connect to the sky

I'm not making the news, I'm just reporting it…

  • The Examined Life by Bram Levinson

  • about.me

    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.

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.

Posted in Yoga | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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
 

Posted in Yoga | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 :)

Posted in Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 :)

Posted in Health | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

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.

 

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

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.

Posted in Health | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

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

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

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.

Posted in Health | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 »

The Wolves in Sheep’s Yoga Pants

Posted by Bram Levinson on November 10, 2013

lululemonThey say that any publicity is good publicity, and it seems like this past week is no exception for Lululemon. In an interview for Bloomberg TV, Lulu founder Chip Wilson was responding to issues with the pilling of some of the company’s women’s yoga pants when he said, “There’s always been pilling. The thing is that women will wear seatbelts that don’t work [with the pants], or they’ll wear a purse that doesn’t work, or quite frankly some women’s bodies just actually don’t work for it.” The media jumped all over this, as did what seems to be the entire yoga community. The media’s behaviour is never going to change, because they emphasize what serves to draw in viewers, readers, and hits to their websites. I’ve got a message for the global yoga community, however, and I want you to pay attention.

I don’t know Chip. I’ve never met him, and I may never. My relationship to him is irrelevant. The fact is, he’s a guy. A human being. And every single one of you reading this has said something at one point or another in your life that, if recorded and turned into a sound byte to be replayed over and over again, would make you look pretty stupid/insensitive/selfish/callous, etc… I’m not going to defend what Chip said, because it sounds pretty hard core. However, I understand what he was trying to say. I’ve gained and lost weight throughout my lifetime, and I know what it means for my jeans to feel tight on me when the weight I’ve gained on my thighs causes the fabric between them to start to wear away from the friction of them rubbing together. If the president of Levi’s came out and said that some people just don’t have the right body type to wear the jeans, insinuating that I’m the cause of the wearing away of the fabric, I’d be pissed off as well. I’d resent not having the head of the company fess up to the fabric itself not being resilient enough to handle my body type. But as Wilson says earlier on in the same interview that very few people have stopped to listen to in its entirety, “The thing is when you push technology…we are a technology company, and when you push technology that’s not like software, an actual physical product, there’s a thousand things that could go wrong on a technical fabric. It’s almost impossible to build a quality control case for each one of those combinations.”

The work Lululemon is doing with clothes and technical fabrics is always a work in progress. I know this because I have sat down with designers and buyers to discuss existing issues with the clothes and what could be done to improve the quality, wearability, design and durability of the products. Chip admits to having made mistakes in the past, and his choice of words relating to the pilling issue may just be the latest one he’ll make. But it won’t be the last one. You know why? Because the guy is human and he’s doing his best, just like every single one of you were the last time you fucked up in public and had the reflection of your words or actions mirrored back to you by the people around you.

The fact of the matter is this, yogis: we should know better. We should know better than to start spreading hate and judgement all over the internet because we feel wrong done by. Every single second of every single yoga or meditation practice we’ve ever chosen to spend our time and energy on was intended to teach us that connection is our goal. We are being divided and separated by our governments, by lobbyists, and by heads of companies that have something to gain by making us feel less than, and if Chip and Lululemon fall into that category for you as an individual, then so be it. But hold on a second – every single thing we’ve learned from the yoga teachers and teachings is meant to be applied between stimulus and response. We get riled up by something, and…HANG ON…how are we going to react? How do we want to impact the world? We’re supposed to know better. What promotes unity and evolution when faced with the threat of separation? Throwing judgement and venom around or doing every thing you possibly can to do your part to make sure it doesn’t happen again? For those of you who have gone off on a downward spiral of self-indignation and anger, did you take a moment to write a letter to Lululemon’s team in Vancouver or to a store manager in your community to suggest that the issue of the fabric should be looked at again as the strive to produce technological fabrics that work with all bodies evolves? Did you decide to give Chip a break by remembering when you too said something that might offend and focus on what good Lululemon has done so far in its evolution as a community-driven company?

I’ve already written about what Lululemon means to me and how this company has been by my side as I’ve found my feet and worked harder than I’ve ever worked before at bringing connection back to the world. You can find those posts here, here, here, here & here. The team at Lululemon has sent me flowers to congratulate me on the evolution of my career. They have invested in my well-being so that I can continue to effect change in the lives of others. They have helped me get teaching gigs at major international yoga festivals, and they are holding a special event to help launch and promote The Examined Life, a book I diligently and painstakingly worked on for over 18 months. They have and continue to be my family, and if your brother made an off-the-cuff comment on TV and the world turned on him to beat the crap out of him, you’d get defensive as well.

The fact of the matter is this: Chip has created an incredible company. Nothing is ever one thing, and there will always be growing pains, so those of you who are content listing every bump in the road that Lulu has endured to post online and stir up the tsunami of anger can continue on. But you’re missing the point entirely and just contributing to separation. We should be coming together as a community to help Lulu get over this bump and be better for it instead of trying to tear them down. I’ve written about this in the book – we build up the people and companies that we find revolutionary and in keeping with how we want the world to be, but when those same people show the slightest hint of humanity, we tear them down and set fire to them. It’s time to grow up and ask if we’re pulling our community down or contributing to its growth and long-term well-being with our thoughts, words and actions.

You may not agree with my thoughts and opinion, and that’s how it should be. I’m as much of a work in progress as Chip and Lululemon are. I’m as much of a work in progress as you are. Let’s do what we can to make things work for everyone, ensuring that we create the space in which anyone is allowed to fall and fuck up, knowing that they will have support and helping hands to stand back up with. No one gets it right on the first attempt, but to try and shoot everyone down who tried something new would ensure that we stay stuck and stagnant, and my entire career is based on moving forwards and re-instating connection. Don’t get distracted from what you seek long-term, and make it your mission to see that become reality no matter what you have to give. Stand up and contribute instead of branding those who display the slightest shred of humanity with a scarlet letter. We know better, so let’s apply what we know.

Posted in Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 157 other followers

%d bloggers like this: