Trigger warning: this blog discusses racism

These blogs are my personal exploration of life at Woodspring, surrounded by many animal and nature teachers. Through that lens we explore life, death and everything in between.

Over the last 40 odd years, my focus has been on spiritual exploration, finding ways to care for and nourish others (across the animal kingdom mainly, including human animals), and an increasingly strong activist element.

The spiritual and the caring are themes that I didn't consciously choose but I have found that our true gifts are ones that we have to uncover. They are usually the ones we have been trying to push away for years having been told for some reason they are not the 'real' skills or they are not valuable in today's society. So I combine practicality (caring) with intuition (spirituality) and from there I birth my vision and creations into being.

Speaking of birth, there is now an 8 month old human in the brood! River arrived in late December 2018. Another little teacher in my life. I will be sharing her wisdom too over the months. Since she arrived, I laugh more, feel more and take less bullshit.

There is a shift in the tempo of these emails because, since I last wrote, not only have I changed but so too has the world. Now isn't the time to sit back and wait for the moment to make a difference. 'It ain't no time to sleep' as Tina Dico says.

There will be anecdotes and observations that make you laugh and warm your heart but these will come alongside truth speaking. And that can be uncomfortable. I am not here to make you feel comfortable or to be a balm for the difficult world we live in.

My wish is to be like a little letter in your proverbial pocket that inspires a new thread of thought to open up.Thoughts lead to words which lead to action. I can't do this by saying the same old thing and staying comfortable.

On the subject of pushing comfort zones, I recently completed a course called 'Me and White Supremacy' created by Layla F Saad. It's a 28 day course that asks you to look at the racism that exists within White people and in society.

Racism is structural and toxic. It is a shape shifter and can be mainly hidden. We accept it as the norm, and White as the norm and then we can't see it any more, or only in the most extreme cases.

It's likely that, unless you are directly affected by racism or you have done some serious personal work on this yourself recently, you may be thinking, 'it's much worse in America' or 'I don't see colour', or 'it's best not to bring it up as it makes it worse' or 'aren't things getting better now?' or 'I'm not racist'...

Bear with me - this is important.

We tend to believe that only 'bad ' people are racist and if we are trying to be 'good' people then we can't also be racist. This belief is so damaging because it keeps the structure in place that is undermining lives and equality.

The reality is that we live in a society that has benefited from racism and continues to do so every day. We are part of that society and when we scratch beneath the surface we find the murky truth - if we are White, many of the actions we take and the views we hold are racist and damaging Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) because, since birth, we have picked up subtle (and not so subtle) programming.

Don't take my word for it, explore with any of the teachers and leaders below and test it out yourself. Do Layla's 28 day course. If you do this with integrity and courage, I guarantee you will never look at this subject in the same way again.

Why am I suggesting you do this? Because this isn't some small phenomenon that is making things a bit tricky for a few people; this is why we treat refugees like lesser beings and can be manipulated to believe that they are the ones to blame for our economy; this is the reason we can allow fires to rage in the Amazon, burning down the homes of the Indigenous people who live there; this is the reason why you don't see so many BIPOC in positions of power relative to White people in the UK, this is the reason most BIPOC parents have no choice but to explain to their children that they are totally equal to the White kid sitting next to them, even though the world isn't reflecting that back to them; this is why a Black pregnant woman is five times more likely to die in childbirth in the UK than a White woman (*see below for source). I could go on.

The problem is, you can't see it until you begin that journey beneath the 'nice' surface. The damage we inflict is often unconscious. There is still so much I can't see in myself and it is likely that if I re-read this email in a year I will notice lots of blind spots. That's why the journey doesn't end, we need to keep unpicking the old and harmful programming.

I am not an expert. I have learned all I know from BIPOC and continue to learn through courses, books and online. I undertake this learning because it is essential to do this as a White person in today's society. We created the problem, we need to fix it. And we still hold the power (White Privilege). Our voices make a difference because we can hear, and direct others to, the voices of BIPOC, thus creating change. (Note - this is very different from speaking for BIPOC - that is White Supremacy and White Saviourism).

If we are all racist, what can we do?

Become anti-racist. That's the only way - it has to be tackled head on, every day, for us to change the programming within us and within our institutions and structures. This is a big topic and if you are new to it, it can bring up our shadow - you may feel angry, want to look away, want to keep things 'nice'.

Work through it. These gremlins will stop you from moving forward if you don't recognise them for what they are - mind tactics to keep you 'safe' from the uncomfortable feelings and realisations that may come and incite necessary change. That, to your ego, feels like death. It's not though, it's growth.

So we need to make sure we are having these conversations and taking action and studying, firstly with ourselves and then taking that out to our circles of influence, be that as a parent, a teacher, a group leader, a friend, a colleague, a boss... We all have realms of influence in our lives and we can use those to create an equal world.

Hit reply to let me know if this rings true for you.

And have a look at these pioneers in the field of racism to explore more:

Laya F Saad This link takes you to the page to pre-order her book based on the workbook of the same name. You can also explore her website from here.

Adrienne Maree Brown Books, podcasts, instagram, brilliance.

Where Change Started The next course I am starting in September is with L. Glenise Pike of Where Change Started. She also has lectures and resources available.

The Conscious Kid A great instagram account to help raise anti-racist children with more detail on the website.

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. Another good starting place to get to grips with why White people have avoided to subject of race for so long.

Reni Eddo-Lodge Author of Why I'm No Longer talking to White People About Race. A must read.

Dr Beverly Daniel Tatum This is her Tedx talk. A great 15 minutes to explore why we find it hard to talk about race.

*And more information here on the rate of morbidity for Black women in childbirth compared to their White counterparts.

Thanks so much for reading,

Love Victoria

I wonder what percentage of the thoughts in our heads that we believe wholeheartedly to be facts, are actually fabricated by our families' culture, our societies' culture, the time we live in, or that opinion article we read the other day.

It seems that much of what is streamed into our homes via the TV, internet, newspapers or friends and family, is designed to create an opinion of some sort.

But what if we have got it all mixed up?

How would it be to start an unravelling process and look at how much we have taken on as our own opinions only to discover that it was Sid down the road who said it, or that clever woman in the paper, or my father's father's father that passed this 'fact' down the generations... It doesn't even have to be about the world out there, it can be about ourselves... "I am not [fill in the blank] enough" is one we have pretty much always picked up from someone else's judgement of us, usually at a very young age.

I have been watching such myths unfold all my life and one example, since the dreaded Brexit, is how the news and the current political leaders have been making things up about immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees. We all know there has been a rise in racism and the fear that keep us separated. How many people are stuck in a fabricated mesh of false opinions and fears that they can't see out of? Well, to some degree, every one of us is and it is in allowing our mind to release its hold that can support the process of unlearning and finding our true self.

To stick with the refugee theme for a moment - to be White British is a debatable concept. We only have to consider the collection of cultures and races that created the residents of the British Isles to watch the concept unravel. Digesting the most recent discoveries showing the DNA analysis of Briton's oldest complete skeleton to have 'dark to black skin colour' serves to reiterate the shakiness of the ground, never mind the 'Out of Africa' theory - the dominant model of geographic origin of early humans. (Read Stephen Oppenheimer's Out of Eden for more on this).

And yet, racism persists in a very real way because facts are not enough, we pick and choose what we hear and believe. We have beliefs that have been handed down to us and picked up over the years that are stronger and more compelling than the whole picture. It's dangerous stuff, and we can all think of historical people and times when a strong belief took over with disastrous consequences.

The basis for all of our damaging beliefs is fear. And one way to allow that fear to dissipate and our minds to find peace is to pull the fear out at its root.

It is our responsibility, as people with the capacity for reflection and thought, to sort through these beliefs and throw out many (or most) of them. In fact, the more time I spend doing this, the less interested I am in opinions, my own or other peoples. I am interested in how you and I feel in the moment, in integrity, in willingness to be vulnerable, to shed the past and grow in to a more authentic being. This is where the truth is found and this is where damaging beliefs are lovingly seen and released.

These beliefs can be individual, family based, societal, cultural or bigger. Looking at some of the areas we are communally blindfolded and bamboozled, there are a few that stand out to me:

Anything / anyone 'different' is dangerous

There isn't enough to go round
We need more possessions / money / status to make us happy
We don't have responsibility or creative power over our own lives
There is an acceptable body image that you either have or you don't
Age is a linear process of decline

Do you recognise any of these in yourself? I certainly do in me. They are powerful and can have a strong grip on us. Seeing them is the first step to letting them go but it takes more that that to be free of them.

Ok, so let's take the last one - "age is a linear process of decline". Yes, it's true that we get older, chronologically. Day by day the moments we have lived on this planet stack up and increase. What I would like to bring to question is whether that process is a linear passage towards declining health, attractiveness, vitality and strength as we are led to believe.

I am now 41. Being 40-ish is something I have been thinking about for a while and a few years ago I thought it might bring an emotional backlash with it. But now I am here, the strange thing is, I am stronger, fitter, more embodied and healthier than I was 5 years ago. In fact, in many ways, I am younger than I was five years ago. Many of the ailments I had when thirty five are now gone... yep, gone.

We know we can do this by exercising, eating well, stopping smoking and drinking in large amounts... and yes, I do eat more healthily, and exercise more than I did five years ago. But that's not where the main shift came for me. The main shift was through emotional and energy work. And it's the emotional and energy work that brought me to a place where I actually wanted to eat better and exercise more.

Don't get me wrong, I am no gym bunny and I like chocolate much more than I like cabbage (and I definitely still eat more chocolate than cabbage) but the myth of ageing shows us only the external way to youth - exercise and diet, which is very difficult to maintain if you still have lots of emotional baggage and your energetic body is a mess.

In fact, we can apply this premise to all our skewed beliefs, whether individual or collective, and start to see shifts.

When we shift our energetic body, we shift our mental and emotional body which in turn can shift our physical body. We all know that if we consistently think damaging thoughts about ourselves and others we feel worse and our face and body will eventually reflect the dominant thoughts through the lines that form and through the look in our eyes... How many of us consider the effect that the energetic body can have on our health, our well being and our capacity to let go of destructive thought patterns?

To explore this further, we need to get a feel for the energetic body. Many of us have not consciously felt it, most don't even believe it exists, and some will hold onto that belief like Teresa May holds onto her job - doggedly, despite proof that an alternative is healthier.

There are many ways to feel energy and here is a very simple one - take some deep breaths and allow yourself to settle into your seat, feeling how you are held by the earth, by gravity, by your chair... sinking into the moment and letting thoughts subside. Now bring your hands in front of you, palms facing each other, as though you are holding a medium sized ball. Take a moment to feel into the space between your hands and allow them to move a little closer until you can feel a slight resistance before they touch. This may be very close or further apart, depending on your energy field in this moment. Allow yourself to play with the sensations... notice how they feel. You may feel a warmth, a coolness, a bouncy feeling, a tingling... whatever you feel just notice it with curiosity and playfulness. If you do this each day for a week or longer, you will start to sense it more strongly.

This is your energy field, and when you are willing to work with it, you can begin to allow healing in on a much deeper level, transforming health issues, destructive patterns and beliefs about yourself and the world that are harming us and those around us. This, I believe, is the medicine of our time. It is also the medicine of old. The medical paradigm is a wonderful resource but it is time for the physical and the energetic paradigms to work together as much greater healing will come about. Sometimes, if we catch something at the energetic, it doesn't even need to manifest in the physical.

It may seem far fetched, if this idea is new to you, or perhaps you are well versed in the different levels of our being, either way there is much more to explore. There is an aspect of yourself that is waiting to take you on a journey of unlearning, of reconnecting and of greater love and impact in the world.

If you would like to explore your energetic body more deeply and how it can support you, there are many people who can guide you on that journey. Find someone you trust, that you sense can lead to back to your own intuition and empower you to empower yourself. Each one of us has gifts that we are here to share and the more people that embody their gifts, the more balanced the world will become.
Peaceful. Warrior. Two words that sit together with discomfort perhaps? An oxymoron even? But that's just it - what we are doing isn’t working, we only have to take a quick look at the news to realise that, so now it is time to create some oxymorons, some new dynamics, some slightly (or totally) crazy pairings that could just bring in the new.

We need new. The old ways are crumbling but as yet there is little clarity, for most, about what could come in its place. With our UK prime minister clinging on with her fingernails, dogged denial her principal ally, staunch conformity and resolute small-mindedness her closest friends, no great shifts are coming through her.

Then there’s Trump (sadly no introduction needed) diligently working his way through all that we hold sacred – our planet earth, our people, our sense of humanity… Like a warped cartoon, Mrs Denial and Mr Blind Rage are rampaging through our world. And that’s just two examples, it doesn’t take much to find many more.

And so to the ‘warrior’. The warrior who knows that, in the words of Tina Dico “it ain't no time to sleep”. Now, more than ever in my lifetime I feel a call to arms, a need to clarify whose side I am on, to rise up and fight… and yet… it’s within that rally call that I discover more discomfort again. The fight, resistance, uprising, meeting violence with violence… this fight has been fought for millennia and we know it well. It’s in our DNA. This is not a discussion of whether violence is ever justified, though an interesting question. The question here is 'what is fueling it in each of us?' The answer will depend entirely on the individual.

The reoccurring dynamic of good versus evil - it’s compelling, but is it that simple? Can we expect to make a real difference to the violence in the world if we still hold violence within ourselves? I don’t think so. Our efforts become distilled to the point of disappearing, sucked into the vortex of our own unresolved issues that drain the life force out of any actions we take, or worse, create more and more of the same. If we don’t look deeply at the places we are afraid of in ourselves we will meet those aspects again and again in the world around us, spiralling us back down the rabbit hole of self-righteous justice and spitting us out on the shore of angry detachment and disappointment with the world. “It’s them, not me”.

I know the other side too – the ‘peaceful’ – that part of me that hopes I can make a difference by talking about the change that needs to happen with people who see the world like me, creating a bubble of calm in my bit of the world. That's the part of me that doesn’t want my peace to become uncomfortable. That doesn’t work either. It leads us to become insipid, fearful, and unable to speak out when injustice is in front of us, retreating to our safe place to recharge and balance ourselves at the time when we are called to stand up and speak out, to reach out and support, to feel our vulnerability and stay anyway.

Both, in truth can create more damage than benefit. By creating sides, disappearing into sanctimonious blabbering or not taking responsibility for our own shadows, we become an undeniable part of the problem, many miles from the solution. Each of us will identify with one more than the other - recognise your pattern and you begin to shift it. But combine the best of the two and a secret dynamite is created.

The wild, courageous passion of the warrior combined with the self-reflective responsibility of the peaceful are an alchemy-in-action when paired. With self-responsibility, the peaceful warrior goes out into the world and calls out the injustice she sees. He speaks out when he hears racist remarks, and not just when it’s easy – in those times that mean he could be ostracised for it too. She seeks ways to create community rather than doing it alone and calls in methods that upset the apple cart, that uproot earth damaging practices, that create space to welcome those who are being scapegoated and pushed out.

The “No” with the “Yes”, the courage with the acceptance, the love with the power. This is what we need right now and it is a big ask, but even just a few peaceful warriors will start to create change. Their integrity is so compelling it will spread like oxytocin, the love hormone.

These times can feel desperate but we each have it within us to find our inner Peaceful Warrior. Now is the time to collaborate, to join together and share our gifts. Gone is the time of the lone wolf, we need to become a community, working together to create the world we want future generations to live in.

How will you heed the call?

The inspiration for this piece has come particularly from three places. I have just finished reading the book "Why I Am No Longer Talking to White People About Race" by Reni Eddo-Lodge. I urge you to read it.
I have also been greatly influenced coming back from my most recent shamanic training, the Munay Ki. A powerful and beautiful training, it is from this tradition that I was introduced to the archetype of the peaceful warrior. Find out more here.
Thirdly, inspiration has come from the writings of Beth Maiden’s Little Red Tarot. Here you will find thoughtful resources and passionate writing to help fuel your journey.

Once upon a time there was a little girl. We will call her Star. Star was very young but she knew a lot. And she had already seen a lot. Her skin shone in the light, her eyes were deep brown and her wild black hair had curls that fizzed out like fireworks. Star was a child of nature and used to know how to communicate with the trees, the fish, the plants, the animals, the water, the sun, the moon and the stars. But she had forgotten.

Star had been on her own for a long time now.

Time is a very malleable thing - it can feel long or short depending on what is happening. Star knew this. She had a memory of her Mum's shining eyes and her Dad's hands reaching out to hold her but nothing else apart from a song she had heard.

She had been stuck and alone for too long, but three days ago something incredible had happened - she saw a light shining in. Star had been so used to being curled up in the dark that she didn't know how to get out at first. She had been telling herself that she must stay inside, that it wasn't safe to come out, that she would destroy everything, or be destroyed. So she had stayed inside, forgetting all she knew, apart from one thing - she never forgot the sound of the blackbird singing, or the feeling of freedom it gave her.

So when light started streaming in, Star remembered the sound of the blackbird singing.

She stayed a few more days in the dark, just feeling the space above her that had opened up. Waiting for the courage to somehow stretch up and get out of the place she had been trapped in. But the strength didn't come. Star stayed inside even though now, finally, she could get out. She was afraid. She didn't know what she might meet outside. Would she be eaten alive? Would she be even more alone with all that space around her?

Days passed and nights went by and Star started to feel things she hadn't felt for a long time. She felt the breeze blowing her firework hair and a giggle erupted from inside her. It felt nice, the bubble of a giggle that came up from her heart.

She felt the warmth of the golden sun as it shone on her skin and it was like she was being warmed from the inside and outside all at the same time.

She felt drops of rain touching her eyelids, her face, her hands and she licked them off, remembering the freshness of the waterfalls she used to play in.

And then she remembered why she was in the dark place.

A surge of pain went through her like a lightening bolt as she re-lived the moments her world fell apart... when she ran and ran away from the noise, the confusion, the darkness...until she found this safe place where she could shut down and hide.

The memory brought great sobs, tears of despair, loss and heart-wrenching, physical stabs inside her. Star had run from this pain, she didn't want to feel it. and yet, right now, with the wind, the sun, the rain there with her, she felt like she could sob for eternity. She felt held.

All of the feelings that had been stuck in time came out and were heard, witnessed by the wind, the sun and the rain.

A great gust of wind tipped Star over and she tumbled out. Shocked, she stopped crying and gasped as she felt her hands sink into the grassy earth, covered in daisies. Her head was spinning from all of the feelings and new experiences. She lay on the ground and felt the earth support her.

With her head down on the earth, she opened her eyes and looked into the green grass around her. There were ants walking through the stems and she followed one with her eyes until it disappeared into the daisies. Sitting up, she saw a willow tree and followed the sweep of its leaves up to the branches, softly blowing in the wind.

And then she saw it - a blackbird was sitting in the tree and in his mouth was a daisy-chain crown.

The blackbird flew down and dropped the daisy crown onto Star's head. As it landed she felt a rush of warmth flow through her and she sighed in relief. The blackbird landed on her shoulder and started to sing.

Star smiled from a deep place inside her and took her first steps on this new land with her power animal, her daisy crown gift and a courage that she had forgotten she had. She looked at the world with tear cleansed eyes and saw how interconnected she was. She felt her breath rise and fall in time with the dolphins in the sea, and she knew that now, she was ready.
Watching the birds and the dogs, all of the animals, I am continuously struck by their absolute total capacity to be exactly who they are. Babies do it too – when you look in their eyes, they are absorbed by you and you have a chance to be absorbed by them. A sparrow is 100% sparrow, no pretence, no shame, no wondering what it would be like to be an eagle or a worm. It is sparrow.

Running through all of the (non-human) animals I know and love in my mind’s eye, I see that this is a trait they all share.

Watching sparrow sit on a gate and chirp, scratch, chirp, listen, chirp, scratch… I see a being that knows how to embody every aspect of itself without holding back.

A sparrow doesn’t go on a quest to find its true self. She is just sparrow. Until she is not. And then she is dead.
They fight, they build nests, rear young, eat, drink, form relationships, scratch, dust bathe, fly, chirp… Each action done with complete commitment.

Inevitably, I then begin to compare their example of presence and commitment to myself. I am learning to be like sparrow. To eat when I am eating, to speak, to sing, to listen with such wholeheartedness.

Sparrow doesn’t have ego, or inner work to do, that’s not her path. But I do. And it is that inner work that has led me to be more like sparrow – not wanting to be someone different, not needing validation for living on planet earth. Sparrow owns her spot on that fence with clarity and grace. If challenged she will fight or acquiesce but each is done with full commitment.

I was talking to a good friend today about my current project – combining my three websites into one and designing a logo. Just like sparrow, I am bringing all of myself into one space, sitting fully on the gate, singing, with all of my feathers blowing in the wind. Sparrow doesn’t assess whether she will be accepted before she sings. She doesn’t compare her song to the blackbird’s song. She just sings. She knows, on some level, that she is exactly who she needs to be – sparrow. And so she does her sparrow thing.

During this conversation with my friend, she asked me many questions. One of them was “What are the words you would use to describe what you are doing in your work?”

I closed my eyes and felt my body held by the earth, I felt the wind on my face and the warmth of the sun on my skin. I heard the birds singing and felt them there in the trees, part of my experience, close but untouchable.

George Monbiot came to mind – his re-wilding – bringing back the wolves that then eat some of the deer, allowing trees to grow and rivers to reform, deepen and consolidate due to the new boundaries given by the trees.

I realised that I equate my life and work with the coming of the wolves, the re-wilding that George Monbiot speaks of. I tried for many years to hold back the process, tactics that many will recognise – eating nice food, emotional and physical intimacy, chatting on about stuff, keeping busy… all lovely things but they can also be used as a distraction from feeling deep pain, fear or hurt. And if it is not felt, it can’t be let go of, so it stays with you, hurting.

Resistance is not a pleasant occupation and yet I tried it for many years – resisting the call of my heart to be really seen. Which means I was resisting all of the connections and collaborations that could be made with a brave and visible heart.

The wolves can come in many forms – physical and mental illness, loss, accidents, divorce, redundancy… whatever pulls the rug out from under you. Their purpose though, is not to cause suffering but to show you how your river can run through the earth in all its power, sustaining you and those you meet. They come to shake you out of your old outmoded ways and show you who you really are. They come if you have not been listening to the call of your inner wild heart.

I am not sparrow. I do question and doubt sometimes, I do take time to work out who I am and why I am here. But something has happened recently. My river is running more deeply and I have made friends with the wolves. And now it is time for Woodspring – Finding Your Wild. Here you will find all that I am, wrapped up into one. I hope there is something in here that touches your wild spirit, and if something does, I look forward to seeing you soon.