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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 and meditation teacher, blogger, mentor and lecturer based in Montreal. He has been on the faculty of the Montreal & Burlington Yoga Festivals, 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. 2015 will see Bram bring students to Ravello on the Amalfi Coast and back to Paros in Greece. Bram is forever grateful to Seane Corn, 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 https://bramlevinson.wordpress.com, his website at www.bramlevinson.com.

A Message For The Haters

Posted by bramlevinson on July 3, 2015

NOH8To the white people burning down black churches, to the people refusing to serve, marry or acknowledge gay people, to men hating women and women hating women and women hating men and men hating men, to anyone who hates because they’re too afraid to simply accept what is: grow the fuck up. You think you’re going to be exercising your hate in a natural disaster when typically everyone comes together and you’re just trying to survive? You think you’re going to stop to ask someone what their sexual orientation is when your country is under attack and you need to find shelter? You think that you’re going to stop to judge someone’s skin color before reaching out to that hand sticking out from the rubble after a terrorist attack? Exactly. It won’t even cross your mind because you’ll be going on auto-pilot and auto-pilot doesn’t hate.

Keep your fear-based opinions to yourselves and grow up. We have had enough of hate and division and you’re only making it worse. After all is said and done, you will end up needing that person you’re hating on. You’ll see. Start planting the seeds of peace now.

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A Year in the Light

Posted by bramlevinson on June 22, 2015

IMG_5948I have a massive announcement to make, and an even more massive favor to ask of you all, but let’s start first with the announcement: as I’ve mentioned in passing and through a few social media posts, my second book is on its way. My first book, The Examined Life, is still selling consistently after 18 months of being released and promoted, which I’m taking as a fantastic sign considering the following: I self-published it, I promote it myself, I do the footwork to get it all over the world to be sold through online and retail outlets and, as a result of having succeeded in getting it sold at Indigo (the largest book retailer in Canada) in downtown Montreal at Place Montréal Trust, it has become the most successful self-published/consignment book ever sold there. The book is now in its third printing and I couldn’t be happier with its evolution and the reception you’ve all given it. And trust me, I’m grateful. I’ll never be able to properly express just how grateful I am.

As I continue to get The Examined Life out to the world with no assistance from publishing houses or agents, I am now including my next book project into my efforts. The working title for this year’s release is A Year in the Light: Daily Spiritual Life Hacks, Intentions and Reminders. The cover design is in the works, the actual content is 95% completed with edits being done over the next couple of months and the actual book itself will be released in paperback and digital formats on Saturday, November 14, 2015.

As described in the description on iTunes, “A Year in the Light is the latest release from yoga and meditation teacher and author of The Examined Life, Bram Levinson. Veering off from where The Examined Life brought readers, A Year in the Light serves as a daily companion for seekers, thinkers and anyone striving to live a life more steeped in peace, perspective and mindfulness. With 365 pages of daily insights, intentions and reminders, this book serves as a practical tool for those either seeking occasional inspiration and focus or for those looking to commit to the year-long, 365-day A Year in the Light Challenge. Those taking the challenge are encouraged to read one page per morning and then bring that page’s insight or intention out into their day to see how and if it proves relevant or helpful. Participants are encouraged to start their 365-day period whenever they’d like and to bring the insights and discoveries they find through the book to social media outlets using #AYITLChallenge as the identifiable hashtag.

Written in a no-nonsense, relatable style, this book brings many of the intentions and themes from Bram’s classes, workshops, retreats and teachings into one extremely practical collection. Guaranteed to inspire, motivate and provoke thought, A Year in the Light is the perfect companion for anyone seeking guidance in the pursuit of truth, awakening, purpose and, above all, peace.”

I am, needless to say, beyond excited that this work that has been in the works for the past year is finally getting to the delivery stage, and I cannot wait to see the impact it makes with you all (and with those people who don’t yet know who I am or what my message is that I convey through my work).

Now here comes the favour I am asking of you all: as you may have noticed, there are hyperlinks above directing you to the iTunes (and there it is again ;)) page in iBooks where the book is already for sale as a pre-order. This ability to pre-order a digital book is new for self-published authors, and there are many advantages to being able to do this. The reason I’ve decided to put the digital book up for pre-order is because every pre-order made leading up to the November 14 release date will count as a first-day sale, which means that it will all count as a sale on November 14. This means that with enough orders, the possibility exists that A Year in the Light will chart on digital book charts which gives it one more sell-able feature to help me get this book to the world, and I do mean the world.

So here’s the ask: if The Examined Life made any impression on you at all, if you are curious about the next book, if you just feel like supporting me and my efforts to bring some mindfulness and purpose to the world, then please consider purchasing your digital copy of A Year in the Light as a pre-order today. I have put it up at a lower cost than it will sell at come its launch date as an incentive to get it sold and to thank those who buy it as a pre-order. And know that there is thanks. Please know that there is gratitude.

I know that my books are going to impact on a much more global scale than they’ve been exposed to as of yet, and I know that I just have to keep chugging on to make that happen with no publishing house or deal. I also know that I can’t do it alone, and I need every single one of you to help me get there. Trust that I’ll be bringing you all along for the ride…

Above all, if you buy the book in any format, I hope that it brings you what I hoped it would: insight, focus, epiphanies, purpose and peace. My life’s work is to make this world a better place than it was than when I was born into it, and these books will outlast me to help accomplish that.

Enjoy A Year in the Light when you get your copy, and keep your eyes and ears open for book launch dates, promotions and more amazing news to come. And thank you. You’ll never know how much I appreciate it.

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Musings On International Yoga Day

Posted by bramlevinson on June 16, 2015

internationaldayofyogaOn Sunday, June 21 the world will have its first official International Yoga Day. And while I think that it is fantastic that yoga is getting the kind of recognition that it deserves, this milestone does run the risk of perpetuating certain myths about the superficialities of yoga. If you plan on observing International Yoga Day, consider that posting a photo of yourself on social media in some intricate asana may get you a slew of likes and comments, but potentially has little to do with the significance or essence of this day.

The physical practice of yoga has many benefits, one of which is that it allows the practitioner to move the body in order to shift whatever muscular tensions have landed and gotten stuck in the physical frame. The point to shifting these muscular tensions is so that we can be free of the physical manifestation of that which stresses us and keeps us stuck in the human experience, so that we can begin to experience the energetic aspects of this incarnation. Yoga frees us from the bondage of matter, allows us to stop identifying with the body and helps us come back to love, trust, faith, unity, peace and connection. Most of all, it represents the end of identification with pain and all that that umbrella term represents.

On International Yoga Day, practice yoga off your yoga mat. Embody and express love, trust, faith, unity, peace and connection. Notice how many times you find yourself motivated by fear, mistrust or the apprehension of pain. When this happens, change the record. Set your intention to operate from the opposite point of view that your inclination initially brings you to. If you would’ve operated from fear, operate from faith. If you would’ve operated from anger, operate from love and acceptance. If you would’ve operated from chaos, operate from peace. That’s how you practice yoga. And if you’re going to observe this new international holiday, do it right the first time.

I’ve said and written it before and I’ll do so again now: you could take one million photographs of yourself in beautiful yoga postures that Yoga Journal would rave about, but if you’re behaving like a shithead in your daily life, then you’re not practicing yoga. That’s just posturing. Let yoga change your life, not just the size of your clothes or your ego.

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We’re Still Here

Posted by bramlevinson on May 25, 2015

joan

When I was twenty-five years old I lived on a street right next to Parc Lafontaine in Montreal. I was nearing the end of a nine-year relationship that I had held onto desperately because I knew that when it ended, I was going to be faced with me, myself and I, and I was a bundle of insecurity and uncertainty at that stage in my life.

I grew up gay and alone, despite being surrounded by people who loved me. Scratch that. They didn’t just love me. They LOVED me. I have always been blessed with a family made in prime time television heaven. Two brilliantly incredible brothers, and parents who have never stopped showing the world the multifaceted experience of true love. Regardless, as far as I was concerned, I was alone.

Growing up gay in the 70’s and 80’s was hellish. The only depiction I had of a gay male figure was Jack Tripper from Three’s Company, a character who was straight, but had to pretend he was gay to be allowed to rent an apartment with two beautiful girls. The comments made to him or about him by unsuspecting side characters were less than kind, and so as you can imagine, all I knew as a kid was that I was the bona fide real thing, and so all those comments made about Jack were basically about me. Being in my skin as a child wasn’t my favourite place to be, and yet I had no alternative. So I did what I had to do and survived.

Cut back to me at 25. No sense of self or Self, the sum total of the years growing up gay and feeling terribly alone. My relationship was not doing well for many reasons, the most glaring of all being that I had no idea who I was. Enter yoga. For some reason, yoga was somehow on my radar at the time, and so I decided I’d start to research it and if see it was something I wanted to learn more about. I remember going to Mélange Magique, which was a store commonly referred to as “the witchcraft store”, but which sold more than Wiccan literature and accessories. The place was great – they sold books on religions and philosophies, sacred traditions and rituals. They had books on yoga, so I’d hang out there reading and eventually bought a box of yoga flash cards. Each card had a different posture on it and was colour coded depending on the type of posture (seated, standing, forward bend, backbend, etc…). I remember bringing the set home and sitting on the green industrial carpet of my then-bedroom. I laid the cards out and started to build my own home practice that I soon started doing a few times a week.

After practicing alone for a few months, I decided I needed to start looking for a proper yoga teacher. My door number on my street at the time was 964. After doing some digging with my soul-sister and friend Nadia (who was also interested in trying yoga), we found a teacher. Who lived across the street from me. Directly. Joan Ruvinsky lived at 987. And she still does. Nadia and I registered for the session along with another friend, and all I really remember is that after the second class I got up from my yoga carpet and felt like I had just ingested something magical. I felt relaxed and alive and peaceful and happy. And so we kept at it. Our friend who registered with us eventually stopped classes, and then I, over the next few years, came to the classes and then veered away, came back and veered away.

The years that succeeded that first session were heavy for me. My relationship did indeed end, my grandmother died, a friend died in the attacks in New York City on September 11, 2001, and one of my dogs died. Every time something happened, I’d phone Joan and leave her a message to let her know that I wouldn’t be finishing the current session that I’d been registered for, as I was so beaten up emotionally that I couldn’t commit to showing up for classes. And it was in 2001 when I called her, post 9/11, that I got her on the phone and she said to me, “Consider the possibility that times like these are when you most need the practice.” She changed my life with that one line.

I also remember booking a private mentoring session with her. I needed to talk to someone about everything that I felt wasn’t right about my life at that point, and she made time for me. I talked and talked, and when I was done she looked at me and matter-of-factly said, “Bram, you just have to get out of your own way!” And so she changed my life again. She also made time for me one afternoon to teach me how to use a neti pot – I’ll never forget her leaning over her sink, tilting her head and pouring water with uniodized salt in it into one nostril and watching it pour out the other. She could not have been more hands-on with her teaching, despite her asana classes being mainly verbally guided.

Over the years I went back to Joan’s school Pathless Yoga less and less frequently, with the occasional session here and there, but she was no less present in my life and in my thoughts. When I left my last career in 2008 and started studying to teach yoga, she was with me in every decision-making moment where I kept telling myself to simply get out of my own way. I used to dream of her as a vision in white, flowing fabrics, light emanating off of her, and when I would wake up I’d laugh because I knew she’d laugh herself silly if I ever told her about it. My class structure, once I began teaching, mimicked hers with a longer dharma talk followed by asana, which I’m now somewhat known for. I unconsciously ended up doing as I’d been taught, and she has Taught me.

When I did my iRest Yoga Nidra Level 1 training in 2013 I was happily surprised to meet people who would say to me, “You’re a student of Joan’s! Tell me about her!” I had no idea how they knew her until I put two and two together and realized that that body-sensing thing she was doing with us back in 1999 was actually one of the key components to iRest. She studied under Jean Klein, as did Richard Miller who pioneered the iRest modality, and was part of the iRest tradition and community, leading retreats with the Integrative Restoration Institute and mentoring students doing their full certification. I had chosen a training that once again reinforced for me that all paths led back to Joan.

It’s always been about Joan, for me. I suppose your first teacher (and as far as I’m concerned, she is my first teacher…she is the first person to teach me what I innately knew I would work with for the rest of my life) is very much like your first love. The face time with them may have a set time frame, but they stay with you for every step of the journey, and they both teach you about love.

Joan opened the doorway for me and I’ve never wanted to shut it since. She did it humbly and quietly, leading by example and being a source of support and wisdom when I most needed it. She whet my appetite for the physical practice, and albeit unknowingly to me, planted the spiritual seeds that have grown into the forest of inquisitiveness and seeking that I eat, sleep and breathe today. She gave me the training wheels and the tools to grow into a man who loves himself, a far cry from the introverted gay kid afraid of the world. She taught me that there is just this. No trying, no fear, no forcing…no problem. Nothing to do, nothing to say. Just this.

I spent time in sangha with Joan and our community this weekend and one of the many things I’ve taken from this time we shared is that, in her words, “We’re still here.” As long as we’re still here, we are. As long as I am, and as long as my students are, Joan is. She is still teaching me and showing me how truly blessed I have been and always will be to have had life’s grace bestow upon me a teacher as infinitely everything as Joan is. I aspire to have the quiet grace that she has shown me and the world, and every time I think of her, I feel a recommitment to the essence of the yogic teachings. I am because she is.

There’s a saying that goes something like, “When the student is ready the teacher will present him or herself.” Joan presented herself to me back in 1999 and has kept doing so for other students from all over the world ever since. I need to get these words out now, I need to pay homage where it is so strongly overdue.

Thank you Joan. I am because you are.

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I Want

Posted by bramlevinson on May 13, 2015

IMG_3206I want to live a life of adventure. I want to know what it feels like to fall through the sky. I want to travel and see the world and have my soul resonate with the vibrations of the most beautiful geographical locations on this earth. I want to eat food that tastes like nothing I’ve ever tasted before. I want to swim in warm oceans of transparent blue water and let myself float under the sun until I’m waterlogged. I want to laugh until my jaw and my belly ache, and I want to love with a passion that inspires works of art. I want to stand in front of millions of people and wake them up to every single way that we’re exactly alike. I want to walk through forests and smell the richness of nature, and I want to be with friends who interweave their tapestries of life with mine. I want to sleep uninterrupted every night and wake up every morning when it suits my fancy. I want to find ways to express this unstoppable force of love that I find vibrating in my body, and I want to help others find ways to express the exact same force that they embody. I want to live bigger than anyone ever told me I could and I want to die knowing I did it all my way, no compromise, no dumbing down, no doing it so others can be comfortable with it.

I want you to take every “I want” out of that last paragraph and understand what I’m doing with my time.

What do you want?

 

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For The Love of Baltimore

Posted by bramlevinson on April 28, 2015

IMG_5152Events over the last couple of weeks in Baltimore have gotten extremely volatile with the suspicious circumstances surrounding Freddie Gray. What we know is that there is a massive race issue begging to be looked at in the USA, especially when it comes to the approach the police have towards the African-American community. The protests that have ended in rioting and a state of emergency officially being declared are slowly dwindling as calm is being restored in the city, and I’d like to take a moment to speak to the community I was welcomed into at M·Power Yoga exactly one month ago.

We did some serious personal digging last month going through the Bhagavad Gita, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the Astavakra Gita, Hindu & Yogic Mythology and meditation techniques and approaches. There were underlying concepts and insights to all the work that we did together that spoke to our individual and personal challenges and struggles. We discussed the need for every single on of us to begin the healing process using practical tools that can bring us closer to shifting from being cemented in the human experience to spending some time in the spiritual and energetic aspects of who we are and why we’re here. We also discussed how stories of battle and war, like in the Bhagavad Gita, are representative of the battles that are waged in every single one of our minds every single day, and that the tools that Krishna offers Arjuna in the book are the tools that we are meant to use to find our own way through life with peace and light, respecting universal laws and concepts.

There are some very fresh wounds in your city with the events of the past couple of weeks. There is collective healing that needs to happen in Baltimore. It pains me to see this occur in a city that was so welcoming and inspirational with its “phoenix-from-the-flames” resurgence I was witness to. And as I remind others of whenever life seems to dip closer to the darkness and further away from the light, our responsibility in moments like these is to rise up and meet the darkness with equal doses of light. We do this by practicing the universal laws of love and mercy: placing the welfare, concern and love for others above the love of the self AND forgiving the errors of others. This may seem impossible to do given the suspicious circumstances surrounding Freddie’s injuries that led to his death, but for the sake of your city, for the love of Baltimore, just do it. Healing will not take place right now with the vibration of chaos that has been stirred up. With peace one has clarity and perspective, the two essential building blocks needed to build a sold structure of community and unity.

You at M·Power now have your work brought to your doorstep. It is yours specifically to do, on a scale you probably never thought you’d be exposed to. You have been presented with a massive opportunity to put into practice what we have theoretically gone over. Ask how the events have affected you and how you have experienced thoughts and sensations of protest, anger, rage, chaos and violence in your own life up to this point. Ask how you can be a vessel for light and how you can help heal this tears in your community. Go out into your city and do your work. Your students need you. Your city needs you. Be a part of the enlightenment that is inevitable following dark passages like this one. Go our there and light up the night with what you know to be true, and do it for whatever you believe in: peace, community, love, unity, your personal dharma. Dedicate your efforts to something bigger than you. It’s your time. For you and for Baltimore.

I’m sending you energy and whatever else you need…I may be back home, but I’m with you. Have no doubt about it.

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On The Fringe

Posted by bramlevinson on April 22, 2015

struggleI’ve often heard it said that the older we get the more defensive armor we don to protect ourselves from the harshness of life. What I know from my experience is that when you’re a kid who’s not the jock or the popular one, that armor falls into place very early on in life. If you were ever teased, ridiculed, treated differently or ached to get the hell out of the environment you felt trapped in in your youth, then it’s safe to assume that you’ve gone through some pretty important spurts of personal evolution and growth.

Not everyone does. Remember that guy you knew (or knew of) when you were much younger? The guy who everyone thought was the shit? The one who looked good, always knew the right thing to say? The one who had that “it” quality that attracted the pretty girls and the envy of all the other guys? It’s safe to assume that that guy didn’t get propelled down the same road replete with spurts of personal development and growth that you did while you were struggling to make sense of your stranger-in-a-strange-land situation.

I knew some of those guys in later life: the ones who had it all as children and didn’t need to do any work because why fix what ain’t broke? Those guys who used to cheekily smoke a joint in the back of the school with their gangs of hangers-on never changed. Some of them ended up in the same towns they grew up in smoking the same weed, but the gangs dwindled until all that was left was an aging dude with a load of dead joints and some awesome memories of being the golden child. And then their life lessons began.

I was an oddity as a kid. I was drawn to other oddities. I spent time with people who knew what it meant to be on the fringe. Adopted kids, punks, rebels, orphans, geeks, ugly ducklings, prostitutes…the damaged, the isolated, the hurt and abandoned. That was who I felt compelled to spend my time with, because as I knew suffering, so did they. And I fucking trusted that, way more than the high fives for the star athlete at summer day camp.

As I know that my evolution was one of starting off feeling totally alone but certain of how I was meant to show up in the world, I have always gunned for the underdogs. For the lost, the forgotten, the runners-up and the late bloomers. For the ones who everyone else dismissed or ignored, for the second-chancers. I always have. And I always will.

The people who haven’t had it easy are the ones who typically make it happen on their own. On their own terms, using their own language, in their own time. These are typically the ones referred to as the freaks, the wrong-uns, the wastes of space. Society tends to dismiss these people, and leaves them to rot. But they don’t. They get up and they barrel forwards and they end up making something of themselves and the world around them that eventually gets everyone’s attention. And then they’re sent love and props and admiration.

I am that person who many people dismissed early as lost, disappointing, sadly not bound to live up to my potential. Guess what? I’m getting shit done. I was right the whole time. I just refused to dumb myself down or play by the rules for everyone else to be able to wrap me in a box and tie it up nice and tightly.

I want to dedicate these words, and this week’s classes, to those who have spent time on the fringe. To the belittled, the alternatives, the other ones, the freaks, geeks, emos and hippies. To the discriminated and the ostracized, the odd and the misunderstood. Know that your struggles are your education. Know that you will know monumentally more about how to navigate life than any straight-A student, and that the earlier your growing pains, the easier you’ll have it later on when life is truly yours to live with the freedoms you’ll be afforded as an adult.

To those who have and still struggle – I have your back. I know what you’re living and I know where you’re going. And I fucking celebrate you and all that you represent.

See you at class this week.

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Intention

Posted by bramlevinson on April 17, 2015

i don’t have time to pay attention to critics.
i don’t have time for judgement.
i don’t have time to look at all the photos of beautiful bodies in intricate yoga poses.
i don’t have time to get caught up in gossip.
i don’t have time for blaming.
i don’t have time for finger-pointing and name calling.
i don’t have time to try to convince people to pay attention.
i don’t have time for hypocritical speech and false “friends.”
i don’t have time for justification of bad behaviour.
i don’t have time to make sense of any person or organization who believes that anyone is better or more deserving than anyone else.
i don’t have time to get caught up in your bullshit competition game.

i make time for education.
i make time for community.
i make time for compassion.
i make time for the awakening we’re approaching from this long slumber of unconsciousness.
i make time for self-study.
i make time to speak for those whose voices are silent.
i make time for collaboration.
i make time for the advancement of collective freedom.
i make time for helping others move forward on their journey of illumination, understanding and spiritual development.
i make time for embodying love and doing my best to let it emanate with no specific direction.
i make time for the creation of space within which both you and I can do the work that matters.

How is your i spending its time?

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Minority Rising

Posted by bramlevinson on April 2, 2015

 
In this moment in time, a moment of almost daily terrorist attacks and overpopulation somehow leading to unheard of statistics of isolation and loneliness, we have a responsibility. 

In a moment in time when women fighting for education and equality in war-torn countries are being raped, tortured and killed for it, in a period of history when unhappiness bleeds into daily life and our leaders react by stripping away basic human rights, in a time when children with every luxury available to them are losing their childhood to the overt sexualization of a society with no direction, we have a responsibility.
In a world where technology affords never-before-seen methods of communication and yet we have an inability to speak face to face about issues that affect our happiness and well-being, we have a responsibility.
That responsibility is to be a source of light and connection to each other, to focus on hope and togetherness, to love bigger than anyone has ever proven capable before. To rise up out of the cesspool of our own dramas and bitchery, to recognize how blessed we are and ensure we stand up and speak for those whose voices have been muted, to prioritize peace at any and all costs.
 
We, in this part of the world, are in the minority. We are the minority who can speak our minds and engage in stimulating debate and not be shot for it. We are the minority who can pursue our dreams and goals and not be struck down in the process. We are the minority who can love freely, without shame or fear, and not tremble as we wait to be forcibly separated and punished for the simple act of loving. We can study, regardless of gender, and we can voice our opposition to our governments and not disappear mysteriously, never to be seen again. We can inspire and be inspired and actually make our lives better through that inspiration.
 
We have a responsibility to focus on everything that cannot be taken from us: love, peace, spirituality, kindness, faith, trust, brotherhood, sisterhood, light, hope and certainty. 
 
Remember that responsibility. Every day of your life. Don’t let yourself get complacent. Remember how good you have it and remember your responsibility. Don’t get tricked into believing that all is lost. We are found through intention and unity. We are found through the ties that bind us one to the other, not through our differences. We are found through the simple energy and act of love.
 
On this Easter weekend, remember your responsibility and focus on everything you’re blessed with, and send a prayer out for those struggling for a fraction of your blessings. Love huge, and be peaceful.

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This Is War

Posted by bramlevinson on February 10, 2015

25153f_83cd4e4697ce48038b1d73d9f99c7a52.png_srz_p_525_188_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_png_srzI have often spoken to students about how modern-day western culture has not lived through wartime in the same way our grandparents and great-grandparents did. Wars have, and are being waged globally, of course, but our day-to-day comfort and stability has never been drastically compromised. The Iraq war, the fight against the Taliban, ISIS… these are the conflicts that come to mind when we think about wars waged in our lifetime that affect the global consciousness. But there is a war that has actually hit much closer to home regardless of where we call home, one that rarely makes the headlines because the crimes to its victims, by and large, go unreported and, in some cases, get immediately dismissed, swept under the rug. This war is the war against women.

Women have been targeted for thousands of years. Creation myths in ancient times revered the female as the source of power and life, especially in Pagan cultures and rituals, but this reference for the Divine Mother shifted around 1700 B.C.E. with the Babylonian Seven Tablets of Creation. This story essentially told the tale of a mother who is killed by one of her male children, no less at the moment where her belly is greatly swollen, resembling a woman in the final stages of pregnancy. The murderous son then creates the world out of the dismembered body of his mother and becomes a God in his own right. This God murders and dismembers the divine female and Goddess worship begins its downward spiral until most, if not all, cultures and religions begin to assign greatness to the male archetypes by devaluing and demonizing the previously-held female ones.

In one of my earliest blog posts entitled The Devil and Greta Garbo, I discussed the stigma that left-handed people faced and referenced the Italian usage of the word “sinistra” (sinister) to signify that which relates to the left. In the Yoga tradition, amongst others, the left side of the body is equated with feminine energy, and so I deduced that the correlation could not be coincidental. I believe that the true power of the Divine Female, the energetic force of a Mother Earth and everything she encompasses, stood in the way of the male need to dominate and rule and served as a very real threat. As a result, the power that had once been relegated to the Goddess was not just taken, it was done so violently, shamelessly, ruthlessly and intentionally. All that related to the female was labelled less-than, suspect and sinister.

And so here we are. According to www.canadianwomen.org, “Gender inequality is visible in many areas, including politics, religion, media, cultural norms, and the workplace. Both men and women receive many messages—both blatant and covert—that men are more important than women. This fundamental inequality creates a rationale for humiliation, intimidation, control, abuse, and even murder. In this context, it becomes easier for a man to believe that he has the right to be in charge and to control a woman, even if it requires violence. This is not only wrong, it’s against the law. Violence against women is rooted in the belief that women deserve less social power and it is therefore acceptable – maybe even necessary – to exert power over them. This mindset also drives many other forms of violence, such as racism, homophobia, classism, ageism, and religious persecution.”

Women today carry more than they should in their daily lives. From not being able to walk down the street without the fear of being singled out presenting itself to being called bitch/whore/slut/cunt for the most innocuous of perceived slights by both men and other women, the symbolic and energetic weight of being a women today demands that females draw on that ancient strength and power that initially commanded our devotion to The Goddess. Women have to be more aware, more resilient, more shrewd and more careful then we men do. The double standard is disgusting, and I, as a man who adores and reveres women as the source of wisdom and life, am fed up with violence and abuse towards women being an accepted demon that lives amongst us.

The statistics pertaining to violence towards women are staggering, and to be honest, I’d rather have you research them yourselves than list them here and have people tune out to the point of this blog entry. My life is Yoga, and Yoga is my life, and Yoga is not about physical movement or postures. Yoga is not about breathing consciously or Lululemon clothes. Yoga is understanding that what happens to one of us happens to all of us. Yoga is recognizing oneness and unity and turning wounds into purpose. Yoga is standing up for those who have either been silenced or feel that their cries would fall on deaf ears. I want to add my voice to those cries to help amplify them so they can be heard. I am begging you to raise your voice as well so that WE CAN ALL BE HEARD.

Join me on Sunday, March 8, International Women’s Day, at the YM-YWHA (5400 Westbury Avenue) from 1-3pm as we come together as human beings who have decided that enough is enough. Let’s all stand united for all women who have ever felt diminished in any way simply because of their gender. This is a fundraiser and an awareness-raiser. Bring your yoga mats if you plan to participate in the asana practice, but don’t feel pressured to partake. I want everyone to simply show up authentically, in whatever way they deem relevant.

Bring your cash and chequebooks as well. 100% of funds raised is going to Women Aware/Femmes Averties (www.womenaware.ca) and tax receipts will be issued for donations $25 and greater.  Organized almost 20 years ago by a group of survivors of domestic abuse, this Montreal-based organization is actively making a difference by providing long-term support to victims, increasing awareness to this issue in our communities and working both independently and in conjunction with other local organizations and teams.

This is not going to be an opportunity to rip apart men or point the finger of blame. This event is a moment of healing, of community and of social awareness and activism. If we stand for nothing, we fall for everything. Let’s refuse to fall apart as a society. Let’s refuse to turn a blind eye. Let’s refuse complacency. It’s time to stand. For something and for each other. It can only happen if we’re all in it. Together.

See also: All Hail – a post from 2011 written for International Women’s Day.
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