Sacred Wounds and Soul Work

April 30, 2007

Ever since I met Salmon Boy and began my work of sorting through the contents of the “long bag we drag behind us” I have felt myself waking up and growing up in a way that I never dreamed possible.

Poignantly, my son, is in the process of filling his long bag as I empty mine.

So often I want to protect him, to shield him, to prevent him from suffering the necessary wounding of growing up. The places that I find most difficult to allow him to suffer always point to *my* deepest wounds and sometimes – it becomes all too much for me and I find myself saying the most irrational, inane, and stupid things in response! Fortunately for me – he has the grace and resilience to hear me and also to accept my apologies.

I am sure there were times my parents apologized to me, but I don’t remember them. What I remember is the hierarchy of “because we said so” and blind obedience – both of which made me a rebel.

The rebel of me, left high school early, took a menial job in a fast food restaurant, got an apartment,  bought a car, and set out to prove I didn’t need anyone to provide for me.

The power of this rebellion and my need for approval and recognition led to promotions, increased responsibility, college degrees, and middleworld success. Yet even with that outer success there was always an inner childlike part of me yearning for something that I could not name and refused to acknowledge.

I often wonder if I would have embarked on this journey to soul if my father had not died when and how he did. I once heard the summons of the soul when I was in my mid to late thirties. I had no context for this summons so it terrified me. It scared me so much, I put up a wall of protection around myself to prevent its entry. Fortunately, the soul speaks to us in imagery and even though I consciously shut out the possibility of a larger life, my unconscious continued to work on me in a series of disturbing dreams and nightmares. Asking me to go to the dark scary places and visit awhile.

Who voluntarily goes into the underworld? Not the me I was then!

Salmon boy introduced me to the Jungian archetype of the Shadow. We talked about the cultural necessity of socialization and that no one escapes Procrustes’s bed. As I look back over my three years with him (I began to see him in May, 2004) I realize that in the beginning all he did was allow me to feel very sad. Somehow our relationship gave me the courage to surrender to the sadness, go deeper into the depression, and to allow myself to disintegrate.

In Close to the Bone, Jean Shinoda Bolen talks of men and women who achieve  detente with health and illness. Her advice to cancer patients is applicable to any of us.

“Seek a therapist who loves the work, whose soul and heart are in it. Someone who can see beauty, vulnerability, and courage and care for these qualities. Someone for whom psychotherapy is his or her own soul work. For how can a therapist help someone else find soul in life, if that therapist has not found it himself or herself? When your life depends upon finding meaning, creativity, joy in life, the guide to your process has to have found his or her own way there.”

Salmon boy is one of those therapists who has done the descent – more than once. He is not afraid of the sweet darkness (mine or his). In allowing the sadness to run its course – it ran right into my existential wound of abandonment. I always thought that I had been smothered and overwhelmed as a child – and I was. But I never could feel or acknowledge the sense of abandonment until my father died. Each of us to one degree or another has the twin wounds of overwhelment and abandonment. Hidden in those wounds is our gift.

It isn’t enough to undertake the Heroine’s Journey (which I am currently re-evaluating as I near the one year anniversary of my solo fast and vigil), we must return with the gift and share it with our people. If we don’t recognize the gift and bring it out into the world our journey was only in service to the I/ego/everyday  consciousness.

I wrote about this the other day and it is still reverberating in my  heart. I have a David Whyte video where he asks “What if the world is holding its breath – waiting for you to take the place that only you can fill?” The first time I heard that I cried – because of the possibility that I might be worthy and that my life might matter – even though I was a sad and weepy mess at the time. I so wanted to believe him. I carried that thought around for a long time before it found a home in my heart.

I now know that this is true for me – and for you too!

To be human
is to become visible
while carrying
what is hidden
as a gift to others.
~~~~~David Whyte


  1. I really like this quote by Bolen. Do you think the Heroine’s Journey is different from that of the Hero? I very much enjoyed both Pinkola-Estes Wolves and Murdock’s Heroine’s Journey, but find myself still wondering this same thing.

  2. Murdock’s book is on my list to read. Another resource that really made me start questioning the path of the hero is Barbara Tedlock’s “Woman in the Shaman’s Body.

    And then there is Elizabeth Cunnigham’s Passion of Mary Magdalene which gave me permission to finally re-imagine the role of women as priestesses and healers.

    Every moon cycle, women go to the liminal places. We don’t need to fast and suffer to access our visions. As a good Athena daughter – I enacted a vision fast to find out for myself about the Hero’s Journey – and it was a powerful experience – but not the one I was seeking.

    I continue to quest, to seek elders, to journey to the underworld, and to create initiation rites for women through an encounter with the Divine Feminine.

    The goddess is returning and re-emerging and things are already changing in preparation for her!

  3. Unbelievable… I was googling “Sacred Wounds” and your blog came up. I read that page with my mouth hanging open, exactly as I did so many of your other blog pages/topics (I am brand new to blogs). We are of such different ages, but I could have written exactly what you did… it is like reading my own journal. Amazing. Just discovering sacred wounds>sacred lessons>sacred gifts.
    Feels like I am finally at the core.

  4. Enjoying your post. Beautiful to witness the process of fellow soul journeyers.

    Many thanks

  5. beautiful. so true. so thank you. we are bumping into the same sources and so must be on the same or similar paths. interesting how important language is to the ability to relate or allow ideas in; people often say the same kinds of things in other language and I can’t hear it…

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