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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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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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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Tending the Well

Tending the Well

In Celtic Mythology, the holy well is considered the source of all life. Certainly because it is the concealed origin from which water springs, but also because it is a gateway between the worlds; seen and unseen. Originally regarded as the domain of the Earth Mother, holy wells were places to which one would make a pilgrimage to offer gratitude for the riches of village life, petition the well priestesses and fairies for healing, and if you slept near one, you might even receive dreams foretelling the future. It was understood that if one of these wells would fall into disrepair, the village was at risk of losing not only their literal life-source, but their connection to the Otherworld. Each of us faces a time when when the holy well within needs tending. When we’re no longer able to bestow blessings on others because we’ve overgiven, or when something precious has been taken from us, or life’s demands are too great on our fragile system. But when the moisture goes out of our lives, and we’re no longer able to see beauty or converse with magic, we must ask ourselves how we can replenish our well-ness. Too often, we fall into the misguided belief that the...
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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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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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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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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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Dreamspeak: The Importance of Fairy Tales

Dreamspeak: The Importance of Fairy Tales

As Joseph Campbell famously says, “Dreams are the private myth & myths are the public dream.” Indeed Campbell and other mythologists, such as those delightful Jungians, discovered amazing cross-cultural motifs in Fairy Tales. Those patterns, (or what we now call archetypes), are found repeatedly in stories from around the world, seemingly unconstrained by geography or epoch. Imagine for a moment that you could strip your ‘local’ story down to its bare essence, to find what you  have in common with everyone in the world, and you’ll get archetypes. From the Greek archetupos, meaning “first-moulded,” fairy tales are the blueprints of our innate, universal experiences. Archetypes get activated in our dreams during meaningful transitions, but having lost the art of symbolic language in our culture, we don’t recognize (or remember) them when they arise. Working with dreams & fairy tales helps us to see when we are undergoing important rites of passage, such as initiation, courtship, marriage, birth and preparation for death. They bring meaningful dimension to our human lives by showing us the chapters in our mythic journey. We...
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Ritual and the Cultivation of Indebtedness

Ritual and the Cultivation of Indebtedness

It takes my teacher Martín Prechtel several hours to walk a short distance because every stream and river, rock and valley in the village is sacred and needs to be sung to, fed by our beauty-making. We are too fortunate for our debt to ever be paid, so instead we cultivate indebtedness as a way of life. You might say that our abandonment of ritual practice is the greatest loss felt by modern society. Under the spell of rationalism, we have forgotten what indigenous people understand to be cardinal: that this world owes its life to the Unseen. Our disconnection from the Old Ways expresses itself in our culture’s affliction with depression, anxiety, violence and loneliness.What we are experiencing, explains Marion Woodman, is the loss of the symbolic life. We have displaced our natural impulse to worship the sacred onto the material. We accumulate wealth instead of strengthening our values, pursue knowledge instead of wisdom and choose status over village-making. In tribal society, every inheritance, every yield, every loss and every yearning must be distinguished by an offering made to the Invisible. Vicariously, in this practice of making gifts for the Holy, we are being...
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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: Revolving Door of Love

Dreamspeak: Revolving Door of Love

Dear Toko-pa: I dreamt that I entered a revolving door, in which I had planned to meet my sweetie, but then exited alone. I woke up shaking, like it was a nightmare, because I was desperate to find him there. We’d lost phone connection and I couldn’t get through. This dream comes up at a time when I have lots of questions about entering into a new phase of closeness with him. It’s loving and sweet but the level of my fear about losing him grips me sometimes. Have you written before, or would you consider writing about, the meanings of doors in dreams? — Spinning Lover Dear Spinning; I once knew a monk who used doors as cues for mindfulness. Each time he stepped through one, he’d notice his transition from one place into the next. He said it helped keep him in the Now by focusing his awareness on the nonstop transience of life. The doors in our dreams are not dissimilar to waking life doors in that they mark the threshold between two spaces. The details of your door and how your respond to it says a great deal about how you cope with transition. Does your door open to the outside or the inside? Do you rush through it or are you tentative? Maybe you’re...
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Dreamspeak: Keeping the Seeds Alive

Dreamspeak: Keeping the Seeds Alive

Dear Toko-pa: What happens when we turn away from something in our dreams, or hit replay on a dream and re-dream it, trying to change a component of the story? Can the conscious mind sabotage our dream experiences? — Kaleidoscope Mind Dear KM: So often the two minds, conscious and unconscious, seem at odds. One runs the mechanics while the other spins out the substance; one is interested in keeping things in order while the other churns up chaos; one lives in the province of Know It Allcity while the other is leaping off its ledge. But while they appear to be pulling you in opposite directions, they may be stretching your reach. It’s been said that the conscious mind is a like a speck of dust sitting atop a massive balloon that is the unconscious. Now, as much as I’d like to defend the conscious mind for all it does to keep us functional and grounded, it really has no business running the show with as much hubris as it does. It’s a little embarrassing, given how much less sophisticated than the unconscious it is. In a single day there is so much that we miss, ignore and reject, due to how narrow a scope the rational mind has, that the unconscious acts as a kind of holding...
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Dreamspeak:  Daydreaming Your Way to Genius

Dreamspeak: Daydreaming Your Way to Genius

Do you have your best ideas in the shower? Have you ever grappled with a question all day only to wake up from a nap with a sudden answer? How about looking madly for something and the moment you give up you remember where you left it? What if your daydreams are like breadcrumbs on the path to your own genius, but you’re too busy to follow them… W. H. Auden said our daydreams are meals at which images are eaten, “Some of us are gourmets, some gourmands, and a good many take their images precooked out of a can and swallow them down whole, absent-mindedly and with little relish.” Indeed, how many images get served up daily on our imagination plates only to be left untasted? A friend of mine recently went elderberry picking with a wildcrafting mentor. She taught her that elderberries have powerful medicinal qualities, especially to fortify the immune system against the flues and colds which spread at the same time of year the berries ripen. Our land is abundant with plants that simply want to serve us, she explained, but we are abysmally unaware of their abilities. This image stayed with me like a pebble in a sieve. It reminded me of our community, local and large, made up of humans...
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Dreamspeak:  Mining the Metaphor

Dreamspeak: Mining the Metaphor

“To dream of bananas foretells that you will be mated to an uninteresting and unloved companion. To dream of seeing your home burning denotes a loving companion, obedient children, and careful servants.” These quotes are from Ten Thousand Dreams Interpreted, first published fifty years ago but still widely stocked in bookstores today.  My guess as to why ‘dream dictionaries’ remain so popular is that they give the dreamer a static, junkfood answer to their dream which saves them from doing any real chewing. My rule of thumb is if it doesn’t make sense to your logic as well as your feeling, an interpretation isn’t to be trusted. That said, there are symbol dictionaries out there that will prompt the dreamer in the right direction by identifying the dream’s ‘universal’ elements, but without taking the dreamer’s personal associations into account, the images can feel deadened.  Dogs, for instance, might be collectively viewed as “loyal, obedient, domesticated,” but for someone who was attacked by a dog; their dream might be about distrust for so-called loyalty. A small friend recently asked me what dreams are made of and I rambled on about edible tinsel…but while that might also be...
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Dreamspeak:  Be Your Own Expert

Dreamspeak: Be Your Own Expert

There is an old parable that says if you meet Buddha on the road, kill him. However cryptic, the teaching warns that if you think you’ve made contact with your ultimate guru, you have great work ahead of you to integrate their qualities into yourself. You must ‘kill’ off your admiration for the teacher outside of yourself by learning to become your own expert. Dreams, by their very nature, teach us to do this with ever increasing attention. Once we learn a few simple tools for decoding our symbolic language, we gain access to an inexhaustible wealth of inner wisdom. We begin to discover that both teacher and student live simultaneously on our insides, and seeking becomes an enterprise of interiority. As this consciousness grows, your overall propensity for “othering” diminishes. The more Gestalt work you do, walking in the shoes of your dream characters, the greater your awareness grows for how much of reality is filtered through your projections. As usual, this awareness carries over to waking life. Where once you might have given up your yum to the impressive people around you, now you begin to see those same people as reflections of yourself. As my good friend...
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Dreamspeak: Grist for the psychic mill

Dear Toko-pa; I dream a couple brings their two sons to a new place, from the east coast to the west coast. Here, the littler boy is happier. He is more sensitive and says he likes being in a place where he is good at things. The landscape and what it offers resonates more with his abilities and personality. The older boy is silent and more serious, and I have the sense he is disappointed. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this little dream — Katia.   Dear Katia; The question of your dream seems to be about how to satisfy both boys; serious and sensitive. Should you live in the east or west; where the sun rises or sets; in a place of originality or destination? In as much as you enjoy a happy frolic in the country, if you really want to capture something juicy, as Marie Louise von Franz was fond of saying, “It takes the hare to constellate the hounds!” Delectably flagrant astrologer, Rob Brezsny, warns us not to draw upon pat ‘formulas’ for our creative work because it puts the muse in danger of stagnancy. He says we should work on the fringes of our unknown and forge ahead from there. Our own constant surprise will be what translates as authentic to others. If you’re...
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Dreamspeak:  Tiny Acorn; Mighty Oak

Dreamspeak: Tiny Acorn; Mighty Oak

A friend recently asked me if there is any danger of tainting one’s dreaming by becoming more active with it…as if bringing one’s designs into an otherwise pristine province might cause it to spoil. I found myself responding with a question; do you influence your own reality, or does it unfold autonomously? As usual, both is the right answer to either/or questions. We tend to think of dreams as responses to waking life – as attempts to sort out the chaos of reality. But while they do process some of the material we miss during the day, there is a larger narrative running throughout our dreamlife that has an intelligent plot and timetable of its own. As you can see across a series of dreams, themes emerge like missions, images and characters mature and evolve as you overcome obstacles, and major psychic events can occur during times when your waking life is uneventful. The Soul’s Code James Hillman, archetypal psychologist and writer, says that we are born with a code written into our soul. Not unlike the acorn which contains the entirety of the oak tree programmed within it, every child has a fate to grow into. The images that are generated in our dreams...
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