Tag Archives: travel

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 🙂 

Re-Repairing My Cabin


Let me set the scene for you: I’m lying back on a zero-gravity garden lounger on the stone terrace that separates the Old Rectory from the sprawling green lawn that rolls away from the house for some fifty meters. The lawn sprawls away into the overhang of the wall of trees that softly shades the spearmint green of the grass into a dwindling palette of shaded greys and muted blacks. The irony of the vibrant morphing into the gloomy isn’t lost on me knowing that on the other side of the fence that borders the immense lawn and gardens is the Litcham church cemetery.

I’m back in England. It’s been a year and a half since I’ve been here, the place and people I have been coming back to annually for the last twenty years. It’s rare to have people in one’s life who have consistently and uninterruptedly been present, in all respects of the word, for almost thirty years. I am beyond grateful to be privy to that rare blessing, and have been coming back to England to spend time with her, her husband and their two boys (one of whom is my godson), all of whom I consider to be my extended family. 


I’m here in July, which is somewhat of an anomaly considering I usually make my jaunts over in the dead of the January winter. That period of the year is usually down-time for me career-wise, but after five years of exposing myself to the cold damp that introduced me to the James Herbert-esque weather condition known as freezing fog, I decided to explore the warmer clime of early July.

I’m surrounded by wild lavender shrubs, serenaded by cooing doves and pigeons and, in the distance, the low-rumbling swishing of passing cars. The sun is out, warming the legs of my jeans as bumblebees, drunk from the pollen of the lavender, dive bomb past my head. I’m relaxing, which might sound typical given the nature of my work, but the last 7 months have been anything but relaxing. Since January 2016 I have succeeded in promoting my latest book, A Year In The Light, and have done more teaching in classes, workshops, teacher trainings and conferences than ever before. I have also over-scheduled myself, running myself relatively ragged until two months of antibiotics were required to help me regain the balance in my health and life that I had lost in the pursuit of helping others. You know that expression, “The carpenter’s cabin is the one most crooked?” I’m repairing my cabin. Again.

And so I am here, with no intention of working or committing to anything other than relaxing for the next two weeks. And yet, with the seemingly easiest of tasks before me, I find myself once again applying everything I have learned and taught. A daunting task now that it is just me and my thoughts, no distractions or commitments. 


My mind is entrepreneurial by nature. I am my own boss, and am passionately dedicated to my career of guiding others down their paths, helping to facilitate their journey. I am constantly thinking. About the next project, students and clients, scheduling, the administrative side to my business, and countless other facets of my career. And that’s just the stuff related to my work that keeps my mind whirling. Add to that courses and continuing education, my relationship, friendships, family, my dog, life, etc… It’s a lot for one brain to process, and I know that I’m not alone, that we all download and store copious amounts of data that either stays stored, gets extrapolated for some purpose or another or pops up in the randomest of moments to remind us of the connectivity and non-randomness of life. And I’m having trouble unplugging my thoughts from the “doing” outlet they are normally plugged into so I can replug them into the “being” outlet where there’s no need to plan the next project or consider how to keep my marketing fresh and compelling.

I woke up last night at 3am, still on Montreal time, but slowly acclimating to the UK time zone. After a few minutes of realizing my thoughts were wandering into aspects of my life that would keep me awake, I did what I always do and refocused on body sensing, the art of noticing sensations in different parts of my body. This exercise of focusing the mind usually lulls me into sleep within minutes. It took longer last night, and I was aware of the extra effort it took to drift back off into sleep.


Today I keep noticing the pull towards doing; filming something for my YouTube channel, starting the new online course I’m enrolled in, working to put together next year’s yoga retreats. With the intention of not working, I instead pulled out a novel from my friends’ bookshelves and started reading, only to observe my thoughts wandering away on a path of their own. 

It will take a few days for me to successfully unplug and replug. The process is, quite simply, fascinating, regardless of how much time I’ve spent in my life practicing the art of concentration. It’s an art that demands one always remain a beginner, and I, once again, find myself at the starting line.

This is the closest to work I’ll be doing for the next couple of weeks, and an essential step in my detaching, as writing usually allows me to process and then let go. If your email goes unanswered, trust I’ll get to it once I’m back home. My absence is intentional, and sorely needed for my sanity and the sustainability of my work. 

Your work? Notice your thoughts, in any and all moments. Notice how you unplug and replug, from one outlet to another. For myself, I’ll refocus my gaze onto the bee-populated lavender and the music of Turin Brakes drifting out from the front door of the house.

Peace to us all.

…Then We Took Berlin

imageI’m lying on the bed in the hotel room in Berlin that’s been home for the last 9 days, sun streaming through the window pane, bathing me in a sunbeam that only my pup Willow could truly appreciate as much as I’m doing right now. I’m feeling reflective, as I always am at the tail end of the yoga trips I hold. The last of our bunch left this morning, and as everyone slowly trickled onward to wherever their next destination was, I started to feel that pang again. I feel it every time a retreat ends, but the sensation is not solely relegated to these specific trips we take.

I know how blessed I am. I experience moments of connection and brilliance and pure, undeniable light on a daily basis. Every now and then one moment in particular occurs and elicits a high in my brain and my body that could easily instigate an addiction in the attempt to relive it, and I feel such connection and awe that I’m stunned into a state of muteness. And as measurable as the high is, the withdrawal from it as it recedes is equally as stunning. From eating a meal that redefines taste and texture to spending time with people who reflect truth and life amongst and between one another, from connection through a sexual experience to simply standing in one geographical location which emanates an energy that undeniably reconnects us to something bigger than ourselves, I believe these moments are miracles. I believe that they are literally moments where the veil that separates us from the source of the energy that animates our bodies falls away. These are peeks into the divine, into the source of all things, into comfort and light and peace and ease. So it’s no surprise that watching the passing of these moments like tendrils of grass in a running stream can be remarkably traumatic.

Through my so-far limited understanding of Kashmir Shaivism, I have gleaned that we as human beings are simply an extension of divinity, but in contracted form. The energy we typically attribute as being god or god-like is the same energy that sparks us into consciousness and motivates us into the world, and that energy is a ray of divinity contracted into the human shell. From my own observations, when I experience moments of connection so pure that their withdrawal from the present moment leaves an ache of absence and sadness, I understand that I am grieving, on some level, for the yank back into contracted form. After the light there is darkness. And I find that incredibly fascinating.

I understand that nothing ends without something brilliantly beautiful being born of it, but I think that what I’ve stumbled on in my philosophical musings is that thing that binds people together initially as they couple, that bonds a parent to his or her child, that is the source of an addict’s endless and relentless pursuit and that we are all, ultimately, seeking. We go through this life seeking connection…undeniable moments that push the boundaries of what it feels like to be alive, hopeful and happy. When we experience them, we’re brought down to our knees in the presence of such timeless wisdom and beauty. And when we start to contract back to our natural human state, that ache starts to present itself again. Post coitum omne animalium triste est, indeed!

I believe it’s our responsibility to constantly bring ourselves back to perspective and focus so we can experience these moments when they are available to us. I also feel like it’s my responsibility to share with you all when they occur as reminders to keep slugging through the mundane until you get there, because you will. I’m also, at this point in my studies and life, awake enough to be able to see the experiencing and passing of these moments from a place of awareness and distance so that their regression doesn’t leave me traumatized.

With that said,  I miss our group 🙂 With all the personalities and backgrounds, our Berlin 2014 gang left their imprint on this beautiful city, and I know that they’re now leaving wisps of the energy we shared here in their wake as they hop around the globe. I couldn’t have more love for them, for this city or for the gratitude I feel being able to create these events and give people the space to experience moments of pure and unadulterated bliss.

I’ll leave the city tomorrow with a heart so full of wonder and love it might just burst. Life is beautiful and dark and moving and silent and chaotic. It’s everything I could ever have hoped for and dreamed about, while at the same time never being enough. And so I choose to simply be in the eye of all that vritti activity.

With love from Berlin,

Bxx

 

Yoga City Break in Berlin, Germany AND Yoga Retreat in Bali, Indonesia

As you all know by now, I put a lot of planning and effort into organizing the City Breaks and Retreats that I give annually, and so it won’t come as a surprise to any of you to find out that 2014’s journeys are already planned! I figured I’d give you all as much time to plan and budget as possible, and so here we go!

2014 will see us make our way over to Berlin, Germany from May 3-10, 2014. I chose Berlin because it completely dazzled me when I was there for the first time in September 2012. When I went initially, I was expecting a cold city whose history was going to be hushed up and buried under soviet-looking architecture. I was wrong (once again). Berlin is currently the cultural center of Europe – arts, music, architecture, shopping, restaurants, theater; it’s got everything. And instead of pretending that history never happened, Berlin has monuments, museums and countless installations throughout the city that speak of and to its history. The museums in the city are world-famous, the vibe is young and vibrant, and the energy in the air is palpable. I rarely go back to the same city so soon after visiting, but I know how hard it was for me to leave it at the end of my stay there, and so I’m bringing the next group of traveling yogis to see for themselves.

We will start our day with one 90-minute yoga class held in the Kreuzberg Jivamukti studio (a 10-minute walk from the hotel), and will have the rest of the day to explore Berlin. We will be centrally located in the city, a perfect spot to weave our way outward into the brilliance of this bustling metropolis.

Later in the year, I will be bringing a group just outside of Ubud in Bali, Indonesia for a full-on retreat from November 1-10, 2014. We will be staying at a hotel surrounded by rice terraces, and will have a 90-minute morning asana class and a 60-minute evening iRest® Yoga Nidra class daily. Nestled in the tropical lushness of Bali, this event will bring movement, breath, intention and awareness back to the forefront as we delve deeper into our practice in this spiritual epicentre.

For more information or to register, check out my website at http://www.bramlevinsonyoga.com/retreats.html. I hope that you can make it to one or both of these inspiring locations with us!

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Yoga City Break Announcement

I’m on my way to Croatia. My last class has been taught for the week, my bags are packed and I’m prepared for my flights which will bring me to the Dalmation Coast to kick off my 2012 retreat on Monday. I’m excited and a little anxious to get to the island and get my bearings, but above and beyond all that, I’m grateful. To the people who have supported me and my efforts over the past four years, and to the people who believe in me enough to join me as I globetrot. I lead these retreats to be able to travel, obviously, but I also lead them to bring people to areas of the world they potentially never thought they’d visit, and in doing so, to show them how taking risks, i.e. time away from work, family, and potential income can result in re-discovering one’s own magnificence, as well as the unnameable beauty that each destination holds.

With all that said, for those of you who wanted to join us on our jaunt to Croatia but couldn’t make it happen financially or time-wise, don’t fret. As I depart for this retreat, I’m happy to announce that I have ANOTHER retreat already planned for 2013. You ready? You sitting down? Here we go: we are heading to Istanbul, Turkey from April 11-18, 2013 for a Yoga City Break! Details are already up on my website at http://www.bramlevinsonyoga.com/retreats.html, so start planning and reserving time off work now – 2013 is your year to join me as I continue to explore our world – don’t miss the opportunity to be a part of it 🙂

See you next month!

Bxx

Blink

I’ve been home for a full week after having spent 21 days in Spain and Portugal, and the whole process of travelling and coming home has once again given me food for thought. Years ago, when I worked in retail and had an impending vacation approaching, I would find myself at the top the of the flight of stairs in the store thinking about how fleeting every moment was. In what felt like the blink of an eye I would find myself in England, or Greece, or Eastern Europe, long enough to have a series of fleeting moments (all of which I would make sure to store in my mind when I consciously took the time to be present and aware). Said series of fleeting moments would last long enough so that I would get used to my surroundings, and in the blink of an eye, I would find myself back at work at the stop of the stairs reeling from how quickly the events transpired and how much of an observer I felt like in my own life.

The past 2 years has been such a shift for me in terms of what I do in my daily life, and the different roles and responsibilities I have assumed have allowed me to stay incredibly busy, which has translated into an overwhelming sense of being present for all of the new experiences I have been witness to…and then I went on vacation.

Being away like that, my first non-work related vacation with my partner in 2 years, was an almost surreal experience. The whole concept of being at home one moment and being in Spain hours later completely blew me away, and I’ve travelled pretty extensively, so I can’t really explain what was different about our this trip. All I know is that I found myself in a whirlwind of activity, exploring places I’d never even considered going to while acclimating to hearing Spanish and Catalan being spoken to me and all around me. I had decided shortly before we left that I was going to take a real break from yoga, leaving my travel mat at home and allowing myself to be a participant in my own social experiment. Looking back on the 21 days, I can honestly say that I felt completely uprooted while I was gone, never once feeling like I was completely still or particularly grounded. We went from Barcelona to Granada to Cordoba to Cadiz to Sevilla to Lisbon. In 21 days. It was the most meandering I had ever done in my life, and I think I had some trouble getting used to the pace. Ever since I could make my own decisions, I’ve found myself prioritizing all the aspects of my life that would ground me and provide what I could call “home”, and this trip was the antithesis of that. Don’t get me wrong – I had an insanely fantastic trip, but it was a bit jarring.

I found myself revisited over the 3 weeks by the same series of fleeting moments. I would blink and find myself in Barcelona, then blink again and find myself in the hammam in Granada. Blink to find myself having a beer in Cordoba, another one to find myself on the beach in Cadiz. Double blink to revel in the absolute splendour of Sevilla. One last blink (accompanied by an eye twitch from fatigue) at the top of the palatially-strewn hills of Sintra near Lisbon. Admittedly, this series of fleeting moments lasted way longer than previously, but fleeting they were nonetheless.

And now I’m back home after a full week of reintegrating into my own life. A week of reflecting on the whole process and how powerful it is to uproot myself to another part of the world and then take a step back…back into the role of observer, taking mental snapshots to have something to look back on, something that can’t be posted on Facebook or tweeted on Twitter. And after everything, I come back to where I always come back to: a place where I understand the significance of the space that exists between where we exist as individuals and where that existence takes place. I may not be able to name it, but I realize that it exists, that on some level everything that happens around us is exactly that – happening around us. It’s our responsibility to include ourselves in what occurs, to be active participants in our own lives, because the alternative is to simply stand around vacantly and find ourselves reeling when we finally snap out of it and realize what we missed.

Now that I’m back at work and posting all the snapshots of our time in Europe, the fleeting moments are gone. I’m back, in every sense of the word. And I’m grateful for the time that I spent chasing those fleeting moments. I have no explanation for why I found myself in awe of that aforementioned space…the space where with the slightest squint I could convince myself I was watching a film that was taking place around me, completely detached from it all. I think my little social experiment of staying away from yoga had everything to do with it. I ended up doing a few sun salutations in a park in Sevilla after not being able to resist the pull of the earth and the grass below me. Funnily enough, those few sun salutations were drenched in perfection for me…I found myself floating back into Chaturanga, my body feeling lighter than it ever had in any previous class or practice. Never feeling the grounding action of my usual practice was a shock to the system, and combining that with our schedule of travelling and exploring by foot was a seriously intense combination that has allowed me to know myself even better than I thought I did. And that’s what it’s all about…isn’t it?