Apr 282017
 

Artwork by Federico Infante

Without the guidance of our elders, and through the wisdom found in stories, myth and dreaming, we in modern culture are mirroring an increasingly distorted image of the externalised life. Take for example ‘Reality Television’ which portrays human nature as competitive, jealous, violent and shallow. These are the stories of our time, and by paying them with our attention we further emphasise those cultural qualities.

Like a question that goes unanswered, we recreate conflict and violence for entertainment, as if on an endless loop. While it may feel entertaining to watch such unconscious images, they are lacking in real nutrition and take an enormous psychic toll. The reinforcement of those values narrows the band of our mythic imagination.

People praise this kind of anti-storytelling because, “it’s more like real life.” But I believe it’s a mistake to think of stories with a redemptive quality as unrealistic, because their function is not to reflect ‘real life,’ but rather to rescue the events of our lives from randomness, restoring them to meaning.

The function of stories is not to reflect real life, but to rescue it from randomness.Click To Tweet

Excerpted from the forthcoming book on “Belonging” 2017 © Toko-pa Turner: To read more, sign up for Toko-pa’s free newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/jtRaL

Mar 142017
 

Artwork by Audrey Niffenegger

Try as we might, there is no inoculation against shadow. No matter how dedicated we are to piety, good health or selfless service, we cannot distance ourselves from the grit and grime of being alive. The shadow will always find a way to enter our lives, but the artfulness is in how we dance with it, the degree to which we follow its lead.

There is a powerful groupmind so pervasive that it is almost undetectable, which advocates for mass inoculation against shadow. It offers myriad activities and substances to keep us from depression, rebellion, anxiety and restlessness. It may even talk about shadow in a homeopathic way, offering us small, safe doses of theory and jargon, instilling the false confidence that we have any reign over chaos.  But until we become truly intimate with darkness, which is to say, respectful of that dangerous and powerful Mother, reverent of her compulsory initiations by wrath and grief, we are only making ourselves more susceptible to her possession.

What is it to refuse inoculation? It is to aspire to our own humanity. Stepping away from the protective, controlled, masked persona to let ourselves be seen as we are.

Just as fire can transform food from its raw form into something digestible, our darknesses are radical transformers. Instead of airbrushing our personalities, we should practice at exaggerating our blemishes, leaning into our stagnancy, wounding and discomforts. If we really want to evolve, all we have to do is be more expressly where we are.

As an Ambassadress of the Darkness, my message to embrace these darker emotions is sometimes misinterpreted as an invitation to wallow in, or let your base impulses run wild. But what I’m really talking about is getting out from under spiritual override long enough to acknowledge the validity of your feelings.  Instead of affirming whatever emotion is arising, override is when we put up resistance to conflictual feelings by telling ourselves we shouldn’t feel that way, we don’t want that pain, we should be more evolved, less emotional, stronger, etc. To inhabit our feelings is another way of saying belonging to the true breadth of our experience. Yessing your conflict doesn’t mean staying in it. It means making a compassionate encounter with your difficult feelings, until they reveal their hidden intelligence.

Excerpted from the forthcoming book on “Belonging” 2017 © Toko-pa Turner (To read more, sign up for Toko-pa’s free newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/jtRaL )

Jan 022017
 

Artwork by Daria Hlazatova

I’ve heard it said that when your heroes die, it is a call to step into their empty shoes and walk in such a way which demonstrates what you’ve inherited from them.

The heroes we lost this year were living examples of unabashedness. They expressed themselves without filters, accentuated their differences and flaunted their eccentricities. I certainly aspire to this kind of expression in art, but also in life.

For me, this year has been about stepping into personal power. We are in this pivotal time in history when many of us find ourselves standing on opposing sides of a dangerous disagreement. We are learning about taking a stand for what we believe, even when it makes us unpopular. While there is always wisdom in listening to different viewpoints, some moments call for us to be unequivocal.

Joseph Campbell once said that the thing all heroes have in common is their willingness to die for what they believe. I would just add that in that willingness, we become truly alive.

My 2017 invocation for you, dear Dreamer, is that you recognise with increasing vividness that you know what you know. May this year find you less and less inclined to self-doubt, meekness and hesitation. May you be willing to be unlikeable, but in the process be utterly loved. May you be impervious to the wrongful projections of others, and may you deliver your no with precision and grace. May you see with the consummate clarity of nature moving through you that your voice is not only necessary, but desperately needed to sing us out of this muddle. May you feel shored up, supported and reassured as you venture into the next year with your precious offerings and bold choices. May you know for certain that even as you stand by yourself, you are not alone.

All my love for a wickedly wonderful year ahead,
Toko-pa

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Dec 072016
 

EMERGENCE

A Weekend Retreat with Toko-pa

Date: March 24-26th, 2017
Place: Osceola, Wisconsin

Emergence never happens all at once. It is a slow stepping into the expanded capacity of your next self. You may need practice at releasing in those places you’ve grown accustomed to bracing which, like a tight swaddle, was comforting in its limits. But when the time to remain hidden comes to its natural end, you must begin to inhabit your new dimensionality, breathe into the fullness of your gaining altitude and consider that what presents itself as fear may actually be exhilaration. As your future approaches you, worry less how it may receive you and say a prayer instead for your becoming approachable.

In this luscious 3-day retreat, Toko-pa will be offering a deeper look at and demonstration of some of the core practices in her approach to dreamwork especially as it relates to emergence into the life of our longing. This retreat offers a blend of instruction, practice and ritual. Participants are encouraged to bring a dream or two they’d like to work on.

LOCATION:

Nestled among the forests and prairie lands of the beautiful St. Croix River Valley, this workshop will be held in Osceola, Wisconsin, just 45 miles from Minneapolis & St Paul, at Philadelphia Community Farm.

Established as a non-profit in 1989, PCF became one of the first community supported agriculture programs in the midwest and has hosted groups of all ages ever since. The farm supports a tradition of biodynamic farming practices, stewarding hundreds of acres in conservation, vibrant community living and a sacred space for essential nature-centered programs and events. Named after a pristine 40-ft waterfall, Buttermilk Falls CSA & Folk School Retreat offers lovingly-grown organic produce for its 120 members, a sanctuary for artists a life of dignity for folks with special needs and an enlivening folk school. 

 

For driving instructions, please click on ‘view larger map’:

REGISTRATION:

Includes: shared accommodation, 3 meals on Saturday and breakfast & lunch on Sunday. Check-in will be on Friday afternoon between 3-5pm, followed by a potluck feast, check-out is on Sunday at 4pm.

$395 Earlybird (before February 10th)

$450 (after February 10th)

Workshop is limited to 16 participants

Cancellation Policy: Any registration cancellations before February 10th will receive a full refund minus a $20 administration fee. After February 10th you will receive a 50% refund minus a $20 administration fee. Because this is a residential retreat, no refunds can be issued for cancellations after February 28th.

register_now

Nov 242016
 

We had an incredible week at the 2nd Annual Dreaming Retreat with a phenomenal group of gorgeous women! It was full of ritual, beauty and catharsis and as soon as it was over, we began to speak of next year’s gathering. We began our circle of togetherness over a delectable organic feast, followed by an evening of ceremony in which we put words to our deepest longing, inaugurating our Dream Altar with sacred adornments and song.

Our mornings were shared in silence to tend to our dream journals, making the transition between worlds almost seamless. Then we would gather under the arched roof of Stowel Lake Farm’s ‘Gatehouse’ to be in circle again, where we would share our dreams and partake in each other’s wisdom.

Our evenings were spent around the sacred fire in the orchard, singing, storytelling or otherwise making things sacred under a starry sky. We deeply enjoyed the island and went on a beautiful excursion through the forest to a peninsula on the ocean.

There was an enormous amount of wisdom and creativity in this group! The more time we spent together the more treasures emerged! There is something about the quality of women who are attracted to this work which makes for an instant sense of belonging. It was especially wonderful to have 3 generations represented in our circle, and I know the friendships that have been forged here will last a lifetime. Here are a few photos of our experience below, may they inspire you to join us next year!

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Nov 012016
 
xuan-loc-xuan

Artwork by Xuan Loc Xuan

In this dark threshold season, I am thinking about originality and the often terrifying emptiness which precedes creativity. So often in the creative process, people are frozen by the invalidation which says, “What you are working on is not original. Others have done it sooner, done it better, so why embarrass yourself with trying.” And with the weight of that thought, so many projects sink back into hiding, the divine longing to sing into the great song silenced.

But what if originality is not something we invent, so much as an utterance through us by our origins. By origins I mean that inexhaustible well from which every human being drinks; and which is dreaming us. You might call it god, nature, source, divinity, but whatever word you use, it is this great unfolding of which our lives are but a single thread.

Originality then becomes about tracking your own becoming. Instead of clambering for growth and productivity, it is the practice of respecting idleness. To hear our original voice, we must gestate in the dark, whose source is vast and terrifying and requires us to suspend our ambitions. Originality comes when you stay close to that emptiness, making it hospitable, adorning it with your longing, refining the shape of it with your questions. Make a temple of your emptiness. Every great artist I know has a question which obsesses them, and their artworks are less attempts to answer that question than they are exaltations of asking. As John Cocteau puts it, “The poet doesn’t invent. He listens.”

It’s much harder to sit without an idea and push out into nothingness than it is to go through the regular, known motions. But if you can move through the initial shock of being adrift, slowly forms will begin to appear in the fog. And even if they are but feelings of what you long for, where and in what precise way you feel lost, you can paradoxically become oriented by that.

We need more wayshowers, who have penetrated the fog of their own uncertainty to find something truthful. Something eternal, tragic and lost, something small. But like cupping your hands around a tiny flame, if you protect it from the harsh winds of dismissal, it may become a real heartfire. That fire then becomes a beacon for others to sail towards. Not to imitate it, mind you, but to emulate its quality of bravery, which has been left like a vibratory signature on the thing you’ve made.

As you track the curve of your own curiosity, may that you find networks of people just like you, adding their voice to a thing we’re all trying to make real. Some will be the fire of inspiration you need to inch closer to your edge, and others will look to you for that push. But make no mistake – this temple of originality is not yours alone, but something we’re building together.

In my own creative workshop, I have several exciting projects underway this winter. We have the Women’s Dreaming Retreat coming up in just 3 weeks! (There are a couple of spots left for the intrepid and spontaneous!) And for those who can’t make it in person, I’ve just announced new dates for the online Dreamwalking course in January. If you’d like to receive my newsletters with writing like this, or hear about upcoming events, click here to get on my mailing list.

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.

Oct 062016
 
Artwork by Sachin Teng

Artwork by Sachin Teng

Most people walk around for years without ever receiving a proper ‘Hello.’ What I mean by that is that most of us have been taught from the earliest age to suppress and discount the tenderest, most creative part of ourselves. This condition is what we call shame.

When you consider the origin of the word shame, which means “to cover,” you begin to understand that, however misguided, we hold a secret and painful conviction that certain parts of ourselves are so ugly or unworthy, that unless we hide or cut them off, we will never belong or be accepted.

Dreams, on the other hand, go straight for those things and throw off the covers. They work tirelessly to retrieve our forgotten, neglected and rejected soul-parts. It can be threatening to the ego at first, whose whole existence depends on keeping those things hidden. And while it is certainly possible to survive in this way, underneath the daily armour is an unabating hunger to be seen.

So because of the intimate nature of dreamwork, one of the first things that happens is the ecstatic releasing of shame. Especially with dark dreams, which seem to contain perverse or violent images, but which are often speaking to the ways in which we are being violent or dismissive of our own hearts.

You might say that dreamwork is the practice of seeing, and being seen. It is connecting with that which is tired of fitting in, which wants to feel alive, which has something authentic to offer. Whether with ourselves or with others, giving a proper ‘Hello’ is to hold a subtle, unwavering presence for that thing until it feels safe enough to emerge.

If you’d like to read more from Toko-pa, you can join her free mailing list here: http://eepurl.com/jtRaL

Sep 182016
 
elisa-talentino

Artwork by Elisa Talentino

When I first heard the term ‘havingness’ about 15 years ago, I was immediately intrigued by this unusual word. More than an accounting of what you already have, havingness is the state of your capacity to have.  It isn’t just what’s in our possession, but it is the quality of how we treat what we have, and how open we are to holding more. More than material things, it is our ability to receive appreciation, experience joy and enthusiasm, follow through on the worth of our ideas, and ultimately receive love.

Each of us has a kind of ceiling on havingness, which says ‘this is as much as I deserve’ and we may settle there, believing we can not do better. And if someone challenges us to raise that ceiling, we may find ourselves arguing for our limitations; “my parents struggled so should I; everyone settles, it’s the practical thing to do; I haven’t succeeded, met someone, been discovered yet, so why waste any more energy dreaming of the impossible?”

But when we dig a little deeper into our reasons for keeping our havingness ceiling low, we may find that there is a silent contract we’ve made with ourselves to settle in a limitation because, in some way, it’s actually working for us.

To raise your ceiling on havingness, you must take risks. These risks often involve shaking up the status quo, feeling more vulnerable and exposed than ever before, opening yourself to rejection, disapproval and even pain. If we aren’t willing to include these things in our experience, then a low ceiling is just what we need.

But because these things are on a spectrum, risk also opens us up to a far greater possibility space. Our possibility space is that invisible room in the imagination, where we allow ourselves to dream of what could be. It may include impossible things, but as the White Queen told Alice in Wonderland, “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” This is the practice of artists and reality-benders alike: to always be pushing at the possibility space, raising the ceilings on what we believe we can have and do with our lives.

0060a3420f5ce12cf970f148515a86b7As soon as we begin to feel resigned with things being as they are, it is time to resume the practice of pushing into possibility. For me this begins with gratitude: a true recognition of what you do have. This may involve writing a list, counting your blessings and exposures to beauty, but gratitude may also be a ritual act, where you honour what you have by treating it well, tending to it in some way, like cleaning out your wallet, or balancing your checkbook, dusting off your altar and lighting a candle of appreciation for all with which you’ve been blessed.

After gratitude, we must come into conversation with our edge. Where is your longing for more? Have you been honouring that quest by taking steps towards it? Are you working hard or working with intent? Must something die in order for new life to be born? Are you willing to withstand the free-fall of your leap?

For those that might want things to happen quickly, it’s important to remember that a low ceiling may be just what we need as we learn to acclimatise to greater havingness. After all, if we were transported to the top of the proverbial mountain instantly, we would faint from the lack of oxygen. But if we are steady in our climb into possibility, keeping in conversation with our living edge, we can be in a constant state of departure and arrival.

To read more from Toko-pa, sign up for her free mailing list here: http://eepurl.com/jtRaL

Sep 062016
 
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Artwork by Alexandra Eldridge

When we hear the word commitment, most of us think of obligation and restriction. After all, modern life is already so heavily structured,  we’d much rather ‘see what happens’ and ‘go with the flow.’ So we may avoid making commitments. Or if we do make them, we keep them ‘soft,’ in the event that something shinier comes along.

We change careers an average of 7 times in adulthood, half of all marriages end in divorce, we communicate in the undemanding ways of text messages and emoticons, infinitely scrolling, rarely giving the fullness of our presence to anything. And by extension, we are growing to expect that life should be immediate and convenient.

But what if convenience is really a sham? It proposes to make your life easier, and there are obvious benefits, but there are often hidden tolls being taken elsewhere. Easy puts work into robotic hands, undermining our own necessity. Easy destroys the mentoring relationship. Easy robs us of the privilege of courtship, the very thing which bonds us to a place and its resources, or a craft and the people who’ve made a slow mastery of their lives. 

Consider the ancient alchemists who, despite very little success, were convinced they could transmute lead into gold. Through painstaking research and experimentation, they pioneered an artform which, though it contributed little to science, was later discovered by Carl Jung to be the historical counterpart of the work he’d been doing to map the psyche.

Taken symbolically, alchemy is about turning lower, primitive aspects of the self into a purified state; to illuminate the darkness with a sense of value or meaning, to integrate what is unconscious. This becoming whole is the process of what Jung called Individuation, which is what we’re doing with dreamwork.

One of  the key conditions necessary to the transformative process was a hermetically sealed vessel which could withstand the pressure necessary to synthesise those base elements, that prima materia, into gold. I’d like to propose that commitment is that container. Like the alchemical crucible, commitment is the vessel in which something raw and undisciplined can be transformed into beauty. Commitment is like a womb in which a new life can grow.

It is hermetically sealed so that nothing extraneous can enter into the process. No projections can be made upon it, no introduced doubt or criticism can reach it during its critical formative stages. But it’s also sealed for our own good, so that we don’t have an easy out. This is what’s meant by ‘holding the tension.’ So in times of exhaustion and suffering, fear and frustration, we remain committed long enough for the process to complete itself.

Artwork by Alexandra Eldridge

So when we place limitations and boundaries around something we care about, it isn’t meant to be a prison which keeps us stuck or stagnant, but rather to create a paradoxical freedom which allows us, through restraint, to fully explore the relationship, the craft, or the experience in all its subtle dimensions. Commitment in these terms is not an obligation but a deep devotion to that which you love. In your devotion to it, the very thing you are committed to is set free. Your constancy is what allows your creation to know all of its own colours. It can pull back and retreat, or express its fullest essence, because it knows that you are keeping the steadfast pulse of commitment.

Waiting for providence to step in and show us the way, is a little like keeping one foot out the door in case it never comes and we can still make a break for it. But really, providence is quietly waiting for our commitment. Commitments which go unmade, or what we might call ‘lack of intent’, can destroy even the noblest of dreams.

To make a commitment is one thing but to keep that commitment is harder, and must be renewed in a continual, daily practice. This is why ritual is so important. Whether by way of a symbolic object, a tattoo, a special practice or mantra, a handmade object or an altar adorned with sacred items, these things act as a steadying staff to secure us times of doubt. It becomes the outer firmness, a third presence upon which we can rely in periods of difficulty in relationship to our commitment. And so it must be tended to, visited, replenished in some meaningful way to make sure the commitment is still alive for you, as you are for it.

This is the unexpected truth of commitment. To the casual glance, it might look like it’s taking too long, it’s too restrained, it’s missing out or unwilling to adventure and change. To the discerning eye endurance is the great friend of passion. It is slow to burn, but lasting in warmth. It sees beyond the temporary trends and swells into the better depth of things. If you’ve ever stood next to a person who won’t be moved, then you know what freedom a standpoint can inspire. There, in the anchoring itself, is the invitation to soar.

To hear Toko-pa speak on the Alchemical Power of Commitment, watch this replay of a Live Broadcast on Facebook: