The power of community to help us choose a whole life

For 4 whole years I hosted and facilitated a 1500-person strong community called ‘Time to Shine’ for changemakers, space holders and wellbeing facilitators of all kinds, with the sole purpose of being a space for us to collectively heal our pattern of hiding, and to live and lead from a place of greater wholeness and serve from joy. Here's why both creating it and closing it down felt like choosing to live and lead a whole life.

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Emily Johnsson
Emily Johnsson
Nurturing changemakers for a whole world.

One of the things that I decided to sunset in 2021, was my Time to Shine community.

When I opened the doors to it in October of 2017, my hope and only intention was for our space to be one of genuine connection. One where it was safe to show up real and vulnerable. To lean into all those uncomfortable places that hold us back from shining brighter.

That is, living, leading, serving, innovating, contributing from our WHOLE HEARTS. Serving from joy.

I could never have imagined then what actually came to be, or where we’d end up.

In 2017, I had only just journeyed through some dark times. Not only had I lost family members through death and abandonment, other people had disappeared when my grief was too much to bear.

It’s fair to say that I was lonely.

But in my heart was a small but powerful light.

A little light that longed for more. Longed for togetherness. A COMMUNITY.

To connect with like-hearted beings on a similar journey of healing and serving and leading in a true and authentic way.

FINDING our own lights in the midst of darkness.

BEING lights in the world.

But the truth is, I was scared.

Because there was a part of me that wasn’t used to community: a part of me that feared the vulnerability and the intimacy that comes with authentic relating. A space where we cannot hide.

I was fearful of being seen.

But no matter how apprehensive I felt, I kept hearing the words Time to Shine in my inner voice.

It wouldn’t let me be.

And then, one day the penny dropped: I wasn’t going to be able to ‘shine’ WITHOUT a community.

And I realised that no one can shine without others witnessing, loving, seeing, holding, celebrating us.

It’s impossible.

The very notion of shining bright requires community.

Requires intimacy.

They simply go hand in hand.

So in the end, even though the thought of starting and committing to a community was truly a big deal for me, in the end I felt like I had NO CHOICE.

The thought of NOT creating a community felt too bleak, too dark, too boring, too lifeless.

In the end, deciding to create community felt like CHOOSING LIFE to me.

Choosing to follow my heart and send out radio signals across the world so that the right people could connect with me.

And the magical thing was that when I chose to follow my heart, lean into my vulnerability and open the doors to this community – bambi legs, knees knocking and all – the opposite what my fears were telling me might happen, happened.

Because, one by one they showed up.

And not only that, they stayed too.

They shared and listened & received & gave, in absolute bucketloads.

Time to Shine was co-created through courage.

We were the misfits, the deep listeners, the highly sensitives, the heart-led business owners, the purpose-driven activists, the healers and medicine women (and men), who mostly felt like outsiders in life ‘out there’. Most of us knew what it was like to not be accepted for who we were in ‘the real world’.

Our deepest longing was belonging.

Yet we knew that the key to deep connection with others was connection, love and acceptance of ourselves first.

We gathered with the intention to support each other to be with our shadows, heal our wounds, come to know our purpose, message and offerings, and step out to be seen.

Because it’s only when we step out and practise advocating for ourselves and saying yes to who we be in every moment- even where we might receive push back- that authenticity becomes real.

Everything other than that perpetuates our personal and collective story of separation, through contortion, deletion and adaptation.

The thing was, I too needed to step out in order to practise this. And that meant stepping out of the very space I had initiated – but as the facilitator I remained.

And in the autumn of 2021 it was clear what I had to do, and the space was closed down. When I shared my intention there was both sadness and a realisation that it was the right thing to do.

We somehow knew that we needed to move on and leave the nest so that we could flap our wings.

I held a closing ceremony and lit candles to mark the end of Time to Shine.

We sang and we danced. We giggled and cried.

I was blown away and totally overwhelmed by the love and gratitude shared in the space.

It took me a long time to take it all in.

It was scary to close down a community I had co-woven over several years, born from a place of deep loneliness and yearning for real connection.

But I needed to let go and with intention start integrating different parts of myself: the scientist and the medicine woman, the business mentor and the artist, the educator and the nurturer: the mind and the heart, logic and intuition in the ‘world outside’.

Or, one might say: I wanted to be able to be the conductor of these instruments and play them all at once with people who could benefit from the songs that wanted to be expressed.

And that I could only do by practising- practise with people ‘outside’ the safe space of TTS.

The world needs places where we can feel safe and to be held, heal and to practise compassion, kindness and acceptance of ourselves, our life path and others. But we also need networks of people on a similar path who have our backs when we come to step out and exercise doing and being, living and leading from the whole orchestra inside.

This is when real big shifts can happen. From the inside out. Lighting the path of transformation.

For a whole world.

Community is one of the 4 pillars of the Wish Tree self-leadership model.

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About Emily & White Supremacy

Emily is a space holder and self-leadership coach to changemakers. She has over 20 years experience in the field of human development, learning and growth, and leads the coaching and consultancy company Wish Tree since 2011. Her work centres around wholeness – whole humans, whole communities, whole organisations, whole ecosystems. A whole world. Her changemakership is therefore dedicated to clearing distortions and fragmentations that relate to our perceptions of separation.

Emily has been exposed to and ‘sat with’ systemic issues around race, racism, privilege and injustice her whole life. She was born in Camden, London, in the late 1970s to a Swedish immigrant single mum and spent her first formative years in a highly culturally and ethnically diverse setting. As a baby, Emily and her mum lived in a bedsit in a shared house with a Black British family. Her first memory of Father Christmas was of him as a Bangladeshi man. Emily’s mum worked with refugee families and in Children’s Homes in inner city London, and since she had no access to child care opportunities, Emily joined her at work. For a while, Emily had an older Black British foster sister called Debbie. She was very often the only white child in the community of children of which she was a part.

Emily moved to Sweden with her mum as a child and as a teenager became involved with, and led, antiracism youth work in her local town through her school and council-initiated networks in the 1990s.

Her mum, who was active in the peace-and- environmental movement and who had been involved as an ally in the civil rights movement in the US on her travels there, introduced her to Black feminist and activist writers such as Alice Walker, Toni Morrison and Audre Lord, and actively taught her about white privilege, white supremacy and the truth of colonialism. She was also taught about the importance of learning from Indigenous wisdom keepers in order to heal and evolve as humanity, and to (in those days) stop climate change.

In contrast, on her father’s side, Emily is of British Colonial descent. Emily’s grandmother was born in Zimbabwe to Scottish sheep-farmers. Her grandfather came from a poor English background but won a scholarship to Cambridge University to study law. As many young British men of his time who sought “adventure, a good job and travel”, Emily’s grandfather joined the colonial service in the final days of the British Empire, and served in several African countries as a high-ranking colonial officer. He spoke Zulu and Emily’s father spoke Swazi and Swahili before being sent to Britain as a child to attend boarding school, thousands of miles away from his parents.

Although Emily did not grow up with her father or his family, she eventually came to know them and have a relationship with them, which involved taking responsibility for understanding and healing her own familial and ancestral relationship to colonialism and white supremacy.

In this process, she came to see, feel and understand first hand and close up, the deeper psychological workings of the system of white supremacy, the colonial mind and its intimate links with narcissism, perfectionism, patriarchy and extractive economies and behaviours.

Between 2003-2015, Emily worked as a learning researcher and Access, Diversity and Inclusion enabler in the Arts & Cultural Sector, deeply rooted in the Convention of the Rights of the Child and the Human Rights Convention. She worked across the U.K and Scandinavia contributing to a number of large scale change projects, self-evaluation initiatives, conferences and trainings such as “Access for All”, “Inspiring Learning for All”, “Belonging – the Voices of London’s Refugees”, “The West Indian Front Room”, “Kultur och Fritid för Alla”, “Vidgat Deltagande”, “In this curriculum I don’t exist”, “In between two worlds – London teenagers’ ideas about Black History, Belonging and being British” to name a few. She worked with a wide range of marginalised communities as well as with leaders and directors holding white privilege, facilitating necessary and brave conversations challenging the status quo.

Emily has worked across many cultures and languages around the world from Sri Lanka to South Africa, Costa Rica and India to Romania and Denmark, continuously reflecting on and challenging white saviour tendencies. In this process has come to observe how white supremacy and racism works differently in different countries depending on context and history.

In 2020, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, Emily became a loud voice in the Wellness industry by calling in leaders bypassing white supremacy through ‘love and light’ rhetoric, exceptionalism, colourblindness and virtue signalling. She closed down several online coaching circles because white participants were unwilling to dive deeper into their own internalised white supremacy, and rendered the spaces not only additionally unsafe, but traumatising for BIPOC clients. Her platform and large facebook community for coaches and wellbeing facilitators centred BIWOC-led anti-racism conversations as a response.

Emily is a skilled and fiercely loving coach and space-holder with many years experience of creating safe spaces for accountability, healing, integration and growth to take place.

She is dedicated to her own ongoing learning, healing and unlearning of covert white supremacy. Examples of this are continuous learning from a wide range of anti-racism educators, authors and activists from around the world.

This bio has not been written with the intention of centring Emily in the context of Me & White Supremacy, but to transparently share about her background, values, skills and experience in order for you to make a conscious decision to choose her as a space-holder, or not.

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