4 things I learnt from the Wellbeing Summit for Social Change

Mallika Dutt presenting her planetary sesson. Pictures: Supplied by The Wellbeing Project

Mallika Dutt presenting her planetary sesson. Pictures: Supplied by The Wellbeing Project

Published Jun 17, 2022


Self-awareness. Intergenerational trauma. Interconnected truths. I’ve heard these words many times before, thinking they were terms made up by boujee millennials.

I had no business being in a world so far removed from mine, and I felt it the most when on the first day of the Wellbeing Summit for Social Change, I sat among an audience of thousands in a darkened auditorium, thinking to myself, “what are you doing here?”

It was the first global event bringing together social change, governmental, arts and business leaders working towards the common goal of social change and inner wellbeing.

I had been invited by the Wellbeing Project to cover the three-day event in Bilbao, Spain. All I had to do was report from the sidelines and observe.

Observing. That sounded easy enough. It wasn’t, as I would soon find out.

After the summit, there were many things I had learnt about myself but also about our collective humanity.

Humour me for a few minutes, will you?

Change is inevitable

That soon changed when I conducted my first interview with Mallika Dutt. According to her website bio, Dutt “wakes leaders up to our interconnected truth and inspires us to question our current paradigms.”

Oh sh*t. I was in deep trouble. Even after listening to her podcasts, I was still in a very confused state.

She’s acquired a global following - that much I know. She’s used her years of experience to teach others to be more connected to nature. She’s a human rights activist. But other than that, she was like a mythical unicorn with a massive influence.

But the more I listened to her podcasts, the more I was drawn to her teachings on how we can take pleasure in the simple things.

We chatted for a few minutes without me going off script. I asked her a question about intergenerational trauma in a South African context.

We may be free from the shackles of apartheid, but the trauma our parents suffered has been passed on to most of us. It’s a chip on our shoulders that most non-white people live with constantly.

Trauma has us

Dutt’s response is what finally made me realise change happens within ourselves first.

“South Africa is a part of the world that ended apartheid, that created this extraordinary social movement to shift one of the most oppressive devices of white supremacy on this planet,” she said.

“In the process of doing that, South Africa created a constitution that recognised the rights of so many different people,” Dutt added.

Taking a second to compose herself, she pointed out that we are all living with collective trauma. “Trauma has us because we created systems and structures that traumatised us.

Participants from across the globe gathered for the Wellbeing Summit for Social Change in Bilbao, Spain.

“In our journey towards transformation, we sometimes forget all that we are doing and that we have done and get focussed on the thing that is not changing.

“It is a place of remembering for ourselves but also a reminder of who we are and how far we have come and what we have created.

“I invite you to have some grace for yourselves and hold one another with compassion as we move in this direction of our collective liberation,” she ended with.

Just breathe

Breathe in through the nose and out through the nose.

I’ve been doing it wrong all this time. Taking big gulps of air was normally done through the nose and out the mouth.

According to yoga and ancient meditative practices, being aware of your breathing is the first step to self-awareness.

Two days into the summit, I started practising breathing exercises and even sat through a meditation session.

The meditative practise didn’t fare as well. I ended up nodding off, which is not supposed to happen as I was told afterwards.

The breathing, on the other hand - that’s something that I’ve taken with me and incorporated into my everyday life.

People are tired

If there’s one thing that pandemic has taught us, it’s that people across the globe are sick and tired, and not only about life. Work. Finances. Frustration.

I sat in a workshop on how corporates can incorporate well-being practices in the workplace, and most participants said their employers don’t value their boundaries and personal space.

The work-life concept is only a theory that most corporates throw around for bragging points when in reality, most don’t adhere to it.

It’s had an effect on our personal lives, so much so that at least one in eight people in the world lives with a mental disorder.

What’s even more frightening is that the World Health Organization reported that, on average, countries dedicate less than two percent of their healthcare budgets to mental health.

The Wellbeing Project is catalysing a culture of inner wellbeing for all changemakers. Visit https://wellbeing-project.org/ for more info