JUNE 09, 2022 BY DANIEL MOLER READ TIME: 9 MINS
The soul has many parts. With my work in shamanic practices, I have been astounded at the repeating presence of the number three. Various aspects of the number three will crop up in many ways on the shamanic path. For instance, there are three worlds in the shamanic universe: the upper, middle, and lower worlds. The shamanic healing process unfolds in three phases: the cleansing, the alignment, and the raising. Likewise, the psyche itself is comprised of three elements.
This segmentation of the self is not just reserved for shamanic traditions. In Qabalah, the self is reduced to three expressions of being known as Nephesch (the primal subconscious), Ruach (the base personality), and Neschamah (the higher self). Similarly, Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory divided the psyche into the Id (base, primitive instincts/subconscious self), Ego (reality-based personality/conscious self), and the Super Ego (the moral conscience/ideal self).
In my book, The Shamanic Soul: A Guidebook for Self-Exploration, Healing, and Mysticism, I discuss the three aspects of the self as taught to me from my training in Peruvian curanderismo. They each are rooted in the concept of sombra, translated in Spanish as “shadow” or “shade,” which is a projection or image of oneself cast upon the world. The sombra is the way the soul is expressed in reality. The three aspects of sombra are known as the:
- Sombra Ganadera: Known as “the rancher” shade, but also referred to as “the contrary” (contrario), this sombra typically corresponds to the lower self, the subconscious state of mind where base instincts and repressed memories reside. Therefore, this aspect of the soul is primarily concerned with the past. If not properly controlled or corralled (hence, “the rancher”) this sombra will resurface and sabotage one’s life in often unintentional ways.
- Sombra Primera: The “prime” shade is the primary personality, conscious and aware of the world around us, the aspect of our soul concerned with relationships and day-to-day living. This part of the soul is more concerned with the present.
- Sombra Criandera: The “wet nurse” or “nursemaid” shade is the aspect of the soul that nurtures the self upon one’s path, encouraging them toward evolution. Other traditions call this the higher self, that which is concerned with transcendent reality.
Often life will bring upon a set of challenges that will fracture these aspects of the soul. The natural way of life is for these parts to work together in unison. If they do not, they will work against each other and individuals will wade through life confused, disgruntled, and even engage in self-sabotage. One can be easily ruled by emotions or ego, and disharmony of the sombras will reflect a disharmony of the soul.
Although my book The Shamanic Soul is comprised of many spiritual healing practices, most of them are centered upon the mesa, a shamanic altar used for shamanic training and practice. However, one does not have to have a mesa to engage in shamanic healing. In fact, you have everything you need already! Your mind, body, and soul are built to heal themselves. Just as a physical wound will heal in the right conditions, all you need to do is nurture your healing capacities and provide the time/space for your soul to do its job. If my own soul feels fragmented, disjointed, or not quite in alignment, if the three sombras don’t seem to be working in alignment, this is the simple ritual I follow for true soul integration.
The Soul Walk Ritual
Carve out some time for yourself. A true healing ceremony cannot be done while working or in a space where you can be distracted with other tasks. You need to allot some time specifically for your soul care, just as you would for any other event. I would suggest at least a good 3 to 4 hours, but if you cannot do anymore than that, then at minimum schedule an hour.
Find a space where you can go for a walk out in a natural setting, specifically where you will not be interreacting with other people. It is good to have some isolation from others, so you are not distracted from your healing process. There are plenty of State and National Parks you can look up, even close to the city, with walking trails that will provide an appropriate amount of isolation from the populace. You will want a space where the only connection is between you and the natural world, ideally a space to which you are connected.
You may want to take a backpack to carry a water bottle, sunscreen, or insect repellent, if that is conducive to your needs. Dress appropriate for the weather and wear comfortable shoes. Leave your phone behind. If you need to let someone know where you are, in case of an emergency, do so. However, you do not want another opportunity for distraction to arise.
When you arrive at your space, state your intention to the land that you intend to heal yourself and ask for permission and assistance. The lands listens, and the land will answer.
First is the walk with the sombra ganadero, the aspect of the soul typically concerned with the past or subconscious state. For this you will want to begin your walk by locating a stone. If you are in an area where no stone can be found, you can choose a stick or some other natural object. However, a stone is ideal for this exercise, specifically a dark, dense one.
Place the stone in your right hand and begin your hike. The first third of your walk will focus on brining up your issue at hand. Are you having issues with a spouse? Do you feel alone, confused? Is work stressing you out? How does your issue reflect back upon you and your personality? How does it make you feel? Why do you think it makes you feel that way? Was there an event in your past that causes you to react in the way that you do, that causes you to feel or think these thoughts?
Don’t judge any of these notions. And please don’t try to solve the problem at hand. Just bring up these feelings, thoughts, and emotions, and witness them, without judgement. Whatever they are, just observe as you walk.
Using the power of your imagination, fueled by the physical power of your walking, intend for any thoughts, feelings, or memories that make you uncomfortable to flow from your body, down your right arm, and into the stone in your right hand. Intend for the stone to act as a magnet, attracting any density these feelings bring up to be absorbed into the stone itself, leaving your body and mind. Everything in the natural world is conscious and can utilized as a tool to assist us in our own healing. Stone are wonderful ancestors who are great at absorbing these sorts of dense energies from the sombra ganadera. It is okay, they will not affect the stone, because we will soon disburse these energies where they need to go.
When you feel that the first third of your walk is complete, that you have appropriately distributed the negativity of these feelings and emotions into the stone, find a place to bury the stone in the ground. It doesn’t have to be deep. Even with your own hands or a stick you can remove enough soil to bury the stone and long as it is beneath ground-level. When you do, thank the stone for its assistance and intend for the energies you have distributed into the stone to back into the earth. Mother Earth knows what to do with these energies, as she will transmute them into something good, composting them from dense negativity into nutritive life.
Next, is the walk with the sombra primera. Since this is the aspect of the soul mostly concerned with the present, you will take the next third of your walk being completely open and mindful of the present moment. Do your best to clear your mind. Pace your breathing with your walking. If any thoughts try to crop up in your mind, use the exhale of your breath to breathe them away. Focus only on the natural world around you. The shuffle of your feet on the ground. The brush of grass against your legs. The sound of the wind rustling through the leaves of trees. The chirps of any nearby birds. The movement of the clouds. Let the natural world be your only stimulus.
This aspect of the walk is a palate cleanser, from being in denser energies to now realigning oneself to the presence of your own soul as an integrated whole. This walk can be the best form of meditation. Your soul is meant to be operating in unison. You are multifaceted, but also whole, and the sombra primera reminds us of that. Let the natural world speak to you and reconnect you with the holism of soul integration.
The “nursemaid” aspect of soul looks toward the future. This sombra will caretake the necessary aspects of oneself to encourage evolution. In the shamanic path, this is often done by giving back to Mother Earth in some way, in thanksgiving for the support she has provided us. In my tradition this giving back is what we call a pago (“payment”) in sacred reciprocity of the work complete.
For the final third of your walk, scan the landscape for any flowers or plants that catch your eye. A common form of pago is to pluck these flowers or plants and arrange them in a mandala-like design on the earth, providing an artful gift of beauty to the Mother. You can be as creative and detailed as you want with it, as long as you are working from the heart as a payment back to the medicine you have received in your integration ritual. If you are in a landscape where there not many flowers, you can create a design using stones, such as medicine wheel. If no natural materials are available, you can provide a gift yourself by either singing a song or plucking a piece of your hair to leave on the land.
Sacred reciprocity is an artform itself. There are not specific rules, but it must be done with earnest gratitude. It is about establishing a connection with the natural world, a rapport in which you and earth commune as one soul to another. This aspect of the sombra can be a great boon in overall soul integration, uplifting one’s spirit and charging the physical body with positive energy to move forward in one’s endeavors.
When done with focus and intention, the Soul Walk Ritual can mend fractured thoughts and emotions. It can bring clarity to one’s soul walk in life, so that when you feel uncertain about a situation, you can provide a space for yourself where harmony can take place. Integration is about taking the unconnected pieces of the soul and connecting them so they can work together, not against each other. Take the time and space for yourself—you deserve it!
To explore more shamanic exercises, you can check out my book The Shamanic Soul.
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