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  • The Examined Life by Bram Levinson

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    Bram Levinson

    Bram Levinson

    AuthorYoga & Meditation Teacher Retreat CoordinatorMentor

    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 multiple festivals and conferences, and his yoga retreats bring students across the globe twice a year, with previous locations including Ravello on the Amalfi Coast, Istanbul, Berlin, Tulum, Santorini, Paros and Mljet in Croatia. Bram will bring students back to Paros in Greece in September 2015.

    Watch out for his second book, A Year in the Light: Daily Spiritual Life Hacks, Intentions and Reminders, being published on November 14, 2015 (available digitally for pre-order on iTunes here: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/book/year-in-light-daily-spiritual/id1009361847?mt=11).

    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.

This One For Matty

Posted by bramlevinson on July 25, 2015

The past couple of weeks have been interesting for me in that I have found myself practicing yoga more frequently than I typically do. If I can get 2-3 classes in a week, I’m happy, but over the past few weeks I’ve found myself practicing 4-5 times a week, and what it has brought me is beautifully informative. With more practice has come more strength, more awareness as to when in each individual practice I feel my body begin to respond, open and warm up. I have found myself in a new phase of relationship with my practice and my body, and as a result of the observations I’ve made, I have also found myself compelled to pay more attention to what I’m eating, when I’m eating, if I’m eating. The same applies for rest: I find myself resting when I need to, saying no to things that will interrupt that rest, and being active when typically I could just keep on resting. I am in awe of my body, how it works and responds and, ultimately, the relationship I have with it.

Last week I was notified by a friend that an old friend of ours with whom we worked years ago had been hospitalized and was currently in the Intensive Care Unit. Mathieu Leroux is the epitome of an artist: he is an actor, an author, an avid fan of music and has staged his own one-man shows. He is a creator, taking the intangibility of thought and inspiration and making it manifest into his art that he shares with the rest of the world. This man who uses his body, his movement and his words to continue to give to the world has been rendered physically immobile by a syndrome that goes by the name of Guillain-Barré syndrome. Now, I don’t know what brought it on in Mathieu’s case, but at this point it doesn’t matter. What matters is what is, and what is is an almost-total state of paralysis. Guillain-Barré syndrome occurs when the immune system recognizes the cells found in the sheaths surrounding the nerves in the body as threatening, and then targets them. This is a very rare syndrome that, in some cases, occurs after one has recovered from a viral infection. Regardless of what causes it, all I know is that I went to visit Matty in the hospital this past week and found him asleep, intubated and in a state that I want him to recover from quickly. The good news is that he will recover, as the recovery statistics with this ailment are great. But it’s going to be a long road, one full of highs and lows. I know, however, that Matty has what it takes to come back from this and let it inform the rest of his life.

I teach yoga and meditation and write the books I write because I am firmly convinced that we all need more education in mindfulness. We need to have more conversations about what the nature of the mind is by default and how it, in many cases, does us a disservice by honing in on that which is most extreme. If yoga and meditation, in certain traditions, are about deprogramming initial response, then we need to work on being present enough to recognize when the mind is focusing on, obsessing over, something that is not helpful, that is allowing tensions to wriggle their way into the body’s musculature and make themselves at home. One of the key Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (from the Ashtanga Yoga System) is Vitarka Badhane Pratipaksha Bhavanam, which translates to “in the presence of negative thoughts, think of opposite ones.” An almost childishly simple piece of advice, but wiser and more effective than you can imagine. The root of this teaching stems from the knowledge that in any given moment, we have a say in what we point our mind to. In the most extreme of circumstances, we have the ability to not fall victim to them and be at their mercy. We have the ability to focus on areas of least or pleasant sensation when there is physical discomfort or pain. We have the ability to point the mind to a hope, a dream, to faith. We have the ability to direct our thoughts to that which is useful and serves us, especially when our thoughts would get pulled into the chaotic and unpleasant, which is usually what happens. We typically spend our time mulling over what brings us pain and suffering, and so in these moments it is our duty to deprogram initial response and re-point our mind to that which allows us to maintain calm, stay in action and not succumb to fear or pain. That is yoga.

Mathieu is currentFullSizeRenderly in a situation where he has two choices: to either succumb to fear, visualizing how all of this could go even more horribly, or he could re-point his mind to healing, to faith in that healing, to the community of family, friends and loved ones who have gathered around him like protective parents, to getting through this and emerging stronger, more informed and more galvanized than ever to bring this experience with him as he continues to spoil us with his art. His situation is an extreme version of what I discuss in my teachings: moments that we wish would pass quicker than they do and what tools to use to navigate the passage of those moments wisely, in action instead of in reaction. We breath deeply when that’s available, but more importantly we take control of what the mind is focusing on and we refocus it. To light. To faith. To healing. This is his yoga practice.

I have spoken to my students this week about what’s going on with Mathieu so we could dedicate our movement, breath and intentions to not only him, but to others in our lives who could use a little infusion of light, of love, of energy, patience and resilience. I hope and pray that a fraction of all that love has landed with those to whom it was directed.

Matty’s recovery will no doubt be longer than any of us would like it to be, and despite his community having banded together over the past week to raise money for him to not have to worry about living expenses as he gradually makes his way out of this moment, any and all donations will not only be appreciated, they’ll be essential. The only thing we want him to expend energy on is coming back to a fully mobile state, and so I’m including the link to the crowdfunding site where all donations are going. Visit https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/soutenir-mathieu-leroux#/story to donate whatever you can. Think of Mathieu, even if you don’t know him, and send him your thoughts and good energy. Be grateful for that which we typically take for granted in the pursuit of our goals and dreams: these bodies that allow us to make our way through life, these voices that allow us to express ourselves, this community that we are blessed to be a part of.

Think of Matty and join me and all his network support in gunning for his recovery. We love you Mathieu. You will get through this. We will be here to make sure that happens.

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A Pill to Swallow

Posted by bramlevinson on July 13, 2015

10827994_10153292025159258_1015895408197009231_oA few months ago I organized a yoga benefit to raise money for Women Aware, a Montreal-based non-profit organization that provides assistance and “long-term support to those living with the dynamics of domestic violence.” At around the same time I became part of the #HeForShe international campaign put together by UNWomen. This campaign is a call that “brings together one half of humanity in support of the other half of humanity, for the benefit of all,” essentially serving as a call to all men to raise their voices and awareness to fight the inequalities and suffrage women are exposed to simply because they’re women. I got involved with them for the same reason that I organized the fundraiser: I was traumatized at an early age when the concept of rape was explained to me and since then I have felt a visceral alliance with anyone dealing with the fallout of violence against women.

My career started out almost seven years ago as a yoga teacher, but little did I know that in finding my voice to teach I would find my voice to start speaking up for those whose voices have been muted by abuse, inequality and sheer terrorism. By now, most of you know that I’m not a mild-mannered, meek teacher. I have an opinion, especially when it comes to injustice, and I’m not afraid to voice that opinion, especially when I come across intolerance of any kind. I have been told that I can be aggressive in my expression, that I’m not adopting the right “yoga” attitude of non-judgement and compassion. Hear me now, because I won’t ever be repeating myself: I understand that every single one of us has the potential, if influenced by certain variables, to do or be anything or anyone, and I use the “There but for the grace of God go I” expression daily. I also feel tremendous compassion and empathy for those who have perpetuated the cycles of chaos and violence that they have found themselves a part of. With that said, I also believe that we have to stop tip-toeing around in this moment of political correctness so that we can expose the root causes of how we’ve arrived at this moment in time with such a heavy cloud of ignorance, darkness and intolerance weighing us down. And so sometimes I’m going to communicate in ways that you may not want to hear your yoga teacher or spiritual guide communicating in. To those I may be offending, please accept my apologies now and understand that all my actions in my career and on my path of dharma stem from the desire for peace, compassion, unity and spiritual understanding. Also understand that this is the way I’m doing it. My way. If it doesn’t resonate with you, there are hundreds of thousands of other teachers for you out there, and I encourage you to seek them out.

10413309_10153081125548426_3971799968709502221_n I, as I progress in my studies and work with helping others heal from their emotional and physical wounds, am constantly helping women heal from sexual assaults. This is an epidemic, take my word for it. And it’s unacceptable. It keeps coming up, over and over again, in the work that I’m doing. The pain and trauma that is being afflicted on women in the name of power, of control, of taking what someone else thinks they’re entitled to, is reprehensible. And I will continue to raise awareness with MY voice to make sure that we don’t get complacent or ever think that violence in any form is a necessary evil that we have to learn to live with. Bullshit. I’m calling bullshit, and I will continue to call it with every person I encounter who has been hurt at the hand of someone else. I will write (as I did with this blog post months ago for International Women’s Day), I will speak, I will teach and I will continue to learn so I know what I’m talking about and fighting peacefully in the name of.

Understand this: violence against women is not going to be tolerated. I will make sure that women’s voices get heard, even if it means me raising mine to amplify theirs. This path I’m on with yoga means nothing if all I’m doing is instructing people to fold forwards or balance on their tip-toes. My path is one of awakening, for myself and others, so that we can address what needs to be addressed without fear of rubbing people the wrong way. Sometimes we need a little shaking to wake up and see clearly what we have been allowing to occur right on our doorsteps.

To support Women Aware, please visit their website that is hyperlinked above.

 

 

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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 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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