Soul Retrieval

September 26, 2013 § 20 Comments

By Tai Carmen

site credit: www.moonshaman.wordpress.com/2013/02/06/soul-retrieval/

“Why do we describe a distraught person as being ‘beside himself’? Because the ancients believed that soul and body could part, and that under great emotional stress the soul would actually leave the body. When this happened a person was ‘beside himself.'” ~ Dictionary of Word Origins

“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” ~ Jesus (Matthew 16:26)

Part I

Our language is rife with references to what has traditionally been described by shamanic cultures as ‘soul loss’ — “Nobody’s home,” we might say of an empty-eyed co-worker. Or, in a funk ourselves: “I feel like a part of me is missing.” Popular songs site it casually — I don’t know where my soul is / I don’t know where my home is (Nelly Furtado, “I’m Like A Bird”).

Yet, these expressions are so common, we often use them as descriptors without fully investigating their implication.

site credit: www.forums.popphoto.com/showthread.php?216626-Non-Traditional-Self-Portrait-Need-advice-please

“Many of us today don’t feel totally whole, don’t feel as if we are all here,” relates Sandra Ingerman in her book Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self. 

“Few of us live as fully as we could. When we become aware of this, we want to recover the intensity of life, and the intimacy, that we once enjoyed…We want to come home more fully to ourselves and to the people we love.”

Sistine Chapel detail (Creation) by Michelangelo

Many turn to the shamanic arts for language and methodology which address our collective angst with a soulfulness lacking in modern lexicon.

“The re-emergence in the late twentieth century of shamanism — with its lively and concrete notion of soul — seems to be a response to a very depressing cultural reality,” notes Jungian analyst John Ryan Haule. “In the past six or seven hundred years we have undergone a consciousness-shift of 180 degrees. Formerly soul was our primary reality. Now we have only a body and a rational ego.

“The material conditions of our lives have improved immeasurably, but we’ve lost the imaginal and transcendent scope that belongs to the reality of soul. In a situation like this, it is often the depressives among us who are the most realistic regarding the impoverishment of our human existence.” (“Depression & Soul-Loss.”)

masks, site credit: http://www.catastrofe.it/teorie-e-possibili-scenari-sul-2012/36-scenari-possibili-2012.html

According to modern writers on the ancient subject, soul loss accounts for depression, anxiety, a sense of alienation, incompleteness and disconnection, a feeling of being “spaced out,” or “sleepwalking” through life.  Extreme cases include coma, psychosis, fugue states and dissociative identity disorders. 

Interestingly, the concept that a vital aspect of the self flees or retreats during experiences of extreme pain or disturbance is an idea shared by shamanism and psychotherapy alike. Psychotherapy calls it “disassociation,” shamanism calls it “soul loss.” The purpose in both cases is self-protection.

credit unknown

Modern shamanic healers explain that we all lose bits and pieces of our soul, or vital essence, as we go through life.

The cause doesn’t have to be something as monumental as an accident or as extreme as abuse. It can be as simple as a small child’s sensitivity to their parents’ psychic tension or continued arguing. Little by little, parts of ourselves withdraw and become seemingly lost to us.

site credit: www.trendhunter.com/trends/alex-stoddard

Rejected elements of the personality are banished from conscious awareness — Jung’s concept of the psyche’s “Shadow” aspect. This is done unconsciously, to ease the cognitive dissonance of harboring seemingly conflicting or ambiguous feelings; what modern psychology calls “compartmentalization” and repression. 

Denied aspects — such as repressed sadness, anger, inner child or libidinous impulses — are effectively exiled. But they do not disappear. They continue to exist “underground,” as it were, in the subterranean caves of the psyche, causing emotional alienation, discomfort and disconnection from self.

The good news is that excavation of these buried aspects — and a renewal of their accompanying vital forces  — is always possible, and the focus of psychotherapy and shamanic healing alike.

site credit: www.lendricklodge.com/shamanism/soul-retrieval-by-sandra-ingerman/

“An aspect of the infinite soul fleeing under duress is a state everyone has at some point experienced, regardless of terminology or ideology applied,” comments Kelley Harrell in her Huffington Post article, “The New Treatise on Soul Retrieval.”

The most common approach of neo-shamans is to echo the ancient model of shaman-as-guide in the netherworlds of psyche/non-ordinary reality. As pioneering anthropologist Mircea Eliade wrote in his now classic text “Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy”:

“Only the shaman can undertake a cure of this kind. For only he ‘sees’ the spirits and knows how to exorcise them; only he recognizes that the soul has fled, and is able to overtake it, in ecstasy, and return it to its body….Everything that concerns the soul and its adventure, here on earth and in the beyond, is the exclusive province of the shaman.”

soul-retrieval-leslie-macon

However! A fascinating synthesis between psychotherapy and shamanic soul retrieval has been in the works over the past several decades. A growing number of healers are shifting the agency from themselves to their patients.

Practicing psychotherapist & shamanic healer Selena Whittle attributes the modernized soul retrieval method to her mentor Ross Bishop. Upon his return from studying with teachers in India, Australia, and South America, Bishop transformed the Soul Retrieval process into a method that could be embraced by the Western mind and heart by making a simple shift in the roles of Shaman and the healing recipient.

“In this contemporary method of Soul Retrieval,” relates Whittle, “the essential elements of the process are the same.  There is a shamanic journey into the inner world where the wounded part of the self is identified, healed and brought back; however, the client does the work and is guided by the Shaman. The client takes the shamanic journey. The client identifies the part of the self that is wounded. The client builds a relationship with that part of the self, heals it, then brings it back for integration.

The Child's Bath, 1893,  by Mary Cassatt, http://missrobinsartclass.blogspot.com/2010_10_01_archive.html

“The Shaman guides the client every step of the way, helping the client navigate the internal world of the psyche, guiding the client in the potent words or actions that are needed to build the relationship with the fragmented aspect of the self, to heal it and to bring it back. The shamanic journey becomes a shared experience, the Soul Retrieval a shared healing intervention.”

Ross Bishop’s “Healing the Shadow” details the process. Both Selena Whittle and Ross Bishop offer in-person and phone-based sessions.

But let me initiate you right here and now into a simple yet profound method, which you can practice in the comfort of your home.

Part II

1. Create your inner sanctum. 

Visualize anything from an ornate temple to a simple spot by a running brook. The important part is that the setting has identifiable features, which can be recreated, and that the space makes you feel empowered, centered, safe and calm. Mentally construct as many details — sights, sounds and smells — as possible. Lie back, get comfortable and spend some time really making your inner sanctuary come to life behind closed eyes. (*The bath, with some low light, candles, calming scents and salts, is an excellent place to do soul work.)

"Moontemple" by Gilbert Williams

2. Call in the missing soul part.

Decide which aspect you are going to reach out to before settling in by first looking at the problem areas in your life. For example, if you are having issues with anxiety, call in “the one who feels anxious.” If you are dealing with addiction, call in “the one who is addicted.”

If you are a visual person, the rejected aspect will likely take form in your mind’s eye.  If you are not, you may simply get a feeling or “thought package” of insight — though visualization is encouraged with this particular method.

3. Reach out, reassure, & connect.

Remember, these inner aspects are in hiding because they have been wounded, ridiculed, banished, frightened. They are like scared children — who have not developed beyond the age at which they fled — and must be reached out to accordingly. So it’s important to access & project a sense of deep compassion towards them if you’re to inspire their trust.

site credit: www. http://lightworkers.org/blog/46639/recovery-codependency-inner-child-healing

Tell them you wish to discuss their unmet needs.

These rejected aspects, which you may have deemed bad, difficult, or unacceptable, actually have legitimate needs, which — as they are not being met by you, their guardian — are being substituted with unhealthy behavior. The coping mechanism employed by the exiled aspect, however far from your ideal, is truly its best effort with the tools at hand.

As Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran said: “when good is hungry it seeks food even in dark caves, and when it thirsts it drinks even of dead waters.” (“On Good and Evil.”)

Explain mentally to your exiled aspect that you are here to increase communication between their awareness and your conscious personality. Remind them you both have the same goal of wellbeing and wholeness, because ultimately, you are one being. Any sense of isolation and disconnection has been a fear-driven illusion based on pain and misunderstanding. Now you are calling home your missing parts. If they have felt unloved, give them the love they crave. You have all the power. Use it.

site credit:  www.crystalitas.com/30_events_25_inner_child_guided_meditation.html 4. Test for authenticity.

These injured aspects have a long history of feeling unsafe in the presence of the too often accusatory and judgmental conscious mind. As a result, they will often cloak themselves in guarded energy, which can have a menacing impression. This is not the true aspect, but a self-protective mask.

Like any vulnerable creature attempting to seem stronger than it feels, this protective presentation may take the form of something frightening. Practitioners refer to this as “entity” presence, which denotes fear-based energy that isn’t yours but is being used by the wounded inner aspect like armor.

This same goal can be achieved by the inner aspect through opposite means, by presenting an overly “goody-two-shoes” image (“See? I’m perfectly fine. Not hurt at all.”)

site credit: http://vi.sualize.us/holidays_black_and_white_emotion_child_mask_picture_ekC2.html

So it is necessary to gently test and question the initial appearance of the invited aspect by asking if it is an entity. In your sacred space the aspect can not lie. Even if it says “No” with its mouth, it’s shape may shift or the eyes may flicker, telling a different story and betraying its true nature.

It should be noted that simply because an image is disturbing does not automatically make it false “entity” energy. It can just as easily be the symbolic representation of the feeling-state of the soul part—it may feel, and thus present as, bruised, starved, beaten-up or neglected.

site credit: www.trendhunter.com/trends/alex-stoddard

Keep probing its authenticity gently until you feel it has lain down its defenses and actually offered its true, vulnerable self at which point reach out and initiate a compassionate dialogue. A good place to start is by asking how you can help.

If the answer is simple and true, you know it’s the soul part speaking. If the reply is too convoluted or complex, it’s an entity-energy defense, or your cerebral analysis kicking in; start over and await the answer without assumption, projecting compassion. 

5. Identify Source of Disconnection, Correct Misunderstanding

Once assured of the fragmented aspect’s authenticity, ask it to show you at what age it became separated. It may show you a particular scene or instance. Ask how this situation made the soul part feel. What was the message it received? Usually, something in the “Not good enough” category will surface. As with small children who blame themselves for their parents’ divorce or general unhappiness, the impression of unworthiness will invariably be based on a misinterpretation of events. With compassion, correct this misunderstanding. The fragmented aspect needs to hear it is worthy of love. Bring it home by embracing this exiled aspect of yourself; give it the love and acceptance it has been hereto denied.

6. Stay connected afterwards.

The goal is to continue the newly forged relationship beyond your inner journey into your everyday life, eventually forming a full integration between the formerly exiled piece and your conscious awareness. Check in with the newly rediscovered aspect throughout the days following your journey. How does he or she feel? Are you meeting the needs discussed with more awareness?

credit unknown

What makes this method different from, and often more effective than, regular “talk therapy” is the willingness to surrender conscious mind constructs to the wild and telling symbolism of the subconscious. In this way cerebral analysis is transcended and the beating heart of true experience touched.

What may read as hokey can be extremely powerful in a real-time, step by step process. After all, these are the parts of self from which we are always running, from whose pain we so often seek distraction. Giving them back their voice, and gracing their needs with our attention, can be a life-changing integration.

Ultimately, whether you regard this excercise as symbolic or literal doesn’t matter. As French poet Baudelaire said, this world is a “forest of symbols.”

site credit: www.trendhunter.com/trends/alex-stoddard

The inner fragmentation experienced by so many in this modern time mirrors the compartmentalization tendencies of society itself.

“The natural environment is treated as if it consisted of separate parts to be exploited by different interest groups. The fragmented view is further extended to society which is split into different nations, races, religious and political groups. The belief that all these fragments — in ourselves, in our environment and in our society — are really separate can be seen as the essential reason for the present series of social, ecological and cultural crisis.” ~ Fritjof Capra, (The Tao of Physics)

In a so-called civilized world, which so often dismisses the idea of soul and then complains of feeling empty, soul retrieval — reclaiming personal wholeness — is a heroic act.

site credit: www.junialeigh.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/

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§ 20 Responses to Soul Retrieval

  • Alan says:

    At last, a new Parallax!

    It might be interesting, at the end, to come back to the macro level and reflect on what civilization collectively needs to do to reclaim its soul and how that would make a difference in the world.

    Thanks for the post.

    • Tai Carmen says:

      Thank you so much, Alan!

      Yes! At last. I hope never to go that long again without a post. Extenuating circumstances. But…I’m back! :)

      I love your idea of bringing it back to the macro level and added a line on that subject at the end of the post. Let me know what you think.

      And thanks for the supportive feedback! Always meaningful.

      On on,

      TC

  • Karol says:

    Great piece, really enjoyed it. Good to ‘read’ you again too! Thanks for all the references to explore. My bestfriend told me, during lost and painful times to recite ‘all is well with my soul’ until you feel the peace come into you. Now I understand more why it works. You’re so good at weaving it all together! Keep on!

    • Tai Carmen says:

      Thank you so much, Karol. So glad you enjoyed the post!

      You have a great best friend to give such helpful and soulful advice during trying times. I do believe that while our mental-emotional landscape might twist and turn in the winds of the world’s storms, the deepest aspect of our soul is still and unmoved as the center of a lake. And in tuning into that deep, untouched wellness, we tune into the essence of who we truly are.

      On on!

      TC

  • jagoyoga says:

    Tai – thank you for this! Have you performed this guided visualization on others? I’m a yoga instructor and wondering if this would be a nice class while on retreat? LOVE your work. thank you.

    • Tai Carmen says:

      Thank you so much!

      I’ve been a recipient in a one-on-one session and the technique is quite powerful. I think it would be wonderfully suited for the situation you describe.

      Glad to hear you are finding useful nuggets on Parallax.

      On on!

      TC

    • Tai Carmen says:

      Please note! After consulting a friend of mine who does soul retrievals professionally I have added an extra step at her recommendation. :)

  • Kate says:

    Wonderfully written and inspiring, Tai! Thank you :)))

  • I have truly missed your posts, and I was ridiculously excited to see you had written another!

    I love the ideas you bring together in this piece (indeed, all your entries). More than anything, I want to give you positive feedback to let you know that your work is being read and bringing inspiration to others :-)

    I understand that life has plans for us that we don’t always understand, but I, for one, truly enjoy every article you produce, regardless of how long it takes!

    • Tai Carmen says:

      Brandon,

      I so appreciate your affirming feedback. Thank you for letting me know!

      It’s meaningful and inspiring for me to know the posts are reaching readers like yourself. :) Fuels me to keep creating them ~ which I do hope to do with more regularity, though I’m glad to hear they’re worth the wait. ;)

      On on!

      TC

  • Robert C says:

    Wonderful post—happy to have a new Parallax. You are a gifted healer and guide.

    • Tai Carmen says:

      Wow, Robert. It’s an honor to be considered such. Thank you.

      It’s tremendously uplifting for me to hear from readers such as yourself that my efforts have been helpful in that way. :)

      On on!

      TC

  • lauriesnotes says:

    Thank you for explaining this like you have. I have been doing this kind of work with some coaching and it is very powerful. I am integrating all I have done so far and this is so helpful.
    Thanks,
    Laurie

    • Tai Carmen says:

      Dear Laurie,

      That’s wonderful to hear! Thank you so much for your comment. I’ve found this work as well to be very powerful in practice.

      I’m honored to have added in any small way to your process. :)

      On on!

      TC

      P.S. Please note I’ve actually added a step, as per the recommendation of my friend who does soul retrieval therapy professionally. So you may want to re-read the end of part two. ;)

  • lauriesnotes says:

    The addition is stated in that same clear way. It is what I know to be true as well.
    Thank you again,
    Laurie

  • Wendy says:

    I was just sitting here feeling lost and looking for inspiration. I thought I’d check your site and was very moved by your writing. Thank you, I will explore this and hopefully feel “whole again”.

    • Tai Carmen says:

      Dear Wendy,

      I’m so happy to hear that my post could be a homing beacon, or touchstone, for you during an isolated time. That is my deepest hope for my writing. I appreciate your taking the time to let me know.

      Remember, the answer is within you and the compass is your heart.

      On on,

      TC

  • […]  I became interested in the idea of personal authenticity (“Authenticity & The False Self”) as the path towards true self-knowledge, beyond social conditioning. For I believe we can only incite true social change—contribute positively to society— when we have processed our own shadows (“Navigating the Dark Night of the Soul,”) and begun to piece together our true selves, which have been fragmented by a compartmentalized system (“Soul Retrieval”).  […]

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