What is soul? Why would we need to retrieve it? How could we “lose” it?
Soul is variously described as our essence; that part of the self that animates and survives the body; the part that is connected to Source, or God, or however you might name that which is eternal. “Soul” also connotes gravitas; empathy; wisdom, as distinct from intelligence; the state of being fully in touch with one’s emotions—as in soulful music.
We can lose soul as a result of trauma; as a result of fear; as a result of walling ourselves off from our emotions and sense of connectedness. Once we’ve lost our sense of connection—of empathy—we can inflict harm upon others—indeed, upon the world—without realizing we’re also inflicting it upon ourselves. We think we’re separate. We’ve lost our soul.
Looking around at the state of the natural world; at the number of endangered and extinct species; at the amount spent on preparing for war, the waging of wars, the justifications of war, those traumatized by war, as well as at the number of incarcerations, deportations, and other forms of institutionally inflicted violence, one could deduce that we have lost our collective soul. Or at least a good chunk of it.
What to do?
Our interview this month is with Sandra Ingerman, perhaps the West’s leading practitioner of shamanic soul retrieval—which takes soul loss literally and, again literally, goes off in search of lost souls to bring them back to their rightful owners. Ingerman believes that we must each reclaim our individual souls for collective soul retrieval to take place. Retrieving the dissociated part of our selves—our lost souls—is only the first step in the process. Afterward, these parts must be reintegrated. And we must learn to live our lives more consciously, empathetically, and responsibly.
Other authors this month explore other means of soul retrieval, many of which involve “a searching and fearless moral inventory” (as the 12-steppers say), followed by a commitment to redress the wrongs we have committed. Audrey Addison Williams writes courageously of her own struggle to come to terms with the demons of racism, patriarchy, and other forms of power and control and calls upon her fellow Americans to do the same. Noah Levine writes of his journey from violent, drug-addicted, punk-rocker to Buddhist meditation teacher and activist. William Cass, Kayla Swanson, and Robert Pope share fictional accounts of individuals stepping from loss into grace. And poets Lynn B. Green, Joe Cottonwood, Claudine Nash, Peggy Turnbull, Karen Robiscoe, Thanissara, Alan Walowitz, and Laura Grace Weldon evoke what it might mean to live from a more soulful place. Plus, we have four powerful Movies You Might’ve Missed (but shouldn’t) and MOON Shine.
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Photo: Allef Vinicius for Unsplash.com.