What was your gateway into inner-led change? What is it within your own lived experience that touches and moves your heart to feel this is so important?
My main gateway to inner-led change has been my health. I have lived with a chronic health condition (including ME/ chronic fatigue) for 25 years - the whole of my adult life. It is through turning towards the emotional roots of this illness that I have been blessed to alchemise my core wounding into my potent and sacred gifts.
The deeply transformative processes of shadow work, embodied awakening and authentic movement have helped me remove the anesthetic that was preventing me from feeling the rich and alchemical depths of these emotions.
As I began to unravel and process all of this repressed emotion, my physical health began to improve dramatically. I then began to reveal a bunch of conditioned beliefs that helped me make sense of why I continued to behave in ways that made me so unwell. These beliefs all centred around how I needed to be in the world to feel like I belonged. For example, positive, confident, self-sacrificial and highly productive (hence my addiction to activism).
Through all this work I discovered that my burnout and chronic illness. were actually symptomatic of deep-seated developmental and intergenerational trauma. And so began a long, gruelling and deeply transformative healing process rooted in transforming my mother's unhealed trauma resulting from being heavily persecuted as a child growing up in Communist Czechoslovakia because her Czech diplomat father insisted on them not joining the Communist Party. At 18 she lived through the Russian invasion of Prague and then managed to illegally escape to England in 1968. 8 years later she gave birth to me.
Healing and transforming this trauma has involved a deep immersion within the process of radical inclusivity and self-love - which I deeply believe lie at the heart of the deep cultural transformation our current crises demand. And it is this journey around radical inclusivity and self-love that has connected me with what I now know to be my soul purpose:
Where before there was burnout and PTSD I now feel deeply grateful to be so fully in touch with my wild generative self and all the freedom, creativity and transformation this gifts me, and the world, with.
Living with and recovering from PTSD that stemmed from persecution put me so deeply in touch with what it is like to be persecuted. And indeed life has been very generous in affording me plenty of opportunities from a very young age to explore the archetype of the scapegoat. It is this inner knowing of both the suffering and transformative potential of all this that fuels my passion and commitment around being an ally to all those and that which is marginalised.
The potent work of relationship
All of this deep diving - which involved a whole lot of falling apart whilst grappling with a whole lot of fear, shame, grief and rage, also highlighted to me just how much of an impact all this had on my relationships and my participation in groups.
Coming into relationship with the fact that a lot of my relational behaviours were very dysfunctional has perhaps been the hardest aspect of this journey. Cultivating compassion and self-love around all this has and continues to be my life-line.
And I now find myself deepy grateful for just how healthy I have become within my relating - which mainly looks like me admitting that I actually have no idea how to relate! And it is by coming from this deeply vulnerable and very fresh place of not-knowing that I feel some semblance of light shining brightly towards new ways of relating that feel pregnant with the love and intimacy I so deeply long for.
And all these realisations around relating, including much deep inquiring around conflict and power dynamics, have lead to my passion and commitment around co-creating the relational cultures needed to bring about a healthier, more transformative and just world grounded in the love, intimacy, beauty, compassion, creativity, pleasure and play that I live my own life in devotion to.
More and more I realise that inner-led change and deep cultural transformation are so deeply contingent on us tending the relational fields between us all. When we tend the relational field we cultivate the safety needed in our systems to be able to collaborate in the healthy, transformative ways our world so urgently needs right now.
My call to soul initiation and underworld guiding
A few years ago I was blessed enough to spend a few days with Bill Plotkin, founder of Animas Valley Institute, at his home in Durango, Colorado. This meeting led to me hearing Mystery's call to soul initiation and underworld guiding.
My work co-founding Starter Culture is very much part of this calling to my soul work as a wild ally to all that and those which are marginalised. I very much hope you will feel called to dive into our soulcraft pages to find out more about this vital aspect of deep cultural transformation.
My experience with efforts around 'outer' change
I have been working passionately for socio-ecological change for some two decades, including:
- As a campaigner for international trade justice and food sovereignty for NGOs like Global Justice Now! (Campaigns and Parliamentary Officer), War on Want (Trade Union Liaison Officer) and Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming (Food Poverty Project Coordinator) (between 1999 and 2006).
- Co-founding Transition Bristol, Bristol Food Network and Bristol Food Hub (2006 - 2011)
- Coordinating the No Tesco in Stokes Croft campaign in Bristol, south west england (2008 - 2010)
- As Sustainable Food Coordinator for Bristol City Council (2007-8)
- Working and living at Ecodharma - a buddhist community and off-grid education centre in a wild and remote part of the Catalunyan Pyrenees, facilitating 1 - 2 week long nature-based programmes around regenerative activism and transformative collaboration and raising funds for 100s of activists to travel to and participate in these programmes for free. (2012 - 2015)
- Working as the Inner Transition Coordinator for Transition Network, coordinating the integration of the inner dimension of change across the international Transition movement (2016 - 2019)
You can read more about my journey with burnout in my blog ‘My name is Claire and I am in recovery from addiction to activism’ in which I share about the core beliefs and strategies I found to be at the core of my addiction to activism and the deep seated burnout it led to.
julian-berengar-solter on unsplash