Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Shamanic Healing Through Soul Retrieval

Shamanic Healing Through Soul Retrieval
By Ross Heaven

Shamans believe that we are all born with an amount of energy or power, which is enough to sustain us through life. But we can become attached to events or relationships and can give part of our energy away. Once this energy leaves us, it creates a ‘hole’ in our energy field through which our power can ‘leak away’, a situation known as soul loss.

The trick to maintaining health or recovering from illness is therefore to recover the power (energy) we have lost. This is the process of soul retrieval.


Despite its name, soul retrieval is an intensely practical, 'down to earth', approach, which can produce surprisingly immediate and powerful results. Debbie’s case is fairly typical of the reasons for seeking soul retrieval, and also illustrates the difference between retrieval and therapy, as well as the speed with which progress can sometimes be made.

Debbie’s husband left her a few years before she came to see me for a healing. Her depression and feelings of loss had improved over the years, but she still felt herself to be “incomplete”. Therapy consisted of a guided shamanic journey. To the client, this feels somewhat like a visualisation but, through the shaman’s intervention with the spiritual world, is actually a way of bringing spiritual energy back to the client.

“For the first time in a long, long time, I felt that I could go on”, she said. “I feel like I have emerged from a long dark tunnel into a bright, warm light. I have a future now”.

Part of the reason for the success of soul retrieval is its direct focus on the client in a totally holistic way. Soul retrieval supports the whole person and caters for their spiritual, mythic, and emotional needs, not just those of the body – the focus for conventional medicine – or the mind – the territory of the analyst.

Whatever happens to the client during retrieval, it seems plain that they enter some other realm of understanding where their concerns are set in context against a bigger, deeper picture of reality. Here, for the first time, they see their true role and their unique place in the universe.

The shaman’s explanation is simple. Whenever we are traumatised, abused, hurt or neglected, parts of our soul split off and take refuge or become lost or trapped in what shamans call the ‘otherworlds’. Physical accidents, emotional trauma, abuse, or childhood neglect, are a few of the more common reasons for visiting a soul retrieval practitioner. The soul part, faced with this hurt, takes flight. In itself, this is an action of positive healing and self-protection. It is only when the loss of this energy begins to have detrimental effects that the soul part needs to be returned.

Then, the task of the shaman in all cultures has been to search the otherworlds to find these fragments, or to guide the client so that she may enter this space to find them for herself, and bring them back. It is the return of these soul parts which explains the new feeling of wholeness on the part of the client.

There is another aspect of healing here too. The shaman’s journey is an archetypal, one, the quest of the hero to find lost treasure, which, by its very nature, places the client at the centre of this drama, in a position of tremendous value. Just a few minutes into a typical soul retrieval consultation, the client - perhaps for the first time ever - has been listened to impartially, had their story believed and had a difficult and dangerous journey taken on their behalf by someone acting expressly in their interests. Perhaps they have also shared in the journey, an act of personal empowerment which automatically signals that they can change for the better and do have the strength and resources to do so.


In order to do this kind of work, a soul retrieval practitioner must have developed considerable skills at journeying. Contemporary shamanic practitioners can now develop these skills at workshops, where they will undertake supervised journeying and seek objects or energies which have been deliberately hidden.

One person may journey, for example, and then hide something, such as a personal symbol, in the otherworlds. Their partner must then enter that world and find it. Such ‘spiritual hide and seek’ is powerfully affirmative when something or someone hidden in this way is found by another with no prior knowledge of the person who is hiding, of their memories, the landscape of their personal world, or their interests. Far from being a land of imagination, a mental landscape, the otherworlds prove to be something much more – a transpersonal world which exists outside of us where our soul parts can find a home until it is safe for them to return.

In Western societies it would probably be unique to find someone who had not suffered trauma, injury, neglect or abuse, or to have given themselves away to others in a dance of power and office politics. We all become more fragmented every day. Western physicians treat the body and psychoanalysts deal with the mind, but the shamans are taking care of the soul.
Ross Heaven is a psychologist and shamanic practitioner who is the author of a number of books on Shamanism and spiritual healing. He runs workshops on shamanic healing practices, trips to the Amazon to work with indigenous shamans, and has a web site at http://www.thefourgates.com He can also be contacted at ross@thefourgates.com.

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