Tag Archives: wisdom

When Your Accidents Of Life…

…result in having a face or body that our current culture deems beautiful, be humble.
…result in being far more talented than the rest of your peers, be humble.
…result in being born into a family with material abundance, be humble.
…result in having the privilege of not having to worry about being yourself in the world without facing resistance, be humble.
…result in anything that could be misconstrued as being better or luckier than anyone else, be humble.

The body, gender, family, culture, demographics, geographical location, skin colour, sexual orientation and time in history that you were born into, seen through the lens of some faiths and belief systems, are completely random, “accidents of life”, to quote Joseph Campbell. You can take absolutely no credit for any of it, and none of it is a valid measure of your worth. More importantly, stop judging other people based on their accidents of life. Be humble and consider that we have all been duped into believing that this literal, human experience is the sum total of the journey we find ourselves on. “Don’t be small-minded”, we read in the Ashtavakra Gita. “The universe exists within you”. Don’t be duped by illusion, by the appearances your limited senses can interpret. The packaging is simply the container for what you should really get to know, which is the spark of energy that is, truly, who and what we are. Seek that out in others and you will not only get to know who they really are, but you will be making connections that transcend what divides and separates us.

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A Prayer for A New Year

IMG_5331On the cusp of the new calendar year, we ask that we be guided to clarity as often as possible, so that we can see events, people and circumstances for what they are and not what we think they should be.

We ask for presence of mind so that we can remember to love, as often and as fiercely as possible, so that we can know and express ourselves to be energy born of love and incomprehensible wisdom.

We expect that “bad” things will happen, and ask that we remember to love in these dark hours while also remembering that they are simply hours, not eons.

We ask for the presence of mind to think for ourselves, to not succumb to the banality of evil, to expectation, to division, to the tsunami of stupid that continues to wash over humanity and keep people greedy, silent, ignorant, afraid, asleep and blind to truth.

In the knowledge that not everything will go according to the plans we imagine for ourselves and the world we live in, we ask for the certainty of knowing that we will always end up where we are meant to be, regardless of whether we would have chosen it for ourselves.

We set an intention to invoke truth and authenticity into every possible moment so that we can show up in the world with our own individual voice and expression, in full knowledge that the world is waiting and starving for it.

We go forward into this new year with the knowledge that beneath the realm of appearance and separateness there is an undeniable current of unity that connect us all. We pray for the well-being and safety of everything and everyone in the knowledge that what happens to one of us happens to all of us.

We ask that we be blessed with the presence of others who reflect back to us truth, empathy, inspiration and cohesion and we set the intention of emanating all of these things for the reflection to occur.

We offer our existences up as offerings so that we may be used as channels to bring light into a world of encroaching darkness, healing to those suffering and connection through cooperation and collaboration to those muted by loneliness and isolation.

We move forward into this coming year as bearers of light and ask for the strength to see that light and allow it to refocus and re-centre ourselves as an example for others, especially when we are faced with our own battles.

Let this year be the one that changes everything. Let love obliterate everything else. May all of us be blessed with happiness, health, compassion, peace and understanding.

A Reference To Happiness

I get a lot of people who seek me out to counsel them, to offer advice and an objective opinion regarding their circumstances…this has been a constant since way before I started my career in yoga, I suppose, because I make sure that I give someone my complete attention when it’s requested, and I give advice the way I’d like to get it – cut and dry. If a situation seems interminably convoluted, my response is usually, “NEXT!” I’m a big believer that life doesn’t have to be rife with difficulty, and that the less time we spend trying to manipulate a situation or a person into being or doing what we’d like it/them to be, the more room we create for what would make us happy on every level. I also believe that that kind of happiness, the kind that makes us grateful to be alive, is in store for every single one of us, but we have the inconvenient habit of getting caught up in our dramas and spending too much time on that which is destined to leave us wanting, instead of waving at it as we leave it behind. So I find myself offering advice. Often. And I love being that person that people can come to and be real with, because it allows me to be real with them and treat them like extensions of myself, people who not only want to be heard and understood, but who want to be communicated with at that same level of honesty.

I was thinking about writing out my Top 10 favorite pieces of insight, bits of wisdom that may or may not originate in yoga, but which certainly reflect a yogic existence, one of truth and honesty, of non-harming and of self-study. So here goes 🙂 Here’s my Top 10 bits of wisdom to guide people through whatever it is that they’re struggling to deal with:

1) Understand that everything you have in your life is not yours. You are managing it, but you own nothing. This includes people, as well as the more obvious material objects. Once you understand and acknowledge this, you will be able to maintain perspective and humility that will keep you grounded.

2) Take nothing on trust, see everything for yourself. One person’s inspiration is another person’s misery. Never let someone else’s opinion shape or affect how, when, why or whether you approach that which draws you closer. Only you can truly know what serves you and what doesn’t.

3) Laugh. Always. Especially when you don’t feel like it. You must be able to find the humor in life, even in your darkest hours. Doing this will keep you tethered to light and life, the two anchors that can prevent you from being swept away in the tide of darkness we can sometimes encounter.

4) You are the embodiment of beauty, and of grace, and of kindness, and of light. If the people around you, i.e. family, friends, partners, work peers, etc… do not treat you as such, do not buy into the belief that you don’t deserve to be treated better. People will treat each other the way they feel they are being treated, so each and every one of us is responsible for putting out into the world what we’d like to receive.

5) Where there is no inner freedom, there is no life. If you don’t feel liberated enough to let yourself be truly seen by everyone, regardless of their reactions, then you are not fully living. You owe it to yourself and to the people around you who will be inspired by your self-awareness to step into the light and let yourself be seen.

6) Take 5 minutes a day to shut yourself into a room with no lights on and no distractions, sit down, and just breathe. This will improve your mood, your attention span, and your overall happiness.

7) As above, so below. As without, so within. Incorporate into your life the attributes you would attribute as being god-like. Look at the world’s leaders for peace: Ghandi, the Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa, etc…they all act in ways that allow the energy of the divine to flow through them. Allow what you hold in your heart to be reflected in the world around you.

8) Understand that there is no such thing as luck. There is only being in the right place at the right time, after doing everything possible to prepare yourself for what you’d like to happen so that all the elements can fall perfectly into place…but have no doubt about it, you need to work towards being prepared for what you want so that you’ll know what to do when you’re offered the opportunity.

9) Take responsibility for your life and everything that happens throughout it. Get to know who you are, and understand that self-study will bring you closer to the truth of your existence, but that we typically define ourselves through the references we hold to the people we love and the reasons we love them. Look at those references and reasons and assess what truly serves you and what doesn’t.

10) Give. Give time, give money, give love, give energy. Just give.

These are my 10 commandments…I’m sure there’s room for countless more, so let me know what you think I’ve missed, and what can be shared with the world so that people can live fuller, more complete lives, replete with happiness and contentment…I’m all ears 🙂

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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 🙂