Tag Archives: Retreat

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

Advertisements

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

The Sights We Have Seen

I’m writing this from the island of Paros in Greece with only a few hours before the 2016 yoga group arrives, and I’m feeling nostalgic. Five years ago I set off on a new branch of my career by organizing my first-ever solo yoga retreat on the Greek island of Santorini. I remember how fiercely I was plagued by doubt when I was about to begin the PR on that event. I also remember consciously pushing aside all uncertainty, firm in the knowledge that because my intention to share wisdom in one of the most beautiful geographical locations on earth was so pure and honorable, I trusted that all would go well. And it did. It has. For five years now. 

I am beyond grateful to everyone who has joined me on the globe trotting we’ve done so far. From Santorini to Mljet (Croatia), Istanbul (Turkey) to Paros (Greece), Berlin (Germany) to Bali (Indonesia), Ravello (Italy) to Paros (again!!), Prague (Czech Republic) back to Paros (AGAIN!!!). We have seen, and continue to see, the world because doing so gets us out of our comfort zones and our routines, allows us to meet people we may never have come across and see just how similar we are, despite language and cultural differences, and gives us the opportunity to make memories that will always be saturated with beauty.

Thank you. To every one of you who has taken whatever risks you’ve taken to invest the time, money and energy in your own well being. Thank you for placing your trust in me. And thank you for your friendship, because the best by product of these trips is the friendships that have grown into family bonds.

Here are some images from the last 5 years. Here’s to the next 5, and the 5 after those, and the 5 after those…you get the gist 🙂 

From Paros to Paris Pt 4

imageI’ve opened my iPad before the seat belt signs have been turned off, eager to write this as soon as the wheels of the plane I’m on have lifted off of Greek soil. So far there’s no sign of my infraction risking the lives of my co-passengers, and so I’ll keep going with the assumption that this blog post is meant to be pounded out now 🙂

The Paros retreat ended today on a great note with one last breakfast en groupe. One last morning to feast on the greatest 10% fat yoghurt (that NO North American company can ever duplicate as they reduce calories and fat, despite the trend to market yoghurt as “Greek Style”), the most delectable watermelon, bananas, pears, tomatoes and cucumbers, and the revelation that is Portokalopita (look it up…you won’t regret it). Our group splintered off as we drove away in our separate vehicles, and continued to do so as our separate ferries whisked us away onto the next step of our journeys.

This retreat has been a really special one, in much different ways than previous ones. This group was the first to want to be together almost all the time. This group was the first to express the desire to have the classes brought to an intermediate level. And this group was the first that saw three people stay for the first week, and three more come for the last 4-5 days. Regardless of all of that, this group wasn’t completely unique to past ones, as once again, a fantastic group of like-minded souls came together from different spots around the globe to bask in the soul-stirring energy that is only found in Greece.

Every person who participated in this retreat, regardless of where they came from or why they were there, walked away with more than they arrived with. From having a clearer idea of where they want their life to go, to knowing that being away from family was a true test of patience, these people gained something from the experience. And all the while, around our asana and iRest classes, they were given the platform from which they could jump off into the unknown and explore the miracles that are found in Paros. Hunting down new beaches on a daily basis, descending on the city centres of Naoussa and Parikia, visiting a local winery…there was stuff to do, even in the remoteness of this island paradise. Throughout all of it, we all knew that no matter what our days consisted of, we were coming home. Home to Margarita Studios, and home to Stella Fyrogeni.

Stella runs her hotel with one intention: to make sure everyone staying there is happy. If that means whipping up a last-minute meal for someone not drawn in by that evening’s delectable dish, so be it. If that means giving someone another room that better suits their needs, so be it. If that means driving into the port to drop off or pick someone up, so be it. If that means preparing a meal based on requests from her guests, so be it. This woman goes above and beyond what’s necessary, and so it comes as no surprise that she will celebrate her 25th year with Margarita Studios in 2014. She was a mother to us all, even if only for 10 days, but a mother nonetheless.

I didn’t find Stella or her hotel on my own. I had help from Michael Shepherd, who after living on the island of Paros for 10 years, familiarized himself with local businesses, their owners and their customs. Not only did he take care of the logistics of accommodation, meals and transportation for us, he does the same regardless of activity and interest on any Greek island. He also works at providing personalized travel guides for Greece, Ireland and Czech Republic. Michael brought his own signature style to the retreat by taxiing people around and organizing a couple of meals for us at alternate locations around the island, and I can honestly say that the retreat would have not been the same without his input.

As the second and last retreat of 2014 starts to recede in our calendars, we know that it steeps in our awareness and will inflect future moments with its images, sounds, tastes, smells, and sensations. Anyone who has visited the Greek islands is all too aware of how the light falls on the landscape after 4pm, how the vividness of the bougainvillea jumps out to meet you wherever you can find it, and how the sun and salt-drenched air softly envelopes you regardless of the time of day. These memories serve to not only inform the future, but change how we define what we know by expanding our frame of reference. They serve to provide new heights of what we know beauty to be, and in the case of this (and previous) retreat groups, they also serve to provide new heights of how we define community.

Those who weren’t in Santorini with us in 2011, Croatia in 2012, Istanbul in April 2013 or Paros over the last 10 days won’t ever be able to fully understand what it’s been like in these albeit briefly adopted families. The essence of the groups isn’t only comprised of the location we live in – it’s built on the personalities that inform it. Every single person who participates brings their own uniqueness to the moment, and without them, the moment wouldn’t be what it is destined to be.

For every single one of you who is on your way back from Paros, know that you’re taking a little bit of every other person’s energy from the group with you. Thank you for making the retreat what it was.

For every single one of you who has come on any of my retreats, thank you for proving me right when I insisted on ignoring that inner voice of doubt that almost talked me out of holding my inaugural solo retreat in Santorini in 2011.

You are all family, regardless of how long we spent with each other and whether or not we stayed in touch.

The retreats for 2014 are being organized, bit by bit, and are being tweaked based on past retreats to ensure that they live up to the standards I know will help bring fresh insight and perspective to the participants. Full details will be made public when they’re finalized, and so in the interim, feel free to visit the Facebook page with pics from this latest jaunt, and I’ll post again later next week from Paris.

From Paros to Paris Pt 3

imageThe first rain to fall in 6 months has passed through Paros over the last 3 hours and has left a warm,  blustery wind in its wake. We’re halfway through this retreat, and we are surrounded by beauty. The landscape here is absolutely divine. The shades of blue that are everywhere, from the sky to the ocean, are indescribable and inimitable. The food is literally overflowing with fullness, richness, tastiness…a veritable multi sensory experience. The kindness from the locals is exemplary, something we should all be aligning ourselves with. These people give. Of spirit, of time, of food, of comfort and of kindness, these people are givers. We are surrounded by light and beauty and each other, and the bonding amongst the members of this group and the people who have welcomed us to this hotel is intensifying daily.

We will have a day-long boat tour of Antiparos tomorrow, during which we’ll stop at various beaches and take an hour to practice asana on one of them. I’m seeing, once again, how overflowing with all the things that truly matter these retreats are. I’m seeing, once again, how they leave each one of us imprinted with the experience that collectively enjoying everything that life has to offer. As all of you who have come on retreat with me are aware of, these events stay with you vividly, the images and memories of which never fade in vibrancy. Each time I realize the power of these retreats, I find myself floored by the position I have come to be in. I work hard to make my life and the life of others full and rich and complete and full of abundance. And when I accomplish what I set out to, it leaves me silent. And stunned. And grateful.

If I died this minute, I would have a smile on my face and peace in my heart. I can’t begin to express the magnitude of how humbled I am to find myself, after years of dedication and perseverance, in the position where I’m affecting the lives and happiness of others. Hopefully these words are a good start.

Sending light from Greece…

 

From Paros to Paris Pt 2

20130911-062244.jpgIt’s sunrise in Greece. I had this thought earlier this morning, after sleeping for 5 hours during my first night here in Paros: I love my life. A massive event took place last night as I ate dinner with the small group of eager students who had arrive a day before the start of this retreat, an event that, with little fanfare, was celebrated with raised glasses of wine and kind words from the gang…and at the risk of leaving you hanging, I’ll stay mum on said event until the time is right.

The event itself is irrelevant to the point I’m trying to make. The second I reflected on how much I love my life, I realized that it wasn’t MY life that I was feeling bowled over by, it was the possibilities contained within life itself. By calling it MY life, I felt like I was fraudulently claiming proprietary rights over it, which is ridiculous.

I’m currently living a period in my life where the possibilities that life has shown me could be more than mere possibilities are impressive and surprising and nurturing and humbling. These possibilities are not solely available to me, I’ve just made it my mission in life to explore the boundaries of what’s possible, of what could potentially redefine what I had foolishly believed life to be. These possibilities are not only available to every single one of us regardless of what colour our skin is, how much money we have in the bank, what are our education looks like on paper, and what language we speak…these possibilities are waiting. For each and every one of us.

That’s what I love. You should too.

From Paros to Paris Pt 1

20130910-223326.jpgIt’s 5:14 PM and I’m on a ferry cruising from Athens towards the Cycladic Island Chain to bring us to the island of Paros, where I’ll be giving the second European Yoga Retreat for 2013. I won’t write too much – I’m much too aware of where I am, of the rolling Mediterranean waves on either side of me, and of the silhouettes of islands rolling by in their salt-and-sun obscured haze.

I’m back in Greece. I’ve come home again. Back to where I first got the nudge from the universe I had asked for back in 2008, when I decided to chuck it all in and leave my career behind because I wasn’t happy with or proud of how I was earning a living. Greece is the one spot in the world where I feel most connected to my spirit. It’s where I feel most connected to rawness of the elements, and where I feel my body exhale and let go of all tensions, more so than at any other time or in any other place.

I’m with Stephane, James and Katie. We landed together and spent our day together, transferring from Athens Airport to the Rafina Port, assuming that the 6 hours we had between arriving and departing for Paros would be taxing. It’s always a test in staying conscious after flying overnight. That first day after a break in the typical sleep cycle is always peppered with sensory overload…squinting at the light that’s just a tad too bright, shrinking from the noise of the foreign sounds that seem to follow you wherever your path leads you. The assumption that today would be a challenge was unfounded. We caught the shuttle bus to the port easily, chowed down on a Greek salad that reminded us what REAL tomatoes, olives and feta cheese was, and then dragged our luggage the 50 metres to the beach. Clothes hurriedly flew off our bodies, and we launched ourselves into the ocean…and time stood still. It was a perfect moment. One to wash off the residue of the flight, one in which the others tasted their first drop of vacation, and yet another one for me in which I found myself tasting the salt of the sea as my body floated weightless, thinking, “I am at work.”

We splashed around for another hour and then walked back to where the ferry picked us up, and here we are, flying through the magnificence that is the Mediterranean towards our home for the next 11 days. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone together, to seeing the faces of those from past retreats, as well as those whose faces I’ve never seen.

The adventure is just beginning.
20130910-223459.jpg