Dr. Valerie Schwan Cloud Clearer Ringland
I am an East Frisian woman mothered by an Irish-American nanny and am in a process of healing Ashkenazi Jewish-American maternal roots. My spiritual name is Cloud Clearer (Wulkenkloorjer) because I facilitate clarity and receptivity to inner wisdom and nourishment. I was born in the U.S. of land traditionally tended by Shawnee people, and raised of ceded Cherokee land. I have lived throughout North and South America, as well as India and South Africa and Australia. My husband Lukas and I currently live in Australia of land that is under the sovereignty of the Eora Nation and their ancestry.
I am an indigenous scientist, researcher, justice advocate, writer, space-holder, medicine woman, teacher, partner, friend, and community member. I practice indigenous science through supporting people in healing as well as research and policy work. I have over a decade of experience in social policy and practice in Australia, the U.S., India, South Africa and Peru. In terms of formal training, I have a Ph.D. in social work, a J.D. in law, B.A. in maths, and certifications in mediation, restorative justice, kundalini yoga, and shamanic healing. Honesty is vital to my being. My cosmology is Indigenous, and I am an animist.
I have over a decade of experience in healing work and have done apprenticeships in indigenous healing methods, including ceremonial dancing, earthing ceremonies, dreamwork, sweat lodge ceremonies, and sacred circle-keeping. These learnings have helped me survive lived experiences of intense trauma, grief and loss, physical health challenges, spiritual crises, kundalini awakenings, and conflicts. Through transforming my life’s “shit” into fertiliser, I embody peace in dark spaces and am able to support others on their own learning and healing journeys. You can view my CV here.
I am an Anglo-Celtic Australian on a long journey to unpack the depths of my identity. So much of who I am has seemingly been shaped by the darker and overwhelmed aspects of Judeo-Christianity, masculinity and whiteness. I see it as being of vital importance to acknowledge and honour this darkness, whilst also trying to revitalise these aspects of being. Through this lens, overwhelmed masculinity becomes the sacred masculine, patriarchal and shame-based Judeo-Christianity becomes an honoured if flawed ancestral belief structure, and obliterating oppressive whiteness becomes a celebrated ethnic and tribal identity, in equal relationship with other tribes.
I know, too, that I must find balance with earth-based, feminine qualities of being and knowing that have for so long been repressed. Exploitation of the earth, and the controlling, patriarchal dominance of the “engineering/fix-it mind” becomes an “earth ethos”, more in tune with emergence instead of forceful logical positivism, and open, intuitive complexity instead of narrow, limiting rationality. In other words, I want to find my indigeneity once more, complicated as this is by my being a recent arrival on Australian shores in ancestral terms with such deep ties to other places, despite being born here. Often unconscious, destructive and stagnant longing for the old countries must shift into grief and transition.
My professional life has until recently been defined by a vision of being “the man in the suit” who dominates through his intellect. I may have chosen a “softer” line of work in corporate social responsibility, but suit man remained the vision of success, with all the collateral damage — internal and external — that this archetypal journey through the world entails.
Throughout much of my life I have tended to use my intellect like a sword; arrogant, powerful and full of bravado, but always with a vulnerability not far beneath the surface. This version of me brings to mind the barbarian tribesmen who challenged the might of the Roman army without shields and sometimes without clothes. They saw honour in this behaviour — the process of warfare being as important as the end — but the ruthless and outcome orientated Romans brutally cut them down. Hard as it has been, I am truly grateful for this personality trait, because it meant I could never get too comfortable as suit man, the modern version of a Roman legionnaire. His outfit never really fit. I have been forced to adapt or perish.
I’ve come to see my greatest strength as my empathetic heart and intuitive wisdom. I continue to look for ways my intellect can be a tool, not the essence of my being, in both my personal and professional lives. I increasingly recognise the paradoxical truth of my vulnerability being the source of my strength. After so many years of dominating others, this way of leading does seem befitting for a “white” male.
After a career of more than ten years working in Australia and internationally for large and small NGOs and a lot of upheaval in my worldview, it is fair to say that my professional offerings to the world are a work in progress. But I have learnt a lot, have had many successes, and have a lot to offer. Please see my LinkedIn page for a full resume.