Thursday, 13 May 2010

Shamanic Soul Retrieval: A Personal Account

This month’s guest blogger, Daphne Twiesselmann, is Belgian and has spent the last decade living in the UK. She has recently completed post-graduate studies in anthropology and development at the London School of Economics. Daphne’s many interests include links between religion and the state, ethnic and state discourse in Asia, consciousness studies and the role of dance and movement in healing. She is particularly interested in Japanese culture and would like to become a shinto priestess if/when she moves to Japan, mostly because samurais no longer have an official raison d'etre. (She's also considering joining a yakuza organization depending on how much pain she can endure when getting a tattoo). Daphne, lives in London, is single and doesn't even have a cat. Here she offers a frank and compelling account of how soul retrieval has affected her life.

Three years ago I went through a series of experiences that each resulted in some forms of loss: loss of narratives, loss of a mother and of familial identity, loss of intellectual certainties. Without realising it I found myself in a fog, a space with no landmarks, where everything seemed either alien or fake. Of course, this happens to a lot of people every day but mainstream theorising on emotions, which speaks of exhaustion and depression, failed to cover the spiritual aspect of my experience. I took the time to go over the events that had marked me in the last few years to get a sense of what I needed to rebuild and worked on doing precisely that. However, understanding the factors leading me to a standstill and going through the necessary motions to get every day business done does not heal the soul. The crossroad I'd reached did not bring clarity: I was finding it difficult to formulate goals, find drive and motivation, feel inspired or assert myself. I just felt detached.

I started to look for ways of healing the numbness. I'd heard of energy work and Reiki but was bothered by the passive aspect of it. I needed something that would require my active participation in the healing process. Surfing the net for healing therapies in London I ended up reading shamanic practitioner Zoë Brân's blog on shamanic journeying. I'd read about shamanism in the course of my anthropological studies but the subject was approached from a social science perspective, one that looked at social roles and functions. Core shamanism as a practice was readily dismissed as irrelevant, it was relegated to the new age movement and I’d never thought to investigate it further. So naturally it was quite surprising to find out that not only was shamanism taken seriously within consciousness studies, but it was also possible for people who didn't come from shamanic societies to learn to practice shamanism in London. Zoë was advertising an introductory workshop and I decided to sign up. A lot that was covered on the course echoed my personal beliefs about the all-encompassing permanence of spirit. I decided to take the experience further and consolidate my connections with spirit helpers through more advanced workshops and shamanic counselling with Zoë. Practising shamanism helped a great deal in refocusing on who I am, with my baggage, flaws and potentials; and achieving this allowed me to feel connected with people and places. Engaging with spirit had a cleansing effect as various dismemberment experiences and other teachings nurtured a deep sense of love. On my last session of shamanic counselling, it was suggested I ask my spirits whether I needed a soul retrieval. To my astonishment they told and showed me I indeed needed one, and at the occasion of an introductory workshop on soul retrieval, Zoë journeyed to convince a missing soul part to return to me.

I was asked to lie down next to her while she journeyed to a Lower World location where her spirits had shown her a little girl who was spending her time in a room filled with books. This library room was under the supervision of an elderly person of androgynous appearance who, lost in reading random papers, seemed unfazed by Zoë's presence, keeping on reading after pointing towards a corner of the room. The little girl, hidden behind a bookshelf, was herself reading an old book. When spoke to the child barely moved and didn't answer when asked what she was reading. However, when it was explained to that I needed her and that it was safe to rejoin me she stood up, abandoned the book and followed Zoë willingly. Before leaving the lower world, Zoë went back to her spirit helpers who had been taking care of another, 'me' while the little girl was retrieved. This second soul part was roughly my own age, 32, and blue with cold, and Zoë’s spirits had given her their own clothing to keep her warm. This older part took the younger in her arms and Zoë brought both parts back into the circle of participants to blow those missing soul parts into my chest and head.

A few days later I did a follow-up integration journey to meet with the little girl and ask her why she had left. She said she had felt no-one needed her. I clumsily tried to reassure her. As we kept talking she grew up to be a woman around my age, looking very much like me but at the same time very different. She was more assertive, oozed confidence and 'felt' very cheeky, qualities that contrast with my usual seriousness and impressionability. She told me I needed to take responsibility for what I want and that she would give me the power to do it. Saying this came as a surprise would be an understatement. All along my basic assumption was that I could not move forward because I did not in fact know what I wanted to do, because I could not find anything I could relate to. And here she was, implying that I already knew what I wanted and needed to become answerable for it. This got me thinking.<br />

From the inside my fog I had fruitlessly been trying to find a way of moving on and setting a new life cycle in motion. Yet never once had I asked myself what I wanted in practical terms. Obsessed with society's expectations, I forgot it was allowed to have dreams, and it was now time to dig them out and air them. So, what do I want? I want love, I want happiness, I want fulfilment but also challenge, I want self-development and variety, I want new relationships with genuine people, I want comfort and safety, I want beauty, tenderness and refinement, I want meaning and emotions, subtle insights and honesty, I want quests, passion and mystery. These wants might seem innocuous or banal to some. To me, the admission neared an epiphany. To admit to wanting such things was downright liberating simply because, being obsessed with what I thought I ought to do, I never dared make demands centred on my needs. Admitting to wanting things is already part of taking responsibility for them. I now feel that harmony is being restored little by little as I embark on an investigation of a different kind, one that tackles the 'how to get what I want'.

Curiously, within days of the soul retrieval, I got involved in a dreadful argument with a housemate over one of my friends. I became so angry that I could feel claws projecting out of my fingers and without being able to stop it I began shouting in response to the nagging. Now, there is no question that a fit of rage doesn't solve anything, quite the contrary; blazing argument can be harmful and I made sure to restore balance in our relationship. Having said that, I cannot shake the feeling that this was tremendous progress: as if, after having been bottled up for so long, my ability to feel had exploded in a split second, as if somewhere deep inside, something needing to assert itself used this sudden flow of feeling to come to the surface. Feeling so alive in that moment made me remember what it is to establish boundaries, and since then I've been feeling 'delineated', not dispersed, as if I'd suddenly taken shape. It seems the soul retrieval is having a very tangible positive impact. As I gain consistence, I grow more assertive and thus more confident. And as I become enthusiastic about understanding myself under a new light, I begin to see new routes.

Meeting my soul part was uncomfortable. I did not know how to react to her sadness, nor to her confidence. In retrospect I can see she was what I denied myself: being in touch with her emotions and her needs. The few weeks that followed were introspective ones and were not easy but they were also necessary and salutary. I may not know where to head just yet but at least I feel I am moving forward.


Anonymous said...

You have a lovely ability to express yourself in words.
I can empathize with your experiences. The reason I was drawn to read your account was because a girl who lives next door and practices psychic readings had a book lying on a table about soul retrieval. I am a Christian and if just simply turn to Christ, pour out your heart to him. You will be healed from all sin and pain. It is a daily process and slowly you will trust and live happily again.

Shaman UK said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shaman UK said...

Thank you for your comment Anonymous, I have passed it on to the author of this particular blogpost.
I feel I should point out that many of the people now living and working around the world with shamanism, including myself, were raised within the Christian traditions and found that they do not offer what you suggest. If they did, why would so many people be looking beyond organised religion towards a more living form of spirituality? For myself, I see Jesus as a teacher and healer and most probably a shaman in the ancient Jewish tradition. A person to be greatly respected.

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