After a gap of more than a decade, I have returned to the World Economic Forum (WEF) this year. Meeting after the Covid-19 pandemic, I see there is an emphasis on discussing the important role of mental well-being, resilience, reimagining globalisation, sustainability, sociocultural harmony, and happiness in economic and social development.
A peaceful society is the basis of a prosperous society, and I am happy that world leaders are placing a great deal of importance on recognising and addressing these issues. The theme of this year’s WEF ‘Cooperation in a Fragmented World’ resonates with the vision of the Art of Living which started 42 years ago to unite people through a revival and regeneration of human and spiritual values.
The current perception of fragmentation is not new. We must know that conflict, division, chaos and confusion sprout in the minds of people. It has to be countered with commitment, caring and collective resolve. This can happen only when leaders cultivate the mind to be calm and take considered decisions. We all need to recognise that we live in an interconnected world. There is no substitute for cooperation for the general good of the world.
Economic ups and downs are a natural part of the world economic order and not all parts of the economy flourish at the same time. For example, the tourism industry reduced significantly during the pandemic, whereas the healthcare industry flourished. While the transportation industry suffered significantly, the medical supplies industry increased and as in-person physical conferences shut down, people adopted virtual conferences. The advancement of technology allowed governments and business leaders to rethink their strategies and made us more resilient.
The economic sanctions placed by governments on other countries have not worked in the past and it is doubtful if they will work in future. Sanctions haven’t achieved any concrete goal besides causing suffering to the common man. We should remember that India was also put under sanctions because we developed nuclear capabilities.
There is a lot of talk about leadership but who do you lead when there is so much attention deficit disorder? When uncertainty and anxiety have taken over the human psyche, leadership goes for a toss.
Mental health is a huge crisis. More than $2.7 trillion is being spent on mental health but hardly anything is being done for prevention. The current approach to addressing mental health is ineffective and calls for a fundamental change. We must address the root cause from a holistic perspective and explore breathing as a tool to manage the mind and emotions. Yoga and meditation have been proven to be the most effective tool to check attention deficit disorder, depression, anxiety and other challenges.
Thanks to the initiatives of the Government of India, yoga and meditation have been introduced in schools and colleges throughout the country. I am glad that in India, we are also taking dhyan, meditation, to every ghar, home. The Government of India and Art of Living have partnered to promote mental health with the Har Ghar Dhyan initiative. The resilience of our youth, their dynamism and an enhanced sense of social responsibility coupled with the government’s incentives for start-ups will definitely take the country to another level.
The WEF has picked up several good projects that focus on protecting the environment. One of them is the Miyazaki diversity project being run in many schools by Art of Living volunteer Neelam Patil from California. The Miyazaki method grows micro forests 10x faster, generates up to 100x more biodiversity, replaces water-guzzling lawns with native drought-tolerant plants, has a 95 per cent survival rate, and empowers children to make a difference in a climate change solution. In California, the average height of the trees after just one year is 3 meters, 12-feet tall. As the world faces a biodiversity crisis, micro forests are serving as havens for local flora and fauna in underutilised micro-urban spaces.
The distant mountains surrounding Davos reflect the calm, beauty and peace inherent in nature — a reminder to the world that we need to maintain, protect and enjoy them for generations to come. Peace is the only way forward, without peace there is no prosperity, and without prosperity, there is no peace. And we need wisdom for both.