Tag Archives: meditation

2018 Higher Learning Weekend

For the second year, I am bringing the Higher Learning weekend of education back to Montreal! What fundamental aspects of the human experience are we not taught in school? How well are we set up for the inevitable moments of suffering that a human existence has in store for each and every one of us ? 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. Drawing on elements from Hindu & Buddhist teachings, psychotherapeutic tools, meditation techniques and spiritual teachings, this weekend will be about providing tools and coping strategies for navigating the ups and downs of this winding human journey.

Join me Saturday & Sunday, January 13 & 14, 2018 for the second annual Higher Learning Weekend of Education. Space is limited to 15 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 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 bram.levinson@gmail.com for more info or choose your payment option below.

Sat, January 13
9:30am-12:00pm – The Power Of IntentionBuy Now Button

To kick off the weekend, we will look at the role of intention in our lives and break down the energetic mechanics of intention. We will explore the concepts of dharma, The Hero’s Journey as extrapolated by Joseph Campbell, Mindfulness, Perspective, as well as concepts drawn from Yogic & Hindu scriptures.

1:30pm-4:30pm – The Power of Being/AwarenessBuy Now Button

We will look at how fear plays a role in motivating thought and behaviour, the contrast between the human experience vs the spiritual experience, the role of intuition in our lives and we will examine spiritual energy through the lenses of Hindu scriptures and texts. The spiritual understanding of Self will be examined theoretically, followed by an iRest Yoga Nidra meditation to approach it experientially.

Sunday, January 14
9:30am-12:00pm – The Power of ThoughtBuy Now Button

We will discuss the aspects of the human experience that we often get stuck in, and how to get unstuck from them. We will discuss the tension of opposites, identify what some common opposites are that we tend to experience, we will do a great meditation observing the sensations in the body associated to the opposites and how they lead to the emotions that motivate our behaviours, we will discuss the chakras, go over sutras from the Ashtanga Sutras that offer us insight into how to work with the opposites, discuss cognitive behavioural theory and discuss examples of how this can help us change our thought patterns. We will also explore techniques from Mindulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).

1:30pm-4:30pm – The Power of TimeBuy Now Button

We will recap the weekend, do an eye-opening meditation together that will further demonstrate how the spiritual/energetic experience is at work at the same time as the literal, human experience, we will discuss philosophies related to time and examine how to spend it mindfully, explore our relationships with time, discuss how universal laws affect our experience of life and how by remembering them we can use our time more wisely, we will discuss death and watch an interview with my teacher Joan Ruvinsky. We will finish off with an iRest Yoga Nidra meditation.

$250+taxes ($287.44) full weekend – Buy Now Button

$70+taxes ($80.48) – individual module à la carte, see Paypal buttons above

Equilibrium Yoga
4812 Boul St-Laurent, suite 101 (corner Villeneuve)
*do not contact the studio for information, contact Bram directly*

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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.

Post-Paros Musings

I am sitting poolside at Margarita Studios, the location where we have spent the last ten days practicing yoga, sharing meals, laughing, bonding and basking in the Parian energy that keeps me coming back with different groups of friends and students year after year. It is always emotional for me to say goodbye to the people with whom community was built during these events, and this moment is no different. The degree of joy that came from every person throughout our stay and the oversaturation of beauty that we soaked up from this island is simply not communicable through mere words. This time we have shared together is a concentrated moment of intense radiance, one that every one of us will be illuminated by when our thoughts meander back to our time together. 


Once again I am struck by how fortunate I am to be able to bring people from all over the world to experience the incomparable beauty that is Paros. It is because of how affected this year’s group is by what they’ve absorbed here that I have decided to announce the 2017 Yoga Vacation on the Greek Island of Paros. For all of you who have been following our time here through social media and have been feeling drawn to what you’ve seen, begin your planning now! We will return here September 9-19, 2017. Shared/double occupancy – $1550+taxes, single occupancy – $1950+taxes…AND, there will be a $100 discount offered to every person who has previously joined our groups over the last 5 years! Block the time off work, start shopping for your airline tickets and get ready for an experience you will never forget! Contact me at bram.levinson@gmail.com for info or to register!


To all of you whose energies still surround me as I sit here in the space that we have all imprinted through this trip, please know how grateful I am to have been able to observe your experience in Paros. Seeing that joy and experience of wonderment is exactly why I work so hard to make these journeys possible. Sharing meals and laughs, in the spirit of family, was a privilege, and I’m looking forward to reuniting in the near future. 


With love, Bram

If You Remember One Thing…

The reason some get a thrill out of extreme sports is the same reason why some love exercising or binge-watching television or spending money or drinking alcohol or practicing yoga or getting a massage or ingesting drugs or hanging out with friends or meditating or eating or listening to music or having sex or doing whatever it is that brings them contentment. The elation they feel is the result of releasing the contractions or tensions they have absorbed in the body through the pairing of their thoughts with the events they encounter in their lives. We seek relief and release so that we can let the tensions that have landed in the body as contractions dissolve. This allows our musculature to de-contract, to relax, thereby permitting our breathing to deepen and our mind to stop obsessing over all the details typically keep us busily distracted. These outlets let us breathe deeper than we typically do, which brings about the sensations of ease and peace. When discussing the topic of smoking cigarettes with students recently, a few students who had been smokers told me that they loved their cigarette breaks so much because it was in these breaks that they had the opportunity to intentionally take deep breaths as they inhaled and exhaled. They loved smoking because they breathed deeply.

There will be tension relievers that will be productive and those that will be harmful. There will be those that will carry us safely to a place of well being and others that will have repercussions that would be better anticipated than faced. Remember this: that which brings you release which allows you to breathe deeper does not have to be what instigates your relaxing. You can instigate your relaxing. You can intentionally remember to breathe deeply when tension overwhelms, when situations spin out of control and when your fears and insecurities start to distort your understanding of what really is. If you remember one thing, let it be that breathing deeply when things go any way but the way you hoped will save your life. It will keep you in reaction, perspective and clarity. Simply by breathing deeply.

Give it a try. You will see what I’m talking about sooner than you think.

This One For Matty

The past couple of weeks have been interesting for me in that I have found myself practicing yoga more frequently than I typically do. If I can get 2-3 classes in a week, I’m happy, but over the past few weeks I’ve found myself practicing 4-5 times a week, and what it has brought me is beautifully informative. With more practice has come more strength, more awareness as to when in each individual practice I feel my body begin to respond, open and warm up. I have found myself in a new phase of relationship with my practice and my body, and as a result of the observations I’ve made, I have also found myself compelled to pay more attention to what I’m eating, when I’m eating, if I’m eating. The same applies for rest: I find myself resting when I need to, saying no to things that will interrupt that rest, and being active when typically I could just keep on resting. I am in awe of my body, how it works and responds and, ultimately, the relationship I have with it.

Last week I was notified by a friend that an old friend of ours with whom we worked years ago had been hospitalized and was currently in the Intensive Care Unit. Mathieu Leroux is the epitome of an artist: he is an actor, an author, an avid fan of music and has staged his own one-man shows. He is a creator, taking the intangibility of thought and inspiration and making it manifest into his art that he shares with the rest of the world. This man who uses his body, his movement and his words to continue to give to the world has been rendered physically immobile by a syndrome that goes by the name of Guillain-Barré syndrome. Now, I don’t know what brought it on in Mathieu’s case, but at this point it doesn’t matter. What matters is what is, and what is is an almost-total state of paralysis. Guillain-Barré syndrome occurs when the immune system recognizes the cells found in the sheaths surrounding the nerves in the body as threatening, and then targets them. This is a very rare syndrome that, in some cases, occurs after one has recovered from a viral infection. Regardless of what causes it, all I know is that I went to visit Matty in the hospital this past week and found him asleep, intubated and in a state that I want him to recover from quickly. The good news is that he will recover, as the recovery statistics with this ailment are great. But it’s going to be a long road, one full of highs and lows. I know, however, that Matty has what it takes to come back from this and let it inform the rest of his life.

I teach yoga and meditation and write the books I write because I am firmly convinced that we all need more education in mindfulness. We need to have more conversations about what the nature of the mind is by default and how it, in many cases, does us a disservice by honing in on that which is most extreme. If yoga and meditation, in certain traditions, are about deprogramming initial response, then we need to work on being present enough to recognize when the mind is focusing on, obsessing over, something that is not helpful, that is allowing tensions to wriggle their way into the body’s musculature and make themselves at home. One of the key Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (from the Ashtanga Yoga System) is Vitarka Badhane Pratipaksha Bhavanam, which translates to “in the presence of negative thoughts, think of opposite ones.” An almost childishly simple piece of advice, but wiser and more effective than you can imagine. The root of this teaching stems from the knowledge that in any given moment, we have a say in what we point our mind to. In the most extreme of circumstances, we have the ability to not fall victim to them and be at their mercy. We have the ability to focus on areas of least or pleasant sensation when there is physical discomfort or pain. We have the ability to point the mind to a hope, a dream, to faith. We have the ability to direct our thoughts to that which is useful and serves us, especially when our thoughts would get pulled into the chaotic and unpleasant, which is usually what happens. We typically spend our time mulling over what brings us pain and suffering, and so in these moments it is our duty to deprogram initial response and re-point our mind to that which allows us to maintain calm, stay in action and not succumb to fear or pain. That is yoga.

Mathieu is currentFullSizeRenderly in a situation where he has two choices: to either succumb to fear, visualizing how all of this could go even more horribly, or he could re-point his mind to healing, to faith in that healing, to the community of family, friends and loved ones who have gathered around him like protective parents, to getting through this and emerging stronger, more informed and more galvanized than ever to bring this experience with him as he continues to spoil us with his art. His situation is an extreme version of what I discuss in my teachings: moments that we wish would pass quicker than they do and what tools to use to navigate the passage of those moments wisely, in action instead of in reaction. We breath deeply when that’s available, but more importantly we take control of what the mind is focusing on and we refocus it. To light. To faith. To healing. This is his yoga practice.

I have spoken to my students this week about what’s going on with Mathieu so we could dedicate our movement, breath and intentions to not only him, but to others in our lives who could use a little infusion of light, of love, of energy, patience and resilience. I hope and pray that a fraction of all that love has landed with those to whom it was directed.

Matty’s recovery will no doubt be longer than any of us would like it to be, and despite his community having banded together over the past week to raise money for him to not have to worry about living expenses as he gradually makes his way out of this moment, any and all donations will not only be appreciated, they’ll be essential. The only thing we want him to expend energy on is coming back to a fully mobile state, and so I’m including the link to the crowdfunding site where all donations are going. Visit https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/soutenir-mathieu-leroux#/story to donate whatever you can. Think of Mathieu, even if you don’t know him, and send him your thoughts and good energy. Be grateful for that which we typically take for granted in the pursuit of our goals and dreams: these bodies that allow us to make our way through life, these voices that allow us to express ourselves, this community that we are blessed to be a part of.

Think of Matty and join me and all his network support in gunning for his recovery. We love you Mathieu. You will get through this. We will be here to make sure that happens.

Weekend of Workshops in Montreal

WeekendWorkshops.I have been intermittently traveling for over a year now to bring my teaching, workshops and book (www.theexaminedlifebook.com) all over the country and the world, so when a student asked me when I would be giving workshops in Montreal, I realized that by bringing my gig all over the globe, I was essentially ignoring my home town. The workshops I typically give in Montreal are either associated to teacher training programs or festivals, available exclusively to those who have enrolled in whatever event I’m on the faculty of. And so I began thinking about creating a full weekend of workshops available to everyone and anyone, here in Montreal. And once I started thinking about it, as one would expect, more and more students started approaching me asking me for exactly what I had started planning.

The dates are now set, the location is cemented and I have begun putting together the entire weekend. Most of the subject matter is information I’ve been working with over the last few years on a regular basis, but I have never been bold enough to bring it all together into one cohesive and cathartic weekend…until now.

The weekend will start off Friday evening with Intro to iRest® Yoga Nidra and will kick the weekend off with basic spiritual teachings as well as the opportunity to simply be with whatever is for each and every participant. The basic outline of this inquisitive and informative modality will be presented along with worksheets for participants to get down in black and white what their experience is. We will examine everything from intention to emotions to core beliefs, and we’ll do it from a place of pure witnessing, where nothing needs to be judged, changed, suppressed or aggressively expressed. A 30-35 minute practice will follow, and we will finish up this introductory module with conversation and observations from everyone wanting to share.

Saturday afternoon will kick off with a module I’ve long wanted to present but wanted to wait until I felt I had the necessary tools to do so – Shedding Fear, Insecurity and Anxiety Through Yoga, Meditation and Spirituality. This incredibly informative and helpful module will carry over from the iRest® module from the previous evening with concepts such as limiting beliefs, mindfulness and intention, while drawing from ancient yogic texts like the Bhagavad Gita and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (allowing us to transition into the workshop that will follow this module). Exercises setting intention as well as mindfulness meditation will be included, and participants will leave with very real, helpful tools to make their way forwards through life with clarity, strength and an accurate and inspired sense of Self. This module will also include a 45-minute asana class incorporating specific postures that assist in the shedding of all that weighs us down so we can move closer to personal and collective freedom.

Saturday will end with The Practical Application of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. This is a module that offers insight into how to realistically apply the ancient teachings of Ashtanga Yoga to a modern world where energy and unity are disregarded in place of the appearance of things and attention to the temporary and superficial. This segment of the weekend delves into how even after thousands of years, teachings that could easily be brushed off as archaic are actually more relevant and useful than ever, all of which bring us closer to dis-identifying with pain and suffering and give us real tools to prioritize direction and peace in our own lives.

The only morning module (and the only posture-focused module) for this weekend takes place late Sunday morning with Activating The Core Body in Asana, an opportunity to lead students through a flow of yoga postures incorporating the basic principles of core strength and stability. We will look at what the core of the body actually is from an anatomical perspective and how engaging the core helps avoid injury, increase stability, strength and balance and play a part in our long-term health and posture. A short lecture/introduction will be followed by the class where we will take time to break down postures and apply what we’re learning to deepen the asanas and the practice.

To end our weekend together, we will explore Applying the Yamas & Niyamas to Modern Living. Picking up where we left off Saturday afternoon with the Sutras, we will explore the restrictions on how we treat others and ourselves in a modern-day context. We will look at how our words, actions, and existences in real life and through social media often completely disregard these guidelines on ensuring a peaceful existence, and we’ll delve into how adherence to them changes the energy we emanate in a simple and immediate way.

In just revising my notes and adding to what I want to communicate over the course of these 5 workshops, I feel a real energy growing. I’m SO excited to bring all this information to everyone, and really grateful to the students for pointing out to me that I was essentially forgetting to bring the teachings to the same community that has and continues to elevate me to a place where I’m being heard. I have reserved the studio space at Happy Tree Yoga (4010 Ste-Catherine St. West, suite 200) for this weekend of information, exploration, intention and manifestation, and registration for the event is in full swing already. For more information or to register for any or all of the workshops, visit my webpage at bramlevinson.com/news.htm.

I really hope to see you there for this weekend of delving into more profound levels of spirituality, insight and personal development. We’ll be doing work and exchanging ideas that really, truly matter through conversation, exercises and worksheets, and of course, movement, breath and intention. Bring your yoga mat, notebook, pens or pencils and an inquisitive mind, and be prepared to expand what you believe to be true about yourself, the world around you, and what your place is in that world.

See you there!

 

Dreamweaver

DreamscapeWhat do you think dreams are made of?

When you dream, you dream about things that you typically do, think or are aware of. Generally speaking, that’s the nature of dreams. Logic and methodical story lines go out the window, and your imagination conjures up the images and impressions that create your dreams. When you wake up, no matter how vivid the dream may have been, you are able to identify and classify the events that you observed as a dream, and you let them go, even the ones that need a little more shaking off.

During your average day, you navigate all kinds of scenarios that, while more vivid because you have all your senses at your disposal, in many ways can be observed as you observe your dreams. The difference between our waking life and sleeping life is that we allow what happens in our waking life to affect us in profoundly different ways than the events that we experience while sleeping.

So…question for you: what would happen if we approached the events of our waking life as if we were observing a dream? There’s a meditation technique called Dream Yoga that requires tremendous discipline, study and isolation to prepare the practitioner to observe the illusion of his/her dream while in it. Much like Awareness in the iRest Yoga Nidra practice, Dream Yoga requires the practitioner to reside in the realm of the witnessing energy that animates each one of our bodies, allowing witnessing to be able to identify dreams as dreams and not reality.

I’m a huge fan of doing this while I’m awake. How does this serve me, you may ask? Firstly, it helps me acknowledge and identify the illusory and transient nature of our daily lives, keeping me from becoming too engrossed in the temporariness of the typical daily dramas. Secondly, it helps me cultivate and hone a clear, levelheaded perception so that I don’t get too emotionally involved and let those emotions spur me into making ill-thought out decisions whose outcomes are sure to be less than ideal. It helps me make deliberate, meaningful choices for a life more aligned with who and where I want to be in the world, allowing me to keep doing what I do and serve through my time and efforts. It in no way insinuates that I sit by passively as life happens around me, but rather allows me to be an active participant with a cool-headed and practical space of witnessing that is informed by wisdom and not ego.

So…how hard would it be for you to apply a “Dream Yoga”-like approach to the rest of your day? How illuminating would it be to see the events that are waiting for you from a healthy distance, where you don’t get dragged down to the depths of hell by things that typically piss you off, and you don’t lose your sense of grounding and focus when things go so well that you start to believe that you somehow deserve or are entitled to it?

I’d like you to try it out and please report back with your experiences and findings.

Let me know how it goes 🙂