A sanctuary.


A Sanctuary.

I've been reflecting on an old Parts Unknown episode with Anthony Bourdain and Darren Aronovsky, the famous director of movies like Requiem for a Dream and the Fountain. They went to Madagascar after Darren made the movie Noah, which centered around the great flood story in the Bible. Throughout the episode, they weaved in the theme of the biblical deluge against the backdrop of environmental catastrophe on the island, caused by abject poverty, slash and burn agriculture, and climate change.


The whole episode can be watched on YouTube for free here: https://youtu.be/n7KXpU0Cy1Q


At one point in the episode, they go to a lemur sanctuary. If you've never seen a lemur, let me tell you: they are impossibly cute. Like, eye blorps and weird cute feet and fuzzy ears cute. They are also incredibly endangered and require hyper-specialized habitats to survive. Given the pressure on the environment in Madagascar, this sanctuary was crucial to the survival of this incredible species...a bit like how Noah's arc saved two of each species during the great flood in the Bible.


And then a very interesting conversation unfolds. The woman that created the lemur sanctuary explains that, to save and protect the overall environment that supports the local indigenous population and other animal species, they had to lead with the cute little lemurs. Why? Because people in the advanced world, who donate money and support their efforts, are way more interested in saving adorable animals than human beings...or the environment in general.


Holy. Shit. That's some dark-sided truth.


Effectively, she was working to save all of Madagascar- the humans, the unique ecosystem, and priceless plant microclimates and their plant medicines- but understood that her target audience would only play ball if it was about the lemurs.


Why? Because, as humans, we lack compassion for ourselves and our fellow humans. We have lost our connection to ourselves at a soul level and, because of that, we have crippled our ability to recognize the soul in each other.


Shamanic Soul Part Recollection

This theme comes up all the time in Shamanic Soul Part Recollection work. When undertaking a journey to call your soul parts back home- or spontaneously experiencing this phenomenon in a dream- our subconscious mind transforms our soul parts into cute animals, most commonly dogs and horses.


First, let's discuss what soul parts are. The shaman views the energy body much the way a doctor views the physical body: as being comprised of cells, tissues, organs, and organ systems. When we experience the slings and arrows- and, more precisely, traumas- of life, our soul parts get damaged. They split off, they go dormant, and they build up scar tissue. To ensure we bring our full selves to life, we must make efforts to identify, recollect, and integrate these soul parts.


To do so, we either undertake a Shamanic Journeying Meditation or set an intention before sleep to invite in a Soul Part Recollection dream. In either of these formats (meditation or sleep), the soul parts are usually symbolically depicted as a horse or a dog. The "dream" starts with a sudden rush of panic and sadness, as you see what you think is a suffering or dead animal. Then you typically offer it water or food, and it starts to come back to life. Then, there is an archetypal authority figure that approaches- mine have been police officers and firefighters- that asks if the animal is ours. Generally, we say "no", but we offer to bring the now-thriving animal home with us to take care of it.


The details in the dream- like the location or associations with certain time frames- give us clues about the time in our life and the conditions in which our soul part was damaged.


I had a harrowing Soul Part dream after a traumatic breakup, with a beautiful brown horse twisted up, in pain, crying and begging me to never let that particular person near "it" again. This was an aspect of my own soul, communicating with me in a desperate attempt to not hand it back over to its- and my- abuser. This individual attempted to come back into my life, and it was the memory (and feeling) of that dream that continually reminded me of the soul-level dangers of interaction. Needless to say, I kept it moving, looking out for my soul part just as I would any animal in my care.


So why does our brain show us these aspects of ourselves as cute, emotive animals? Plunge us into an experiential manipulation with intense, lingering emotions? Simply put, because even our mind and our energy body know that we lack compassion for ourselves, and if we saw the soul part as anything other than a cute animal, we wouldn't show it compassion or kindness. In other words, our brains know how to trick us into taking care of ourselves, which is pretty sophisticated when you think about it.


It's also quite sad that this is a reality for the human species.


A sanctuary for the human soul

This episode of Parts Unknown, with its flood stories and lemurs and sneak peak into a nihilistic future, has really stuck with me. It occurred to me that, like that lemur sanctuary lady, I was also working to repair and protect a particular spiritual habitat for my clients.


At first blush, doing Tarot Readings or Energy Work for working, successful people may seem like a matter of privilege. After all, I'm not literally in the trenches, feeding the poor or housing the homeless. So how is it that what I do helps the broader ecosystem in the crucial ways it so desperately needs?


My answer: I work to create a sanctuary for the human soul. While it may seem an indulgence only afforded to those beyond immediate survival concerns, it's actually crucial for the success of the whole ecosystem. From a Shamanic Soul Part perspective, when the individual shows themselves compassion and kindness and is able to heal and reintegrate their lost soul parts, they are then capable of showing others that compassion and kindness as well.


What's more: when one considers our interconnectedness via the Akashic Records, shared collective unconscious, and energetic cords, when you heal yourself you really do effectively contribute to the healing of all. "Heal yourself, heal the world". Sounds like a cliche, but there could be some real psychic science to it.


Upcoming events and podcasts

And all of this is why I'm so passionate about getting the word out. Now, we're not working to protect adorable lemurs or anything, but TOTEM is focused on facilitating your healing, integration, and optimization- all with the broader energetic ecosystem in mind. If we all had our soul parts 100% healed and online, what could we do? How would that change the world?


In the next several months, I am going to be digging into events and podcasts that center around this topic. In April, I kick off a focused podcast tour to have crucial shamanic conversations. Please make sure to follow us on Instagram here for updates and links to these interviews, and/or check into our updated TOTEM Readings website here. And feel free to email me anytime if you have favorite podcasts or youtube shows that you think I should approach for a TOTEM discussion.


Best-selling book bootcamp

I'm so excited to join Sara Connell for her upcoming Best-Selling Book Bootcamp on Monday, February 7th @ 12:30 PM CST. I will be one of may "story-tellers" joining Sara to discuss our mission, our "books" (mine is the TOTEM Tarot Deck). We'll discuss what motivated us to self-publish the TOTEM Tarot Deck, why I view it as a means of democratizing spirituality, and how the archetypes on those cards can help guide and heal us.


Soul Ascend podcast

My discussion with Jennifer Ludington and Megan McCann of the Soul Ascend podcast also drops on February 7th, so make sure to like, subscribe and share here. These ladies are trying to talk all things woo while maintaining their sense of humor and pragmatic outlook on life, a crucial balance missing from much of the all-too-serious spiritual space. Besides, I go in pretty hard on the Vatican;)


Creating a sanctuary for your soul

This lunar New Year- and New Moon- on February 1st is a great time to assess the ways in which you support your own soul healing. It may seem silly, or feel rather indulgent or unnecessary, but it's crucial to ensure that we're showing up in the world in an integrated, aligned, and productive way. Sometimes it's as simple as creating an environment that makes you feel safe, supported, and connected to spirit, or assigning a particular day or time of the day to get quiet, get soulful, pull some cards, and dig into a healing meditation. Is there a space in your home that embodies your spiritual vibe? An altar featuring your spirit guides? A particular incense that, when lit, transports you to a spa-like experience for your soul?


Or, more broadly, what do you need to feel fully integrated, aligned and whole in your human experience? Outside of food and shelter, what are your soul-level needs? Do you need honest, open dialogue? Friends that don't dispose of you if you disagree politically? Do you need access to art museums and studios? To live theater? To live music? What makes you feel good, grounded, and in alignment with your soul's purpose?


For me, I've learned that time outside in nature is crucial for me to heal and re-center on an ongoing basis. To ensure that I commit to this- since I'm a person that always puts "play" last on my to do list- I expanded the TOTEM Flower Essence program. This ensures that I go outside, touch the soil, and work with plants because I have a professional obligation to make healing tinctures for my clients.


In a way, this is just another way I'm tricking myself into taking care of myself, but it's my hope that I build these muscles and habits and, over time, simply do it because it's good for me.


TOTEM energy work and sessions

And while our TOTEM spiritual treehouse has gone largely virtual in the wake of our move to Austin, TX, we're still in the soul healing business. If you want to schedule a 1:1 session- including a focused effort to reintegrate lost soul parts- reach out via email anytime. We also address Soul Part Recollection as a foundational element of our TOTEM Spiritual Transformation Coaching, so if you're interested in learning more in advance of our new client June 2022 kick-off, please reach out via email now. We set up a time to discuss the program via Zoom to ensure that it's a good fit at the time and that the client is positioned to get maximum value out of the experience. Because the work is all individually-focused and tailored to the participants- with no group work- we only have capacity for six new coaching clients for the June program.


The coming year has an incredible feeling to it, doesn't it? Full of potential to heal ourselves and heal others. To bring our whole selves online in an integrated and tangible way.


Imagine what we could all do if we were whole? What a great thought to hold in our minds as we enter the lunar New Year.


-Rachel