So here’s something I didn’t anticipate when I decided to widen my – and in extension, this blog’s – horizon: There’s a challenge in writing about people that are passionate about things that I don’t really know all that much – if anything – about: How do I convey their message, while at the same time trying to wrap my head around the contents of what they’re saying, in a way that’s not completely confusing and, ideally, enjoyable to read? As you may have guessed, this story was one of those tricky ones – hard to decide where to begin, and where to go from there, and how. Which is likely why it’s taken me so long to write it. On the bright side, this is also what makes this so enjoyable: It’s intriguing. And I’m definitely learning a lot. Like, so much.
So to solve my dilemma in this particular case, maybe I’ll just start at the beginning (that seems to be working out, usually): I met Waya in early 2019 – although “meeting” might be a bit of an overstatement, since I was in the midst of an intensive 3-month personal development program and deeply immersed in working on my innermost stuff. Not really in a “meeting people” kind of place. But, you know, people still are real, somewhat, and Waya, well, he’s not just your regular blend-in-with-the-crowd kind of guy. Not even here, where the crowd – at least for me, from my very definitely biased point of view – isn’t a very “blendy” one to begin with – personality-wise, anyway. But that’s beside the point.
What I’m trying to say is: Waya is a character. And I don’t mean that in a politely-saying-he’s-weird kinda way, but in a way that’s trying to convey what I experienced when he was at the ashram for a month, participating in our karma yoga program for young adults: He has charisma, a very positive energy, and is hence hard to ignore – in the best way possible. I think most strikingly, his conviction and authenticity around the topics that he cares about were palpable even for me, being all immersed in deep thinking and feelings and stuff. I think I had about two conversations with him during his time here, and one of them led me to change my browser. Which might not seem like much – but again, remember the fact that internet browsers were really not the first thing on my mind during that time.
As I’m reading over the transcript of our interview, I’m realizing that one of the main reasons I wanted to speak to Waya is that he, to me, is a representative of a generation that, for the first time in what seems – at least to me – a while, has been making a name for themselves. They’ve been called by many different ones by now: Generation Greta, Gen Z, post-Millenials… Not that any of those labels actually matter. What does, though, is that this generation is, more than anyone who came before them, directly affected by climate change, in ever increasing ways – and they’re not beating about the bush when it comes to determining who’s responsible for it. And they’re also more aware of what’s happening, and seeking out that awareness rather than hiding from it. The stories that I heard when I was a kid – the ones about fossil fuels running out in 40 years, and the greenhouse effect causing sea levels to rise, the ones nobody really wanted to believe in at the time – they’re not just stories anymore. That shit’s actually happening. Has been then, too, of course, but it was still easy enough to pretend like it didn’t. That’s just not an option anymore. Unless, of course, you wanna be that guy. Don’t be that guy.
“This generation is the one that will induce the turning point of Human Evolution.”Waya Aeon
Now like I said in the beginning, there’s a lot that I don’t know. Not about youth movements, or certain aspects of history that might give me a little more context around what’s happening – basically, I’m a pretty standard, Wikipedia-this kind of gal. It’s not that I’m not interested. It’s more that I’m struggling with bridging that gap between knowing what’s happening and the need to do everything – anything – I can to help change, shape, prevent, mitigate all these different developments to allow for some sort of continuation of life on this planet on one side, and the sheer incomprehensibility of the scope of what’s happening and a tremendous amount of debilitating anxiety on the other.
And this is where the generation Waya belongs to comes in. Not saying that they don’t face these same issues – quite the opposite, actually – but as far as I can tell, they are developing much more effective ways of bridging this gap. Mainly, of course, because they have to. And I wanted to know what that looks like, starting with Waya (but not ending there. But enough about me. Let’s get to it.
Waya is originally from Meadow Creek, a tiny community north of Kaslo (which, unless you’re a Jazz fan or from the Kootenays, you might never have heard of before, either – it’s not exactly a metropolis). He moved to Calgary to finish High School when he was 15, and then started college there, which he dropped out of a year later.
“When I went into University, I was hoping that I would stumble across my life purpose. And in a sense, I did. (…) When I dropped out of University, it was due to a powerful aversion to the path I was heading down. I did not fully understand why I felt the way I did, but I knew that whatever I had to learn and experience in this life, would not be found in University.”
Instead, he started developing his own way of educating himself, finding tutors in fields he was interested in and/or passionate about and also learned “through osmosis” by reading a ton of books, this way learning from other’s experiences.
This is probably as good a moment as any to mention that, reading over the transcript of our interview from last summer, I’m once again blown away by the spectrum of knowledge, as well as its depth, that is so apparent in this – I’m sorry for potentially sounding like a condescending old fart, but there’s no better way for me to say this – really young dude. Waya’s story – or rather: what I was fortunate enough to learn from it in the two hours we spent at Oso Negro in Nelson (best coffee in town, if not… I don’t know, ever) – while not ordinary even on the surface level is even richer once you get beyond the first layer. For me, talking to Waya opened up my eyes to the world in ways that I definitely didn’t anticipate when I sat down with him, let alone when he first stepped foot into the ashram in March 2019.
As an example: From talking about his experiences of school and the educational system we went to talking about that system in general, to the evolution of knowledge due to the internet and the tremendous power of “the entirety of human history becoming collective knowledge – if you know where to look”, says Waya. I mean, maybe I’m a bit dense, and behind the times, but that thought had not even crossed my mind. Anyway. I’ll stop ranting eventually.
“At this moment, I am not who I think I am. I am a collection of experiences that has been taught to me or that I have been exposed to throughout my life.”
So here’s one power of this generation: The capability to access practically all information about what’s happening in the world. Now, I’m well aware this power is limited to those who live in a part of the world that’s privileged enough to provide internet access for most people. And even then, there will be those arguing that what we’re actually able to see is filtered, biased, constructed by algorithms and Social Network-magnates. All of which might well be true. But for the sake of this article, let’s just pretend we do, indeed, have access to anything we ever wanted and needed to know. What I’m witnessing in people like Waya is a capability of not becoming – like I am, most days – so overwhelmed with even just the thought of the sheer amount of data that I don’t even bother looking, but rather to be able to discern what matters to them, and to translate it, break it down, digest it, and put it back out into the world so that people like me can understand it. While Waya, too, faces those periods of depression, anxiety and shut-down, there seems to be a greater awareness that these periods are – for most people, anyway – temporary.
“Generally we know what’s true and what isn’t – it’s when we doubt ourselves that we start going down the wrong path. (…) The burnout, social withdrawal, dive into depression and climb back out helped me to remember that I am all too human, and it also helped me to fall back in love with life and the journey of redefining my paradigms on the path of goal acquisition”
According to Waya, the challenge of nowadays’ education not just in the systematic sense of the world, but on all levels of teaching, is not so much telling people what is true, but to empower them to find out the truth for themselves, with the internet presenting a forum for all kinds of different realities – which makes discrimination a key skill that needs to be taught, as well as how to “align with this internal compass: intuition”. With all the information that’s out there, waiting to impose itself on the user, “it’s so important to be able to resonate, and to be able to understand that resonation”. To recognize that will allow us to understand how directing our energy into one direction will determine the trajectory of not just our life, but also the life all around us – “and whether or not we’ll learn what we’re here to learn”.
Waya sees his own role in “creating space for those conversations” to be had. Like so many others of his age group (he was born in 1997, in case you were wondering), he’s been deeply inspired by Greta Thunberg’s activism that started really kicking things into gear in 2018, and has caused millions of people not only in their teens to take to the streets, and make the world’s leaders aware of what’s happening, and asking them to start doing something about it. But that’s not where his story began.
Growing up on an organic farm, Waya remembers “eating handfuls” of grass as his parents were dedicated to permaculture and biodynamics – he was born into a life connected with nature and the land, living off of it. Yet as is often the case with the things we have in front of us our entire lives, the dots didn’t really start connecting until he went away, to Calgary, and realized for the first time how the disconnect from nature that he experienced there was deeply affecting him. It wasn’t until he took a program in outdoor wilderness training in grade 11 and 12 that he had a moment of defining clarity: One spring, the group participating in the program that included a lot of backpacking, camping and canoeing went on a solo trip, where they got dropped off in the wilderness and went into different directions, with nothing but “a sleeping bag, water, a knife and a lighter”, being told to build a shelter, write in their journals and reflect. “A silent retreat experience disguised as a wilderness survival training”, as Waya describes it. Once he had built a fire he realized he had forgotten his rope, which was essential to building anything that would hold up and actually give him some protection from the elements. So he started braiding dry grass together to make one, which brought him into a meditative state of great calmness.
That’s when things started clicking in his mind, when he started to see the oneness of everything in the world, and felt blessed to have been given the opportunity to be in this space and time, and to have grown up the way he had that had allowed him to be there, “growing up on my Mom’s back while she hitchhiked around the coast; basically living in the garden, covered in dirt, learning about the importance of gardening and the connection with nature”. That moment – alone, in the wilderness – allowed him to step outside of himself and be reminded of that connection and its importance.
“Looking back on your life, it’s easy to connect the dots, and everything makes sense, but in the moment looking forward, it’s hard to expect what will happen.”Bill Gates
…which is why trust into one’s own intuition is so important, and to “ensure that every decision you make is contributing to destruction, creation or maintenance – depending on the resonance that you feel, and the energy you’re putting forth”. Actually making decisions is a big part of that. Like David Allen said: You can do anything, but you can’t do everything. “So it is crucial that you get super clear on who you are and why you are here, then take MASSIVE action and refine your efforts as you move forward. Sometimes, the best way to learn about yourself is to experience as much as possible, as early on in life as possible, and listen to your intuitive feedback on what vibes and what doesn’t.”
So the big questions are: How can we achieve that? How do we pay attention to that inner voice that we’re usually being taught to ignore, or that’s plastered over by all kinds of people telling you to believe this and not that. And: How does one empower others to do so the same? In Waya’s case, having conversations and encouraging people to build a connection with themselves, and everything around them is a big part of it; in part by “distilling information that is generally complex and hard to understand into a format that is digestible – primarily to empower people to make educated and informed decisions”. Even though he doesn’t see himself as a teacher, as he feels he’s only tapping into a lot of what he’s talking about himself, he is not afraid to share that learning process he’s going through with the world, to hopefully inspire others to come along on the journey with him.
“It all comes down to energy, and what we contribute our energy to – if something is taking energy and we’re just kind of unintentionally allowing that to happen, then we’re not really living our lives, we’re not in control – we’re allowing all of these external sources of energy to draw, to lead us through our lives. And nobody should be subject to that.” So it’s not about taking anything anyone says at face value, but to be open to see, hear and feel to whatever comes up – and to build a relationship with ourselves, our own gut-feeling, to really trust ourselves to know what’s right and what isn’t. It’s my belief – as well, I think, as Waya’s – that deep down, we all have that compass. We just disagree on what following it looks like – and then, of course, there’s a lot of fear around doing the actual following, for various (mostly selfish) reasons. “Society has a tendency to resist – to oppress that which is different in the moment, and praise it once it changes the world.” And that’s where the real trouble begins.
“We have never before lived in a time where we have had access to all the solutions to all of our problems – technically, intuitively, logistically and intellectually. We know what the solutions are. The roadblock is willpower and connection – understanding that this needs to happen. It’s really urgent! We don’t have time to waste.”
So Waya is keeping up his practice of telling the world what he believes to be true, and to direct his energy into projects that he believes will sustain life on earth in the long run. He continues to speak to people about what he sees happening in the world, the problems he sees with policies, habits and (wilful) ignorance. His “big goal is to redefine what it means to be Human, and create the conditions on Earth necessary for Consciousness to flourish and expand, for all humans to have the opportunity to thrive and discover their innate and unique potential, and to create and support ecological and energetic harmony on this planet. My primary project is to build a ladder from where we currently are ti that new reality. And more critically, for this ladder to have a dashboard that anyone can read and understand, in order to bring all of humanity onto the same page, so that we can start writing the next chapter together, and climb the ladder faster.”
And so he continues to encourage people to remember we have one major power: We have us. We’re not alone. “We’re all in this together.” We have the ability to cooperate, to communicate and to make change happen: “We have so much potential (…) and we have some crucial things to learn in our lives”: Waya believes that we can be the race that perceives the beauty and oneness of the universe, but only if we manage to change our trajectory so that we (as in: all that is this planet) can survive.
According to Waya, 5% of the total global population needs to be mobilised in order to “create radical change”. That’s around 390 Million people, give or take. “If in the course of a year we can make it from one (Greta Thunberg in front of the Stockholm parliament, that is) to 1 million, this year is gonna have an exponential growth”.
And I have no doubt that Waya will do his part in this exponentiation. For my part, I stopped eating meat after our conversation. Because learning – and knowing for myself to be true – some of the things I learned from talking to him, it was impossible for me to go back to acting like I didn’t know. Which might not sound like much to some, but maybe it gives an idea of the impact a single conversation can have. What, I wonder, would happen if we all stopped and listened to what our intuition told us about the state of the world, and what we – each of us individually, and all of us together – could do about it. If we were able to look beyond our fears, and stopped acting on them.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”Margarent Mead