Oct 232016
Artwork by Sofia Bonati

Artwork by Sofia Bonati

I wanted to share a meaningful experience with you that I had recently, when I was invited to teach in a small community of like-hearted women, who not only live on a remote island, off-the-grid, but for whom sharing dreams is a way of life.

Imagine if you can a small village of people who depend on each other for fresh food, emotional and physical support, a shared economy, and all the ordeals between birth and death. But then who also meet every week, to share their dreams!

I was moved by how really brave it is to live with such transparency. When the most intimate material of your inner life is allowed into a trusted circle, you become able to live inclusively of your shadows and weaknesses, your aches and longings. And by extension, how inclusive you learn to be with others.

So often I experience the quiet terror most people feel in being seen, being heard. And yet, to be seen, to be heard is the thing we want more than anything in the world. But because so many experience criticism, dismissal or invalidation the moment we brave our voice, our art, our vulnerability into the open, we learn instead to be silent, to be covered, to be small. It’s a matter of survival.

After a while, we get so used to keeping our inner life a secret that we become distant even from ourselves, suspicious of the images that appear in our dreams. We may believe that we have some particular darkness that, if shared with others, might alienate us for good. Ironically, it is this fear itself which so often keeps us outside of belonging.

We are more alike than different, yet we rarely touch this awareness because we practice at excluding ourselves. To varying degrees, we all split our soul-life off from the face we share in public. But perhaps more insidious is how we distance ourselves from those aspects of the Self which are devalued in our families and culture.

The moment we step into the sacred container of a dream circle, it is understood that our purpose is to welcome these refugee aspects of the Self back into belonging. And in the act of sharing this process in community, we instantly create a healing field for others’ lost life to come into inclusion. One by one, as we welcome them into the conversation, the so-called negative emotions have a chance at manifesting their concealed goodness. Shame welcomed allows dignity to emerge, betrayal’s hidden medicine is true loyalty, isolation hides a longing for intimacy, and so on.

And as we listen to each other’s sacred dreamstuff, we recognise ourselves as weaving something meaningful together, strengthening in community those places we are weak, and allowing our own strengths to be finally of use to our sisters and brothers.

As I watched this group of women sweep the floor, prepare the food, lay the altar, build the fire and light the candles, they seemed to move as one being. A murmuration of dreamers so intimate with eachothers’ edges that their movements were a choreography of acceptance and grace.

May this story inspire you to brave at the chance of being seen, that everyone around you may finally know they are not alone.

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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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  20 Responses to “The Bravery of Being Seen”

  1. Isolation hides a longing for intamacy.
    My isolation is longing, dreaming- beckons forth the intamacy i sometimes think i can’t bear.

  2. The separation has been painful. Not just the separation from people, but from the plants and animals too. I’m connecting and reconnecting slowly…and it’s clear that others are too. This gives me comfort and lessens the pain.

  3. This described a loneliness I have felt since before birth and that I have frequently tried to address but failed. Now I see why and will try again. Thank you so much for this, it is a beautiful gift of trust that I receive with gratitude and hope to share with many.

  4. This is Such a beautiful piece of writing and a divine story. Thank you.

  5. Beautiful words (again) thank you Toko-pa – our challenge & joy & fear is to live them daily & beyond dream sharing. For those that meet the challenge it is a gradual journey of discovery of life & love & self & others – not beyond the fear, but in spite of the fear which may never disappear. The key is to not let it conquer or limit who we are & who we can be ….. a never-ending journey I would think …..

  6. As tears fall from my eyes and i hold my face ,motherly like,telling myself “let them flow”,listening to the songs they sing me through the freedom they have gained by your words.I am walking the path of bravery thanks to beautiful people like you,seeing ,freeing and just bravely being <3

  7. Truly gorgeous and powerful.I work with people on overcoming the fears that keep them small and keep them from their desires and dreams, and I just love everything you said here. Thank you so much for sharing.

  8. What I have called “invisibility” ((the dismissal of the parts of me that make you uncomfortable), is often the result of my self-shaming. Having been burdened with PTSD and depression for decades gave me choice to examine my authentic Self in the woundedness. My dreams were key to unlocking themes that led me to the inner child that I abandoned years ago. This wound appears over and over in dreams and proved toxic in my conscious being.
    As late in life as it is for me, as brutal the journey to come to the place you describe so well – the days remaining will be less threatening as I am more aware of where my healing resides.
    A timely piece for me to read.
    Blessed are your Words and Wisdom!

    • Absolutely – and what a long and arduous journey that can be. I’m so glad your dreams have been a support to you, as they are to so many of us in recovery from trauma.

  9. Thank you for writing this article, and for so courageously putting into words something I struggled for years to understand.

  10. Hi Toko-Pa,
    Thank you for your writing. I thought it is interesting you write that part of belonging is to be heard and seen. In Danish for belonging is to be listened to,”at høre til.

  11. I want more of this

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