Soul Retrieval Seminar: The Chickadee’s Call


In the early afternoon of August 21, 2012 Lauren told us go go outside and find objects that would become our talisman for the evening’s fire ceremony. Immediately I got hung up in left-brain activity and was stymied. Some moments later I remembered we were supposed to be open and go with the flow. So I just started looking for items that caught my eye. First I saw a leaf that had fallen from a tree. I picked it up even though I had no specific plan for it, other than I wanted to increase my confidence in my ability to walk the shamanic path. Then I went to the beach area, near the lake. There I put some grains of sand in my pocket. I walked on, still not sure what I was doing. I heard the call of a nearby chickadee – I love birds. Then I found a broken cattail near the edge of the lake. And finally I came across an interesting piece of bark from a tree.

I sat down and thought about the items. For each one of them I started asking myself, ‘what does this mean?’ I didn’t get answers for any of the four items. Suddenly I realized, THAT was the issue. Hey, I thought, I’m a writer. Let’s write about this. Hey, how about putting this in a poem. Wow! Now there’s an idea. So at this point I went back to my room, got out my journal and started writing. It became existential; what did these things mean? are they important? what is the meaning of my life? am I important? how am I related to these items, other than through the question of meaning? I kept writing, asking the questions and received an inspirational understanding. I wrote and rewrote my poem several times and I have rewritten it again for this blog:

THE CHICKADEE’ S CALL by Paul McAllister

What is the meaning of the Chickadee’s call? (chick-a-dee-dee-dee)

Why does it matter that my name is Paul?

How important is a grain of sand compared to a beach?

What is the significance of a dead leaf on the ground?

What is the value of a star beyond our reach?

How about the broken cattail that I found?

What is the point of the bark of a dying tree?

What is the importance, significance,value and point … of me?

(As I said this I put the sand, leaf, broken cattail and tree bark into the raging fire.)

So I asked a helpful spirit. Here’s what he said.

“You are the grain of sand.

You are the dead leaf.

You are the star beyond our reach.

You are the cattail.

And you are the bark of the tree.

Going way back to the beginning of Time,

You were always meant to Be.

Just like the leaf, cattail, bark, star, sand and the

Call of the Chickadee.”

“Look!” he said pointing to the fire.

“Yes,” I replied, “but now they are gone,

And so soon I shall be.”

He laughed a hearty laugh and slapped me on the back.

“You’ve been here before, and surely you’ll be back.

Before the Beginning of Time you ARE part of the plan.

Don’t fret the small stuff! Hold your head up high!

Keep on working to succeed.You know you won’t … unless you try.

If you do, you will find yourself up on the stage.

They’ll all want your autograph! You’ll be all the rage!”

“Remember the sound of the Chickadee’s call!

Step up to the mic and say,‘Hi, my name is Paul!”

Soul Retrieval Seminar: Fire Ceremony

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We had a fire ceremony on the last night of the seminar (07/21/12). It was in an open field a block away from the buildings. One of the workers at Ronora, in Watervliet, Michigan, built a fire for us. It was about three and a half feet high, very well constructed. All we had to do was light the papers sticking out of the bottom.

We arrived at dusk. Lauren reminded us that fire is not only an element, but is also a living thing. She said that the talismans we had created were an example of shamanic art, and therefore sacred. Art is power. The fire would carry the power of our talismans into the spirit world where they would manifest back into reality. Lauren lit the fire and the flames spread quickly. As the fire grew, geese started honking and flew up out of the woods to the east, across the sky and settled in a field west of our location. As it grew dark, we all started drumming. One at a time, we took our talismans, walked/danced around the fire several times and placed it in the fire. My talisman consisted of several natural items like a leaf, tree bark, etc., along with a poem I wrote titled “The Chickadee’s Call”. I created it to increase my level of confidence in working with my chosen path. After placing the natural items in the fire, I read my poem and then placed it in the fire as well.

After each of us had our turn, we started dancing and drumming around the fire. We went around six or seven times, then walked up to the fire, gave thanks and shouted up to the sky. As we finished, the geese started honking again, flew up in the west and crossed over us returning to their roost in the east. We rested in chairs and watched the fire burn down. The geese became quiet. After twenty minutes we got up and went back to the building where we were staying. We sat in a meeting area, talking about our experiences and the energies we felt, and finally retired to our rooms.

This was a wonderful ceremony. It was simple, personal and made me feel closer to the natural world as well as the world of spirit. Earlier in the day I had struggled to decide upon a talisman, but solved the problem by letting go of my intellect and focusing on the messages that came from my heart. The poem had a great deal of meaning for me and provided me with great personal energy during the ceremony.

Next blog: “The Chickadee’s Call”

Soul Retrieval: Mine

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Sunday morning, August 19th, 2012. One of the other students did a soul retrieval for me. Later I journeyed to better understand what had happened to me so long ago.

Soul Retrieval: I laid on the floor on a blanket. Lauren drummed and Alida did the soul retrieval for me. I closed my eyes and relaxed, keeping in mind that I must be receptive to what takes place. After a while, Alida got up and kneeled next to me. She blew onto my stomach area. I got a peaceful feeling. After a while I opened my eyes, held her hand and thanked her. She said the soul part she found was of me as an eight month old baby, sitting on a linoleum floor. She said she heard a screen door close loudly. I immediately thought of the apartment I grew up in at 78th and Ada in Chicago. Our kitchen had a linoleum floor. Two doors led from the kitchen to a wooden back porch. The inside door had two locks. The outside door was a wooden screen door that had a long black spring attached to the top. The spring was there to keep the door closed. That was all Alida could tell me. However she also brought me a new power animal, a dog, a Huskie. He came to be with me and protect me.

In the afternoon I had the opportunity to journey to the spirit world to ask helpful spirits for help understanding the results of my soul retrieval. As soon as the drumming started, I closed my eyes. My healing guide was there waiting for me. He smiled and me and we went to 78th and Ada to observe what Alida had seen. There I was, as a baby, sitting on the kitchen floor. At my healing guide’s direction, we sat down next to the baby and asked him (me) questions. Apparently I wanted to follow my mother who went out the back door and I tried to follow her. I don’t know if I got close to the door or if the slamming of the door against the frame just scared me. When my mom comes back in I’m crying and she says, “You’re always doing that.” My mom wasn’t gone long. I can only speculate that she may have been taking a bag of garbage to the garbage chute just a few steps from our door.We also found out what the baby soul part was bringing back to me: a baby’s unconditional love. It also just wanted to re-integrate with me. It said I should share it’s unconditional love with others.

After the journey we discussed my experience. Apparently a soul part can detach itself even for something as simple as a slamming door, especially if one is a baby and easily scared.

Next blog: The last evening of the seminar and the Fire Ceremony

Our Ancestors: Non-genealogical

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Recently my lovely daughter-in-law, Colleen, gave me a book, Younger Next Year. It has exercising advice for people over fifty. I’m really enjoying it and making changes in my exercise program. Much of what follows is taken directly from the book.

The focus of Younger Next Year is on how our bodies are oriented toward keeping us healthy. However, that focus is based on our evolution, which differs dramatically from our current lifestyle. The authors state that the human body is not some neat, integrated design. It is composite of parts that were taken from nature; parts that evolved from different species over millions and even billions of years. The only parts that are exclusively human are our opposable thumb and a few extra pounds of brain tissue. Everything else is from another species, no not chimps, but bacteria, dinosaurs, birds, worms, gazelles, lions … and the list goes on.

The messages that make these cells work are not the stuff of scientific or literary thought. They are electrical and chemical signals that predate the dawn of consciousness by eons of time. They are part of our physical brain, not our emotional brain nor our thinking brain. They were perfectly designed to help us live in the natural world, but were not designed for fast food, TV or retirement. Our bodies are gifts from trillions of these ancestor-cells, and the fact that we are alive today means every single one of them survived.

The problem is that they survived because they were perfectly suited to our past lifestyle, namely, hunting and foraging. While hunting, we spent a lot of energy in a shorter amount of time chasing and killing wild game. When foraging, we spent less energy over a longer amount of time gathering plants, berries and other edibles. The combination of these exercise lifestyles left us physically lean, powerful and efficient.

That was in the spring, summer and fall. Winter, however, was a different story; longer hours of darkness, colder temperatures, less food. It was a period of slow starvation and less activity. We survived because our bodies slowed down, we became somewhat depressed and didn’t expend as much energy on activity, and probably slept more hours each day. Our bodies were in the decaying mode in the winter months. But when the next springtime-summer-fall arrived, we flourished once again.

Flash forward to 2013. What is our mode of life like today? Is it more like spring-summer-fall? Or is it like winter? Winter is the correct answer. Low-grade depression combined with physical decay is our lifestyle mode, unfortunately. We are not getting enough physical activity.

You might ask, isn’t this just nature’s way? The answer is a resounding NO! This physical decay is not caused by aging, it is caused by our lifestyle choices. Our lifestyle choices cause our bodies to go into the ‘winter’ mode. Our bodies send out so many winter-mode signals that the sum of their traffic is greater than the total of all internet messages and telephone calls in the world each day.

Exercise, proper exercise, is the only way to change the messages being sent out by our bodies. The recommended exercises are walking, which is analogous to foraging, mixed in with weight training and strenuous exercise like running or swimming, which simulate hunting. Walking should be the largest part, three or four times a week. Strenuous exercise and weight training should make up the other two or three, depending on how often you decide to exercise. Each workout should last forty-five to sixty minutes, including warm up and cool down periods.

Now you know why you spent all those hours working out like crazy at the gym and never lost weight. Strenuous workouts tell your body to eat more food and build up muscle mass. They don’t reduce the fat cells around the waist. On the other hand, walking at a moderate pace works on the fat cells, but doesn’t build up much muscle. Combining both types of exercise is best.

If you want more information on how to work in unison with your physical ancestors to get fit, read Younger Next Year, by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, M.D.

Next blog: Soul Retrievals

Soul Retrieval Seminar: More Journeying

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In the afternoon, August 18, 2012, Lauren suggested we perform two journeys, both of them outside. Reminder: we were at a location in Southwestern Michigan that is dedicated to providing space for people of all spiritual paths. The large area has woods, a small lake, and plenty of hiking trails. On the first journey we were to go, individually, to find a place where we felt power. We were to ask our spirits if we should use a quartz crystal for soul retrieval and how should we use it. In journey number two we were to ask how to prepare for a soul retrieval.

Journey #1: Find a power place and ask about using a crystal for soul retrieval.

I walked around the property, shaking my rattle occasionally, looking for a power place. Near a lake I came up to a ‘wall’ of cattails, reeds, grasses and wild flowers. I was about to pass it by when I noticed a black and yellow butterfly going from one purple flower to another. Then I felt a surge of energy flow into me. This was it! I set my notebook on top of a blanket on the ground and started rattling. I said a prayer requesting help from the spirit world and I went to the upper world and met the Ancient One. We discussed the question of using a crystal versus something else, like a ‘spirit catcher’ and he let me decide. After this journey I knelt on one knee and wrote the results in my notebook. I decided to do Journey #2 here as well.

Journey #2: How do I prepare for a soul retrieval.

As I began to rattle for this journey I heard a sound of someone walking up the path I had traveled. (Remember there were other people from other spiritual paths here at this time.) I turned and looked. Approaching me was a man, dressed only in shorts with a bandanna around his head and some feathers in it, carrying two large sticks in one hand and something else in the other. His face, arms and torso were painted yellow and blue. We looked at each other, nodded and continued on with our activities; him moving past me further into the woods, and I rattling for my next journey. No. I wasn’t dreaming and this wasn’t a spirit vision. Actually, I admired him for his commitment to his spiritual path and wondered if his tools and paint increased the energy he felt and the power he received.

I reached the upper world again and met again with the Ancient One. This time I felt a surge of energy that had a strong, emotional effect on me. He gave me twelve steps to perform the soul retrieval and I wrote them down in my notebook. (I already shared them with you in the introductory remarks about soul retrieval). He told me I can also introduce other steps if I think they will help with the success of the ritual.

After the journey I said a prayer of thanksgiving to all the spirits who had helped with these journeys. I never did see the painted man again. I left a small ‘present’ on a nearby log and went back to our lodge.

Next blog: Our Ancestors: But not in the sense of genealogy.

Soul Retrieval Seminar: Journey to meet my Healing Guide

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After some preliminary remarks about making sure the client is receptive and emphasizing the healing aspects of soul retrieval, Lauren led us on a journey to meet our spirit helper or helpers. She reminded us that it is important to work with our spirit guides and power animals frequently to insure the success of soul retrievals for our clients. As always, we laid on a blanket on the floor, used a covering for our eyes (I always use a blue bandana) and Lauren began drumming loudly.

Journey: Our intention is to travel to the spirit world and meet the spirit(s) that will help us do soul retrievals.

I relaxed for a few minutes after Lauren started drumming. I started to go to the lower world but found myself climbing up the mountain trail that led to the upper world. As I walked up the steep trail the thought came to me that I would be meeting with the Ancient One and that he would introduce me to my healing guide.

When I got to the top I met the Ancient One and acknowledged him respectfully. I gave him a hug and he playfully pushed me away as though he didn’t need one, but he was smiling as he did it. Then he turned and introduced me to my healing guide. He was a heavy-set, muscular man with curly black hair. I recognized him! He was the man who helped me when I was trying to help heal Heather, a friend of a friend. He told me his name; one that is common in our culture. Then he smiled and said that I could pronounce it in a more fancy way if I wanted to, the way people say Tar-shay instead of Target when they talk about the retail store. We laughed. I gave him a hug too.

The journeying session was coming to a close so I took leave of my spirit friends and traveled back to the ordinary world. In the months since I have met my healing guide, I have come to think he is Hawaiian. As my healing guide, he has helped me on each of the soul retrievals I have done and has stepped up on more than one occasion to help me when I got stuck on an issue, or with a soul spirit. I have full confidence in his abilities as my guide. I would never attempt a healing without him.

Next blog: More Soul Retrieval  Journeying

Soul Retrieval: Other Ways of Healing

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Soul retrieval is one kind of healing; but there are others that also fall into the category of shamanic practice. Each shaman or healer has his or her own path – their own method of healing. Over time the healer will notice that certain people are drawn to them for a specific kind of healing.

First of all, soul retrieval can also be used to work with spirits such as power animals, and can also be used for the earth. Just as everyone has a guide or guardian angel, each person has one or more power animals as a protective guide. At times it happens that a power animal will leave and no longer provide protection. Soul retrieval is a way to help the power animal return, or to find a new power animal to take its place. And, since even the land has spirits associated with it, soul retrieval can be used to help remove negative energies from the land. However it is important to get the permission of the land’s spirits before proceeding to do so.

Sometimes after a soul part leaves a body, negative energy will move in to occupy it, or fill in the empty spaces. When this occurs, a shamanic extraction is required. The person’s soul is left untouched, but the negative energy is removed. Additional training is required to perform an extraction.

It is also possible for a negative spirit to enter into that void. This requires a de-possession. In the de-possession process, the shamanic practitioner leads the negative spirit away from the person toward the light with the help of friendly spirits. Ultimately the negative spirit reunites with the positive forces of light. A word of caution, don’t try this unless you have been trained. the negative spirit may attach itself to something or someone else, even to the practitioner, if they are not experienced at this healing.

There is also a practice called psychopomp. Normally when a person dies, their soul slowly begins to move away from the earth and the physical world. But some souls resist and want to stay close to the earth while others don’t understand what happened and are afraid to go anywhere. Psychopomp ceremonies and rituals allow the healer to travel to the spirit world, meet with the ‘lost’ soul, and help them find their way to the next world. In these ceremonies, the healer calls upon spirit guides as well as spirits of friends and family who have already passed on to come and help the troubled soul move on to the next step in the afterlife.

Next blog: Journey to meet my Healing Guide

Soul Retrieval Seminar: First Journey

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One of the most basic principles of shamanic practice is that everything in the universe is connected with everything else. The first journey in this seminar was oriented toward that concept. On the first journey we were to ask our helpful spirits to show us the web of life and show how a successful soul retrieval affects the web.


I went to the lower world, met the beaver and entered the cave. I met with the eagle and my young male teacher. I told them the purpose of my journey. First I merged with my teacher and then we merged with the eagle. The eagle lifted up and flew to the farthest reaches of the universe.

We knew a soul retrieval was being performed. As it was finished, a spark occurred on the earth and became a white light energy that traveled instantly throughout the universe. This seemed simple enough, but I asked, “So what does this mean?” We then visited what I call a monolith. It appears as a giant egg-shaped stone. It contains the unlimited potential of Creation. As we approached it I understood that a soul retrieval helps bring all of life toward its greatest potential. This is where all life is destined to go, to become complete and achieve its fullness – the ultimate goal of the God’s creation. So by doing a soul retrieval we are helping the Universe, all of Creation, reach it highest possibility. We are co-creating the building and construction of Creation. We are helping perfect Creation.

End of journey. This message had a positive effect on me. When I do a soul retrieval and a soul part seems reluctant to return to the client, I explain that its return will help fulfill the purpose of creation. So far I have never had a soul part refuse to return once it has that understanding.

Next blog: Other types of shamanic healing

Soul Retrieval: The Ritual or Process

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For purposes of discussion I will refer to the person doing the ritual as the healer and the person receiving the results as the client. As with any ritual, everyone has a role to play. The client must be relaxed and must be in a receptive, passive state. Observers, friends and family must maintain a quiet, observing attitude and do nothing to interrupt the proceedings. The healer conducts the ritual.

I’m sure there are variations on the soul retrieval ritual. Different teachers teach slightly different methods and, over time, the healer personalizes the ritual to his or her liking. That said, I believe the following description is general enough that most healers would easily recognize it. A soul retrieval ritual may last from 45 to 90 minutes.

The ritual begins with the client laying on a blanket on the floor with a covering over their eyes. If that is not convenient, the client may sit in a chair in the center of the room. Observers are seated or standing around the outside of the room. The healer begins by drumming and walking around the client. This clears unnecessary energies from the room and opens it up for the healing ritual. The healer prays to helpful spirits, asking their assistance, especially the assistance of her or his Healing Guide. At this point I have a brief message I read to the client which helps them become receptive to the healing that is about to occur.

Next the healer sits or lays next to the client, their shoulders touching. If no one is available to continue the drumming rhythm, the healer may use a rattle to provide the appropriate rhythm. The healer uses an eye cover, meets with the Healing Guide, and they proceed into the spirit world searching for one or more of the client’s soul parts. As mentioned in my previous blog, each of these journeys are unique. Sometimes the healer sees a landscape or other vision related to the client. Eventually he and the guide encounter a soul part. At this point the healer asks the separated part to rejoin the client and asks what strength or talent they will be bringing back with them. If the soul part is reluctant to return, the healer will persist or the guide will become involved. Soul parts are usually positive about returning.  The healer may ask the soul part if there are other parts that are willing to return. If so, those parts are sought out as well. The healer will ask all soul parts to enter a the healer’s crystal and all will return to ordinary reality. At this time the healer kneels beside the client, symbolically blows the soul parts back into the client and may use his/her rattle to assist with the reunification.

At this point the healer will notify the client that the soul retrieval and ask that they slowly return to normal consciousness. Once they are fully awake the healer will describe the events of the journey and ask if the client has any questions.

Normally some of the visions seen or other information uncovered has a special meaning to the client. For example, in one soul retrieval I saw a city in the distance surrounded by mountains. I felt drawn there and encountered a fierce looking dog. I realized the dog was a power animal that would protect the client and brought it back at the end of the journey. When I mentioned the landscape, the client got excited and revealed that she grew up in a town in California that was surrounded by mountains and that the dog probably represented her pet which was always very protective of her.

At this point the ritual has ended. Everyone returns to their homes. Usually the healer will keep in touch with the client for a while in order to be available for questions that might arise. Some people are happy with one soul retrieval. Some request a second or third soul retrieval depending on their needs. It is always a good idea to let a few weeks go by before follow up soul retrievals are performed.

Next blog: Soul Retrieval seminar and journeys

Soul Retrieval: An Introduction

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Soul retrieval is a shamanic form of healing. To quote from Sandra Ingerman (Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self, page 11),

“The basic premise is that whenever we experience trauma, a part of our vital existence separates from us in order to survive the experience by escaping the full impact of the pain.”

In effect, during trauma a part of our soul separates from us and escapes to a place in the spirit world or what is termed non-ordinary reality. As a result of this loss we may experience: depression, apathy, gaps in memory, addictions,  physical or emotional illness; or, we may simply feel that something significant is missing from our lives. The results vary from person to person. Typically such people say they ‘never felt the same’ after the experience, or they feel ‘something is missing’ in their lives.

In soul retrieval, the healer enters a trance state, travels to the spirit world, and searches for the the missing part(s). Once found, it or they are ‘escorted’ to back to the client and returned so that they may rejoin the person’s soul and help improve the out-of-balance conditions caused by the separation.

This condition is recognized by modern medicine. Psychology  views this traumatic result as segments of the personality that have separated from normal consciousness. The psychological term for this state is dissociation; where patients feel estranged from their essential self. Psychology has its own specific treatments for this condition.

Although the soul retrieval ritual is organized and well planned, the experience of the healer is different for each healing because of the individual needs and experiences of the clients. However, each healer performs the soul retrieval with the assistance of helpful spirits, especially his or her healing guide. This healing guide provides expert assistance and guidance during the ritual, virtually ensuring the success of each soul retrieval.

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