Christabel Rose Reed is a yoga teacher, yoga therapist and activist. She is on a mission to link inner transformation with social change and empower people to embark on the entwined journey of inner and outer healing.
In 2015, Christabel and her sister Ruby founded Advaya, the London-based system change initiative that organizes around the principles of radical regeneration and joyful revolution. Since then they have launched a media platform called EarthSpace and organized over 150 events including full-day immersions, panel discussions, retreats, pilgrimages, circles and festivals.
Christabel addresses the question of “What Could Possibly Go Right?” with thoughts including:
- That we need to engage more with our imaginations, to look beyond the false solutions that are being presented to us, and to “envisage the kind of future that we know deep down we want and that we know are possible.”
- That “our understanding of what our purpose is has been shifted, because so much of our stability has gone” and despite that, we could “harness this opportunity, this pause, in order to co-create futures that can truly thrive.”
- That online events can bring together more speakers and audiences across geographic limitations, giving “accessibility to new narratives and new stories.”
- That despite their benefits, online events can sever the deeper human connection and community building that comes from meeting in-person.
- That we should avoid feeling overwhelmed by large scale systemic change, instead focussing on our own small impacts we can make.
- That “cultivating the love within us, for each other and for this incredible life that we’ve been blessed with” can create a different world of creativity, fearlessness, compassion and joy.
- Regenerative Activism https://www.regenerativeactivism.com
- EcoResolution https://advaya.co/my-eco-resolution
- Guardians of the Forest course https://advaya.co/events/series/guardians-of-the-forest
Connect with Christabel Rose Reed
Hi, Vicki Robin here, host of What Could Possibly Go Right? A project of the Post Carbon Institute in which I interview cultural scouts, people who see far and serve the common good, asking each of them my one core question: In all that is going awry and going wrong, or at least going in a confusing direction, what do they see from their perspective could possibly go right? What could possibly go right? So today’s guest is Christabel Rose Reed, and she’s a special category of cultural scout. In 2015, Christabel and her sister Ruby founded an organization called Advaya, a London-based system change initiative that organizes around the principles of radical regeneration and joyful revolution. Since then, they have launched a media platform called Earth Space and organized over 150 events, including full day immersions, panel discussions, retreats, pilgrimages, circles and festivals. In 2019, she founded the educational initiative, Eco Resolution that aims to empower people all over the world to step up rather than shut down in the face of our ecological and climate emergency. Behind the more outward facing work, is a deep commitment and passion for meditation and yoga. In 2017, she completed her Masters with first class honors in the traditions of yoga and meditation. So as my life went online, as did many of yours in 2020, and I looked around for what could possibly go right, and for gatherings that seemed to address the questions that I had, I discovered a conference at Advaya organized in collaboration with the Ulex Project called Regenerative Activism. I was captivated by the interviews conducted by Christabel and her team, with each speaker bringing out an unusual depth and honesty for most of the online events that I’ve gone to. So, I wanted to talk to Christabel because she’s the curator, and I’m interested in talking with other curators and podcast hosts and people who produce events that generate meaning for other people, and whose art form is not their own books or music or songs or projects, etc. Their art form is this curation, is this bringing together diverse elements into a whole that somehow or another, through which they can communicate their vision and their desire and their hopes for a better world. So here’s my conversation with Christabel Rose Reed.
I discovered you by chance. I discovered that Regenerative Activism online course in 2020 and it was the best thing I did online that year. It was stunning. It was because you combine spiritual practice, earth regeneration, and kick-ass activism; sort of politically challenging the power structure. All those things combined in the people you selected, and your interventions also, the questions you asked revealed that how deeply you think about this. So for all of those reasons, I thought, how cool would this be to get Christabel to tell me her answer to my question. Christabel, in all that is going wrong and going crazy, what could possibly go right?
Christabel Rose Reed
So much could go right. I think we could shift out of this idea that there’s kind of no alternative, and that the path has been built for us. We could remember what it is to be a species that has some incredible gift of an imagination, and that we can work and play and engage with our imagination to envisage the kind of futures that we know deep down we want and that we know are possible. We can cultivate imagination and nurture our imaginations within ourselves, and we can also start to nurture the peoples around us, their imaginations. We can come together and reinvigorate collective imagination. I’m really passionate about that and that is what really excites me. So that could go right.
I think if we started engaging with our imaginations, we’ll be able to look beyond the false solutions that are being presented to us right now, in the face of the climate and ecological crisis and great social injustice. And we can actually get to the root of the conditions which give rise to all of these crises and injustices, and transform those systems and replace those systems and come up with amazing, amazing new systems. I’m reading Rob Hopkins’ book at the moment, From What Is To What If, and so he’s really got me focused on this. In one part, he’s talking about education and other parts of capitalism, but basically it’s like these kind of systems which completely distract our imagination and our imaginative way of thinking. I see it all the time when I’m trying to engage in conversations with people about the economy. I say, I don’t believe in capitalism, I don’t believe capitalism is the system for humanity. Then what I often hear is like, Oh, what? So you’re a communist? Oh, you’re a socialist? And it’s like as if there’s only two forms of economy. We’ve lost our ability to engage critically, to use our imaginations to understand that humans are incredible creators, that we can create so many different systems that actually allow humans to thrive within themselves, to become aligned with our deepest natures and deepest needs to become aligned with each other, and to step into compassionate loving relationships with humanity. Then, that can also allow humanity to thrive in relationship with the natural world, which we are a part of, obviously. We’ve not been plonked down on the natural world from somewhere else. We’ve grown out of it. I could go on, but maybe I’ll stop there.
So, in this past year, since suddenly Mother Nature gave us something really big, a really big lesson to learn and all of the other attendant changes and upheavals, do you see what you’re talking about? Do you see this as a stronger trend? Or does it live in you as a heartfelt wish that you are trying to continually uphold? Do you see evidence that what you’re talking about is emerging, in any surprising ways?
Christabel Rose Reed
Yes and no. It’s always hard because the world’s so big, and there’s always so much and so many amazing projects and initiatives and people doing incredible things all around the world. You just have to look hard because it’s not coming up on the newsfeed perhaps, but because of the work that I do, and why I love the work that I do, is I’m constantly looking for these amazing projects and amazing people to bring them together to explore these big topics. So on one hand, yes, but then I don’t know whether it’s always been there. Maybe it’s coming more to the surface. That’s not very clear. The other thing I worry about as well is that we live in these echo chambers on social media. So my Instagram is full of environmentally conscious content types of things, but I know that if I went on someone else’s Instagram, it might not look like that.
So, I really don’t know what effect this lockdown is going to have on collective consciousness because I hear so many people say how it’s given them time to pause and to connect with nature and a reevaluation of what’s important in their life. I think our understanding of what our purpose is has been shifted, because so much of our stability has gone; our work or socializing, parties or shopping, or whatever it is. Things that can give us a sense of stability and identity have kind of been taken away from us. I think people will be searching for more meaning. So there’s that.
But then on the other hand, I also worry that with so much instability now, so much “I just want things to go back to normal”, I worry that we’re going to be so desperately trying to go back to having our freedoms back, to being able to be out and see friends, that we’re not going to be thinking about how can we harness this opportunity, this pause, in order to co-create futures that can truly thrive. I’m going to be working really hard on it and I know hundreds of thousands and millions of people are going to be working on that too. I’m not sure really, if that’s an okay answer.
“I’m not sure” is probably the right answer, because who can be sure about the future? But as a convener, as a sort of cook in the cultural kitchen, do you try to select people outside of your bubble? Do you try to mix in spice? Are you trying to expand the boundaries of what you bring into the stew, so that we can see more clearly? Are you as a curator, curating beyond your own sphere of normal?
Christabel Rose Reed
Yes, completely. That’s one of the incredible things that the pandemic has actually brought to Advaya is that we used to do everything in person, and that was core to what Advaya was about, bringing people into a room, fostering human connection and building community around positive change-making and spiritual practice and transformation. But now, doing everything online, it’s been sad, because we’ve severed the kind of human connection that you get to feel and hug people and meet people. However, it’s meant that it’s opened up the world of teachers. So for example, we’ve got this Forest Guardian course coming up in May and we have 40 teachers from 30 different nations or communities around the world, who were all teaching traditional forest knowledge. Before we started putting this course together, I had never heard of about 90% of them, so they’re really very, very grassroots individuals who are embedded in that community and who are living and breathing it in. As a curator, that can actually be really hard to find, because you often ask speakers to come and speak, who speak about the importance of doing, or these philosophical or conceptual concepts and ideas on what we could and should be doing. To be able to bring together people who are living and breathing it is amazing. Obviously, there are people living and breathing loads of incredible projects in the UK and in London, but it’s definitely opened that up. Same with the Regenerative Activism series that we just did.
I think why we started Advaya, my sister and I, six years ago was we were realizing how many incredible people and networks and communities are doing incredible things. But that so much of our peer group and our little world around us just didn’t reflect that at all. There was no connection between these amazing cultures and worlds all around and it wasn’t being reflected in where we were. So that’s why we started to bring people together and audiences together, and try and communicate what these amazing people are doing in order to inspire people. A lot of people don’t know that things can be different, that they can transform the way that they relate to themselves, transform the way they relate to each other, transform the way they relate to the natural world. That’s so important, bringing people together who have different ideas, different ways of being.
As a curator, like in this most recent event, I met through your course, really major activists. As a matter of fact, I invited Glacier Kwong to be on my podcast because how else would I have known this young woman and through her, the quality of relationships in that movement. It’s almost like this global curation that you’re able to do, where you’re able to bring in voices that you would never be able to bring into a room. And also, not just collect the usual suspects, the people who are famous enough that you’re going to fill your course because you have so and so on it. It’s almost like there’s this edge that we’re being able to push out into the reality of the world. I’m somewhat of an activist where I am, but the level of courage required of me and dedication and disruption in my own life, to challenge what’s right in front of me in my cushy little town, is nothing compared to what some of the people I’m meeting are doing.
I’m just going to invite you to sort of sniff with me along this edge of what could possibly go right, from this ability we have to break out of the commercial mold of just consuming content that’s pre-digested for us and actually seeing for ourselves, not through print, but through hearing people talk about their inner experience of living someplace where the forests are disappearing. It’s very strange, the world comes in through the screens. It feels somewhat like we’re having more window on reality, unmediated window on reality, and at the same time, we’re having a more disembodied experience. Do you have any sense about what’s pulsing on that edge of what we’re being able to do, how our consciousness, how our engagement, how our sense of ourselves in the world may be changing through this Zooming that we’re doing around the world?
Christabel Rose Reed
I think the amazing thing about the Zooming is about the accessibility to new narratives and new stories. You were saying about these different people being able to express their inner lives, their inner experiences. I think that’s so important because it’s almost like, we think we live in a culture that is evolved out of mythology and out of storytelling, and we’re no longer are bound by story or myth. But the thing is that we are, but we don’t even recognize that we are.
In more traditional cultures, where storytelling was a very active part of culture, people would sit down for story, but now we live in story, it feels to me; the story of the growth-based economy. The story that we’re not born whole, the story that we’re an individual, the story that we need to buy things we don’t need to impress people that they don’t like, you know what I mean? Impress people in the wrong way. So, there’s this amazing thing with curating people, to not give “this is how you do this”, but to platform important dialogs, that can inspire people to shift their perspective on their own story and on their own inner story and the outer stories that they’re maybe unconsciously imbibing and putting inside of themselves. I think that’s really powerful.
On the other hand, I think that we thrive off of human connection. Even if we find human connection intimidating sometimes, we really do need it, it nourishes us. I don’t think that Zooming and online events and online education can ever be more profound than in person. But I think it can open up many doors to new ways of being and new understandings that you can then start to implement into your everyday life. We are running a course in the moment called A Journey Home and it was the first course we’ve ever curated. It’s been a really interesting, amazing process. We were saying at the beginning that we don’t just want it to be a course. Advaya is about being embodied and it’s about practice as much as it is about knowledge and ideas. Throughout the course, we’re offering practices. It will be writing prompts, but also embodiment practices or things where you can bring the ideas into a deeper part of yourself. It’s like anything really, there’s so much positivity and incredible beauty to what online events can bring. But I believe we can’t replace the importance of human connection in learning, and learning within embodied community is so important.
Are there ways that we can convene online, as we will continue to do, and feed into a greater social intelligence for people where they are? Can the practices not just be writing prompts, but go into your community and…? Is there a way that you can see in your courses or in all of our online work, that we can create a greater integration between online and IRL, in real life? What do you see?
Christabel Rose Reed
Yeah, completely. I think that’s what’s so important. In a world which can feel so overwhelming when you’re thinking about systemic change, because we’re thinking about these huge structures, that suddenly we think our local community isn’t making change on that level, or will be insignificant in comparison to the systemic. But actually, all over the world, communities are taking matters into their own hands at becoming more self-sufficient. They’re increasing their sovereignty. They’re engaging in participatory democracy. They’re setting up ecosystem restoration projects.
There’s so much going on. In that way completely, all the courses that we would be doing and the reasons for curation, is never knowledge for knowledge sake. It’s, how can we inform our action? How can we cultivate places of peace within ourselves so that our action can arise from that place of peace, so that we’re not perpetuating systems of dominance and oppression? I think, being very emphatic in the curation of courses and of anything online, and really inviting those who may be leading or guiding or speaking to really come into that intentionally and remember how can you shift it to inspire people, not just by the ideas or the story about how that can be a lived experience for people.
I think also inviting the listeners or the guests or participants to also reflect afterwards on how that can be integrated into their life as well. That’s really important because often we are passive listeners. We can shift out of being a passive listener, to about how we’re listening to that, and then how it reflects in our own life. In that way, things like breakout groups and stuff are so important on online events, that people can actually take a moment to sit and discuss. I learn personally and I process much more quickly and much more deeply, if I have a chance afterwards to discuss something with someone. If I’m just listening, I actually don’t process a lot. I was diagnosed as slow processing when I was little. That was part of my dyslexia, and so it really helps me to have those moments afterwards to discuss. The other weird thing about the online sphere is that you can be so immersed in this space, and then the event ends and you close your laptop, and it’s like nothing ever happened when you shut your computer down. It’s quite weird.
Yeah. It is quite weird. I should get back together with you in a year. That might be an edge, a learning edge, for integrating online learning and in real life, so that it has a greater frictionless glide. I don’t think we know how to do this. It’s almost like there’s an opportunity right now, and it’s going to keep going even with vaccines; there’s this opportunity to really try something new as a species, to be actually in an accelerated learning environment. But what are we learning? And there are people who are in QAnon school, and right wing militia school, and Telegraph school, Facebook school, and Instagram school, and Advaya school. Maybe we’re in a transition zone, exactly as a learning species. We’re in this transition zone, and you are doing your experiments on the leading edge; I’m doing mine. But I think it’s really powerful to hold the question always. I mean, I love questions.
So one of the questions that I love holding is: What’s missing, if it were present, would make all the difference? So here we are in this massive global learning, online learning experiment. So what’s missing from it, that if it were present, would make all the difference? Maybe we get together in a year and we talk about that. Do you have any thoughts about that now?
Christabel Rose Reed
It’s so cheesy, but I wanted to say love. I could say something more academic?
No, it’s perfect. No, love is the right answer.
Christabel Rose Reed
I think there’s so much fear, and there’s so much self hatred, and there’s so much suppression and oppression of ourselves and of each other. Cultivating the love within us and for each other, and for this incredible life that we’ve been blessed with; if you imagine humans walking around with real love in their heart and their words and their actions and their thoughts being rooted in that, what a different world that would be? How fearless and imaginative and creative and compassionate and exciting and joyful and blissful. I’m sure it would have its total struggles and challenges as well, but as much as possible, cultivating that would take us really far a way, if not all the way, to a more utopian… I don’t actually believe utopia can exist, because I believe that everything is always in flux. I think that because everything is always changing, we’re required as being conscious living beings to always take action in order to restore harmony where disharmony has occurred, to restore order where disorder has occurred. My understandings of harmony and of order is allowing yourself to fulfil your natural design of being able to flourish in harmony with yourself and with the world around you.
It just occurs to me in this moment talking to you, maybe that’s a thing that we could ask our guests to provide us with, is a spontaneous practice that people can practice what the guest preaches in their daily lives; some little bon-bon, some little sweet that they can suck on. Well, here we are in the great classroom, the great Zoom classroom, learning and teaching. It is interesting, as I listen to you about my own transformation, my own surprise to discover that I didn’t know at all, even though I’ve thought a lot and done a lot, etc. We’re in a moment in time, when we’re all on a learning edge. We have to be, because no even bright ideas we created way back then, are sufficient to what this is. It can’t be, because if it were, we would already done it. So it’s a very difficult time to be so thrust onto a learning edge, and to accompany one another in doing that is important.
Christabel Rose Reed
Yes, I think there’s a lot of learning to be had and there’s a lot of unlearning to be had, for a lot of the ideas that we’ve held so dearly for so long. I say “we” meaning collectively in mainstream culture. But it’s also, I don’t know if I can say this, but I think it’s also quite simple. Some of the things that we can do are very simple and very straightforward, in some ways, and I think a large part of that is becoming active in your local community and bringing more life and equality and freedom into that space. Planting a tree or growing some vegetables or being aware of water; basically anything to do with ecosystem restoration and building community.
Building community is so integral and so radical in a world of individualism, in a world that is so lonely, and supporting people and yourself and your mental well-being. I mean, we started Advaya with this idea that the mental health crisis is a reflection of the environmental crisis, and vice versa, and these are not two separate spheres. It’s so interconnected and interwoven. We can think we need to do so much, but actually, there’s billions of people who are going to do amazing things in their life, so just find something that feels really good for you, as we’re all gifted with little skillsets and dreams and ideas and visions. I think people can just start with that. It could be a tiny thing, or something really massive and grand, or something really humble and discreet that no one even notices. Actually, I think we need the slowing down, so that we can start to think more imaginatively about what our place is in the world and the kinds of cultures we can co-create.
I don’t think I’ve done anything that has become big that didn’t start small. Even some of the things that I’ve done that have gotten big, when I first tried to do them, I did them from a point of view of creating something big, but I never could make it happen. Then when I would throw my hands up and just give up and say, I don’t care about the big thing. I just want to do this one tiny little thing that’s aligned with this thing that I’ve had in my mind that won’t go away, this itch that I have never scratched. Then I do the little thing, and it’s not guaranteed, but from that authentic small thing that I do from my heart, stuff grows. Yeah. So thank you. This is a really great backroom conversation with another curator and convener, investigating the edge that we’re on. I would like to do this again, let’s say in a year’s time if we’re both doing whatever this is, and just talk again about what are we noticing? How are we a learning species in a vast classroom that has lab work, local lab work, and these large learning communities. So thank you, Christabel.
Christabel Rose Reed
Thank you so much, Vicki.
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