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  • The Examined Life by Bram Levinson

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    Bram Levinson

    Bram Levinson

    Author, Yoga Teacher, Retreat Coordinator, Mentor

    Author of The Examined Life (www.theexaminedlifebook.com), Bram Levinson is a nationally known yoga teacher, blogger, mentor and lecturer based in Montreal. An enthusiastic yogi since 1999, he began his Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Training with Darby, Shankara & Joanne. With additional training from Luna Yoga's Jennifer Maagendans, Bram incorporates all his experience on and off the mat into his yoga classes, workshops and lectures which offer insight into alignment, breath awareness, and the ability to use laughter to get through the more challenging postures, sequences, and difficult moments in life. He is an iRest® Yoga Nidra Level 1 Trained Teacher, as well as an alumni ambassador for Lululemon's Ste-Catherine Street location. He has been on the faculty of the Montreal Yoga Festival, as well as multiple Wanderlust Yoga Festivals. His yoga retreats bring students across the globe 2-3 times a year, with previous locations including Istanbul, Turkey, Mljet, Croatia, as well as Santorini & Paros in Greece. Bram is forever grateful to the Darbys, Jennifer Maagendans, Richard Miller, and Joan Ruvinsky who initially offered illumination on his yogic path. His insights and observations can be followed on his blog connect to the sky at http://bramlevinson.wordpress.com, his website at www.bramlevinson.com.

Yoga & Activism

Posted by Bram Levinson on April 19, 2014

26563_409223819257_4397157_nA few years ago I had to miss a workshop being given by local Yoga teacher Allison Ulan that focused on Yoga and activism, and I was gutted to miss it. From my point of view, there seems to be a growing divergence between the physical-only focus of the practice, emphasizing solely how the body is being placed in any given pose from the non-physical byproducts of asana. While I absolutely do not want to minimize the importance of proper alignment and body awareness in the practice to avoid injury and to promote longevity in the practice, I also take issue with yoga being taught with little or no illumination of where the physical practice brings us emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.

The asana practice does a few things: it allows us to release the tensions that have landed in the body by moving the frame in ways that are atypical of a regular 24-hour cycle of movement. Areas that we may not have even been aware of that had been carrying tension on a somatic level are suddenly manipulated to work and gradually release whatever was being carried there, either spontaneously or more gradually. The practice also allows us to breathe consciously for an extended period of time, teaching us that to focus on a deep, nourishing breath throughout a period of physical movement and potential challenge is to teach us that a conscious breath is all we need to navigate moments of challenge, fear and adversity outside of a yoga class. It allows us to detach from external stimuli and spend some time with our bodies, and ultimately, with our Self to check in with whatever is in the moment. There are countless other ways that asana benefits us, but all those benefits, as far as I’m concerned, all lead to the same realization: that we are fully-formed, powerful beings with unique voices and points of view, and that it is our responsibility to speak up, to act, to pursue relentlessly what we believe to be right and true and fair, not just for ourselves, but for all beings. Yoga shows us how unity presents itself as separation, and once we clue into how far we’ve strayed from acting in the best interests of ALL of us, we find our words and the right language to speak up louder and clearer and more peacefully than we ever thought possible.

The philosophical, emotional and spiritual epiphanies that await every person who begins a yoga practice, even if that practice begins for the sole purpose of exercising the body in a non-gym atmosphere, need to be emphasized. Movement and breath and alignment are absolutely essential, but if they’re not partnered with guidelines and insight for spiritual evolution, then they’re no different than a gym workout. Yoga is everything, and it’s my hope that all teachers, instructors and light-bearers understand this.

What I want you to know is this: You are not allowed to have rights and squander them by not knowing how they were hard-fought for, by being indifferent, lazy or dispassionate. It is your responsibility to know who fought for what rights you have, especially those you take for granted, for those that you think are normal in this day, age and geographical location. If your skin colour is anything other than what’s considered “white” (but which is, in fact, more of a pinkish-beige), you better pay attention. If you’re a woman, pay attention. If your sexuality is anything other than 100% hetero, pay attention. If you fall into ANY visible or audible minority, pay attention. In fact, you know what? Pay attention, every single one of you.

Yoga is activism. It is a call to what is and a call to right action in the face of what is. It is finding your voice and then using it to ensure that no one feels excluded or inferior, and to make sure that the freedoms we are blessed with at this point in time are never snatched away in the name of power and oppression. Freedom should never directed towards some, it should be the right of all.

There are moments where I struggle to find inspiration to channel and pass on, but I definitely find it on occasion. I want to thank Allison for inspiring me all those years ago. I want to thank Sharon Gannon & David Life for creating the Jivamukti community and inspiring action, change and freedom for all. I want to thank Seane Corne for living everything I’m trying to express, for being the example, for being an inspiration and for the teachings, past and future, that I have been graced with. I’m doing everything I can to inspire and awaken, and will continue to do so until I can’t find the air to propel my words from my body. Until then, I’m focused on being awake, and on waking everyone else up.

Stay alert, stay together and stay awake. We are changing the world, one unique voice at a time, and, occasionally, as a collective roar of peaceful warriors. Let’s keep it going :)

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Where The Heart Is

Posted by Bram Levinson on March 31, 2014

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.

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Yoga Votes Saturday – April 5, 2014

Posted by Bram Levinson on March 14, 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
 

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Dreamweaver

Posted by Bram Levinson on March 10, 2014

DreamscapeWhat do you think dreams are made of?

When you dream, you dream about things that you typically do, think or are aware of. Generally speaking, that’s the nature of dreams. Logic and methodical story lines go out the window, and your imagination conjures up the images and impressions that create your dreams. When you wake up, no matter how vivid the dream may have been, you are able to identify and classify the events that you observed as a dream, and you let them go, even the ones that need a little more shaking off.

During your average day, you navigate all kinds of scenarios that, while more vivid because you have all your senses at your disposal, in many ways can be observed as you observe your dreams. The difference between our waking life and sleeping life is that we allow what happens in our waking life to affect us in profoundly different ways than the events that we experience while sleeping.

So…question for you: what would happen if we approached the events of our waking life as if we were observing a dream? There’s a meditation technique called Dream Yoga that requires tremendous discipline, study and isolation to prepare the practitioner to observe the illusion of his/her dream while in it. Much like Awareness in the iRest Yoga Nidra practice, Dream Yoga requires the practitioner to reside in the realm of the witnessing energy that animates each one of our bodies, allowing witnessing to be able to identify dreams as dreams and not reality.

I’m a huge fan of doing this while I’m awake. How does this serve me, you may ask? Firstly, it helps me acknowledge and identify the illusory and transient nature of our daily lives, keeping me from becoming too engrossed in the temporariness of the typical daily dramas. Secondly, it helps me cultivate and hone a clear, levelheaded perception so that I don’t get too emotionally involved and let those emotions spur me into making ill-thought out decisions whose outcomes are sure to be less than ideal. It helps me make deliberate, meaningful choices for a life more aligned with who and where I want to be in the world, allowing me to keep doing what I do and serve through my time and efforts. It in no way insinuates that I sit by passively as life happens around me, but rather allows me to be an active participant with a cool-headed and practical space of witnessing that is informed by wisdom and not ego.

So…how hard would it be for you to apply a “Dream Yoga”-like approach to the rest of your day? How illuminating would it be to see the events that are waiting for you from a healthy distance, where you don’t get dragged down to the depths of hell by things that typically piss you off, and you don’t lose your sense of grounding and focus when things go so well that you start to believe that you somehow deserve or are entitled to it?

I’d like you to try it out and please report back with your experiences and findings.

Let me know how it goes :)

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A Quick Word for Valentine’s Day

Posted by Bram Levinson on February 14, 2014

20140214-092659.jpg

I believe that we are all kids in adult bodies. We do our best to play the game and be mature and make smart decisions and not fuck up, but at the end of the day, we still hope and dream and doubt and ACHE TO BE LOVED like we did when we were 6 years old.

I also believe that love shouldn’t have one particular destination. Yes, ideally we have one person in particular with whom we share intimacy and confidences, who knows us better than we know ourselves, but love should be directed outwards to everyone and anyone.

As you make your way through the world today, see the people around you as the children they once were. That guy panhandling outside the liquor store? Forget the disheveled appearance of the 40-something year-old man and see the boy he once was. That woman you start arguing with who cuts you off at the red light? Look for the little girl she is beneath the facade.

Love is not holding the person who truly loves you up to a standard set by industry to see if he or she ends up buying you flowers/paying for dinner/buys you chocolates/holds the door open/lays you down on a bed of rose petals. Love is coming back to that 6-year old self and removing your filters so you allow your heart to be visible and obvious. Test yourself today. Be love to everyone. Be joy. You will get it back a million-fold :)

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The Fault in Our Stars

Posted by Bram Levinson on February 13, 2014

The Fault in Our StarsI met a guy in Kamloops, British Columbia a couple of weeks ago while I was giving a weekend of workshops, and this guy said something during a conversation that has not only stayed with me, but actually intensifies with each passing day.

I met Jim as I was coming back to the studio after lunch with Joy, studio manager and den mother extraordinaire. Upon our return, we saw him waiting patiently at the locked front door, and so once we got back into the studio, we started chatting and Jim told me his story. I could tell that there was a story as soon as he spoke, as his speech was slightly slurred and he would occasionally start to hunch his upper body forward as he walked. From the studio reception area to the floor of the studio itself where students were milling around waiting for the workshop to get started, Jim told me how twenty-something years ago he had gotten behind the wheel of his car after a night at the bar drinking and got into a car accident that left him brain-injured.

Once we were seated in the studio with minutes before I began the workshop, and with other students now part of the conversation, Jim told us how we spends his time canoeing, practicing yoga and downhill skiing. Needless to say, I was impressed. Regardless of any and all potential obstacles in his path, Jim refuses to take no for an answer and plows forward doing exactly what he wants to do. One woman who was sitting with us, after hearing that Jim loved his downhill skiing, asked him, “But aren’t you scared? Aren’t you scared to hurt yourself?” to which Jim, evoking shades of the story of Astavakra from Hindu &Yogic Mythology replied, “I’m more scared of not being able to do it.”

In spite of obvious impediments, Jim fights that much harder to do the things that make him happy. In a sense, we all do in one respect or another. With that said, consider this: if you knew that the opportunities, abilities and resources that are available to you right now, as you read these words, would be taken away from you tomorrow, what would you do differently now? If you weren’t able to ever see or speak to certain people, people to whom you typically have unlimited access, what would you do or say with and to them? If everything you’ve ever taken for granted, like being able to take a full breath, read these words, walk from point A to point B or simply feel and express what you’re feeling, was suddenly and irrevocably inaccessible, what would that change for your NOW?

I’ve been mulling all this over since Jim laid a healthy dose of truth and insight on us at Kamloops Hot Yoga, and as nothing ever crosses our paths haphazardly, I stumbled on a book shortly after my return home that I devoured over a few evenings and which served to further reinforce where I was in my thoughts. The Fault In our Stars is a heart-achingly beautiful story of teenage love tainted by illness. It is a true love story whose protagonists are all too aware of the impending expiry date their time together is shadowed by. Needless to say, there were a few pages of the book that, if they had been actual pages and not virtual ones on my tablet, would be warped and ink-stained from me bawling my eyes out uncontrollably. This book is one of the most beautiful I’ve read and is a strong reminder to not take anything for granted, to take stock of the blessings we are graced with and to make the MOST out of every moment we have.

If you knew you wouldn’t be able to live or love tomorrow as you can today, what would you do differently today?

Go do it. Now.

 

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Gratitude Lost

Posted by Bram Levinson on February 6, 2014

imageIn February, 2004, I met my partner Stephane. After the initial weeks of testing each other’s boundaries and getting to know one another, we realized that we were onto a good thing, and I remember being filled with immense and overflowing gratitude. I felt grateful for having found someone with whom I was compatible and who loved me the way I needed to be loved.

As Stephane and I approach our 10-year anniversary, I find myself reflecting on the bumps we’ve had in the road that our relationship has traveled down. These bumps have been few in number, but in some cases, mountainous in size and adversity. I am aware today that the mountains all grew out of the molehills of losing the sense of gratitude from finding the love that I had once feared would elude me forever, and seems to elude others constantly. I have been guilty of taking that love and appreciation for granted, and that was one of the main factors that made the rough patches practically insufferable.

When I mentor people suffering breakdowns of communication and breakups of relationships, one of the first things I point them towards is the possibility that they’ve lost the sense of gratitude that once informed their happiness.

Do you, or have you had, parents who loved you? Be grateful.
Do you, or have you had, one person in particular who loved you for you? Be grateful.
Do you have friends with whom you enjoy a shared identity and who consider you extended family? Be grateful.
Do you have a job that you enjoy and that allows you to live the life you’ve chosen for yourself? Be grateful.
Do you have the body that carried you to this article and the eyes functional enough to transmit the words to your brain? Be grateful.
Do you know that you will eat at least one full meal a day for the foreseeable future and that you will have a roof over your head for that same period of time? Be grateful.

We are living in fascinating times in which fame is no longer the by-product of talent, but rather the goal. We can shop from the comforts of our own homes and have our purchases delivered to our doors. The cultural climate, the internet and technology have all contributed to create a false sense of entitlement through the onset of unreal expectations and instant gratification, and it is that expectation and entitlement that lie at the root of the loss of gratitude.

When I was a child, I believed that if I had a talent, then everyone else must have it, and it couldn’t be that special. Yes, that sounds crazy. But the principle applies to every one of us who has attained something that initially bowled us over at the apparent miraculousness it embodied, only to grow accustomed to that gift and lose sight of its brilliance. Every single one of us does this. Even you.

I have found my way back to that state of grace and gratitude in my relationship, which is compounded by the gratitude I’m filled with at having made it through the difficult moments with Stephane. I practice gratitude in every possible moment: when I reflect on how fortunate I am to make a living doing what my soul yearns to do, when I reflect on the love I receive from and reflect back to my partner, when I reflect on the family and community I am continuously blessed with.

Now it’s your turn. Think about it. And get real. Where have you lost your gratitude? Identify it. Then find your way back.

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Notes from the B.C. Interior

Posted by Bram Levinson on February 2, 2014

Kamloops Yoga CentreMy travels for 2014 have started, and in the best possible way. I’m lying on the bed in my hotel room after a weekend-long run of 5 workshops at the Kamloops Yoga Centre, and the community I found waiting for me here completely took me by surprise.

I purposely didn’t research Kamloops before coming here. I was invited to come teach shortly after my stint in 2013 at Wanderlust Whistler (see here and here) and decided to take the gig and bring my teachings over, while exploring more of the beauty that is British Columbia. Seeing the magnificence that Canada holds never ceases to amaze me, but it was way more than the landscape that grabbed hold of me when I arrived here. Within an hour of landing and being whisked into town by Joy, studio manager extraordinaire, I was seeing my image across town on posters and magazine covers. I was humbled, to say the very least.

The community waiting for me is just that – a community. The people here welcomed me with open hearts and arms, and made me feel so grateful for being appreciated. I was adopted into their community, and now, at the tail-end of the weekend, am preparing to leave Kamloops with a bit of a heavy heart. I love it here. The feedback and outpouring of emotion from the students at the end of the 14 hours of time we’ve had together has been everything I could have asked for, and way more. From people telling me that I’m helping them in their personal evolution and development to working yoga teachers telling me that it was a breath of fresh air to have me bring my take on things to their studio, I feel more than loved.

To every single one of you who participated in the workshops this weekend and brought way more than your physical presence to the event, I thank you. To every single one of you who welcomed me to Kamloops and appreciated my presence, I thank you. To Trina and Dwight and Joy and Natalie, thank you for making my visit here possible. To the entire staff at Kamloops Hot Yoga, I hope you know that you’re stuck with me :)

I’ll be back later this year when I come back to B.C. to teach for a couple of weeks. Until then, I’m confident in the knowledge that I’m leaving with a bit of Kamloops in my heart and my mind, and I also know that Kamloops is keeping a whole lot of my energetic presence here.

With only love, thank you :)

Bxx

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Re(s/v)olution

Posted by Bram Levinson on December 29, 2013

calendarJanuary 1 is always a welcome day for the majority of us because it’s a real day off. Businesses close, the daily grind comes to a halt, and we nest (usually as recovery to the debauchery of the night before). The day itself has a cozy connotation to it, an insular vibe that breeds lounging around and getting the new year off in hushed tones. And, as it goes with that which we deem as easy or beneficial, we create the necessity to stain the calm of the break we get with the need to accomplish something, to produce, to not get to complacent. It’s resolution time.

As I mentioned in The Examined Life, every single one of us can identify at least one aspect of our lives where we’d like to see changes occur, and we pounce on that opportunity come the beginning of the year. It becomes our raison-d’être until January’s motivation turns into the slump that is February, and by March our sights have moved from where we were to where we’re going as we get ready for the prime months of the year. What started off as good intention ends up bleeding into the rest of the things that we start and never see to completion. And there’s a very simple reason for that.

You won’t be able to effect sustainable change simply because the date crawls past January 1. The concept that one specific day out of the year is better than another to start making the most out of the resources and opportunities that we have available is ridiculous. Every day that you can wake up and move is a potential platform for improving your life. But real changes, sustainable ones that don’t peter out with the arrival of the newest distraction, don’t take flight with simple hope and intention. The only time real change manifests is when you’re so fed up with the state of some aspect of your life that you simply refuse to let it continue on as it is. You may not know what the alternative will look like, but you sure as hell know that you’re done with what’s nagging at you, what’s begging to be seen as the instigator towards something better. The tables will only start to turn when you can no longer stomach sitting at the one you find yourself.

And so if you’re hell-bent on getting those resolutions sorted on January 1, make them revolutions. Set your intention to change that one thing that you’re sick of dealing with, the one thing that you recognize keeps rearing its ugly head over and over again. Change the one thing that you keep coming back to that has insidiously convinced you to believe it as being true, that has led you to redefine who you are. The patterns that you can’t seem to break free from, the ones that bring feelings of hopelessness and despair, are the ones you want to target. If you’re going to do this, you might as well do it big. Set your sights on the aspects of your life that, when altered or eradicated, will help you change the way you’ve been thinking and lead you to new heights. Create new patterns, ones that show you the benefits of surrendering to the fact that what’s familiar and what’s gotten you here can be tweaked and moulded to bring you that much further. The ground you’ve covered has been well-traveled, but the journey continues. And so go for that thing that will continue to propel you forward. Keep fighting for what’s right for you, and don’t take no for an answer. Have faith in the knowledge that you will be able to handle whatever life throws at you, regardless of how dire the risks you’re taking seem. You will handle everything with intelligence and determination, and you will land on your feet barreling forwards.

If you’re going to play the resolution game, make it more than an exercise. Get your hands dirty and dig deep. The payoff will last way longer than through the third or fourth month of the year, and will condition you to keep aiming high. It’s time to get your own personal revolution started.

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Prioritizing Peace

Posted by Bram Levinson on December 22, 2013

photoOne of the topics I lecture on in classes, presentations and workshops is the reason we practice yoga. Millions of people make their way onto a yoga mat daily, and every one of those people has a motivator informing every step towards the mat, and every motion/breath/thought on it. The most interesting aspect of speaking to people about why we practice is that many of us have rarely wondered what brings the person next to us in class to their practice, and as Yoga is an opportunity to see unity and eradicate division, I like watching that be practically applied in a very real context as students find common ground.

Some of us practice yoga because we want to move and we don’t want to do it in a gym environment. That was my initial motivation way back in 1999 when I grew tired of the testosterone-riddled gym setting that I dragged myself to 3-4 times/week. I found the posturing and obsession on the appearance of things almost as unbearable as the music that was being pumped out of the speakers at distracting levels. And so I started looking for a yoga class in my neighbourhood…and found my first teacher living directly across the street.

Some of us practice yoga because we like exploring how moving the body in challenging/trying/frustrating/exhilarating/revolutionary ways affects our breathing. We want to notice what happens to our breathing when we’re pulled away from our center of calm, because to be able to assess with objectivity how our breathing is affected by what we experience on the yoga mat tells us how we are affected by what we experience off the yoga mat. We start to understand that to be able to control our breathing and maintain a calming breath even when we feel like we might fall out of a posture gives us the tools to control our breathing and maintain a calming breath when we get sick, when things get stressful and hectic, when trauma occurs, when those around us get hurt…in short, when life pulls us away from our center.

Some of us practice yoga because it’s only through this discipline that we find our own unique understanding of a higher power, of light, of energy, of God. The connection that yoga offers becomes monumentally more than the mind-body-intention one. It becomes the connection that shows us that we are way more than our name/job/body/confidence/hairstyle/car/house/watch, and more than the roles we carry out in relation to family and friends. It shows us that we are the embodiment of everything that we have ever hoped and wanted for, and part of something formless and spacious.

Some of us practice yoga in group settings because it’s where we find community. The epidemic of loneliness (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/life-of-solitude-a-loneliness-crisis-is-looming/article15573187/?page=1) seems to be growing exponentially, even with technology capable of keeping us linked at every second of every day. We don’t want to be alone, and yoga reminds us that beneath the appearance of different skin colours, languages, religions, bank account balances, job titles, opportunities and overall appearances, we are all the same, living a human experience and wanting for the exact same things.

Some of us practice yoga for every single reason listed above. And some of us have no idea why we practice. We just feel compelled to do so.

What underlies all these reasons, and what underlies all the differences that present themselves as separation in our communities and the world around us, is peace. We are all seeking peace. Peace of mind, peace in our heart, peace in our soul. We are already the embodiment of that peace, but we’ve lost track of that in many cases, and so yoga helps us find our way back.

As 2013 comes to a close, take a minute to reflect on where you’ve been, who you’ve loved, who has loved you, and who you’ve been throughout and over the last year. And then let it all go. Be here, in this second, with one foot in 2013 and the other lifted, ready and certain about where it will find itself when it steps down. Believe in miracles, and understand that you are more of everything than you’ve ever thought possible…more focused, more driven, more capable, more resilient, stronger, with more capacity to love, be loved, and help heal all the division we seem inundated by. Let everyone around you see that peace that you’ve been taking care of all this time. Let people see through your actions, words and intention that peace is not an option – it’s who we are and it’s why we’re here. That peace will bring us forward collectively, with clarity and community and light. Let these be your cornerstones for 2014 and every year that follows.

Peace.

Posted in Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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