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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, Berlin, Tulum, Santorini, Paros and Mljet in Croatia. 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.

Posts Tagged ‘Lululemon’

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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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.

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In The Presence of Giants

Posted by Bram Levinson on October 19, 2013

20131019-020035.jpgLululemon brought me out to Western Canada last week as a way of bringing together 28 of their North American Ambassadors whose stores thought they had something special to offer. What ended up coming together was a grouping of the brightest lights I’ve ever been exposed to. These leaders in their communities brought their hopes, their fears, their inspirations and their souls to BC’s Sunshine Coast. With coaxing and encouragement from the exemplary Lululemon facilitators (absolute and undeniable leaders in their own rights) and the force that is Susanne Conrad, all of our lights joined forces to create a field of energy that permeated everything and everyone around us (including the Stephen King-esque fog that cloaked our nest in the wilderness like vaporous glue). That light intensified throughout our days together, and what’s fascinating is that even once our family started to fragment and break away as we headed back on our journeys home, it didn’t wane. I’m flying somewhere over Saskatchewan as I write this (yes, Ryan Leier, I’m waving down, and yes, they let a 40-year old on the plane ;)), I feel that light coursing through my veins.

Lululemon knows how it’s done. They take care of their people and continuously and consistently check in with us to make sure we’re equipped to continue to maintain the fine balance that we all aim to keep. They’re more than a company. They’re a family. We’re a family. And we’re hell-bent on bringing that light we all harvested back with us to shine onto our communities. The imprint of us may remain on the Sunshine Coast, but the streaks of light that stem from it are stretching far and wide across our continent right now.

Thank you, Lululemon. Again. From the tips of our toes to the crowns of our heads. We thank you. We couldn’t do it as well without you.

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Where I Am

Posted by Bram Levinson on October 16, 2013

I’m lying on a plush, king-size bed in a cozy little room in a cabin nestled deep in the mountains adjacent to Vancouver at the West Coast Wilderness Lodge in Egmont, British Columbia. I once again find myself speechless at how beautifully generous and thoughtful Lululemon is, as I’ve been invited to the 2013 Ambassador Summit as one of a select group of 27 other yogis from around North America.

We were met at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel by a welcoming committee in a conference room set up to help us relax upon our arrival with yoga mats, food and drink. After eating, we were whisked off by taxi to the harbour-front port where seaplanes flew us over the coastal mountains for 25 minutes before landing at the dock of the hotel. We climbed the short hill to the front desk, got our room keys, and scattered to relax and prepare for a yoga class.

The coming days will be an opportunity for us all to be inspired by the galvanizing words and tools shared by the incomparable Susanne Conrad, the Director of Possibilities for the company, a woman who understands the need to dream as much as she understands the importance of a profit & loss statement. Interspersed amongst our lectures and activities with her are yoga classes, hikes through the jaw-droppingly beautiful forest we’ve burrowed into, and the opportunity to get to know each other. I don’t take this opportunity lightly: meeting others who do what I do from different parts of the continent and realizing just how vast and far-reaching our community is. I feel so insanely lucky. But I also know that luck has nothing to do with it.

I work hard. I infuse every ounce of myself into what I do, and I’m beyond grateful that that effort and intention continues to be acknowledged and honoured. Lululemon must have seen something in me early on in my career, because they’ve been backing me up and encouraging me for over 4 years now. And yet even with all that support behind me, I now find myself in this room on the other side of the country, being treated like I matter. I appreciate it, obviously, but for different reasons than you might think.

I work to inspire, encourage and elevate people. I aim to bring people from a place where they’re mainlining to a place where they’re constantly being one-upped by the beauty and the highs that life has in store for each of us. It can be hard work, very demanding, and requires me to stay high energy for those I’m teaching/mentoring/lecturing to, etc… I often have moments where I feel depleted, where I need to refill my own cup before I can authentically and honestly go into the next teaching environment and inform others on how to refill theirs. Lululemon’s constant and unwavering support, consistently putting the company’s money where its mouth is, helps me refill my cup. I feel inspired. I feel honoured. I feel like it’s no accident that I’ll be spending my 40th birthday here on Thursday, an age which many faiths and belief systems attribute to the anchoring of the soul in the body. I’m where I’m supposed to be.

I want to thank every single person from Lululemon who has contributed to my being here. The list is too long to get into here, but you know who you are. I don’t take ANY of this for granted. I am aware of how fortunate I am to have people listening to me and giving back what I work so hard to initially offer. I’ll be back in Montreal at the end of the week and will have more to share from this moment on the edge of the country. For now, love to all.

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Landmarked

Posted by Bram Levinson on March 13, 2012

It’s 9am Monday morning, and I’ve slept in (as much as one can do with a new puppy) for the first time in four days. My head is still buzzing from my weekend at the Landmark Forum, and when I look back at my post from last week, I have to say that it ended up being everything I thought it would be, but if I thought I really had a grasp on the big picture, I was absolutely wrong. The forum needs to be experienced first-hand to actually see that regardless of what its detractors may say, this organization is helping people…guiding people…re-directing people…and ultimately, opening their eyes. It really is about empowering every single person (regardless of the usual demographic classifications we use to separate ourselves from each other) to become complete and whole, to face their fears, and to show them how those fears and obstacles that have often paralyzed them from living/growing/loving/expanding/sharing/hoping are based in the decisions that their 5-year-old selves made long ago.

Now don’t get me wrong – I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I had many moments throughout the weekend where I asked myself “what have I gotten myself into?”, where I questioned if experiencing unpleasantness was necessary in order to learn something, but in actuality, when was being challenged and held accountable for your choices and actions ever comfortable? And our forum leader was strong, matter-of-fact, and hell-bent on getting results for the people who were in attendance. Albeit robotic at times, she was adamant in her mission to have us open our eyes to the areas and aspects of our lives and behaviours that we weren’t aware of – the ones that often are visible to others who then point them out to us, much to our disdain. Her mission was to empower us to create new possibilities in our lives, to step up to the plate in order to touch, move, and inspire others so they could do the same and have it ripple off into the world. The creation of these new possibilities stems from living a life steeped in authenticity, and she was there to encourage us to do so…to open our eyes to the time and energy we waste trying to look good to the world around us when in fact, everyone else is doing the same thing and no one actually sees each other. I greatly admired her ability to not simply shower participants with empathy and affection when they collapsed into tears, opting instead to coach them using tools they could practically apply to examine the real source of their obstacles.

Much of what happens in Landmark comes from its participants, and by the end of the weekend, one feels a definite complicity with these people (spending 39 hours together over 3 days will do that). Participants (whose ages ranged from 15-84) are encouraged to share their personal stories with the group, and the courage that these people have to step up to the front of the room and divulge their personal tales of trauma, fear and loss is jaw-dropping and refreshingly inspiring. It is through this sharing of personal stories that the rest of the group sees their own lives reflected back at them, complete with the stories we have told ourselves which have dictated the choices that direct us to where we find ourselves. Those stories, when we actually stand back and examine them, are all based in the mind of who we were as a child when every new thing that occurred in our lives imprinted itself, and understanding that one concept is massively enlightening to many. Once that is understood, it then becomes clear that to move towards a place where we can create real possibilities in our lives, we have to let go of the patterns and thought processes that have led us to wherever we find ourselves. The results come into being through letting go of all the reasons which have informed our behaviours.

The truisms that Landmark is based on aren’t new to many of us, but to others, seem revelatory…that change is futile and accomplishes nothing, and that personal transformation can only occur through acceptance of what is and why it is. The destructive force that is gossip was addressed, as was the power that language has to change our lives…that the cost of avoiding responsibility is one’s own vitality…that we are in denial as a race of human beings about the fact that we are inauthentic..that our actions are what matters and that opinions and talk are worthless without some sort of doing associated to them. The concepts of success vs. fulfillment (which ironically, I wrote about a few weeks ago), and that other people’s battles are theirs to fight were huge ones for me, but the one that seemed to speak to everyone was that we should see what happens as what happens while letting go our of interpretation of it. A lot of important insight was on offer, and to many in attendance, this was the first time they had ever been encouraged to think about anything other than the usual superficialities of daily life. It was incredible to see these people wake up, and even more satisfying to see myself do the same to many things I had simply agreed to not address in my own behaviours and patterns.

Two things didn’t sit well with me throughout the weekend. One was the incessant , non-stop chatter courtesy of the two translators that flanked the forum leader on either side. One was responsible for translating into French every phrase that came out of the leader’s mouth, and it was like watching a tennis match as sentences came out incrementally in one language, followed by the other. The other translator was present to translate whatever was spoken by participants, often killing the essence of what was being shared by having to interrupt to translate to the room. My personal opinion is that there should be two forums, one for the French-speakers and one for the English, so that the flow of communication could remain unimpeded (which could perhaps turn a 13-hour day sitting in a chair into a 9 or 10 hour day). The other element that almost had me heading for the hills (and had my bullshit meter practically exploding) was the selling/business aspect of the experience. There were several moments throughout the weekend where the forum leader spoke about other seminars and programs offered by Landmark, and as a choice between two seminars was already paid for with the cost of the weekend we were experiencing, registration sheets were handed out to everyone to enroll themselves in. The pressure tactics were subtle, but at no point were we told that registration was optional. We were guided through filling out the form and when I handed mine in blank, I was then approached the following day to discuss which seminar I would register for. I politely declined, but knew that a more vulnerable and less self-assured person would have caved and would have gotten brought further into the organization’s programs. When it came to other programs offered, we were given a choice, but told that we could take a few minutes to sign up after the forum leader described the benefits of the programs, and this was done in full view of everyone else, so the ones who chose not to sign up were exposed to the ones who were full-steam ahead, which I felt put undue pressure on people to sign up for fear of standing out from the crowd. This may have just been how I personally felt about it, but looking around the room, I saw I wasn’t alone. I felt that the business side of it all could have been dealt with through transparency instead of spin. I would have felt more respect for them if we had been told that yes, Landmark is a business, and that their product is worth paying for, but that to maintain the integrity of the business, they wanted to tell us about what was on offer. With that said, giving people the option of signing up with a bit more privacy (during breaks, after the day ended) would have spoken more to me.

To sum up, I found that this past weekend refocused and enlightened me in many ways, all for the better. For many who have already connected to something greater than themselves, what Landmark teaches might sound redundant, but for others, an existence steeped in possibilities lies waiting at the end of their forum. I’m grateful to Lululemon for having given me the opportunity to experience Landmark first-hand, and am the better for it.

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Landmark or landmine?

Posted by Bram Levinson on March 8, 2012

Tomorrow morning I start the Landmark Forum, an internationally recognized organization that brings together those who would like insight into how they live and how the decisions they take dictate where they end up. Landmark is as well-known for having participants in their weekend-long program experience massive breakthroughs as they are for being labelled a cult, a sect and a shameless money-making machine. I was asked by Lululemon if doing the program would interest me, as their employees who know me believed that Landmark’s philosophies correlated well with my own, and I jumped at the chance to experience first-hand what Landmark is all about…but leading up to this weekend, I’ve experienced a multitude of emotions about my participation in the program, and at the suggestion of my friend Frances Vicente, I decided to write everything down here to have as a “before” reference once the weekend is over and I’m looking back at the whole experience.

As you all well know by now, I’m a huge believer in examining how we live our lives, and why we find ourselves where we do in any given moment. Yoga has been key in my own quest, and as one of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras states, Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. “The fluctuations of the mind” refers to how attached to and involved with we allow our minds to be with the fleeting experiences and moments throughout any given day…the process of observing the world around us to the process of discrimination that allows us to interpret, identify and categorize the goings-on that we move through minute-by-minute. Suffice it to say, I am actively seeking out a state of Yoga these days as I get closer to Landmark, and here’s why: it’s true that people have spoken to me about how incredibly illuminating this program is, how it opens one’s eyes to the role we play on an individual level within the relationships in our lives, how we prevent ourselves from living fully and completely. People speak about finally being able to move past the circumstances and events that have previously plagued them, in some case absolutely rendering them emotionally raw and stunted. I’m all for anything that speaks to people in language they can understand and practically apply to bring their lives closer to their ideal realities. However, I’ve also heard that from the get-go, the speakers at Landmark start selling you on the program, encouraging you to bring everyone you know to their doors under the guise, “If you love the people in your lives, why wouldn’t you want them to experience what would bring them to a higher understanding and degree of happiness?” I’m very fortunate that Lululemon is sending me and footing the bill, but I also know that the weekend is expensive and would probably not be financially viable for most of the people in my life.  The forum lasts Friday, Saturday & Sunday (plus Tuesday evening), and participants are in the program from 9am to 10pm all weekend. They are discouraged from bathroom breaks, have only one 60-minute meal break in the evening for dinner (we are told that we have 30-minute breaks every 2.5-3 hours, but I’ve also heard that we’re given homework to do in these breaks), and are generally kept cooped up in a room with roughly 150 other people for the entire duration. So you’ll understand if the fluctuations of my mind are off the charts right now ;-).

With all that said, I believe that the people at Lululemon who thought of me for this program know me well enough to know that a) I will walk away from this weekend with tools that I can believe in and apply to my own teachings, and b) if my bullshit meter starts getting higher-than-ever readings, I will simply remove myself from the situation. I’m looking forward to having my doubts eradicated, to being shown why this program is as successful as it is, and to being empowered to move closer to my own goals with a clearer-than-ever vision of where I’m going and what I’m trying to do in the world.

I’ll be back here next week to share with you all how this weekend went down…I’m taking a bit of a leap with the Landmark Forum, but I know that the greatest rewards are most often found by those who take the greatest leaps of faith. I’ll let you know where I land…

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The Newest (business) Model

Posted by Bram Levinson on August 14, 2010

The past week has been somewhat of a cross-country whirlwind for me…I left Montreal on Monday for Vancouver to attend the 1st (hopefully) annual Lululemon Ambassador Summit, an all-expense paid trip organized by the Canadian retail giant. Along with 119 other ambassadors from all over North America, I was flown out and put up at a gorgeous hotel in the downtown core of the city, where we spent the next few days attending lectures from keynote speakers and participating in goal-setting, social networking, and other inspiring workshops…all orchestrated by Lulu, all to ensure that we, as the faces of the company in our respective communities, were living our best lives possible.

Now, I’ve worked for a retail giant that talked big, using words like “diversity” and “creativity”, and communicating how important a richly-lived life needed to be for each and every one of their employees…but when it came time to treating said employees in a manner conducive to living a rich life, the almighty dollar proved more important a priority. With the past couple of days now over, you’ll hopefully believe me when I say that Lululemon has put all other businesses to shame, and I don’t even work for them!

The people at Lulu made it transparently clear that their mission is to elevate the world from mediocrity to greatness…that the business model of the future involves investing in the happiness and success of your people. With us as their ambassadors at the frontline, all they hoped was that their generosity of spirit would be passed on to those we hope to inspire, allowing the cycle of giving to expand exponentially and globally.

I got home Thursday night with images of the incredible people I met and shared moments with, along with a serious drive to continue achieving the goals I’ve set (and continue to set) for myself. With all that in mind, I did a load of laundry and then re-packed my bag to leave Friday afternoon to come down to where I’m writing this, our annual Luna Yoga Weekend Summer Retreat at Spa Eastman.

Coming into the lush beauty of the Eastern Townships to teach such an amazing group of yogis just reinforces everything I find myself working towards in my daily life. It also allows me to honor the integrity of the Lululemon mission by passing on the unconditional generosity of spirit, mere hours after coming back from the West coast.

I would like to offer up my heartfelt gratitude to everyone at Lululemon, not only for selflessly treating me like royalty simply because they could, but for reminding me that my core values are valid and shared…and that I really can effect change by being who I truly am.

Much love and respect…

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Surviving Yoga

Posted by Bram Levinson on August 10, 2009

I am literally immersed in the world of yoga. I manage a yoga studio, Centre Luna Yoga (www.centrelunayoga.com), am more than halfway through my 200-hour Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Training with Darby, Shankara & Joanne at Sattva Yoga Shala (www.sattvayogashala.com), am teaching substitute yoga classes at Luna Yoga and as well as  some rooftop yoga classes for Lululemon’s Ste Catherine St location (http://www.lululemon.com/montreal/stecatherine). I also find time to teach some private classes when I have some free time, so with this massive yogic flurry surrounding me, I’m obviously learning about the business of yoga at an exponential rate.

Managing Luna Yoga is, in itself, all-encompassing. There’s a shockingly enormous amount of work to do, from website updating to retreat planning, marketing to plant maintenance. The “to-do” list grows as the priorities change daily. Understandably, all these things go on behind the scenes, so it’s no wonder that when a student comes to a class, all he or she is concerned with is having a great experience and walking out of the studio feeling refreshed and alive. I’m assuming that the clients are more or less unaware of what it takes to keep a studio running, and that’s how it should be – we should be ensuring that the machine stays well-oiled so all parts move in conjunction with each other, fluidly and consistently. Giving the public what they want (and sometimes need) is what we do, and we do it well. What separates us from other sectors of the service industry, however, is what we’re selling.

Yoga typically attracts people who want to expand their consciousness, whether it be physical, spiritual or mental. And whether my peers in the community are willing to admit it or not, there are occasionally practitioners in our midst who in the process of trying to “find themselves”,  get so lost in the world of yoga that they risk losing touch with the reality around them. Now don’t misunderstand me – I have an inherent belief that we are always taken care of, even when things are seemingly hopeless. I wholeheartedly believe that my yoga practice will bring me to where I want to be, which is to say back in my own skin, back to my Self. I also believe that if I don’t work for a living and drum up an income for myself, no one is going to do it for me. I am a city dweller, a householder, a taxpayer (in addition to many things, while also being none of those things). Unless I am planning on retreating into nature and away from city life and all that it encompasses, I need to stay grounded in my responsibilities. Yoga assists me in playing that game while maintaining a healthy outlook and an emotionally intelligent head on my shoulders. What I keep finding myself witness to, however, are people who believe that yoga classes and everything involved with yoga should be free and that to profit off of running a yoga studio or yoga classes is somehow disingenuous.

So here’s my take on it all:

If you love doing something and you have the opportunity to continue doing that thing while making money to get through life, you’re mind-blowingly fortunate. If that thing you love doing helps other people, and can even heal other people, then you’re even more fortunate. If you can occasionally provide the service free of charge without compromising the integrity of your business, then you’re blessed. The only catch is that if what you’re doing is not completely accepted or understood by mainstream society, you’re going to run into some bumps along the road. Yoga falls into that category. There are slews of yogis who believe that all is love, the universe will provide, namasté. While I do think that there is a lot of truth in that,  there are some people who take it to an extreme where free will is completely subtracted from the equation and fate rules the kingdom, and that’s a dangerous attitude to take because it eliminates any possibility of personal responsibility or accountability for one’s words and actions. When people come to a yoga class and resent having to pay for it, it leaves me stumped. People who go see a doctor usually don’t pay for that visit, but there’s still a payment for services rendered thanks to Medicare. People who go shopping pay for what they buy, as do those who go fill up their gas tanks to make sure their cars don’t run out of gas. Because all these services are universally accepted as “necessary”, to not pay would be unthinkable. Yoga, regardless of the resurgence of spirituality and a return to Eastern thinking over the last decade, is still somewhat of a subculture and not even fractionally understood by the masses, and this is why we find ourselves where we are as yogis.

The more classes we lead, the harder we work to keep the yoga studios running, and the more yogic literature we write and publish, the more we’ll be heard and understood. The more we’re understood and respected, the more legitimacy we’ll have as an industry and we’ll have fewer people objecting to the business of yoga. Those in the community that can’t be bothered to help stimulate the industry need to ask themselves if they’re helping or hurting themselves…  We need to build our community up and bring all our gifts to the masses to show how much better off we are with a healthy practice and healthy outlook, and if that means digging into our pockets, then consider it an investment. It’s the safest one I know of in our present economy, and the only one where helping one’s self ultimately leads to helping others. I’ll keep on doing my thing, trying to get the best we can offer to those who appreciate it while attempting to increase our visibility as leaders in the community, one asana at a time, one event at a time…

Let me know what you think :)

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