Healing Teachings, Ceremonies, and Techniques
Across shamanic traditions soul loss--the wounding or fragmentation of a person’s soul as a result of trauma, abuse, war, conflicts, and so on, especially as suffered at an early age--is seen as a leading cause of illnesses, immune-system deficiencies, and all-around dysfunction of physical, emotional, and mental well-being. If not treated, soul loss can result in permanency of these conditions, avoidance of life opportunities, and a repeating of negative life patterns.
What is a soul? No one can tell you for sure. But we think of soul as the energetic essence that makes you uniquely you. You might think of soul healing as trying to find and fit lost pieces of a thousand piece puzzle together to discover the complete, whole, beautiful picture. There is nothing more satisfying than that.
How can you tell if you have suffered a soul loss? You may feel detached, empty, devoid of purpose, unable to concentrate and aimless in life. Some people experience deep depression and suicidal thoughts. Many simply suffer memory loss of crucial years from early childhood. Some say that their hearts are closed and they can’t feel love. One of my clients once said, “I feel as if there is a hole in my heart.”
Usually the symptoms are the result of unconscious impulses to deaden one’s feelings to avoid the unbearable pain of a trauma and still be able to carry on with life’s challenges. It is nature’s sensible survival strategy for the psyche. But it takes its toll on our liveliness and health.
There are many shamanic approaches to healing soul loss. The most well-known is journeying into the spirit world with the help of a spirit guide to witness the trauma, track the lost soul part, communicate and convince it to return, and retrieve and reintegrate it back into the energy body to return to wholeness. Each culture (or individual shaman) finds its own unique way to perform soul retrieval, and no one way is better than another. Some societies perform a special healing ceremony during certain times of the day, such as at noontime or midnight, when they believe the cosmic portals are open. Sometimes soul retrieval can be experienced spontaneously, with or without the direct help of a shaman. Spontaneous retrieval sometimes happens during cleansing ceremonies. It can also happen in the midst of a remarkable landscape, such as on a mountaintop, or when experiencing art as the detached soul part feels safe enough to reconnect and be seen.
In the aftermath of a successful soul retrieval ceremony, people feel more grounded, full, happy, content, and courageous, ready to pursue their lives. As one of my clients said, “I experienced a second, joyful childhood. One that I was never able to know before. I finally found the child who is loved.”
To fully benefit from soul retrieval work, you must a go through a conscious process of integration to unify that lost part of the soul with your whole being. This can be achieved through additional shamanic journeys to meet and welcome back your soul part as well as to conceive specific ways to heal old wounds. It also helps to be aware and acknowledge the changes that happen in your life in the aftermath of a soul retrieval. It can be helpful to have a supportive group of people who can be with you as those changes happen and to consult with a shaman about how to make true physical changes in your everyday life that will reflect and honor your newly recovered soul part.
I received the e-mail below from a client beautifully describing her soul retrieval experience.
“ . . .I was amazed that you saw in the candle’s flame a deep trauma from around the time I was three years old. At first I could not remember it. Then it hit me.
“I was only three years old when my parents came to the United States from Israel. My mother was depressed and realized she needed help. She checked herself into a hospital and put my sister and me in an orphanage. I felt abandoned and alone. I told you I felt that I left a part of me at the orphanage when I left. I have always felt like a part of me was missing but couldn’t figure out how to become whole again.
“You had me close my eyes, and you led me to meet myself as that little girl in the orphanage. It was very sad as I remembered many of the details. By the end I adopted my little girl self and promised to love and protect her.
“Then we did another exercise that brought me to when I was around five years old. I introduced the three-year-old orphan me to the five-year-old me. We hugged, kissed, and cried. You asked five-yearold me if I wanted to leave the orphanage with her, and I said yes. We held hands and walked to a park where we played. We were very happy and carefree. From the park, the two of us traveled through the years until the present, where I put both these little girls in my heart and we hugged and cried. We became one, a whole person.
“I told you I was never able to have a regular childhood. Before I left your office, you asked me to buy a small doll that looked like me as a child, carry it with me for two weeks, and do all the things that I missed out on doing as a child. ‘Take the doll everywhere,’ you said. At first it felt strange, but in a good way. By the end of the two weeks, I noticed a big change in myself. I was happy and at peace. It was fun. Even my husband went along with it and enjoyed having ‘little me’ with us. He understood this was something I needed to do.”