Feb 072016
 
Artwork by Matthew Woodson
Artwork by Matthew Woodson

Artwork by Matthew Woodson

For all the times someone has asked you how you are, and you felt pressured to say “I am well” when well wasn’t your whole truth. I offer you this, my wish that this writing finds you not just well, but all the things that being human asks of us. And to remind you that your being alive, in all its magnificent and complicated colours, is more than enough for love.

This month I came across a powerful piece of writing by Johanna Hedva called Sick Woman Theory which seriously rocked my world. The article (soon to be a book!) is Hedva’s personal story of living with chronic pain and illness, but it’s also the story of anyone who is wrestling to find relevance in a world that aggrandises wellness.

Hedva lucidly articulates how ‘wellness’ and ‘sickness’ are treated as a binary of opposites in our culture. And those who fall on the wrong side of those tracks are considered unproductive and therefore excluded from the collective conversation. But perhaps more insidious is how this estranges us from our own pain, our wretched illness, our terrible grief. We are so driven to ‘get well’ that we rarely show any welcoming kindness to these unexpected guests in our lives.

One of the great competencies of Belonging is the willingness to give our discomforts and misfortunes a home. Rather than this endless seeking to get well,  or yearning for ‘how things used to be’ or ‘may be one day again’  we must be willing to walk with our pain. Or at least be willing to be willing to say, “This too is welcome. This too belongs”

In the end, so much of the conflict we feel in our hearts is because we’ve split ourselves off from the very life we are living. We partition ourselves from the things with which we are at odds, treating them as unbelonging even as we live them. We vaguely imagine some other body, some better career, some other lover – but the irony is that so much of what makes us unhappy is our own rejection of the life we have made. Eventually we must take our life into our arms and call it our own. We must look at it squarely with all its unbecoming qualities and find a way to love it anyway. Only from that complete embrace can a life begin to grow into what it is meant to become.

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Click here to watch Johanna Hedva’s phenomenal talk (1:26) from which her article was adapted: “My Body Is a Prison of Pain so I Want to Leave It Like a Mystic But I Also Love It & Want it to Matter Politically”

Jan 122016
 
Photograph by Olego Prisco

Photograph by Olego Prisco

The longing to handmake things overtook me some years ago when I was gifted a deerskin medicine pouch by a friend in ceremony. She had learned to skin & tan the hide herself, working it until the tassels hung gently and the slipknot moved gracefully along its braided path. Instantly, I felt a longing in me to know things with my hands as she did, since music, writing and dreamwork are all intangible arts.

Since then, I’ve set about accumulating skills in basketry, lightsculpture, knotwork, and recently crochet (!) finding myself inextinguishably thrilled by how the objects I make seemed to live a life of their own once they leave my hands. I think it’s because when we put in the long efforts into bringing beauty into the world, we are honouring that which made us by creating as we have been created.

We are taught to respect the slow, attentive piecing together of the life we yearn for. Stitch by stitch, we apprentice the craft. We work in tandem with mystery, feeling its rhythms awaken in our bone-memory. And we realise the patience it takes to make a life materialise. There are no shortcuts, and it can’t be done cheaply, or en masse. The work is small, the work is slow and all we can do is stay with it.

As Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes says, “the shortcut, the easy way, always falls apart. Then one returns to the handmade life. One has to pick it up painfully, and piece it back together, holding the overall pattern in one’s mind, but working patiently, piece by piece.”

May your hands be blessed. May they know the magic they make. May everything they touch, touch them in return. May your exquisite efforts soon show their shape.

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Dec 142015
 
solstice-tree8

A few years ago, I posted about Birthing New Traditions during the holiday time, and when I shared a photo of my DIY Solstice Tree, made entirely from bits found on the forest floor,  I was amazed to see it go viral! I’ve had so many requests since then to explain how the tree is made so with the help of my sweet friend Luma, here is a step-by-step process for anyone who might like to try one for themselves.

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Step 1:

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We start with a teepee structure, using 4 thin logs of around 7 or 8 feet in length. We saw off the ends to get them roughly even, then create a cross-brace the width we want the tree to stand, binding it with sturdy string at the joints and the peak.

Step 2:

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Then comes the spiral technology, a messy but strangely satisfying business for two curlyheads. Here on the west coast, you can find these dried honeysuckle vines dangling from the fir and cedar trees. We just weave them organically around the structure, tucking it into itself and occasionally fastening with string.

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When all is said and done, the spiraling creates a perfect weave to then tuck the boughs into.

Step Three:

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We harvest whatever greenery we can find from the forest floor. We lucked out with a big windstorm last week, so this year’s tree is a lot bushier than previous years. With a terrific frame, we don’t even need fasteners to weave in the boughs. The fir is usually pretty moist from the rain and lives a long time inside. Makes great firestarter later too, but please don’t leave your lights unattended because it’s still dry tinder!

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Decorate and TA DA!

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As you can see the result is lush, vibrant, and sustainable! The tree often gets mistaken for the real deal. The only difference is ours has our prayers, laughter and creativity woven into it. Enjoy and please feel free to share your tree pictures with me and others!

Nov 272015
 

Sweet Dreamers! By popular demand, I’m excited to announce new dates for both of my online courses, Dreamwalking & the Dream Lodge

Dreamwalking is a 4-week intensive that explores the mystical, magical language of Dreams (February 8th – March 5th, 2016):

dreamwalking

The Dream Lodge is an intimate 8-week mentorship program for 13 women who have completed Dreamwalking and want to go deeper into the feminine mysteries with a dreaming council March 15th – May 3rd, 2016:

Nov 242015
 
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I am still glowing after a miraculous and meaningful retreat held in the mystical embrace of Salt Spring Island.

Women came from all over the world with the shared intention of dreaming together in council. Mornings were magic as we tended to our dream journals in shared silence, while the mottled sky bathed us in diffuse light. And then we danced, grieved, laughed and played with our dreams!

We dined under Stowel Lake Farm’s vaulted roofs and luxuriated in the land’s many other generosities. And in the evenings we gathered for ceremony around the sacred fire, singing and drumming our longing into the smoke until we collapsed again into the dreaming.

In the end, we found we were an ecosystem, breathing but one story; a tapestry of togetherness and belonging. Here in images are but some of these precious women and the moments we shared.

Oct 042015
 

 

Artwork by Rassouli

To compare yourself to another is an organic impulse vital to the unfolding of individuality.

In our admiration of someone, we encounter the undeveloped qualities we have yet to step into, while in our healthy disdain, we come to know our refusals. Both are essential to developing a standpoint in the world.

But after comparison, you must pull back to the inner earth-work of cultivating those qualities, weeding out those rejections, and cross-pollinating your own originality into the mix, or comparison might freeze you in stasis.

Learning to trust Nature is the next responsibility of comparison. As extensions of her, we require our differences to thrive and we must shelter them in remembering that we are in service to that which dances us.

As we draw down into that commonality, we come to know that true humility is not making yourself smaller, but recognizing that we are all the same size: Necessary.

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Aug 202015
 
‘The Power of Silence’ [video] and Autumn 2015 Events

Silence is a power because it keeps what’s tender, what’s vulnerable away from the violences of scrutiny, dismissal and exile. But when does silence turn upon its keeper and become the captor? Please enjoy my new video below, speaking on the power of silence kept and broken, and how dreamsharing fosters intimacy in community.

Also some quick announcements: I have extended the earlybird price to September 1st on the upcoming Dreaming Retreat on Salt Spring Island (November 20-22, 2015).

I have just announced a new Online Dream Lodge (Sept 8 – Oct 27th) set in a time zone (3pm Pacific) especially conducive for Australia (9am AEST).

Also in September, I will be coming to Montreal to present at the Conscious Heart Conference (Sept 25-27th, 2015). Find out more details below.

Lots of love,
Toko-pa


Embodying the Dream with Toko-pa

Dreaming Retreat for Women

Salt Spring Island (Nov 20-22, 2015)

In this weekend retreat we will be living as a Women’s Dreaming Council in the mystical serenity of Salt Spring Island. In our daily gatherings we will work deeply with the wisdom of our Dreams, share story, ceremony and song around a sacred fire, and play with embodiment of our dreams.

The intention of this time together is to continue the long, great work of building an invisible temple together, where those practices and values which have been exiled in our world have a chance at coming alive again.


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The Dream Lodge
An 8-week (online) Dreaming Council
(Sept 8th – Oct 27, 2015)

In this intimate group of 13 women, each dreamer receives personal guidance with her own dreaming practice, learning to better understand and nurture the dreaming impulse which is working to align her with well-being & belonging.

This practice-based program focuses on the wisdom of the circle, partaking and contributing to its conversation, synchronicity and creativity, just as an ecosystem would.


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In September, I will be presenting in Montreal at the Conscious Heart Conference. For my Saturday presentation ‘Dreamwork and Living into Belonging’ I will be speaking about the epidemic of alienation in our culture and how to come back into belonging through dreamwork, grief and conversation with the holy in nature.

And in my workshop on Sunday, ‘Courting the Dream’, I will be offering a deeper look at and demonstration of some of the core practices in my approach to dreamwork. “To make a courtship of a dream, we must sit near it and learn what it loves. Discover what it longs for. If we can make an invitation of ourselves, wildness might decide to approach us.”

Jul 202015
 
Artwork by Jane Ray

Artwork by Jane Ray

We’ve all heard the old adage, “It’s better to give than to receive.” And, surely enough, many of us have great difficulty in receiving – praise, help, love and support. Perhaps it is because underneath this seemingly pious phrase is the suggestion that to receive is to be the weak one, the needy one, the poor one.

From this perspective, most of us would rather be the ‘giver’ than the ‘taker.’ Which I think, incidentally, is nuts – because giving and receiving happen simultaneously – like pollination, they are interdependent acts. So why do we hear nothing about the courage it takes to receive?

Taken to its extreme, giving can even become pathological. We may give and give so much that we run ourselves ragged. We may even hang our whole persona on the misguided belief that if we aren’t always offering, providing and producing, that we could lose our standing in the world.

But consider that receptivity is more than just a physical act; it is a rich set of qualities which allow us to live in reciprocity with our Selves, each other and the earth. These yin-based attributes include dreaming, listening, feeling, intuiting, waiting and perceiving. But because our dominant culture leans with such a pronounced bias towards taking action, or what the Chinese would call yang, many of these abilities have fallen into widespread disuse. And worse, devaluation.

At the heart of it, I think we avoid the receptive state because it penetrates our public presentations and takes us right into the question of worthiness. Am I deserving of this goodness? This happiness? This pleasure? Do I deserve to stand in this circle? Take up room? Be heard?

It takes what I like to call vulnerabravery to receive. For the person with a lifelong habit of contraction from receiving, a skillfully-landed generosity can break the husk on the heart and release the grief of how long one has survived without their needs feeling seen. But know that this grief is the sign of healing, the opening of those places which for too long have been declining love.

When we ask for help, we are building community. We are doing away with this notion that we should be practicing at detachment. We are rapturously attaching! We become responsible for tending to one another’s pieces. Not only is the giver allowed to express their bestowing heart, the receiver is taken into a greater tenderness of their own giving nature. As we grow our capacity for gratitude, which is another way of  saying completeness, or belonging, we are healing our tinygiant part of the world’s devastating wound of scarcity.

Jul 042015
 

Artwork by Jiří Kolář

This week I had the privilege to be interviewed alongside one of my great mentors, Martín Prechtel, by the lovely and insightful Heidi Huebner of Bluebird Hill Homestead, for a new podcast series Cultivate the Connection! I hope you enjoy these lively and insightful discussions about how to come back into connection and belonging through dreamwork, grief and a living conversation with the holy in nature: Listen here

 

 

 

 

 

Jun 302015
 
Artwork by Giorgia Di Vita

Artwork by Giorgia Di Vita

Like many people, I turned to my dreams when their ‘volume’ got so loud that I couldn’t ignore them any longer. According to the accepted standards, my outer life was thriving at the time. I was working as an executive in the music industry, living the so-called ‘good life’ of restaurants, hotels and exclusive parties. After years of being a musician, struggling to make ends meet, my ego really felt like she’d ‘made it’ in the world.

But it all came at a tremendous cost. Not only was my health suffering from the burnout that comes with workaholism, but the things I truly valued – like creativity, community and beauty-making were being devastated by my neglect.

It was then that I was initiated by my dreams. One night I was awoken by a bone-chilling dream, a dark mare which haunted me for weeks. When I was finally brave enough to look at it squarely, I was forced to question the direction my life was taking.

After that all the vitality I had for my career suddenly went out of me, like a flame to a gust, and I found myself in a deep depression. For the next year, the dreams pulled me down into their mucky depths, where I came to face the terrifying loneliness which my hectic life had been keeping at bay.

As I walked through that daunting abyss, I came to learn that those dreams which contained perverse or violent images were actually speaking to the ways in which I was being violent or dismissive of my own heart. Instead of dodging those images, I practiced at staying put and becoming hospitable towards them. And when I succeeded, I’d be gifted with one of those rare, numinous dreams which beckon you deeper into its mystery and concealed wisdom.

The deeper I went into my own darkness, the richer my life became. And this is now the central ethos of my work with dreams. At any given moment, we are either turning away from or coming into congruence with our kinship with mystery. Only when we wrestle to keep that endangered language of sensitivity alive do we have a chance at living a meaningful life. But more than that, this is how we become necessary to the urgency of our times.