By Sandra Ingerman
Shamanism is a universal practice that dates back over 100,000 years. The word “shaman” comes from the Tungus tribe in Siberia. Shamanism has been practiced in parts of Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, Greenland, and Native North and South America.
A shaman is a man or woman who interacts directly with spirits to address the spiritual aspects of illness, perform soul retrievals, divine information, help the spirits of deceased people cross over, and perform a variety of ceremonies for the community. Shamans have taken on many roles in tribal communities. They have acted as healers, doctors, priests, psychotherapists, mystics and storytellers.
Shamans look at the spiritual form of illness which might manifest on an emotional or physical level. When I was doing the research for my book, Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self, I found that most shamanic cultures believe that illness is due to the loss of the soul.
It is believed that whenever we suffer an emotional or physical trauma, a part of our soul flees the body in order to survive the experience. Our soul is our essence, our life force, the part of our vitality that keeps us alive and thriving.
The types of trauma that could cause soul loss would be any kind of sexual, physical or emotional abuse. Other causes could be an accident, being in a war, being a victim of a terrorist act, acting against our morals, being in a natural disaster, surgery, addictions, divorce, or death of a loved one. Any event that causes shock could cause soul loss.
Experiencing soul loss is how we survive pain. Our psyches have a brilliant self-protect mechanism where a part of our essence or soul leaves the body so we escape the full impact of pain.
Although soul loss is a survival mechanism, from a shamanic point of view the soul part that left usually does not return on its own. The soul might be lost, stolen by another person, or unaware that the trauma has passed and it is safe to return.
It has been the role of the shaman to enter an altered state of consciousness and track down where the soul fled to in the unseen realms and return it to the body of the client.
There are many symptoms of soul loss. A common symptom is dissociation where a person does not feel fully present or grounded in his or her body. Other symptoms include chronic depression, suicidal tendencies, post-traumatic stress disorder, immune deficiency problems, and grief that just does not heal.
Addictions are also a sign of soul loss as we seek external sources to fill up the empty spaces inside of us whether through substances, food, relationships, work, or buying material objects. Coma is also a sign of soul loss, but sharing more about working with comas is beyond the scope of this article.
Any time someone says they have never been the same since a certain event, and they don’t mean it in a positive way, soul loss has probably occurred.
Today there has been a resurgence in the interest of the practice of shamanism. We now have many hundreds of wonderful shamanic practitioners reintroducing the practice of soul retrieval into our culture.
In a shamanic culture, individuals knew what was out of balance in their lives that might have caused an illness. In our culture, we are unaware of what is out of spiritual harmony that is creating illness. And as soul loss might have occurred early in life, we are unaware of the unconscious patterns and trauma loop we are living out.
The effects of undergoing a soul retrieval vary. Some people feel more grounded, embodied and solid. Some people feel lighter and joyful. For some, memories of past traumas might trigger feelings that need to be worked through. For others, the effects are too subtle to notice a change until further work to integrate the soul is done.
I believe that once a person has his or her soul returned, they have to do some work. If the person has done a lot of personal work, the soul retrieval might be the end of the work. If not, the soul retrieval would be the beginning of the work to create a healthy lifestyle that supports long-term healing.
As people feel more present in their body, they become more conscious of behavior that might be out of balance and disharmonious. When we are numb we might not be aware of the disharmony around us, and we can easily distract ourselves from feeling a need to change. When we are fully “inspirited” there is no place to retreat to and we are more inspired to change our lives and be of service to all of life and the earth.
Shamans are gifted at telling healing stories that inspire the client. The emphasis of my work with clients includes sharing stories of the gifts, talents and strengths that returned from the soul retrieval. Today people do not need more bad news. I emphasize the beauty that returned as well as inspiring stories about the joyful life the client can now create in being whole again.
This is vital work for the times we live in. It is time to return “home” and take our rightful place on the earth. It is our birthright to fully express our soul and create the world we want to live in. And it is our birthright to shine as brightly as the stars above us. It is time to share our light again in the world.
Sandra Ingerman, MA, is an award winning author of 10 books, including Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self, Medicine for the Earth: How to Transform Personal and Environmental Toxins, Walking in Light: The Everyday Empowerment of Shamanic Life and Speaking with Nature: Awakening to the Deep Wisdom of the Earth (co-authored with Llyn Roberts).
She is the presenter of seven audio programs produced by Sounds True, and is the creator of the Transmutation App.
Sandra is a world-renowned teacher of shamanism and has been teaching for more than 30 years. She has taught workshops internationally on shamanic journeying, healing, and reversing environmental pollution using spiritual methods. Sandra is recognized for bridging ancient cross-cultural healing methods into our modern culture addressing the needs of our times.
Visit Sandra’s website to access her workshops, books, audio programs, articles, interviews, and her monthly column, “The Transmutation News.”
To find a local shamanic practitioner or local shamanic teacher in your area who was trained by Sandra, click here.