In which I make contact with my new spirit animal and meet with the three returning soul parts in this uncommon search for leadership skills by way of a shamanic soul retrieval ceremony.
Before I had even made contact with my returning soul parts, I knew immediately that I had my ten year old back as soon as I stepped onto the mat at my martial arts studio Monday night after the weekend of my soul retrieval ceremony. She had such energy and excitement for the 90 minute class in stark contrast to the many months I had merely endured the routines, noting an aging body upon which doubt was now being cast. While calculating, in 15 minute increments, how long, until class would be over.
I now remembered this child in a visceral way, in all her gleeful impudence and confidence. Her days were filled with accomplishments—making things, writing, doing homework, ordering the children who lived with her on the extended family compound to do her bidding, making requests of the staff, and making appearances to the various family members who wanted to see her face daily—the only child of the first son of the first wife.
Her abiding thought was that everything she touched she would be able to do perfectly. This was not a measurement of actual merit, but a sense that, through the grace of birth and entitlement, if she managed to follow directions to the letter it would be good enough. And she was proud of this fact.
She was also a little more reckless and clumsier than I was used to being; it was fascinating to watch her, to feel her, in this high energy environment, match the attempts of the rest of the black belts in my class, most of them still children themselves.
Three days later, after I had met this returning soul part in non-ordinary reality, she had calmed down quite a bit, having become more integrated. That was the day, I noticed the panther
and wondered why it hadn't occurred to me to remember it before. In the shamanic world we looked for these synchronicities for confirmation that we were working with the divine flow of inspiration. Shape shifting into a panther was how Lenore had managed to calm the energy of this 10 year old entity.
My eye had come to rest on the panther crouched on top of the supply cabinet behind the reception area, just as my instructor reminded us to use a spot for our spinning hook kick. From the back of the room it was just at eye level. The near life size black panther had not been with us long, maybe only since the move to the new location very recently. I didn't remember when I first saw it. Most of the school/s imagery was in dragons so it had seemed an anomaly.
The Gift Of A New Power Animal
At my soul retrieval ceremony session, Lenore had given me an assignment. I was to follow up with my returning soul parts in the non-ordinary reality of the shamanic journey. For this work I would have the gift of my new power animal to help me.
I wondered if my other two animal guides would be jealous. I had no experience of such introductions, for the first two had arrived together in my original power animal ceremony.
In the early hours of the morning, my iPod on my ten minute drumming segment, I descended to the Lower World, calling for my usual companions. They were as excited as I was at the prospect of meeting a new power animal. I jumped on Bear's back with Mongoose and off we went at a great clip, slowing only to enter the underbrush of the jungle. We made our way in and came to a clearing where the sun shone through and there we saw her, curled up on a large flat rock, sleeping in the sun—a white spotted Leopard.
The three of us stood respectfully at a distance discussing if we ought to sing her awake, when she opened her eyes, looked at us with much affection and came forward to rub up against each of us. I explained to her that she was given to me to help with the reintegration of my returning soul parts.
She composed herself and sat facing away from us, gazing into the jungle. From the trees at the edge of the clearing came the 19 year old dressed in white shirt and jeans, her signature red blazer slung over her shoulder. The same outfit as in my iconic Patti Smith a la Maplethorpe portrait, but not the same person. I was struck by her magnetic insouciance. She was such an arresting figure. She looked tall by herself and there was an unfamiliar quality about her. Lenore was right, there was a sweetness to her, a purity of spirit; it made me proud.
"Hello my darling," said the Leopard in a rich, velvety voice of such love that we all relaxed with the promised care of it. "Tell us what is it we can do to help you stay."
"Show me beauty," said the 19 year old quietly, "and things that inspire."
(I had just been wondering if I was going to be able to make it through another season of Boardwalk Empire, which Catherine and her brother Steven and I had been watching as a family. It was so filled with killing scenes and mafia mayhem that I had chosen not to actively listen to the show even as I enjoyed its high production values, beautiful costumes and well drawn characters. I would welcome inspirational fare with the same intelligent script. So rare is such entertainment in our world that I hardly know what it would look like.)
The 19 year old then spoke of how we could start by appreciating her gifts of diplomacy. She would also be uplifted by acts of community service like picking up dog poop in the neighborhood left by dogs other than my own. Well, that wasn't hard; I had just added that to my dog walking routine.
Then in came the 10 year old looking very fierce indeed, with her spear and shield.
Again Leopard spoke to her with the same affectionate terms of endearments. It softened up the 10 year old soul entity by a notch.
"And tell us my darling, what you would like."
"Feed me," she said imperiously. She had no particularly preferences in the matter as long as it was nourishing.
I was very glad that someone in this crew was interested in eating. That I had lost so much weight, since Catherine's cancer diagnosis in May, had now become the main topic of conversation among our friends, and a really boring one. It wasn't as if I wasn't eating enough and I was beginning to wonder, myself, what auto-immune disease I might have besides my pre-diabetes diagnosis. Without grains in my diet the flesh had been sucked off my body at a steady clip, but I did not want to return to my old sugar high/sugar crash diet. I could though add just enough muesli at breakfast to add calories without tipping the meter over 140 mg/dl.
Having trouble with one's immunes system was on the list of soul loss symptoms (one I had not thought to mention in the preliminary interview). It was not noted in the soul retrieval book, if the return of lost soul parts would cure the condition, but eating would only help for I had lost confidence that increasing calories would do it. Feeding a 10 year old was something I could aim for with more care than I was giving myself. I just wanted to get to the other side of 100 lbs. Chairs were beginning to hurt with so little padding.
The 10 year old also offered that she would help me focus. I bet I thought. And here she demonstrated by bringing her little spear down hard on the ground. She had more leadership skills than all the rest of us put together. She was bossy and slightly impatient and I would find that she was better at follow through than I was. She just needed to be tempered a bit.
Last of all was the appearance of the 3 year old. She was all about being loved and being in the limelight as I'm sure she had been in the presence of my English grandma. The three now assembled, turned to each other with sisterly affection just as the call back of the drum sounded and we all ran back to the tunnel home, the soul parts jumping into me as I ran upward.
The next day I was putting the registration sticker on my car license plate when something caught my eye while I was scraping away the sticky bulk of the old stickers. The year 2012 had emerged in several layers of contrasting colors. I was so struck by this found art to mark this milestone year, that I stopped to get my camera out so I could post the image to flickr. The last time I remember being interested in this type of photography was in college. I hadn't stayed with the concept. It was just an affectation at the time, inspired by another artist. I had become more interested in photojournalism, in the distance of being an observer.
So arresting were my feelings for this image now, I felt compelled to attribute this newly revived eye-of-the-artist to the return of my 19 year old. Art, commercial art, had been the degree with which I had finally graduated from college. I had always retained an artistic sensibility, but I didn't recall this intensity of feeling about it.
The impact of a soul retrieval ceremony on recipients was so varied and often subtle that anecdotes had been all that was offered as examples of outcome. I had had no real expectations of what might happen, but I was struck by the distinctness of the sensibilities being restored to me, now.
Labels: autobiography, journey, leadership, Shamanism, soul retrieval