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Soul Retrieval and Remembering
Loss of vital essence, or soul, is a self-protective response to trauma. When the psyche feels it cannot survive a particular situation—whether abuse, addiction, or danger—part of us may split off, or dissociate. This loss creates damage to our spirit and our energy body.
When we are out of the traumatic situation or more able to cope, the lost parts may return on their own or with our conscious effort. When a loss of essence is so great that we feel “empty” or that “something is missing;” when we feel detached, as if life is passing us by; when we have chronic illness or grief; or when we have memory repression of events or entire periods of our lives, then we may need help in recovering our lost essence.
In the classic shamanic healing technique of soul retrieval, a shaman works with her helping spirits to track and return a person’s lost essence, bringing it back from the realms it has inhabited. The retrieval replaces what belongs in the person, the essence that “came into this life to have adventures, grow, and evolve.” (Ingerman)
Then begins a process of re-membering, a spiritual healing that results in regained wholeness. It is a journey of discovery, like learning a lover or long-lost friend, familiar and mysterious at once.
After a soul retrieval is performed, the remembering work done by the recipient is essential: to keep and root the soul parts; to learn what qualities have been returned with the essence; to discover how to use the new energy; and to release any attitudes that continue to block wholeness.
During soul remembering, we gain knowledge of our soul’s purpose in the world. The gifts, talents, and strengths that soul remembering brings offer us wonderful beauty, vitality, and awareness in our lives.
The recipient’s part in the process (both retrieval and remembering) is to have a clear intent and be ready to receive, welcome, and make friends with her returned essence(s). Follow-up remembering sessions help her embrace, make space for, and learn how to nurture her returned essence(s) using guided visualization, ceremony, and shamanic journeying.
I recommend that people follow their hearts and their intuition when choosing someone to do a retrieval for them. It is a deep and intimate process during which you need to feel totally safe. (see Resources.)
What to Expect
To give you an idea of what to expect, here is the general process I follow when someone inquires about having a soul retrieval. First, I make sure they have some background understanding, and feel comfortable with how I present things. We have a brief phone conversation about the feelings that make the person want a soul retrieval. I discourage any retelling of “story” and lots of details: this process is for returning to wholeness, not a time for rehashing the past; the recipient already knows the story and the practitioner does not need to know it.
Next we meet in person, so any questions can be addressed. I do a diagnostic journey asking three questions of my spirit helpers: Is this the right time for a soul retrieval? Am I the right person? Are there any “prescriptions” for this person before the retrieval? These “prescriptions” generally give the person a way to prepare emotionally and spiritually, metaphorical “homework” that gets them more ready for the retrieval itself.
When the recipient is ready, we do a soul retrieval. Then, in my practice, I ask recipients to complete six follow-up sessions with me: this work is crucial to people’s learning and embracing their returned essences. Shamanically, I support and facilitate each person’s discovery of the strengths and power returned to them with their essence. I also help them identify patterns and attitudes that might keep them from embracing their wholeness; we create ceremonies for releasing what stands in the way and transforming stuck energies.
This process is the one practiced in “core shamanism” (Foundation for Shamanic Studies/Michael Harner), and developed and written about by Sandra Ingerman. You can find other methodologies, of course, as all indigenous peoples have culture-specific ways of performing soul retrieval. Specifics may differ, and the intent is always the same: to help us return to the wholeness we are born with.
Ingerman, Sandra, Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self, HarperOne, 2006.
Ingerman, Sandra, Welcome Home: Following Your Soul's Journey Home, HarperOne, 1994.
Note: Several other articles posted on Shaman’s Portal give detailed accounts of retrievals.
About the author:
Meg Beeler, MAT, has been practicing shamanism and creating ceremony for 20 years. A heart-centered healer, her joy is in helping people discover their radiance, wisdom, and wholeness. Meg integrates Andean cosmology with and core shamanism, meditation, sound healing, feminist spirituality, and Medicine for the Earth in her experiential classes, public earth-honoring ceremonies, healing practice, and apprenticeship program. A naturalist and shamanic practitioner in Sonoma, near San Francisco, she has authored many articles on nature and spirit, including several on Andean cosmology. She is the founder of Earth Caretakers. Learn more by subscribing to her ezine, “Shifting Consciousness News,” at http://www.megbeeler.com