The Greek philosopher Socrates once said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.”
Bram Levinson, a Montreal-based yoga teacher who offers classes and workshops internationally, took this infamous quote one step further in his book, The Examined Life, by providing a simple system and convenient starting place for examining one’s life. In the process, he’s also revealed the secrets to creating a life worth living.
The book is based on a workshop that Levinson has given in studios and at festivals all over North America. It’s also based on the careful and reflective examination of his own life. The wisdom within is grounded in yoga teachings (in particular, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, The Bhagavad Gita, and tales from Hindu mythology).
As Levinson states in his introduction, his intention is to help people “look at life differently and knowing where to start in the examination of who we are, why we’re here, how we relate to each other, and how to live a life steeped in happiness, peace, strength, clarity, and hope.”
He starts off by defining the five essential needs of all people: sustenance, shelter, to love and be loved, connection and stimulation. These needs (which appear to be loosely based on Maslow’s hierarchy) are the basis of our survival, and it’s our responsibility to ensure that they’re being met.
From there, Levinson guides the reader through short but jam-packed chapters that explore the nature of the true self, enlightenment, happiness, confronting our past, and letting go of limited ideas of ourselves. Each chapter begins with a series of questions related to the theme, intended to prompt thought and self-reflection.
Levinson doesn’t give concrete answers to solutions. He offers no false promises, instead providing insight, information gained from his own process and examples from his life.
This is where the book truly shines. Bram Levinson has taken the time to examine his own life, to think deeply about the reality he wants to create and the ways he wants to take action in the world. The Examined Life is his way of sharing his insights and encouraging people to ask the hard questions and get more out of their lives
He acknowledges that this kind of self-examination is outside of the mainstream. “This is a rebellion,” he writes. “A rebellion against everything that doesn’t serve you, that doesn’t work for you, that you know needs to change.”
If the purpose of human life is personal and spiritual growth, we can start to understand our true nature when we take the time to examine and reflect on our experiences. Fortunately, Levinson gives us a clear and enjoyable-to-read manual to break unconscious repetitions and change the way the think about our lives.