An Interview with Advaya

This interview by Laura McDermott will be featured in The Beam #11 – Power in People. Subscribe now to read more on the subject


Advaya is a systems change platform founded by sisters, yoga teachers and activists Ruby Reed & Christabel Reed to galvanise a culture shift towards the radical regeneration of our soil, soul, and society. Advaya’s media platform, campaigns and live events empower and inspire. Exploring the connections between ecology, economy, spirituality and mental health, they weave stories of beautiful transformation, resistance and renewal.

Christabel has a passion for justice and an unerring fascination for how we can establish harmony where disharmony has occurred and free ourselves from whatever is inhibiting our inherent peace and power. During her Masters degree in the Traditions of Yoga & Meditation Christabel wrote a thesis on the Bhagavad Gita as an ecological treatise and guide on how we can come to act in the world, which has provided the framework for her approach to life today and has inspired her path as an activist.

Ruby’s deep connection to the ocean drew her away from a career in art galleries and academia to seek the role she could play in deepening connection and consciousness in the world at large. Her Masters degree in countercultural art in oppressive states enabled her to understand the power of grassroots creativity in inspiring positive movements of transformation. A passionate freediver, yoga teacher, yoga therapist and activist, Ruby is continually in awe of the power of daily embodiment practices as well as time spent out alone in nature to transform our perceptions, unstick and shift negative patterns, and open the doorway for change.

 

 

"By putting power in people, community interests and the wellbeing of the whole could lead to thriving and abundant lives for people and the planet."

 

Ruby and Christabel, thank you for taking the time to speak with us at The Beam – we are truly grateful to be able to bring attention to the work that Advaya is doing. Firstly, could you tell us about the way in which you are building an initiative and employing systemic change to uphold your key principles of radical regeneration and joyful resolution? 

Yes sure! We believe that the current crises we are facing today are all interconnected and the result of a system that has pushed both people and planet to their tipping point. So over the past 5 years we’ve been organising events, retreats, gatherings and campaigns that explore these connections to inspire and empower community around creating positive change.

Our work explores the relationships between ecology, spirituality, and mental health, and advocates regenerative narratives and economies, collective responsibility, public awakening and mobilisation. We look at how we relate to the world around us, through story, myth, behavioural patterns, psychology and politics, and we explore how we can act in harmony with natural systems to live with a deeper connection to the natural world, ourselves and our communities. By embedding ecological awareness into our lives, we can move from narratives of growth to an economy that values social, individual and environmental wellbeing. When wellbeing is at the centre of everything we do, we can create abundance and happiness in every realm of our lives.

 

To Advaya, what is it exactly that these two principles of “radical regeneration” and “joyful resolution” mean?

‘Radical’ relates to creating change that affects the fundamental nature of something, it is far-reaching or thorough. ‘Regeneration’ means to bring about a new and more vigorous life, it means to be revived. So, our aim of the “radical regeneration” of people and planet means that our work is about exploring and sharing ways of being that create deep and transformational change in the patterns of our global systems and that bring us into alignment with nature and the ecosystems that support all life.

‘Joyful’ is  feeling, expressing, or causing great pleasure and happiness. ‘Revolution’ is a dramatic and wide-reaching change in conditions, attitudes, or operation. Therefore, by organising around the principle of “joyful revolution” means that we work for change in a way that brings greater happiness and health to our own lives and the world around us. We believe that the changes we are being called to make in the face of our ecological collapse need not be seen as a “sacrifice”, but instead are a great opportunity to let go of an obsession with consumption, a religion of productivity and a system that is inherently destructive and that drives global inequalities and exploitation. Advaya wants to spread the word that another way is possible and that we can all co-create a world where both people and planet thrive.

 

 

Where does the environment come into play in all of this? 

According to systems theory, everything we do or even think has an impact in one way or another, nothing exists in isolation in and of itself. A system is made up of interrelated and interdependent parts bound by space and time, influenced by the environment, defined by its structure and purpose, and expressed through its functioning. Changing one part of a system will affect other parts, the whole system, or other systems.

According to this theory, our behavioural patterns, narratives and economies will have a direct impact on the world around us, and the only way that we can create true and deep change is by changing how we act within the systems we are part of.

If we don’t change the system, anything we do will remain superficial – like placing a bandaid over a hemorrhaging wound. There are so many examples of this. One example is foreign aid.  A huge chunk of British aid – billions of pounds each year – goes not to poor people but rather to an old colonial-era investment firm called CDC. CDC’s investments include luxury hotels, shopping malls, restaurant chains and advertising companies.  They claim that all of this will end up trickling down to the poor – but there’s exactly zero evidence for this, and in fact even the National Audit Office in a recent report agrees that it’s a lie. Another example is “green growth”. Green growth presumes that we can continue to grow GDP and consumption but decouple it from resource use and therefore CO2 emissions through technologies, however this policy lacks empirical support and any successful attempt to achieve adequate emissions reductions requires that we scale down energy demand. This means that a degrowth strategy is an absolute necessity if we want to stay within carbon budgets. Jason Hickel has written reports on both of these topics if you are interested in reading more.

So that’s where the environment comes in. We cannot separate ourselves from the world around us – we are the world around us! Just like we are nature too. One of the biggest issues of the modern world is to think that we are separate individuals and that our actions live in isolation, but in reality we exist within a web of interdependencies. By becoming more aware of this we can support alternative systems that are more closely attuned to natural cycles. For example, we can choose to shop at farmers markets instead of the supermarket, and just by that simple action, we decrease our environmental footprint, we decrease our waste and consumption, we live in greater harmony with the natural world, we reweave abundant local communities, we support degrowth strategies, and we enable ourselves, our communities and the environments we are part of to thrive.

 

The organisation was founded in 2015, was there a particular moment that sparked the flame which has now become Advaya? Tell us about the creative process leading up to the formation of the organisation.

The creative process is ongoing! As sisters, we work in a very intuitive and organic way. Advaya’s mission has always remained the same, but our content, events and campaigns have varied hugely. This is largely a reflection of the transformational journey of learning that we have been on since starting Advaya.

I am not sure if there was a particular “catalyst moment” that sparked the creation of Advaya. It was more a weaving together of different threads that led us to the belief that our way of life was not working for us or the planet and that we wanted to do something about it.

We were becoming increasingly concerned about the environmental crisis and saw that the very things that were causing this crisis were also causing the demise of mental health in ourselves and communities. Both dedicated Yoga and meditation practitioners, we were simultaneously becoming disenchanted with the “wellbeing world” that was so focused on inner wellbeing whilst seemingly paying little attention to the wellbeing of our natural world and the ecosystems we are part of. We came to understand that the health of the planet and health of the people are two sides of the same coin. Instead of the popular slogan “heal yourself to heal the world”, we believe deep healing combines both inner and outer work.

We decided that instead of lying in bed at night watching documentaries on the horrors of our growth-based economy, consumerism and ecocidal systems, we wanted to start organising events so we could learn within a growing community of people cared.

The community and celebratory aspect was always really key for us. We wanted to think about how we could have fun in a conscious way that built a deep connection to the natural world and supported transformative change that went beyond the surface. We created Advaya at the time when conscious and sober parties were just starting out, and we wanted to bring this idea to the realm of activism, wellbeing and changemaking.

 

 

Over half a decade, Advaya has grown into a multi-faceted platform for intersectional activism. Can you tell us about the 5 key ways in which you work.

• Raising Awareness

We curate solution-oriented events and content to inspire, empower and educate, bringing together a growing and diverse community with groundbreaking figures from the forefront of social change.

• Empowering Action

We inspire conscious activism that is regenerative and sustainable. We empower young people to find their voice for positive change, to become aware of the weight of their actions, and to realise their individual potential and power to address the crises we face.

• Creating Community

We create community around positive change making through in-person events and gatherings. When we come together we realise we are not alone in our hopes and dreams for a thriving, regenerative and globally considerate life.

• Improving Wellbeing

We link personal healing with social action and believe that ill mental health and environmental degradation go hand in hand: the way we treat the world is a mirror of how we treat ourselves. We incorporate meditation and embodiment practices to nurture individual and collective resilience so that our actions may be a source of flourishing — individually, together and for society.

• Celebrating Life

We are falling back in love with life. We promote joyful activism. We believe in the power of re-enchantment and that by acting for the welfare of the world our lives are filled with purpose, belonging and connection.

 

 

One of your goals as an organisation is to ‘Equip and empower individuals, communities and networks with knowledge and tools to tackle the root causes of today’s crises’. The theme of this edition is “Power in People”.  Why do you think it is so important to hand the power over to the people?

The systems of power in the world we live in today are built on economic growth; people are seen as ‘consumers’ and the planet is a ‘resource’ to be exploited. Corporate and political power are inextricable from each other, and the cards are stacked to keep the plates spinning in the same way. True change must happen at policy level, but it is unlikely that the people in power will change a system that is serving them so well. So it’s up to us – the people – to act within the system and protest against the way it isn’t serving us (think street protests, public campaigns, “flatpack democracy” or standing in politics), and at the same time, we can create decentralised systems (think local farmers markets, forest schools, second hand sales, local currencies). If true wellbeing was put at the heart of economic and political systems, the world would be a very different place. By putting power in people, community interests and the wellbeing of the whole could lead to thriving and abundant lives for people and the planet.

 

What advice would you give to those at both an individual and community level who want to just ‘make that start’ in their journey towards helping the planet and themselves? 

The easiest way to “make that start” is to commit to yourself that you want to live a different way. That’s the first step for any type of behavioural change, whether you want to kick a bad habit or start a new way of thinking and living. You can then look at your daily life and start from there. Instead of going to the supermarket you could see if there are any farmers markets or small local shops in your neighbourhood or local area. These markets and shops support local communities and small-scale producers, their products have a much smaller environmental impact and involve much less waste in production and distribution, plus there will usually be a much greater variety of organic produce in less plastic wrapping. The food is better quality and more nutritious, plus you get to know people in the community and have greater human contact, which immediately impacts your happiness. It’s a win-win situation all around, and is probably the biggest difference we can make in one simple change.

Other things you can do are switch your electricity provider from fossil fuels to renewables (examples in the UK are Good Energy or Ecotricity); switch to an ethical bank that doesn’t invest in things that are damaging the Earth (the best ethical bank in Europe is Triodos). Try if you can avoid high street shops and fast fashion. Stop buying clothes you don’t want or need and see if you can upcycle things in your wardrobe or go one year only buying things second hand. Try and start a short daily meditation or awareness practice and try to spend as much time as possible out in nature. Even being in a city garden or looking up at the sky can create a deeper connection to the world around you. The more connected you feel, and the more you care about the natural world, the more you will be able to uphold the changes you’ve made.

 

"Seeing thriving communities based on ecological systems regenerating hearts, minds and soils gives us huge hope for the future."

 

Looking to the future, is there anything in particular that brings you hope? 

There is so much suffering in the world at human and planetary level. With every new statistic or report it can seem that things are only getting worse and there’s no hope. But feeling hopeless is an important part of the journey. Out of the bedrock of despair and hopelessness so many people are coming together and calling for change. It feels that the frustration and desperation is making us stronger as a movement. We are not falling for corporate takeovers or empty promises and people are taking the power into their own hands to support new systems of being, thinking and acting. Seeing thriving communities based on ecological systems regenerating hearts, minds and soils gives us huge hope for the future. We know it’s possible to regenerate on a massive scale, the next step is taking this approach to policy level and to places where it hasn’t yet reached.

 

Is there anything you would like to add? 

Sign up to our mailing list or follow us on social media to access all of our online content and find out about our upcoming events. In the context of Covid19 a lot of our activities will remain in the online space, so you can join us from wherever you are in the world.