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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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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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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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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2015 Women’s Dreaming Retreat in Photos

2015 Women’s Dreaming Retreat in Photos

I am still glowing after a miraculous and meaningful retreat held in the mystical embrace of Salt Spring Island. Women came from all over the world with the shared intention of dreaming together in council. Mornings were magic as we tended to our dream journals in shared silence, while the mottled sky bathed us in diffuse light. And then we danced, grieved, laughed and played with our dreams! We dined under Stowel Lake Farm’s vaulted roofs and luxuriated in the land’s many other generosities. And in the evenings we gathered for ceremony around the sacred fire, singing and drumming our longing into the smoke until we collapsed again into the dreaming. In the end, we found we were an ecosystem, breathing but one story; a tapestry of togetherness and belonging. Here in images are but some of these precious women and the moments we...
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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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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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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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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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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...
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On Village-Making and Asking for Help

On Village-Making and Asking for Help

This being human is tough stuff and one of the acute losses we all feel is that of meaningful friendship and community. That which our great, great ancestors took for certain: when a wounding befalls one of us, we are all implicated. And so we lean in to support those in pain with our humble gifts of empathy and presence. We shoulder our unbearable questions together and we honour with ritual the devastating requirements and initiations that this being alive asks of us. But in the impoverished condition of modern culture, we are taught to feel ashamed of our weakness and to deny our own suffering – nevermind share its burden. We’ve made a hedging around the very places we should be depending upon each other. We’ve privatised pain. And then it’s hard to reach out. It’s hard to be seen with your messy lostness,  exhaustion and overwhelm as you stumble through the complexities of life. But how else can someone become trustworthy unless you allow them to share in your hardship? How can we form the village we ache for unless we allow ourselves to wrestle with these things together? If you are well, consider being the medicine for someone else’s...
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Making Anger your Ally

Making Anger your Ally

Anger is one of those emotions that’s been long-stricken from the social palette of acceptability. Especially for women, who are taught that being angry makes you unlikeable, and being unlikeable is a kind of rejection from Femininity itself. So many set about a lifetime of unspoken penance to becoming ‘a nice person.’ You turn down your volume, soften your step, retract your talons and acquiesce. But a terrible thing is lost in the suppression of anger – your relationship with one of your greatest allies: Instinct. Anger arises when your heart has been offended, your values have been wronged, your beloveds are threatened, or somewhere, justice has been denied. Anger is the catalyst to the impotence you may feel in these situations. It sets your heart racing, elevates your blood pressure and quickens your breath. Adrenaline surges through your veins and poises you for action. This profound physical transformation can make you feel out of control, but that may mostly be because the incisiveness of power has become a stranger to us. When we suppress our anger, it often results in one of two ways: It turns inward and takes the form of Depression and/or...
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Dreaming it Forward

Dreaming it Forward

Once I’ve been given a Dream answer or, in many cases, a poetic refining of my question, I look for ways to Dream it Forward. What I mean by that language is; if the generosity of the Dream is ignored or discarded, the gift is not fully received. Similar to listening to someone with only cursory attention, it can do more harm than good. It unconsciously communicates your disinterest and so you won’t be surprised when a distance, a forgetting, develops between you. What really makes someone feel seen and loved, is when you listen with the fullness of your presence. Presence is a kind of silent vow to our inseparability. And at some future point, when you hand back the other’s pieces, which you have been carrying as your own, to say, ‘I remember this,’ then the tenderness of your intimacy grows. To fully acknowledge a dream means finding ways to walk it in the world: to materialise the ineffable. Maybe this just means carrying your symbol in your heart, letting it change the way you see things, or maybe you’ll render the dream in paints or song. Perhaps you’ll fashion an altar for your animal helpers, or maybe you’ll even take the...
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Leaving Your Shoes Behind

Leaving Your Shoes Behind

In preparation for his most recent (7th) book of poetry ‘Pilgrim,’ David Whyte collected stories from everyone he knew who had walked the great Camino de Santiago, a 791 km pilgrimage from the foothills of the Pyrenees in France to Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. He writes about life through the eyes of a pilgrim – a person who has, intentionally or not, found themselves in a place of meaningful transition. This being on the road between things may take many forms – illness, heartbreak, loss, depression – but what they all have in common is that you are no longer who you used to be, but not yet still who you will become. Whyte maps the subtleties of this landscape, which you may pass through quickly or ache to turn back from. Sometimes the nature of your destination changes, sometimes the weather keeps you staying put. You live by the hospitality of strangers, and sometimes you go without. But throughout the journey, you are accorded a special freedom from your identity: the freedom that only comes with having a temporary name – pilgrim. At the very end of the Camino is a dramatic peninsula overlooking the vast Atlantic, called...
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Dreamspeak: Ancestral Healing

Dreamspeak: Ancestral Healing

One of the most powerful dreams I was ever given was a visitation from my maternal Grandfather who came to me as an adult, twenty years after he died. Like many ancestral dreams, it was singularly vivid and more lucid than everyday dreams. I looked into the bright clarity of his eyes, felt the warmth and weight of his hand on my shoulder, and recognized the melody of his thick accent even though I was 7 years old when last I heard it. A great stillness stretched around us as he looked at me tenderly and said, “I’m sorry for having given you my eyesight.” Towards the end of her life, my Granny told my brother and I many stories she’d kept secret for a lifetime. She spoke of many unfathomable atrocities, and the near-death miracles that kept my Grandparents alive. But there’s one story in particular which haunts me, of a long walk they took together to escape Poland at the end of the war. My Granny always told it with pride for the man my Grandfather was, how he covered her eyes so she wouldn’t have to see the piles of corpses strewn by the roadside. “Nothing influences children more,” Jung says, “than the silent facts in the...
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Dreamspeak: Falling the Stone Wall

Dreamspeak: Falling the Stone Wall

Dear Toko-pa; In my first dream, I am married. I am at my parents’ helping build a stone wall and this spouse-person keeps calling and asking where I am, telling me I am the type of person who only does what is best for me – how I am unreliable, ambivalent and untrustworthy – but that he still loves me. My father is building the wall all wrong – it keeps falling down. He doesn’t listen to me or admit that the plans I’d drawn up were functional. Sweat in my eyes, arms aching, hands bleeding, I throw down my load of rocks. This isn’t worth it, I say, none of this is worth it In the second dream I am traveling in high desert country alone. Rocky and gray. Carefully, I select a chador; it takes me a great deal of time to figure out the proper way to wear it and the relief as I finally cover my hair, wash my face free of make-up, is palpable. The air is cold and thin and I walk through a market and buy food from women then ride in a truck with men and guns. In this dream, I feel so safe. – Alma Dear Alma; Your stonewalling project make me very curious about the origins of your ambivalence towards relationship. How much is your dad’s example falling apart for you now?...
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Dreamspeak: Finding Your Other Half

Dreamspeak: Finding Your Other Half

As the delightfully irreverent Tom Robbins once said, “We waste time looking for the perfect lover, instead of being the perfect love.” This may offer some explanation as to why half of all marriages come unhitched. Most plunge in thinking they have found their other half, only to end up disappointed post-honeymoon when they still only feel like half a person. Sidestepping the nurture versus nature debate, it does seem like each of us is skewed to one end of the gender spectrum or the other. The problem with talking about it is that we’re hungry for more nutritious language on the subject. Feminine and masculine are such loaded terms, using them loops us on semantic treadmills instead of moving us forward. Borrowed as it may be, the Chinese model of yin yang is profoundly more evolved, and therefore relaxing. It shows how the opposites are present in every person, and function interdependently. That means if you are more yin-skewed, you will have a deficiency of yang and vice-versa. Unless you make a conscious effort to develop your other inner-half, you will mostly likely look to your partner to redeem those undeveloped qualities for you. Standing alone, both yin and yang are...
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Dreamspeak: Yumming the Both

Dreamspeak: Yumming the Both

If there is one thing you can count on dreams to provide, it is plenty of paradox. In every dream you will find opposing forces having out their mythical arguments like night and day, compassion and withdrawal, pursuer and victim, death and birth. While it is our habit to pick a side and snub the other, dreamwork is all about Yumming the Both. You’ve heard it said that opposites attract, but have you ever considered why that is? In the Jungian tradition, we learn that the Other contains something that we need to integrate, and so we seek it out unconsciously in order to marry that pairing together in ourselves. For instance, the night, with all her quiet dreaminess and contemplation, might need the daytime’s extravertedness to put her imagination into action. That said, action with no contemplation can be hollow and destructive. He needs her substance to make his running around worthwhile. The pursuer might be chasing the victim only because he is running. If he learned to turn and face his pursuer, it might have something valuable to get off its chest. As for death and birth, I’ve always wondered if the light at the end of the tunnel is actually the birthing room. Ancient Greek...
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Dreamspeak:  Weeping Willow

Dreamspeak: Weeping Willow

I had to cross the street in front of him. I tried to get his attention but he wouldn’t acknowledge me. A minute later, he called me on the phone. His voice was the voice of my first love. He told me since we broke up a month ago, he’d gone to Germany. He said it was cheap, only $700 to fly there, and he was going again soon. I felt jealous and left out. The phone cut out and I thought he’d call me back, but he didn’t. I was driving by that time and pulled around a backroad. There was a huge truck pulling out a huge dead tree, piece by piece, by the roots. It was like a weeping willow, but taller, next to a New Englandy house nearby. (New Englanders are tough and self-contained and self-reliant. I’m a New Englander) I got the impression the tree belonged to that house. The driver of the big, tree-removing machine had the friendliest, catchingest smile. Thanks, Anne.” Dear Anne: The opening setting of your dream shows how enormously reflective you are, especially through this difficult breakup. Your inner teacher has arranged for you to spend time looking at moments of the past which are frozen on film like memories. As an artist, you transform the mundane...
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