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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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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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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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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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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Raising your Havingness Ceiling

Raising your Havingness Ceiling

When I first heard the term “havingness” about 15 years ago, I was immediately intrigued by this unusual word. More than an accounting of what you already have, havingness is the state of your capacity to have.  It isn’t just what’s in our possession, but it is the quality of how we treat what we have, and how open we are to holding more. More than material things, it is our ability to receive appreciation, experience joy and enthusiasm, follow through on the worth of our ideas, and ultimately receive love. Each of us has a kind of ceiling on havingness, which says ‘this is as much as I deserve’ and we may settle there, believing we can not do better. And if someone challenges us to raise that ceiling, we may find ourselves arguing for our limitations; “my parents struggled so should I; everyone settles, it’s the practical thing to do; I haven’t succeeded, met someone, been discovered yet, so why waste any more energy dreaming of the impossible?” But when we dig a little deeper into our reasons for keeping our havingness ceiling low, we may find that there is a silent contract we’ve made with ourselves to settle in a limitation because, in some way, it’s actually...
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Commitment: The Container of Creativity

Commitment: The Container of Creativity

When we hear the word commitment, most of us think of obligation and restriction. After all, modern life is already so heavily structured,  we’d much rather ‘see what happens’ and ‘go with the flow.’ So we may avoid making commitments. Or if we do make them, we keep them ‘soft,’ in the event that something shinier comes along. We change careers an average of 7 times in adulthood, half of all marriages end in divorce, we communicate in the undemanding ways of text messages and emoticons, infinitely scrolling, rarely giving the fullness of our presence to anything. And by extension, we are growing to expect that life should be immediate and convenient. But what if convenience is really a sham? It proposes to make your life easier, and there are obvious benefits, but there are often hidden tolls being taken elsewhere. Easy puts work into robotic hands, undermining our own necessity. Easy destroys the mentoring relationship. Easy robs us of the privilege of courtship, the very thing which bonds us to a place and its resources, or a craft and the people who’ve made a slow mastery of their lives.  Consider the ancient alchemists who, despite...
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Singing the Wound

Singing the Wound

We must each in our own way resist the pull of apathy. Not only in relationship to the troubled world around us, but towards our own hearts. That icy spread around our hurt which protects us too well when it keeps grief frozen. That shrug towards our own wounding which regards our pain as common, and says, “what else is new?” We may have difficulty recognising it as oppression because we’ve never learned to give voice to the wound. But there is a song that needs to be sung from there. And anything that silences it, like the underestimation of our pain, the dismissal which says nobody wants to listen, or the inner cajoling with tells us to get over it already – all of these strategies which once protected us eventually become our own oppressions. It is the other voice – the one which has never been given encouragement, the one who is burdened with shame, who is terrified of emerging – this is the one we need to lend courage to. This means standing up defiantly and repeatedly to the invalidations we’ve grown familiar with, demanding the right with which we have been gifted, inherent to our life, to sing. Give up your vows of silence which only serve to protect the...
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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...
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Online Dreamwork Courses: New dates!

Online Dreamwork Courses: New dates!

Sweet Dreamers! By popular demand, I’m excited to announce new dates for both of my online courses, Dreamwalking & the Dream Lodge Dreamwalking is a 4-week intensive that explores the mystical, magical language of Dreams (February 8th – March 5th, 2016): The Dream Lodge is an intimate 8-week mentorship program for 13 women who have completed Dreamwalking and want to go deeper into the feminine mysteries with a dreaming council March 15th – May 3rd,...
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Comparison is Essential

Comparison is Essential

  To compare yourself to another is an organic impulse vital to the unfolding of individuality. In our admiration of someone, we encounter the undeveloped qualities we have yet to step into, while in our healthy disdain, we come to know our refusals. Both are essential to developing a standpoint in the world. But after comparison, you must pull back to the inner earth-work of cultivating those qualities, weeding out those rejections, and cross-pollinating your own originality into the mix, or comparison might freeze you in stasis. Learning to trust Nature is the next responsibility of comparison. As extensions of her, we require our differences to thrive and we must shelter them in remembering that we are in service to that which dances us. As we draw down into that commonality, we come to know that true humility is not making yourself smaller, but recognizing that we are all the same size: Necessary. To read more, sign up for Toko-pa’s free newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/jtRaL
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‘The Power of Silence’ [video] and Autumn 2015 Events

‘The Power of Silence’ [video] and Autumn 2015 Events

Silence is a power because it keeps what’s tender, what’s vulnerable away from the violences of scrutiny, dismissal and exile. But when does silence turn upon its keeper and become the captor? Please enjoy my new video below, speaking on the power of silence kept and broken, and how dreamsharing fosters intimacy in community. Also some quick announcements: I have extended the earlybird price to September 1st on the upcoming Dreaming Retreat on Salt Spring Island (November 20-22, 2015). I have just announced a new Online Dream Lodge (Sept 8 – Oct 27th) set in a time zone (3pm Pacific) especially conducive for Australia (9am AEST). Also in September, I will be coming to Montreal to present at the Conscious Heart Conference (Sept 25-27th, 2015). Find out more details below. Lots of love, Toko-pa Dreaming Retreat for Women Salt Spring Island (Nov 20-22, 2015) In this weekend retreat we will be living as a Women’s Dreaming Council in the mystical serenity of Salt Spring Island. In our daily gatherings we will work deeply with the wisdom of our Dreams, share story, ceremony and song around a sacred fire, and play with embodiment of our dreams. The intention of this...
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Stretching the Receiving Muscle

Stretching the Receiving Muscle

We’ve all heard the old adage, “It’s better to give than to receive.” And, surely enough, many of us have great difficulty in receiving – praise, help, love and support. Perhaps it is because underneath this seemingly pious phrase is the suggestion that to receive is to be the weak one, the needy one, the poor one. From this perspective, most of us would rather be the ‘giver’ than the ‘taker.’ Which I think, incidentally, is nuts – because giving and receiving happen simultaneously – like pollination, they are interdependent acts. So why do we hear nothing about the courage it takes to receive? Taken to its extreme, giving can even become pathological. We may give and give so much that we run ourselves ragged. We may even hang our whole persona on the misguided belief that if we aren’t always offering, providing and producing, that we could lose our standing in the world. But consider that receptivity is more than just a physical act; it is a rich set of qualities which allow us to live in reciprocity with our Selves, each other and the earth. These yin-based attributes include dreaming, listening, feeling, intuiting, waiting and perceiving. But because our...
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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,...
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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...
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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...
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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...
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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...
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The Grace of Nostalgia

The Grace of Nostalgia

What if nostalgia is not a fruitless dwelling on those irretrievable moments of the past, as we are taught, but an attempt by sweetness to reach you again? What if nostalgia is really located in the present, like a scent or ambiance which is gathering around you, should you avail yourself to it. As anyone who has been heartbroken knows, there comes a time when, long after loss has been well-lived with, a small melody of love always returns. And to your surprise, you may recognise the tone of that love as the very same love you believed you lost. It’s then that you know your love never belonged to another. Your love was always your love. And if you let yourself be unguarded to it, nostalgia may find its way back into the generosity of your presence once again.  
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