Singing your Place in the World

Singing your Place in the World

This past week I returned to the Mojave Desert, where I’d been invited by the Joshua Tree Retreat Centre to give a keynote talk on Belonging. As soon as I set foot onto that golden sand, a flood of memories surfaced from the last time I was there for the Synchronicity Symposium in 2014, organised by Jungian author, and now dear friend, Gary S. Bobroff. As I breathed in the first wave of desert heat into my lungs, I remembered how nervous I was to speak in front of hundreds of people. As I rounded the bend of the Tai Chi circle, I fondly recalled meeting my dear readers for the first time at breakfast. As I heard the music of water tumbling through the Chalice Well, I  was instantly transported into the dreams I received during those hot, autumn nights. I’m fascinated by how memories can lie dormant until you revisit the place where they were conceived. I know now that this is because they are actually embedded in the physical landscape. This embedment happens naturally, or you might say, passively, over time. The longer we live in a place, the more soaked with memories its soil becomes. But because of how much we struggle to feel at home in the places we...
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Circular Leadership

Circular Leadership

Leadership is essential to community, but in the reciprocal model, this role can rotate between members, depending on the needs of the group. Unlike the way we normally think of leadership, as one person telling others what to do, reciprocal leadership is about engaging everyone to find the way forward. It is spherical in nature, rather than hierarchical. In this way of seeing things, a great leader is an expression of their collective, not its star. If done well a leader should oversee, guide, and represent the collective vision. But the right person for that role might also change as the group needs change. At times, we may need a confident and outspoken leader to power us through a tangled passage, but other times we need the leader who quietly sees the network of connections within the whole. Sometimes we need a leader who hangs back so another may practice at stepping forward, challenging us to been better than we think possible. Reciprocal leadership ultimately recognizes the circle itself as the teacher.   There is a genius that can only be found in our coming together, and it’s our combined abilities that elevate and strenghten us. True humility doesn’t mean...
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Your Rhythm is your Legacy

Your Rhythm is your Legacy

Painting by Aleksander Lindeberg I wanted to share this glorious teaching I came across recently from professor Patricia Arah Ann Taylor, in “Seeing in the Dark.” In her essay, she traces back the origin of the word enough, to the German & Sanskrit ge’noh, meaning “together reaching.” Rather than thinking of enoughness as something we have to attain, Taylor invites us to think of it as a reaching together with our soul. In a series of imaginal dialogues, Taylor responds to a young department supervisor who’s been critical of her organisational habits. In a powerful and poetic voice, she explains how her internal rhythm is her legacy. How generations of women before her had liberated themselves from slavery, communed with nature, and become educators for the orphaned and excluded. How their rhythms were the legacy they’d earned. And how that legacy required her to be a compassioned advocate for herself, and others, before taking any commands from calendars and clocks. I leave you with a brief meditation below in the hopes that it inspires you to command respect for the legacy of your own inclinations. Full moon love, Toko-pa Enough is...
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Embodying Ambiguity

Embodying Ambiguity

The initiated adult is one who learns to withstand uncertainty, embody ambiguity, and straddle paradox. In dreamwork, the ability to hold the tension of the opposites is essential. We let contradictions have out their mythical argument until paradox can be held—until harmony can be struck. Until a creative third solution has a chance at appearing. But modernity is infatuated with binary thinking: we erect and uphold opposition in politics, religion, race, gender, and perhaps most insidiously, in education itself. We begin to educate our young people in the ways of exclusion from the outset, by teaching subjects as separate from each other with an emphasis on categorization. This is a quiet, insidious form of Othering that breeds in our mental processes. We teach that whatever category we are inside, it is different, and often superior, to those outside of us. Our entire socio-economic system of power relies on this kind of factional thinking. Imagine an education system that does not treat subjects as separate but as belonging to each other. Contextualizing a topic within the greater whole creates a ‘point of entry’ for every type of learner. For example, in the reading of a...
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BELONGING Wins Gold Nautilus Award

BELONGING Wins Gold Nautilus Award

I am thrilled to announce that Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home, my first book on exile and the search for belonging, just won the prestigious 2017 Gold Nautilus Award! Previous winning authors include Naomi Wolf, Amy Goodman, Deepak Chopra, M.D., Barbara Kingsolver, Angeles Arrien, Thich Nhat Hanh, the Dalai Lama, and many other prominent writers, speakers and thinkers. Nautilus Book Awards are carefully selected in a three-tier judging process presided over by an assembly of book reviewers, librarians, authors, editors, book store owners, and leaders in the publishing industry. Honourees are selected for their exceptional literary contributions to spiritual growth, conscious living, green values, responsible leadership, and positive social change as well as creativity. In recognition for its contribution to the genre of personal growth, Belonging was awarded the gold medal! I share this award with a small, super-powered council of beloveds who scaled this mountain with me for the five years it took to make this book a thing; especially Terri Kempton, my champion and editor, and my brilliant man, Craig Paterson. And the truth is, every day I am awarded over and over by the...
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Embodiment is the new Enlightenment

Embodiment is the new Enlightenment

Much has been written about the art of mindfulness, especially focusing on how to create wiggle-room between an event and our reaction to it. We are asked to consider: Who is the “I” that experiences the event? And can we find the inner witness who sees oneself experiencing? All of this valid, important work takes us deeper into the seat of this “silent witness” so that we’ll be less governed by the unpredictable ebbs and swells of the emotional life. It can be a tremendous tool for moving through difficult passages with equanimity. But more often than not, I see this practice creating a kind of dissociation or detachment from the feeling life. Especially in folks who haven’t done the hard and dirty work of integrating their shadow, meditation can be used like any other form of escapism, to circumvent the true encounter with our less-than-desirable inner (and outer) guests. The result of this brand of presence often creates the opposite of what it intends. Rather than fostering the oneness it exalts, it feeds the very separation we are trying to heal by creating an image of spirituality that is unattainable. The focus on enlightenment rather...
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Winter Solstice Rituals

Winter Solstice Rituals

As we approach the longest night of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere, it is helpful to remember that we too are being called into our deepest dark. Down into the places we hide from view; where we store our grief, where we brace and hold, and where we may be unforgiving too. When we speak of the ‘returning of the light’ it isn’t just the physical grace that this season provides, but a call to our own revealing. The Winter Solstice is a time to acknowledge our untruths, to surrender our silences, to dethrone our inner tyrants and bare our stories in the open. These are the acts which connect the fabric of our lives to each other, and to the whole of truthfulness. If you’re new to celebrating the Solstice, know that any time is a good time to birth new traditions. Here are a few simple ideas to get you started. Creating a Solstice Altar: Just the act of foraging and creating an altar which you can elaborate over the holy days is a potent act, helping to both acknowledge the dark, as well as call forward illumination. 1. Using any surface – from a mantlepiece to a small table – begin by laying a pretty scarf or fabric. 2. Then collect and arrange some...
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False Belonging

False Belonging

From my forthcoming book Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home, a new excerpt from my chapter on False Belonging: those places that may feel like home for a while but which have silent contracts in place that require us to cut parts of ourselves off in order to fit in. Our longing for community and purpose is so powerful that it can drive us to join groups, relationships, or systems of belief that, to our diminished or divided self, give the false impression of belonging. But places of false belonging grant us conditional membership, requiring us to cut parts of ourselves off in order to fit in. While false belonging can be useful and instructive for a time, the soul becomes restless when it reaches a glass ceiling, a restriction that prevents us from advancing. We may shrink back from this limitation for a time, but as we grow into our truth, the invisible boundary closes in on us and our devotion to the groupmind weakens. Your rebellion is a sign of health. It is the way of nature to shatter and reconstitute. Anything or anyone who denies your impulse to grow must either be revolutionised or...
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2017 Women’s Retreat in Photos

2017 Women’s Retreat in Photos

“Tucked inside the hills and valleys of that wooded fairytale island was a different way of life, and at night, the trees whispered words from the fairy godmothers, enticing me to stay. Our journey brought me into dark spaces through the wilderness that surround me, but I was held and protected by the council of women I joined there. About 20 of us gathered at a beautiful farm, sharing food and dreams and the desire for connecting to something more meaningful than what most of us found at home in our busy lives. As powerful dream symbols reverberated among us throughout the weekend, I was reminded that our humanity is found in community, in reciprocity, and in remembering that we are not alone. The grief of our separateness was healed through our mutual witnessing, and in our willingness to receive as much as we tend to give. My time away sung my soul back to life, and I was amazed with my changing reflection in the mirror each night. Stress, anxiety, and the need for constant doing melted away, leaving nothing but beauty in its place. As I continue to integrate what was discovered on that island into my city life, I’m graced with the imprint that remains. Burning...
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Rewilding the Psyche

Rewilding the Psyche

We took a wonderful walk yesterday, around a conservancy project here on our island. It’s very quiet there, off the beaten track, a haven to a growing number of diverse species of animals and plants. Previously a golf course, this gorgeous land is now regrowing its wild self. It’s the result of a complete transformation that began five years ago. It wasn’t as simple as leaving it alone. Pipes have been removed from deep in the earth, hundreds of native species have been replanted, nurselogs have been introduced. And, most importantly, a fence is surrounding it so it will be protected, left to become the thriving wetland it once once. Rewilding the psyche is like this. We must look at the ways in which our unconscious has been harnessed, and narrowly directed, removing those limitations so it can flow freely. Dreamwork is a powerful way to do this, because we are shown in every dream what unconscious patterns we might be stuck in, but we’re also given wildly creative solutions to our questions. Then we must plant new seeds of inspiration, from books and other mentors who reflect our native self back to us, and introduce any other good habits which return us...
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Criticism: Are you willing to take the hit?

Criticism: Are you willing to take the hit?

The fear of criticism is legitimate. Many empowerment gurus will tell you to “Just do it!” and “Don’t let fear hold you back!” But the truth is, as soon as you brave your gifts into the world, it’s very likely that the wolves will appear to say you aren’t doing it well enough. So the question shouldn’t be if you will be criticised, but whether or not you’re willing to take the hit. Before you make your decision, it’s important to know that there are two major consequences to your shrinking back: The first is the truncation of your soul’s purpose. Ouch, right? Well, something inclined you to create in the first place and, as most creative folks know, the creative cycle can’t complete itself until your gifts are received — for better or worse. Also, that urge to create? It’s not going away. The second consequence is the loss felt by everyone who will never receive the unique medicine you are meant to bring. So ultimately you have to decide; are you willing to take the hit on behalf of all those who need exactly what you’re bringing? Or will you let them take the hit, by your remaining quiet? So the...
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This is Not a Time for Modesty

This is Not a Time for Modesty

“The Summer Solstice is not a time for modesty. The wild world is not shy about its beauty and gifts. Plants and creatures are engaged in a no-holds-barred life-fest of blossoming and flourishing, each according to its unique essence, place, and purpose in this glorious weaving of Mother Earth.” – The Path of She, by Karen Clark There is a wildness in each of us. A way of walking, a set of spots, an inclination, a blinking impulse towards which we are silently drawn. Like an elephant finding water in a desert it’s never traveled, or a bird coming to fly with brand new wings, we all have this instinctual capacity. It is the animal in us, which knows what it knows, and is the origin from which all creativity is expressed. But in my practice I work with many medicine people who have sent their gifts for dreaming, seeing, and creativity into exile. These gifts, often forged in the belly of trauma, are sent into hiding because the world feels too hostile to use them in the open. Many take the path well-worn instead, because it guarantees safety. The way has been mapped and we know were it leads. But the price we pay is the life half-lived. To those willing to...
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Restoring the Mythic Imagination

Restoring the Mythic Imagination

Without the guidance of our elders, and 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...
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Inhabiting the Shadow

Inhabiting the Shadow

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...
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New Year’s Invocations

New Year’s Invocations

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...
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Emergence: A Wisconsin Weekend Dreaming Retreat

Emergence: A Wisconsin Weekend Dreaming Retreat

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...
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2016 Women’s Dreaming Retreat in PHOTOS 

2016 Women’s Dreaming Retreat in PHOTOS 

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...
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Cultivating Creative Originality

Cultivating Creative Originality

There is an often terrifying emptiness which precedes creativity. This is the stage, in the creative process, when 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...
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