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:

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.

Feb 122015


In this 4-week online course, March 29th – April 25th, 2015, (SORRY, THIS COURSE IS NOW FULL) you will be learning the Cornerstones of Dreamwork. Using an intimate blend of art, theory and practice, dreamers learn to understand the structure and language of dreams & develop the tools necessary to begin bridging their wisdom back to waking life. This series is excellent for beginner and intermediate dreamers.

The weekly online classes will cover the following topics:


Week 1: Dream Architecture

Dreamwork is an art as well as a science. In this class we learn to approach dreams in the same way we would a work of literature, film or painting; appreciating its mechanics as well as its poetry. We will learn how to recognize the dramatic structure of a dream, isolate its key elements and bridge their symbolism back to waking life.

Week 2: Light in the Dark

Learning to actively dream involves finding balance between the light and dark sides of our nature. In this class we will pay special attention to the Shadow and nightmares, learning how to read the warning signs of imbalanced attitudes. We will explore the redeeming medicine of dark dreams and the importance of finding the light contained within them.

Week 3: Inner Marriage

Each of us contains both masculine and feminine qualities within. It is only our gender conditioning that engrains a bias towards one or the other. What results, is an impoverishment of our opposite-gender qualities. In this class, we will learn how to integrate both through dreamwork, so that we can recover our wholeness as individuals, correspondingly healing our larger community.

Week 4: Dream Yourself Awake

Dreaming is a kind of archaeological process where we enter the landscape of the soul to unearth the forgotten or undiscovered parts of our selves. As we begin to do away with unconscious, habitual behaviour, we awaken to a new way of being in the world. We begin to walk the dream – turning inspiration into action. In this class we will learn techniques for engaging our co-creative abilities in both dreaming and waking realities.


How it works:

  • Once you’ve registered the next email you’ll get will be on the Friday before our start date, containing an invitation to join an exclusive Facebook Group with your fellow Dreamwalkers, where all of our discussions will take place.
  • You will then receive your weekly video lessons on Sunday of every week, along with your weekly study guides.
  • We meet for our Weekly Live Call via Instant Teleseminar on Saturdays at 10 am (PST). You can access these gatherings via telephone, Skype or by web (listen-only). Though I do recommend showing up in real time, the recording will be available to all members if you have to miss the class.
  • We will be working on actual dreams as a group in every Live Class, so you can learn intimately about the Dreamworking process.
  • Our private Facebook Group can be used throughout the week to share dreams with your fellow Dreamwalkers, start discussions, offer insights, and ask questions.



“The work that Toko-pa is doing is potent and powerful. Through the Dreamwalking class I came to appreciate my own dreams better, especially those “simple” snippets of images that I might have dismissed before as being unimportant. Through her words and teachings, I now also realize dreaming is a way to enter into connection and community with one another. It’s an expansive, heart guided way to engage with the world and all her beings. My dreams have always been a source of interest, power, and inspiration, but working with Toko-pa has made me appreciate my dreams more deeply. To understand them as guideposts showing me the way when the path is unclear and as a tender, loving source of comfort when I’m in distress. Thanks, Toko-pa! Your loving, strong, guiding voice is so necessary right now. I’m excited to be engaged with this changing force in my own small way.” – Sidra Quinn

Click here to read more Testimonials from Graduate Dreamwalkers



Earlybird tuition (Before Feb 20th) for this 4-week course is $180.

After February 20th, tuition is $220.

Final registration deadline is Friday March 20th (please know that this course always fills up quickly, so I’d recommend registering long before this deadline).

You will be given an option at registration to contribute to the Scholarship Fund to help those in need.

Some scholarships are available and will be considered on interest, merit & need. If you’d like to apply for a scholarship, please send a mind & heartful letter to me here.

If you have any other questions, feel free to contact me.

Feb 022015


I am thrilled to announce The Dream Lodge, an 8-week online mentorship program (May 19th – July 7th, 2015) for graduates of my Dreamwalking course. THIS LODGE IS NOW FULL

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.

She will also be refining the skills she learned in Dreamwalking in this practice-based program which focuses on the wisdom of the circle, partaking and contributing to its conversation, synchronicity and creativity, just as an ecosystem would:

The Dream Lodge is a council of women dedicated to the practice of dreaming together, honouring the wounds that shape us uniquely and moving through the impediments to embolden our creativity in the world.

Some of our core practices:

  • Deepening the Quality of Approach: learning the art of slow courtship of dream symbols
  • Opening the Third Ear: becoming attentive to the inner life
  • Refining our Questions: drawing out the secret longing of every dream
  • Self & Other: holding paradox & befriending otherness
  • Sheltering the Shadow: becoming hospitable to uncomfortable emotions

How it works:

  • We meet in the virtual Dream Lodge on Tuesdays at 10 am (PDT) from May 19th – July 7th, 2015 for 1.5 hours each week. To convert this to your own time zone, go here:
  • You will access our Dream Lodge gatherings via telephone, Skype (audio-only), or listen in via the web.  Though I do recommend showing up in real time, the recording will be made available to you if you have to miss a gathering.
  • We will be working on actual dreams as a group in every gathering, so you will learn intimately about the Dreamworking process and benefit from the magic of the shared unfolding.
  • We will also have a private Facebook Group to be used throughout the week to share your dreams with our council of women, discuss your practice, offer insights and receive support with your important questions.


“We, the dreamers, are ever so grateful that you have provided us with your scholarship which is so well supported by your experience and innate wisdom Toko-pa, and that you have made a place for us to gather and practice new skills and share and support each other. It is all more than I could have possibly imagined. Gratitude abounds.” – Cathi Pettigrew

“WOW Toko-pa, you have created such a potent, life-shaking course here. You do not shy away from the darkness and muck that make a lot of others squirm and flee. I appreciate the deep work and deep self-inquiry that it takes to bring this about.” – Katherine Knupp

“I love witnessing the magic follow of the dreaming, as Toko-pa dives deeply yet gently in the story of the dreamtime. She is a gentle, loving storyteller and in today’s world with so many techniques available for our spiritual growth the mentors forget to teach, gentleness and humbleness. Toko-pa draws from both including love and integrity. This is why I will continue supporting this gifted dream whispering healer.” – Lorna Cluttey

To read more testimonials, click here.


Please know that I am limiting this program to 13 women so we can preserve the intimacy of our circle, but that also means it will fill up quickly. If you had your heart set on joining us & you find registration full, please send me an email and I’ll put you on a waiting list.

Earlybird tuition: (Before May 1st) for this 8-week program is $249.

After May 1st: tuition is $299.

Final registration deadline: May 15th, 2015.




Jan 082015
Painting by Richard Young

Painting by Richard Young

To explain the mystery and importance of Duende to artistic expression, Lorca tells the story of a great Andalusian singer whose performance leaves a modest audience unimpressed one night in a little tavern in Cadiz. “Here we care nothing about ability, technique, skill. Here we are after something else,” they seem to say. The songstress then tears at her expensive gown, guzzles a tall glass of burning liquor and begins “to sing with a scorched throat: without voice, without breath or color but with Duende” all to the crowd’s raucous approval. Lorca says, “She had to rob herself of skill and security, send away her muse and become helpless, that her Duende might come and deign to fight her hand to hand…” (from Terrance Hayes, More Theories of the Duende & Teaching the Inexplicable)

As Nick Cave wrote, “All love songs must contain duende. For the love song is never truly happy. It must first embrace the potential for pain. Those songs that speak of love without having within in their lines an ache or a sigh are not love songs at all but rather Hate Songs disguised as love songs, and are not to be trusted. These songs deny us our humanness and our God-given right to be sad and the air-waves are littered with them.

The love song must resonate with the susurration of sorrow, the tintinnabulation of grief. The writer who refuses to explore the darker regions of the heart will never be able to write convincingly about the wonder, the magic and the joy of love for just as goodness cannot be trusted unless it has breathed the same air as evil – the enduring metaphor of Christ crucified between two criminals comes to mind here – so within the fabric of the love song, within its melody, its lyric, one must sense an acknowledgement of its capacity for suffering.”