Lately I’ve been drawn to visit abandoned and derelict places. Structures that have been neglected, rejected, and abused. As a result, it has opened up a greater capacity within me to look deeper into what I hide from, what I avoid, and label as dark or unwanted. These shadowy and neglected places exist within all of us with their stories waiting to be heard and acknowledged.
Humans are masters of coming up ways to bypass and cover up that which is painful and difficult to experience. In doing so, we move further away from healing. By not wanting to look at what is painful, ugly, or distorted, we not only shut ourselves out, but also put up walls for letting others in.
A shaman moves through the veils of darkness, and uses it for medicine. It is through the lower world that she finds her entrance into the middle and upper realms. In fact, the word shaman comes from a tribe in Siberia and means “the one who sees in the dark”.
To be fully present in the experience of being human, to be really here, is to open up to feeling it ALL – your pain, your sadness, your loneliness, your rejected places. Visit these shadowy structures and let them speak. Allow the full depth of feeling these places, without trying to cover anything up. The truth is that the shadow is not going anywhere until you dance with it.
In shamanism there is a practice called soul retrieval that looks into those shadowy places we have shut down, and goes in for a visit. Soul retrieval has been around for thousands of years.
In many ancient cultures it was believed that illness had a spiritual cause, whether it was mental or physical, and was due to soul loss. Soul loss can happen when a traumatic event or experience occurs, and part of the soul feels that staying in the body is too much to handle. Then, as a self-protective mechanism, a part of the psyche flees or hides, and thus separates itself from the traumatic experience. In modern psychological terms this can be likened to disassociation. It is common to not remember or to be consciously aware of soul loss.
Sandra Ingerman writes:
“There are many common symptoms of soul loss. Some of the more common ones would be dissociation where a person does not feel fully in his or her body and alive and fully engaged in life. Other symptoms include chronic depression, suicidal tendencies, post traumatic stress syndrome, immune deficiency problems, and grief that just does not heal..”
An experienced shaman can journey into non-ordinary reality to find the so-called lost soul fragment and retrieve it.
During my first experience with soul retrieval several years ago, I saw how these lost fragments of us are not really lost, but hiding, and waiting anxiously for us to welcome them back into the light of our being. It was really sad to feel how neglected I had kept parts of my soul.
These fragments wanted very much to be with me, but had been trapped in the ghostly structures of subconscious. They were not even aware of it themselves. The process of integration after my first soul retrieval has taken years, and is still on-going. Since then, I’ve been able to retrieve many fragments through my journeys in the shadows.
The first step to soul retrieval is taken by not hiding from the shadow work, or passing on the responsibility to someone else, but accepting this journey for all that it is, and meeting with our suffering when it arises. Our entire lives can be seen as one big soul retrieval, and the work never really ends, for as long as we are here.
Let this be an invitation for you to visit those places you fear and avoid. These are the very places that hold keys to your healing.
May your journey in the shadows bring you greater integration, wholeness, and a more brilliant light!
Recommended Books on Soul Retrieval:
Article photo by: Michael Amici