Shamanism, Healing, and Soul Retrieval
To understand how recapitulation practices work, we need to look at the multidimensional nature of reality and move away from a linear sequential perspective. From this expanded perspective, ‘anything which has ever happened to anybody, anywhere; it is still happening somewhere’. If a traumatic event occurred for a person ten, twenty and so on years ago, for that person it is still happening, and I would venture to state that it is also in some way still influencing the person’s life.
Shamanism does not dwell on past events; there is only this vast awesome ever-moving great moment of now where there is no separate past, present, or future. It is possible for a practitioner to journey and move outside of linear time to go to the place where that energetic event is still occurring for that individual, find and bring back that person’s life force which is held in that energetic event, and when this has been carried out, then the therapeutic healing of the event and it’s consequences can truly begin.
The loss of life-force is known as soul-loss, and this can take place when we suffer a trauma, have an accident, experience strong emotional exchanges with a loved one, separation from a partner, death of a loved one, go through a pervasive period of difficult circumstances. When we undergo a severe trauma typically a part of our vital nature goes away, so that we can survive what ever is happening to us. It is a way for the body and consciousness to survive severe trauma. Problems develop when the soul part or fragment does not return. It may not want to come back, or may not be able to return due to the nature of the trauma
Joseph Campbell writes in his classic work The Masks of God ‘…sickness according to shamanic theory, can be caused either by the entrance of an alien element into the body, or by the departure of the soul from the body and its imprisonment in one of the spirit regions: above, below, or beyond the rim of the world. The Shaman’s clairvoyant vision must discover its lurking place. Then riding “on the sound of his drum”, he must sail away on the wings of trance to whatever spiritual realm may harbour the soul in question, and work swiftly his deed of rescue.’
The concept of Soul-loss , and the ceremonial retrieval of souls is found in many cultures. For example in the Tibetan Bon Shamanistic tradition, One of the most important practices performed by Tibetan shamans of the Sichen path is Soul Retrieval – Lalu (literally redeeming, or buying back the soul), and chilu, (redeeming the life-energy). These practices are widespread in the Bon tradition and also in all Tibetan Buddhist schools.
Although the terminology is different, the concept of soul-loss is a phenomenon well known to psychology. Jung recounts in his memoirs a fantasy in which his soul flew away from him, that is, the libido withdrew into the unconscious and was carrying on a secret life there. The libido representing the life-force, and the unconscious typically representing ‘the land of the dead’ .
There are a number of symptoms of soul-loss, for example, when people feel that they are observing life as an outsider, rather than engaging and being fully involved. Other common symptoms are when people feel that they are being ‘spaced’ out a lot of the time, not really here. Other symptoms that indicate possible soul loss are life-themes such as a pervasive fear, inability to trust people. I have also found that a severe depression can also be a symptom of soul loss. Chronic illness may also be a symptom of soul loss. This directly relates to Power. 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 often regarded as an invasive force.
In my practice I have worked with many people who had done considerable work on the original trauma, but still were stuck in this. One of the differences between Soul Retrieval and some modern Western psychological systems is that Soul Retrieval focuses on the return and integration of the lost life-force, rather than focus on the original trauma itself. In my view Soul Retrieval and therapy work very well together, the best combination being first the recapitulation of the lost life-force, followed by a therapeutic approach to support the person through the process of working with released feelings and emotional energy which can be uncomfortable and even raw for the individual. This release and subsequent experiencing of the emotions is a fundamental part of the whole healing process, and I cannot stress this enough.
This healing process leads to what I call the union of the life force, when the person can then move forward in their life without being anchored to the past, and live a life of creativity and productivity.
Life After Soul Retrieval
When the soul-fragments are returned, the memories and emotions associated with the departure of the soul fragment may also return. Although this may not always be a comfortable experience, it is a sign that healing is taking place. The experiencing of the emotions and feelings although they may have not been felt prior to the Soul Retrieval , the effects are still working, but at a deeply unconscious level i.e. a place of the not known. The person may have been experiencing a chronic and pervasive depression, yet not able to come to grips with this. Soul Retrieval works very well with other therapies. A therapist can only work with the parts of the person which are there, it is an encouraging development that people are now coming to Soul Retrieval sessions accompanied by their therapist.
The most common immediate response after a Soul Retrieval , is that the recipient feels that they are more ‘full’, that there is more of them. They may even experience the density of the body to have changed.
It is important to recognise, that each person is different and everybody will react differently after a Soul Retrieval. Some may feel heavier, bigger, happier, angry, sad, laughing, or perhaps nothing for a few weeks. My observation is that most people will experience a change within a two week period, two weeks seems to be the magic number when the person really feels the effect. It is important to trust the persons psyche completely.
The only role that the recipient has is to receive the healing. It is important that they keep open, and concentrate on staying open to receive this energy – that is their only task.
After Soul Retrieval , recipients should allow themselves space to be with the returned life-force. For some it may be quiet reflection, others may want to be in nature, in the countryside , in the parks. Nature is a wonderful healer, being in nature, enjoying the beauty of the outdoors, of the Earth, will help the soul-parts to integrate with the recipient.
Howard G. Charing, is an accomplished international workshop leader on shamanism. He has worked some of the most respected and extraordinary shamans and healers in the Andes, the Amazon Rainforest, and the Philippines. He organises specialist retreats to the Amazon Rainforest at the dedicated centre located in the Mishana nature reserve. He is the author of the best selling book, Plant Spirit Shamanism (Destiny Books USA).