Have you ever felt “not all there” for prolonged periods of time, as if you lost your light, your spark, your creativity? Did you choose to put aside things you were once passionate about, and when you think of them you feel sad and depressed? Have you gone through traumatic experiences, lost loved ones, or experienced a lot of suffering in your life? Your suffering doesn’t even have to seem huge in the eyes of the world, sensitive people often take “smaller” traumas really hard. If you said yes to a few of these questions, you may have experienced some soul loss. Indigenous cultures throughout the world, namely those who work with shamanic practice, perform rituals known as “soul retrievals” to gather the lost parts of yourself. Jungian psychotherapy also works with these types of concepts of parts of the self. Dissociative Identity Disorder is an extreme manifestation of soul fragmentation that can be triggered by extreme trauma.
Working with an experienced, genuine shaman or therapist who specializes in soul retrieval can help if you think you have experienced soul loss, but you can also do this work yourself, and see how far you can go. You can begin to do your own soul retrieval work through shadow work and inner child work. Through following Joseph Campbell’s advice, “follow your bliss”, you may find yourself being in alignment with your soul’s purpose and thus find yourself getting back on track. Energy work that involves grounding yourself in your body, healing your energetic boundaries, shielding yourself while they heal, and tapping into source energy are also invaluable methods. If you have experienced a lot of trauma, yoga, EDMR, EFT (tapping), meditation, and pranayama or breath work can also be of great assistance to getting present in your body and healing from abuse of all kinds.
My experience was “accidental” or serendipitous. Four years ago today I did what my friend later called a “soul retrieval” when I recounted what happened. I didn’t really intend to do it. Your milage may vary, my circumstances and experiences are particular but I want to honour my experience and also show how magic can take place in the most everyday of experiences, and how awakening can happen when we least expect it. The potential for miracles is always within us.
In early November 2016, I was diagnosed with two benign tumours, one lipoma where my neck meets my upper back, and another in my uterus, which was causing me to bleed heavily. These probably resulted from the toxic coping mechanisms I adopted to cope with the trauma of an abusive relationship. I didn’t eat well, and I drank a lot for years. I had put on a lot of weight around the time my narcissist husband and I stopped being intimate due to the medication he was on which made him lose interest in sex. I felt abandoned and rejected, and I also realized he was not going to change, and we started to grow apart. Something in me decided now is the time to follow my dreams, and I started pursuing an art career in the city, going to shows, openings, networking events, and by the summer I was sharing a studio downtown, and driving into the city each weekend. At the same time, my body was rebelling. I was so weak with anemia from my blood loss that sometimes I had to paint from the floor. I fell in love with someone in the art community and I was weak from that too, and things were opening inside me that had been dormant and blocked for some time.
My doctor, who had spent years in India, prescribed yoga, which I thought was cute, since that was the last thing I expected, and I started to do yoga and intentional breathing, and began to realize how much pain, tension, and anxiety I was holding in my body. After years in isolation with my abuser in the country, it was quite a change to move in social circles suddenly. I began to become aware that I had poor boundaries, when an unsavoury character from an art opening began crossing them. I felt weak, for not knowing my boundaries or being able to tell this person that I didn’t want him to touch me like that, or send me personal messages, and so on. I remember thinking about intention, and breath, and sitting in my studio and telling myself, “I want the part of me that has a backbone.” I took a deep breath in, imagining that part of myself coming back to me. It was simply an intuitive move, something I thought may help me remember to set my boundaries, but suddenly I decided, what the hell, “I want all the missing parts of me back,” taking another deep inhale, and going about my day.
In the days after, Trump was elected for the first time, my aunt died, and Leonard Cohen died, the first musical artist whose death ever truly struck me. This combination of events left me in a melancholy mood. I remember I had taught myself the Gayatri mantra at this time, and I walked to my studio from an art opening at the Montreal Musee des Beaux Arts in my tights, heels in hand, desolately reciting the mantra to myself on the way back, thinking of death and loss.
Not long after, on November 14, 2016, I was standing in my kitchen preparing spaghetti sauce while my husband was on the daybed, probably listening to CBC radio. I remember trying to intentionally be present in my body, to relax, to breathe. I was probably drinking wine, and maybe listening to my own music with headphones on. I started to feel strange, as if a hallucinogen was just starting to come on. I texted my friend, saying something to the effect of, “It’s a full moon, I feel strange, is the energy weird tonight or is it just me?” I didn’t wait to hear the answer as I began to feel energy shifts that I had never felt before. I had done energy work with my husband in the past, but it was always him clearing and moving my energy through Tantra, he never taught me how. He had to be the middle man, the mediator, the guru. I started to feel hyper-aware, lit up, altered. Then, all at once, I felt this etheric body enter my physical body. It literally felt like it was putting me on like a coat. I felt it stretch and slither into my limbs, not in a physical way, but a subtle way, yet still, it was palpable and distinct. I started to notice slight things, like the tension in my shoulders that had me hunched up and protected, the slightly less than perfect vision in my right eye, this was hard for my spirit to adjust to. I slowly crumpled to the ground in front of the sink, spaghetti sauce abandoned and bubbling away. I could tell that something shifted, and I started crying. I remember saying, “it hurts to be here.” I knew I had to tell my husband, my former spiritual teacher, what had happened. He was concerned, thought I was going mad, but also was taking note, sometimes believing what was happening to me, other times saying I was having a psychotic breakdown. But I knew, everything was different. I didn’t at the time know how different things would be, but the entire focus of my life changed from this point. I returned to spiritual practise, and had many awakenings, purgings, layers of ego death, and mystical experiences. What triggered it? Not just the intention, the mantra, the breath, but that all contributed. It was as if a dam had broken. I took a few steps towards resuming a spiritual practise that I had largely abandoned when my teacher-husband went blind nearly 10 years prior. I had, not quite, lost faith, but I felt like a failure as a student, and as a mystic, as he worked hard to make feel that way. I felt our spiritual path had abandoned us, and I was abandoned to my trauma and the abuse, and I was abusing myself. Quite rapidly at first, I underwent an intense purging of all that was not my higher self, and became more and more focused on standing in my power and seeing the truth of who my teacher really was, and the toll he had taken on me. I learned how weak my boundaries were and how to assert them, and how to begin to heal all the damage to my body, mind, and soul in the years to come. All of which was guided and full of synchronicity and magic. I am ever grateful.