Toko-pa Turner is an authority on dreams and dreamwork. I asked her to do an interview after watching her video tips on recalling dreams, in which she suggests, ‘Treat your dreams like lovers…’ I really liked that idea!
While I was pondering what I might ask her, I dreamt that she and I were in my living-room, with lots of people milling around at some kind of get-together; we were looking after someone’s baby, passing it between us in a delightful way, just like this process of question-and-answer.
Could you tell us a bit about your own personal journey in dreams, Toko-pa?
I grew up in a unique way, raised as a Sufi in a downtown Montreal commune. We lived in a giant but humble tenement with 18 rooms and 9 cats. We ate vegetarian meals, practised yoga, meditation, did Sufi dancing and chanted zikr. As you can imagine, our bookshelves were crowded with poetry by Rumi and Tagore, herbal dictionaries, tomes on Tantra, crystals, Dreaming and endless manuals for spiritual enlightenment.
By the time I was 9 or 10, I was reading Carlos Casteneda and having out-of-body experiences. I remember being fixated with dreams – not just their significance, but that they emanated from a world beyond this world, from which beauty, monstrosity and intelligence were endlessly flowing.
When I was about 10, I was reading Journeys out of the Body by Robert Monroe and, while meditating with a quartz crystal, had my first astral projection. In the vision, I was shown an infinite hallway of doors, each marked with a different discipline or area of knowledge. I chose one at random and entered into a classroom where a teacher was waiting for me. He handed me a giant, ancient-looking book, not to read but to… download.
Metabolising the entirity of that teaching in a matter of seconds changed my life. While I have many times strayed off the Dreaming path, I have never forgotten that within each of us is a vast Innernet which contains the entire appendix of our experience as a species – maybe even our memories of the future.
What is the value of dream-recalling as part of everyday life?
In the Talmud, it is said that an uninterpreted dream is like a letter left unread. Dreams show us with staggering clarity and genius what we most need to bring to consciousness. They guide us to not only make excellent decisions in daily life but, like an acorn to the oak tree, they prompt us in the overall direction of our soul’s purpose.
When we are in alignment with our purpose, we are also making the greatest possible contribution to our tribe. Marion Woodman, a marvellous Jungian writer, teaches that the greatest tragedy we face as a culture is the loss of the symbolic life. So you see, each of us is grieving our own piece of that loss, whether we are aware of it or not.
As you forge a relationship with your dreams, that profound loneliness begins to dissipate, and you find your place in the ‘family of things.’ As a side-benefit, you’ll find synchronicity, love and other miracles start to line up to meet you.
I like your gentle approach to dreamwork – could you tell us a bit about your work with clients?
Well, it’s just about my favourite thing in the world. There’s nothing more intimate, fulfilling and magical that ‘touching souls’ with another being. 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. And while it is certainly possible to survive in this way, underneath the daily armour is an unabating hunger to be seen.
To connect, being-to-being, with that thing which is tired of fitting in, which wants to feel alive, which has something authentic to offer. Giving a proper Hello is to hold a subtle, unwavering presence for that thing to feel safe enough to emerge. Dreamwork is all about nurturing trust, not just between the Dreamer and Dreamworker, but between the Dreamer and his/her own soul.
Is all dream material related to the dreamer’s day-life, or are there different kinds of dreams?
While most dreams are responding to the events of our daily lives, occasionally one lucks out and gets a Big Dream. It has a tonal difference to it and feels more like an experience than a narrative. It is more vivid and sensual, and the characters & environments seem to exist independently of our being there. It’s as if these dreams are having us, instead of the other way around. Often in dreams like these, we receive transmissions or guidance which stays with us for a long time.
There are more kinds of dreams than I could ever cover in this interview, and likely more than I could even learn about. There are precognitive & premonitory dreams, creative dreams, visionary dreams, past-life dreams, healing & initiation dreams, recurring dreams, lucid dreams, telepathic dreams and many more.
But perhaps its most important to mention nightmares, because they are the reason most people choose not to remember their dreams. One of the most powerful things I get to witness in my work, is the moment when people realise that their nightmares are there to help them. Some spend a lifetime hiding shame and fear of their own dreams, believing they are broken or abnormal. But the truth is, nightmares are just dreams that have turned up their volume, trying devotedly to get our attention about something that is ready to be healed.
This blog is about using dreams as a creative resource. As an artist, writer and musician, how does your dreamlife feed your creativity?
Infinitely! As a songwriter and writer, I constantly use the symbols from my dreams to set the mood of a piece, or to convey a poetic paradox. For instance, I have a song called Medicine Music, whose chorus, “the poison is the medicine” came from a dream in which spiders were covering my arms and biting me. I was paralysed with fear but when the poison sunk into my bloodstream, I became filled with light and strength. This dream taught me that if I lean into those painful and scary places, they will no longer paralyse me, but become the source of my power.
What is your favourite book about dreams?
I love The Way of the Dream by Marie Louise von Franz, which is just a short transcript of an extraordinary ten hour film interview that von Franz did with fellow Jungian Fraser Boa. She has such a great mind and it is never at the expense of her feeling, so she simultaneously satisfies my inner mystic and nerd.
I always enjoy the quotations you post on your facebook page. Would you like to finish this interview with a quotation here?
From Marc Ian Barasch’s Healing Dreams: “Dreams uphold the soul’s values. They tell us that we — our ego selves — are not who we think we are. They encourage us to live truthfully, right now and always. Of course these messages might not be what we want to hear. Sometimes dreams may advocate for life changes that are challenging, to say the least. Dreams really have no time for niceties or for the stories we tell ourselves about who we are. In dreams our narrow selfhood is expanded — the dreams will not allow us to be so small.”
Toko-pa has a beautiful blog http://www.toko-pa.com and facebook page https://www.facebook.com/DreamworkWithTokopa
You can read another beautiful interview with Toko-pa here.
19 thoughts on “‘Treat your dreams like lovers’ – talking to Toko-pa”
How marvellous and inspiring to read Toko-Pa’s words. Over the years I have had a recurring dream about my house burning, kind of smouldering in places, and of my confusion because nobody else seems to be worried about it although they are living in the house. I believe like Toko- Pa that interpretation helps us to progress our lives, not forced interpretation, and not for other people’s dreams. I feel that dreams of the house represent dreams about ourselves or our bodies and suddenly after many years I realised that the fire in my case is the Kundalini energy which is firing away sometimes in surprising and very ‘electrical’ ways. It was a great relief to have this realisation, because on the face of it fire can seem like a real threat.
I love your blog Jenny – always interesting and thought provoking. Thank you!
Thank you so much, Tessa 🙂 I don’t go into interpretation here, because it’s not what I do in creative workshops, though of course it can be a very fruitful aspect of dream-awareness. I so agree that we can’t do it for other people, which is why I really enjoy Toko-pa’s very gentle, non directive and non-invasive attitude to dreamwork
Thank you for this wonderful interview, Jenny! I love your questions and can feel our gentle symbiosis living just underneath them xoxox
I feel that too. I think you find a gentle symbiosis ‘living just underneath’ whenever you connect with other people in a truly open way about dreams. The loss of the dreamworld is a real loss of community – that’s why I love to engage with other people about it here. Thank you for talking to us, Toko – you are always thoughtful, and you express your thoughts so beautifully xxx
Isn’t it amazing how sometimes our dreams unpack themselves so many years after they first appear? It is humbling and somehow comforting to feel that intricate intelligence overseeing things.
What an amazing interview Jenny! Toka-pa, your thoughts and insights are truly inspiring. Some of the things you said rang so true with me, especially as someone who has dreamt vividly since childhood. The idea of not being afraid of nightmares – of learning from them, as if we are pushing through our fears, really rang a chord with me. Absolutely fascinating! I will now be following your blog Toka-pa. Am dying to read / hear more!
Wonderful to feel your enthusiasm, Abi! I look forward to connecting with you more!
I’m glad you enjoyed it, Abi – I strongly recommend Toko-pa’s fb page for inspirational and thought provoking brief updates. Her ‘poison is the medicine’ dream reminded me strongly of a dream I had years ago in which I was bitten by a poisonous snake – it was a moment of pure paralysing terror, but as the poison moved through my body it flowed in different colours, each one delivering a burst of pure energy and power. As she suggests, you never forget such dreams – they light and inform your life
How wonderful Jenny! The closest I had to that was a few weeks ago, dreaming that a female blackbird was pecking at my shoulder. It was pain free and felt very graceful and calm – quite lovely actually!
That sounds like a lovely dream! If I dream about birds there’s always a slightly magical feeling about it. I love the way these vivid dream experiences remain with us, like waking-life experience, creating a rich kaleidoscope of memories
Dear one – I see that you’ve misspelled my URL – it should be http://www.toko-pa.com 🙂
(the link is working nonetheless!)
Oops! I’ve changed it now, and it still seems to work! 🙂
Thanks for this brilliant interview with Toko-Pa Jenny. It is so inspiring and now our dream workshops have finished it is the encouragement I need to continue recording and watching my dreams. I have read some of Toko-Pa’s blogs and am impressed that one so young can be so insightful – a truly amazing person. My spirit has just soared reading this – thanks xx
What a gorgeous comment, Pat! Thank you for sharing a bit of your heart with us. I hope you’ll stay in touch with me!
Hi Pat – I completely love that your spirit soared – what a wonderful thing! And I’m delighted that this interview has come along just when we finished the workshops, and encouraged you to continue to nurture your connection with your dreams xx
Thanks for posting this Jen- I hadnt seen it before- and am thrilled I now have. I am struck by how closely Toko Pa’s beliefs fit with nurturing our inner child – something I feel has been hugely significant for me, especially as a pathway to my own creativity. Also- she talks of unpacking dreams years later- that has really got me thinking about some recurrent nightmares from my childhood in a completely different and not scary way. Once more the word ‘trust’ comes to mind!! Hurrah!
Mel – how wonderful! Toko-pa has a fab fb page you might like to follow – she’s such an eloquent, gentle, thoughtful person https://www.facebook.com/jennyalexander4#!/DreamworkWithTokopa