes to a close, take a minute to reflect on where you’ve been, who you’ve loved, who has loved you, and who you’ve been throughout and over the last year. And then let it all go. Be here, in this second, with one foot in 2013 and the other lifted, ready and certain about where it will find itself when it steps down. Believe in miracles, and understand that you are more of everything than you’ve ever thought possible…more focused, more driven, more capable, more resilient, stronger, with more capacity to love, be loved, and help heal all the division we seem inundated by. Let everyone around you see that peace that you’ve been taking care of all this time. Let people see through your actions, words and intention that peace is not an option – it’s who we are and it’s why we’re here. That peace will bring us forward collectively, with clarity and community and light. Let these be your cornerstones for 2014 and every year that follows.
I’m writing this post lying in bed in my hotel room in Istanbul. I’m up later than I have been on any other night, as our retreat here has come to an end and most of the students have left on their return journeys home. As is typically the case, I’ve been very reflective as this experience winds down, and despite staying here for another few days, my reality in Istanbul as I have become accustomed to it is changing. The community we created over the past week was a very special one, insular and bonding, what with the coming together of and unifying like-minded people, as these retreats always end up doing. We ended up practicing yoga, obviously, and we did more sightseeing and touring than I previously thought possible in 7 days, but what proved to me most refreshing about this voyage to Turkey was the immediate connection we all felt to its people.
This city is older than almost any other I’ve ever traveled to, but unlike what I witnessed in Rome or Athens, there is a basic undercurrent of faith amongst its inhabitants who live their religion and faith in every step taken and with every gesture made. That faith doesn’t just manifest in the clothes worn here or the hauntingly seductive call to prayer booming from the minarets five times daily. The faith these people live their lives infused with is visible in how they touch each other, how they go out of their way for perfect strangers, how they have a smile waiting to break at the first opportunity, how they meet as a community to discuss spiritual matters before witnessing their devout enter the room to begin whirling in place with the intention of foresaking their egos and connecting with the oneness of existence. None of us were expecting to be consistently treated with kindness and generosity of spirit by every single person we came into contact with. None of us were expecting to be charmed by the warmth of the people here, in fact, I can honestly say that I expected to be treated curtly and dismissively as a western tourist here. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
After thousands of years, this city still emanates energy…an energy that runs deep in the streets, one that resounds through speakers and is visible in the eyes of the most heavily veiled women. What we were blessed to see this week was a people rich with rituals, rituals that take precedent over all else. Regardless of what any of us may think of the Muslim world, one thing I know I’m taking away with me from this city is that everything I’ve ever assumed about Muslims was wrong. There is a deep and ancient humility demonstrated by people here, a true Bhakti, or devotion, to a higher energy that is recognized as the source of all that is. These are a DEEPLY spiritual people, and after being here for only one week, I can say that I have a deep respect and affinity to them. Now before some of you jump at the chance to get all Western on me, let me say that I am aware that Istanbul is very progressive for a Muslim city, but nonetheless, the beauty I and the other 17 people that were here on retreat with me saw was unexpected and incredibly moving.
What I feel meant the most to us a yoga group was the fact that we came here to bring our ritual to a city already ritually rich. We weren’t expecting it to be so, but as the universe typically does, we were shown how little we know. We brought our faith in yoga and its powers to change, uplift and inspire to a city where faith is as common as kebab restaurants and traffic jams. We ended up not only meeting like-minded spirits in meeting each other as retreat participants, but we ended up realizing that we share more with this side of the world than we ever thought possible. This city has shown me just how deeply my own faith runs, and by doing so, it has touched me on a soul level, a heart level, as no other city ever has.
I will come back home in just under one week, more aware and sensitized to those whose culture differs greatly from the one I’m more familiar with. I will come home having attained greater depths of beauty and humanity, all because I was shown just how little I know, but how much I believe. As demonstrated to me by the whirling dervishes I was blessed to witness this evening as they expressed their devotion, I will not bow down to the city of Istanbul in reverence, but rather, I will leave with one hand uplifted to receive the blessings of the higher power that led me here, and I will place my other hand palm down to pass on those blessings to you all.
With only love, Bxx.