Tag Archives: Quebec

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
 

A Tale of Two Solitudes

Our province is shaken. Our country is shaken. Quebec’s provincial election took place yesterday, and no political party emerged victorious. The Parti Québecois ended up with a minority government, the Liberals lost their 9-year stronghold on the province, the newly formed Coalition Avenir Québec won far fewer seats than predicted, and Québec Solidaire added one more seat to their existing one. No one feels good with any of these election results, but the people of my beautiful city and province are hurting more than any of their “leaders.”

This election saw its leaders use fear-mongering as campaign tools, especially Pauline Marois, the PQ leader. She spouted a pretty blatant disregard for anyone living in or coming to live in the province who isn’t French-born. Under the guise of protecting the French language, she succeeded in dividing people. English vs. French, Québecois vs. Canadian, me vs. you. She wasn’t the only one. Almost all the leaders degraded themselves and insulted their electors by using fear to sway votes. This behaviour is unacceptable, and the election results show that no one emerged as a true leader. No one emerged as the face that we, the people, want to represent us. We ended up the lesser of many evils, and evils they are. But despite what the leaders think of us, we’re not stupid.

After the results had come in, a man came to where Pauline Marois’ was giving her victory speech and shot two people, then set fire to a dumpster just outside of the building. He was anglophone, yelling that “the anglos are waking up”. The man was believed to be mentally unstable. We are not. Let’s not forget that.

I was absolutely not surprised that this anger was directed at Pauline Marois and the PQ. Don’t misinterpret what I’m writing: I do not condone this type of behaviour. Violence and hatred beget violence and hatred. I have no interest in seeing people’s opinions rise up in anger fuelled by hatred. I do, however, think that what happened last night was to be expected: Pauline Marois, love her or hate her, is divisive. She was throughout her campaign, and will continue to be throughout her time as Premiere of Québec. She would like to separate English from French, Québec-born from immigrants, Québec from Canada. This is not my opinion that I’m spouting, this is and always has been her agenda. When a leader spouts disdain and dislike towards any group of people, there is bound to be an equal or greater reaction. Last night’s attack was a reaction. A badly thought-out (if thought-out at all) one.

I refuse to let this shooter speak for me, an English-speaking Québecois. I spend my life trying to bring people together, and when I see people in power working against that, trying to separate us, I get fuelled up to work even harder to diffuse any divisive behaviour. Pauline Marois may not even realize how damaging her division tactics are proving to be, but regardless of who we voted for, regardless of whether or not we believe in Québec as a sovereign nation, regardless of whether or not we speak English or French, we all know one thing: we are stronger together. There will always be troublemakers stirring it up. There will always be a shooter. There always has been and there always will be. The character of a group of people will never be defined by one person, it will be defined by the masses. The shooter last night is not us. Stop buying into what these political parties want you to believe. We are not English or French, we are not federalists or separatists, we are not Liberals, Péquistes or Caquistes. We are Québecois. We are human. We all want freedom and security. All of us. The true show of character will be in how we react to what happened yesterday. We need to be responsible in our reaction. Let’s not add fuel to the fire and allow the chasm between us to continue to grow. We are stronger together. We need each other, because if we continue to allow ourselves to be separated, then the politicians win. I will not allow any politician to act in any hurtful or divisive way and pretend to be speaking for me. I have my own voice, as do my friends. I know that when I hang out with my friends, I am hanging out with all different political views and languages, but regardless of all that, we love each other. I love this city. I love this province. I will not let things get out of control. Stop pointing the finger of blame at someone else and re-direct it to yourself. If this becomes a state of emergency, it’s because we let it happen. We have the choice as to how this plays out. We are either together or we’re not. I vote for together. I always have, and I always will. What are you voting for?

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