A lot of us have heard about Soul Retrieval, which is the return of lost soul fragments (or lost parts) of ourselves. Soul Retrieval is a classical shamanic practice, and in some communities it was the primary method of maintaining health or power. The word soul equates to our life-force, and in shamanic terms we are a composite of souls, or life-force, and this explains why we can become fragmented. The Shipibo – Conibio Indians of the Upper Amazon Rainforest, for example regard every part of our body as having a soul; arms, hands, organs, glands, bones and so on, and part of their healing practise is to journey to retrieve the soul or life force of a particular part of the body, as a pre-requisite for the healing on the physical level to take place.
In the shamanic worldview, power and maintaining health go hand in hand, if the body is power-full, there is no room for illness or disease which are regarded as an invasive force. Power in the English language has a number of connotations which can make us feel uncomfortable. The meaning of power in the shamanic worldview, equates to power over ourselves, not power over others. The more power we have over ourselves, means that we are truly able to live our lives, without being knocked off centre, without having the need to react when our buttons are pushed, we become less needy of other peoples power, and the more power we have over ourselves even makes it difficult to lie or dissemble, simply because we have no need to.
Soul Retrieval is one way to restore and maintain our life force, and power, and this is an act where we receive our own life-force. Another way to maintain our life-force is not to hold on to anybody else. In our lives we take and sometimes hold onto the energy of others. This is known as Soul Theft, which I know for many may be an emotive word and concept, but this is something we all do, it is common, and it should be looked at in a non-judgmental way. In some respects it is the other side of Soul Retrieval.
Soul-theft can be a learned generational behaviour, and often occurs in relationships and within families, it is an unconscious act, and in fact if the person knew what they were doing they may well be very upset.
We steal or take peoples life force in many ways, as these examples illustrate;
– When we are jealous of another persons power or status.
– Someone has a power / energy which another wants
– When another wants a persons identity, I want to be like him/her! This also could be when we hero worship a person or idolise them.
– A very common way to take another persons power is to judge them.
– When we over care for someone causing them to become too dependent on us. Which can result in the person losing their own strength and will to support them.
There are a number of problems that soul-theft causes;
– The person whos life-force has been taken is diminished in some way
– Relationships can be hung on to, causing difficult, ragged, and unsatisfactory completions.
– The person who has taken anothers life-force, can not use it in any way whatsoever, it becomes a burden. To illustrate this, participants on workshops who do the Soul-release exercise, have expressed it in a number of ways, the taken soul parts felt like I had barnacles on the hull of a ship, which were holding me back, weighing me down; another said it felt like I was covered in clinging seeds, and leaves.
– Sometimes we may even take on someone elses shadow, and find ourselves working with anothers feelings, which may be an uncomfortable experience.
There are many benefits to all parties and to all-that-there-is when we return another persons life-force to them. This act can be most profound and healing, and works on many levels. I get a lot of feedback from people who do this work, and many times I am told of relationships, between partners, parents, children, changing and improving. As a simple analogy, I see this as a tug-of war, where both parties are pulling on the rope, and when the person who returns the others life-force, which is effectively letting go of the rope, the other person responds, there is no more rope to pull, or exert pressure on.
Participants on workshops and clients often tell me, that as soon as they did this work, they went home and cleared all the clutter and junk from their home. To me this is a way of making an immediate physical manifestation and grounding of the act of release. They are making space available for new things to come into their life, which is exactly what happens in our own soul bodies, we make more space for our own life-force, more space for our own power.
Even though we may know this, and would like to reflect, and where possible return the other persons life-force, it may however be difficult to recall or remember peoples names or their faces because the act was carried out on an unconscious basis. This is the clear problem.
Working with shamanism, using the tools, methods and techniques can be very supportive to us in this act of releasing. It is because the unconscious memories are difficult to access, that contact with the Spirit people, Spirit animals, and teachers can be helpful. The Spirit teachers and animals, know us perfectly, they know our personal history, our strengths, our qualities, our foibles, the symbols we work with, and they can help us in this.
A Ceremony to Release Soul Parts that we are holding onto.
To do this we can embark on the shamanic journey, (and I write this in the first person) with the specific objective and intention, to ask the spirits, to tell me the names, or show me the faces, or let me know in any way which I can understand the people whose soul parts that I have taken, and am still holding onto. This journey can be carried out in either the Upper or Lower worlds.
I recommend that you allow your self about twenty minutes for this journey, where you may be told what you need to know, taken by your Power animal in the other reality to a place where people whose soul-parts are gathered together or you may simply become aware. All are valid; there is no right or wrong way to do this.
When you have returned from the journey, it is a good idea to write the names down on paper whilst the memories of the journey are still fresh in your mind. Please keep in your mind that you should not judge yourself for this, it is something that we all do. The difference is now that you have an opportunity to restore the balance.
Now you know what you need to release and return, and this can be best achieved by a ritual or ceremony. Rituals and ceremonies have great power in this reality; it is a way of combining, the heart, mind, spirit, and body in a single physical action and intention. Religions from all over the world have long recognised the importance of ritual and ceremony. Ritual is means of communication between the Spirits and ourselves, it is a way that the Spirits can cross over from their world into ours. In Western society we have forgotten that the ordinary and other reality belong together, they are two halves of one whole.
An example of a ritual would be a Fire Ceremony. To gain power it helps if this ritual is witnessed by friends, or those that would like to participate and support you. The participants can support you by using a rattle, gently drumming, or chanting. To start the ceremony, you need a place (preferably outdoors, in a place which can safely contain a fire).
Call in the Spirits, ask for their assistance, and state your intention very clearly I am returning the soul parts which I am still holding onto. Then whilst still maintaining a ceremonial space, tear the paper into strips, one name to a strip, and then proceed to burn each strip of paper. As each strip of paper burns, visualise, imagine, feel, sense, intuit the soul part of that person being released from you and returning to that person. After each name has burned, you may want to make an offering to the Spirits to thank them, you may want to add a pinch of cedar or sage to the fire. The act of returning soul parts often brings with it, a sense of completion, and a general feeling of satisfaction, as a metaphor it is like the completion of an open chapter.
Even when you have completed the ceremony, over a period of time, it is very much possible that you may well recall additional names, faces, incidents and so on. This is normal, what you have done is to open the door to these submerged memories. The Fire Ceremony can be repeated at any time.
This is a way as Don Juan speaks in Castanedas books of erasing your personal history. By this it is meant erasing the effects of your history on the person you are right now.