Tag Archives: Montreal

We’re Still Here

joan

When I was twenty-five years old I lived on a street right next to Parc Lafontaine in Montreal. I was nearing the end of a nine-year relationship that I had held onto desperately because I knew that when it ended, I was going to be faced with me, myself and I, and I was a bundle of insecurity and uncertainty at that stage in my life.

I grew up gay and alone, despite being surrounded by people who loved me. Scratch that. They didn’t just love me. They LOVED me. I have always been blessed with a family made in prime time television heaven. Two brilliantly incredible brothers, and parents who have never stopped showing the world the multifaceted experience of true love. Regardless, as far as I was concerned, I was alone.

Growing up gay in the 70’s and 80’s was hellish. The only depiction I had of a gay male figure was Jack Tripper from Three’s Company, a character who was straight, but had to pretend he was gay to be allowed to rent an apartment with two beautiful girls. The comments made to him or about him by unsuspecting side characters were less than kind, and so as you can imagine, all I knew as a kid was that I was the bona fide real thing, and so all those comments made about Jack were basically about me. Being in my skin as a child wasn’t my favourite place to be, and yet I had no alternative. So I did what I had to do and survived.

Cut back to me at 25. No sense of self or Self, the sum total of the years growing up gay and feeling terribly alone. My relationship was not doing well for many reasons, the most glaring of all being that I had no idea who I was. Enter yoga. For some reason, yoga was somehow on my radar at the time, and so I decided I’d start to research it and if see it was something I wanted to learn more about. I remember going to Mélange Magique, which was a store commonly referred to as “the witchcraft store”, but which sold more than Wiccan literature and accessories. The place was great – they sold books on religions and philosophies, sacred traditions and rituals. They had books on yoga, so I’d hang out there reading and eventually bought a box of yoga flash cards. Each card had a different posture on it and was colour coded depending on the type of posture (seated, standing, forward bend, backbend, etc…). I remember bringing the set home and sitting on the green industrial carpet of my then-bedroom. I laid the cards out and started to build my own home practice that I soon started doing a few times a week.

After practicing alone for a few months, I decided I needed to start looking for a proper yoga teacher. My door number on my street at the time was 964. After doing some digging with my soul-sister and friend Nadia (who was also interested in trying yoga), we found a teacher. Who lived across the street from me. Directly. Joan Ruvinsky lived at 987. And she still does. Nadia and I registered for the session along with another friend, and all I really remember is that after the second class I got up from my yoga carpet and felt like I had just ingested something magical. I felt relaxed and alive and peaceful and happy. And so we kept at it. Our friend who registered with us eventually stopped classes, and then I, over the next few years, came to the classes and then veered away, came back and veered away.

The years that succeeded that first session were heavy for me. My relationship did indeed end, my grandmother died, a friend died in the attacks in New York City on September 11, 2001, and one of my dogs died. Every time something happened, I’d phone Joan and leave her a message to let her know that I wouldn’t be finishing the current session that I’d been registered for, as I was so beaten up emotionally that I couldn’t commit to showing up for classes. And it was in 2001 when I called her, post 9/11, that I got her on the phone and she said to me, “Consider the possibility that times like these are when you most need the practice.” She changed my life with that one line.

I also remember booking a private mentoring session with her. I needed to talk to someone about everything that I felt wasn’t right about my life at that point, and she made time for me. I talked and talked, and when I was done she looked at me and matter-of-factly said, “Bram, you just have to get out of your own way!” And so she changed my life again. She also made time for me one afternoon to teach me how to use a neti pot – I’ll never forget her leaning over her sink, tilting her head and pouring water with uniodized salt in it into one nostril and watching it pour out the other. She could not have been more hands-on with her teaching, despite her asana classes being mainly verbally guided.

Over the years I went back to Joan’s school Pathless Yoga less and less frequently, with the occasional session here and there, but she was no less present in my life and in my thoughts. When I left my last career in 2008 and started studying to teach yoga, she was with me in every decision-making moment where I kept telling myself to simply get out of my own way. I used to dream of her as a vision in white, flowing fabrics, light emanating off of her, and when I would wake up I’d laugh because I knew she’d laugh herself silly if I ever told her about it. My class structure, once I began teaching, mimicked hers with a longer dharma talk followed by asana, which I’m now somewhat known for. I unconsciously ended up doing as I’d been taught, and she has Taught me.

When I did my iRest Yoga Nidra Level 1 training in 2013 I was happily surprised to meet people who would say to me, “You’re a student of Joan’s! Tell me about her!” I had no idea how they knew her until I put two and two together and realized that that body-sensing thing she was doing with us back in 1999 was actually one of the key components to iRest. She studied under Jean Klein, as did Richard Miller who pioneered the iRest modality, and was part of the iRest tradition and community, leading retreats with the Integrative Restoration Institute and mentoring students doing their full certification. I had chosen a training that once again reinforced for me that all paths led back to Joan.

It’s always been about Joan, for me. I suppose your first teacher (and as far as I’m concerned, she is my first teacher…she is the first person to teach me what I innately knew I would work with for the rest of my life) is very much like your first love. The face time with them may have a set time frame, but they stay with you for every step of the journey, and they both teach you about love.

Joan opened the doorway for me and I’ve never wanted to shut it since. She did it humbly and quietly, leading by example and being a source of support and wisdom when I most needed it. She whet my appetite for the physical practice, and albeit unknowingly to me, planted the spiritual seeds that have grown into the forest of inquisitiveness and seeking that I eat, sleep and breathe today. She gave me the training wheels and the tools to grow into a man who respects and loves himself, a far cry from the introverted gay kid afraid of the world. She taught me that there is just this. No trying, no fear, no forcing…no problem. Nothing to do, nothing to say. Just this.

I spent time in sangha with Joan and our community this weekend and one of the many things I’ve taken from this time we shared is that, in her words, “We’re still here.” As long as we’re still here, we are. As long as I am, and as long as my students are, Joan is. She is still teaching me and showing me how truly blessed I have been and always will be to have had life’s grace bestow upon me a teacher as infinitely everything as Joan is. I aspire to have the quiet grace that she has shown me and the world, and every time I think of her, I feel a recommitment to the essence of the yogic teachings. I am because she is.

There’s a saying that goes something like, “When the student is ready the teacher will present him or herself.” Joan presented herself to me back in 1999 and has kept doing so for other students from all over the world ever since. I need to get these words out now, I need to pay homage where it is so strongly overdue.

Thank you Joan. I am because you are.

This Is War

25153f_83cd4e4697ce48038b1d73d9f99c7a52.png_srz_p_525_188_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_png_srzI have often spoken to students about how modern-day western culture has not lived through wartime in the same way our grandparents and great-grandparents did. Wars have, and are being waged globally, of course, but our day-to-day comfort and stability has never been drastically compromised. The Iraq war, the fight against the Taliban, ISIS… these are the conflicts that come to mind when we think about wars waged in our lifetime that affect the global consciousness. But there is a war that has actually hit much closer to home regardless of where we call home, one that rarely makes the headlines because the crimes to its victims, by and large, go unreported and, in some cases, get immediately dismissed, swept under the rug. This war is the war against women.

Women have been targeted for thousands of years. Creation myths in ancient times revered the female as the source of power and life, especially in Pagan cultures and rituals, but this reference for the Divine Mother shifted around 1700 B.C.E. with the Babylonian Seven Tablets of Creation. This story essentially told the tale of a mother who is killed by one of her male children, no less at the moment where her belly is greatly swollen, resembling a woman in the final stages of pregnancy. The murderous son then creates the world out of the dismembered body of his mother and becomes a God in his own right. This God murders and dismembers the divine female and Goddess worship begins its downward spiral until most, if not all, cultures and religions begin to assign greatness to the male archetypes by devaluing and demonizing the previously-held female ones.

In one of my earliest blog posts entitled The Devil and Greta Garbo, I discussed the stigma that left-handed people faced and referenced the Italian usage of the word “sinistra” (sinister) to signify that which relates to the left. In the Yoga tradition, amongst others, the left side of the body is equated with feminine energy, and so I deduced that the correlation could not be coincidental. I believe that the true power of the Divine Female, the energetic force of a Mother Earth and everything she encompasses, stood in the way of the male need to dominate and rule and served as a very real threat. As a result, the power that had once been relegated to the Goddess was not just taken, it was done so violently, shamelessly, ruthlessly and intentionally. All that related to the female was labelled less-than, suspect and sinister.

And so here we are. According to www.canadianwomen.org, “Gender inequality is visible in many areas, including politics, religion, media, cultural norms, and the workplace. Both men and women receive many messages—both blatant and covert—that men are more important than women. This fundamental inequality creates a rationale for humiliation, intimidation, control, abuse, and even murder. In this context, it becomes easier for a man to believe that he has the right to be in charge and to control a woman, even if it requires violence. This is not only wrong, it’s against the law. Violence against women is rooted in the belief that women deserve less social power and it is therefore acceptable – maybe even necessary – to exert power over them. This mindset also drives many other forms of violence, such as racism, homophobia, classism, ageism, and religious persecution.”

Women today carry more than they should in their daily lives. From not being able to walk down the street without the fear of being singled out presenting itself to being called bitch/whore/slut/cunt for the most innocuous of perceived slights by both men and other women, the symbolic and energetic weight of being a women today demands that females draw on that ancient strength and power that initially commanded our devotion to The Goddess. Women have to be more aware, more resilient, more shrewd and more careful then we men do. The double standard is disgusting, and I, as a man who adores and reveres women as the source of wisdom and life, am fed up with violence and abuse towards women being an accepted demon that lives amongst us.

The statistics pertaining to violence towards women are staggering, and to be honest, I’d rather have you research them yourselves than list them here and have people tune out to the point of this blog entry. My life is Yoga, and Yoga is my life, and Yoga is not about physical movement or postures. Yoga is not about breathing consciously or Lululemon clothes. Yoga is understanding that what happens to one of us happens to all of us. Yoga is recognizing oneness and unity and turning wounds into purpose. Yoga is standing up for those who have either been silenced or feel that their cries would fall on deaf ears. I want to add my voice to those cries to help amplify them so they can be heard. I am begging you to raise your voice as well so that WE CAN ALL BE HEARD.

Join me on Sunday, March 8, International Women’s Day, at the YM-YWHA (5400 Westbury Avenue) from 1-3pm as we come together as human beings who have decided that enough is enough. Let’s all stand united for all women who have ever felt diminished in any way simply because of their gender. This is a fundraiser and an awareness-raiser. Bring your yoga mats if you plan to participate in the asana practice, but don’t feel pressured to partake. I want everyone to simply show up authentically, in whatever way they deem relevant.

Bring your cash and chequebooks as well. 100% of funds raised is going to Women Aware/Femmes Averties (www.womenaware.ca) and tax receipts will be issued for donations $25 and greater.  Organized almost 20 years ago by a group of survivors of domestic abuse, this Montreal-based organization is actively making a difference by providing long-term support to victims, increasing awareness to this issue in our communities and working both independently and in conjunction with other local organizations and teams.

This is not going to be an opportunity to rip apart men or point the finger of blame. This event is a moment of healing, of community and of social awareness and activism. If we stand for nothing, we fall for everything. Let’s refuse to fall apart as a society. Let’s refuse to turn a blind eye. Let’s refuse complacency. It’s time to stand. For something and for each other. It can only happen if we’re all in it. Together.

See also: All Hail – a post from 2011 written for International Women’s Day.
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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!

 

Where The Heart Is

20140331-013144.jpgThe 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.

Yoga Votes Saturday – April 5, 2014

voteMy career and my intention has been steeped in directing others to the truth about who we are as human beings, to understand and acknowledge that we are not our bodies, we are not our jobs, we are not our responsibilities, we are not our successes nor are we our failures. All of these things are temporary and transient. What we are is the unchanging energy that animates each and every one of our frames. Without that energy, we are simply dead bodies. This energy existed before we were born and it will outlive our bodies. It is an energy that is untouched by illness or mood, an unchanging observer that perceives the world around itself using the body’s senses.

This understanding of the Self eventfully brings clarity and perspective to students seeking truth and answers in their lives. This perspective and clarity allows us all to stop getting caught up in the ever-changing sea of daily dramas that seems to ricochet us from emotion to emotion, and to start focusing on what really matters: are we loving? Are we compassionate? Are we being loved? Are we free, and are we ensuring that freedom is not selectively doled out to the fortunate, but rather a birthright for all? Are we serving others?

We are in the weeks leading up to a very important provincial election here in Quebec. I’m not going to start preaching or sharing my own political beliefs, because I believe that we are all entitled to our own opinions and don’t want to be that person that polarizes others. I want to bring people together. I don’t care who Quebecers and Montrealers vote for, but I do care that a huge percentage of the population here does not take the time to go vote and exercise a right that others around the world are fighting to the death to have.

It is with the intention of galvanizing people who typically don’t vote because they a) don’t believe their vote will make a difference, or b) can’t be bothered to take the time out of their busy schedules to go to the polling stations, that I am creating one day of classes that I will lead, and I’m calling it Yoga Votes Saturday.

On Saturday, April 5 I will be leading a free yoga class from 9:00-9:50am at Lululemon Greene Avenue, and a paid yoga class at Luna Yoga from 11am-12:30pm. It is my hope that my regular students will bring people they know who are not regular voters to these classes, as well as people who have not yet taken my class. I aim to empower people to find their unique voices through the yoga practice, and it is with this voice that we effect change. I aim to get at least one person to the polling station on Election Day who would not have gone without having heard me speak and teach. It is my aim that we wake up as a society and realize that we have the power to make a difference, to effect real change and to step up in our own lives and start living consciously.

I am asking each and every one of you reading these words to get up off your chair, out of your house and be there at either of my 2 classes on Saturday, April 5 and to help me mobilize fellow Montrealers and Quebecers to stand up, be heard, and, ultimately, be a part of one of the most important elections we will be faced with. It’s not enough to share a Facebook post or Like a status. It’s time to do something real, so let’s do it together.

See you all at:

Lululemon Greene Ave – 1394 Avenue Greene, 9-9:50am

Luna Yoga – 231 Saint-Paul Ouest, Suite 200 – 11am-12:30pm

lululemonls
 

An Open Letter to Jean Charest

Mr Premier,

To start off, let me say that throughout my life, I have heard my father, a distinguished now-retired lawyer, speak of you with reverence…discussing exchanges he has had with you with nothing but admiration in his voice, which in turn, led me to carry a certain respect and admiration for you as well, because after all, what better example could I possibly follow than that shown to me by my father?

Let me continue by saying that I am not writing this to attack you. I am not in the habit of appealing to politicians, because I generally don’t believe that politicians act in the best interest of their constituents, but because I occasionally like to have myself proven wrong, I am now going out on a limb by writing this to you. Prove me wrong.

Montreal and the province of Quebec is in crisis. The last time public opinion was as polarized as it now was at the last referendum in 1995, and back then, politics was the catalyst for the divide. The same old story, French vs. English, English vs. French. Well, I’m proud to say that 17 years later, language isn’t what’s getting your cities’ inhabitants riled up. You are.

When the student protests over tuition began, I generally adopted the belief that it was par for the course. I was in London, England when the same thing happened a little over a year ago when the now infamous photo of Prince Charles and Camilla was published with them being driven in their limousine as hordes of irate students trued to smash the windows of their vehicle in. I believe that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, so if the government tries to tighten their belt financially speaking, I expect some sort of backlash from that tightening…and you know what? I’m PROUD to live somewhere where the citizens feel passionate and empowered enough to stand up and let their frustrations be known. Despite being highly annoyed at having to re-route my travels to and from wherever I try to get in the city because of riots and demonstrations, I am proud of our Montrealers. I am proud to be a Montrealer. Because of that pride, I’m writing to you to ask you to let go of your ego, to let go of your role as a potential tool that is controlled by your buddies in government around you, and to forget about what the leaders of the opposing political parties in the city and country think. I am appealing to you as a human being and as a leader to open your eyes. Forget about re-election. Pay attention to now, because if you don’t, we’re fucked.

I saw what happened to the United States of America because they elected a leader that refused to act in the interests of his country’s population. On a global scale, the USA went from being a leading global political and economic power with clout and respect to the butt of jokes, a write-off, a source of pity and referred to with rancor and disgust. I’ve seen it with my own eyes, and often been a part of it. With that said, I knew that it all came down to its leaders. Hurricane Katrina wasn’t devastating because it was a hurricane. It was devastating because George W. Bush didn’t care enough for the citizens of New Orleans to step in when it mattered and maintain order and peace with humanity and attention to the people affected. Mr. Charest, this situation you’re now (not) dealing with is your Katrina. Don’t make the same mistakes the ex-American president made. Despite making ridiculous comments while giving your speech at the Salon du Plan du Nord, comments that even your supporters felt were inappropriate and unnecessary, it’s not too late for you to act. In the interests of the people who believed in you, who elected you, who need you. If you care about your city and your province, then how can you allow this situation to keep growing and growing? When my older brother was a toddler, he would sneak off to eat candy with his hand over his eyes, solidly believing that if he couldn’t see anyone, they couldn’t see him and wouldn’t catch him with candy. Remove your hand from over your eyes, Mr. Premier. With talk of the army being called in and martial law being called to prevent the demonstrators from bringing their indignation to your doorstep, I am seeing the potential consequences of your lack of participation. You are supposed to protect your people. You’re supposed to ensure that Montreal and the province continue to stand as beacons of progressive thought and a melting pot of global cultures, but yet even CNN is reporting about what’s happening here. Stand up and look after your people. Deal with this problem like an adult. Responsibly, with compassion and empathy, as a role model should do. Have a discussion, face to face. Diffuse this before we are all paying for it. It’s your job and your responsibility, and sitting back refusing to budge simply makes you look like George W. Bush – happy to line your pockets with the blood of the people you were elected to protect and represent.

Montreal is about to move into its summer months, when we take the global stage with the Jazz Festival, the film festivals, the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival. We need people to want to come to our city, and we need to want to go down into the downtown core without fear of being pelted with tear gas and blinded by an adrenaline-charged riot police officer. This is only going to get worse, and the more resistance you display, the less support you will get. People have been badly injured already, and the climate of fear is growing. Pull your finger out and do something. Please. For the sake of your career, for the sake of your reputation, for the sake of your safety, for the sake of our city and the province it resides in. Do something. It’s not too late.

Respectfully,

Bram Levinson

Guises of the Guru

As a yoga teacher, I have often been perceived as having attained an ongoing state of enlightenment, one that has brought me out of this human body and ego and that sets the example of where all yogis aspire to be. Let me take an opportunity to shatter that perception 🙂 I am as much of a work in progress as anyone…I consider myself to be a student who teaches, someone who is always seeking and learning, with the aim to pass on that which I find pertinent and relevant to living a conscious, productive, inspiring life. As part of my learning curve, I find myself being taught lessons and being offered insight from all over the information spectrum…from people I know, and those I don’t, from animals and humans alike, and from the whispers of intuition I find myself hearing every now and again.

Last week, for those of you who weren’t already saturated with the exposure, U2 spent a few days here in Montreal to give 2 shows to 160,000 people, and while in town, they stayed at the St James Hotel, which is a few blocks away from Centre Luna Yoga, where I spend most of my working and practicing hours. I was coming to work on my scooter and stopped at the red light right on the corner of the hotel, where about 100 people were staked out, waiting to catch a glimpse of the band members, and the anticipation was palpable. The mood seemed edgy, like people were ready to pounce when finally they would be afforded the luxury of seeing the band for a few seconds. As I drove by, my first thought was, “Don’t these people have something to do? Don’t they have a job, or somewhere they’re supposed to be?’ It was a moment of real bewilderment for me, and absolute judgement. I was 100% judging the people staked out there, while being completely incapable of understanding why they would waste their time like that to catch a brief glimpse of people they didn’t know and probably never would. I wondered what they could possibly be getting out of the experience, aside from a sore lower back and sun stroke. Then I got to the studio and shared the experience…and I got schooled.

My fellow Luna Yoga teacher (and certified Jivamukti instructor) Dawn Bailey was already at the studio when I arrived and after I sat down, I shared with her what I had just driven by, and expressed my astonishment at why those people would be hanging around like that, which led into a rant about our irrational fascination as a society with celebrity. I ended my comments by asking, “Why would someone choose to just waste their day like that?”, and Dawn replied. And I found myself speechless. Dawn answered my question by saying that as much as she understood my point of view, she could honestly say that if she knew that Jivamukti creators Sharon Gannon and David Life were staying at a local hotel, she would probably hang out waiting to see them as they walked in or out on their meanderings. She told me that the opportunity to be privy to their aura, to the energy they exude, would be worth every second of hanging around waiting to see them. And in that second, having heard her words, I understood. I understood that the people I look up to and with whom I’d love to spend time, those whose energies I find attractive and inspiring, are my U2. I don’t think that I would ever find myself waiting patiently to see one of my idols walk by me, because I have something inside me that drives me to want to meet them on a more professional level, where I’m not just a gushing fan showering them with praise. Nonetheless, I understood Dawn’s remarks, and it showed me something. It showed me that I’m still very quick to judge. It showed me that my gurus may not be shared by others, and vice versa, but that doesn’t devalue these people’s abilities to remove darkness in the lives of their followers. It showed me that those who have accomplished incredible things and who inspire the world with their magnificent energies are able to infuse that energy into other by simply being in close proximity. That is makes a difference to those ready to receive it. Most of all, the experience showed me that I’m still learning, and I hope I never stop.

Thank you for being a teacher for me, Dawn 🙂