By Nastassja Salem
Advaya Initiative is an environmental and holistic wellbeing platform created by Ruby Reed and Christabel Reed, two sisters, activists and yoga teachers who see the ecological, social, political and personal crises of civilisation as interconnected and as an opportunity to evolve, to come together and co-create.
Advaya seeks to inspire activism and healing in our relationships with ourselves and the natural world through editorial, video and events based content seeking to inspire, empower and educate. It’s bringing together an ever-increasing community of people who care with groundbreaking speakers, thinkers and writers, as well as the world’s best healers and teachers, to embark on full day immersions of workshops and talks, retreats, screenings, supper clubs, panel discussions, pilgrimages, parties and gatherings.
Here, I interviewed the founders about their latest event, which focused on the need for change in the fashion industry.
Your last event focused on “the dark side of fashion.” Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
The fashion industry has a devastating environmental and social impact on our planet. Fashion currently emits more C02 than ALL international flights and maritime shipping combined, and one cotton T-shirt uses up the water an individual would drink over three years. Not only are the methods of producing clothing wholly unethical and environmentally unfriendly, but our rapacious consumerism is out of control and deeply unsustainable. Our first event looking at sustainable fashion, the first of a series, was in February, and sought to empower individuals and encourage us to bring awareness to our shopping habits and attitudes – to slow down, choose well and make it last.
While clothes makers must create sustainably and ethically, we have so much power by gradually transforming our habits through awareness and education. We can’t consume our way to a sustainable future, but we do have so much power as a consumer to support the good and not the bad.
What was the best thing to come out of those discussions?
We discussed the power of the consumer to make an impact through what they decide to do or not to do with their money, and also through conversation and actions that spread the message further. At the same time however, we can’t consume our way to a sustainable world, so it is only by moving away from a narrative of consumption that we will ever make a real difference.
What are some of the challenges you face with Advaya?
It’s just the two of us behind Advaya, and with so many events it can get a little overwhelming at times.
The challenge lies at remembering that this is a labour of love, and in the same way that we can only make a difference in the world or in our own lives once we’ve accepted and loved where we’re at right now, we must also be working through Advaya only from a place of love and acceptance, not frustration at how gradually things change or from anxiety that we’re not doing enough, but rather to enjoy each step we take, to keep learning from our experiences, to be grateful for all our blessings and excited about opportunities to keep on going in a positive direction.
What are some of the most important things you’ve learned since starting the events?
That there are so many people doing amazing things. When we get an idea for an event we start researching to learn about the topic and find individuals working in that area to come to speak or host workshops. Through this we come across the most incredible people, projects, organisations and communities who are dedicating their lives to healing the planet, people and themselves.
Also, although there is so much negativity being reported in the press, there is also so much light, progress and good will, and we need to talk a lot more about this so that we can change social narratives.
When people come together there is an amazing positivity, strength and enthusiasm, it makes us excited and has made us recognise the importance of movements that promote positive values, ideas and experiences. We want to spread these feelings as much as we can.
What can people do in their own space to become agents for change?
Increase awareness of how your actions affect yourself, those around you and the natural world. By becoming aware of our actions, we become aware of our habits. Once aware, we can gradually start to replace those unconscious patterns with conscious and positive ones that nourish our relationship with ourselves and with nature. Only through awareness do we evolve. Advaya is very much the result of our yoga practice, which is exactly that, a process of becoming mindful of our actions, of how we spend our energy and how we perceive ourselves and the world. Whether it is the way you move into an asana or the way you go about your day, we all have the power to create positive changes.
What have been some of the most inspiring people or discussions you’ve facilitated?
We hosted a day called ‘Cycle alignment for female empowerment’ where we explored the power that comes from aligning oneself with natural cycles around us, from seasonal and lunar cycles to the food we eat and our hormonal/menstrual cycles. As such, we are not fighting against ourself or nature, but understanding that we are all whole as we are, and coming to terms with changes, allowing them to be a source of sustenance and nourishment in themselves.
Also, ‘Is ecology relevant?’ was an evening discussion we hosted at UCL in London with Satish Kumar, Craig Bennett (CEO of Friends of the Earth) and Molly Scott Cato (Green Party MEP). Each speaker gave a 20 minute presentation on the importance of Ecology, and we followed this with a panel discussion and audience Q&A. The speakers had such a great impact on the attitudes of everyone in the room. They spoke with energy and vigour, taking the topics straight at the heart, and infecting us all with their enthusiasm, strength, and anger at the current system. We left inspired to continue working for change and spreading the message in any way we can.
What’s your ultimate goal with this?
To keep learning and growing alongside an ever increasing community of people who care. We’d like to be doing more regular events around particular topics such as sustainable fashion, food sovereignty, activism, alternative economies, aligning with natural cycles, meditation, ocean conservation, etc., and then re-package the content of and take it into schools so that we can be facilitating a space for kids to learn as well.
We’re developing ‘Advaya Live’ so that anyone around the world who can’t make it to the events can watch them from home.
We are also developing Advaya Magazine and making it into an educational resource for people to keep coming back to that inspires awe and wonder, reminding ourselves of how beautiful, complex and magical this world is, and why we should be doing everything in our power to harmonise with it, support it and allow ourselves and all beings to thrive as they naturally should.