These are intense times: for the earth, ourselves, and our future. Many of us are recognizing the need for self-care and healing of our own wounds and trauma as we seek to impact and play a part in the world around us. Our collective need for something saner and deeper is shining a spotlight on some ancient healing traditions.
Soul retrieval, a particularly powerful branch of shamanism, has been a tradition in indigenous cultures across the globe, stretching back to the dawn of humanity. It is finally being taken seriously as a powerful, viable means of healing… because it actually works.
So often we’re caught between what we can see and touch, and what we can’t — something that Western healing methods rarely address. When we express that “something is missing” or we “can’t move past this,” there’s an acknowledgement of the intangible that actually has tangible effects on our lives.
The concept of soul retrieval is that we all experience trauma during our lives, and when we do, a part of our beings or soul, may flee, fracture, or hide in an effort to protect itself. We call this ‘soul loss.’ The trauma might be obvious (an injury, assault, war, accident, the death of a loved one, divorce, physical or emotional abuse) or it may exist in a more subtle realm. Sometimes trauma can even extend back to the womb or infancy and may stem from not having our needs properly met. Depression, dysfunctional relationships, a sense of separation, an inability to move forward can all be hallmarks of soul loss.
Over and over again, people who feel stuck in talking about their problems have massive breakthroughs in their healing journeys after a soul retrieval. Quantum physics speaks to the principle of conservation of energy: that nothing is created or destroyed, and that everything simply takes a different form. Fractured ‘power’ or ‘soul’ doesn’t disappear but rather takes a new form in the interim, always at the ready to return to its intact state.
In the Western world, we don’t have much sense of ceremony or ritual beyond birth, death, and marriage; soul retrieval is a ceremonial invitation to step deeper into the terrain of your own life and, ultimately, to explore its power and beauty.
This isn’t fairy dust, nor is it witchcraft or voodoo; the client has to take full responsibility for being an active participant in her own healing process.
It’s a key point, and a crucial one: when we return soul essence, we’re returning power, and power needs to be held with care.
Katie, 34, a tech executive in New York City, struggled with depression and anxiety for years before we met: “Before experiencing soul retrieval, I hadn’t experimented with any self-care outside of the traditional Western psychiatric approach to mental and spiritual health. I had always been assigned diagnoses and labels. With this work, I began to address what really needed attention and healing — traumas from my past that I didn’t think affected me because I was too young, or privileged, or high-functioning.”
Often, trauma can be familial and even intergenerational, and connecting to the higher wisdom of one’s history can be the beginning of healing.
Sophia is an incredibly intelligent, talented, beautiful singer who comes from a deeply religious, fundamentalist Christian family. She’s gay and struggled with self-acceptance for years, engaging in heavy drug and alcohol use as a coping mechanism. When we met, she was very self-protective. Working with Sophia and gently moving into the terrain of faith and how this work can coexist with her beliefs was an interesting, and at times, delicate process. During her soul retrieval, two ages showed up: the vulnerable, innocent, pure 2-year-old and the 16-year-old, so full of soul and vision, hope, and longing to create something larger than herself through her art. Sophia later shared that she was abandoned by her mother at 2 and rejected by the family that raised her at 16. The 2-year-old was instrumental in helping the 16-year-old return, the latter’s protective armor softening in the presence of such innocence.
Soul retrieval looks different for each individual. A few things are consistent: we look for soul parts that are ready and willing to be restored, and we go back in time as far as we can. Sometimes multiple ages appear, and sometimes, just one.
Katie found this reintegration provided powerful healing. “By recovering and reintegrating these parts of myself, slowly, and with careful guidance, I now feel like I have an energy field of protection around me, and a boundary worth protecting. I have a relationship with my higher self and inner observer, and, though I still face challenges when managing emotion, I feel fully connected to my spirit, and to something greater than myself. For the first time, I feel awake.”
This integration can take time. In Sophia’s case, she disappeared for about two months after the initial healing. I later found out she had had a bit of crisis, once again around questions of faith and how this could fit in. Ultimately she stood up to the people who had raised her and judged her so deeply for being gay. When we reconnected she spoke of standing on the mountain and, for the first time in her life, genuinely, lovingly standing with herself. She was able to confront the destructive pattern of what remained of her drinking and has been open to the power of healing, continuing to explore her faith and working through the layers of fundamentalist rigidity to arrive at a softer and more welcoming terrain. Sophia’s journey continues to unfold.
If you’re interested in learning more or receiving a healing, seek out an experienced practitioner. Soul retrieval (and all shamanic healing) requires extensive training and skill. The websites shamanicteachers.com and shamanism.org list practitioners and teachers all over the world.
Jen Hoy is a guide and mentor for people seeking radical personal transformation and awakening. She helps her clients embody their potential and possibility through integrative counseling, shamanic healing, and holistic nutrition, and works with clients across the globe. Check her out at bodyspiritnutrition.com.