May 172014
Artwork by Michael Whelan

Artwork by Michael Whelan

This being human is tough stuff and one of the acute losses we all feel is that of meaningful friendship and community. That which our great, great ancestors took for certain: when a wounding befalls one of us, we are all implicated. And so we lean in to support those in pain with our humble gifts of empathy and presence. We shoulder our unbearable questions together and we honour with ritual the devastating requirements and initiations that this being alive asks of us.

But in the impoverished condition of modern culture, we are taught to feel ashamed of our weakness and to deny our own suffering – nevermind share its burden. We’ve made a hedging around the very places we should be depending upon each other. We’ve privatised pain.

And then it’s hard to reach out. It’s hard to be seen with your messy lostness,  exhaustion and overwhelm as you stumble through the complexities of life. But how else can someone become trustworthy unless you allow them to share in your hardship? How can we form the village we ache for unless we allow ourselves to wrestle with these things together?

If you are well, consider being the medicine for someone else’s pain. Rumi says, ‘Where lowland is, that’s where water goes. All medicine wants is pain to cure.’ But if you are unwell, consider asking a friend you want to trust for help. Consider that to be invited behind your hedge is a privilege, and it calls upon the compassion in all of us that lives to flow into a lowland.

Now sometimes the person you call upon may not have the capacity to meet your vulnerability – and there is terrible grief in this. You might be tempted to grow your hedge even higher, and swear off this sharing stuff. But perhaps there is a greater attrition taking place. Perhaps you already knew you were calling upon the wrong person. And perhaps there’s someone unexpected in your midst, who keeps showing up and challenging you to receive their support.

You, who would normally bear it alone – yours is a necessary yielding. Your asking is the invitation that may keep us bound  in place and memory together. Yours are the first threads of a village in the making.

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A writer, artist and tender of dreams, Toko-pa has been interviewed by CNN News & BBC Radio and her writing has appeared in publications around the world. Thanks to Skype, she works with dreamers internationally in her Private Dreamwork practice, based on Salt Spring Island in Canada. You can find Toko-pa on Facebook or sign up for her mailing list to receive news about upcoming events.

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  13 Responses to “On Village-Making and Asking for Help”

  1. So beautiful! This is has been so “up” for me right now. The dance of relationship, expectation and attachment to outcome versus true inter-connectedness. Thank you!

  2. Hey Toko-pa! You are a beautiful writer and it’s lovely to know that about you. This issue is core to our current human challenges…accepting the truth of our vulnerability and our interdependence not only on each other but on all our relations. Thank you for doing what you are doing. I feel the inspiration and benefit of your existence. Blessings to you, Carol

  3. The internet can be such a positive help in community building and especially global community building. Knowing there are so many people who appreciate these wise words really touches me and gives me strength of heart. Thanks for being.

  4. Thank you for gathering our thoughts into a beautiful bouquet of easily understood words that actually creates a relief for much needed repressed expression. You are the only one who can reach inside us and know what we have to need be expressed and then give it back multiplied for the benefit of all. Deep bows to you Toko-pa.

  5. Toko-Pa
    This message hit a nerve with me because I can relate to being at times unwell and weak and in need of help from others; and other times I am well and strong and able to reach out and help those in need.
    I feel the forces challenging us, testing our strengths and weaknesses; and pulling us and our families and loved ones apart each to his/her own beliefs and convictions. To thine own self be true…

  6. About 30 yrs ago a guy turned to me and said in a derogatory way, “Brian, you just have the emotions of a woman..”. I was stunned at that moment and thought “So what are you saying Steve? You don’t like feminine emotions? You married a woman didn’t you?(no reply from Steve). And all these years later I remember that, and then I run across a FB posting on “I want to be alive with you” by someone named Toko-pa. That was my doorway into your work, perspective, thoughts and writing. I love it all, it reaches me deeply, I loved the Encounter series, and I love Pema Chodron, Tara Brach, understanding the Mother Wound,… See a trend? So what if I honor the feminine emotions within me, I am a male RN, we ALL need healing, and all your resources are doing that. Thank you Toko-pa. Don’t stop, men need healing too.

  7. This is lovely and makes this simple complexity easy to find in one’s own experiences. Recently, my husband went missing, and was found dead 8 weeks later. The people who have been there for me were not the people I expected. The people who claimed to be family broke my heart. I’d like to think my hedge, which has small opens only a few knew of, isnt getting taller, but I’m so deep in my grief it’s hard to tell. I wonder what your thoughts are on time, place, and ways to reshape our hedge, to soften our hearts again.
    Much appreciation,

    • Teeka,
      i am so sorry to hear this happened to you, you have my heart and prayers in this time. And you are also correct, the people you think will be there when you need will break your heart. I still think its important to reach out for help, even though i feel uncertain as to who i can trust, but i’ve learned that loving help is where you find it, its not always in the expected places. peace, Brian

    • Dearest Teeka. Thank you so much for reading, and for sharing some of your experience with me. So many of us were holding our breath as your husband’s story unfolded over those two months. I can only imagine how hard it must be to come out of hiding after such heartbreak. There is too much to say on the subject, which is why I wrote a book! Maybe it will weave in deeper for you? Check it out:

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