Tag Archives: Personal development

Η Σοφία (The Wisdom) Sutras

In a previous episode of The Examined Life with Bram Levinson Podcast I read out a list of musings I had written down and compiled years ago, musings that I felt were helpful to keep in mind when navigating life. For lack of a better title, I quickly (and flippantly) names the list the Brama Sutras, not really expecting it to ever find its way to the general public. That obviously happened when I decided to read it for an episode of the podcast, and since I did, many of you have asked for the list written out, so voilà!

I have retitled the list Η Σοφία Sutras, as Η Σοφία (The Sofia) translates to “The Wisdom” from Greek to English, and it was in Greece where I felt compelled to share that piece of writing. The word “Sutra” means “thread” in Sanskrit, and so these are the threads of wisdom that, when woven together, can form a fabric of wisdom to keep in mind when navigating life.

Here they are, exactly as they were read for the podcast. Enjoy!

Η Σοφία (The Wisdom) Sutras

1) These words are your call to presence, to attention, to this moment.

2) Transformation is the only constant. Everything will change, from the greatest blessings bestowed upon us to the darkest moments we will survive. If it arises within your awareness, it is already in a state of transformation.

3a) This moment is more important than the ones that preceded it and the ones that will follow it, in this moment. This is true for each moment, as with each passing second, a new moment is.

3b) The present moment is your priority. What came before and what come after must be secondary to the present moment, in all moments.

4) Concentration on the present moment is a mindfulness practice. Mindfulness is the practice of working with our thoughts. It is the ability to hone one’s attention in one specific direction, onto one thing specifically, for longer and longer periods of time. It is also the ability to be present enough to notice when the thoughts are focused on something and then redirecting the thoughts to something else.

5) Mindfulness is the art of awakening. Accessing this art requires paying attention. By paying attention, we begin to tune into a different frequency, and the more often we get into the habit of tuning into that different frequency the more we work at changing our experience of life.

6) This experience of life will be wholly and entirely dependent on our perspective and our ability to reframe a situation so that perspective is changeable and fluid.

7) Our unique understanding of “reality” is almost entirely based on our perspective, which informs the understanding we have of our environment and scenarios, of everything that arises within our awareness.

8a) Conflict may arise when one person disregards another’s understanding of “reality” in favour of his or her own, and then attempts to impose it.

8b) Harmony may arise when one person acknowledges and validates another’s understanding of “reality” while allowing it to coexist with his or her own, with no need to suppress the other’s in order to validate his or her own.

9a) Self-conflict may arise when one person adheres to his or her understanding of “reality” instead of welcoming alternate perspectives.

9b) Self-harmony may arise when one person welcomes alternate perspectives that reveal the relativity of “reality.”

10a) The experience of life will be greatly influenced by the honesty and transparency with which we assess whether we naturally gravitate to conflict or harmony.

10b) We have a choice as to whether our time is spent in conflict or in harmony.

11) The human brain, untethered and undisciplined, leans towards the negative aspects of our understanding of events.

12) We ruminate over the fear we have of the negative outweighing the positive in our understanding of events, which takes us out of the present moment and propels us into the abstract, into what is not.

13) Mindfulness is the discipline that allows us to focus on the opposite of the negative, the opposite of what scares us, the opposite of conflict.

14) Mindfulness practices are most useful in moments of turmoil, of chaos, of emotional triggering.

15a) One key mindfulness practice is setting an intention to prioritize harmony over conflict, negative over positive. This is Attention to Intention.

15b) Intention must be prioritized over reaction in moments of turmoil, of chaos, of emotional triggering.

15c) Intention is a commitment.

15d) Intention sets the direction that we commit to move in, the path we commit to follow, the behaviours we agree to override those that only serve to contribute to our suffering.

15e) Time spent without intention is time spent at the mercy of the meanderings of the mind.

15f) Time spent with intention is time spent closer to the energies of that which we wish to be in alignment with throughout this lifetime.

16) Setting an intention effectively and efficiently requires acceptance of what is.

17) Acceptance is the precursor for change.

18) One cannot efficiently move in the most meaningful direction without acceptance of what is and of what life has brought to our table.

19) Acceptance may involves grieving for what was once hoped for, but what was never meant to be.

20) The mind that practices meaningfulness is the mind that seeks to see beyond the literal, beyond the obvious, beyond the appearance of any given moment, person or object.

21) The practice of meaningfulness contributes to our ability to reframe our situation so that our perspective of it is altered. It aids in seeing past the seemingly random so that we find connections where, on a superficial level, none would appear to exist.

22) To find connections where previously none were apparent is to find meaning in the innocuous, to find a deeper understanding that possibly informs events and our relationship to them.

23) The practice of meaningfulness is the practice of finding meaning that serves us to align with the intentions we set for the time and events which await us.

24) Initial stages of practicing meaningfulness include asking certain questions in pursuit of a deeper meaning, questions like, “What am I meant to learn from this?”, “What else is occurring right now in this moment that I may be distracted from due to my mind’s negative bias?”, and “How can my experience of this challenge or moment serve to connect me to others instead of leaving me feeling isolated and alone?” Our perspective is everything. The way we see the world is the way we experience it. It really is that simple.

25) Reframing a situation aids in shifting perspective.

26) Shifting perspective helps us move from the limits of our own personal history and experiences.

27) Shifting perspective helps us move away from the default egocentricity we feed when we stay stuck in our own self-interests and self-awareness.

28) Shifting perspective helps us move from the I and the me to the us and the we.

29) Shifting perspective helps us find the freedom to choose a different interpretation and understanding.

30) Shifting perspective may lead us to growth and transformation.

31) Shifting perspective may facilitate turning the negative into positive.

32) Shifting perspective contributes to practicing meaningfulness.

33) We must never forget the kindness bestowed upon us by another.

34) We must immediately forget the wrongdoing or hurt bestowed upon us by another.

35) The practice of gratitude is the practice of considering the blessings we are surrounded by.

36) The practice of gratitude is the practice of considering how fragile and temporal our blessings may be.

37) The practice of gratitude is the practice of considering how, in this moment, suffering could be considerably heightened, and appreciating that it is not.

38) The loss of gratitude is a key factor in the destruction of the affiliations and partnerships we have.

39) The practice of compassion involves the consideration that all beings operate in the midst of hardship.

40) The practice of compassion involves prayer and action for the end of all suffering, for ourselves and for others.

41) The practice of fearing less involves repointing the mind from the potential of the negative to manifest to the potential of the positive to manifest.

42) Communication is the foundation for the healthiest and most positive of affiliations and relationships.

43) Your story is worth telling.

44) Your story is worth observing.

45) Observing the narrative of your life without personalization will bring clarity.

46) Observing the emotions, sensations and thoughts elicited from observing your narrative will bring clarity.

47) Observing the emotions, sensations and thoughts that arise within you in any and all circumstances, contexts and environments will bring clarity.

48) You are the power of observation.

49) You are not what you observe.

50) There is just this, and it is perfect as it is

The Examined Life with Bram Levinson Podcast

I am extremely happy to announce the launch of The Examined Life with Bram Levinson Podcast! Episodes will include lectures, interviews, occasional rants, and whatever else I feel like sharing with the world that deal with everything from spirituality to the most mundane aspects of this experience of life. Sit back, relax, and enjoy what has already been recorded, and what is yet to come. To access the Podcast page, click on the image below!

 

You Had It All Along

When you look up into the immensity of the night sky filled with stars, maybe a planet visible, what importance or meaning do you put there?

When you look at a happy, giggling baby, what do you see and feel?

When you look past the shore of an ocean out to the horizon where the sea meets the sky in an indistinguishable line of blues, what do you envision?

When you hear the chanting of Hindu sadhus, of Muslim imams reciting the Koran, of rabbis, cantors, priests, bishops and cardinals bellowing out prayers, what response do you observe in yourself?

When you walk through cemeteries or participate in the burial of a loved one, what significance or meaning do you put to the scenario?

We put whatever importance we want to any given moment in time, an importance that somehow fulfills a need in us. A need to defend our beliefs, to change or alter them, to lay them to rest and to adopt new ones. But we see and interpret what we want to. The world as you know it is a construct of your own mind.

Consequently, whatever you fear is in large part a construct of your mind. It is adaptable to change, as adaptable as it was when that fear first landed into a mind that had not associated fear with that particular experience or stimulus. You want change? Then look at your situation differently.

You can look at the night sky in all its splendor and see the impossibility of infinity and oblivion, randomness and chaos just waiting to swallow up this earth and all its inhabitants, or you can see the miracle of what we can barely grasp and the beauty of that not-knowingness.

You can look at a smiling, gurgling baby and feel the fear of the responsibility associated to ensuring the well-being of something so helpless and vulnerable, or you can see the possibilities associated to this beautiful bundle of joy and its potential to grow, learn, lead and inspire us all.

You can experience a funeral ceremony as the grief-drenched ending of the beauty your relationship with the deceased has been, or you can see it as the transformation of what was into what is, with the excitement of seeing what will follow, as no cycle ends without another one beginning, holding the promise of beauty to come.

This entire dream of “life” is just that, a dream. If you don’t like the dream you’re dreaming, change the filter you’re seeing it through. All you need is the knowledge that you have always been able to do it, but you were never told. I’m telling you. Now you know.

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

I am beyond excited to finally announce that I will be doing my own show/speaking engagement at the historic Rialto Theatre in Montreal! After years of lecturing in yoga studios, convention centers and festivals, I’m proud to bring what I do to the theatre, especially one that has played a part in my life and is a Montreal landmark and institution.

Event description:

For one night only, Montreal-based author and teacher Bram Levinson is taking his wisdom, irreverence and humour to the stage. Join him for an evening of insight, laughter and exploration into life, family, love and what it means to be spiritually awake in today’s world. Brandishing his usual refreshing, deeply personal, edgy approach and sense of humour, stories will be told, wisdom will be shared through his experiences and perspective, and inspiration will be what’s left after everything is said and done. Don’t miss this one night with Bram at the historical Rialto Theatre!

Date: Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Doors Open: 19h/7pm
Show Time: 19h30/7:30pm

Box Office/Tickets: $40+taxes, available through Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/were-still-here-one-night-only-with-bram-levinson-tickets-38155077865

Special thanks to Mandy’s, the sole sponsor for this event!

Photos courtesy of John Dabarno Photography,
https://www.smashingpixel.com/blog/rialtotheatre

Paros Musings Pt 3

I just woke up after the deepest sleep I’ve had here over the last two weeks, and as usual, the dogs are barking in a call and response manner, the roosters are crowing (don’t get excited, they do it all day, every day…even a broken clock accurately tells the time twice a day), and the birds are chirping. But instead of just taking it all in, the thought, “It’s the last day” came hurdling through my mind, and with it the onslaught of emotions.

This year’s group of people is a special one. Every year I fall right into the community we create, and every year I feel all the big feels when it’s time to splinter apart and go back into the world to resume where we left off just over a week ago. My hope is that those people who join me for these trips around the world find something unique and worth integrating into their lives, and then go back home and do exactly that. Last night one of the students here texted me to let me know that, “Need you to know this experience has changed my life.” And I couldn’t reply because even though that’s my intention in putting myself out into the world, I get so emotional when it actually happens that I can hardly put into words a response that conveys my gratitude and emotions.

For those of you who are still here, sleeping for the next few minutes before you get up to take our last yoga class together in Paros for this year, I want to thank you. Thank you for taking a risk and coming here for this event, because I know every single one of you did. Whether your risk was a financial one, whether it was related to leaving your family or your kids for this length of time, whether it was related to asking for time off, for yourself, to travel and get some introspection time, or whether it was related to joining a group of people you didn’t know to share an experience you couldn’t have envisioned, I thank you. Know that for me to execute my dharma in this life, I need other people to be on the receiving end of what I put out into the world, and your presence here closes the circle for me and for us all. Thank you for taking your risks. I hope that it either continues the pattern of doing so, or instigates a new one that reminds us all of the glory that is possible when we jump beyond our comfort zones.

I’m going to be the most unprofessional mess of emotions and childish “I don’t want this to end” thoughts today. But I know that although it may feel like the end of something, in actuality, for every single one of us, it really is a new beginning of sorts. I hate to sound like a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason. I wish you all the highest of life’s highs, the wisdom to navigate the lowest of life’s lows, and the presence of mind to know your Self and your potency as you make your way forward. Know that I am here for you all, wherever we may be in any given moment, and always remember this time we had. No one could know exactly how beautiful is has been, and still is. Only us. Take the energy of our community and the beauty of Paros and bring it back with you.

With gratitude and so. much. LOVE,

Bxx

Key Principles To Remember in Times of Darkness

There is no moment in time that is not rife with turmoil, with difficulty, with fear or with obstacles. And there is no moment in time in which peace, ease, faith and trust are not accessible, even when their opposites seem unstoppable. I believe humanity needs to remember a few key principles as we navigate our way through the highs and the lows. Here are those principles:

1) How we choose to respond to life is the most important choice we will make. Any form of discrimination, depression or oppression is unacceptable. To meet discrimination, racism, homophobia, misogyny or any act of hate and intolerance with more hate and intolerance simply feeds the energies that we are objecting to so vehemently. To end negative behavioural cycles, we must be conscious of how we may be inadvertently perpetuating them under the guise of moral indignation.

2) It is not helpful to throw around opinions and judgement. We may feel that in doing so we are disseminating wisdom and the way forward, but we must remember that it is not the subjective understanding of any one circumstance that will help heal what is wounded. Only expressing and sharing our humanity will accomplish that. The former highlights what keeps us separate. The latter highlights what brings us together.

3) We are meant to spend our time cultivating the seeds that will flourish into lasting happiness. We are meant to embody and emanate the vibration of joy. We are meant to have fun with this time we are offered. Getting stuck in that which leaves us resentful, disappointed, ashamed, afraid or sad propels us away from happiness and joy. It is our responsibility to seek out light when darkness smothers, to take action to touch happiness when sadness overwhelms. Our natural state is one of joy, and so we must remember to do whatever it takes to experience the sensations of joy when they seem the furthest away.

4) Setting an intention to make this moment in time better by infusing it with compassion, generosity, kindness and goodness so we can all stand side by side with unfailing support for each other can only end well. We are social animals which thrive on unity and togetherness. We must remember to prioritize this, especially with those who look, sound and act differently than we do. Appearances will always deceive. Don’t allow yourself to fall for that old trick.

5) We must do better than our predecessors did. We must learn from their efforts, their sacrifices, their defeats and their mistakes. We must do better. It starts with every single one of us. Don’t rise to the bait. Deprogram initial response and come back to your intention. This is how we will awaken to the next chapter in history. Not by repeating what has proven to be harmful or useless, but by standing in our own power and ability to effect positive change when it most matters.

6) There is a fraction of a second that exists between stimulus and response, between what instigates fear, sadness or anger and the emotional reaction that it elicits. In that fraction of a second we must remember to breathe deeply. A deep breath not only helps release the existing tensions the body is carrying, but it helps deflect new ones from landing. Breathe deeply to stay in action and avoid falling into emotional reaction.

7) We must remember that “This too shall pass.” Life as we know it is simply a series of moments. Some of them will be pleasant, others unpleasant, but they are moments, pure and simple. We must continually remind ourselves that this moment will pass. Doing so will allow us to hold on when events get rocky, and will also allow us to appreciate the good while it presents itself.

8) Depersonalizing the narrative that is unfolding and affecting us is essential to seeing events as they are and not how we fear they may be. Look at the facts, imagine you were reading an article about them occurring to someone else, and ask yourself what advice you would give to the people affected. Taking ourselves out of the equation, even momentarily, allows us to step out of the emotional stranglehold fear can instill in us so that we can keep a level head and proceed with clarity.

The time is now. Use it wisely.

My Two Cents

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.