Advaya was born in 2015 when sisters Ruby & Christabel Reed asked, rather than an inconvenience or burden, what if we saw the ecological, social, political, personal and spiritual crises as invitations to change and opportunities to evolve? The way of life sanctioned by society was clearly not working for the people or the planet so they set out to explore how they could bring greater harmony and happiness in their own lives and the world around them.
Both Ruby and Christabel had been dedicated Yoga and Meditation practitioners since thirteen and fourteen but felt disheartened and frustrated by the “wellbeing” world of London, which focused almost solely on “personal development” whilst environmental and social justice, the very foundations of wellbeing, went almost unacknowledged. Similarly, it seemed that the activist communities they were beginning to come into contact with had little engagement with personal wellbeing or spiritual practice and were witnessing high levels of burn out, anger and despair.
Rather than activism and inner transformation standing in contradistinction, Ruby and Christabel began to understand that these were two sides of the same coin and both were necessary for the deep changes that our interconnected crises of consumerism, mental health and ecological breakdown were calling for.
Ruby & Christabel wanted to learn how they could stop perpetuating the same oppressive systems that had caused and contiued to cause such incomprehensible suffering and injustice. They wanted to learn how they could carve out meaningful lives of connection and belonging. Most importantly, they wanted to learn within community. They wanted to know that they were not alone in their dreams and vision for a world where people and planet thrived.
So, on Saturday 5 September 2015 they organised their first gathering and invited Satish Kumar, Mick Collins, Nick Jankel and Stewart Gilchrist to come to The Tabernacle in Notting Hill to explore changemaking, purpose and joy. They were joined by 150 others and Advaya was born.
1. > “Building community is to the collective what spiritual practice is to the individual” — Grace Lee Boggs
After their first event at The Tabernacle, Ruby & Christabel began organising retreats, pilgrimages and full day immersions into ecology, spirituality and the nature of change-making at The Hoxton Hotels. These day long events would begin with a choice of embodied or meditative practices, followed by communal lunch and then an afternoon of talks.
> “What we practice on the small scale sets the pattern for the whole system” — Adrienne Maree Brown
The practical and meditative elements of Advaya events have been fundamental since the beginning. This is because without experience we cannot embody our learning and without meditative practices it is hard to see our reality clearly, to accept where we’ve gone wrong, to replace unconscious behaviours with conscious ones and to become empowered individuals who can acknowledge their ability to create deep change that goes beyond the surface.
Ruby and Christabel, now also both Yoga Therapists, believe strongly in the power of daily practice to assist individuals in overcoming whatever obstacles they feel are preventing them from connecting to their inherent peace and power. This individual daily practice allows us to remain grounded and supported whilst we continue to evolve towards a life of greater happiness and harmony.
> The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion” — Albert Camus
Over the course of 2017 Ruby and Christabel massively increased the output of Advaya as they started to explore indigenous wisdom, the mythic imagination, the reconciliation of the masticuline and feminine principles, cycle alignment and rewilding from within - how we can find our rightful place amongst the living ecology of Gaia and thrive in harmony with our natural world.
Advaya events were initiated with the intention of learning, but by year two it was clear that unlearning was just as important.
With a reconnection to our wilder, more instinctive and ancient selves we can connect deeper with the more-than-human world and therefore heal not only ourselves but the wider environment.
During this time Ruby and Christabel met many inspiring teachers and wisdom keepers including Pat McCabe, Alastair McIntosh, Jill Purse, Sharon Blackie, Jay Griffiths, Craig Bennet, Mac Macartney, Rachel Corby and Sara Campbell.
> “Finance is not an immutable natural law of the universe. It is ours. We made it and we can change it” — Anna Laycock
After a year exploring the power of myth, storytelling, meditation and the mind, Ruby and Christabel shifted their attention to the global systems or food, waste, fashion and our growth-based economy. After the 30-40 events they had organised it became clear that at the root of our ecological and social crisis was a growth-based economy that was ravaging our world and our minds.
The Alternative Economies Series invited Helena Norberg-Hodge, Brett Scoot, Duncan McCann, Jaya Brekkie, Jason Hickel and others to explore the radical and ethical solutions to take us beyond our debt-growth trap. For Ruby and Christabel the series was transformational, and highlighted the fact that to ensure a democratic and sustainable fytyre we need to find an economic system that prioritises the planet and people over profit. The de-growth and localisation movements have remained at the heart of Advaya’s work ever since because not only does the growth-based economy have dire environmental effects, but it also necessitates a consumerist society and a narrative that we will never have enough or be enough.
> “To live an enchanted life is to pick up the pieces of our bruised and battered psyches, and to offer them the nourishment they long for. It is to be challenged, to be awakened, to be gripped and shaken to the core by the extraordinary which lives at the heart of the ordinary. Above all, to live an enchanted life is to fall in love with the world all over again” — Sharon Blackie
The Re-Enchantment Series was inspired by the work of Sharon Blackie who said “We have fallen out of love with the world. It’s clear from the way we treat it”.
Ruby and Christabel wondered how life might be if we were to cultivate presence and wonder at the world around us, not in the form of fantasy or escapism but by developing a vivid sense of belongingness to a rich and multi-layered world. Over the series they explored quantum physics, forests, consciousness, sacred geometry, sound, mushrooms, holistic science, mycelial networks and other aspects of life that we take for granted and act as though their existence is mundane.
A big part of why Advaya exists is to transform the mechanistic way we approach life and to imbue us with wonder and presence. It is a privilege to be alive, to be on this earth and of this earth. When we acknowledge the sacredness of life we cannot not want to act in accordance with that which is life-affirming.
Climate change is not just a problem for the future. It is impacting us everyday, everywhere.
Throughout 2019 the work of Advaya deepened as the world around them became increasingly involved in direct action and the climate crisis was pushed into the mainstream. Ruby and Christabel continued to explore the notion of radical wellbeing, how we can best care for ourselves and the world around us, whilst hosting their second annual Regenerative Activism: Ecology of Movements event in partnership with Ulex Project. At the same time they were becoming involved in Extinction Rebellion and the building of a regenerative culture that could support and hold the movement whilst preparing for the inevitable challenges coming our way.
Ruby and Christabel had always understood that the climate crisis was a human rights crisis, indeed that is what initiated the creation of Advaya, however the complexity and profundity of climate justice had not quite landed until they organised Climate Justice: Basic Rights for People & Planet. This event brought together some of the UKs leading environmental justice organisations with a room teeming with young people to explain how environmental security and human rights are profoundly intertwined. The natural environment is our life-support system and its destruction represents a fundamental erosion of basic human rights.
“What we are suffering from at this time on the planet is a crisis of relationship” — Colin Campbell
The Shifting Consciousness Series brought together elders to explore our indigenous roots, the alchemy of change, rites, rituals and relationships with Pat McCabe, Glenie Kindred and Colin Camobell. These gatherings concluded that for real revolution, that is harmonious and sustainable, we need to look deeply into the way we relate to ourselves each other and the natural world. If we do not address the way we think and approach life we will not be able to transform the fundamental elements that are creating these crisis scenarios.
“The time are urgent let us slow down” — Bayo Akomolafe
2019 was also the year that Rebel Retreats were born! Ruby, Christabel and Sara Zaltash wanted to support the Extinction Rebellion movement by organising low-cost co-created weekends for rebels and change-makers to help foster deeper community, practice and ways of being that could support us through these challenging times.
Retreats and wellbeing cannot just be for those with excess time and money on their hands. Spending time in nature, in community, with nutritious food and the sharing of songs, skills, practices, games and ways of being are integral to building personal and collective resilience whilst fostering the radical regeneration of people and planet. Advaya is dedicated to making retreats and regenerative practices more accessible for all.
Our inner and outer crises are two sides of the same coin. It is time we acted on that fact.
Towards the end of 2019 Advaya collaborated with Alex Evans and the Collective Psychology Project to host a collaborative enquiry into how psychology and politics can be brought together in new, creative ways that help us shift from a ‘them and us’ to ‘a larger us’ mentality. This work is integral to heal our fragmented psyches and our divided society.
2019 was a year of deepening understanding, expanding awarness and taking more radical action.
…to be continued…
“If the world is to be healed through human efforts, i am convinced that it will be by ordinary people, peoples whose love for this life is even greater than their fear” — Joanna Macy