Today’s the day: my new book, Teen Spirit Guide to Modern Shamanism releases world wide. To celebrate the occasion, all summer Intentional Insights will host leaders in Pagan and shamanic communities, artists, authors, and activists in the Teen Spirit Wise Voice Series. These fabulous people have come together to share their stories on exploring spirituality in their young adulthood, what spiritual traditions they honor now, and how the offroad experiences of their youth influence their work and path, now.
It goes without saying that the book, itself, is the culmination of years of work, study, and soul relationship-building, on my part. Honestly, when Alice Grist told me her plans for the Teen Spirit series, I cringed. The teen years were hard enough the first time, I didn’t really want to revisit any of it if I didn’t have to. Of course, that was me being selfish, because when I did finally give in and reflect on what was happening in my life on many fronts, at that time, I realized that baptism by fire for what it was, and I knew I would write this book for one simple reason: Nobody has to do it that way anymore.
That’s it, really. If we’ve learned nothing in the modern shamanic movement, which is what’s happening, if you haven’t looked around, it’s that we are our own tradition, now. We are no longer in the shadow of traditions spanning a history that was always eventually going to birth us. We are no longer pioneering a movement to begin; we’re in it. We are many paths aligned by timing and geography, reconnecting very personally with the sacred in a way that changes how we go forward, for all time as a culture. It’s time to realize and celebrate that fact, and look to building the foundation from which those who come after us will blossom.
We’ve obsessed about where we’ve been, taken a lot of shit for where we’ve come from. As we continue to find our shamanic roots, it’s time to share ecstatic vision for where we are going. We have the opportunity, now, to engage a new audience, a young audience. We have a collective opportunity to offer access to a tradition most of us didn’t have, and couldn’t even identity.
What became evident in talking with those in this blog series is that we all share a few common traits. We knew at a young age that we were experiencing life differently. For whatever personal reason, the collective directive that led us away from that knowing was to placate others, to make their lives and experience easier, more comfortable in approaching us–a pattern that for most lasted into adulthood. Another commonality made me laugh–the repetition of the phrase, “There was no Internet back then,” hinting at how just the advent of that one little thing would have left us feeling supported, connected, and possibly more educated about our worldview.
And now, we can offer so much more to those seeking, today. We have living, breathing, thriving shamans in active traditions all over the world to honor. We have each other.
Yes, those featured in this series share stories of challenged pasts, some of which are painful to read. What we have in common about our present is this: We recognize the shift in young adulthood that impacted our spiritual path forever, and through sharing our stories, want to encourage you to stay the course.
It’s worth it.
You’re not alone.
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It is true that the concepts of soul loss and soul retrieval are not new. An aspect of the infinite soul fleeing under duress is a state everyone has at some point experienced, regardless of terminology or ideology applied. In the realm of shamanic work it has been considered the apex ritual in restoring the soul, life force, or what we call personal power. There are many ways to do a soul retrieval, but it breaks down into locating the missing soul part, returning it to the earthly consciousness, and integrating that returned awareness into daily life.
When I began working with others 13 years ago, the phrase “soul retrieval” wasn’t widely known. The concept of “shamanism,” itself, conjured images of a shrouded dark figure in the woods wearing bones and chanting unintelligibly. For me to reveal that I saw myself as a modern shaman who worked with others in that capacity was a curious thing. The majority of people had some understanding of what soul work meant, however accurate, but few knew about soul retrieval. In that climate, when someone came to me and said, “I think I need a soul retrieval,” I paid close attention. Nine times out of ten they were exactly correct. It was a very safe assumption that if someone could articulate such an obscure and refined insight, there was an equally compelling need.
I find now that with a greater acceptance and understanding of holistic and energy medicine, there is an awareness of the need for spiritual healing. Many people still have a very fixed if not archaic image of shamans, though they have a better understanding of what they do. By default more people know what soul retrieval is and often readily request it. I do still pay very close attention to what drives a person to specifically express the need for soul retrieval, though I hold it more lightly than I used to.
What I’ve seen happening with this influx of desire for spiritual healing is that people have come to assimilate “soul retrieval” as the big quick fix. They have heard that it’s the quintessential shamanic mojo of healing spiritual wounds, but what they don’t realize is the range of behavioral, psychological, emotional, and often physical shifting that must occur for that healed balance of life force to stay connected with the earthly consciousness and promote wellbeing. Most people still don’t understand that spiritual healing is not instead of other modalities of healing. Rather, spiritual healing requires and inspires healing on all levels. If the other layers of the self aren’t addressed, no spiritual healing approach can bring lasting results. In the absence of needed soul aspects we develop coping mechanisms, crutches to deal with feeling a lack of power. These coping devices are just like any other–they don’t magickally go away. We still have to address them along with soul retrieval and integration.