Virginia Ravenscroft has had a long and winding road since graduating from Harvard in 1992. Her journey has taken her through a diverse range of experiences, including graphic design, teaching, project management, and tech. However, despite her success in these fields, she felt that something was missing. She realized that she wanted to offer a more healing type of work. It’s something that she had been learning about, practicing, and pursuing training for over time. Virginia’s journey is emblematic of the changing nature of work in the 21st century, where people are no longer expected to have one job for life. Instead, they are encouraged to explore different paths and find work that aligns with their passions and values.
Founder of Two Companies
Virginia’s two companies, Offering Abundance and Abolition in the Bones, are the culmination of her journey. Offering Abundance is a company that offers a diverse range of services, including coaching, software development, travel arrangements, especially to places that are off the beaten track, and healing practices. Virginia’s goal with Offering Abundance is to provide a one-stop-shop for all of her clients’ needs by providing a diverse range of services that can help people in many different ways.
Abolition in the Bones, on the other hand, is a company that focuses on anti-racism coaching. Virginia’s journey and her two companies highlight the importance of finding work that aligns with one’s values and passions.
Abolition in the Bones
The focus of Abolition in the Bones is anti-racism coaching and support for those who have experienced racism. The company provides a 15-20 session curriculum that is tailored to each individual’s needs. Virginia works one-on-one with her clients to help them understand the impact of racism and how to be anti-racist.
Virginia explains that one of the ethical problems with white people in anti-racism coaching is that they don’t really know about the impact of racism as a person of color. Virginia is aware of the issue of a white person doing racism coaching, and the blind spots she may encounter. To overcome this, she has an accountability circle of Black women who are the experts that help her shape the curriculum and review her practice.
Virginia’s Healing Practice
Virginia’s healing practice is one of the many services that she offers through Offering Abundance. She is trained in a modality called Indigenous Focusing Oriented Therapy (I-FOT). I-FOT is a body-based practice that attends to the wisdom within the body. It is a decolonizing practice that is rooted in Indigenous ways of healing. Virginia explains the origin of the practice and the difference between this practice and the traditional western approach to illness. Virginia’s approach to healing is focused on helping people become their best selves and understand the wisdom within their bodies. She talks about who this practice serves and why they look for a healing practice outside of the traditional medical industry.
Virginia’s journey and her two companies have important implications for the changing nature of work in the 21st century and that it is possible to have a diverse range of experiences and still find work that is fulfilling.
Working in a Healing Practice
Virginia discusses her experiences with healing and anti-racism and the exercises she uses to help clients uncover and address their problems and discover the root cause through paying close attention and focusing on the body’s reactions in various situations. She talks about how we perceive intelligence and her education practice. She talks about her work as an end-of-life doula. Her goal is to focus on queer and trans people as they approach the end of their life and how she can help them plan, communicate, and cope with this difficult period.
Working as an Anti-racism Practitioner
Virginia talks about her work in Abolition in the Bones and it helps people with internalized racism, unconscious bias, and problematic attitudes. She talks about the “why exercise,” to recognise behavior. As an example, she talks about thinking about a time when they felt like they had to control a situation. Virginia believes that underneath this urge to control or dominate is fear and a desire for safety. She also highlights how this sense of being out of control can be triggered in situations with racial components. She explains how this is used to recognize the trigger and control the response, and how body-based exercises help people recognise unconscious impulsive behaviors. Virginia believes that understanding the interiority and full humanity of people of color is crucial for overcoming racism and promoting inclusivity.
Virginia is passionate about anti-racism and has been working on it since college. She attended an anti-racism workshop led by a black woman, and a presentation by Jacob Holt, a photographer from the Netherlands, who documented racial injustice and counteracted each one with a new photograph which challenged her to work on anti-racism work. She also mentions how she became aware of her own unconscious racial behavior.
Influential Courses and Professors
Virginia discusses her experiences with various courses and professors at Harvard, including Professor Edwin Cranston, who was her advisor throughout her sophomore, junior, and senior year. She was fortunate enough to come into Harvard already speaking Japanese fairly well, and she went into classical Japanese classes with him. She also mentions a course on the art and architecture of Suleiman the Magnificent with Gülru Necipoğlu, Simon Schama’s class on art and history in the Baroque era, and Regina Johnson’s class on Modern Japanese Women Writers.
06:46 An introduction to indigenous focusing oriented therapy
14:42 Examples of the body mind connection in holistic healing
16:51 Assisting the healing journey
19:21 Virginia’s healing methods
22:15 Virginia’s work as an end-of-life doula
27:42 Explaining problematic meanings
30:30 Running abolition in the bones
34:23 Exercises to uncover racism
39:06 The story behind Virginia’s focus on racism
49:50 Preparing to live abroad
Will Bachman, Virginia Ravenscroft
Will Bachman 00:01
Hello, and welcome to the 92 report conversations with members of the Harvard and Radcliffe class of 1992. I’m your host will Bachman. And I’m excited to be here today with Virginia, Ravenscroft, Virginia. Welcome to the show. Thank you. Well, thanks for having me. So Virginia, tell me about your journey since graduating from Harvard.
Virginia Ravenscroft 00:22
Oh, wow. So it’s, it’s, you know, it’s been, however, you know, 30 some years, I guess, at this point, and it’s been a long and winding road for me, you know, I guess in the old days, people, you know, when would get a job out of college, and they do the job and till they, you know, retired or keeled over. And that definitely hasn’t been, I think most of our classmates experience, right. So yeah, but I’ve definitely had a winding road I’ve had times as a graphic designer, as a teacher and educator. I’ve been a project manager at a large financial institution. You know, I’ve been worked at a startup, many years in tech. So I’ve done all these different things. And at this point in my life, I realized that I wanted to start, I wanted to offer more healing type of work, which is something that I’ve been learning about and practicing and getting different trainings, and so on over time. And I realized I wanted to make that kind of my my full time endeavor. So what I ended up doing is like starting a company where I do all the things that I know how to do, if you’re good, I’ll just kind of throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. And that’s what I’m doing. Now I have, I actually have two companies. One of them is called offering abundance. That’s the one I just started a few months ago. And I do pretty much everything from like, coaching and certain methodologies around software development. So Scrum and Agile, if people you know, familiar with those, I do that I do travel arrangements, because I’ve traveled to over 30 countries. And you know, I’m really good at traveling, especially in places that are a little bit off the beaten path, I can help folks make arrangements know what to bring all that kind of thing. But I can also do various healing practices. So we can get into that more later, I suppose. But then the other company that I have is called abolition in the bones. And its focus is on kind of anti racism, I guess coaching, if you will, but it’s a whole curriculum, it takes about 15 to 20 sessions very flexible, depending on the person, what they need, what they want. It’s a one on one coaching practice. And that practice, I work very hard to make it ethical, that I’m a white person offering anti racism coaching, there’s several problems with that, you know, potential problems. One is that, you know, you’d be profiting off of, you know, off of a system that already benefits us money, you know, materially, so I donate a portion of the proceeds 10% of the proceeds not the profit the proceeds of each session to some reparations projects. And then I also, you know, another ethical problem with white people doing anti racism coaching is like, people, you know, not really knowing about the impact of racism as a person of color, right, as a person of the global majority or black, brown, indigenous person. And so I have an accountability circle of at this point, it’s all it’s all black women, who kind of like review my practice and kind of helped me stay on track around that. And the last ethical problem with white people setting themselves up to do anti racism coaching is kind of like thinking of yourself as an expert, and I, you know, make sure that that’s, you know, clear that it’s the accountability circle, who are who are the experts and I’ve, we’ve together shaped this kind of curriculum for folks to, to participate in. So hopefully, that was kind of an overview of the two different projects you know, offering abundance has a number of of healing components, including medical advocacy, which is I mean, it’s not exactly a healing practice, but it is involved in so so for example, if somebody is chronically ill disabled, wants to go to the doctor but constantly gets gaslit mistreated and talked down to a I would go with them to support them and encourage the either support them in sticking up for themselves or if they are triggered and not able to, I can step in and ask the doctor to speak more respectfully and so on. I also am trained as an end of life doula, I do grief support. I do emotional, spiritual support of different kinds. I’m a meditation teacher. And I’m also trained in a modality called indigenous focusing oriented therapy. I’m not a therapist I call RMA. I fought practitioner. IoT being the acronym for the mouthful, I just said, so, you know, I have I have all these different things that I’m doing. And so far, it’s actually happening. So I’m pretty, pretty excited about that. Yeah.
Will Bachman 05:54
Well, that is a lot for us to explore in this episode. Wow, that’s quite a quite a range of things. Why don’t we take it in turn? Let’s start with your healing practice. Can you give me maybe kind of a list of services or list of healing practice? You? You touched on a couple, but could you give us kind of a complete inventory of the healing practices that you offer?
Virginia Ravenscroft 06:16
Yeah, I mean, the one that I’m most kind of interested in exploring with folks is the healing practitioner that I just mentioned, the indigenous focusing on it in therapy. Again, I’m not a therapist, and I’m a practitioner, but that’s what it’s called. I fit and that’s a
Will Bachman 06:35
that was didn’t quite catch it indigenous
Virginia Ravenscroft 06:37
focused. What was focusing oriented therapy,
Will Bachman 06:41
indigenous focusing oriented therapy. What is that?
Virginia Ravenscroft 06:46
Yeah. So there’s a there’s a practice called focusing, which is a type of, it’s not really, it’s very different from traditional therapy, it was started by somebody named Jean Gatlin, who created this, this practice of focusing, and what it is, is a very intensely body based practice where you like attend to your body and listen to the wisdom that is within the body, as opposed to the the kind of, I guess, intellect, I mean, not that the intellect is not useful in some ways. But you know, basically attending to what the what the body has to share. You’ve heard of the book, The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Vander Kolk, where he talks about how the body kind of holds on to a lot of knowledge and wisdom. And so that’s focusing, and then an indigenous Mitzi woman named Shirley Turcotte kind of learned about focusing and brought in and felt that it was getting closer to an indigenous way of healing. And so she created indigenous focusing oriented therapy, which is very much an attempt at or successful attempts, in my view of, like, kind of decolonizing practices around, you know, that resemble therapy, but are quite different. I mean, the main, so there’s a great video of her Shirley takot, and Deborah Williams, who’s the kind of lead teacher here in New York, Shirley, Chica is, I believe, from Winnipeg. And they are talking about what are the differences? What’s the main difference between like traditional therapy, you know, that comes out of the Freudian or, you know, other traditions, you know, fundamentally having the roots there? What’s the difference between that and indigenous focusing oriented therapy, and the main differences they talked about were like, folk attending to the body, and also seeing the person as fundamentally well, so instead of like, you know, traditional therapeutic approach might be to see people as sick and needing to be fixed. The IFA approach is more about that people are fundamentally Well, another aspect of it is that people are surrounded by support from their ancestors. You know, they’re, you know, that there’s spiritual support available, that, you know, you know, even the land, the rocks, the trees, the, you know, the rivers are all of support, you know, so there’s, there’s that sense of the land being animates and, and, and, and able to offer care. And another aspect of it is the collective so not just looking at this one person in isolation, but like looking at exploring with them how their trauma is collective and intergenerational. So that something that happened to their mother or their grandmother, you know, or any any past generation might be still resonating. for them might have been kind of that trauma can be passed down. So you know that that kind of collective ancestral, spiritual and like the idea of the land is animate, are kind of main pieces of that where they’re, they’re kind of decolonizing, the traditional therapy to make it not so kind of intellectual, not about the individual being sick, not about, you know, not not sort of focused in so much on the individual to the exclusion of everything else that you know, the sort of human and non other than human ecosystem that we that we exist in it. Does that make sense?
Will Bachman 10:43
Okay, well, I have some questions about it. It makes sense. But I have some questions. All right. So first, I guess who would go to an indigenous focusing oriented there? P practitioner, like yourself, not a therapist, but you said you’re a practitioner? So you probably wouldn’t go if you’re perfectly well? Is this more of a kind of mental health kind of a treatment or more of a physical ailment treatment? Like who would? Who would go on, you know, Google and say, I’m searching for an I fought practitioner, because I am suffering from x.
Virginia Ravenscroft 11:22
Right? Right. No, it’s definitely, it’s kind of, it’s very holistic. So looking at the body mind as an entity, as opposed to like separating them out. At the same time, you wouldn’t necessarily go you know, because you hurt your foot, you know, or something. Unless it was unless you felt that there was some. Yeah, I mean, like, what
Will Bachman 11:46
are the conditions? Like, is it Yeah, I’m depressed, anxiety, or I had kidney stones or,
Virginia Ravenscroft 11:52
and those Yeah, not kidney, not so much with the kidney stones. But it can also be sometimes trauma and depression, anxiety can manifest in physical ways. So that would be kind of where, you know, and sometimes, of course, physical issues need, you know, biotics or something like that, you know, that’s a whole different realm of, of treatment. So it’s not a substitute for going to the doctor or like learning, you know, what might be like, sort of technically wrong with the body, but it’s exploring any spiritual dimension that that has any psychological dimension, kind of the way the body and mind are so intimately connected. Yeah, but I mean, primarily, it’s around trauma and, or just being overwhelmed by life. Anxiety, depression, those kinds of things, would be things that we’d work with, but you wouldn’t you could actually benefit a person could benefit being feeling well. And whole, you know, they could still benefit from the practice because it actually attends although it’s, it’s a trauma practice. It attends primarily it begins with, how’s your daily life? And as we feel into the emotions that are evoked by thinking about today’s life situation, we kind of come to what are the deeper levels that’s gonna have what are the
Virginia Ravenscroft 14:42
It’s kind of like, I would say it’s, it’s, there is a strong connection between the mind and the body. So it can be interrelated concerns, but definitely it’s it’s spiritual, emotional health would be you know, the I’m the impetus for seeking out this practice. The definitely, there’s this idea of the individual as whole and well already. So we don’t see people that come to talk with us as being sick or having a problem. We are exploring their wisdom, their innate wisdom, their innate wholeness, and just uncovering that what exists already inside them. It’s not like, so that process can have physical rabbit ramifications. A depression anxiety, you know, can manifest in pain and other physical manifestations, obviously, sometimes you need, you just need antibiotics, or you need some kind of like, you know, sort of physically oriented treatment, but other times things are more complex and interrelated. So, you know, I definitely don’t I don’t want to split mental and physical too, too severely, if that makes sense.
Will Bachman 16:03
No, sure. I mean, certainly, you know, mental health issues could manifest themselves, right. And so Okay, so let’s say that a patient comes to you, and they’re feeling anxious, right, let’s, let’s say someone who thinks xiety. So, they are, you know, they hear about it, someone mentions to them, I fo T, and they, they, and somehow they get connected with you. Okay, so a new patient tells him what are, as a practitioner, tell us about like, what are some of the actual things that you would do with the person, you gave us some of the philosophy in the land as an active agent, and so forth? Like, okay, so we do just, is it like a talk therapy? Or do you say, Go lie down next to the river and, you know, kind of commune with it? Or what are some of the things that you would do with a patient?
Virginia Ravenscroft 16:51
Yeah, I mean, that might be something that they’d want to do, we come from them what they need, right? It’s just a matter of listening to, to learn, you know, to learn what, what is needed for their own healing. So what what I do, generally, I mean, what we do, and so I just graduated with a wonderful group of colleagues. So if somebody wanted to do this practice with a person of the global majority, you know, a black brown indigenous colleague, you know, I can refer them, you know, because they’re, you know, again, the prop, the idea of a white person doing an indigenous practice is, you know, is it can be considered problematic, I, you know, struggled with it, but I decided to trust the teachers, the esteemed teachers, who, you know, allowed me to take the program. So I asked, you know, for, for folks who are dubious that, you know, maybe we can all trust those teachers. And if not, again, I can refer people to a colleague, but that said, so, if a person a person would arrive, and we would go through a process to kind of find what’s what’s at the heart of what are they feeling today. And that would be not a feeling like an emotion but more like what’s going on in the body, that’s alerting them to that emotion. So, for example, the anxiety might be like a feeling in the chest or something like that. And we would just kind of work with that it’s, we we listen in to that feeling and work. And it kind of, we go on a journey together with what’s happening for them, and connect to any other places where they felt that feeling perhaps, you know, any other times in their life, and through that kind of work through any trauma, that it’s touching on any, you know, big unresolved issues that it’s touching on, but it all happens in this place of drawing on the support of, you know, ancestors, the land and the collective, you know, to to reach their own inner wholeness that they already have.
Will Bachman 19:09
Okay, so what would would you assign them exercises to go off and do on their own? Or is it mainly therapy that takes place one on one, you know, in like talk therapy, or?
Virginia Ravenscroft 19:21
Well, it’s both but I don’t assign anything they know what they need. It’s just a matter of pausing and listening to understand what their body and spirit is asking for, you know, so it’s not like I’m like, oh, go do this. I asked them what do you need and they know if we are if we’ve become quiet and attentive enough to their body and mind they know what they need, but it’s it’s hard to hear and the hustle and bustle of everyday life what what you actually need and want sometimes right you know, you’ve got news and everything else flying at your head from from from your life, like how do you pause and listen, you know, It’s something people can do this for themselves, too. I mean, I, you know, we are encouraged to do sessions kind of on ourselves. So, you know, it’s just a matter of attending, you know, attending to the body and listening to what is going to arise from that.
Will Bachman 20:15
Okay, so this is one of your service lines. Tell us about some of the other things that you do. So you mentioned, end of life doula meditation teacher, you do medical advocacy. Were you are there other other ones, I’d love to explore some more of these.
Virginia Ravenscroft 20:30
Yeah, I do. Grief Support, I do. A sort of more, more like a therapy practice, which, which is, you know, it’s coaching because I’m not trained as a therapist. But it’s sort of emotional, spiritual coaching. I actually one that I hadn’t mentioned yet is education, and justice, where I, as a former teacher, I can help folks work on making their curriculum anti oppressive. So in other words, both the content of the curriculum would be helping students learn about systemic oppression and oppose it and themselves and as they see it in the world. But you know, also, you know, liberating them liberating themselves as much as possible. And also supporting students with low skills or disabilities and high intelligence, which actually, I believe is all of them, right? I think that all students have, I believe that intelligence is a muscle that you can exercise and get stronger. It’s not like a bowl, that’s a certain certain dimensions that some people have a small bowl, and some people have a big bowl, like, I don’t believe in that idea of intelligence. So it’s like, how do we support students with who are you know, intelligent, but their skills are low, or they have disabilities or other things have interfered with them excelling in school? You know, so like, so that’s my education practice. So you know, there’s, there’s, there’s a lot of skill out there. I could talk more about any of those. Is there one you want to pick out?
Will Bachman 22:10
Tell me a bit about your work as an end of life doula?
Virginia Ravenscroft 22:15
Yeah, so I just completed the training for that. So I’m working on a volunteer basis at this time. I mean, I haven’t, I haven’t started it, but I’m going to be volunteering at hospice, my my, you know, to, to gain the experience needed to become certified. Yeah, it’s a, it’s a beautiful practice, I, I’m really glad that I did the training, and really looking forward to engaging it. And my goal is to kind of specialize in working with queer and trans folks who are nearing the end of life. And, you know, so the training helps us learn how to do a couple of things, or a number of things. One of them is help the person if they are still, you know, doing pretty well. But, you know, maybe they’ve entered hospice, but they have some strength and energy left, you know, creating a project with them, or with their family if their lives. Oh, shoot. Sorry, could you hear that? We’re good. Okay. So, okay, so I’ll just start again. So there’s a number of things, there’s a number of aspects, one of them is if the person is strong enough, or with their family, if they’re not very strong anymore, creating a legacy project. So that project might be let’s say, they love to cook, having people donate, their, you know, collect their favorite recipes that they learned from this person and put them into a book that then you know, a booklet that might be printed and distributed to their friends, you know, or might be, you know, a memory book where you’ve, their friends will write down memories, and you add them to some kind of, you know, again, an album that that can remain after the person has gone to, like, you know, help the family feel surrounded by the friends, you know, through remote who’ve recalled these memories, that people it’s very individual, so people would have some, some desire to have a legacy, a legacy project, that’s one thing we help with. Another thing we help with is we just listen, you know, we just listen to either, you know, or both the person who’s dying and talk with their, their families as well, you know, about the dying process. You know, and I mean, sometimes, people struggle to have a conversation with a dying person about death, because there’s this tendency in our culture to be like, Oh, you’re gonna get better and, you know, at some point, if the person knows they’re not getting better, that doesn’t actually help them, right. They need someone to talk to about how they’re feeling about, you know, death and what’s happening. You know, and So that’s something that maybe an outsider can provide better than the family member, you know, who might be more overcome with what’s happening, you know, another thing that we would do as end of life, doulas is help people plan for the last days of their life when they might not be able to ask for, you know what they want anymore. And people don’t think about this, I had never thought about it. But like, if you were, you know, if I was, you know, slowly, you know, dying of an illness, I would want certain things in my room, as I, you know, was heading towards my last breath, I want certain people in my room, and I would maybe not want others, you know, I might want particular music or lighting, or maybe, you know, all essential oil diffuser, you know, with lavender or something, you know, there might be things I want to keep me comfortable, I might want to make decisions, medical decisions, right? Before the time that I can’t communicate. So there’s a lot of aspects to like, planning for the last, you know, week to two weeks of life. And also edge kind of educating the family about like, what if they don’t already know, which they may, you know, of course, but if they don’t, aren’t familiar with the dyeing process, like what actually to expect, so that they’re not surprised when different physical things happen, right. There’s also ceremony and ritual that we can bring in that could be religious according to the person’s beliefs, or it could be, you know, more just spiritual, or could be completely non religious at all, if the person is, you know, more of an atheist or skeptic, it could just be, you know, every everybody you know, kissing that person on the forehead and telling them that they love them, or, you know, could be any type of kind of more formal practice where everyone who’s participating in that process, you know, takes it takes some kind of meaningful action. So there’s a lot of ways that end of life doula can be supportive, in ways that you know, perhaps a hospital hospice chaplain or hospice nurse might want to but not have time to because they have such a heavy client load and they’re going from one person to the next all day. So you know, that’s, that’s some of the work of an end of life doula, and I want to do I do want to say the word doulas is somewhat problematic, because, I guess in its in its roots, and its origin has, you know, problematic meanings. However, I decided to go ahead and use it because it has,
Will Bachman 27:40
what are the problematic meanings?
Virginia Ravenscroft 27:42
It’s actually literally means female slave, I guess, or female servant. Yeah. So in Greek, so, you know, yeah, it’s, it’s problematic. But I decided to keep using it with with some reservations, and I could still be sort of talked out of it, you know, but at the moment, I’m using it because it’s a commonly understood word, to the degree that this whole thing is understood at all. It’s a word that people can relate to. I feel like it’s people more likely to know about a birth doula, but that comparison is actually pretty apt that there’s a whole process that happens, right? And, you know, so, so I have chosen to keep using that word. But it is it is it is, you know, many people who do the same word choose to call themselves you know, death companions or other other types of words. Yeah.
Will Bachman 28:38
And, like a birth doula, is this some role that typically, the family is going to kind of engage on a private basis, like, you know, the family hires you to do this, right. This is not like, insurance covered?
Virginia Ravenscroft 28:53
Or no, it’s not covered by insurance. But I do have a sliding scale for all the services mean, basically, my website says, Look, if you know, if you can afford to pay me, please do because I, you know, I gotta keep the lights on. I would love to give everything away for free, that would be amazing, because I don’t really feel like charging for healing work. Doesn’t feel right to me, but I kind of have to survive. Right. So. So I do, I do have some base rates. And then, you know, I let people know that if they can’t pay, they should just contact me and we’ll we’ll work something out, including barter. I’m willing to do barter, like your massage therapist. Some I thought sessions like let’s swap, you know, or could be anything, you know, anything that we can share with each other because that’s like a form of community care. All right. All right. What’s up oh, so just to finish answering that that question about the the doula work it’s would definitely be be privately engaged or I can, you know, work and like, as a as a volunteer in a hospice like hospice facility. You know, as you know, hospice isn’t a facility, it’s a program, but there are a hospice facilities. And I’m planning to volunteer at one of those where I could provide these services to people who, you know, would like them. So there’s a lot of ways to access this work.
Will Bachman 30:16
Let’s talk about your other firm. I think you call it I think it’s, you said it’s abolition in the bones. Yes. Yes. I’m curious. Have you seen, like, how long have you been running that? Like, maybe? How many
Virginia Ravenscroft 30:30
2220 21? And I’ve had let me think, not that many clients I’ve had. Sorry, I understand, but not, you know, like, eight maybe? Yeah, it was it was I was hope, more hopeful than it turned out to be warranted, that people would be willing to engage. I think one on one work is a little frightening, you know? Because he’s sort of like, you know, it’s your thing. Maybe, maybe, maybe that’s why also, I haven’t marketed either one very well, because I’m not good at marketing. Apparently. I would, but yeah,
Will Bachman 31:14
I would challenge. I always like to just in general challenge, anyone who says I’m not good at x. So there was a baby. I’m sorry, I’ll
Virginia Ravenscroft 31:23
rephrase that. I’m still learning marketing. And I have not marketed effectively up to now. But I would like to, like to get better at
Will Bachman 31:31
better reframing and thank you. So, you know, for that number of clients you’ve had, what would you what are the kind of demographics? And where are your clients coming from? Are they you know, non binary men, women? You know, are they like, what would what is, you know, white, black? Brown? Where are they coming from? Are they getting recommended or on their own seeking this out?
Virginia Ravenscroft 31:59
Yeah, no, that’s a great question. I mean, the program is designed for white people, but everybody’s welcome, is designed for white people to kind of like, work with our, you know, internalized, you know, our racism and your unconscious racism, right. Like, we’re, you know, it’s probably, I mean, people who come to the program are very, you know, well, meaning people who want to do better, you know, so it’s not people who are, you know, flying the Confederate flag and in, you know, doing all kinds of reprehensible things as people who, you know, are well meaning and want to do better. So it’s a gentle, it’s a very gentle project. It’s not like, you’re a terrible person, and you should feel bad thing, you know. And not that not that anybody, you know, well, that’s a whole other topic. But yes, I do welcome anyone who work who wants to who might not be white, but wants to work on, for example, internalized anti blackness, many people living in this in this country, particularly or even in this world, internalized anti blackness, and they don’t necessarily have to be white, so we could work on that. So that’s, or, or indigenous erasure, or other, you know, problem, problematic attitudes and behaviors. But yeah, the demographics, so everybody I’ve worked with has been, I’ve had one non binary client, one man, and everybody else has been women, as far as I, as far as I know, a lot of queer people. In fact, Have they all been queer? No, but a lot of queer people. And yeah, so yeah, it’s been an all ages. So people, well, not nobody older than me, but from from our age, you know, as class of 92, down to people who are in their 20s. So yeah, it’s been, you know, people who are just just out of college, and so on. So it’s definitely been a range and age range. Yeah.
Will Bachman 34:02
This is a, you told us it’s a multi session, you know, kind of training and work? What would what would be one of the most effective exercises that you do with your clients there that you think helps, you know, people uncover and address their racism and overcome it?
Virginia Ravenscroft 34:23
Yeah, I feel like one of my favorite ones, and this is just the first one that came to mind. Is, is a why exercise where we think about a time where we felt like we had to control a situation and it doesn’t even need to be a racially charged situation, where we felt like an urge to dominate or control. And we, we ask ourselves, why. And then we keep asking why to the response, you know, so if it’s, if it’s, well, I wanted everything to go right. Well, why? Well, you know, and sort of ask why and it usually takes three Five minutes to kind of get down to the crux of it. But what every client has found is that underneath an urge to control or dominate, is fear and, and a wish for safety. You know, at the very heart of it, like you get down to kind of your inner child level, and you realize that it’s like fear and wanting safety. And so then we also can look at how, you know, our sense of being out of control, or afraid or needing safety can get triggered in situations where there’s any type of racial component for for white people, it’s, it’s, it can be challenging. And so what we do is we spend time with our bodies, feeling into how that sense of domination arises. And then recognizing, like almost putting, like a little flag there, so that when it comes up again, we can recognize, oh, I’m having this urge to dominate, let me step back, let me engage with other people in this, whatever the scenario is, with humility, let me engage in collaboration instead of domination. Let me work collectively instead of trying to be in charge. And it’s an impulse that, that we have towards, and it’s hard, because most people when they hear this, they don’t believe it, you know, that, that white people have this sort of like tendency towards domination, people feel like, well, I’m the most shrinking person of all, I’m a shrinking violet, I don’t dominate. But it’s actually it’s, it’s actually in there, we do, we do have a tendency to do that. And so you know, that’s an that’s something that we have to practice with are an abolition in the bones is called in the bones, because it’s also a body based practice, like the other healing practices. It’s very, very much an attempt to like, feel into what are the behaviors that we do that cause racial harm? And where are those coming from? Right? Where are those coming from? And how can we? How can we recognize those impulses when they arise and catch them before we cause harm? So that dominant impulse is one another another one is, like for? Separation, labeling others, right, another one is just trying to think of them off the top of my head. You know, yeah, I mean, well, I’ll just, I’ll stick with that one for a second, this sense of separation, and that, and we really are actually undivided as human beings, right. And so this tendency to like separate NCCR, that see the other as, as, as other right is part of the problem. Now, that’s not to say that we shouldn’t see see color. Of course, if a person has a culture and a color and an identity, we want to celebrate that with them, right? That’s not the same thing as not seeing color, but we want to see everybody as fully human. And that’s actually something that we need to work on as white people because there’s been so much dehumanization, in the media and everywhere else that we see around people of color that we ultimately end up not really grasping, that they have an interiority and a full humanity, just like any anybody, you know, that we that we think of as perhaps in our family or people that we that we understand their interiority that actually is, is a is a problem generally. Right. But it’s particularly challenging for, for white people relating to people of color. I don’t know if I’m being very clear here, but I’m doing I’m Yeah, I didn’t. Didn’t really prep for this.
Will Bachman 38:42
No prep required. Yeah. Tell me a bit about it’s clear. You’re very passionate about these topics, what, what, when, and sort of, what would you say have gotten you passionate about the topic of anti racism? Is this something that you know, go and it goes way back to college or something?
Virginia Ravenscroft 39:06
It does go back to college, actually. And it goes back to I can’t remember the name of the person I remember that I went with, to the I went to like a, an anti racism workshop. Well, there were two events in college one of them was went to this anti racism workshop, Jen Wang and I from Lowell House went together. And the person was a black woman leading the workshop, and I don’t remember anything about the workshop, except that it challenged me to, like a lifetime of anti racism work and I, you know, I was like, Alright, I challenge accepted, you know, and so, you know, I’ve been on that journey since then. A couple other things that happened in college that really alerted me to like my own racism and my own, you know, the way that I saw things being problematic was I was a tutor in a tutoring program and my, the girl that I tutored was black. And she, she, unfortunately, had did some educating which, you know, child shouldn’t have to do to for an adult, you know, but I learned a lot from her. And, you know, and I feel, I’m still actually in touch with her, we’re Facebook friends, I feel sad that, you know, I caused the harm of the various ways that I that I caused harm in that relationship where I, you know, didn’t know stuff, made mistakes, and, you know, that she was very, you know, willing to teach. And I learned a lot from that. And I, you know, kind of that also sent me on the journey. And the last thing that sent me on the journey was a presentation by Jacob Holt, who’s a photographer from the Netherlands, this is also a college, I went to that with Michel, totally from Lowell House, we went and saw this presentation where this this guy had taken pictures, taking photographs all over the US documenting racial injustice, and he kind of like, knew all of the ways that white people like to wiggle out of recognizing racial injustice, and he would counteract each one with a new photograph. You know, and, and it was very, I was very upset. By the end of it, I was like, crying and sobbing and like, curled up in my chair, like almost a fetal position, because I just didn’t know these things, you know, as a, as a white person who had not had I mean, I did, I did go to schools with children of color, but I just was oblivious, you know, and, and I didn’t, you know, I just didn’t know any of this. And so that, you know, also that experience also sent me on that path. So I’ve definitely been, like really committed, really working on anti racism for like, 30 years. Definitely. So you know, that’s, and I’m always learning more every year, I look back on the previous year, and I’m like, Oh, why can I? How could I have thought that? How could I have said that? You know, but we all have, we’re all on that path, right? We’re all on the path. I’m not, you know, some kind of expert. I’m on the path with the clients.
Will Bachman 42:27
Understand? Tell me Tell me Give me an example of that. If something that you look back on that you thought one or two years ago, and you know,
Virginia Ravenscroft 42:35
okay, so I’ll give an example of something I did, because that’s a little bit easier to that’s what springs to mind. I was in a bodega, which is a small convenience store in New York City, which is where I live now. And there, there were a lot of boxes piled up. So there was a very narrow aisle that you could pass through. And, and this is 2015. I want to say, so, you know, a couple of years ago, but I was I had just kind of moved back to the city from Chicago was living in a Caribbean neighborhood as a you know, as a as a gentrify er, basically. And I mean, I’m still living in a Caribbean neighborhood. But I like to hope that I am being more of a neighbor than a gentrify er at this point, which is a whole other conversation. But yeah, I was walking, I was walking through this bodega, there were boxes piled up, it was a very narrow aisle, only one person could kind of barely squeeze through. And this black woman and her daughter, presumably daughter or child, were, you know, walking towards me in this aisle, they were already in this narrow aisle. And as a white person I’m accustomed as, as we are, all are trained. And many of maybe some of us to greater or lesser extent, but we’re told that we have the right to take up space anywhere we are, and we have the right to, to, you know, to go where we want to go and be where we want to be and take up whatever space we want to take up. And if if that’s hard to believe, I encourage folks to watch subway turnstile and watch, who barrels through and sort of runs down who you know, like that. It’s, it’s quite interesting. It’s educational. So anyway, so I, this woman was already in this little narrow aisle, and I should have stood aside and let her finish walking through the aisle. And instead, I started down the aisle as well. And her the child looked back, who was in front of her looked back up at her like, what do I do? And she said, Keep going to the child. So the child kept going, and as we squeezed past each other with great difficulty, I said, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. And she just looked at me and said, shut up. And that was an education, right? Because I was like, wow, why did I do that? You know, why did I do that? You know, I’m, you know, in it And I recognize what I had done that I had assumed that I that I took priority, right that I was that I should be allowed to pass before anybody before person of color. So, you know, that’s just an example of something that I still wins that. But you know, I think if people are honest, like white people, white people are honest, we all have incidents where we can recognize that we caused harm, or that we, you know, we’re prevented by cut from causing harm by, by a self defense move like was like this woman did you know, and I’m sure that it like, didn’t make her evening better for me to have acted like that, you know, I don’t know what impact it had on her. Maybe she brushed it off, maybe it pissed her off, and she was mad for an hour. Like, I have no idea. But it certainly didn’t improve things for her, you know, so. Yeah, I just so that’s just an example. You know, we own and I’ve learned to share space, you know, I’ve learned how to like, share the sidewalk and share, you know, and then there was a time where I went too far in the other direction where like, somebody was coming down the sidewalk toward me, and I would like, walk into the tree well with the dog poop, so that I wouldn’t like, take up any space on the sidewalk. Well, that’s stupid to me. I mean, stupid is a strong word. But that’s, that’s so not useful. Because people that are like, Why are you so afraid? You know, afraid of me? Like, why are you like, scrambling to get away from me, you know, so, or they may just see what I’m doing. And just, you know, see that it’s like, overreacting. Because, you know, I’ve had a black friend say to me, you know, like, You’re too careful, you’re being so careful around me. And it’s, it’s not it’s dehumanizing, right? It’s not respectful. It’s, it’s, you’re treating me like, not a not a person. You know? So I’ve learned to, you know, when I pass somebody on a narrow sidewalk, I’ll turn my body, because I’m a big person, I’ll turn my body so that it’s easier for them to pass, but I don’t like walk into the tree. Well, you know, because they don’t you know, why? Why would I? You know, why am I? Why would I be more self effacing than the other person? So it’s like a practice, you know, it was one of my goals to learn to take up the right amount of space. And I feel like, I’m at that point now where I know how to take up my space and not impinge on to other people’s, does that make sense?
Will Bachman 47:21
That that’s a great example helps explain it. Let’s turn to college. Were there any
Virginia Ravenscroft 47:26
actually, let me say one more sure. That sorry. And that, that that’s why I work on with clients and abolition of the bones. We attend to the body, right? We really attend to the body and what’s what’s, how does it feel in the body when I scrambled to get out of someone’s way? How’s it feel the body when I dominate the situation and charge into that aisle? Like what am I feeling? And then and then when we become cognizant of that, then the next time we have that feeling of domination, or the next time we have that feeling of shrinking, we can notice what we’re doing and say wait, let me stop. Let me let me reframe how I’m acting in this situation. So that’s why the body will tell us when we’re going astray if we learn to listen. So yeah.
Will Bachman 48:13
Virginia, let’s turn to college. Are there any courses or professors that you had at Harvard that continue to resonate with you?
Virginia Ravenscroft 48:22
Oh, so many, so many? Well, my the first one that comes to mind is Professor Edwin Cranston, who was my advisor throughout sophomore junior senior year as my thesis advisor and so generous, such a generous person. And so you know, why is brilliant, etc. I was lucky enough to come into Harvard already speaking Japanese fairly well. And so I went into classical Japanese classes with him. Starting my sophomore year, I was in a seminar, a small seminar with, you know, six to six to eight people, you know, every six to 10 people, I guess, some years some semesters. Every semester, I had a seminar with him and he just like really took me under his wing and like really helped me you know, navigate college. He was very he was very kind very generous. He’s passed on now he died, I think in I can’t remember now is it recent years, recent years and
Will Bachman 49:23
how did you happen to enter Harvard speaking such good Japanese, which is not super common?
Virginia Ravenscroft 49:30
Yeah, I had lived in Japan for a year as an exchange student, my senior year, okay. And I went, you know, went to a Japanese school and everything because not not to the American School. And yeah,
Will Bachman 49:39
and not that many schools, you know, that I’m aware of, you know, had Japanese as a language. How did you prepare to live abroad? I do, did you? Not but I mean,
Virginia Ravenscroft 49:50
I was a very industrious child. I basically I got a book and I taught my son you know, book and it was a tape at the time, right, and taught myself To a certain degree. And then when I had gotten pretty good, I got through the first book, it was called Japanese for busy people. And the reason I picked it was because the exercises were in were in Japanese writing, because I wanted to learn to read it. And I didn’t want to read all the exercises in English, you know, letters, right? So, so I read, so I practiced, and I made exercises for myself, and I wrote things, and I did all this stuff. And my mom finally realized that I was serious. So she hired a grad student, or a student from the U of A University of Arizona, I lived in Tucson, to tutor me. And then so then I came to Japan, I already spoke some Japanese and then I learned, you know, of course, trial by fire. baptism by fire, everything I put, it was definitely not easy. But I made it through
Will Bachman 50:53
and we’re delving way back, but of all the languages and it’s extraordinary. What What was it about Japanese, in particular, the culture or the language? What What got you interested in learning Japanese in 1980? You know, five or six or seven?
Virginia Ravenscroft 51:09
Yeah, well, this is embarrassing, because but most of my cohort in, in college, and I did eventually go to grad school at Japanese literature, which is why one of the services I offer is developmental editing of academic papers, but that’s a whole other story. Yeah, I did. Yeah, I I, a lot of my cohort had the same origin story for learning Japanese, and everybody’s embarrassed about it. But we, there was a mini series called Shogun on TV. Sure. And, and there was also a book Shogun, and I read the book, and was entranced by this, like exotic culture. Well, turns out the book is completely crap. It’s, like, totally not accurate. And it’s very exotic sizing and othering. And not in sort of deep and dehumanizing per our earlier conversation. So it’s a terrible it’s a terrible book. And it interest a lot of us in that age group to study Japanese. But we’re all we’re all very embarrassed about it once we once we hit you know, grad school or so. But that was a common origin streams,
Will Bachman 52:18
Cavell got you to study Japanese on your own, then you get a tutor, then you okay, that is okay. I’m glad we got this story. Wow. Okay, so that was one professor, any other courses or professors at Harvard? Yeah,
Virginia Ravenscroft 52:33
there was a course taught by I believe her name was guru Netsafe Pogo, about the art and architecture of Suleyman the magnificent, that was art. Let Nords be 35 I still remember the course name for some reason. Anyway, it was it was tacular course I love that class, so much. And then I went to Turkey in 2001, before 911 and went to Turkey, to travel to all the, you know, beautiful buildings that we had learned about in that class. And it was one of the best trips of my life. So I’m really grateful for that class. I’m trying to think if I feel like there’s others that I was thinking about before, you asked and now there’s another one Simon Schama. taught about and I forget, I forget the name of the class. But it was about art and history in like the Baroque era, I think and and what I learned from that class was about how art and religion can be used to legitimize you know, legitimize a monarchy or a rule, right? And I learned I owe another teacher that I another professor that I really respect and appreciate was Regina Johnson, Gina Johnson, who was also in my department. She taught modern Japanese literature I took a class with her on Japanese modern Japanese women writers. And that was a really great class for growing my kind of feminism personally perspective as a feminist. And then also, it’s interesting to know that classical Japanese is also dominated by women writers, which is another thing that attracted me attracted me to it particularly non particularly fiction. So yeah, my my senior thesis was about a certain trope in in a woman’s or women writers novel, The Tale of Genji, you may have heard of it, but yeah, so Virginia. Yeah, yeah.
Will Bachman 54:52
Where can listeners find out more about you and your practices online? Do you want to share any links for either of your either of your businesses.
Virginia Ravenscroft 55:01
Yeah, the one of them is abolition in the bones.com. That’s the anti racism coaching. And the other one is if depending on which one you can spell, they both go to the same place. Virginia ravenscroft.com or offering abundance.com. They both go to my, my website offering abundance.
Will Bachman 55:25
include those links in the show notes. Okay, fantastic. Fantastic, Virginia. Thank you so much. Well, thank you for joining today, Virginia.