According to shamanism, all creation is filled with Spirit.
No sooner had I posted about the dark phenomenon of cyber bullying than the bright side of Internet commentary rolled in. This occurred in The Santa Fe New Mexican, my local newspaper. Online, readers responded to the story of four teenage boys who had rescued a dog dying on the side of a country road.
Staff at the animal shelter discovered that Lily, as she has now been named, was scarred from a number of gunshot wounds and even had bullet fragments still in her body. There was a deep, infected wound on her front paw, she was severely dehydrated, and she had cactus spines all over her body, including in her eyes. The front leg has since been amputated, and Lily is recovering at the shelter.
The newspaper included a photograph of the four 16-year-olds who had rescued her. One reaches out to pat her as she lies on the examination table after surgery. He is quoted in the article as hoping to adopt her. “You share a kind of bond with an animal you save,” he said. “We found her for some reason.”
The article was the one most visited online, and five people wrote comments. Every single one was positive, as in “Faith restored in youth of Santa Fe.” Other writers referred to fine young men, wonderful young men, great kids, and how nice it was “to see a story about kids doing something that’s right and compassionate.”
Although the story about Lily is upbeat in one respect, everyone knows that darkness lurks in the individuals who injured her. One person who commented invoked karma, specialized karma. If it’s general, things will get very messy.
I thought about the story often over the weekend and called a few minutes ago to see how Lily is doing at the shelter. She is still recovering and reportedly is ever more comfortable with people. I asked if one of the boys really was going to adopt her, and that is unknown. This may have been his idea in the moment, but Lily will be a challenge. She has only three legs and may have both hearing and vision problems.
That’s not the whole picture either, and the story brought up my memory of shamanic practice I had studied years ago. In particular, it reminded me of the subject of soul loss, which I had read about in the works of anthropologist Michael Harner and Sandra Ingerman, a famous psychologist and shamanic practitioner who lives in Santa Fe.
Ingerman defines soul as our “vital essence,” and “the spiritual parts of the body in contrast to the physical.” It is the belief among shamans that when individuals experience trauma, as in incest, abuse, grief, accident, combat, etc., the soul may separate from the body simply to survive the experience. In her book Soul Retrieval, Ingerman wrote that therapy often fails because of soul loss. The part of the self that needs to be addressed is simply “not at home.”
In thinking about this, one wonders how many people among us are actually whole. And particularly with regard to the returning veterans, many must have seen, experienced, and had to do things that could cause soul loss.
Because of her training in both psychology and shamanism, Ingerman became the nation’s leading practitioner of soul retrieval. The idea is that by journeying in nonordinary reality, a practitioner may be able to connect with the lost soul parts and restore them to an individual’s psyche. No matter how skilled the practitioner, however, the missing parts of self will not return until it is safe to do so. That takes me back to Lily.
In shamanic cultures, it is believed that all things are permeated with Spirit. That would include Lily and make her as vulnerable to spiritual damage as a human. Soul loss is often accompanied by the loss of memory. In fact, memory loss may be a symptom of soul loss. One would hope that Lily is blessed by the inability to remember the abuse she was subjected to–probably by people whose cruelty is evidence of their own soul loss.
It is impossible to know how fully Lily can recover with a family where she will experience kindness, security, and trust. In time, perhaps any aspect of her self that took off in order to survive unbearable trauma will be restored. Because those four kind boys happened to pass by on that Sunday, maybe Lily will have a chance to live on whole in spirit, if not in body.