Soul retrieval is and has been a part of shamanic practice all over the world. Based upon a certain amount of reading, a lot of intuition, a few short teaching/learning sessions, and one awesomely powerful and complete soul retrieval experience of my own, I am gathering a sense of how this might fit into my life and the lives of others I know and work with.
After reading Sandra Ingerman's book, Welcome Home, I considered some of her thoughts about soul retrieval. I began thinking about a unusual feeling I had had for a couple of months--since before I left San Diego and my Significant Other in mid-December, and particularly since I had arrived on Kauai. In shamanic traditions all over the world, it has been held that when a person goes through a particularly traumatic event--an accident, a serious illness, the death of someone close, the loss of an important relationship, witnessing or being involved in an act of violence--the person can lose a part of his or her soul. It is as though, with a sense of dire emergency, the person sends a piece of him- or herself away, in an attempt to assure his or her survival. Although it might seem to be, this is not about the survival of the physical body. It is much more; it is an all-out effort to avoid the annihilation of the soul, and with it the end of that person's existence. After the event or trauma has passed, if there has been soul loss, the person is left with a sense that some part of him or her is missing or lost; sometimes he or she is barely able or unable to function.
Something rang a bell as I read more chapters of the book and I began piecing thoughts together. For sometime I had had a sense of being in an extremely altered state. I had heard myself mention it several times to people I'd been talking with. After coming to Kauai, some part of the feeling became even more acute. I felt very lost, at times seriously so. I definitely had a sense that a large chunk of some aspect of myself was unavailable to me and I did not have one clue about how to get it back or find it. I could not feel or sense what I was supposed to be doing--at that moment or on into the future. Phrases came to mind like, 'I can't get a grip on things,' or 'I can't get a handle on things.' I felt as though I could not find my way, and it was very frustrating and at times frightening. I remember telling my S.O. on a few occasions before I left that I really wasn't sure I could see any point or purpose in my finishing or living out the remainder of this particular life, which was exactly the way I felt at the time I said it.
The Hawaiian shamanism that I've been studying and training in over the past four years includes a soul retrieval ritual, and I began to sense that this ritual might be of great help to me. I decided to ask people I know here if they would be interested in helping me with this. Generally speaking, the person helping goes on a shamanic journey and retrieves the missing piece or pieces of the soul and then restores it in the person needing the help. Most of the people I talked to were busy with other things, but someone suggested that I talk to Serge Kahili King, the shaman who has taught most of the classes I've taken. Feeling a certain sense of urgency within, as though my situation might be approaching a critical point, I called him and, after discussing details of my symptomatic experience, he said that he would get together three days later and conduct the ritual with/for me. Arranging for help allowed me to relax just slightly, which was a great relief. It was frustrating for me to be on Kauai, knowing what I know about the healing properties of this island, and to feel so separate and isolated--from the island, from myself, from everything in some strange way.
I asked for dreams that would help me with the soul retrieval and two
nights before my appointment, I believe I had one. It included one aspect of
myself as a very new infant and another as a very tiny, perfectly formed, very
proud and well dressed young man. One woman friend who I had asked about doing
the soul retrieval with me seemed to indicate that she would help me if I
needed to do more work after the ritual; she was also in my dream with a lot
of complex equipment, which I took to indicate that she will be helping me at
some point in my process. As I have read and thought more about this issue, I
realized that there were several points when I probably had experienced soul
One more aspect of the issue is this. I have a sense that at whatever age or ages we are when we send a piece or pieces of ourselves away, some part of us remains at that age as we continue through our lives, until some healing takes place and the piece or pieces are restored. For instance, even though my children and I are all adults, when we were together recently and feeling stressed with each other in some small way, I could feel the six-year-old boy in my son and the ten-year-old girl in my daughter. As I thought about it later, I could also sense the nearly twelve-year-old in me and at moments even the helpless unwelcome fetus and infant. If I was not wanted by my true biological creator--my mother--then what possible right could I have to exist, except at her behest, except by pleasing her, and never, ever outshining her. What kind of messages did my children receive from me as they were growing up? Even though I put every effort I could into learning to be a very different person from the one my early life would have led me to be, they could not help but learn from what I did not say and what I did not do, as much as or more than from what I did say and did do, even beyond the example I attempted to provide for them.
I'm quite sure that each of the events I listed very likely involved some degree of soul loss on my part. Probably, after what seemed like coming so very close to putting a truly wonderful life together for myself with my S.O., and then having it come apart after putting so much love and energy into creating something there with him--and especially with all the changes I was put through the last month I was in the house, in terms of how soon I needed to leave--the piece of my soul lost this time was, in addition to all that had already been sent away, cumulatively enough to push me over the edge.
I am such an incredibly capable person and I have given so much of such high quality to so many people in so many situations, and I had felt that I was on the verge of creating a really good life for myself, whether our relationship ultimately lasted or not, and yet after all the emotional turmoil I went through the last few weeks I was in San Diego, there were moments when I thought about a future in which I would just find a very minimal, very low-stress job, rent a room somewhere, and just give up on completing my assignments for this life. I truly felt that I had had enough pain and anguish for several lifetimes, and if I couldn't get through some of this maze and get the pieces of my life put back together differently, then I simply would rather not take any more significant risks, thank you very much!
Now comes the good part. I have included as much background as I have in order to add perspective to my experience. The appointment with Serge began with a very brief discussion of many of the points I've mentioned above. I was asked why I wanted part or parts of myself back. I was asked why the part or parts would want to come back; what was different now; how is it that it would be safe to come back now, etc. I was asked to name qualities that seem to be lacking in my life; I spoke of creativity, strength, and a feeling of being connected within. Together we came up with the term 'creative self' as the name of the part that would be sought for during the ritual.
I was asked to close my eyes and was taken through a breathing meditation to a very still place. The journey was recounted as it transpired. My shaman friend took his owl form and then called upon his owl aumakua to assist him. When his aumakua arrived, they set off over the hills and valleys and up into the mountains of an island. At one point they flew through a fog dark as night. They continued flying upward until they eventually were above the clouds. Off in the distance rose two razor-sharp peaks with a small valley between them. As they approached the valley, a small village could be seen. Most of the roofs of the buildings were nearly flat and were some soft shade of orange. The aumakua indicated that a particular doorway be entered. Inside was a large room with a young man of about sixteen, dressed in a robe of mostly orange with a bit of green and red; he was working very intently on a sculpture, with his back to the door. The owl assumed his human form and sent out a tendril of energy to announce his presence. The young man understood that someone had come in, yet he continued to work until he was was ready to stop. He then turned with a slight smile--neither happy nor sad. The shaman explained his mission and the reason for his journey. He told the young man what he felt to be the good reasons he might want to consider coming back with him--the things that had changed in my life, ways he would be safer now, and advantages to living a more complete life. He mentioned the young manšs energy of creativity, combined with my energy of direction, resulting in directed creativity and creative direction. Afterward, the young man turned back to his work table and began putting his tools into a black wooden box; when they were all put away, he tied the box with a red cloth and slipped it into a slit in the side of his robe. He then indicated that he was ready to leave. For safekeeping, the shaman proceeded to place the young man inside the stone ball he had brought along with him. He then took his owl form once again, left the room and flew away from the village and down the mountain peaks, retracing the first half of the journey, eventually touching down at an inner place called Bali Hai. The shaman took human form once more and then returned to the room. He gathered the missing part from inside the stone ball and placed it inside me at my navel, sealing the event with a circular motion of his hand.
At the end of this time, my eyes were still closed and there were tears on my cheeks. I opened my eyes and looked around me. There was a noticeable difference in the way I perceived the light around me. I had a feeling not only of seeing differently, but of literally looking through different eyes. I asked if there were any assignments given to follow up something of this nature and was told two things--remember and nurture. Any changes can only take hold in a person's life as they are nurtured over time and allowed to replace old neurological habit patterns. As I was driving back from my shaman friend's house, I noticed the rolling terrain alongside the road. It seemed so different and yet it took me a moment to be able to put words to my experience. Suddenly I realized that I could actually feel what I was looking at. I looked intently at the large trees I was driving by and the same thing was happening. I pulled over to the side of the road to watch the last rays of light strike nearby clouds and I could feel the color of the golden yellow of the underside and the deep blue-violet of the upper edges. I was entranced and delighted.
Before I went to bed I put together a "magnetic poem" from a kit of words on magnetic strips.
sweet sad smiles are all gone
When I wakened I looked out at the mango tree just outside my bedroom balcony. As I noticed the colors, the textures, the shape of the trunk and branches, once again I could feel what I was seeing. It's as though I can feel what it's like for aspects of that tree to be that tree, and if I shift my attention slightly I can feel myself as that tree. Both experiences are available to me just by paying a particular quality of attention to what I'm seeing. That night I used a drum to do a bit of journeying and was given the words to a chant--"I am now whole and my faith is restored." The next night I used a rattle to journey to the lower world where I met the same white Siberian tiger I had seen the night before. This time I was suddenly looking at its shoulder up very close and once again I could feel what I was seeing. When I look at my friend's cat, it seems that I can sense what it's like for the cat to be the way it is--for the fur itself to be the color it is, for the muscles to be curved and shaped they way they are, for the eyes to be the color, size, and shape they are, and so on--and this experience seems to just drape over me like a piece of sheer silk, very subtle and very beautiful.
Tonight I was listening to the radio while I was washing dishes and I wondered if I would be able to hear/feel the music, similar to the way I could see/feel things around me. I began tuning in to the music more closely and, sure enough, I felt the music literally in and around my body. I have been a student of dance and movement meditation for over twenty-five years and have had some very profound experiences of movement and sound, yet this was new and more detailed than anything I've ever known. When I turn my attention to the music and just move slightly, I can hear/feel each different instrument, each different voice, each note, each beat--in me and/or around me, moving through me and with me somehow, as though each separate minute aspect of the experience is a very dear and very close friend.
The night after I finished my first draft of this, I went upstairs and took a hot bath. As I was about to go to bed, I realized that I needed a glass of water and went down to the refrigerator to get some. As I walked back past the bay window, I noticed that the mama-san chairs next to the window were absolutely bathed in moonlight. I decided to spend some time exploring this light. I sat down and lay back. The experience was surprising and beautiful. I felt as though I could see pieces of moonlight in the air as I looked up at the moon. I could feel the moonlight touch my skin and I could touch the moonlight on my moonlit skin. It involved a very subtle physical sensation, as well as an emotional one. I began to sing, which I have not felt like doing for quite awhile now. I sang 'Moonlight Becomes You,' and two other romantic songs. It was a very lovely and loving exchange between the moon and me.
I'm finishing this two nights later, after a wonderful experience on a meditative journey. I traveled to the lowerworld and met my white tiger power animal. I ask him is he would take me to a teacher. He took me upon his back, through woods and up into very high mountains, possibly the Himalayas. We came to an isolated place with a very beautiful small temple, inhabited by one being. As I walked inside, I was struck by the simplicity and the beauty of the huge room, lit only by the sun shining through the most exquisite colors of stained glass. It was literally breathtaking. The man I had been brought to meet with invited me to sit or lay down, however I would be most comfortable. At first I felt that I should sit so that I could pay attention to his words better. I was waiting for him to speak when I began to feel tremendous energy moving in me. I realized I was receiving a direct transmission from this being and laid down in order to take it in as completely as possible. The feeling was one of an incredible golden and loving light. It fairly sparkled inside me. After a time, I could discern it gradually subsiding. Eventually, I sat up and then stood. The teacher walked me to the door, hugged me very warmly, and waved as I returned to my power animal. I was brought back to the starting point of my journey and then came back into the room.
I have spent a certain amount of time in the presence of what I consider to be sacred--psychedelic--plant teacher-beings. What I am experiencing in the few days since this soul retrieval ritual is in a completely different category. It is much more grounded and feels much more complete, without fragmentation. My awareness of layers upon layers of detail all at the same moment, when I choose to pay attention in this manner, is without precedent in my life. Everything is truly alive and literally waiting to share itself with me. The price of admission to this absolutely beautiful experiential world is simply to turn my attention to something and pause, allowing it to reveal itself and its gifts to me.
I can't say right now what all of these experiences mean or portend, but I'm fairly certain that I have been a person capable of tuning in to these possibilities all of my life. The fact that I felt I needed to send parts of myself away left me diminished to a marked degree, particularly in terms of inner strength and knowing myself. This then left me weakened in certain areas related to the traumas contained within the events themselves; I had great difficulty in learning ways of dealing with the parts of life that seemed to come at me, very often out of the blue.
My S.O. once told me about feeling extremely sensitive in many ways as a child. I remember he said that once, when he heard a particular piece of music, he experienced it so powerfully that he felt that if he did not do something to temper the effect, that he might actually die. When I go over in my mind some of the experiences I've had this week, and realize how sensitive I must have been as a very young child, I begin to understand how it was that I sent pieces of myself away, sadly time after time, until I was left literally as a hollow shell of the person I started out become. I also understand my S.O. as I never could have before.
From my perspective at this moment, I cannot imagine ever feeling anything but love for my S.O.. I will love him every moment for the rest of my life and beyond. I bless him for the absolutely integral part he has played in my coming to this place in my life. All of the love and all of the learning I have experienced and continue to experience with him are vitally important in the process of me becoming who I am meant to be.
I want to study and learn more about soul retrieval, until I feel confident to use it in my own work. I believe it to be of great potential value and I will appreciate the opportunity to share the joy. Isnšt it wonderful that shamanism still lives on after all these centuries? Amama!
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Copyright by Aloha International 1998