Donna Lancaster Crossing The Bridge

by Jenna Von Oy | Last Updated on: June 25th, 2021 at 1:45 pm

Welcome Donna Lancaster – one of the most inspiring people I know. I met Donna when she was my teacher on The Hoffman Process. That 8 days was the most powerful form of therapy I’ve undergone. I packed my most destructive baggage and hauled it away. The process revealed my ingrained, destructive ‘patterns’ and once recognised it was impossible to hold onto them. It was an education in self-knowledge and self-awareness.

It was appropriately tough, painful, bewildering, frustrating…and equally, once the emotional demons had been discarded, it was the most profound feeling of joy, hope, and freedom. I’d had psychotherapy for a number of years – but the Hoffman Process took me on a journey of self-discovery like no other. Until The Bridge that is.

Here Donna describes how The Bridge evolved, and what you can hope to get out of it.

It might just be the best time, effort, and money you will ever spend. I can’t wait to traverse The Bridge and to be in the safe space created by Donna and her team.

Donna Lancaster. Photo: John Hicks

The Bridge feels like my life’s work. It is a combination of every teaching and training I’ve received, every book I’ve read, every heartbreak I’ve grieved, every joy I’ve shared, and every struggle I have overcome. It is an honor and privilege to do this work.

I am mixed race with a black South African father and white British mother. Born in South London. I grew up mainly in the south of England. We moved a lot. Like many of my peers growing up in the 60/70s, there were very few visible black or mixed-race role models to inspire me. I lived in both a very black community and then a very white one and experienced racism in both. This fuelled my sense as a child and young woman of feeling that I did not belong anywhere.

My inspiration growing up came from animals and nature. When things got tough at home or school I would find solace and comfort in being in nature with my dog. Neither cared about the color of my skin. Still, today animals and nature are my ‘soul food’.

Today, women inspire me and so many of them. All the greats including Rosa Parkes,


Maya Angelou, Oprah to Mary Oliver, Brene Brown as well as the ‘unacknowledged magic makers’ such as social workers, social and political activists, carers and mothers. 

I am also inspired by men who have broken the shackles of stereotypes including David Richo, Eckhart Tolle, and Prince Ea. 

I used to aspire to be a ‘warrior woman’ with a focus on strength, tenacity, and being ‘indestructible’! Now as a mature and hopefully wiser woman, I am more interested in cultivating the qualities of tenderness, authenticity, kindness, compassion, and love. I view vulnerability as the strength it truly is. ‘Perfectly imperfect’ is the mantra I teach and live by.

Before launching my healing retreat, The Bridge, I originally trained and worked as a child protection social worker for
many years. I then went on to develop and deliver various
accredited training programmes for women and delivered these in schools, women’s refuges, and prisons both in the UK and South Africa. For some of these women, it was their first experience of ‘achieving’ and it was beautiful and humbling to witness.

I have also trained in Imago relationship therapy and Family Constellations and have a private coaching practice in NW London. I was a Hoffman Teacher for 9 years and Head of Teaching for The Hoffman Process for three years which is where I met Thandie!

I was motivated to set up The Bridge because of my own experience of ‘depression’ which I eventually discovered was in fact unprocessed grief.

In almost 25 years of working with individuals, families and groups I am shocked at how many people are diagnosed and medicated as ‘depressed’, who are actually suffering from blocked emotions. 

In the western world, we are not generally taught how to process pain or to understand grief and loss as part of the human condition. My mission is to change this so that people can remember and return to their true nature, their spirit, and live from this place in joy and peace.

Healing to me is not only about recovering from pain, be it physical, psychological, emotional, or spiritual, but also to be able to extract the wisdom and gifts from within the pain. 

The bridge is different to other therapies because it combines highly effective therapeutic techniques alongside ancient African ritual practices during five days and nights which makes it very special. We also work with the ‘invisible influences’ of ancestral lineage and offer nature, food, and music as natural ‘medicine’.

The ‘grief work’ aspect allows people to acknowledge and express about their life’s losses from endings of relationships, bereavement, miscarriages, missed motherhood, and also the more subtle losses of hope, identity, innocence, and purpose. As well as grieving for our individual losses, we also grieve together for the collective grief of the world.

The group aspect is key to reconnecting people to ‘a tribe’ and allowing the power of the group to work its own magic. We are tribal beings, we belong together and healing in community is a part of that. There are usually around 18 people on the retreat and three facilitators.

During the healing retreat, which is located in Somerset at 42acres, we use a wonderful combination of silence, meditation, visualization, bodywork, journaling, time alone in nature, group sharing, and ritual. Rest and relaxation is also pivotal for the experience. So many people are utterly exhausted due to the busyness and ‘switched on-ness’ of the modern technological world. The rituals work best with an element of surprise but include fire, chanting, dancing, and touch.

In fully grieving past losses, we are able to truly let go of any painful or negative attachment to our pasts and it requires no ongoing maintenance to support this transformation. Living authentically with a truly open heart is a daily practice when the world can collude to keep us in ‘the shallows’. We, therefore, provide ongoing group events and social get-togethers to support people to ‘remember’.

We also work with people to look beyond the self and recognize the ‘bigger picture’ and encourage being in service to the world.

We would love to get as many people to ‘cross The Bridge’ as possible and do not want finances to be a barrier to this. We have therefore established a Bursary fund whereby those who can, are able to financially support others to do this important work if they wish to do so.

Jenna von Oy began her professional acting career at the age of six, when she landed her first big break in a Jell-O Pudding Pop commercial with Bill Cosby. Von Oy has made her mark in television, having been a series regular on three network sit-coms.