Dreaming Ourselves Home

By Toko-pa Turner

Unlike the many shamanic cultures that practice dreamwork, ritual, and thanksgiving, Westerners have forgotten what Indigenous people understand to be cardinal: that this world owes its life to the unseen. Every hunt and every harvest, every death and every birth is distinguished by beauty-making and ceremony for that which we cannot see, feeding back that which feeds us. I believe our epidemic of alienation is the felt negligence of that reciprocity.

Although every culture has its own mythologies, the animistic way of seeing the world is to know that spirit lives in everything. Not just the human people, but the people with four legs, the tall standing ones, the far-seeing feathered ones, the strong and silent cliff people, those sleeping mountain dreamers, and the always-up-for-a-conversation river people. Sometimes you can even catch spirit in the curve of a ceramic cup.

While animistic cultures live in a reciprocity with what author and Mayan shaman Martín Prechtel calls the “holy in nature,” we have become a culture infatuated with literality and rationalism. Divorced from myth and the symbolic life, our personal stories cease to have meaning in a larger collective momentum. Also atrophying in this separation is our ability to imagine, wonder, and envision a way forward.

But each of us has a private gateway back into kinship with mystery — through our dreaming life. The practice of dreamwork is a powerful way of weaving back into intimate relationship with what the Sufis call the Beloved: that divine coherence from which all beings originate. As we remember it, it remembers us. Like a living bridge between two riverbanks, our conversation is the practice of belonging together.

The way that I understand it, dreaming is nature naturing through us. Just as a tree bears fruit or a plant expresses itself in flowers, dreams are fruiting from us. The production of symbols and story is a biological necessity. Without dreams, we could not survive. And though it is possible to get by without remembering our dreams, a life guided and shaped by dreaming is a life that follows the innate knowing of the earth itself.

As we come to understand the symmetry between the outer landscape and the inner wilderness, we can’t help but grieve the ways in which our own nature has been tampered with, denigrated, broken into obedience, and in many cases eradicated from memory. We begin to face the ways in which we are complicit in this slow apocalypse, within and without. Only from such a place of loss and longing can we begin remembering ourselves home.

This book is an attempt to exalt what I understand to be the broader definition of dreamwork: the practice of weaving a living bridge between the seen and the unseen, an endeavour that can only be made with patience, an aptitude for grief, and a willingness to assume a stake in the way things turn out, even if we won’t live to see the benefits. This is the practice of belonging.


This article is an excerpt from the book, Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home by Toko-pa Turner. Click here to watch the book trailer and order your copy.

Toko-pa Turner is an award-winning author, teacher, and dreamworker. Blending the mystical tradition of Sufism in which she was raised with a Jungian approach to dreamwork, she founded the Dream School in 2001 from which hundreds of students have since graduated.

As an authority on dreams, Toko-pa has been interviewed by CNN News and BBC Radio. Her bestselling book, Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home, explores the themes of exile and the search for belonging. It was awarded the prestigious 2017 Gold Nautilus Award for its contribution to the field of Personal Growth.

Sometimes called a “midwife of the psyche,” Toko-pa’s work focuses on restoring the feminine, reconciling paradox, and facilitating grief and ritual practice.


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This article appears in: 2018 Catalyst, Issue 22: Dreamwork Summit