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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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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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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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....
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Shame: What Covers You

Shame: What Covers You

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...
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A video invitation from Toko-pa

A video invitation from Toko-pa

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.  
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The World is your Altar

The World is your Altar

There 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. When 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...
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Workshop: Dreamwork & Belonging (Duncan, BC)

Workshop: Dreamwork & Belonging (Duncan, BC)

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%...
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Lostness & The Call of Momentum

Lostness & The Call of Momentum

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...
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