Journey to the Sacred
Mending a Fractured Soul
At some point in life, each of us struggles in our attempt to make sense of the circumstances surrounding a difficult life experience. The catastrophic event may be situational, such as the loss of a job, the loss of a loved one to death, the loss of a body part, or the loss of the sense of self so deeply felt following victimization. The event may be developmental, such as is experienced as the nest empties, or with the recognition of changes to the physical body associated with aging. These turning points, times after which life will never be the same, force us to leave behind what we have previously treasured. We grieve for what we no longer have. But moving forward in life requires that we not only survive but that we grow from the lessons learned as we wrestle the physical, emotional and spiritual responses of our grief.
While other authors describe the physical and emotional responses to loss, and prescribe strategies for managing these effects, few address the spiritual torment experienced as we attempt to find meaning in what has happened along with a new purpose for the rest of our life. Yet soul pain is agony of the greatest intensity, for soul’s nagging questions will not be silenced until we find answers which fit into our view of the world – a view which may have been drastically altered by the experience.
Others have written personal stories of the movement into soul following a traumatic life experience and there exists literature describing healing methods used around the world. Some authors compare the concepts contained within the religions of the East and West, and others address human spirituality outside a framework of religion. Yet no previous work has combined all of the above. No previous author has paralleled the lived experiences of soul’s struggle in the dark night, the archetypical stories of dream and symbol, the stories of myth and folklore, the stories of faith traditions and the stories of ancient and indigenous beliefs and practices of spirituality and healing. No previous work presents a framework from which modern day soul therapy, either self induced or prescribed by a professional, can suspend. No previous work provides a language for soul work, or draws on the ancient and the modern, on science and folklore, on religion and spirituality, as well as on theory, practice and research. This work provides definitions and descriptions for concepts of the spirit which can fit into the health and healing practices used by those of us who personally heal and professionally practice within the modern western world. No previous work demonstrates the effectiveness of these practices in healing soul pain and in achieving self transformation. Nor does any previous work describe how these methods can be used to assist a wounded other in their healing journey.
In the past five years over three hundred articles addressing the lack of attention to the spiritual concerns of people have appeared in the scholarly journals of psychology, social work, nursing, physiotherapy, and occupational therapy. These professions assist during times when life seems overwhelming. The authors are reminding us that the spiritual dimension of our humanness has a pervasive influence on thought, behavior, and general health and well-being. And while care of the human spirit is primary to healing in virtually all other cultures, past and present, western society’s models of helping and practices of religion have paid little attention to the needs of the fractured human spirit. The resurgence of interest is based upon a growing recognition of this void, of the need for soul healing, and of the differences between spirituality and religion.
The content within this book flows from my own need to survive, until sunrise, the dark night of grief. During my time in the oubliette, the French dungeon without door or window, I searched for answers to appease the nagging questions which oozed steadily from the ever widening fissures at the core of my being. Unable to find soul healing in the methods prescribed by the systems of the western world, or in the religion of my upbringing, I turned to education. In graduate school, I researched the ancient roots of healing. I immersed myself in a parallel process of discovering ancient and more wholistic methods, alongside the modern theories of psychology, sociology, anthropology, gerontology, nursing and more. I recognized that only in the cultures influenced by western thought (in an effort for scientific purism) is there a lack of spirituality as the core of healing practice.
Determined to understand spirituality in its distinction from religion, and desperate to still the turbulence within my own soul, I thrust every ounce of available energy into doctoral education. I dissected each belief, each dogma, and each creed, which I had for so long given lip service to. I tried to make sense of my Christian upbringing, but discovered that the teachings of Jesus had, over the centuries, been altered numerous times for political and financial gain. I studied folklore and mythology, the goddess stories, and astrology. I studied Shamanism and the religions of the East. I examined the research on near-death experience, and on past life regression. I pondered at sacred sites in Europe, in Asia, in Peru, Venezuela and Mexico. I marveled at the natural order, and I listened to the sacredness of the life stories being shared by the people who journeyed beside me. My bleeding wounds were bathed and bandaged in the ways of the indigenous peoples of North and South America, by the Kahuna Healers of Hawaii, and by the Chi and the Ki energy of China and Japan. I discovered in these methods a sacredness often lacking in the health and helping methods of the western world.
I now work with those who are attempting to thrive beyond difficult life experiences. I work with those who are grieving the many losses in life and with women who have been abused. I work with survivors of torture and I work with women in a federal penitentiary. I listen for soul pain, and I prescribe strategies for soul healing.
The content within this book teach us how to move a broken spirit from survival to transformation. It provides a new paradigm. For in addressing soul pain we must be able to view life beyond physical and emotional boundaries, beyond the boundaries of religion and culture, beyond the boundaries of our limiting filtering system.