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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Shamanic practice of nature walk in europe

Ancient Wisdom for the Modern World        

Indigenous cultures are often referred to as “primitive.” However, today we are continuing to discover how their ancient wisdom can help us in the modern world. From sustainable multi-crop agricultural systems to more comprehensive understandings of our environment and our universe, scientists are finding themselves reaching into the past to discover the breakthroughs of the future.

If we look at the history of mankind, indigenous cultures around the globe were able to sustain a balanced existence far better than most modern societies. Tribal peoples maintained a lifestyle of harmony and balance with nature. Today we find ourselves striving to regain that innate connection with our natural world. 

There are countless examples of this rebirth of “archaic” knowledge. Biomimicry is one such example. We can see the evolution of clothing and apparel to more closely resemble our natural movement. From shoes that allow us to walk or run with a more natural gait, to the sharkskin-inspired swimsuits used by Olympic athletes, the high-tech industry is looking at what was once considered low-tech inspirations. Indigenous cultures survived for thousands of years through bio mimicry; by embracing nature instead of trying to conquer it.

Throughout modern history and into the industrial revolution, there arose a constant urge to separate ourselves from nature. People were striving to build larger walls, bigger buildings and to increase the overall productivity of the land. Mono-crops and other industrial farming and livestock techniques became increasingly ubiquitous.

In more recent years, scientists and environmental researchers have begun to realize that maybe indigenous practices weren’t so primitive after all. In Mesoamerica for example, the multi crop technique often referred to as the “Three Sisters” planting system, utilized the natural symbiotic relationship of corn, squash and beans. Various tribes planted these three foods together in a simple, yet highly efficient multi-crop method. This sustainable and environmentally viable practice nurtured various tribes for thousands of years. The Huichol people of central-western Mexico continue to employ this multi-crop method to this day.

Physics too has become more and more closely aligned with indigenous beliefs related to the cosmos and our universe. The popularized multiverse theory sounds amazingly similar to the teachings of the universe I was given by Don José Matsuwa (renowned Huichol shaman and healer). When I was first adopted into the Huichol culture as his grandson, Don José described to me how at night, the sun sets into the underworld and is then reborn each morning in the east. Though I respected this revered elder for his amazing spiritual wisdom and psychic abilities, I wasn’t so quick to accept this teaching. I figured I would teach my teacher for a change and so I began to describe my modern-world understanding of the daily cycle of the sun. I explained that though it appears the sun is setting into the horizon, it is actually rising in Japan. 

Don José responded, “Who told you this wild story!” and then followed up with, “and what is Japan?” I respectfully challenged him, saying, “Grandfather, this is a proven scientific fact.” I used a stick to draw a rough globe in the dirt and struggled to explain an elementary fact of the modern world to an old shaman living in the remote mountains of the Sierra Madre. After a few moments, Don José responded, “Well, I’ll believe you if you believe me.” He said, “Why can only one of us be right? There are many parallel realities coexisting at the same time. If not for this, only one tradition would be right and everyone else would be wrong.” This was a teaching I would never forget. It was at that moment that I realized I didn’t have to find THE answer, but rather strive to see the multitude of dimensions that can provide the answers for each moment in life.

In the Huichol culture and in most indigenous cultures, the shaman learns to see and tap into an alternate universe; a world of spiritual energy that surrounds all of us whether we are aware of it or not. A shaman thus could be seen as a ancient physicist of sorts, venturing to make and maintain a connection between our conscious world and an unseen hidden universe.

It is clear that more and more parallels are being drawn between modern world knowledge and ancient indigenous wisdom. As it continues to mature, science is tapping into this wisdom and learning the lesson that sometimes we should listen to our elders. 


Personal Story • Merging Ancient Wisdom with Modern Tech  from 6x Hawaii Ironman Triathlon World Champion Mark Allen

I raced the Hawaii Ironman six times before finally emerging victorious. I was winning everywhere else around the world, but I was constantly falling short on the Big Island. I tried training more than all of my competitors. I tried using the best technology, but something was still missing. 

It wasn’t until I made a connection to Brant and the Huichol, that I was able to bring everything together into a recipe for success. Finally, I was able to feel at home within the harsh environment of Kona and quiet my mind in order to connect with an alternate reality; a reality in which every step I took was an offering to the island, which once made me sulk in fear. 

From then on I was able to race not to prove something to myself or others, but rather as an act of gratitude for what nature was allowing me to do. I was able to call upon nature for energy; to summon what the Huichol call kupuri (life force) from the sun-scorched lava fields and the unrelenting ocean. Winning suddenly took a back seat to experiencing the wonder and intensity of my relationship with nature.


I believe we can all benefit by embracing the nature-based wisdom of indigenous peoples. On the one hand we can use this wisdom to improve our scientific understanding and entrepreneurial inventions, but we should also strive to utilize the tried and true practices of ancient cultures to better ourselves and create a more harmonious and sustainable spiritual existence. We can all learn from people such as the Huichol, who have maintained generations of peace and happiness through a holistic approach to healthy living. 

If we see ourselves as a part of nature, we inherently remove the obstacles keeping us from living our most natural life. And when we truly learn to tap into the life force Mother Nature has to offer, we begin to realize our own potential for empowering the world we live in. 

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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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Brant Secunda with Don José Matsuwa and Doña Josefa Medrano

Journey into Healing

In 1970 at 18 years old, intrigued by a book of Carlos Castenada. I left my hometown in New Jersey and set out on a journey to Ixtlan as a spiritual tourist in search of Don Juan. En route, I met a Huichol schoolteacher, who gave me the name of his family’s village – a five day walk away.

Soon, I found myself hiking through the Sierra Madre Mountains, in search of the mysterious Huichol natives. With the sun blazing down on me, I followed a narrow deer trail hoping I was still heading in the right direction. The Mexican towns, along with the rest of the modern world quickly faded behind me.

The Brazil Trees and the thick underbrush enveloped me, as I continued deeper into the Sierra. After three days and no sign of any village, I found myself hopelessly lost. I had drunk my last sip of water and tried to calm the panic rising inside of me. Pressing on in hope of finding the village, dehydration and sun exposure overtook me. The trees around me began spinning. I collapsed, sinking into unconsciousness, as feelings of disgust, anger and finally fear overtook me.

As I lay dying on the parched earth, I dreamt of circles full of light spinning in front of me. Visions of deer and an old indigenous man appeared. Suddenly, cold water hit my face. Startled into consciousness, my beautiful dreams and visions faded. Slowly opening my eyes, above me loomed the dark faces of three natives. They told me in Spanish of an old shaman in their Huichol village who had dreamt I was dying at this spot and sent them to save me two days earlier.

Still weak, I was led through the mountains to a clearing with mud and stick huts, the smell of tortillas cooking and sounds of children playing. Amazed at this scene and that I was alive; I was taken to their shaman Don Juan (of the same name, but not the one of Castenada fame). I remained there for two weeks. The people told me of another shaman, Don José Matsuwa, in a nearby village who had also dreamt of me: He summoned me to his rancho. The same three natives who had originally saved me led me to his hut.

Shortly after meeting Don José I was put in a cave for five days and five nights with no food or water. I was told this was my initiation. If I lived, I would continue as an apprentice to this renowned shaman and healer.

12 years later I completed my apprenticeship. I had been adopted as Don José’s grandson. He had taught me the ancient wisdom of healing and ceremony and we had become close companions on the path of the shaman. Following my training, I was sent back to the modern world, to help share the secrets of the Huichol, to heal those in need and to conduct ceremonies to bring balance to the Earth.

Since that time I have been traveling the world, striving to fulfill the vision of my teacher. Thousands of people have come to me for healing. From every corner of the globe and from all walks of life. Many of them have tried everything western medicine has to offer before finally resorting to shamanic healing. It seems to me that people today are more in need of healing than ever before.

Personal Stories of Healing • from Marilyn Del Duca

I was diagnosed with Lyme’s disease, and antibiotics were not helping.
I went to Brant to ask for help.  He did a series of healings for me that
healed the Lyme’s with no residual effects.  Years later when I suffered a
bad fall and tore my MCL, his healings made it possible for me to avoid
surgery.  These are just two of the ways his healings have  helped me over
the years.

Another time, my niece was trying to get pregnant.  I told her not to worry – if she wasn’t pregnant by the following June, I would take her to meet Brant at the Summer Solstice, as I knew he had good luck with women’s issues.  He did a fertility healing for her, and she was pregnant within a month.  Her first baby was born the following April, and she had a second baby 20 months later, blessing me with two beautiful great-nieces.

Shamanic healing searches out the root of illness. Often a person’s ailment stems from something much deeper than what is felt on the surface. This is common with psychological and spiritual trauma, but also with physical ailments. The shaman strives to find the source of the illness and to extract it from the individual.

For many, shamanic healing may seem far-fetched or simply archaic; however, I have witnessed time and again its relevance for those very people who don’t even believe in it. I have had numerous people come to me after trying “everything else” and searching desperately for healing. One such man came to my office in Santa Cruz, California for a healing over 15 years ago. As soon as I met him, he asked if he needed to believe in the shamanic healing I was about to conduct. I said “no” and he replied, “Good, because I don’t.” His doctors had given him two weeks to live with his pancreatic cancer. He ended up in remission and lived another ten years.

I am so grateful for my journey to the Huichol. I am thankful for the countless healings I witnessed while studying with Don José, which allowed me to believe. I remember one of the first things he told me. He said, “Until you learn to believe, you will never really learn.”

You can be told the earth is sacred or that shamans can dream of the future or heal terrible diseases, but until you experience it yourself, you can never fully believe. Experience is one of our greatest teachers.

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Brant Secunda blessing with macaw fan

SHAMANISM: The Healing Journey of the Heart

Shamans throughout the world, from Tibet and Mongolia to the Americas, have been involved in healing for thousands of years, dating back to Paleolithic times. An integral part of this healing tradition is its perspectives, both personal and at the same time planetary.

Shamanism, perhaps as old as consciousness itself, is an ancient healing tradition that has, throughout the ages, reflected the changing cultures of the surrounding world.

The shamanic tradition involves healing through personal transformation as well as healing our family, community, and environment. Central to this healing tradition is the belief that we must heal and honor our mother the earth, who is viewed as a living, conscious organism. This sacred female Goddess, the earth, who nourishes our very existence, must also be nourished with such prayers and ceremonies, say shamans.

I have studied and practiced shamanism for over 40 years, completing a lengthy apprenticeship with Don José Rios (Matsuwa), a 110-year-old Huichol shaman-healer. The Huichol of Mexico are said to be the last tribe of North America to have maintained their pre-Columbian traditions, little disturbed by colonialization and Christianization until very recently. I feel fortunate for having been able to study with such an amazing group of people.

As I was taught by the Huichol, healing is a way of life; a way of being that permeates our very existence. Healing is something to be practiced constantly, not just when we are ill. Moreover, the shamanic tradition of healing does not limit itself to the healing of the physical body, but rather involves the maintenance of the harmony and balance of the universe. We must consciously make contact with all life, see our life in all things so that life and health are embedded within our hearts that so need to be nourished and cared for.

Shamanism focuses on all life as being majestically and mysteriously interrelated and sacred. Plants, rocks, two- and four-legged creatures all have personal identities with whom the shaman develop a personal relationship. When the shaman prays, he prays not only for himself but also for his sacred relatives: our mother the earth, our father the sun, our grandfather and giver of light the fire, our grandmothers the eagle and the winged ones. Don José often told me never to forget that my relatives are the earth, sky, rivers, birds, animals, stones, gems, mountains, caves, springs and lakes. Upon our first meeting, Don José spoke of our mother the earth, who nourishes and speaks to our heart. The shaman learns to listen with his heart as well as his ears, and thus shamanism, as a healing art, makes a person whole and complete, a whole system integrated fully to the surrounding environment.

According to various shamanic mythologies, there was a time when paradise existed and all life was one. For example, fire communicated freely with people. Now this is lost and for this reason, the shaman acts as a bridge, drawing upon lost lines of communication with all life that surrounds him both visibly and invisibly.

Shamanism as a healing art seeks to maintain or restore balance, both for the individual and for the planet. All life is ultimately one, and the responsibility of a shaman is to bring the forces of balance, harmon, and intuition into resonance with one another. One can say if we celebrate our life as one with our environment, our environment will thus give thanks to us with the proper amount of sunlight and rainfall. Shamans themselves act as intermediaries between people and all other life forms, the gods and goddesses and all creatures who co-inhabit the earth. Shamans also have the ability to transform themselves into a spirit entity almost as if they had the key to the process of metamorphosis. Thus the role of a shaman has been vital to the community in which he lives, as he acts as a vital link to the surrounding world.

Embedded within the tradition of shamanism and healing is the technique of achieving ecstasy. Ecstasy is sought by shamans in order to experience unity with all things. The forum used for the attainment of ecstasy is ceremonial celebration, which utilizes ancient forms of ceremony and ritual. The Huichol perform ceremonies throughout the year to maintain the delicate balance of our environment, of our universe, so that one may know their heart and feel the ecstatic joy that emanates from our very being. The “Dance Of The Deer”, a most beautiful and intense sacred dance, of the Huichol, is employed so that the participants of the ceremonies may enter into a trance state of joy and ecstasy. The shaman and his assistants chant the ancient songs as the others dance about them. All enter together as one heart into a sacred doorway, known to the Huichol as “Nierika”, face of the divine, or link to other realms of consciousness and being. At ceremonies, the Huichol shaman calls upon his ally or spirit helper, Kauyumari, the magical deer spirit person, to assist him in the task of transporting the ceremonial participants thorough the nierika (doorway), into the realm of ecstatic joy and harmony. The dancers also assist the shaman as they too, like the deer, become messengers of the gods.

Through ceremony, participants allow themselves to be transformed, renewed and life force itself is transmitted in a sacred manner. The shaman and participants in the ceremony are provided a medium for reaching the realm on the gods and the heart source of life itself.

At the same, shamanism involves what is often seen as the more mundane and down-to-earth aspects of the shaman’s day- to-day life. Students of shamanism must endure many hardships and show much strength, both inner and outer. Pilgrimages to “places of power”, (caves, springs, oceans, mountain tops), form an important aspect of shamanic healing, as pilgrims are said to receive power, (including power to dream) and many blessings for having arrived at such places. Many Huichol shamans, as well as many shamans from other cultures, are farmers and, working daily with the earth, they develop a special relationship with the earth, which they believe to be their mother.

The wisdom of ceremonial celebration, pilgrimages to sacred spots and proper daily living to achieve balance among ourselves as human beings and our environment has been lost to many people of the modern world. For this reason Don José, an incredible 103-year-old master of shamanism adopted me as his grandson and trained me in the ancient art of shamanism and healing. “You are an educated person who knows and understands your world”, he told me. “Now you will know our world too and use the two so that modern people may once again know what we have tried never to forget. There is a balance between our two worlds, grandson: that’s the way it is.”

“Is your heart happy?” Don José often asks the children at his rancho in the Mexican Sierra. “Dance with all your heart. We are following the example of the gods and the way they have taught to us. This is our life.”

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