Soul Retrieval in Shamanism speaks to how different this cosmology is from our western medicine.
In the living system of Shamanism, it is not labels that get treated but the people. The most common reasons for major illness are loss of power, soul loss, and spiritual intrusion. Soul loss is not so esoteric a concept as some may think. To survive experiences such as accidents and abuse, the personality can split. Most of us have probably heard of this. This is essentially soul loss.
Sandra Ingerman defines soul as the essence or life force. Hers is a well-known name in Shamanism. Her work has introduced many people in the West to the core concepts of Shamanism, before it became mainstream. What Sandra Ingerman does is bridging the thousands-year tradition of Shamanism and today’s world, making Shamanic practice accessible.
An author of eight books, Sandra Ingerman was a student of Michael Harner (The Way of the Shaman and founder of Core Shamanism), who calls her “an outstanding shaman, an esteemed colleague, and a treasured friend.” She has been teaching for over 30 years and founded the international alliance of Medicine for the Earth Teachers and shamanic teachers.
Soul loss can feel like being “spaced out” after an accident, or sleepwalking. It does not have to be a traumatic event – and trauma is a spectrum thus different for everyone. Sandra Ingerman’s own soul loss occurred in adolescence when she became disconnected from who she was. This was evidenced by her struggle with “chronic emotional depression and a sense of physical depletion.” Somehow she knew it was a spiritual crisis.
In Soul Retrieval : Mending the Fragmented Self, Sandra Ingerman talks about what Shamanism is, how soul loss can happen, and how shamans can bring back wholeness, by healing the self, relationships, and trauma.
In our society today, modern-life traumas can come from dissociation from nature, surgeries, abuse, 24/7 media coverage of atrocities, and mental stress, to name a few. The departed soul may reside in what is known as the void, a dark empty space.
Other symptoms of soul loss can include a gap in memory, chronic depression, feelings of suicide, observing rather than being present in life, addiction of any kind, and coma. Soul retrieval in Shamanism however do not address these challenges in isolation.
Sandra Ingerman has said that we are facing soul loss on the collective level at this time, when people put money above all, including the value of life and the possible extinction of species.
For all emotional and physical illness, shamans believe in a spiritual aspect and rely on the helping compassionate spirits to determine what has happened and to bring healing to the person.
People report feeling “more present” or “lighter” after a soul retrieval. Depending on the time a soul part departed, the effects from a soul retrieval in Shamanism can be quite disorienting, though very positive. Memory of the trauma may return, sometimes putting into perspective what may have seemed so difficult for a young child to process. What many people learn is that it is much less terrifying in the whole scheme of things, when re-experienced as an adult. The effects can be significant and surprising but not always dramatic. The soul part that returns may also possess knowledge that is useful to the person.
The point is not really about the event(s) that caused the loss. Over the years, Sandra Ingerman herself has found that she is receiving fewer details around the soul loss itself. The focus is more about the client’s strengths and gifts. It is about coming into who we are and how we can contribute to our own lives, our local communities, and to the planet at large.
Sandra Ingerman has said that it is “our birthright to have access to the spiritual realm and direct revelation,” to get our own answers, our own advice, and our own guidance. The emphasis is healing, not the trauma. What returns is the essence that has left, not the shock or the hurt. It is more soul remembering, than just soul retrieval.
Through her work, Sandra Ingerman is helping people move beyond psychological concepts that can sometimes trap us.
In the Author’s Note in the book, Sandra Ingerman asks “How can pure essence not want to be here? How can pure essence be suicidal?” showing how inner-child work can create a filter that colours our ability and even willingness in performing soul retrieval. She has had clients say “but my seven-year-old doesn’t want to be here.”
What is a shamanic journey?
Through the use of percussions and plant spirits, a person moves into a theta brainwave state and steps through a portal like a hole in a tree into the non-ordinary reality, or dreamtime as it is called by the Aboriginals. It is a “whole body experience” being in the Upper, Middle, and Lower Worlds.
The journey is a fantastic opportunity for people to once again be in their body, feeling all the sensations, seeing all the nuanced colours, hearing, touching, smelling…Being present is what is grossly missing in today’s world.
In these realms, people connect with helping compassionate spirits, including their Power Animals and teachers. The thing Sandra Ingerman wants us to remember is that these spirits are not more powerful than we are. We are embodied spirits so our perspectives are different.
Having access to wisdom from the bigger point of view can be very helpful for healing or other transformative processes. The compassionate spirits also have a great sense of humour, something that many people have lost, that is essential to the enjoyment of life. Being reminded and being lost in the uplifting is healing in itself.
There has been a revival of the Shamanist tradition as more people are looking to rediscover their strengths and connection to the environment and Mother Earth. As Shamanism was part of cultures worldwide, many people do come from a Shaman ancestry. The word shaman comes from the Tungus tribe in Siberia and means “one who sees in the dark.” It is with the heart and deep compassion that shamans seek out what is hidden to help the individual and the community.
Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self is a wonderful resource to understand more about Shamanism, perhaps dispelling some of the myths surrounding this practice, soul loss, and how this ancient practice can return wholeness. Soul retrieval in Shamanism may sound out there; it may just be what we need now in our modern times, a reconnection to the whole.
In this book, Sandra Ingerman leads us through a few journeys to allow us to glimpse into the non-ordinary reality, including The Cave of the Lost Children and even the Land of the Dead, for which she prepared for years. The information helps to demystify Shamanism and to deepen the layman’s knowledge and appreciation of it.
Sandra Ingerman also speaks about the next step. Her work is about bringing healing to the individual but also to the community. Still seen in many tribes, community is essential and an individual’s health is the responsibility of the whole community. The disintegration of the communal life is part of the crisis we face today, the isolation that leaves us alienated and broken.
Also lost is the disappearance of the rites of passage which help young girls and boys transition into the next part of life, with support and wisdom. Healing the community and recreating the circle is part of the solution.
What she does also make clear is that Soul Retrieval is not a self-help technique, though a soul retrieval may occur in one’s journey. “The client’s role begins after the soul retrieval.” Throughout the book, Sandra Ingerman shares exercises that we can all do, such as learning to discern the truth and remembering our own light. What matters is what people do after the soul retrieval and knowing soul loss can occur can help us be more present with how we are feeling, helping to minimize future soul loss.