It was the night of my fifteenth birthday. I was lying in bed, curled in the fetal position, crying.
My parents had split up and the following day my mum would be moving out.
I desperately wanted to run into her bedroom and beg her to stay. But I didn’t because I knew it wouldn’t be enough to make her change her mind … and this would only make me feel worse.
Fast forward many years to last Friday. I was lying on a shaman’s treatment table, while she pounded on a drum and attempted to retrieve the lost parts of my soul. Pretty standard Friday, really.
I’d come to see the shaman as research for my FREE SPIRIT book, where I explore ancient spiritual traditions, to see what they can offer us today.
Soul retrieval is an ancient shamanic practise that operates on the premise that, when we experience trauma or loss, part of our soul or essential self breaks away in order to survive the pain.
This leaves us feeling disconnected and incomplete, which in turn can manifest as depression, anxiety and other, physical ailments.
In a soul retrieval session the shaman will attempt to retrieve the lost parts of you and reintegrate them.
I’d never heard of it before my session and as I lay there, having been instructed to relax and do nothing, I could’t really imagine how it was going to work.
Then the drumming stopped and the shaman asked me to join her, sitting at her table.
‘I’m now going to tell you what I saw on my journey,’ she said.
I sat back and nodded, still unsure of what to make of it all.
‘The first thing I saw was you as a girl, curled up in your bed and crying,’ she told me. ‘And the soul contract you made for yourself in that moment were the words, “I am not enough.“‘
I got a flashback to me crying in my bed on my fifteenth birthday and the realisation I’d made that I was not enough to get my mum to stay.
I gulped and nodded. ‘Go on.’
‘Then I saw the part of your soul you let go of that day. She was a wild and carefree girl, sitting on a riverbank, swinging her legs over the water.’ The shaman smiled warmly at the memory of what she saw. ‘She was so carefree,’ she repeated.
I felt a deep stab of recognition. This carefree part of me might have become disconnected but she’s always been there in the background, peeping out from behind trees on my woodland hikes and runs, cheering me on when I travel, whispering ‘if only...’ into my dreams.
My mum moving out forced me to grow up very quickly. And subsequently, I’ve always felt burdened by a heavy sense of responsibility; a sense that I have to be strong and savvy and sensible, or else all hell will break loose.
This strength has stood me in very good stead in life but, over the years, I’ve felt a growing yearning; a gnawing feeling that it has come at a very high price.
‘The next thing I saw was what your gift would be if you reconnected with this lost part of yourself,’ the shaman continued. ‘It was the image of a large, happy group of people, eating and drinking and chatting and laughing around a table – like an Italian family.’
A shiver ran up my spine. This scenario has always been my definition of happy.
‘Would you like to reconnect with this lost part of your soul?’ the shaman asked.
I nodded enthusiastically.
She then performed a ritual involving stones, which symbolised the different parts of the journey. I let go of the stone that signified my belief that ‘I am not enough‘ and reclaimed the stone that symbolised the lost wild and carefree part of me.
Then I created a new, more positive soul contract, an inner belief that I am more than enough.
The shaman asked me to lie back down, while she rattled and drummed and burned sage and did other ‘shaman stuff’ and I basically chilled out.
I returned home feeling light and happy.
But a couple of hours later – while I was cleaning the dishes, bizarrely – a picture of the wild and carefree person I could have been popped into my head and I burst into tears.
But, unlike the tears I shed that night of my fifteenth birthday, these tears felt cleansing.
They were the kind of tears you shed when greeting a long lost, much-loved friend.
Retrieving the lost parts of you…
Think back to a time of pain or trauma in your own life.
Do you get the sense that a part of you became disconnected as a result of what you went through?
Have you subsequently experienced wistful moments when you’ve sensed this aspect of yourself trying to get your attention or itching to reconnect?
Is there a braver, bolder, wilder, sexier part of you that was put to sleep by fear?
Would you like to reconnect with this part of your authentic self?
When I was leaving, the shaman told me that our soul retrieval session was only the first stage of the process.
It would now be down to me to make the necessary changes in my life to allow the retrieved part of me back in.
Once you’ve identified the missing part of you, ask yourself what changes you could make to allow him or her to reconnect with you.
If it helps, free-write about it in a notebook, using these prompts:
A painful and traumatic time for me was…
As a way of protecting myself from the pain I stopped…
A limiting belief I developed then was…
The part myself that became disconnected was…
I sense that part of myself sometimes when…
I could reclaim that part of myself by…
The most ironic thing about disconnecting from a part of ourselves to protect us from pain is that it doesn’t work.
Repression leads to frustration, loss and depression.
Here’s to finding the courage to live life as our true and complete selves.
The shaman I saw was Maddy Elruna. You can find out more about her work here.
If you found this post helpful, you might be interested in my book, True Face, which you can find out more about here.