Soul Retrieval: A Story
I saw him walk out of the shadows of a deep cave where I suddenly found myself, sitting in an overstuffed leather chair. A fire that seemed to be both alive and sacred threw a comfortable warmth in a space where warmth was not a frequent feature.
I watched him pause there, looking at me. It was a small boy about five years of age. He was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. His hair was disheveled. He held a tattered stuffed lion, and it appeared that he had been crying for a long time.
“It’s ok,” I assured him. I was going to say, “I won’t hurt you,” but something wiser than I advised against it before I spoke those words. Instead, I added, “You’re safe.”
The darkness that surrounded us both roared angrily as if darkness can do such things. The boy stood where he was, still as a stone and even more mute.
It was at this point that I understood the cause of his fear. He had been abused. I didn’t know what form the abuse had taken; sexual, emotional, or physical. But this boy – his posture and demeanor – had told me that he had been wounded by someone in whose dubious care he had been left.
The voice that stopped me from reminding him of the subject of his safety now returned and urged me to continue.
“Talk to him,” It said. “He’s not running away, yet…”
I took a deep breath. What could I say? I didn’t know, for sure. I started by reiterating what I had said a moment before.
“You’re safe, now.” I mentally kicked myself because the word “now” might remind him that he had not been safe, “then,” whenever that had been. More than anything else, I wanted this young boy to trust me and to feel safe with me. I was certain I could provide that, for him; safety and trust. But how could I convince him of this?
We continued to regard one another. Me, from a comfortable, overstuffed leather chair placed in the middle of a dark cave, lit only by torches and a blazing, crackling fire a few feet from me. He, from a Darkness that literally knew no bounds.
And then I saw it. I saw what happened to him. Contrasted with many others’ stories, it wasn’t what we might call, “major.” But that was only my perception. His was quite different, obviously. In short, when he was about five years old, he had been punished for doing something he knew would be against his parent’s wishes, but he couldn’t help himself. When he was caught, he was mercilessly punished by his father - who he adored more than anyone. It had been a simple misjudgment; the product of the curiosity of a boy. But it was into this crevice that the concept of Shame had been introduced and packed down, reinforced with the threat of physical violence. There were some things, apparently, that it was not ok to be curious about. It was best to either stifle that curiosity or be curious in hiding.
“What happened to you,” I started, “was unfair. “You… you have a beautiful mind, my young man. And you weren’t hurting anyone. It’s completely natural to be curious about your body, and others, too. It’s foreign to you, after all. You’re far older than your mortal body, after all.”
On some level, I knew that what I was saying should be over his head. But at the same time, I realized that it wasn’t. This little boy understood not only the words, but the concepts. He now spoke.
“But why did he get so mad at me, then?” he said in a small voice.
“He did it because that’s how he was taught. In most ways, his anger wasn’t his fault, either. He was taught a certain way and he acted in accordance with that way.”
“But he had no love for me, when he said those things. That’s what scared me the most.”
“Little man,” I countered,” “he did have love, and he still has love for you. But the teachings he received blocked that love from coming out when you needed it most. He was unable to express it, because he feared. He didn’t want to hurt you as much as he wanted to teach you. It’s just that his methods were unsound, administered without love.”
The boy continued to stare at me. He shifted his lion from one hand to the other. What he said next broke my heart.
“There’s no love, here. There’s only fear.”
The darkness heaved like an ice flow, then receded again. It was cold, and dark, and frightening. It seemed boundless, space-like.
Gathering my courage, I asked, “Tell me what happened to you. Tell me your story. There’s a nice fire, and a chair for you to sit in.” (One had materialized out of the darkness.)
The boy started to move a foot forward, then hesitated.
“I love you, little man. No one is going to hurt you again. I will protect you.”
At this, his eyes grew wide again, and he almost ran back deeper into the cave. It occurred to me that the thought of feeling safe with an adult again was almost as terrifying as remaining in a loveless cave. After all, if he were to extend his trust to another adult, it would open the possibility of being hurt again.
I felt to add: “I’ve come a long way to find you. And I brought you a gift, too.”
Opening my hand, I presented a heart-shaped stone. I recognized the stone from my own altar. I don’t use the stone in any ceremonial way. I never have. Frankly, I picked it up on a hike a few years before out of mere novelty. It seemed to “want” to be on my altar, so I had placed it there and forgot about it.
But now, here it was in my extended hand.
As I looked in wonder at it in my hand, remembering how it came to be with me, I saw the boy’s hand reach into mine, and solemnly pluck it out. Looking up, I now saw him take a step back and settle into his chair, which looked exactly like mine. He looked at me without expression.
“How can you protect me?”
It was at this point that I saw that I had the power to transmit to this young man all the lessons I had learned in my life. I saw that I had acted with love for the bulk of my it. In some cases, even when it was very hard to do so. I had sacrificed for love, and I was able to project this to him now. Every instance where I had been of genuinely selfless service came back to me. Every time I had counseled a teenager. Every class I had taught, every instance I had followed a spiritual prompting to call a friend far later than normal. Every time I had cried at the sound of another’s heartbreaking story. Every ceremony I had performed for others. It all came back.
It’s said that when we experience death, we get a review of our lives. This was something akin to that, yet it centered on the best of my experiences that was related to the times I had truly loved another in a selfless way.
The little boy blinked, seemingly for the first time, all eyes in a chair far too big for him. A small smile appeared briefly on his face.
“I love you,” I said. “Tell me your story. What happened?” I already knew this, but my inner voice told me to hear it again, from his perspective.
“OK,” he said.
And I listened. I listened to the cares of a small boy who felt he had been wronged by a man that he adored. I heard the story from his own mouth, how he didn’t mean to hurt anyone – and in fact hadn’t hurt anyone. There were tears and there was anger. At one point, he yelled in abject rage. The rage itself was terrifying, and I fought the urge to calm him down. The depths of his sorrow, the disappointment, the tears… it took all the self-discipline I could muster to stay in that cave with that little person while the darkness laughed.
When he had explained and expressed the fullness of his emotion, a meditative stillness began to bundle it up, seeming to intend to take it deeper into the cave. But I stopped it from leaving with the force of my will. It occurred to me that if it had been allowed to progress, it might simply find another little boy to attach to.
Instead, by some method previously unknown to me, I gathered that energy up. Using sweeping arm motions and hands that acted like magnets, I pulled all that hurt, that rage, and disappointment, and fashioned it into a dark ball of some kind of “matter.” About the size of a cantaloupe, it looked like storm clouds. Lightning flashed from it.
The little boy watched, his jaw agape and his eyes wide. I saw his little fist grip the heart-shape stone, even tighter.
“Is it ok if I place this ball of energy into the fire?” I asked him.
A single tear coursed down his beautiful, pure, innocent face. He nodded.
With a sense of relief, I placed the angry darkness into the fire. It flared, and a black cloud of smoke materialized, then vanished.
The boy looked at me. “Now what?”
I had to chuckle at this. He smiled now, too. Really smiled, for the first time.
It was now that I had the power to show him something. I was able to project with my mind a picture that appeared in front of us; not on the walls of the cave, but beyond the fire. It was the picture of a room. In the room were the little boys’ favorite books. There were pictures of his family and his dog. His bed was made, and posters of Julius Erving and Jerry West, his two favorite basketball players, decorated the walls. Best yet, his bed had been made by his mother, who he loved.
“This is a room I have for you, my man. You can stay here with me. Nothing will hurt you, ever again. You can be safe here. You’ll have all the food you want, and shame will not be a part of your young life, ever again.”
“That’s my room?” the little boy said, standing now as if he were going to walk right into the vision itself. His eyes were wide. He wouldn’t have been any more excited if I had told him we were headed for Disneyland.
“Yes, it is if you’ll take it,” I said softly.
Smiling with unbridled gratitude, the little boy turned to face me, fully. I held out my arms for him to come to me, which he did.
I was now holding this little boy in my arms. It felt good to hold him, to welcome him from the dark cave. He snuggled into my chest with all the trust in the world, with all the trust he had once possessed.
“What is your name, young man?”
“My name is Eric Marley.”
“It’s nice to see you, Eric. That’s my name, too. Welcome home.”
I took a deep breath. I found myself lying alone in the middle of a dark desert on the night of a new moon under stars that seemed to be made of crystalline love. A fire’s dying embers were nearby. It had been a ceremony, I now remembered. One that I had only recently learned how to self-perform.
“It’s called a ‘soul retrieval,’” my teacher had told me.
It’s said that many of our illnesses, physical, emotional and mental, come from unhealed wounds. I’ve seen this energy, many times, rising like puffs of smoke from the chakras of the people who have come to me for help of one kind or another.
The teaching is that when we’re traumatized, particularly before we have the capacity to process the event, the energy from those events lodge themselves within our bodies. Buried there too long, they “spin off” energy that matches the energy of the perception of the memory, which is usually not helpful to our present lives (which is why it was important for young Eric to tell his own story). Unhealed for long enough, this “present energy from past events” can cause anything from addiction, to mental or emotional illness, to cancer.
Yet, most of us have not been taught how to process the memories of these events in healthy ways. So, we carry it around and it informs our lives - needlessly, yet consistently.
One way to address these wounds is through a process called a “soul retrieval.” There are many ways to do this. Generally, this is a ceremony that’s performed by a shamanic practitioner of some sort. It’s usually done in a group setting, with each person undergoing their own processes, and then discussing it afterward. But as I’ve attempted to illustrate in this short essay, there are instances where it can be done alone, depending on the experiences and understanding of the Journeyer.
No matter what, I want to present this simplified version of a Soul Retrieval as one of many tools we have to increase our overall health. There are others that work in similar ways, as well.
For more information, please reach out to me privately at www.marleysoulworks.com.