Soul Retrieval - the Art of Living Retreat Center

Oatmeal and Soul Retrieval

By Dr. Steven Farmer
February 13, 2019

Soul Retrieval - the Art of Living Retreat Center


What’s oatmeal got to do with soul retrieval? Well, I found out in a very personal way recently.


In my shamanic work, one of the more common treatments is called soul retrieval or soul recovery. It’s based on the idea that as we go along in life we may lose pieces of our soul. There can be a few causes but one of the most common is due to an unresolved traumatic experience. The dissociated soul fragment stays away until it is safe, but if the individual’s circumstances are perceived as unsafe, then it stays away.


Soul retrieval typically requires the shamanic practitioner to journey to non-ordinary reality guided by his helping spirits, and there finds the soul piece that most needs to be returned. Once found, the practitioner brings the soul piece back and “installs” it to its rightful place, as an aspect of the client’s primary soul. From there it begins the process of re-integrating, which generally takes a few weeks to become incorporated in totality.


In my healing practice, I’ve been given a variation called “soul calling.” In the description above, it requires a one-on-one session with the client. While this methodology is incredibly effective, about a year ago I began to explore a way to facilitate soul retrieval in groups. This would require individuals to perform the quest themselves. I wasn’t sure at first if it would work, but based on my experiences in a handful of groups, it worked very well.


Healer, heal thyself

A few days ago it occurred to me that perhaps I could do this for myself. I’d been through a rough patch and was examining certain behavior patterns that most likely had their roots in soul loss. After meditating and considering this, I decided to give it a try. While I’d had a few soul retrieval sessions performed by other practitioners and had facilitated this for a few groups, this would be the first time I’d actually tried this variation for myself.


Putting some shamanic drumming on, I relaxed on the floor and called on my power animals, Raven and Wolf. I asked them to take me to the soul piece that most needed to be returned. From there I turned it over to them to guide my consciousness to the appropriate dissociated soul piece.


After a few minutes I (my consciousness) was standing in a very familiar bedroom in my family home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where I was born and spent the first twelve years of my life. There I saw the fragmented soul piece. He was lying in bed, about seven years old, curled up in a ball, crying his eyes out, listening to the shouts and screams just beyond the closed door. His mother and father were fighting once again, fueled by his father’s drinking and his mother’s anger about it, a scene that was all too familiar.


I reached out in both ordinary reality and this etheric reality for him—or more accurately, this “essence” that was once a part of me—and received him into the cupped palms of my hands. I then slowly drew my hands to my heart, and just like the procedure that I’d shown dozens of people, brought my hands to my heart and took three very slow, deep breaths, breathing that essence into my soul body.


Tears came to my eyes as I felt both relief and the sadness that accompanied this once lost part of me. I said out loud, “Welcome home!” and felt tingling warmth run through my body. I didn’t think too much about it for the rest of the day but felt grateful at the return of this lost soul part. The one statement I heard related to this was, “Learn to love the loneliness.” I recognized that this piece was a major key to the loneliness has driven my compulsions and addictions over the years. And he was back home now.


The dream

The next morning just before I woke up I immediately recalled a dream. It went like this:


I’m standing in what looks like a relatively empty but very large post office. There were a handful of people around, but none in my immediate vicinity. I gradually realize that in one of these oversized post office boxes there’s a cereal box with an infant in it. The box was big enough to hold about a six-month-old child, and I knew that child was in it and was covered in oatmeal. (The child could somehow breathe through the oatmeal – after all, it is a dream!).


Then it occurred to me that a couple had left the child for me to watch. They had taken off in a sports car, something like an older Nissan 280ZX (similar to one I used to own several years ago) and told me they were coming back soon. It had been some time since they left, so eventually I realized they weren’t coming back. With that recognition I decided to pull the oversized cereal box with the baby in it out of the post office box. I opened the box and scraped the oatmeal off, noticing the baby was none the worse for having been covered in oatmeal. I then brought him to my chest and held him, then woke up.


Flash to a couple days later. I was in Freeport, Maine doing some private sessions and workshops at a very cool new age gift shop called Leapin’ Lizards. The owner Melissa invited me to go to dinner with her and her husband, Tim. She suggested that perhaps I’d like to try a Maine lobster, something that is the pride and joy of this region.


We went to a nearby restaurant, and after looking over the various dishes offered, settled on the lobster. After all, when in Maine . . . While we were waiting, we engaged in some get-acquainted conversation. Tim related how he traveled sometimes as part of his work and mentioned something about Iowa. I told him I was from Iowa, he asked where, and I told him, “Cedar Rapids.”


“Oh yeah,” he responded. “I’ve been there on business. I remember that distinct smell of oatmeal that permeated the downtown.”


“Yes, yes,” I said. “I know that smell very well!” And in fact I could get a whiff of it through my olfactory memory. It was a very sweet smell, sort of like maple syrup that’s warming on the stove.


The revelation

Okay, I’m sure you get the connection already, however at this point I had no clue that this was be connected to the dream. It was as if Spirit was lurking in the woods waiting to pop out to me with this revelation.


That night at the workshop I was facilitating, I was describing shamanic treatments for soul retrieval. I told the story of my soul calling and the subsequent dream I had the next morning. I got to the part about taking the oatmeal off the baby in the large cereal box. Tim, who was sitting in the back row, spoke up and said, “Oatmeal! Just like the smell of oatmeal in Cedar Rapids where you grew up!”


I then had what some call a “come to Jesus moment” where the implications of the soul piece that I called in was linked directly to the dream. I was sort of freaking out (in a good way!) in front of the group as I processed how the symbol of the oatmeal was linked to where I grew up and where I found that soul part, totally excited and amazed at the way Spirit worked to confirm the effectiveness of soul retrieval.


Everyone in the workshop was also astonished by this story, but most of all me. Once again the possibility for the deepest spiritual healing of all, soul healing, was demonstrated and even further deepened my faith in Spirit. It was a perfect healing at the perfect time.



When I’ve done soul retrieval on behalf of someone in a one-on-one session, either face to face or via a phone consultation, I always let the person know that it takes a few weeks for the previously dissociated soul aspect to integrate with the primary soul. Often the changes are subtle, yet sometimes they’re quite dramatic. The simplest description is that the person feels whole again, like having discovered something that was lost and has been found, which is exactly what has happened.


One way I support the integration of my recovered soul piece is to put my hands across my heart and simply restate the words that came to me during the soul calling, “Learn to love the loneliness.” When I feel anxious, alone, or touch the loneliness, I do this and it calms me down, reminds me of the experience.


Retrieving your soul fragment

If you’re not familiar with shamanic healing I would advise first do this in a one to one session with a shamanic practitioner or in a group, participating in a guided meditation journey with this as the intention. If you feel called to do this, here are the steps to take:

  1. Call in your power animal or a spirit animal that you favor. This spirit guide will be essential.
  2. Ask this spirit animal to accompany you to the Lower World (LW). This is one of three worlds in the shamanic paradigm that is found in many indigenous cultures.
  3. Once you’ve established that your spirit animal is with you, close your eyes, put on either some background music or preferably a shamanic drumming piece.
  4. Close your eyes and allow your consciousness to gently float to the LW with your spirit animal at your side.
  5. You’ll arrive in a meadow. The LW is just like the natural world in ordinary reality. You may walk to other areas, such as the ocean, mountains, or desert.
  6. Wherever you eventually find yourself, ask your spirit animal to please take you to the soul piece that most needs to be returned to you.
  7. Take your time until you arrive at that soul piece. Typically the image is one of you earlier in your life, however sometimes the soul piece is shown as a symbol, such as a ball of light.
  8. The soul aspect may readily accompany you back or you may need to do some negotiating, find out what they want from you in exchange for joining you once again. Younger fragments may just want you to play more or lighten up.
  9. Reach out both hands, palms up, and ask that essence to come into your hands. Bring both hands to your heart, take three very slow deep breaths to allow the soul fragment to join your primary soul.
  10. For the next few weeks, be sure to stay aware of this once lost aspect and if you made a deal, be sure to keep it. This allows time for her or him to integrate, which usually takes about three to six weeks.

Do you have a clear sense of your life purpose? Join Dr. Steven Farmer at the Art of Living Retreat Center from March 21-24, 2019 for Living the Shamanic Way, to deeply connect to ancient earth-based spiritual practices that will help you understand your relationship with true, spiritual power.


Dr. Steven Farmer is a psychotherapist, shamanic healer, and the author of several best-selling books and oracle cards. In addition to workshops on Animal Spirit Guides, Integrative Breathwork, Healing Ancestral Karma, and shamanism, Dr. Farmer offers Integrative Healing sessions in person or remotely by phone, Zoom, or Skype, as well as an individualized Spiritual Mentorship program. He is on the board of the Society of Shamanic Practice and also offers a certification program, the Earth Magic® Practitioner training.


This article first appeared on, and is reposted with permission from the author.

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TAGS: Dr. Steven Farmer , power animals , shamanism , soul retrieval , spirituality
Men's Spirituality & Power Animals

Men’s Spirituality & Power Animals

By Dr. Steven Farmer
October 7, 2018

Men's Spirituality & Power Animals


Men can’t help but be spiritual. The fact of being alive is a spiritual experience, yet many have lost their conscious awareness of this fundamental truth. Gradually over the past several centuries, the rational, logical mind has usurped the creative wisdom of Spirit and the deeper awareness of the interconnectivity of all life. Civilization has further eroded men’s intimate association with the natural world, and instead, earth and all its non-human inhabitants– plant, animal and mineral– have been viewed solely as resources for the sustenance of more and more human beings. The prevailing belief has been that the planet is to be dominated and subdued rather than viewed as a beautiful, giving, abundant Mother Earth with whom we can have a mutually beneficial and cooperative relationship.


Men’s spirituality, internal rhythms, and instinctual selves

What happens for most of us men raised with this as the norm is that we become removed not only from the more natural rhythms and seasons of the earth, but dissociated from our own internal rhythms and instinctual selves. Many never hear– or else ignore– the call of Spirit that beckons us to follow our soul’s destiny. Instead, we chase materiality to the exclusion of the deeper currents of life. Although this path may yield great riches– or at least a comfortable existence– the cost to our bodies and our souls is great.


One of my favorite poems by Rainier Maria Rilke (translation by Robert Bly,) speaks to this:


Sometimes a man stands up during supper
and walks outdoors, and keeps on walking,
because of a church that stands somewhere in the East.
And his children say blessings on him
as if he were dead.
And another man, who remains inside his own house,
dies there, inside the dishes and in the glasses,
so that his children have to go far out
into the world
toward that same church, which he forgot.


One of the men’s groups I have participated in would read this as part of the opening ceremony each meeting. It speaks to the spiritual adventurer that lies inside every man. Typically, unless he is raised in a way that supports this kind of exploration, his soul’s urgings to seek out the bigger truths of the earth and the cosmos remain dormant until such time as they are awakened– if they ever are.


The two by four approach

Over the many years of working with men, I’ve found that this awakening can sometimes come as a result of the “two by four” approach. This happens when a man is going along, thinking everything’s okay with his work and his relationship, (even though there’s this nagging voice inside saying otherwise,) and God hits him with a metaphorical two by four. His wife divorces him, he gets laid off from his job or his addictions catch up to him– some momentous disruption of his life takes place. He can ignore this or take it as a signal to change, but by the time he’s in his late 30’s or 40’s, it becomes more difficult to deny it.


When lack clarifies

I was in serious straits following my divorce from the mother of my two daughters. I felt alone, confused and unclear about what direction my life was taking. I loved my girls, but didn’t feel competent as their father. I was burdened with guilt from divorcing their mother while they were still young. I knew I had to change my life, but wasn’t sure where to go. The seeds of my spiritual awakening had actually begun during my marriage, following a dramatic realization that I felt unlovable as well as unworthy of being loved. It took the separation to underscore a heartfelt need for a deeper and more profound love– a kind of love that I later realized to be the love that all spiritual masters spoke of.


During the years that followed, I found solace in a sequence of spiritually focused organizations. My involvement in each typically lasted about three to four years, at which point I would move on and explore another “church that stands somewhere in the East.” About fifteen years ago, my seeking brought me to shamanism. From my first initiation, I knew it was the path I’d follow for the rest of my life. I also realized that each step I’d taken had been necessary to move to the next one.


Animal spirit guides

I’m not suggesting that every man needs to follow a shamanic path. However, there are important aspects of shamanic practices that I’ve found to be particularly attractive to a lot of men.

One of these shamanic technologies is forming a relationship with an animal spirit guide, or power animal. Power animals touch something deep and ancient inside a man, a yearning for a more intimate and heartfelt relationship with the natural world. That relationship has often been forgotten in the haste, competitiveness and isolation from nature that are so endemic to the modern world and modern man. Power animals help a man remember at a profound level his ancient and interrelated connection to Mother Earth. Working with power animals and animal spirit guides is a spiritually practical way to work with the various energies of the earth.

The whole notion of power animals has its roots in some of the earliest spiritual practices of humans cross-culturally. It continues in indigenous peoples today. It’s particularly fitting for today, when many men are awakening to the wisdom of our long-ago ancestors and realizing that so-called “primitive” people have much to teach us.


Part of the pack

Our ancestors also knew another secret: we need one another. Sometimes our lives depended on our connection to each other, and in combat situations this is still true. These days, getting together with other men generally happens in order to work together, play a sport or go to the pub and have a few– all perfectly legitimate ways for men to hang out together. Yet at some point in a man’s life, it’s important to expand on these characteristic ways of being together, to break the sense of isolation that many men experience– to be supported by other men in our mission and purpose on this earth. This is as spiritual as a man can get.


In all indigenous cultures, men would spend a good deal of their time together, whether hunting or preparing and enacting rituals to honor the sacredness of life. In Australian aboriginal cultures, men’s sacred ceremonies were exclusive of females, and vice-versa.


I’m a strong advocate of us gathering in groups on a regular basis to share our triumphs and concerns, and to give and receive support with one another. I’ve been involved in men’s groups for the majority of my adult life, and I can say unequivocally that this has made me a better man. I’ve developed close relationships with a few men who are spiritual brothers, ones I can call on in a time of need. And by need, I don’t mean only when I’m broken and bleeding, but milder needs as well.


Learning trust

Yes, there are blocks for most of us to overcome– the main one being to trust other men enough to be vulnerable. We’ve all been hurt in some way by other men, starting with father, and betrayals by other men stay with us for a long time. We may even have been teased for being too sensitive. In addition, when men get together, the specter of homophobia can appear, inhibiting us from revealing our inner feelings and thoughts. It takes a different sort of courage to confront these blocks and overcome them, to test the waters of trusting other men, to discern who can be trusted– and who can’t.


If you think of yourself as a spiritual seeker, then I strongly encourage you to look into the idea of a men’s group. You can put it together yourself with a couple of mates that you’re close to, taking a leadership role. Again, it requires courage to take this kind of risk, but the worst that can happen isn’t all that bad, and the rewards will become self-evident by your taking such a bold step.


Whether you’re new to shamanism, already have some training, or curious as to how you can integrate these principles into your daily life and/or an alternative healing practice, deepen your experience and understanding of shamanic realities. Dr. Steven Farmer hosts Integrating Shamanism Into Your Life and Work at the Art of Living Retreat Center from November 16-18, 2018.


Dr. Steven Farmer is a psychotherapist, shamanic healer, and the author of several best-selling books and oracle cards. In addition to workshops on Animal Spirit Guides, Integrative Breathwork, Healing Ancestral Karma, and shamanism, Dr. Farmer offers Integrative Healing sessions in person or remotely by phone, Zoom, or Skype, as well as an individualized Spiritual Mentorship program. He is on the board of the Society of Shamanic Practice and also offers a certification program, the Earth Magic® Practitioner training.


This article first appeared in Creations Magazine, and is reposted with permission from the author.

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!


Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: community , fatherhood , indigenous culture , men's spirituality , men's wellness , power animals , shamanism , spirituality , steven farmer , wellness , wisdom

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