Thought Pro­vok­ing

Times of the Islands - - Departments - BY LEAH BIERY Leah Biery is di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions for the Sani­bel Sea School.

The new moon―the first phase, in­vis­i­ble to us on earth―is viewed by many yoga and med­i­ta­tion en­thu­si­asts as a fresh start, a monthly op­por­tu­nity to let go of neg­a­tive thoughts and set clear in­ten­tions for the weeks ahead. But for Yali Zawady, this lu­nar phase is a plat­form to bring aware­ness to nat­u­ral re­sources and sea tur­tle con­ser­va­tion, causes she deems vi­tal. “From the be­gin­ning [2015], my vi­sion was for Ambu Yoga to have a larger pur­pose, to help stu­dents feel con­nected to our is­land and its na­ture, and un­der­stand what it takes to pro­tect it,” says Zawady. She is Ambu Yoga's founder and a native Colom­bian who learned to em­brace nat­u­ral re­sources at that coun­try's pris­tine beaches and in its di­verse jun­gle and moun­tain ecosystems.

Zawady on Captiva quickly learned about the Sani­belCap­tiva Con­ser­va­tion Foun­da­tion’s (SCCF) work, its ef­forts since 1967 to pre­serve land and to pro­tect and study bar­rier wildlife. She reached out to Ch­eryl Gi­at­tini, SCCF’s legacy co­or­di­na­tor, to­gether de­ter­min­ing that the non­profit’s Sea Tur­tle Pro­gram was the per­fect cause with which to build a part­ner­ship. Zawady al­ready of­fered beach yoga and med­i­ta­tion and wanted to add an ed­u­ca­tional el­e­ment to those classes. The beach, she and Gi­at­tini re­al­ized, is an ideal set­ting to spark in­ter­est in ocean con­ser­va­tion. Be­cause a sea tur­tle’s life­cy­cle is linked to the moon (mother tur­tles and hatch­lings are guided by its light, for in­stance), they es­tab­lished a monthly New Moon Med­i­ta­tion. In­stead of charg­ing for the ex­pe­ri­ence, cash do­na­tions would help fund sea tur­tle con­ser­va­tion pro­grams.

Be­fore these New Moon Med­i­ta­tions be­gin, some­one with SCCF talks with par­tic­i­pants about the Sea Tur­tle Pro­gram’s mis­sion, that its col­lec­tion of data helps sci­en­tists to pro­tect tur­tles. “Dur­ing the nest­ing sea­son, our pro­gram mon­i­tors 18 miles of beach daily for sea tur­tle ac­tiv­ity, keep­ing track of each nest, which species it be­longs to, and how many hatch­lings emerge suc­cess­fully,” says Kelly Sloan, SCCF’s Sea Tur­tle Pro­gram co­or­di­na­tor.

Af­ter this brief over­view, Zawady or one of her in­struc­tors leads the med­i­ta­tion. The idea is to re­flect deeply on per­sonal goals and broader in­ten­tions. “It is our hope that the en­thu­si­asm of SCCF’s team, along with the ocean views and sounds, will in­flu­ence stu­dents to not only set per­sonal in­ten­tions, but to think about what they’d like to do for the com­mu­nity and the en­vi­ron­ment as well,” says Zawady.

Fol­low­ing the med­i­ta­tion, par­tic­i­pants en­joy the sun­set, clean the beach and con­trib­ute to a do­na­tion bucket. And if the funds raised last year are an in­di­ca­tion, it is clear that


the part­ner­ship is mo­ti­vat­ing vis­i­tors and lo­cals alike to learn about and sup­port SCCF’s work―New Moon Med­i­ta­tions last year brought $2,000 to the or­ga­ni­za­tion, in­clud­ing $1,000 from an anony­mous donor. The project is on track to ex­ceed that amount this year. The anony­mous donor was so in­spired by Zawady’s ef­forts that he will match all do­na­tions for an­other year. “All Sani­bel busi­ness own­ers use the is­land’s re­sources to make a liv­ing here,” the man says, “and I ap­pre­ci­ate that Yali cares enough to take a part of what she earns and con­trib­ute it back to a good cause. I would like to see more lo­cal en­trepreneurs fol­low her lead.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, Ambu Yoga is the first is­land busi­ness to join SCCF’s Adopt-A-Beach Pro­gram, pledg­ing to care for 2,000 feet along South Seas Is­land Re­sort on Captiva. “The in­ter­est and gen­eros­ity shown by our Ambu com­mu­nity―a mix of lo­cals and vis­i­tors―is in­cred­i­ble,” Zawady says.

“Yali has been an in­cred­i­ble part­ner, both per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally,” says Gi­at­tini. “Her in­volve­ment in the Sea Tur­tle and Adopt-A-Beach pro­grams is noth­ing short of ex­tra­or­di­nary … I couldn’t be more ap­pre­cia­tive of her energy and pas­sion. Na­maste, Yali.”

New Moon Med­i­ta­tion par­tic­i­pants will this year eclipse do­na­tions to SCCF's sea tur­tle pro­grams.

Yali Zawady (at left in photo be­low right) stands with SC CF's Kelly Sloan. The two use beach med­i­ta­tion to spark ac­tivism in the sur vi­val of South­west Florida's sea tur­tles. Tur­tle nest­ing runs April though Oc­to­ber . Sea tur­tles were fed­er­ally pro­tected in the 1 970s.

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