Tag Archives: The Four Agreements

Truer Words

As the first month of 2010 comes to an end, I find myself exactly where I hoped I would be when I mentally mapped out the changes in my life, the first steps of which were taken in late 2008. Leaving my earlier career behind meant spending 2009 hard at work and immersed in my studies, getting the education I needed to move towards working full-time as a yoga teacher and manager of a yoga studio. I basically gave myself two years to accomplish what I felt was the bare minimum to justify all the time and expenses that were invested in my new endeavours.

As I mentioned in my Quickpost from the first day of the year, I have never been fond of New Year’s resolutions, as I preferred to incorporate the changes I wanted to make in my life into my everyday existence as opposed to choosing one day out of the year to do so. Regardless, 2010 is the first year for which I took time to sit down and think about what I wanted to accomplish over the ensuing 12 months, and as uncomfortable as I was dealing with financial goals, I wrote them down regardless. My friend Vanessa once told me that despite not wanting to be motivated by money, we should never feel the burden of guilt from wanting to live life comfortably, without having to worry over finances. Her advice has become a pseudo-mantra for me, and so I found myself on January 1, 2010 writing my goals, some financial, others not.

Four weeks to the day, I find myself amazed and humbled by the workings of the universe. After working tirelessly coordinating and preparing my website (www.bramlevinsonyoga.com), after marketing myself with nothing but ambition fuelling my actions, I have started to see all the effort, hard work and time pay off in the form of private classes, corporate classes and requests to join studios to teach group classes. As incredible opportunity after incredible opportunity continue to present themselves, my appreciation for life continues to swell as does my gratitude to the people who have encouraged me and picked me up when I let discouragement get the better of me. My primary reason for shedding my past career was to see if I could create a professional life for myself that was capable of matching the perfection I am blessed with in my personal life, and I am now seeing that occur, which motivates me even more to continue on this path.

I’m sharing all of this for a reason…I want everyone who finds themselves in a situation that is not to their liking to understand an incredibly basic, but often incomprehensible truth: we are the masters of our lives, and we have the power to change our lives through hard work and a steadfast perseverance, never taking “no” for an answer. Throughout my life I have heard people say that hard work is the only road to success, and I’m not sure if I was ready to apply myself without knowing what I was working towards, or if I thought those words just fell into the growing pail of clichés I heard people slinging around. I now know that truer words have never been spoken.

Yoga is often described as “wisdom in work”, which might explain why it feels so natural for me to immerse myself in it daily, as it taps into the innate wisdom and energy we are all born with, yet conditioned to suppress as we buy into, or make agreements with, the values that society glorifies. As we get older, we continually make decisions based on how we can better integrate into the world we live in, regardless of whether those choices are really beneficial to us as individuals. The most we can hope for is that some of us have some sort of awakening which joggles us out of our dream of reality, allowing us to recognize that the decisions we’ve made may not have been the ones we really needed to make, and that it’s never too late to re-direct our intentions and efforts towards the life we know we could (and should) be living. Understanding that happiness does indeed lie in our own hands makes all the difference, all we have to do is make that connection. Practicing yoga is one of the best ways to change how we see the world we live in and our respective (and collective) roles in it. Unifying the body, breath and mind brings us back to the simplicities of life. Practicing postures we’re not entirely comfortable with teaches us to focus and breathe through life’s more challenging moments. Inverting the body in postures such as Sirsasana, Pinchu Mayurasana and Sarvangasana conditions us to look at everything from a different perspective. And that’s what it’s all about. Looking at the world with new eyes, with innocence and humility, always a student ready to learn, understanding that we are the managers of the blessings in our lives, that we do not own them.

So I continue doing what I’m doing, allowing my life to unfold into the perfect lotus flower I was dreaming of over a year ago, and I offer it up for all to see, as an example of what is, what can be, and what always was. And for that I’m grateful 🙂

Just Do It

I’ve never been one to make New Year’s resolutions. In fact, I often found it incredibly strange that I seemed to be in the minority of people not vowing to change some aspect of my reality and/or behaviour come the start of a new year. My reluctance is not rooted in any type of aversion to wanting to better one’s self, or having the clarity of mind and confidence to illuminate the darker recesses of one’s personality and behaviour, all of which I find quite commendable, actually. I simply found it odd that the majority of those around me felt the need to take advantage of one specific date out of the annual calendar to attempt to bring about positive changes in their lives. As far as I’m concerned, every day that I wake up in the morning is another opportunity to bring about the changes that I’d like to see, taking individual steps towards realizing my ideal self. Despite all this, I am definitely aware of the opportunities that a new year can offer, and so I felt compelled to mention a couple of things for those who are getting closer and closer to the imminent day of reckoning.

My relationship with change has come a long way from where it used to be, which was a place of stagnance and defiance. When I was younger, most of the change that occurred in my life was imposed on me by my parents and teachers, which I eventually bought into (or, as Don Miguel Ruiz, the author of The Four Agreements, would say, I made agreements with). Once I found myself in a position where I had control over my life, I found myself waiting for change to happen, at which point I would react in whichever way I found appropriate. Nonetheless, I allowed myself to hand over all of the power and opportunity that was available to destiny, hoping that good things did indeed come to those who waited. I lived like this until a couple of years ago, at which point I realized that my life was not unfolding in the manner that lived up to the standard that I held for myself, and that it was time to take control of the decisions and choices that would determine which paths my life would follow.

Making the decision to actively choose where I wanted my life to go was probably the hardest one I’ve ever had to make, because it involved breaking the agreements that I had made with my superiors when I was younger…and it wasn’t something that happened overnight. I gradually went through the better part of a year making sure that I wasn’t being hasty or irresponsible, while wanting to be able to procrastinate what I knew was inevitable. This incredibly drawn out process resulted in the ultimate truth: putting off any changes that we know will be beneficial to our lives simply because they’re daunting is a far greater waste of energy and time than simply making a decision and sticking to it. The amount of time I agonized over whether I was being foolish and impetuous was monumentally more taxing to my overall state of mind than if I had just decided to step up and do what had to be done. I got there in my own time, obviously, but I am now more conscious of my potential to accomplish what had previously been unimaginably intimidating, even impossible.

There is a concept that states that people lie to themselves constantly about the most significant and insignificant of events and subjects simply because to be 100% truthful would be paralysingly harsh. Due to our tendency to sugarcoat the truth to ourselves, we inevitably end up lying to each other because we are afraid that our imperfections will be evident, that they will be seen in the harsh light of reality, flaws and all. I was responsible for lying to myself about where my life was headed, and must have justified it ad nauseum to those around me simply to make myself feel better about it all. When I stopped lying, when I felt like I had no choice but to take the other available option, a quote by Nelson Mandela soon popped into my head that I had first heard in a yoga class and which stayed with me as a pseudo-mantra. Mandela’s quote is, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” A truism to remember always.

We can do anything we set our minds to. Granted, there are some that have higher obstacles to overcome, but regardless of where we’re starting from, the only person we have to answer to is ourself. In the coming weeks, and throughout the rest of our lives, the changes that we feel are inevitable, those that we’re afraid to incorporate into our lives but that we know are beneficial and that will bring us closer to our ideal selves should be actively pursued. We need to stop beating ourselves up about why we haven’t already taken these steps, and just take them. Nike’s motto “Just do it” is possibly the best advice anyone can ever be given. Think about flicking on a light switch – it’s that easy. Make the choice, take the decision to bring change into your life, and then stick to that decision until you see your life flourish as a result. Don’t get defeated and never take “no” for an answer. From my experience, taking the initial steps towards truth, beauty and light inevitably result in opportunities presenting themselves to help out along the way. If, for whatever reason, the end result is not what was initially desired, then at least an attempt was made and the rest of one’s life is not littered by “what ifs” and “I should have.” And if we end up living our lives in control of what happens to us as opposed to being ricocheted from event to event like a pinball, then we’re already a step ahead of the game. At least we did our best. That’s yoga 🙂