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:

Aug 062016
 

Every year, women come from all over the world to this magical island with the shared intention of dreaming together in council. ‘Embodying the Dream’ is a place of reunion for those of us who crave community with other women dreamers. Whether meeting for the first time or weaving in deeper, we practice at belonging together through embodied dreamwork. To learn more and to  register, click here.

 

Jul 212016
 

imageThere is always this tension between the lengths we wish to travel in life and the depths we long to penetrate in dreaming. By dreaming, I mean not only the sacred transmissions we receive in the night, but the dreaming we also do in the day: Listening to the wiseness of a moment, an encounter, a humble patch of land. Engaging with magic in an ongoing conversation. There is so much in eternity that is trying to reach us, if only we can suspend our wranglings long enough to be touched.

What is wild in us are the ways in which we meet something freshly and not by rote. Wild is to be full-body alive in response to the conversation life is having with us. The caress of the wind which cools your skin after the sun has penetrated it with warmth. The shadow cast by a soaring bird above. The spider, intent on making a home of nothing. The unmediated glance, surprised by beauty. Dreaming.

imageWhen this conversation goes quiet from inattention, as it does for us all, know that it takes little to encourage it again. It is simply to remember that life isn’t only happening to us, but we are happening to life! Instead of burying the longing we have for our lives, we honour it with our willingness to feel it fully. From there, intent is born.

Intent for me is the opening of a brave conversation with the holy in nature. It says, This is what I stand for. This is what I am summoning. This is where I am grateful. When you create simple ritual with that intent, it is a way of making visible what has been unseen. It is already the materialisation of your longing. This communicates to the holy within and beyond, that you are showing up for the encounter.

imageYesterday as I headed up the mountain, I collected a few treasures I found along the way. Inspired by Day Schildkret of Morning Altars, I created an altar at the summit in honour of the emerging self, giving thanks for all the conditions of beauty, spaciousness and love which are facilitating her arrival. May you feel renewed and blessed in your healing. May that you trust your emerging self. May you honour every stage of your unfolding.

If you’d like to learn more about the relationship between dreaming and waking, consider joining us for our annual Women’s Dreaming Retreat here on beautiful Salt Spring Island. For 5 days in November, we will be weaving our night and day worlds together with beauty-making, ceremony, and embodied conversation with nature.

Jul 122016
 
Artwork by Mukesh Singh

Artwork by Mukesh Singh

In Celtic Mythology, the holy well is considered the source of all life. Certainly because it is the concealed origin from which water springs, but also because it is a gateway between the worlds; seen and unseen.

Originally regarded as the domain of the Earth Mother, holy wells were places to which one would make a pilgrimage to offer gratitude for the riches of village life, petition the well priestesses and fairies for healing, and if you slept near one, you might even receive dreams foretelling the future.

It was understood that if one of these wells would fall into disrepair, the village was at risk of losing not only their literal life-source, but their connection to the Otherworld.

Each of us faces a time when when the holy well within needs tending. When we’re no longer able to bestow blessings on others because we’ve overgiven, or when something precious has been taken from us, or life’s demands are too great on our fragile system. But when the moisture goes out of our lives, and we’re no longer able to see beauty or converse with magic, we must ask ourselves how we can replenish our well-ness.

Too often, we fall into the misguided belief that the known world is our source of vitality. We wait for its cues, its permissions, its notifications. We forget to honour, petition and receive from the well within. Unconsciously we’re terrified to turn away from the world, because we think we’re putting our ‘heads in the sand,’ or that we’ll lose everything if we don’t keep the pace.

But the truth is that there is a different rhythm trying to temper us from within. And if we let it make periodic attrition to our strength and effectiveness, we come to see that it’s in service to a steadier, more harmonious way with our own bodies, and our greater earthbody.

To tend to the well is to replenish our devotion to the deep feminine aquifer from which our world is thirsting. When we recognise ourselves as a tributary of that greater upwelling, we can  allow things to be decided, spoken, and created not by us, but through us.

May 112016
 

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DREAMWORK & BELONGING

A workshop with Toko-pa

Date: June 26th, 2016
Place: Red Cloud Yurt, Duncan, BC

Most of us think of belonging as a place, that if we keep searching, we might one day come upon it, wholly intact. But what if belonging is not a place at all but a skill, or set of competencies? In this workshop,Toko-pa explores what she calls the ‘competencies of belonging’ with a focus on dreamwork as an active practice which brings us back into relationship with the parts of ourselves from which we’ve become estranged.

“To make a courtship of a dream, we must sit near it and learn what it loves and what it longs for. If we can make an invitation of ourselves, wildness might decide to approach us.”

This workshop is a blend of instruction and embodied practice. Participants are encouraged to bring a dream they’d like to work on. (10 am – 4pm bring your own lunch)


LOCATION: Red Cloud Yurt


REGISTRATION:

Workshop is limited to 25 participants

$120 Earlybird (before June 10th) $140 (after June 10th)

Cancellation Policy: Any registration cancellations before June 10th will receive a full refund minus a $20 administration fee. After June 10th you will receive a 50% refund minus a $20 administration fee. Because we have limited space, no refunds can be issued for cancellations after June 20th.

Duncan Workshop (June 26, 2016)
Sending
Apr 092016
 
location

Illustration by Ilonka Karasz

We all lose our bearing from time to time. Whether precipitated by a major event, or a gradual becoming lost, this is when the horizon you had been following disappears – and in its place, a persistent anxiety searches for the new direction of our lives.

But from what have we become lost, or dis-located, and how can come into location again? The first thing lostness makes obvious is that whatever we’d been following, though it may have provided a seasonal purpose, has now fallen away. It has completed its resonance with our lives, taken what it needs of our service, and we must now come into relationship with our next becoming.

But we can’t know where we’re going if we don’t know where we stand. In our lostness we have a chance at coming to know our enduring values, and learning to stand behind them unequivocally. This way, when something inferior comes calling for your sponsorship, you’ll know it instantly and turn it away. Because to settle for halfway love is to drift further into dislocation.

We also can’t know where we’re going if we don’t know from what we originate. The loss of purpose that so many of us feel is greater than the trajectory of our careers and personal lives, it is a cultural ailment which arises out of forgetting. Our lives are like the fruit of a heritage seed: Each of the generations that has preceded us has contributed to our life’s survival. There is an ancestral momentum to which we are beholden, and which carries us forward when we are in step with it.

To hear this momentum, we must turn towards the soul. There, in our dreams, are the clues to what we love and what our lives long for. So drop your maps and listen to your lostness like a sacred calling into presence. Here, where you may be tempted to take up false belonging, ask instead for an introduction to that which endures. This place without a foothold is the province of grace. It is the questing field, most responsive to magic and fluent in myth. Here, where there is nothing left to lose, sing out of necessity that your ragged heart be heard. Send out your holy signal and listen for the echo back.

To participate in one of Toko-pa’s upcoming courses on Dreams, please visit the calendar of events.

Mar 122016
 
Artwork by Jiwoon Pak

Artwork by Jiwoon Pak

We tend to think of magic as something that, in times of doubt or lostness, might intervene upon us. We listen for its clarion call, an oracular declaration, the prophetic dream, the jungle medicine that, like a tsunami, sweeps us out of the stuckness of our lives.

But if we take a more rigorous look, we find at the core of this yearning is the belief that something knows better than we do what our vocation is, what our direction should be, where our people live, and so on.

Certainly there are times in everyone’s life when something greater pushes you in the direction of your destiny, but these things can’t exactly be sought out. They must be invited to reach us in their own time. If we want magic to come alive in our lives, we must tend to our everyday relationship with it.

One of my favourite lines in a David Whyte poem is, “Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.” In other words, there is a practice we can engage in which brings us down in the subtle world where magic waits and dwells. For me, this practice is dreamwork. Dreams provide a wellspring of normiracles in the form of symbolic guidance which strengthens our instinctual response; the key to our sense of location in the family of things.

But once we receive the dream, we must take symbolic steps towards that which knows our true name. This can be as simple as keeping a daily list of those beautiful things which conspire in your favour, recognising the tiny triumphs that are keeping you from downspiraling, or exalting in some physically symbolic way the life you are calling towards you.

Magic is a relationship forged in the ordinary. It is our endurance through the unknown, unyielding times. It is faith in the as yet unmanifest. It is the invocation of the large, but while praising the small. Magic is the redoubling of our vow when disappointment befalls us, a shoulder to the wheel of our intent.

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

Mar 092016
 
Painting by Autumn Skye Morrison

Painting by Autumn Skye Morrison

Because dreams take us right into the heart of the question for our lives, being in a Dream Lodge is the first time many of us experience true intimacy in community. For this reason, it can be terrifying. We are 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-at-large.

The moment we step into the sacred container of a Dream Lodge, 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.

As we share the medicine of our dreams, we come into the larger familiarity which coheres us. It is an ancient memory that lives in our bones – that our dream is needed. That it is an essential strand in our shared web. 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.

And while we may sometimes forget, this is the long, great work of building an invisible temple together, where those practices and values which have been exiled in our world have a chance at coming alive again. And even when we return to our separate lives, this temple lives on as a shelter for others who have yet to sit in, and practice at, belonging together.

Excerpted from the forthcoming book on “Belonging” © Toko-pa Turner 2016. To learn more about the book’s release, sign up for Toko-pa’s free newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/jtRaL

Mar 032016
 
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COURTING THE DREAM

A Workshop with Toko-pa

Date: May 28th, 2016
Place: Courtenay, British Columbia

In this workshop, Toko-pa will be offering a deeper look at and demonstration of some of the core practices in her approach to dreamwork. “To make a courtship of a dream, we must sit near it and learn what it loves and what it longs for. If we can make an invitation of ourselves, wildness might decide to approach us.” This workshop is a blend of instruction and practice. Participants are encouraged to bring a dream they’d like to work on. (9:30am – 3:30pm organic lunch available)

LOCATION:

This workshop will be held in a gorgeous yurt on a lovely piece of private land. For driving instructions, please click on ‘view larger map’.

REGISTRATION:

Workshop is limited to 25 participants

$120 Earlybird (before April 15th)

$140 (after April 15th)

Cancellation Policy: Any registration cancellations before April 15th will receive a full refund minus a $20 administration fee. After April 15th you will receive a 50% refund minus a $20 administration fee. Because this is a catered workshop, no refunds can be issued for cancellations after May 13th.

 

register_now

 

Mar 022016
 
Artwork by Irene Hardwicke Olivieri

Artwork by Irene Hardwicke Olivieri

We must each in our own way resist the pull of apathy. Not only in relationship to the troubled world around us, but towards our own hearts. That icy spread around our hurt which protects us too well when it keeps grief frozen. That shrug towards our own wounding which regards our pain as common, and says, “what else is new?”

We may have difficulty recognising it as oppression because we’ve never learned to give voice to the wound. But there is a song that needs to be sung from there. And anything that silences it, like the underestimation of our pain, the dismissal which says nobody wants to listen, or the inner cajoling with tells us to get over it already – all of these strategies which once protected us eventually become our own oppressions.

It is the other voice – the one which has never been given encouragement, the one who is burdened with shame, who is terrified of emerging – this is the one we need to lend courage to. This means standing up defiantly and repeatedly to the invalidations we’ve grown familiar with, demanding the right with which we have been gifted, inherent to our life, to sing.

Give up your vows of silence which only serve to protect the old and the stale. Air out that exhaustion and holding, unspiral your bracing and sing the truth you long to hear. Be the champion of your own right to be here.

Excerpted from the forthcoming book on “Belonging” © Toko-pa Turner 2016. To read more, sign up for Toko-pa’s free newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/jtRaL