What’s oatmeal got to do with soul retrieval? Well, I found out in a very personal way recently.
In my shamanic work, one of the more common treatments is called soul retrieval or soul recovery. It’s based on the idea that as we go along in life we may lose pieces of our soul. There can be a few causes but one of the most common is due to an unresolved traumatic experience. The dissociated soul fragment stays away until it is safe, but if the individual’s circumstances are perceived as unsafe, then it stays away.
Soul retrieval typically requires the shamanic practitioner to journey to non-ordinary reality guided by his helping spirits, and there finds the soul piece that most needs to be returned. Once found, the practitioner brings the soul piece back and “installs” it to its rightful place, as an aspect of the client’s primary soul. From there it begins the process of re-integrating, which generally takes a few weeks to become incorporated in totality.
In my healing practice, I’ve been given a variation called “soul calling.” In the description above, it requires a one-on-one session with the client. While this methodology is incredibly effective, about a year ago I began to explore a way to facilitate soul retrieval in groups. This would require individuals to perform the quest themselves. I wasn’t sure at first if it would work, but based on my experiences in a handful of groups, it worked very well.
Healer, heal thyself
A few days ago it occurred to me that perhaps I could do this for myself. I’d been through a rough patch and was examining certain behavior patterns that most likely had their roots in soul loss. After meditating and considering this, I decided to give it a try. While I’d had a few soul retrieval sessions performed by other practitioners and had facilitated this for a few groups, this would be the first time I’d actually tried this variation for myself.
Putting some shamanic drumming on, I relaxed on the floor and called on my power animals, Raven and Wolf. I asked them to take me to the soul piece that most needed to be returned. From there I turned it over to them to guide my consciousness to the appropriate dissociated soul piece.
After a few minutes I (my consciousness) was standing in a very familiar bedroom in my family home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where I was born and spent the first twelve years of my life. There I saw the fragmented soul piece. He was lying in bed, about seven years old, curled up in a ball, crying his eyes out, listening to the shouts and screams just beyond the closed door. His mother and father were fighting once again, fueled by his father’s drinking and his mother’s anger about it, a scene that was all too familiar.
I reached out in both ordinary reality and this etheric reality for him—or more accurately, this “essence” that was once a part of me—and received him into the cupped palms of my hands. I then slowly drew my hands to my heart, and just like the procedure that I’d shown dozens of people, brought my hands to my heart and took three very slow, deep breaths, breathing that essence into my soul body.
Tears came to my eyes as I felt both relief and the sadness that accompanied this once lost part of me. I said out loud, “Welcome home!” and felt tingling warmth run through my body. I didn’t think too much about it for the rest of the day but felt grateful at the return of this lost soul part. The one statement I heard related to this was, “Learn to love the loneliness.” I recognized that this piece was a major key to the loneliness has driven my compulsions and addictions over the years. And he was back home now.
The next morning just before I woke up I immediately recalled a dream. It went like this:
I’m standing in what looks like a relatively empty but very large post office. There were a handful of people around, but none in my immediate vicinity. I gradually realize that in one of these oversized post office boxes there’s a cereal box with an infant in it. The box was big enough to hold about a six-month-old child, and I knew that child was in it and was covered in oatmeal. (The child could somehow breathe through the oatmeal – after all, it is a dream!).
Then it occurred to me that a couple had left the child for me to watch. They had taken off in a sports car, something like an older Nissan 280ZX (similar to one I used to own several years ago) and told me they were coming back soon. It had been some time since they left, so eventually I realized they weren’t coming back. With that recognition I decided to pull the oversized cereal box with the baby in it out of the post office box. I opened the box and scraped the oatmeal off, noticing the baby was none the worse for having been covered in oatmeal. I then brought him to my chest and held him, then woke up.
Flash to a couple days later. I was in Freeport, Maine doing some private sessions and workshops at a very cool new age gift shop called Leapin’ Lizards. The owner Melissa invited me to go to dinner with her and her husband, Tim. She suggested that perhaps I’d like to try a Maine lobster, something that is the pride and joy of this region.
We went to a nearby restaurant, and after looking over the various dishes offered, settled on the lobster. After all, when in Maine . . . While we were waiting, we engaged in some get-acquainted conversation. Tim related how he traveled sometimes as part of his work and mentioned something about Iowa. I told him I was from Iowa, he asked where, and I told him, “Cedar Rapids.”
“Oh yeah,” he responded. “I’ve been there on business. I remember that distinct smell of oatmeal that permeated the downtown.”
“Yes, yes,” I said. “I know that smell very well!” And in fact I could get a whiff of it through my olfactory memory. It was a very sweet smell, sort of like maple syrup that’s warming on the stove.
Okay, I’m sure you get the connection already, however at this point I had no clue that this was be connected to the dream. It was as if Spirit was lurking in the woods waiting to pop out to me with this revelation.
That night at the workshop I was facilitating, I was describing shamanic treatments for soul retrieval. I told the story of my soul calling and the subsequent dream I had the next morning. I got to the part about taking the oatmeal off the baby in the large cereal box. Tim, who was sitting in the back row, spoke up and said, “Oatmeal! Just like the smell of oatmeal in Cedar Rapids where you grew up!”
I then had what some call a “come to Jesus moment” where the implications of the soul piece that I called in was linked directly to the dream. I was sort of freaking out (in a good way!) in front of the group as I processed how the symbol of the oatmeal was linked to where I grew up and where I found that soul part, totally excited and amazed at the way Spirit worked to confirm the effectiveness of soul retrieval.
Everyone in the workshop was also astonished by this story, but most of all me. Once again the possibility for the deepest spiritual healing of all, soul healing, was demonstrated and even further deepened my faith in Spirit. It was a perfect healing at the perfect time.
When I’ve done soul retrieval on behalf of someone in a one-on-one session, either face to face or via a phone consultation, I always let the person know that it takes a few weeks for the previously dissociated soul aspect to integrate with the primary soul. Often the changes are subtle, yet sometimes they’re quite dramatic. The simplest description is that the person feels whole again, like having discovered something that was lost and has been found, which is exactly what has happened.
One way I support the integration of my recovered soul piece is to put my hands across my heart and simply restate the words that came to me during the soul calling, “Learn to love the loneliness.” When I feel anxious, alone, or touch the loneliness, I do this and it calms me down, reminds me of the experience.
Retrieving your soul fragment
If you’re not familiar with shamanic healing I would advise first do this in a one to one session with a shamanic practitioner or in a group, participating in a guided meditation journey with this as the intention. If you feel called to do this, here are the steps to take:
- Call in your power animal or a spirit animal that you favor. This spirit guide will be essential.
- Ask this spirit animal to accompany you to the Lower World (LW). This is one of three worlds in the shamanic paradigm that is found in many indigenous cultures.
- Once you’ve established that your spirit animal is with you, close your eyes, put on either some background music or preferably a shamanic drumming piece.
- Close your eyes and allow your consciousness to gently float to the LW with your spirit animal at your side.
- You’ll arrive in a meadow. The LW is just like the natural world in ordinary reality. You may walk to other areas, such as the ocean, mountains, or desert.
- Wherever you eventually find yourself, ask your spirit animal to please take you to the soul piece that most needs to be returned to you.
- Take your time until you arrive at that soul piece. Typically the image is one of you earlier in your life, however sometimes the soul piece is shown as a symbol, such as a ball of light.
- The soul aspect may readily accompany you back or you may need to do some negotiating, find out what they want from you in exchange for joining you once again. Younger fragments may just want you to play more or lighten up.
- Reach out both hands, palms up, and ask that essence to come into your hands. Bring both hands to your heart, take three very slow deep breaths to allow the soul fragment to join your primary soul.
- For the next few weeks, be sure to stay aware of this once lost aspect and if you made a deal, be sure to keep it. This allows time for her or him to integrate, which usually takes about three to six weeks.
This article was originally published at artoflivingretreatcenter.org/blog