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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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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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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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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Redeeming Medicine of Dark Dreams

Redeeming Medicine of Dark Dreams

Like many people, I turned to my dreams when their ‘volume’ got so loud that I couldn’t ignore them any longer. According to the accepted standards, my outer life was thriving at the time. I was working as an executive in the music industry, living the so-called ‘good life’ of restaurants, hotels and exclusive parties. After years of being a musician, struggling to make ends meet, my ego really felt like she’d ‘made it’ in the world. But it all came at a tremendous cost. Not only was my health suffering from the burnout that comes with workaholism, but the things I truly valued – like creativity, community and beauty-making were being devastated by my neglect. It was then that I was initiated by my dreams. One night I was awoken by a bone-chilling dream, a dark mare which haunted me for weeks. When I was finally brave enough to look at it squarely, I was forced to question the direction my life was taking. After that all the vitality I had for my career suddenly went out of me, like a flame to a gust, and I found myself in a deep depression. For the next year, the dreams pulled me down into their mucky depths, where I came to face the terrifying loneliness which my hectic life...
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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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Remothering Day

Remothering Day

To the multitudes of souls out there for whom this day is an excruciating reminder of what you yearn for but have never known, these words are for you. As you know too well, the Good Mother that is emblemized on this day, the one who is culturally exalted for her nurturing, selfless kindness, is only one face of the Mother archetype. If you grew up feeling unseen, invalidated, or with instability, violence or chaos in the home, you will have seen some of her other faces. Because our mothers are our first imprint of the world, that relationship becomes the blueprint for how we relate to life at large. If you experienced a scarcity of love and withholding of affection, the whole world can feel like place you aren’t worthy of belonging. You may dream of wandering in those dangerous, abandoned parts of your psyche where structures go to crumble; what little life there is scrounges and competes for scraps, and there is danger at every turn. Triggers, like today –  where others seem have an abundance of warmth you don’t – can be an express bus to the heart of this desolation district. Revitalisation of this vast and central wound is slow. But the first step to...
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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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Interview with Toko-pa: Be You Media

Interview with Toko-pa: Be You Media

It was a treat to be interviewed for Be You Media, by the lovely and talented Jenn Grosso this week. Our conversation turned to some intimate topics like depression, stage-fright and the book I’ve been writing on Belonging. I hope you find something useful here and I look forward to hearing how it lands with you: “In my own life, and in the lives of the  people I’m blessed to do dreamwork with, I found that the search for Belonging is the silent conversation behind so many of the other conversations we have in the open. And while we crave this elusive thing, so few of us feel as if we’ve achieved it. So this book has taken me deep into the question of exile in my own personal history and in my ancestral lineage, taking me as far as rural France where I’ve walked the same cobblestones my ancestors walked before meeting their death in the holocaust. And I’ve come to understand that belonging is not a place at all, but a set of skills that we in modern culture have forgotten. This book is an attempt to enumerate what I call those ‘competencies of belonging.’”  Read the rest of the interview...
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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.
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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...
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The Secret Heart

The Secret Heart

There is nothing more beautiful than the numinous dream that is given to someone who has wrestled triumphantly with their shadows. These dreams sparkle with tenderness, speaking in a new and unusual tongue, which is also heavy with ancient wisdom. More like encounters with the soul itself these dreams say, Here, I finally belong. And we know instantly that the secret heart only ever wanted to be seen. For all the energy we spend hiding that which we consider unbearable, the moment one lets one’s grief and shame be exposed to the kindness of a good listener, the dreaming changes its course. Only by following these faint flickers of light in the blackness of night, can the inner narrative find its way out of a recurring loop. Astoundingly, the architecture of Belonging spins itself out from the center of the Self in our dreams. How it then calls us forward, step by tentative step, along these gossamer threads, into an increasingly intimate conversation. How we then, one day, suddenly find ourselves anchored in a meaningful life.
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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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The Sacred Descent

The Sacred Descent

It may seem counter-intuitive when you’re feeling stuck to go further down into your stuckness, but there is a huge difference between letting your darkness suck you under, and willingly making the sacred descent. Going within is the only way out. There in the underworld of grief, loss and suffering, down in the muck of the very stuff our culture teaches us to reject, lives our redemption. Sometimes all it takes to get life moving again, is giving those forgotten things a Hello. To acknowledge and honour their existence. To meet them with the tenderness which they have for so long been deprived. 2013 © Toko-pa Turner      
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Outing the Unspoken

Outing the Unspoken

It’s never comfortable to be the lone voice which speaks contrarily to the group, especially the group to which one feels belonging. The hope is that in speaking truthfully, one might still be loved and accepted – even respected for the courage it takes to say the thing that others dare not. But often you travel these lengths alone, even from your most beloved companions, and it rarely feels courageous while you do so. But if you can stand the terrible loneliness and doubt, there might slowly emerge the young tendrils of understanding in the hearts of others. Then, and only then, will you see that you’ve been tremendously brave. Instinctively you know that it isn’t enough to stay within bounds. The soul thrives on novelty. It comes alive in the dynamism of change and works at the edges of our perceived boundaries. It doesn’t ask for permission, because it obeys a higher authority. It takes its cues from the rhythm of nature herself, which is always crumbling into chaos, breaking down into the rich humus that fosters creativity. The artist is vigilant for those places of stagnancy where traditions have been left unquestioned for too long; where...
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James Hillman on the Daimon

James Hillman on the Daimon

“Each life is formed by its unique image, an image that is the essence of that life and calls it to a destiny. As the force of fate, this image acts as a personal daimon, an accompanying guide who remembers your calling. The daimon motivates. It protects. It invents and persists with stubborn fidelity. It resists compromising reasonableness and often forces deviance and oddity upon its keeper, especially when neglected or opposed. It offers comfort and can pull you into its shell, but it cannot abide innocence. It can make the body ill. It is out of step with time, finding all sorts of faults, gaps, and knots in the flow of life – and it prefers them. It has affinities with myth, since it is itself a mythical being and thinks in mythical patterns. It has much to do with feelings of uniqueness, of grandeur and with the restlessness of the heart, its impatience, its dissatisfaction, its yearning. It needs its share of beauty. It wants to be seen, witnessed, accorded recognition, particularly by the person who is its caretaker. Metaphoric images are its first unlearned language, which provides the poetic basis of mind, making possible communication between all people and all...
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Sympathetic Resonance

Sympathetic Resonance

In music, we call it ‘sympathetic resonance’ when a passive string responds to an external vibration with harmonic likeness. Similarly, when conditions are just right, our core issues can be triggered with all the potency of the original trauma. But in those terrible moments, something amazing is happening: an aperture is opening up for us to heal the past. The present, in its infinite wisdom, is allowing us to touch the old wound, offering us a chance to feel all the way through it, to finally let our grief run its full course.      
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