Spiritual connection with nature

Sustaining Health – Bringing Balance to Your Life

As babies we learn to find our balance. We discover how to effectively balance our bodies on our own two feet and thus begin to take our first steps. Soon, we’re running about, achieving countless physical feats and continually honing that physical stability as we grow.
Our parents don’t just want to see us walking though. They are also concerned that we start talking. And we too want to communicate with those around us. In turn we flex our mental muscles and learn to speak. Throughout our childhood, we are pushed to sharpen our mental skills and increase our cognitive capacity. And as we grow into adults, we are told that this capacity will determine what job we get and what kind of life we will live.
Though we put a great deal of value on physical and mental balance in those early years of life, the more we mature, the more we must train our spiritual balance in order to not only achieve success, but truly live a happy and healthy life. It is that deep internal balance that allows us to maintain our equilibrium. No matter how balanced our bodies and minds, without a balanced soul or spirit, we will never be able to fully utilize our physical and mental aptitude.

Setting aside the Time

At times, you may think that empowering the soul takes much more than training the body or mind; however, I would suggest that all three require similar effort. Of course this is somewhat dependent on your personal strengths and natural talent. Nevertheless, at a certain point it boils down to time. How much time have you actually spent focusing on each of these three aspects of yourself; the physical, the mental and the spiritual?

How many hours did we spend memorizing math formulas or rewriting essays in school? How long did it take you to polish that business proposal before the meeting? How much time do you spend at the gym each week? Now, how many minutes do we find to simply sit peacefully and do “nothing”? This seems to be the hardest for most of us in the modern world.

Setting aside the time to focus on the growth of our soul can seem impossible. It is easy to use our physical goals and mental requirements as excuses for not empowering our soul. To say, “I need to focus on this project. I can’t afford the time to watch the sunset or go sit under a tree.”

A shift in perspective can help you get over this hurdle. If you take the time to focus on your spiritual health, you will begin to see how that improves both your mental focus and physical strength.

For example, if you meditate, you need to quiet the mind and relax the body. To do so can require an enormous amount of mental and physical focus. Thus as we train our soul, we inextricably must train the body and mind to be in a state of not doing. For most of us, this is very difficult, but it is an invaluable skill for everyone.

Once we realize that spiritual practice can also be a mental and physical workout, it is much easier to allow yourself the time to polish the soul. In time, we can understand the innate relationship of the body, mind and soul. Only then can we begin to hone all three aspects of the self with each action we take. No matter our singular focus, we are always strengthening and training our whole self. This is a state of true balance.

Energizing the Soul

Feeding the soul can be deceptively simple. Just like the body, the time we offer the soul directly corresponds to its health. The toughest endeavor can be finding the time to fortify your spirit. For indigenous people, this time was built into their daily life. Today, we must re-learn how to integrate the soul into our routine.

Here is a simple practice you can use each day that can lead to profound changes in your body, mind and soul. This is a teaching I received from the indigenous Huichol tribe in Mexico during my apprenticeship with Don José Matsuwa. I did not make this up; it is not my own invention. Instead, the Huichol people have been availing themselves through such practices for thousands of years.


Earth & Sky

Finding your place in the Center

Walk slowly, visualizing the love of Mother Earth percolating up through your feet, into your lower body. Simultaneously, embrace the light of Father Sun, as it enters through the top of your head (at the fontanel) and travels towards your chest. Now imagine the love and light meeting in your heart. As these two elemental powers merge, feel how they form a figure eight at the thymus gland, what the Huichol refer to as the entranceway to the heart. Allow the two energies to mix, adding to your kupuri (life force). Continue to walk slowly as you maintain the figure eight.

This simple practice ties in the three aspects of self. You are physically moving, walking on the sacred altar of the Earth. You are mentally visualizing your connection with what lies beneath and floats above. And you are relaxing the senses in order to become aware of the movement of energy within yourself.


Don’t be tricked by the simplicity of this exercise. The challenge is to do it regularly. If you practice this enough, eventually each step you take becomes a sacred act of balance.

The Huichol are taught this and many other spiritual practices of harmonizing with nature from a young age. Since many of us may have missed out on fostering our spiritual balance as children, we may have some catching up to do.

This journey of manifesting balance is a lifelong one. Our environment provides us with countless and ever-changing variables, which may make the process frustrating at times, but never boring. If we dedicate the time and truly strive to equally empower the body, mind and soul, we may learn to walk a sacred life. We can face the ups and downs with a centeredness and self-confidence, with a trust in the overwhelming power of balance stemming from nature all around us. Breathe in the light, embrace the love and begin your journey into balance.

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Brant Secunda is a shaman, healer and ceremonial leader in the Huichol tradition of Mexico. He is the Director of the Dance of the Deer Foundation – Center for Shamanic Studies and has been teaching worldwide for over 30 years. He is also the co-founder of the Peace University and the Huichol Foundation and is the co-author of Fit Soul Fit Body – 9 Keys to a Healthier, Happier You.

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Drum and Harvest Ceremony

Autumn Equinox and the Harvest Ceremony

Happy Equinox! May we manifest the harmony within ourselves to help bring balance to the world around us.

We returned from the Drum and Harvest Ceremony in Mexico earlier this week. The time in the Sierra Madre was beautiful and intense as always. Don Jacinto, the leading shaman in the ceremony, exuded kupuri (life force) as he chanted for hours on end. The intricate songs summoned the spirits from the four directions and the sky realm to bless the people, along with the harvest of corn and squash. The children shook their rattles as mothers cradled the youngest babies.

Drum and Harvest Ceremony Altar

One aspect of the ceremony is to help take the spirits of the children to places of power that they are still too young to visit. While their bodies may not yet be able to make the journey, their spirits fly through the Nierika (spiritual doorway) to connect with the dreaming gods and goddesses of these sacred places. In this way, they are invigorated with the energy of the diverse landscape so that they may live a long and healthy life.

Gathering for the harvest ceremony

Huichol women and children gather for the harvest ceremony.

After starting at sunset last Friday, Don Jacinto chanted late into the night, well past 1:00 a.m. Accompanied by the sound of the drum, the ancient songs echoed up into the mountains. Even the crickets seemed to be in awe, silently listening in a state of trance. After a few hours of rest, corn stalks were cut from the fields, and the altar was built as the sun prepared to make its way over the horizon.

 

The rattles and God’s Eyes from each child were brought out of the temple hut, and the altar was filled with fresh fruits, corn, squash, and tamales. Nawa (a fermented corn drink) prepared by various families was poured into jugs and gourds. As the rays of sunshine flowed over the distant peaks, the drum and chants commenced once more and continued with only brief breaks until early evening.

Young Huichol girls participate in the ceremony

Young Huichol girls participate in the ceremony

As soon as the ceremony finished for the day, lightning strikes danced atop the mountains all around us. It began to rain as thunder grew closer. Eventually, a heavy downpour lulled us to sleep and kept the village dreaming until around 3 or 4 a.m. when the elders began to gather around the fire once again.

On Sunday morning, the fresh corn and squash were cooked on the fire, and then everyone lined up to take a piece of both. Before feasting, each person placed their small piece of the harvest onto the drum to be blessed by the shaman and then offered a few kernels of corn and a pinch of squash to the fire. The taste of Huichol corn is far heartier than what you find in most stores or farm stands around the world. Each bite contains an earthiness and fullness that is hard to describe. This ancient staple represents the healing of the body for the Huichol, and indeed, you can taste the difference in the food grown on the land that has been stewarded for thousands of years by such a grounded culture.

 

Before dispersing back to our nearby huts and distant villages, everyone gathered around the ceremonial fire to offer one last prayer. Together, the entire village called out to Tatewari (Grandfather Fire), to give thanks for a successful ceremony and for all those near and far who supported this sacred gathering.

 

Thank you for being a part of the ceremony from afar. Even if all you did was read this message, you are connected within the concentric circles of community. 

Hopefully the positive effects of the ceremony will continue to ripple out into the world.

We wish you a bountiful and balanced autumn season!

With Love & Gratitude,

Brant Secunda + Nico Secunda

Autumn in the Huichol Sierra

Autumn in the Huichol Sierra

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Huichol girl with a ceremonial rattle

Huichol Pilgrimage and Ceremony

How do you celebrate your life? How do you honor this radiantly beautiful Mother Earth that we call home?

For the Huichol — a small tribe of around 15,000 who live in the Sierra Madre Mountains of central-western Mexico, these are easy questions to answer. For them, shamanism is a way of being — the practice of honoring all life and remembering how we relate to the world around us through ceremony, prayer and pilgrimage.

The Huichols go on pilgrimage to sacred places of power in nature. They go to pray and honor the earth, and to honor the spirit of those places of power. As humans, it is our responsibility to pray and make pilgrimages. We can help to heal Mother Earth and ourselves through this ancient tradition of pilgrimage. The Huichols say that we are surrounded by the Ancient Ones, and that it is our responsibility to stay connected with them. All places of power – kakuyari – are dreaming gods, dreaming goddesses. By connecting to the spirit of a mountain or a lake for example, we open ourselves to the power and energy (the kupuri) of that place, bringing unity and harmony into our own lives and that of our communities. And, with our prayer offerings, we in turn give love and respect back to the earth. This reciprocal interaction creates a sacred circle, what the Huichols call a nierikaThis helps us to develop more fully the connection between our hearts and the natural world, and gives our lives meaning filled with strength, healing, and love.

As the Huichols believe it is important for people to go to sacred places of power, I have led many people on spiritual journeys all over the world. Every year we go to Mt. Shasta, one of the most spectacular places of power in North America.
We go to Alaska, where our ceremonial chanting and dancing is answered by the calls of whales and eagles circling. We go to Grandmother Ocean, to various hot springs and other special places. In Europe we travel to Mt. Blanc, the tallest mountain on the European continent, and to Crete, the birthplace of Western civilization, and a place filled with power. While there, we always make ceremonies to honor the spirit of the place and tap into the life force Mother Earth has to offer at each one of these special locations.

Huichol life is a continuous cycle of ritual and ceremony designed to help them stay in touch with the Ancient Ones. In making these ceremonies, they are celebrating their lives and the life of all nature. During ceremony, with their drumming and chanting, the Huichols invite the spirits to come into the circle to be with them. The shamans guide the people through the doorway between the worlds, once again helping to empower them and their families to achieve lives of balance and integrity, and to help the universe stay in balance as well.

The Huichols say that human beings are in the middle, between the earth and the sky, and that we are mirrors of the gods. You don’t necessarily have to make special ceremonies like the Huichol do in order to connect your heart, your spirit with the natural world. But you can celebrate your lives with humbleness; celebrate the life of nature all around you. Remember and honor the sacredness within you, within each living thing. Go out and honor the sunrise and the sunset. Pray to the four directions. Honor each one of the seasons. Doing these things helps us to become one with the spirit. When we open our hearts to the beauty all around us, when we stay aware and present in the moment, we can truly connect to the spirit of all creation; we have the possibility of transforming ourselves.

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