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...
Read more
The Invisible Temple

The Invisible Temple

Because dreams take us right into the heart of the question for our lives, being in a Dream Lodge is the first time many of us experience true intimacy in community. For this reason, it can be terrifying. We are so used to keeping our inner life a secret that we become distant even from ourselves, suspicious of the images that appear in our dreams. We may believe that we have some particular darkness that, if shared with others, might alienate us for good. Ironically, it is this fear itself which so often keeps us outside of belonging. We are more alike than different, yet we rarely touch this awareness because we practice at excluding ourselves. To varying degrees, we all split our soul-life off from the face we share in public. But perhaps more insidious is how we distance ourselves from those aspects of the Self which are devalued in our families and culture-at-large. The moment we step into the sacred container of a Dream Lodge, it is understood that our purpose is to welcome these refugee aspects of the Self back into belonging. And in the act of sharing this process in community, we instantly create a healing field for others’ lost life to come into inclusion. One by...
Read more
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...
Read more
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,...
Read more
Disappointment: An invitation to create

Disappointment: An invitation to create

It’s marvelous to grow bored of a pattern, because it means you’re ready to let go of an old scenario and envision something that’s more in alignment with who you are in present time. Likewise, when you’re feeling disappointed and let down by life – I believe what you’re really being given is an invitation to Create. A good friend once told me that we should never make decisions based on fear of the alternative. That is to say, instead of weighing your future on the scale of security alone, why not choose a future which frightens you a little. Like swinging on a trapeze, there is a terrible-wonderful moment when you have to let go and freefall your way to the next grab. But the more times you find the new bar there to meet you, the stronger your trust in the unknown grows. One of the reality selection practices I love most is writing about a thing as if it’s already happening: describing in great detail the feeling I have being inside my new creation, looking around and saying what I see and why it’s splendid. I may sketch out some drawings too, however best I can focus on the refinement of my feeling of well-being. Depending on how...
Read more
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...
Read more
Embodying the Dream: Women’s Retreat in Wales

Embodying the Dream: Women’s Retreat in Wales

  Embodying the Dream A 4-night Dreaming Retreat for Women Dates: Aug 1-5, 2013 Place: Snowdonia, Wales In ancient times, our ancestors saw no separation between us and the cosmos. Nature and humanity were inextricably linked and it was our prayers that kept the sun and moon rising, our rituals which ensured the rain to fall on our crops, and it was our songs which brought the planets into right alignment. Sadly, the Elders who once passed on these ancient customs – wisdom they’d received from their own dreams – have all but vanished. Now it is up to us to become those Elders, to nurture the seeds of our dreams and provide a meaningful inheritance to the young ones who will follow us. In this 4-night retreat we will be living as a Women’s Dreaming Council in the mystical serenity of Cae Mabon, a secluded fairytale village to ourselves in Northern Wales. In our daily sessions we will listen deeply and respectfully to our bodies, engage with the wisdom from our Dreams and enact ritual and song around a sacred fire together under the moon. Along with these central practices, we will also have free time to get to know one another better and explore the vast...
Read more
Carl Jung: Pioneer of the Unknown

Carl Jung: Pioneer of the Unknown

Cosmic Divorce Until the 1840’s, the starting hypothesis for every scientific experiment was that the cosmos is organized in an intelligent, harmonious and unknowable design. Under Descartes’ influence, who believed reason was the only valid way to gain knowledge, The New Science was born. Purely interested in objective, physical reality, the unknowable was no longer marveled and esteemed, but renamed ‘irrational,’ and made synonymous with absurd. The philosopher-alchemists, who sought to link matter and spirit, faded to the fringes and Materialism grew into the myth of our time. The next 150 years of rationalism produced astonishing advancements in technology and industry, but while the logos-bias may have relieved some of the anxiety produced by the unknown, it also killed the mythic imagination. Without Eros, we forgot the teachings of our ancestors which connect us to the eternal. We lost the very thing that gives us substance and brings accountability into our lives. Without a sense of location in nature and the family of things, we have set a slow apocalypse in motion. Cheerleader of the Soul In a wildly skeptical era which saw few dream-warriors, one intrepid visionary...
Read more
Dreamspeak: Where the Eagles Are

Dreamspeak: Where the Eagles Are

On the morning Annie went into the hospital, I had a dream that Toronto was drowning. It started with a sadness welling up at my windows. When I got up to look out at the city, cars were bobbing around like plastic toys and whole buildings were being swallowed up by water. In the distance was a tsunami, and it was racing towards me. Knowing there wasn’t anywhere to run, I became curiously calm. Within seconds the wave smashed through my windows, took me up on its crest, and began rushing me into the unknown. It was the sound of the phone jangling which woke me up. I stumbled across my shockingly dry room to answer it. Annie Jacobsen; my friend, my mentor, my lighthouse, had been hospitalized in the night. After nine years of wrestling back lymphoma, the cancer had taken hold. A tumour the size of a melon had grown in her belly and she could no longer eat more than ice chips. “You are an artist,” Annie said every time she saw me. At first I thought she was delusional, how relentlessly she spoke that word about me. A word that was too big for me. A word whose shadow I cowered in. But she said it again and again; on every visit, in every letter, and she managed to find it in every...
Read more
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?...
Read more
Dreamspeak: Lights of the Night

Dreamspeak: Lights of the Night

Dear Toko-pa; what is the significance of the moon, stars and constellating night skies in dreams? — Astrodreamer Dear Astrodreamer; This past spring I was invited to go caving with a friend of mine who is a seasoned spelunker. Naturally, I was terrified at the thought of going underground into total darkness to squeeze though cold, wet and tight spots. “Where’s the appeal?” I asked him. His face lit up like a ten year old’s and said; “Only 20-some-odd humans have ever set foot in this part of the cave, which we just discovered last season. The stalactites are over 6 million years old! The landscape is nothing you’ve ever experienced before; it’s like being on the moon.” It was a pretty convincing argument. Geared up with rubber boots, hard hats and rain gear, we climbed and maneuvered and shimmied down 30 foot long body-sized channels, all by the light of our headlamps. It was exhilarating. My downward-dog practice came in handy when we had to get under a narrow opening through which a freezing current was rushing through the caves. Then, soaking wet in the subzero temperatures, scraped up, and very nearly wanting to turn back, it opened up into a cathedral of caves with...
Read more
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...
Read more
Dreamspeak:  Under the Override

Dreamspeak: Under the Override

There’s a great scene in Osmosis Jones, a semi-animated flick about the insides of zookeeper Frank Detomello’s (Bill Murray) body, when a serious virus hits “City of Frank.” Instead of going to see a doctor, he pops a flu pill saying, “Sick? I’m not getting sick! I have far too much planned.” Meanwhile, down in the ailing metropolis of Frank, the mayor (without due process) throws the Override Switch. It’s remarkable how many times in a single day we do the same. If we aren’t ignoring the messages from our bodies, we are behaving oppositely to our feelings, doing what’s expected, staying in the canoe when we’d rather bail, acting kindly when we’re mad as hell, or putting on a happy face to mask the miserable. Now, at first glance, overriding may not seem problematic.After all, we have to behave in civilized society. We can’t just throw tantrums in the grocery aisles when we feel tired and fed up.But when you consider the cumulative effect of a society of overriders, the results are staggering. To understand what override looks like at the collective level, consider the sheer volume of people taking...
Read more

Dreamspeak: Dome Sweet Dome

Dear Readers; I write this week’s column on the first anniversary of my landing in the Kootenays, which also happens to be Rumi’s birthday. In honour of the community, love and astonishing beauty it has bestowed upon me, I’d like to share a chapter of my own dream journey which led me to Nelson, British Columbia. It all started three years ago when I agreed to marry myself. I had heard for years about the ‘alchemical marriage’ which was supposed to happen within when you’d done enough personal work, but I was impatient and wanted to speed the process along with ritual. Besides, we had so much in common. I arranged to spend a week in the gentle Kingston countryside with my painter friend Maureen. The day before leaving, I found my first dream clue; a gold ring lying on the pavement in Kensington Park, with my birthstone at the center. On the morning of the big day, I brewed a strong pot of coffee and sat on Maureen’s secluded deck, writing pages of vows to myself. It seemed like there would be no end to them until I realised they came down to a single promise. It was to always follow my heart. After the ceremony, Maureen and I walked out into the pink dusk along a gravel road and...
Read more

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...
Read more
Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

I was sixteen when Nelson Mandela was set free. He was interviewed upon his release by Oprah who asked him how, after 27 years of incarceration, he wasn’t angry. “My people need my leadership,” he replied, “there is no time for bitterness.” That was the beginning of the end of apartheid, and I loved him.  He was the noblest being I’d ever set eyes and ears on, down to the eloquent root of his soul, caring more for South Africa’s freedom than for his own protection. There is one thing all heroes and heroines have in common and it isn’t the vector of their mission, nor their courage or vision.  Even further beneath those things, is their willingness to die for what they believe in. To find something worth dying for is to be phenomenally engaged with living.  As Mandela put it, ‘to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.’ While you and I might not be called to the massive life Mandela was, we are each in our own way being asked to stand up for what we believe.  This isn’t necessarily about holding a moral standpoint, but living your truth outwardly into...
Read more
Dreamspeak: Digging New Grooves

Dreamspeak: Digging New Grooves

“Dear Toko-pa: I dream a beautiful, white horse is stuck in a cleft in a rock face. I and other people around me are sorry for the horse but apparently are doing nothing about it. A youngish man who looks very poor and unkempt, like a street person, rescues the horse by leading it out of its predicament, and everyone is gratified. Of the people standing there it is one of society’s so-called “rejects” that steps forward to save the animal. The stupid horse could have got himself out of trouble if it had simply ducked its head under the overhanging rock and walked forward! I am currently struggling with lack of money, an upcoming change in my job and a potential move, in addition to recent sad deaths and the resulting fallout among family members. Thanks for any insight you can offer – Patty.” Dear Patty; The mission of your dream is to get your horse unstuck and move forward. While the horse itself is intriguing with its storybook beauty, and his rescuer is unexpected, I am most curious about the overhanging rock which is keeping you stuck in the first place. It is a strange habit of humans to invent stories, but they seem to be how we integrate the...
Read more
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...
Read more
Dreamspeak:  Dream Yourself Awake

Dreamspeak: Dream Yourself Awake

More than six thousand years ago on the matriarchal island of Malta, a subterranean temple called The Hypogeum was built to house individual dreamers on vision quests. The Tibetan Buddhists call it Dream Yoga and practice it in preparation for dying consciously. They say that if you get really good at it, you can opt out of the cycle of samsara (karmic rebirth) at the time of your death. It is the ability to become awake within a dream, and know that you are dreaming. Though lucid dreaming has been practiced for thousands of years, science maintained it wasn’t possible until the 1980s, when psychophysiologist, Dr. Stephen LaBerge, proved to the scientific community that one could be awake and dreaming simultaneously. When you fall asleep, the brain generates inhibitors that render you physically paralyzed so you won’t ‘act out’ your dreams while sleeping. With the exception of some twitching in the fingers, the eyes are the only body part that still moves while you’re in REM sleep. Knowing this, LaBerge devised a simple but groundbreaking experiment. Wired with electrodes in a sleep lab, the dreamer could perform a set of prearranged eye movements to signal back to the lab...
Read more
Dreamspeak:  The Animal Heart

Dreamspeak: The Animal Heart

Behind logic, below reason, underneath the skin of objectivity, lives the animal heart.  She has lived longer than any of us can remember – it was from her belly that we were born.  Unsophisticated as we are, we forget and deny her, adding still to the platform of greed that we’ve built upon her grave.  But she is far from dead. She stays hidden not because she is timid, but because she is wise.  The world has become too dry a place, and she depends upon the flow of love to live.  One day, she will jump up and live again. When you dream of animals, you are touching your instinctual nature; the part of you that eats when you’re hungry, sleeps when you’re tired, fights back when you feel threatened, and walks away when enough is enough.  Your animal self can not be domesticated, and lives according to an ancient set of laws.  It doesn’t care about politics and politeness and never takes more than it needs.  Animals are your wisdom, your physical magnificence, and the unselfconscious power that makes you twice as tall.  The animal heart sees clearly what the intellect cannot, because it is pure instinct. In ancient mythology, it was always an animal that gave the hero a...
Read more