I first experienced soul retrieval at Daan van Kampenhout’s training in Mexico City. As part of his teaching on Systemic Ritual he presented this concept to the group. I have met the concept before in my basic shamanic training but had a vague idea of how this could be practiced. We were to think of the times in our lives where some powerful, if not traumatising, events occurred and then use stones to represent the soul parts that were still there in those times and events. Being witnessed by a partner we were to set an intention to call those soul parts back and to use our voice to do it – singing, talking, humming. I have set up two soul parts that I believed were missing since I moved countries several times as a child, and breathing them back into my body brought quiet peace and a sense of completeness.
Soul retrieval is one of the core practices in traditional and modern shamanism. Description and details may vary depending on cultural context and background teaching but in its essence it is a belief that a person’s soul (or several souls in some cultures) could split into pieces and leave the body for various reasons. Most of the time, it will come back and reconnect but in times of great fear, threat, challenge and pain a part of the soul might choose to remain in dreamworld – the realm that we go to in our dreams, the other world, the other dimension – whatever you call it – the place deemed safer and more pleasant for the soul.
If soul loss occurs it may lead to physical and mental illness, a sense of dullness of life, as if something is missing and nothing is the same as it used to be. The colours are not as bright, the laughter is not as sincere and nothing seems to be able to change it – no matter what healing practices and therapy you do.
Traditionally, if I am to summarise this healing practice, when a practitioner senses soul loss, she would journey on behalf of the person to her guides and spirit helpers to get help in finding the missing part of the soul. Her guides would quickly locate it and bring her there. After some negotiation – mainly explaining what happened and that the threat/situation has shifted and the person is generally in a better state – a practitioner brings the missing soul part back to the person’s body.
My experience at Daan’s training, using stone representatives for the missing soul parts, and me doing my own work to call them back and integrate them, led me to using this practice in my constellation work. Two years later there is hardly a workshop without doing some soul retrieval.
A soul retrieval constellation has some ritualistic feel to it and often I am also using a drum to accompany the process, but we are still using representation and sentences to achieve resolution and bring the soul back. After we set up the soul part, the guide or spirit helper, sometimes the dreamworld or the initial event of separation, I usually ask the issue-holder to do the journey themselves and talk to their missing soul directly. This creates a sense of ownership and embodied experience of reconnecting with the soul part, of recognising how their current reality and situation improved since the soul went missing and also how they are incomplete without it. Making a promise to take care of the soul creates new sense of bonding with it, and responsibility to be more self-aware and caring.
On this journey I am always accompanying the issue holder, together with their guide, providing necessary sentences for resolution, asking them to sing their favourite childhood song or singing myself to emphasise the dreamworld state of the process. Sometimes, when I sense the tendency in an issue holder to drift off and disconnect, I introduce clear boundaries between our world and dream reality and only allow short periods for journeying in and out.
This work is highly symbolic, which I explain to the group or in a private session. What we do in soul retrieval constellation affects the psyche as much as it affects the spirit and it very much depends on one’s background and belief system, which one they would prefer to notice.
We all experience soul loss at some point in our lives. Probably many times. We might go on for years not noticing life becoming more and more dull, and attributing it to various factors in our environment. Mostly soul loss is not dangerous but is limiting, we don’t enjoy life the way we could be. But sometimes we might end up entrusting bits of our soul to loved ones who are gone, which then systemically shows up as a desire to follow the departed one into death. In fact, one is following their own soul part, that stayed with that person. In such constellations, doing soul retrieval is vital to one’s survival. It is very resourceful to us saying ‘yes’ to life and letting go of those who want to be let go of.
As a result of such work, often almost immediately, the person feels more alive and vibrant, sees everything around them in brighter colours, breathes deeper. Long term, their energy levels increase, they feel more themselves, life seems easier and more manageable and there is an overall sense of flow.
Aleksandra is a London based systemic constellations and systemic ritual practitioner. She has a life long curiosity about ways to improve life, find purpose, bring positive change, meaning and healing. This took her first into law, then into working with an international charity focused on social change starting with personal change. Following her heart and her path she trained with some world renowned teachers in systemic family constellations, systemic and shamanic rituals in Europe and Mexico. Aleksandra is now holding regular groups and private sessions in London and internationally as well as offering tailored rituals and ceremonies for important life events and healing.