Visionary #3: Self care in Patriarchy with Portia Richardson

Portia explains that her spiritual awakening was a gradual process: “Ever since I was a kid, I’ve looked up at the stars and known they are my home. I used to have a recurring dream where I was floating, disembodied down a long tunnel of light. As I moved through the tunnel, the light grew dimmer and took on a bluish hue. There was a powerful humming sensation all around and through me. The pressure increased in intensity as I got closer to what felt like a threshold. I’ve come to understand this dream as a glimpse of my incarnation into this physical plane”.

“I was one of those kids that was obsessed with all things mystical – especially death, spirits, and psychic abilities” Portia says “I routinely found dead birds and rodents, named them, and then buried them in ritual ceremonies in my backyard. Perhaps this was because I had an innate sense of animism and it was natural to honor these relationships.”

Portia has always known that there is more to this reality than meets the eye, and remembers as a school child repeatedly lending a school library book about poltergeists. “I wondered, were these accounts truly disembodied spirits reeking havoc, or were they actually examples of powerful telekinetic abilities by the embodied, and highly emotionally distraught teenagers living within the houses? Either way, I longed to learn how to deliberately hone my sixth sense abilities and communicate with the Otherside.”

When she was 12, Portia’s mother took her to the local branch of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi school to practice Transcendental Meditation, which she had been practicing since the late 60’s. This was a big turning point for Portia and gave her a reliable practice for learning how to intentionally manipulate subtle energy: “This was also my first encounter with Eastern philosophy, which planted a seed that eventually lead me to formally study various Asian medicine traditions as an adult.” she remembers.

In her early 30’s. Portia participated in a life-changing Ayahuasca ceremony: “I believe the same types of expanded consciousness and sense of spiritual union that are experienced under the influence of these powerful substances and plant medicines can also be achieved through meditative practices. I’ve had many moments in my meditation practice where I feel my material body dissolves into the sea of all-that-is and pure love radiates to and from me in all directions.” Portia says of the experience.

Portia has always been aware of the spirit world, subtle energy fields, and her psychic abilities, but learning to consciously work with them has proved to be challenge: “I now understand these difficult periods of my life as spiritual initiations. I believe the process of spiritual awakening is a never ending and a continual dance of peeling back layers of age-old wounds and limiting belief systems. As sexy as it sounds to be “spiritual enlightened,” it’s actually a road that can be quite painful and confusing – and honestly that’s how I’ve come to trust I’m on the right track. When I’m not feeling a mild existential discomfort, I’m most likely in spiritual bypass territory and avoiding facing my inner demons. In these moments my choices are: A.) to prepare myself for an inevitable fall from grace and dreaded healing crisis, or B.) face what is present with courage and love”

Portia’s aim is to support her students and clients as they learn to trust the process.“Healing and spiritual awakening are not states of being. They are not nouns, but verbs. The journey is never ending, as I mentioned above. The path is cyclical and fractal, like a multidimensional web of experiencing.”

Raised in a very musical family, Portia has always treated sound as medicine. “It is the way we connect to each other when words aren’t there.” She explains. “I’ve been a prolific songwriter since I learned to play piano in grade school. Song writing was and is a catharsis for me. It has allowed me to express the pain I feel in my body and heart. It is my self-healing ritual of extraction. It is my practice of turning wounds into beauty.

In my late twenties I began to become interested in the vibrational qualities of tone and rhythm and kept writing music behind the scenes. And over the last few years I’ve gone deeper into my study of the energetic and physiological healing properties of sound. This past year I finally started to record an solo album under the moniker of Scinnlæce, which means veiled-healer (aka witch) in Old English. It is a synthesis of my process with sound healing thus far and consists of original songs.”

The core values of witchcraft practice are based on Idealism, Portia tells me, which is a monistic philosophy that considers consciousness to be substratum out of which our material world is formed. “This philosophy is compatible with my animistic worldview, which is the belief that everything possesses an distinct spiritual essence. Both of these philosophies challenge me to continue to expand the bandwidth of my conscious awareness so that I may be of greater service to healing our world.“

When it comes to the tools she uses in her practices, Portia loves using tarot, pendulums, crystals, medicine bags, ritual power objects, candles and more. “Part of me loves all the pomp and circumstance that these tools provide. I love experimenting with aesthetics and creating a vibe and atmosphere. And in my experience, they have been highly effective for getting results. However, I’ve started feeling the need to minimise my witchy tool kit of late. Perhaps it’s the rebel in me that feels the need to move against the trend. Because currently witch chic is totally in vogue, and while I generally view this wave of as an affirmation of the rise in Divine Feminine globally, I’m also suspicious of our capitalist culture’s tendency to take what is sacred and commodity it and then sell it back to us. I don’t identify as a witch for the fashion statement or to get cool kids cred. Real magic involves practice, dedication, and a commitment to believe. It requires regular and consistent behind the scenes integration. It needs sacred space that is intentionally reserved for transformation, away from the gaze of the masses.”

Portia invites anyone interested in witchcraft to simply go outside and begin to observe your surroundings: “In my ethnic heritage, women would regularly go out into the forest or fields and just sit. And through this practice they would receive divine wisdom and insights. Tarot decks, and oracle cards are super fun ways to get into divination and I invite you to just find a deck that you love to hold and look at, and then pull one card a day, asking What do I need to hold in my conscious awareness today so that I may align with my highest purpose. This is a simple way to build your relationship with the deck and learn to trust your intuition.”

“My favourite metaphor for self-care exists within the anatomy of our hearts via the coronary artery, which pumps the very freshest blood directly back into the heart muscle. If the heart is not nourished, the body cannot function. I’m continually trying to de-program myself from the societal pressures that put women in the role of selfless caregiver and martyrdom in the name of the tribe. I have my moments when I slip into modes of wanting to be the ‘always available’ mother and partner, or struggling with being a workaholic and perfectionism as a woman trying to keep up. However, I’m starting to learn the blessed lessons of letting go of the trap of other people’s opinions and desires.” Portia says.

Portia has started giving herself permission to make mistakes from time to time “I have accepted that I’m usually late everywhere I go. I’m also noticing that my ability to cut loose and have fun has greatly expanded. And my facial wrinkles are tending to be reflective of all my laughing.  Generally, my goals for self-care moving forward centre around playtime and slowing down.”

Community is a big deal for Portia and her personal development “I’ve had to work really deliberately to dismantle the false belief that no one is there for me and I need to do everything myself. I was raised by a single mother. My biological dad and stepdad where both around physically and did the best they knew how, but it was my mom who showed up for me relationally.
My current partnership has also been a game changer for me, albeit my most difficult and raw relationship. I am learning more about real intimacy than I’ve ever experienced before, and I’m now able to recognize when my flight mechanism is taking me out of the present moment and hindering my ability to be relational.”It is for these reasons why Portia really values being relational in her business practices, teachings, group work, and on social media. “I’m not interested in gaining a mass following that isn’t authentic. There are many people nowadays, especially within the world of social media, who are merely interested in numbers. I’d much rather have a smaller platform that is built on real lasting relationships, than a larger platform that is driven by hollow engagement”

So my work in building community has been a journey of disillusionment, disappointment, refinement, and ultimately gratification. It’s become clear that what I value most is building community through real relationships, which is a slower and less glamorous process. But the web I’ve woven so far is super strong. And it’s taught me that I am, in fact, not alone after all. This is a huge gift for which I am deeply grateful.”

Portia teaches graduate courses at the University of Minesota’s Center for Spirituality and Healing, and holds regular private and group events through her practice Tall Reeds Healing Arts.