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.

Jun 112015
Embodying the Dream with Toko-pa
Embodying the Dream: A Women’s Dreaming Retreat

Dates: November 20-22nd, 2015
Place: Saltspring Island, British Columbia

In ancient times, our ancestors saw no separation between us and nature. It was our prayers that kept the sun and moon rising, our rituals which ensured the rain would fall on our crops, our songs which brought the stars into alignment and it was our dreams which told us how to go.

Because the elders who would have transmitted the old ways to us have mostly vanished from our midst, it is now up to us to become those elders, to water the seeds of our dreams, to come back into the living conversation with our inner and outer nature, so we can provide a meaningful inheritance to the young ones who come up around us.

In this weekend retreat we will be living as a Women’s Dreaming Council in the mystical serenity of Saltspring Island. In our daily gatherings we will work deeply with the wisdom of our Dreams, pay respectful attention to our bodies, and share story, ceremony and song around a sacred fire under the moon. In this we are practicing at coming into belonging with one another and the vast beauty of our outer surroundings.

Stowel Lake Farm is located in the gorgeous south end of Salt Spring Island, British Columbia. This breathtaking retreat centre offers a variety of in-residence accommodation and is a short ferry ride from Swartz Bay, Victoria (Victoria is on Vancouver Island). Registration includes 3 gorgeously crafted meals a day, using mostly locally grown and organic foods. Stowel Lake Farm is an extraordinary living example of community and heart.


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For more information about the farm, visit www.stowellakefarm.com


Stowel Lake farm has a number of beautiful buildings including heated yurts to accommodate us. There are 4 private rooms available at an extra cost (as availability permits) and the rest are shared spaces with 1-3 women. To see the selection of rooms, please download this brochure of Accommodations (8MB pdf file). You will be given an opportunity to express your room preference on the registration form, but keep in mind it is first-come-first-serve.




Driving: Use this address for Google maps: 190 Reynolds Rd, Salt Spring Island B.C.

Air: There are two airports nearby – in Victoria and Vancouver – but both require a ferry ride to Salt Spring Island. It is recommended that you fly into Victoria if possible, because it’s just one short sail to Salt Spring from there.

Ferries: The sail from Victoria (Swartz Bay) to Salt Spring Island (Fulford Harbour) is about 25 minutes, whereas the ferry from Vancouver (Tsawwassen) to Swartz Bay is 1:35 minutes, after which you’ll need to make a 2nd connection to Fulford Harbour. Please make sure to plan ahead for your sailing time, so you can arrive for our check-in time between 3-5pm on Friday. For a full list of fares & schedules, please visit www.bcferries.com

Shuttle:  If you need a ride to the retreat center to & from the Fulford Ferry terminal, please let us know in advance and we’ll arrange to give you a ride.

Timing: Check in time will be on Friday November 20th (between 3-5 pm) and check out will be on Sunday Nov 22nd after lunch (12:30-1:30 pm)


Registration is only available to graduates of Toko-pa’s Dreamwalking Course. If you haven’t already taken the Dreamwalking Course and want to attend, please register for the upcoming Dreamwalking in August.

Space is limited to 20 women for this event

Includes: Includes 3 luscious vegetarian Meals/Day and 2 Nights Accommodations

Does not include: Airfare to Canada, Ferries to/from Saltspring Island, additional activities and outings.

Before July 10th: $695

After July 10th:    $795

Cancellation Policy: All deposits are non-refundable. Any registration cancellations before July 10th will receive a full refund minus a $50 administration fee. After July 10th you will receive a 50% refund minus a $50 administration fee. Because this is a residential workshop with individualized meal and accommodation planning, no refunds can be issued for cancellations after August 1st.

We are financially responsible for the retreat so we ask you kindly to respect that we cannot make any exceptions to this agreement.



May 252015
Spirit Fox by Mandy Tsung

Spirit Fox by Mandy Tsung

In this age of instantly answerable questions, there is very little mystery left intact. Governed as we are by the great scientific quest which pulls things apart to get at their mechanics, we are desperate for that which returns us to cohesion.

One of the greatest challenges in approaching dreams, which is but an echo of our relationship with the Earth, is allowing mystery to work upon us. There are certain questions which, as the poet David Whyte puts it, ‘have no right to go away.’ There is a delicate alchemy which brews in our not-knowing and which is essential to our becoming worthy of the dream’s revelation.

As Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes tells us, there are those ancients who referred to the dreammaker as ‘The Riddle Mother’ because when you carry your question into sleep, she responds to it with a riddle. Like any good fairy tale, the task is not to find an answer, but to become the kind of person who knows which way to go.

If you feel dissatisfied with Dream Dictionaries, which reduce your symbols to mean something other than they are, like “If you dream of a butterfly it means new beginnings” it is because your living mystery is being objectified. Symbols are living, breathing beings who change depending on the eyes who see them. As James Hillman puts it, “Like the fox in the forest is not mine just because I see it, so the fox in the dream is not mine just because I dream it.”

I believe one of the great challenges of our time is our coming back into relationship with mystery. Rather than making an expectation of our needs being met, let us make a courtship of that which we admire. Let us make our lives alluring enough that the mystery might become curious of us! Let us stand with a respectful distance and make an invitation of ourselves, such that wildness might decide to approach us. Let us find ways to pray ourselves to the forest, even when we hear nothing back. Let us keep returning to that silence and allow ourselves to be shaped by our yearning for answers.

May 232015

medusa1“Our culture’s wounding and belittling of the feminine and its values has led many mothers to mistrust the world and men to a greater extent than ever before, and this mistrust inevitably becomes part of the emotional heritage of our children.” –  by Massimilla Harris, Ph.D., and Bud Harris, Ph.D., from Into the Heart of the Feminine

If you were the child of a mother crippled by her own devaluation, you may have inherited the feeling of being unseen, invalidated, or worse –  with the unspoken communication that you (or some aspect of you) was unwanted or even wished dead.

Long after you leave the family home, the tyranny of this archetype that Jungian analyst Marion Woodman calls the Death Mother continues its reign in our psyches.

Before you even think about attempting something new, asserting your voice, or stepping towards change, the Death Mother is there. Disapproving, denigrating, even repulsed by your impulse to expression and joy. Like Medusa, she only needs to look at you and raise a single eyebrow for your whole body to turn to stone.

Rejection from the one we love most can be so devastating to a young person that we internalise the belief that something is fundamentally wrong with us and deserves to be abandoned.  So we take up the habit of repeatedly leaving our own selves behind, especially when we most need support in going forward.

Even the smallest trigger of disapproval or rejection can summon the Death Mother to rear up in her full, terrifying size. The best way to describe her influence on us is collapse, paralysis, even a longing for the oblivion of death.

When I first encountered this brilliant interview with Marion Woodman on The Death Mother by Daniela Sieff,  I knew I’d stumbled upon something big. For years, I’d been searching to put words to the paralysing energy that not only haunted my own life, but which I found living in the psyches of so many of the women and men who share their dreams with me.

Without being conscious of it, the Death Mother continues to rule our lives in the form of unworthiness and self-abdication especially towards our own bodies. As one dreamer put it in Understanding and Healing Emotional Trauma by Daniela Sieff, “When I am hungry, I am not fed. When I’m exhausted, I’m not allowed to rest. When I need to move, I’m forced to stay still.” As Marion Woodman has written about extensively, even eating disorders, chronic fatigue and pain, as well as auto-immune diseases may also be expressions of that loss of inner valuation.

Book_Feature_1--Into_the_Heart_of_the_FeminineI was thrilled to be asked by the authors to review this fantastic new book by Jungian analysts Massimilla and Bud Harris called Into the Heart of the Feminine, which takes up the mantle of Woodman’s breakthrough work on the Death Mother. Using the guiding myth of Medusa, the authors show us how this shadow forms both personally and at the level of our cultural collective. In showing us a way forward, we are reminded to turn back towards the symbolic life, engaging with our dreams, and embodying our authentic feelings. You can also listen to Massimilla Harris give this hour-long talk on facing the Death Mother here.

In my own experience, I know this path to be slow and obscuring, at times frightening and often overwhelming. But from the moment you set foot on the dreaming way of life, there is a deeply-felt recognition in your bones of its necessity. And if you stay with the grief and confusion of it all, a kind of intrinsic order begins to reveal itself. Life has the chance at coming alive again. Magic begins to find us trustworthy and music returns to our silenced voices.

May 102015
Andrew Ferez3

Illustration by Andrew Ferez

To the multitudes of souls out there for whom this day is an excruciating reminder of what you yearn for but have never known, these words are for you.

As you know too well, the Good Mother that is emblemized on this day, the one who is culturally exalted for her nurturing, selfless kindness, is only one face of the Mother archetype.

If you grew up feeling unseen, invalidated, or with instability, violence or chaos in the home, you will have seen some of her other faces.

Because our mothers are our first imprint of the world, that relationship becomes the blueprint for how we relate to life at large. If you experienced a scarcity of love and withholding of affection, the whole world can feel like place you aren’t worthy of belonging.

You may dream of wandering in those dangerous, abandoned parts of your psyche where structures go to crumble; what little life there is scrounges and competes for scraps, and there is danger at every turn. Triggers, like today –  where others seem have an abundance of warmth you don’t – can be an express bus to the heart of this desolation district.

Painting by Lisa Marquis-Bradbury

Painting by Lisa Marquis-Bradbury

Revitalisation of this vast and central wound is slow. But the first step to healing is the refusal to keep minimalising the impact that emotional neglect has created. Only then can you begin to grieve and, with your moistening tears, plant anew in that abandoned soil.

Remothering is an ongoing practice, (tremendously helped by a mentor), of learning to care for your body’s needs, validating and expressing your feelings, speaking healthy boundaries, supporting your life choices, and most of all – growing loving towards all that is unsolved in your heart.

To your remothered self I offer this future blessing:

Through trial and fire, against the odds, you have grown to trust that the world can be a safe place and you have every right to walk here. You have made parents of your instincts, intuition and dreaming; you have allowed love into where it had never before been received; you have grown life where once it was barren. With just a few found and trustworthy seeds, you have nurtured the greatest harvest there is in this, your humble life of belonging.

Bless your heart,

May 092015
Toko-pa featured in upcoming “Time is Art” film

One of the great competencies of belonging is to refine the quality of our presence such that we might listen for the secret aperture into what somebody loves. – Toko-pa

“Toko-pa is a dreamworker who provides a crucial ark in the story of the hero’s journey, the moment midway through the film, ‘Time is Art’, where Jennifer confronts the dark night of the soul. Toko-pa guides Jennifer through her recurring nightmare and helps her to understand the meaning behind such disturbing images of death and destruction. One of the most powerful scenes in the film, we get a real sense of the importance of understanding our dreams. In this clip from one of her talks at the Synchronicity Symposium, also featured in the film, Toko-pa provides us with much needed insight and wisdom into what it means to truly belong.” (read more here)

Mar 232015

donoharm‘Everything is a Mirror’ can be a powerful and transformative practice as we learn to navigate the synchronistic relationship between the inner and outer life, between self and other.  But the moment we lose sight of the paradoxical nature of life, this bit of New Age fundamentalism can make us too psychically porous and, in certain situations, even put us in harm’s way. It can be especially damaging in abusive or chaotic situations, and can lead to victim-blaming and justification of reckless behaviour.

There are times when someone else’s bad behaviour is theirs and theirs alone. And, instead of reflecting on how you might improve yourself or ‘rise above your emotions,’ you must respect your reaction and Become the Mirror. Which is to say, show the other your strong, clear boundary.

This idea that we should have unlimited patience and flexibility implied in the ‘mirror’ precept trains us to tolerate more than we should, always ‘working on ourselves,’ quelling our disagreements, being ‘more evolved,’ and attaining inner peace. But what if inner peace depends upon your speaking your NO? What if being evolved means wielding the sword of discernment, which knows its own standpoint and isn’t afraid to say, “I’m not in that.”

Photograph by Ben Zank

Photograph by Ben Zank

In the ancient Kabbalastic tradition, the development of the soul is represented by a symbol called the Tree of Life. Its a kind of map to divinity which respects the polarities, and the middle way between them. Upon the tree are 10 sefirot, or spiritual principles, by which the world is created. Though it is a rich and complex system, I’d like to speak about one pair of counterparts; Chesed and Gevurah.

While Chesed is ‘boundless loving kindness,’ Gevurah is ‘no more.’ It is the restraint of our natural impulse to bestow goodness. It’s the line drawn in the sand.  While Chesed draws the other close, Gevurah is boundaries. It is the withdrawal which holds the other accountable.

Together, Chesed and Gevurah act to create a dynamic balance in the soul’s navigation of relationships & the world. Paradoxically, (and here’s the juicy part) it is Gevurah’s withdrawal which creates the potentiality for Chesed to occur! In other words, the discipline you expect of others is actually an expression of love. Different from judgement, Gevurah is the tenacity to our own & others’ greatest potential.

Though asserting your boundaries rarely feels ‘good’ in the moment, it is ultimately a loving gesture to recognize someone’s capability and say, “I expect better from you.” To say NO is a potent medicine which places responsibility where it truly belongs, and invites the other to live up to honouring those limits.

Feb 262015
Etching by Carrie Lingscheit

Etching by Carrie Lingscheit

As human beings, I think we are always walking a line between the creative and destructive. We are both compelled by our wild nature into new forms of living, while also aching for the stability and constancy of belonging.

You may have known times when you were just one or the other. Maybe you came all the way untethered and saw what dangers and addictions, what loneliness comes with being rogue. Or somewhere, along the way, perhaps you made an internal vow to be ‘the responsible one’.

But responsibility can be just as dangerous as rebellion. It can come on like quicksand, burying you in its requirements, turning your life a platonic hue. What may have started with an edge of penance, now crowds out the very rebellion which kept you feeling alive. Like the wise words of a young man who climbed the ladder only to discover more ladders, “I wish I’d made more mistakes.”

And so we must find a way to walk between these things; alternately separating or uniting. Sometimes singing into the great choir of belonging means having a dissenting voice. At other times, the shelter we’ve built must be maintained as a refuge for others, and our creativity. At any given time we can ask ourselves, “Where is my vital edge and how can I inch towards it?”

Excerpted from the upcoming book “On Belonging” © Toko-pa Turner 2014. To read more, sign up for Toko-pa’s free newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/jtRaL

Feb 162015

It was a treat to be interviewed for Be You Media, by the lovely and talented Jenn Grosso this week. Our conversation turned to some intimate topics like depression, stage-fright and the book I’ve been writing on Belonging. I hope you find something useful here and I look forward to hearing how it lands with you:

tokopaperingIn my own life, and in the lives of the  people I’m blessed to do dreamwork with, I found that the search for Belonging is the silent conversation behind so many of the other conversations we have in the open. And while we crave this elusive thing, so few of us feel as if we’ve achieved it.

So this book has taken me deep into the question of exile in my own personal history and in my ancestral lineage, taking me as far as rural France where I’ve walked the same cobblestones my ancestors walked before meeting their death in the holocaust.

And I’ve come to understand that belonging is not a place at all, but a set of skills that we in modern culture have forgotten. This book is an attempt to enumerate what I call those ‘competencies of belonging.’”  Read the rest of the interview here.