shamanic healing

Power Animal Retrieval

Power Animal Retrieval By Jan Engels-Smith

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”

Anatole France

Power Animal Retrieval By Jan Engels-Smith

 

In the Christian faith, people often speak of guardian angels as beings that are available to provide special assistance in the time of need. In the blending of faiths that I practice, I too believe in guardian angels, but in shamanism there is the belief that we are born with a power animal that serves as an ally throughout our lives, although we may not always be aware of this formidable supporter. As we grow into adulthood in the West, it is likely that we are not familiar with the concept of a power animal but these beings are always available if we decide to seek them out and call on them for support.

Children, in their divine innocence, are assigned a power animal at birth and this spiritual helper intervenes to buffer the child from the notorious bumps and bruises that each child is so subject to. Children’s resilience and adaptability is enabled by these divine spirits that keep them safe until they mature. We often lose contact with these divine spiritual beings as we grow up and unfortunately put away “childish things.” Our loss of imagination and dismissal of “magic” as a force in our lives causes us to sever our connections to the spiritual world and to our power animal. Power animal loss affects us in many of the same ways as soul loss, as they are closely connected. In shamanic practice, the restoration of lost parts of the soul is aided by the retrieval of one’s power animal and this spiritual helper sustains us in difficult situations.

The signs of power animal loss and/or soul loss may include:

  • Chronic fatigue, depression, misfortune, faulty or failed relationships, emotional problems or suicide tendencies;
  • The inability to overcome some emotional trauma from the past such as the death of a loved one, divorce, or distress in childhood;
  • Addictions to alcohol, drugs, gambling, or other debilitating dependencies;
  • Repetitive or major illnesses or a problem with recovery;
  • Shame, guilt, or a feeling of unworthiness;
  • A feeling of powerlessness.

In difficult situations, when we are in our greatest need, the absence of our power animal exposes us to greater danger and the opportunity to heal is lessened without this divine intervention. Fortunately, as we seek to recover from trauma, possibly by seeking out a soul retrieval from a shamanic practitioner, the retrieval of our power animal can help us to fully mend and this spiritual helper can remain with us to sustain our recovery. Our power animal does not cease to exist when he has left us because of our ceasing to believe in him; he has simply bided his time awaiting our decision to seek him out and bring him back to help us.

You may think of your power animal as having traveled from you (although it might be more accurate to understand that you have traveled far from him) or you might consider that he has been sleeping for many years. In either scenario, you have been exposed to debilitating and harmful conditions and have suffered the consequences of facing your suffering alone. If you have entered in a quest for personal enlightenment, healing, and reconnection to the universe, then you would be well served to retrieve your power animal and accept his willingness to aid and abet you in the restoration of your wellbeing, regaining your own personal power, and thriving in your spiritual development.

I would make one distinction in reference to power animals. If you engage with shamanic healing, you may be aware of the shaman calling on a diverse range of power animals to effect healing and to restore wellness in an individual. These power animals are allies of the shaman and assist the shaman both in healing sessions as well as everyday life. The power animals incorporated in shamanic practices often are assisting with tasks that you are involved with. These power animals can come and go without power loss to the individual. These are not the power animals to which I am referring when I speak of your retrieval of your personal power animal. Your unique connection to the spiritual world is shaped by your individual divinity and your power animal is specific to your birth, life, and person. In your life you may not have a full awareness of your power animal because you have created a distance between him and you, but you possess the capacity to recover this important ally in your life and the ability to reconnect and draw on his strength. Your personal power animal is important because he is specific to you and, once retrieved, can be one of your strongest allies.

The varieties of power animals that I access provide different support in different circumstances. You might have one power animal that you call on when you are feeling fear in a frightening experience. A powerful tiger might cause you to feel safer because of the fearlessness of your ally. In another circumstance, you might seek out a power animal that you identify with as providing peace and comfort when you are in need of gentle solace and a relief from tension. When I was writing my first book I asked for a power animal to come forth in the writing process.  A raccoon appeared.  I inquired from the raccoon what were his gifts that he could offer me during my writing.  He informed me that it was his dexterity with his hands.  He would help me with typing.

People often confuse power animals with totem animals. With totem animals there is a recognition of a particular animal that most characterizes a person’s own natures or their desired natures. I have a friend who is funny and playful in his everyday habits and he identifies readily with the coyote, which often reflects those same behaviors. An adventurous individual might find that his totem is an eagle that soars to great heights. An individual seeking confidence might discover that his totem is the brave lion. Again, totem and power animals are different.  Our power animal does not necessarily represent parts of our persona.  We do not invent our power animals; we discover them or they discover us. To find out their purpose in our lives it is best to ask the animal.  Many people will turn to books such as Animal Speaks by Ted Andrews or the Medicine Cards by Jamie Sands to find out why an animal came into their lives.  Turning to resources such as these can be helpful in understanding the basic qualities of the animal but your best source of information about its appearance as your “power animal” will always come from the animal itself.

There is no better or lesser power animal. The great elephant is not superior to the small prairie dog or even the earthworm. In the great design of the universe, each living being plays a significant role in existence and is equally valued. There is no hierarchy in the spirit world, which is where these allies exist. The earthworm, the honeybee, and the songbird are essential and make invaluable contributions to the continuing functioning of the universe. As you seek out the restoration of your power animal, stay open to all possibilities and you might be surprised by your discovery of this divine ally.

Journeying is of course the foremost method used to discover power animals. For those that are not familiar with journeying here is a process you might follow.

  • Find a quiet place beyond outside attractions. This may be indoors but a peaceful outdoor environment is also conducive to communing with the spirits.
  • Relax in a meditative mode. Breathe deeply to begin and then gently and rhythmically. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods.”
  • Empty your mind of any preconceived images and open yourself to discovery.
  • Ask the spirits to assist you.
  • Allow various animals to approach you as they occur to you in your thoughts or imagination.
  • Speak to them and ask questions as needed.
  • Listen carefully. Remember that our spiritual allies do not always communicate in words but often connect to our different senses and our intuitive receptors.
  • Consider the feeling that the animal engenders in your physical, emotional, and spiritual being.
  • Do not force a decision but accept the responses that your inner self provides.
  • If you do not succeed in the restoration of your power animal on your first effort, do not despair. Your power animal will come when you and he are ready.
  • Thank the spirits when you conclude whether successful or not.

*You may choose to be assisted in this effort with a trained shamanic practitioner.

Spiritual allies are part of the universe’s great plan. All things are connected and exist for the mutual benefit of all. When life presents challenges, it is not because the universe is indifferent to us, but that we have lost our connection with the strength that exists in the unity of all things. Power animals are spiritual beings that reestablish our connections and offer to guide and advise us. They stand with us in adversity and strengthen our sense of self-worth and empower us to act wisely and with confidence. Your power animal will be there when you need him. Rediscover, restore, and use him.

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Shamanic Healing and Soul Retrieval

Shamanic Healing and Soul Retrieval By Jan Engels-Smith

Learning about shamanic healing and soul retrieval became imperative for me. I contacted Sandra Ingerman, the author of Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self, through the Foundation for Shamanic Studies. I strongly felt that I needed to have a soul retrieval and the information about journeying stimulated wisdom that already resided in my soul. I remembered lifetimes of being a healer and my knowledge from previous lifetimes became available to me again. I not only reevaluated my counseling practice, I reevaluated my understanding of the concepts of God, Spirits, possibilities, and other realities-the meaning of life!

Shamanism is an ancient healing art, dating back at least 40,000 years and was used by most indigenous cultures in the world. This healing method emphasizes that all experiences affect your soul and that all healing comes through the soul. In shamanic cultures, the care of the soul is extremely important. In fact, it is the most important aspect of healing. The shamanic belief is that a human being is first and foremost a soul having a human experience, not the other way around. If the soul is cared for properly or is healed through the process of soul retrieval, other healings can then manifest in the mental, emotional, and physical bodies of an individual person.

We have doctors who specialize in everything imaginable except for the soul in our Western culture. To me, this care of the soul is the missing link in healing and must be cared for first. Fortunately, this is beginning to be understood in our Western culture and more people are seeking out individuals such as shamans for their healing.

Shamanically speaking, all things are energy. The movement or the transmutation of energy is part of the healing of the soul, which is itself energy. In a healing, the shaman moves out the energy that does not belong to a person and refills him/her with the divine energy that is the essence of that person’s true soul. The theory behind soul retrieval is that there is soul loss when an individual experiences powerful or traumatic situations.

Through individual experiences like some sort of trauma, a person loses part of himself as a survival mechanism to withstand the pain. In shamanic terms, this process is called “soul loss.” In psychology, it is called “disassociation.” Psychology does not ask where the lost part goes and how one gets it back. In the practice of shamanism, when a piece of the soul or energy leaves, it actually goes into another reality and is lost from the person. A void then exists in that person’s soul. Think of the soul as a giant jigsaw puzzle. When you experience a trauma, a piece of the puzzle is lost, leaving an empty space in the puzzle. When this soul loss occurs, a soul retrieval is necessary to restore wholeness. In a process called journeying, a shaman is trained to enter an altered state of consciousness and travel into different realities to find and retrieve the lost soul parts. The shaman then literally blows these parts back into the client via the heart and the top of the head, restoring wholeness to the client.

The voids created by soul loss can actually fill up with energy that is foreign to the soul. This can manifest into all kinds of diseases or physical, mental, or emotional problems. According to shamanic definition, the soul is perfect and divine, and life should reflect this. If a person is not experiencing happiness, or if there are physical, emotional, or mental problems apparent within a person, then evidence exists that there is not only soul loss but also an intruding negative energy. Extracting this negative energy and restoring the soul through the process of a soul retrieval promotes feelings of wholeness and happiness. When a person stopped singing, indigenous people realized that a soul retrieval was needed. With the restoration of the soul’s wholeness, the person would sing again.

In a shamanic culture, care of the soul is part of daily existence. I believe that is why these cultures are notably contented, happy, and crime-free. People who are whole or feel good about themselves handle the ups and downs of life in a wholesome way. When people feel fearful, threatened, or fragmented, their responses to life are extremely different from those who feel trustful, optimistic, whole, and complete. In our culture, we have very little experience with sustaining trust and optimism. Our cultural system is based on a win-lose hierarchy. Someone is always gaining while another is losing. In shamanic cultures, this win/lose phenomenon is seen as soul stealing, or stealing away someone’s personal power.

Many people purposely steal personal power from others. A person can be the victim of this theft at any stage of life, but it often happens to children, especially if they are raised with authoritarian, controlling, or needy parents. The parents actually steal power away from their children. A resultant exchange of power occurs if a person is abused in any way: emotionally, physically, sexually, or mentally. The overpowered loses energy to the abuser. Children are easy targets to control and extremely vulnerable to soul stealing. The resultant soul loss leaves a void that is filled by negative energy (usually feelings of unworthiness) and the individual carries this energy for a lifetime, or until the lost soul parts can be retrieved. If there is no care of the soul built into the culture’s system, the result is a society of wounded people. Feelings of unworthiness can lead to all sorts of dysfunctional behaviors and attitudes that predominate in society. These feelings of lack can take generations to heal, but once the patterns are recognized efforts can be made toward healing. I have found in my own research that the core counseling issue for most people is the issue of unworthiness. People need to be genuinely loved and connected to a higher power. Once soul theft occurs, an effort must be made to recover it.

Cultural and family mores often create hierarchical gender structures, which establish male dominance. The result is socially reinforced losses of personal power for a false sense of social order. A country-western song like “Stand by Your Man” is an example of a gender-based system of control that suggests “appropriate” positions of power in relationships. Women have been taught to give away their personal power to the male gender to find love or acceptance. Other examples of this belief system abound in our culture, but in true love and acceptance one does not give away one’s soul. The void caused by engaging in this behavior can have extremely adverse effects.

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