Interview by Milda Urban, Summersalt Yoga founder
We are beyond happy and proud to introduce our first inspiring lady, a woman who’s a teacher, an activist, a children’s book author and a deeply spiritual person. Pam Golden has joined the Summersalt Yoga retreat this spring and from the moment she came through the door there was something special about her. Her warmth, empathy and positive outlook on everything was so refreshing that it made the whole week even more up-lifting.
We’re talking to Pam about her life, career, activism, spirituality and of course – thoughts on women.
Can you tell a little bit about yourself – what do you do now (I know you are a teacher, a book author and an activist!).
I tend to think of myself as a Jack (or Jane) of all Trades but Master of none. Everything I have done in my life has been because I have followed what I believed to be my path. Any opportunity for adventure, I have embraced and any chance to promote harmony between people I try to take.
Could you tell where did you start your career?
I trained as a primary teacher years ago, but have never risen to the higher ranks in my career, preferring to use it as a tool to enable me to achieve what I feel is my purpose in being here. This I have done through trying to teach children love, care and respect for each other and our planet; in whatever way the curriculum allows. In my early teaching career, I did a lot of training in World Education and have always been interested in breaking down barriers to understanding different cultures and religions. I have chosen to be a supply teacher for the last 25 years, as it gave me more freedom to teach these values, enabled me to go off travelling when possible and gave me the ability to devote some time to other things in my life.
I love living to trust. I have always trusted that when I need the money it will be there and inevitably it is……sometimes it’s a bit close to the edge but we always manage. Luckily I was raised by economical parents who had lived through two world wars and knew how to “cut the cloth according to how much there is available.”
Were you happy with how your life, work was going?
When I was a younger adult I spent my free time learning about myself and who I am. No matter who you are, I think that is the key to being a happy and contented woman. Giving yourself the time to discover this, in a space where you can find yourself, will help you to achieve what you truly desire out of life. Not everyone is cut out to be a top career woman, it may be that you discover your total desire in life is to be something must less “valued” by society. However, when you have discovered what and who you are, you will be happy and live your life to fulfilment, which is far more important to you and your health, than earning mega bucks. Although when you do follow your true path you will find you will be provided for in some way or other.
Today many women struggle with choosing or juggling between home and work life. How was it for you?
I know it’s not fashionable to say it, but I really wanted time to be with my son when he was born and in his early years. I know that doesn’t suit everyone, but for me it was paramount for the building blocks that formed the basis of his life. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process, loving spending time with him and taking him to a range of places and interacting with lots of other children and adults. I do feel very strongly as a teacher, that children need a lot of love and quality time from their adults. Too often children are ignored or pushed to one side because of other “more important” things in people’s lives and the results become all too obvious once they start school. These children find socialising with others so much harder which can be damaging and affect a child’s whole life. I think only when we realise the importance of love, good communication and positive examples for children, will future problems in society be overcome.
It is though hard for many women to completely devote themselves to only home life and raising children.
It doesn’t always have to be the mother, it can be a father or grandparents or a really good career; I know some women feel frustrated at being at home with their child and would rather be following their career. I’m not saying the way I did it is better than anyone else’s. There is never one solution that fits all. I’m just sad that society doesn’t value the role of parenthood and see the importance of good stable early years in a child’s whole life. I also know there are many women who feel trapped by their careers and the need to earn money, when their hearts want to be with their children (but it’s not fashionable to admit it). All I can recommend is to go with your heart and find a way to do what you truly feel is right. The Scandinavian states seem to get the balance right financially supporting parents to be at home for longer periods than other countries.
You are an activist, very conscious about environment issues (Pam is currently involved in the efforts to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline*). How did you get to become an activist in the first place?
As part of my journey to discover my path, about thirty years ago, I gave up my permanent job, sold everything and went traveling in North and South America for a year. Much of the time I lived with friends I made in the Hopi and Navajo Nations, although I, also, visited and made a lifelong friend in the Iroquois Nation. Later on, through meeting my husband I have also now got family links with the Lakota tribe. Through my friends and relatives, I gathered as much knowledge and understanding as I was allowed to know about their cultures. This has given me enormous respect for a very different approach to the world from the materialistic western culture that I was raised in and has enabled me to pass that knowledge on to the children I teach.
And it made you take action yourself?
After traveling in the Americas, I decided to train as a permaculture designer as that seemed a practical way to enact all that I had learned so far. Since then I have tried to live my life by example, by designing my home and garden to be as sustainable as possible and by choosing ethical sources for my utilities and financial needs. In an attempt to regenerate the local economy, I, also, joined the LETS (local economic trading system-a bartering method) and became a founder member of the local Credit Union. The former sadly died a death, but the latter has gone from strength the strength. I am still on the Board, although we amalgamated with other Credit Unions along the valley as we weren’t sustainable as a small unit. As in everything, I’m not the most committed or the hardest working, but do what I can. I think we’re always encouraged to be the best at everything and show massive commitment, which sometimes puts women off. They have so many things in their lives that they have to juggle, which is an amazing feat in itself. Just be happy with what you can do and make sure you have a balance which you are comfortable with. I have had to learn my limits over the years so that my health and home life doesn’t suffer.
You are a deeply spiritual person, is that correct to say? How does that manifest in your life?
Throughout my adult life, the spiritual aspect has been paramount. I don’t subscribe to one particular religion. I just resonate with whatever part of a religion promotes love, acceptance and tolerance of each other and the earth. I think the Indigenous American approach strikes the strongest chord, although I do appreciate the Sikh and the Buddhist ways. In the last twenty years, Christianity has improved massively in its attitude to the earth and also Islam teaches respect and appreciation of the Earth. Hinduism has its own unique approach, which is very tied in with the understanding of life cycles and patterns of life. All religions have their value. As with people, there is good in every religion, it’s just making sure we look for it.
I discovered by going on spiritual development courses that everyone has a beautiful core or soul. Yes, even Donald Trump will have one somewhere! Sometimes it is hidden under more layers than others but at essence all anyone wants to do is communicate and express their love. The trouble is, the layers on top can twist and change how this expression is demonstrated; that’s why it is easier to work with children to bring out the best in them, as they haven’t so many layers. I try through my interactions with people to find this deeper level and that’s why I support campaigns and activism that promotes the connection of people to each other and the Earth. I also dislike injustice and find it hard to understand why people mistreat each other. I wouldn’t call myself an activist really, I just do what I can when I can.
Since my wonderful experience in Croatia with Summersalt yoga I have now added another commitment to my week- that of attending a yoga class. It really helps me feel better in myself and gets parts of my body working that I didn’t know existed!
Can you tell a little bit more about your work as a children’s book author? Where did it all start and why?
In recent years I have started to develop a writing career, with a view to continuing after I retire. I started because of the meditation class that I attended. I kept being given visions and encouragement by my “higher self” to write. Again the themes I have espoused all my life recur in my books. As a fledgling children’s writer, I am still finding my way. Always my aim is to create a better understanding between people, by looking at things in a slightly different way to make people question or think about their preconceptions. All I would advise to anyone trying this out is to keep on going and not give up or get dispirited by rejection. My first book (an autobiography); I self-published on Kindle, which was an interesting learning process in itself. Each book has taken just over a year to complete. Interestingly for each book there has been a competition run by Mslexia, which has spurred me on to finish it. Mslexia is a website for women who wish to write. I’ve never been long-listed but it has helped me by giving me a deadline to work towards. Having written my first book, I found the hardest part was trying to publicise it and market it. So for the children’s novels I am embarking on, I am starting to look for a publisher, which again is a task in itself. To improve and edit my book before submission, I’m dipping into a creative writing course on Future Learn ( a free online educational resource) -when I have time!
Where do I fit writing in amongst all the other things in my life? I get my inspiration from morning walks with the dog, where my head clears and then I can come home and write, even if it is just for an hour. My advice is to do what you can when you can and not beat yourself up if you don’t always achieve what you thought you could. In these times of ever changing and dramatic events, go with the flow in the middle of the river and don’t try to hold on to the bank- the current is too strong and will pull you under. In other words be flexible, open to opportunities and don’t try to hold onto old ways of doing things-above all make your decisions with your head and your heart.
*Dakota Access Pipeline
Pam tells us a little bit about the situation regarding the building of Dakota Access Pipeline: “It’s incredibly inspiring. It all started to kick off while we were there and several people we know from different tribes are up there at the protest. There are over 500 tribes there now-first time ever there has been such enormous unity-all to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline being built. Its a massive oil pipeline taking billions of crude oil from Canada to Mexico. Its supposed to go through reservation land and under the Missouri river. If it breaks (and there are so many frequent cases of these pipelines bursting) it would seriously pollute and damage the water supplies for millions of people. The reaction of the authorities has been appalling. It is a totally peaceful prayerful camp with thousands of people there now. There are old people, children, women and men of all ages-they’ve even set up a school for the children. The people are camping on the land owned by the tribe. The pipeline owners have illegally set dogs on them, the army have been called in with tanks, the protesters have been shot at with rubber bullets, sprayed with pepper spray and arrested and held in dog cages. Still they maintain being peaceful and praying. Amazing things have happened as a result. Some anonymous donor had paid $125k to release the ones who’d been arrested from jail. (We’re talking about elders, en as well as younger women and men) They are supported by people across the globe. Anonymous and Greenpeace are behind them, several countries have pledged their support and the UN is now monitoring the situation. Obama has stepped in and told the authorities to stop the pipeline (but the governor of North Dakota has continued with his illegal actions anyway). Then in the last week, a massive herd of wild buffalo suddenly appeared at the camp- no-one knows where they came from. A wild Golden eagle landed at the camp and allowed the indigenous people there to stroke and pet him for an hour. Now there is apparently a herd of wild elk heading that way! All these things really lift up people’s spirits and show them that what they are doing is right.