Your Rebellion is Necessary

Your Rebellion is Necessary

The pathologizing of rebellion in teenagers is one of the great harms we inflict upon our children. As the future shapers of our culture, there is a reason why so many cultures perform ritual initiations into adulthood. Rebellion, if given proper reverence, is the necessary confrontation with society that ensures our sustainability. Just as any relationship must allow for the tension of conflict to deepen our intimacy, so must our young people be invited to contribute their disagreements to our shared aliveness. Artwork by Valistika Studio This is the threshold in a young person’s life when the dynamic between elders and youngers reverses. No longer is the old one in the position to teach, but now must become the listener. After all these elders have imparted, personally and vicariously through culture, they now have the chance at hearing from the young ones how they’ve been doing. It is here that the ache and rage of unbelonging is most needed. In the young person’s disagreements and willingness to talk back to injustice, a wild storehouse of creative energy lives and thrives. While other cultures treat this transition with enormous significance, we make a tragic mess of it,...
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Beauty-making as Medicine

Beauty-making as Medicine

There is really only one way to restore a world that is dying and in disrepair: to make beauty where ugliness has set in. By beauty, I don’t mean a superficial attractiveness, though the word is commonly used in this way. Beauty is a loveliness admired in its entirety, not just at face value. The beauty I’m referring to is metabolized grief. It includes brokenness and fallibility, and in so doing, conveys for us something deliciously real. Like kintsukuroi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with powdered gold, what is normally seen as a fatal flaw is distinguished with value. When we come into contact with this kind of beauty, it serves as a medicine for the brokenness in ourselves, which then gives us the courage to live in greater intimacy with the world’s wounds. To become a fully fledged member of the ecosphere, each of us must find a way to make a contribution of beauty medicine to the world. Most of us don’t think of our gifts as contributions, though they are clearly called ‘gifts’ for a reason, but this may be because they’ve never been properly received. I’ve heard it said that home is the place where your gifts are received. Indeed, for those who have never...
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Ancestral Longing

Ancestral Longing

It’s a fundamental mistake to believe that unbelonging begins with the self, because although we are stewards of this perpetual missing, it did not begin with us. Our first experience of unbelonging is like a pattern in our substrate which, like rocks in the soil, causes everything to grow awkwardly around it. Tracing our longing back to its origins, reconciling it to its history, is an important step to healing belonging forward. This missing has been passed on, gaining in momentum through the generations, starting with an actual exile of your people’s people. Perhaps when your village was made to flee from the humble patch of land to which they were promised, separated from the faces that looked like their own, distanced from the secret ways in which they attuned to and praised beauty. Maybe they were once a people made proud by their numbers and shared identity, a compendium of songs and myth and an unrequited debt—the cherished kind—which kept them bound to the holy, which showed them how to walk on the earth knowing their magnificence. Perhaps your people were broken apart by the betrayal of your own brothers and sisters, your elegant compendium suddenly and irreparably...
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Getting Closure from a Ghost

Getting Closure from a Ghost

Artwork by Owen Gent Closure normally requires two or more people coming together to consider each other’s points of view and come to a consensual agreement for how to move forward, together or separately. But if one or more people are unwilling or unable to undergo this ritual, we can be left with a lack of closure. When someone has ghosted on a conversation, commitment or conflict, it’s important to realize this as an act of indifference that counters belonging. Ghosting is all we believe we owe to a world on which we don’t feel we’ve made an impact. In a sense, it is to make yourself a ghost in your own life, dissociating from the importance of your presence in others’ lives. It is to withhold your disagreements, your longing to be seen, and to make yourself and others around you disposable. Unless someone is willing to hold you accountable, and be accountable themselves, they can never take a seat at the table of belonging. We need to show each other that love is worth wrestling for, braving ourselves into the fires of intimacy. We are not expendable. And we shall know each other every time we show up for conflict, hurt, and confusion. If you have invited such a...
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2018 Women’s Retreat in Photos

2018 Women’s Retreat in Photos

2018 Women’s Dreaming Retreat It was 5 years ago that I hosted the first Annual Women’s Dream Retreat on Saltspring Island. We had 14 magical women show up for this wild exploration into dreamwork mingled with ritual, practiced with embodiment, song, and wedded to the land. Little did we know we’d triple in just as many years! From the beginning, the intention was to hold a heartbeat; a place of reunion for those who want to weave in deeper with others committed to the soul’s call.  Many of those original women have returned year after year, laying the foundations for this vibrant community. I can not say what a privilege it is to witness our evolution over a handful of years, as we step more confidently onto the path of our true Belonging. And because we practice at belonging with our selves in their glorious entirety, the new ones feel instantly as if they’ve always belonged. The hard part is having to scatter for an entire year between these gathering heartbeats! But I am hatching some ways to gather us more often, to assuage some of this terrible missing. Aren’t we glorious? 148...
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Belonging the Audiobook

Belonging the Audiobook

Now available on Audible and Amazon and iTunes. I’m so excited to share that the Audiobook for “Belonging” is now available on Audible and Amazon and iTunes. It was my JOY to read this book out loud, because that’s actually how it was written. As a musician, I always strive to make my words melodic, and speak as I write, testing its music on my own eardrums before releasing it. It is SO cool that, through the magic of technology, I can now read this book to you like a bedtime story. I can’t wait to hear what you think! I hope it brings you much warmth and inspiration, Toko-pa PS: If you love Belonging, will you leave me a review on Amazon? Every star she gets, helps get her into the right hands and hearts. Where to get the Audiobook Whether you find reading difficult, or are on the go all the time, audiobooks are such a great alternative to paperbacks! Download it on Amazon.com or search your own country’s Amazon site).Get it on Audible.New to Audible? Get Belonging free with trial account.Buy it on iTunes.
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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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Trailer for Belonging, by Toko-pa

Trailer for Belonging, by Toko-pa

Belonging is now for sale on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. I am humbled and amazed to announce that “Belonging” has become a #1 Bestseller in both Canada and the United States! Watch this lovely short film to hear some of my story; how and why I came to write this book www.belongingbook.com
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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 relinquished. www.belongingbook.com
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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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