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...
Read more
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...
Read more
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...
Read more
The Bravery of Being Seen

The Bravery of Being Seen

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....
Read more
This Too Belongs

This Too Belongs

For all the times someone has asked you how you are, and you felt pressured to say “I am well” when well wasn’t your whole truth. I offer you this, my wish that this writing finds you not just well, but all the things that being human asks of us. And to remind you that your being alive, in all its magnificent and complicated colours, is more than enough for love. This month I came across a powerful piece of writing by Johanna Hedva called Sick Woman Theory which seriously rocked my world. The article (soon to be a book!) is Hedva’s personal story of living with chronic pain and illness, but it’s also the story of anyone who is wrestling to find relevance in a world that aggrandises wellness. Hedva lucidly articulates how ‘wellness’ and ‘sickness’ are treated as a binary of opposites in our culture. And those who fall on the wrong side of those tracks are considered unproductive and therefore excluded from the collective conversation. But perhaps more insidious is how this estranges us from our own pain, our wretched illness, our terrible grief. We are so driven to ‘get well’ that we rarely show any welcoming...
Read more
Cultivate the Connection

Cultivate the Connection

This week I had the privilege to be interviewed alongside one of my great mentors, Martín Prechtel, by the lovely and insightful Heidi Huebner of Bluebird Hill Homestead, for a new podcast series Cultivate the Connection! I hope you enjoy these lively and insightful discussions about how to come back into connection and belonging through dreamwork, grief and a living conversation with the holy in nature: Listen here          
Read more
Courting the Mystery

Courting the Mystery

In this age of instantly answerable questions, there is very little mystery left intact. Governed as we are by the great scientific quest which pulls things apart to get at their mechanics, we are desperate for that which returns us to cohesion. One of the greatest challenges in approaching dreams, which is but an echo of our relationship with the Earth, is allowing mystery to work upon us. There are certain questions which, as the poet David Whyte puts it, ‘have no right to go away.’ There is a delicate alchemy which brews in our not-knowing and which is essential to our becoming worthy of the dream’s revelation. As Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes tells us, there are those ancients who referred to the dreammaker as ‘The Riddle Mother’ because when you carry your question into sleep, she responds to it with a riddle. Like any good fairy tale, the task is not to find an answer, but to become the kind of person who knows which way to go. The task is not to find an answer, but to become the kind of person who knows which way to go.Click To Tweet If you feel dissatisfied with Dream Dictionaries, which reduce your symbols to mean something other than they are,...
Read more
The Death Mother

The Death Mother

“Our culture’s wounding and belittling of the feminine and its values has led many mothers to mistrust the world and men to a greater extent than ever before, and this mistrust inevitably becomes part of the emotional heritage of our children.” –  by Massimilla Harris, Ph.D., and Bud Harris, Ph.D., from Into the Heart of the Feminine If you were the child of a mother crippled by her own devaluation, you may have inherited the feeling of being unseen, invalidated, or worse –  with the unspoken communication that you (or some aspect of you) was unwanted or even wished dead. Long after you leave the family home, the tyranny of this archetype that Jungian analyst Marion Woodman calls the Death Mother continues its reign in our psyches. Before you even think about attempting something new, asserting your voice, or stepping towards change, the Death Mother is there. Disapproving, denigrating, even repulsed by your impulse to expression and joy. Like Medusa, she only needs to look at you and raise a single eyebrow for your whole body to turn to stone. Rejection from the one we love most can be so devastating to a young person that we internalise the belief...
Read more
Everything is a Mirror (until it’s Not)

Everything is a Mirror (until it’s Not)

‘Everything is a Mirror’ can be a powerful and transformative practice as we learn to navigate the synchronistic relationship between the inner and outer life, between self and other.  But the moment we lose sight of the paradoxical nature of life, this bit of New Age fundamentalism can make us too psychically porous and, in certain situations, even put us in harm’s way. It can be especially damaging in abusive or chaotic situations, and can lead to victim-blaming and justification of reckless behaviour. There are times when someone else’s bad behaviour is theirs and theirs alone. And, instead of reflecting on how you might improve yourself or ‘rise above your emotions,’ you must respect your reaction and Become the Mirror. Which is to say, show the other your strong, clear boundary. This idea that we should have unlimited patience and flexibility implied in the ‘mirror’ precept trains us to tolerate more than we should, always ‘working on ourselves,’ quelling our disagreements, being ‘more evolved,’ and attaining inner peace. But what if inner peace depends upon your speaking your NO? What if being evolved...
Read more
Where is my vital edge?

Where is my vital edge?

As human beings, I think we are always walking a line between the creative and destructive. We are both compelled by our wild nature into new forms of living, while also aching for the stability and constancy of belonging. You may have known times when you were just one or the other. Maybe you came all the way untethered and saw what dangers and addictions, what loneliness comes with being rogue. Or somewhere, along the way, perhaps you made an internal vow to be ‘the responsible one’. But responsibility can be just as dangerous as rebellion. It can come on like quicksand, burying you in its requirements, turning your life a platonic hue. What may have started with an edge of penance, now crowds out the very rebellion which kept you feeling alive. Like the wise words of a young man who climbed the ladder only to discover more ladders, “I wish I’d made more mistakes.” And so we must find a way to walk between these things; alternately separating or uniting. Sometimes singing into the great choir of belonging means having a dissenting voice. At other times, the shelter we’ve built must be maintained as a refuge for others, and our creativity. At any given time we...
Read more
The Sound of Duende

The Sound of Duende

To explain the mystery and importance of Duende to artistic expression, Lorca tells the story of a great Andalusian singer whose performance leaves a modest audience unimpressed one night in a little tavern in Cadiz. “Here we care nothing about ability, technique, skill. Here we are after something else,” they seem to say. The songstress then tears at her expensive gown, guzzles a tall glass of burning liquor and begins “to sing with a scorched throat: without voice, without breath or color but with Duende” all to the crowd’s raucous approval. Lorca says, “She had to rob herself of skill and security, send away her muse and become helpless, that her Duende might come and deign to fight her hand to hand…” (from Terrance Hayes, More Theories of the Duende & Teaching the Inexplicable) As Nick Cave wrote, “All love songs must contain duende. For the love song is never truly happy. It must first embrace the potential for pain. Those songs that speak of love without having within in their lines an ache or a sigh are not love songs at all but rather Hate Songs disguised as love songs, and are not to be trusted. These songs deny us our humanness and our God-given right...
Read more
Surrender your Silence

Surrender your Silence

On this, the longest night of the year, 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, where we are ashamed and unforgiving too. When we speak of the ‘returning of the light’ it isn’t just a grace that this threshold season provides, but the call to our own revealing. We are being asked to acknowledge our untruths, to surrender our silence, to bare our fragile stories in the open. These are the acts which connect the fabric of our lives to the whole of truthfulness. Without proof, we trust that a way will be born then in the dark, out of nothing, by this braving forward. And we are rewarded with the dignity of a life which emboldens the poetry trapped in the silence of others, and tenderises us for a more articulated quality of love. A blessed Winter Solstice to you, beautiful Dreamers.
Read more
Doubt and Deepening your Vow

Doubt and Deepening your Vow

In fairy tales, there is often a character whose sole purpose is to introduce doubt into your mission. Like a strong tide their influence can pull you away from the shores of your truth,  tempting you to renounce your secret vow altogether. These characters are not always unsympathetic – they may even be folks you admire – but when you are subtly attuned to your nature, you’ll notice yourself wilting in their presence, taking on their diminishing view of your abilities. Like eating something that doesn’t agree with you, this will give you a sour feeling in your belly, which sometimes grows into a rejection of life itself. In the worst of times, it may seem to stretch into an ocean of lostness in every direction. When you find yourself in such an untethered place, there is a secret  which can anchor you back into intimacy with your vow: The recognition that you are only susceptible to the invalidation which matches a companion vulnerability in your own standpoint. Now, this isn’t to say that the other is not being an empirical jerk, but that in their jerkness, they’ve brought to light a place within that requires fortification. It is the thing...
Read more
Trust & the bravery of naïveté

Trust & the bravery of naïveté

To have one’s trust betrayed is one of the worst human heartbreaks. Under the pain of the dishonesty revealed in your environment, your very belief in goodness may be compromised. The seduction in the wake of betrayal is to take up a thicker armour, to practice at expecting less of others, or to punish one’s own naïveté. But these are the same refusals from which our world is dying. Never should a judgement be made against one’s willingness to open the heart. Trust is one of the great acts of kinship and naïveté is not, as some believe, a foolish disposition that needs to be prepared for the worst. At its root the word is from the 1670s French ‘naif’, meaning “natural, simple, artless.” It is the authentic, genuine, and literally “native disposition” of the human heart. This is not to say that we shouldn’t practice discernment in our dealings with others, but  if our trust is broken we must remember that it says more about the other, who doesn’t yet know how to be loved, than it does about the heart who offers of itself. Let us remount our commitment to sincerity, reassuring our native inclination to trust, and...
Read more
The Way that you Walk

The Way that you Walk

In these times of devastating ecological and social collapse, there are those of us who feel an urgency to attend to the world ‘before it’s too late.’ But the great paradox is that this very tendency to rush anxiously ahead is what got us into trouble in the first place. In the Aboriginal way of dreaming, the past and future are embedded in the present. One’s embodiment is the ground into which all continuity flows, so the past can be just as influenced as the future by one’s way of going in the here and now. Let the way that you walk be slow. Let us listen to the pleas of our surrounding thirsts. Let us acknowledge the forgetting which drifted us onto this terrifying precipice. Let the grief of it all make its encounter through your remembering. And may beauty come alive then, under your feet. Excerpted from the upcoming book “Belonging” © Toko-pa Turner 2016. To read more, sign up for Toko-pa’s free newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/jtRaL Artwork by Victo...
Read more
Listen to your Lostness

Listen to your Lostness

Drop your maps and listen to your lostness like a sacred calling into presence. Here, where the old ways are crumbling and you may be tempted to burn down your own house. 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 read more, sign up for Toko-pa’s free newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/jtRaL      
Read more
The Unsplit-off Life

The Unsplit-off Life

In the end, so much of the conflict we feel in our hearts is because we’ve split ourselves off from the very life we are living. We partition ourselves from the things with which we are at odds, treating them as unbelonging even as we live them. We vaguely imagine some other place, some better job, some other lover – but the irony is that so much of what makes us unhappy is our own rejection of the life we have made. Eventually we must take our life into our arms and call it our own. We must look at it squarely with all its unbecoming qualities and find a way to love it anyway. Only from that complete embrace can a life begin to grow into what it is meant to become. Excerpted from the upcoming book “On Belonging” © Toko-pa Turner 2014 (To read more, sign up for Toko-pa’s free newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/jtRaL)  
Read more
Sacrifice: To Make Sacred

Sacrifice: To Make Sacred

Sometimes we must surrender our own will for the greater good to come through. We are called to make ourselves vulnerable for a time, without answers or goals, sacrificing our plans to perceive a more mythic & wholistic calling. The word sacrifice is not, as we’ve been taught, synonymous with suffering, but comes from the root ‘to make sacred.’ If we can take a step outside of time, renouncing our ego’s urgency for progress, we have a chance at being danced, being sung into the greater song of things, being told like a story in its most pivotal pause of the arc.      
Read more
California Dreaming: Synchronicity Symposium

California Dreaming: Synchronicity Symposium

SYNCHRONICITY: Matter & Psyche Symposium Sept. 12-14, 2014 • JOSHUA TREE, CA I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve been invited to Joshua Tree as a presenter for the first annual Synchronicity Symposium – an “Embodied Ideas Festival” which, alongside visionary leaders in their field including biologist and author, Rupert Sheldrake, writer on ancient civilisations, Graham Hancock, sound healer and Family Constellation therapist, Jill Purce and many more, we will be exploring the elegant symmetry between Psyche and Matter;  between our inner and outer lives. At this time in history, we seem to be undergoing a collective passage into an era of conscious realization that psyche and matter are inseparable and that, far from being passive observers, we have a participatory relationship with the unfoldment of the world around us.  Now the work ahead is in learning how to move in concert with these rhythms, developing a mastery in weaving between the worlds to come into a greater personal and collective harmony. It’s an honour to be included in this roster of brilliant outcasts who have made a life out of studying consciousness, sound, somatic and Jungian psychology, quantum...
Read more
Loss of Identity: A summoning of the Numinous

Loss of Identity: A summoning of the Numinous

There’s a famous story that Robert Bly tells about Carl Jung who, whenever a friend reported enthusiastically, ‘I have just been promoted!’ Jung would say, ‘I’m very sorry to hear that; but if we all stick together, I think we will get through it.’ On the other hand, if a friend arrived depressed and ashamed, saying, ‘I’ve just been fired,’ Jung would say, ‘Let’s open a bottle of wine; this is wonderful news; something good will happen now.’ Now this may seem like backwards thinking to the rational mind, but to the soul it makes wonderful sense. These kinds of promotions in social stature set the ego into inflation, believing itself to have finally been recognized as the supreme ruler it was meant to be (!)  The ego’s survival depends upon the belief that it is in control and it doesn’t like to think that it might lose its ascendancy. But in those moments of trembling loss, it is forced to face its smallness. Jung wrote, “… the experience of the Self is always a defeat for the ego.” Indeed, in those initiations by illness, loss or depression, when we are dragged into the underworld to pass through...
Read more