The Base of Fit Soul, Fit Body: Shamanism

Shamanism is a way of honoring nature.

It is practiced in various forms around the world by different indigenous tribes. The methods of shamanism are diverse. However, they are unified in their inherent basis in the natural world.

Fit Soul Fit Body used the foundations of shamanism as a platform from which many of its keys are built.  Specifically those practices come from the Huichol people of the Sierra Madre Mountains. They are considered to be one of the last tribes in North America to have maintained their pre-Columbian traditions. The Huichol continue to practice their ancient spiritual traditions to this very day.

Sacred Huichol ritual, ceremony, and celebration are ancient tools of personal and planetary transformation. They uplift the soul and create a deeper connection to nature.

Through daily practices we learn to be with nature and to breathe in its sounds. Each of us can do that! Just listen to the world around your. In ceremony we share our gratitude and joy for what we have been given. It helps us recognize simple things. When we stop to celebrate moments like a sunrise, the coolness of an autumn breeze, and the beauty of a waterfall, we are connecting with the power of that moment in our heart. By honoring nature in this way, we are learning to connect to everything around and within us.

The Huichol elders share a story of our common link as human being. They say that the ancient ancestors gained knowledge of the world around them and the powers within. Our ancient ancestors then asked “where should we put this knowledge” so that it would not be lost? They decided to put this knowledge first into the heart of the deer. Then when human beings came, that deer spirit with all the ancient knowledge was placed in the heart of the humans.

The deer spirit guide is within each of us. It’s our intuition.

Through simple shamanic practices we can tap into that knowledge. By quieting our minds, one of the keys in Fit Soul, Fit Body, we start to hear the knowledge of the deer. And that knowledge is available to every human being on the planet. It exists already in our hearts. It’s ours to embrace if we just take the time to be quiet and listen.

That knowledge comes from listening to the everything around us. It comes from recognizing the simple things in life. We tap into it when we are grateful and take time to celebrate each moment. When we follow the shamanic path, we find in our hearts what we already know.

Join us for our next Fit Soul, Fit Body retreat.

7 Secrets of Truly Happy, Spiritual People

What can we learn from ancient civilizations about happiness? Apparently, a lot. Brant Secunda, co-author of the new book “Fit Soul, Fit Body: 9 Keys to Healthier, Happier You,” spent 12 years living among the happiest people on earth — the Huichol people of Mexico. Here, he shares some of the things he learned and seven tips on how you can be happier now.

Q: Nature plays a huge role in the happiness of the Huichols. How is our disassociation with it affecting our health?

A: It’s ultimately making us feelunhappy, depressed and just out of sync with life. What do we do all day in our modern world? We tap intotechnology (which isn’t necessarily bad) and forget the power of nature that always surrounds us. We spend an unnatural amount of time inside.

Q: Are we doing anything right in terms of making ourselves happier?

A: Our society is becoming more aware of how important it is to have a healthy soulas well as a healthy body, heart and spirit. We’re making a big effort to connect everything and to let go of stress, our busy minds and the things that are holding us back. We’re also working on developing broader communities with social media.

Q: Can you explain a bit about the emerging field of “eco-therapy”?

A: Indigenous cultures have always been “eco-therapists” or “green therapists.” Their approach to life promotes the regenerative power of the environment — it can have instant and profound effects on your mood, transforming negative emotions — such as fear, depression, anger and anxiety — into a peaceful, happy state of mind.

Q: How can people go about boosting their health and happiness?

A: There are several ways. Here are seven.

See the Big Picture. To bring fear or worry into perspective, focus on a positive event in nature that will continue whether you face your fear or not. Recall the colours of the last sunrise you saw or think of the present season and its inevitable progression into the next one. You’ll see that such large events continue — whether you and your fears are there or not.

Embrace the Night. After sunset, find a place in nature where you’re not surrounded by things man-made and the only light is the stars. Get enveloped in the welcome darkness, listen to the sounds of nature and connect to your world.

Get Lit Up. Set your alarm in time to get outside when it’s still dark. As the sun is rising, concentrate on the dawning light. The sun’s rays transform the darkness of night into the brilliance of day. It will brighten your mood.

Get “Soleful” Love. Take a walk outside — someplace where you feel peaceful. Slowly put one foot in front of the other and quiet your internal chatter. With each step, visualize the earth’s love coming into your body through your feet and dissolving any problems you have.

Centre Between Earth and Sky. Sit or lie on the ground outside. Visualize the light of the sun entering the top of your head, filling your heart and body, then going down into the Earth. Feel the Earth beneath you and draw its love into your heart and body then send it up to the sun. Feel your connection to all life.

Invoke the Deer Spirit. The Huichols use the image of the deer to represent innocence, gentleness and clarity. To melt away emotional stress, visualize the image of a deer surrounded by a circle. Ask the deer — out loud or to yourself — to help you find harmony and balance and to help you stand tall like a tree.

Fight Negativity With Fire. Transform negative emotions by focusing on the flame of a candle or fire. Imagine your heart opening like a flower and imagine breathing in the fire’s light. Do this for about five minutes. This technique will give you an immediate release of tension.

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Finding Peace in Chaos

Often we find ourselves overwhelmed by the tasks at hand and in turn forget the beauty of this world, of life. Sometimes shifting from a cluttered state of mind to one of clarity can seem impossible. Maybe you try to take a walk or sit along the ocean, yet still the escape is only momentary.

I have found that at moments like this, it may take a dramatic short-term change in someones life in order to clear the mind and in this way heal the body and empower the soul.

A retreat in nature can offer this change of lifestyle and change of mindset. Throughout the many years I have lead retreats at places of power around the world, I have witnessed this transformation in participants over and over again. People arrive drained and lethargic in spirit. For the first few days most people are trying to analyze what they have gotten themselves into.

“Do I like this retreat?” “Am I learning anything?” And most importantly, “…how is the food.”

Then, as they begin to connect with the spirit of the land, their analytical minds calm and they begin to be aware of not just the overwhelming beauty of nature, but of the beauty of each leaf, every river and all the flowers. When we are able to practice this awareness and see the energy flowing around us, then it becomes very difficult to worry about that work presentation due next week or cooking dinner for friends this weekend. If we can remember the power of the world around us, we can face every obstacle, big and small, with a sense of self-confidence. This confidence arises from the realization that we are a part of something much larger then our selves; that we can utilize the energy of the trees, waters and flowers. In this state of mind it is very difficult to become overwhelmed… …at least in the negative sense.

So if you are finding yourself constantly stressed and cluttered, it may be a good time to step away from your routine and head to a place to which you feel drawn. Whether that be joining me here in Italy or going camping or renting a place at the beach, create a change in your life that will help you focus on the bigger picture.

Fostering the Essence of Creation Itself

Love is considered to be the most powerful of all powers by the Huichol people. We say that the world was created with the spirit of love. Because of this, all of creation has at it’s core this power. I often tell people that love is more than just something found in a book or a movie. It is tangible.

The Huichols relate the power of love to the Earth. Mother Earth nourishes us with food, beauty and love. This sense of “taking care” is love. We, in the modern world, are easily distracted by the objects that so often clutter our lives. We love this and we love that, whether this be a new car or that be a new shirt. Love your friends and family, love the plants and animals of nature, love life. When we do this, true and lasting love is fostered.

When you wake up in the morning, go outside with a sense of appreciation for all that you have been blessed with. If a flying bird or jumping deer catches your eye, stop and enjoy your connection to the animals. If a tree is budding fresh leaves, take a moment to recognize the growth happening before your eyes. By simply taking the time to appreciate nature you will learn to love the world around you.

It so important that we remember that we are a part of something much larger than ourself. By doing so we can let go of our individual objects of distraction and instead focus on the things that offer true and lasting joy, happiness and love.

There is much more to be said about love, but right now I simply want to go outside and practice developing that power. I recommend doing the same, for when you experience the love of Mother Earth all your problems seem to dwindle away, leaving you with that power of Love.

Developing the 4 Powers

Aspects each one of us has and should work to emPOWER


Each and every person is inherently powerful. We each have the ability to do good or bad, construct or destroy. It is what we do with this power that defines our character. In the modern world we often gauge one another by the type of car we drive or by the house we live in. These plainly physical appendages of life can blind us from comprehending not only the true character of someone else, but indeed our own identity. It is not our house or the price of our shoes that define us. Rather the essence of a human being is determined by how we use our innate capacities.

The Huichol Indian people of Mexico, with whom I lived for many years, refer to the human capacities as the 4 Powers. The first power is Love. Love is the foundation of all power, with which the universe was created. Love is not just something found in movies or novels. Nor is it solely a feeling shared between humans. It is a natural energy rooted in all of life.

My teacher, the renowned Huichol shaman Don José Matsuwa, would always tell me, “Love your Earth mother; she provides for you everything you need. Love the plants and animals. Love nature.”

By simply acknowledging a tree, a flower or a person, we cultivate the power of love. Recognize those who love you and in turn you will simultaneously feel and give love. Be passionate about the Earth, devote yourself to your work and adore the world around you. By doing so, you can live a life of love.

The second power is physical power. We all have different bodies. Some tall, some short; some thin, some fat. Yet, we all have a body. It has been said since time immemorial that the body is the house of the soul. For this reason we should strive to make ourselves as physically powerful as possible. Of course, not all of us will become professional athletes, but still it is important to cultivate a strong and healthy body.

For the Huichols, another aspect of physical power is the realization of our connection to Mother Earth. Through gaining an understanding of the body of the Earth, we build our own physical power. In truth, we are simply physical extensions of the Earth. Once we realize this simple truth, our bodies can no longer be separated from the energy of the entire planet and so any weaknesses or vulnerabilities are overpowered.

Intuitive power is the third facet of our character. In the modern world, many people do not give much weight to the intuition or psychic ability someone may have. In the Huichol culture on the other hand, the visions and dreams a person has, garners them as much respect as how much firewood or water they can carry. For a person to be truly powerful, they must continually develop their spiritual awareness. It can seem difficult to find the time to focus on the power of intuition; however, simple games can help us refine our intuitive abilities. When your phone rings, try to guess who is calling before you pick up (or look at the Caller ID). While driving, envision the color of the next car you will see in the oncoming lane. Simple amusements such as these can enrich your spiritual intuition.

The last power is the power of intelligence. What does this mean? Is our intelligence determined by how well we did on a math test in high school or by our problem solving skills at work? Though this may be a part of the answer, the Huichols view intelligence as the way we live our life.

Do we live our life in the right way. This is the ultimate test of intelligence. If you are a doctor, don’t abuse your power over a patient. If you are a teacher, don’t take advantage of your students. If you are a parent, don’t abuse the power you hold over your children. Right action, that is the sign of a truly powerful person. When someone does not act humanly, they are not being human. Foster the power you have and apply it to good deeds. Use your gifts not only for your own personal empowerment, but also to strengthen those around you.

Someone can be physically fit; nevertheless, if they are not loving to their friends or to the Earth, that person is not fully powerful. We must cultivate all four of the powers, love, physical power, intuitive power and the power of intelligence. By doing our best to empower ourselves and the world around us, we can become truly powerful people.



Brant Secunda left his hometown of New Jersey the day after his eighteenth birthday to journey to the remote Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico. There he found the Huichol Indians, considered to be one of the last tribes to have maintained their pre-Columbian traditions. Brant was put though a twelve-year apprenticeship with Don José Matsuwa, in which he learned the ancient teachings of the Huichol people. In 1979 Brant founded the Dance of the Deer Foundation to help carry on the cultural heritage of the Huichol Indians.

To learn more about Brant and the Huichols, visit

Mother Earth Prepares to Awaken

There seems to be an awakening of positive energy in our world at the moment. Furthermore, it is a time of transformation and hopefully a time of healing and love. Mother Earth is slowly waking up from her sleep of winter. She is still living the art of regeneration, charging herself up with the light of creation. It is a wonder to remember this process has been happening for millions and millions of years. I reflect on how, at this time of the year, Don José and I, as well as other Huichols, would prepare the earth for planting. “She is still sleeping”, Don José would say, “but she is slowly waking up, emerging from the darkness of winter.”

Remember, change starts with you. I always remind people of this simple truth. As you walk on Mother Earth at this time, try to feel her aliveness. She is still dreaming, but now a conscious dream, as she gets ready for spring. Feel in touch with the earth and your environment during this great time of transformation. This is the wisdom of the shaman.

A Huichol will also try to dream as Mother Earth dreams. We are truly a reflection or mirror of the ancient ones. Mother Earth dreams, so why can we also dream and awaken? Shamanism sees all of life as interrelated, mysteriously and majestically.

As you walk outside on the earth or at the beach, feel Mother Earth as she prepares to awaken from the dream of winter. Feel yourself also connected through your heart and mind. In this way we can be connected and be a part of something natural, powerful, and real.

By engaging ourselves and being connected to the earth, we can feel joyful and complete, not separate. This is a natural process that has occurred for millennia. Whenever I return to the Huichols in Mexico I feel this strongly and watch how the Indians feel joy just by being alive and living a normal life. We can also do this in the modern world.

Acknowledge True and Lasting Joy

Reminding Ourselves of What is Truly “Resolution Worthy”

Last night, as I sat watching the almost full moon with the warmth of the outdoor fire at my house, I began to reflect on the New Years Retreat I had in Germany just a few weeks ago. There, we welcomed the new year with a traditional Deer Dance, a ceremony passed onto me by my teacher Don José Matsuwa. This ceremony has many purposes, one of which is to honor the light. After staying up all night, the ceremony ended after dawn with the welcoming of a new day; a new year!

We all see the new year as a time to refocus our lives and uncover the truly meaningful goals we would like to fulfill. Ceremonial practices are one way to find clarity, to realize those goals. In each retreat or seminar, I tell people to let go of the things that are holding them back from finding their true self. By letting go of the negative qualities that so often clutter our precious minds we can more clearly see what we want in life.

It has been a number of weeks now since the holiday season, which may have allowed you time to set goals and imagine the possibilities of the future. You may be having difficulty following through with those resolutions. If that is the case, take some time to let go of the mindful clutter filling you life and in the remaining silence, hopefully you will receive a spark of inspiration. Let that spark light the fire of resolution anew.

Think of every day as a new beginning, another chance to start life fresh. Pay attention to the growing and dimming light at the beginning and end of each day. Perceive the constant transformation occurring in nature all around you and strive to stay in sync with the harmony of your environment. This alone, can be a life-long resolution to work on each day.

Look for happiness in the minutiae of your life. What do you enjoy about each day? Don’t let those finer points become trivial. By ignoring or simply not giving enough acknowledgment to what brings joy to you, life can become dull and unfulfilling. Ultimately what brings you true and lasting joy, brings the world balance and stability. Take a moment now, as you read this, to reflect on what brings you such unwavering joy. Whether it be spending more time out in nature or creating balance in your physical body, try to decipher how that makes the world a better place. Are you in a better mood when your body feels well? Of course. Does your work quality improve after going for a stroll in the forest or along the beach? I know know mine does. When you are in a better mood and do good work, that positively affects not only the people around you, but the entire world.

Make each decision in life a chance to fulfill a resolution. Ask yourself, is this the right thing to do? Fine tune your intuition to gain trust in yourself and notice the end result. Hopefully your decisions will become more fulfilling and you will find greater meaning in your accomplishments. This is one way it is possible to create a sustainable cycle of joy that can bring balance and long lasting happiness to your life.

When you feel the positive goals slipping away from your grasp, just remember that each day, each second is new and remind yourself how your “new second resolution” benefits you and all of creation. With this in mind, naturally we become more in tune with the spirit of creation.

By aligning ourselves with our greater environment, we tap into the spiritual energy mother nature has to offer. We are naturally a part of the cycle of the earth. Realize this and you will lose any sense of disconnection. With each breath you take, imagine yourself linking to an endless chain of energy. With access to all the energy in the world you can resolve any resolution.

Winter – A Time for Introspection

Hello from the Santa Cruz Mountains in California. Today is the first day of the season of winter. I want to personally wish everyone a beautiful winter solstice, a time of inner light. During this time of the solstice, your hearts and souls fill up with love and light. In this way our soul hopefully becomes brighter and our heart is open to the power of introspection, of going inside to find balance and harmony.

The earth becomes quieter at this time and inherently and naturally charges herself up with the creative power of introspection. It is also a time for us as people to find our inner brightness and build character. Our character is constantly surrounded by qualities of life that make us who we are. Don Jose always told me to work to be a good person, to build a positive character and appreciate the gift of life. I am sitting in front of my fireplace remembering these wise words of wisdom.

On this first day of winter, the winter solstice, I am reflecting upon the beautiful year that has just transpired. Last winter our book, Fit Soul Fit Body, had just been published and since then it has spread around the world. I hope our book has helped to truly transform people in a positive way. It is important to build a soul with inner character and strength, as well as to develop a strong body. Together a fit soul and a fit body can help not only people but our earth and environment as well.

An exercise to practice during this season of winter to build character is to imagine you soul in the center of your heart. At this place is also your character that gives you strength on an emotional level. Imagine your soul or character surrounded by love, physical strength, intuition and intelligence or moral strength. I hope this helps you go through this season of light in a joyful way.

Have a happy and joyful Holiday Season.

From One World to Another


I remember one of the first times I brought my teacher, Don José Matsuwa, to Europe soon after I had finished apprenticeship with him. It was an amazing time. Don José, my Huichol Indian grandfather, was happy to be going on this trip. We departed from Mexico City, looking forward to our adventure together.

Before we had left Don José’s village, high in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico, his wife and my Huichol grandmother, Doña Josefa had reminded me to take good care of Don José. “Remember,” she said, “we need him.” Then she added jokingly, “and also, at 100 he shouldn’t have any girlfriends.”

“Don’t worry,” I told her, “I will guard him with my life.”

We arrived in New York for a 5-hour layover. My grandmother from New York City met us at the gate (those were the days). It was very special for me to be with my grandmother and Don José at the same time. Both of them had taught me so much throughout my life.

We joked around for quite some time. Then I noticed some American Indians coming over to our gate. It was Joseph Eagle Elk and his family. They were also on their way to the same Shaman Conference that we were heading to.

After a long flight, we finally arrived in Munich, Germany. From there, we were taken by car to the beautiful Alps, covered with snow and newly budding wildflowers. After getting settled into our rooms, Don José wanted to go for a walk. He reminded me to breath in the beauty of the land, as we strolled amidst the fresh green meadows, speckled with flowers and surrounded by towering mountain peaks.

Don José and I returned from our walk and immediately ate, so that we could get to sleep early. We sat at a table off to one side of the dining room, so that we could joke around in private.

We finished our bowls of soup and Don José thought we were done. He was very surprised at the 6-course meal that was about to ensue. He thought it was some sort of joke, when I kept telling him, “It was just the beginning.” For the rest of his life, Don José would remember how much food the people ate at that conference. “The Huichols definitely do not eat this much, he joked at the time.

The following day was the official opening of the International Shaman Conference. Don José and I made the opening ceremony, prayer and song. Then Don José dramatically stood up and said that he had a special announcement to make. He looked so regal, in his Huichol costume, exquisitely embroidered with sacred symbols of deer, eagles, butterflies and flowers.

I remember feeling so blessed to be standing next to my 100-year old grandfather at that moment.

“I want to announce,” Don José said, “as I stand here as an old man and elder, that I am here to say that I am leaving my grandson, Brant Secunda, in my place to help carry on the teachings of Huichol shamanism, health and healing. He has completed a long and arduous apprenticeship with me and now we stand here as close companions on the path of the shaman.”

Harvesting the Light

Autumn is a time of balance. The word equinox elicits this balance and harmony between light and dark, warm and cold, fire and water. In the modern world, we have become increasingly disconnected from the world of nature as more of our lives have moved indoors. Many people spend their days working on a computer, in a building with windows that don’t open and a climate of 72 degrees year around. As this has become the norm, the normality of natural change has shifted in many people’s lives.

In ancient cultures, such as the Huichol Indians, one’s life is inseparable from all of life, or nature. Indigenous peoples not only had a deep spiritual connection to the natural world, but indeed physically relied upon it. Their food did not magically appear on a shelf in the village market. Most people had to grow their food and rely on whatever nature offered. For example, seasonal fruits were just that, seasonal. Today, you can find fresh apples in your local produce isle any time of year. A cultivated food, such as corn, was not harvested year-round, but rather during the season of the harvest, autumn. In this way, human life remained in tune with the natural ebb and flow of nature.

Today, we should all strive to do the same. Though we may work in a large office building and eat fresh corn every month in the year, that does not mean that we have to be disconnected from the natural world. What is needed to stay in balance is awareness. Awareness of ourselves, of others, of the seasons, etc.. A simple way to remain in connection with the seasons is to watch the trees around your home, or on your way to work. Pay attention to the fresh buds in the spring, to the brilliant green in the beginning of summer and now to the warm colors of the leaves, as the climate cools.

Watching the leaves change can afford you a small reminder of the constant changes in nature. During this season, let the leaves remind you to harvest the light of autumn. What does that mean? During the fall season, the plants and animals prepare for the darkness of winter, harvesting food for winter reserves or feasting before a winter slumber. Humans are inextricably connected to the plants and animals and thus we have an inherent connection to what they do. The trees use this time to absorb the light as the days shorten. Their leaves are shed and more energy is used to move inward. We should use this as an example of what we can do.

Enjoy each sunny day and in this way harvest the light of autumn in order to have a pleasurable winter, when it arrives. Fall is a time of balance, between our extroverted essence in summer and the time of introspection we experience in the winter. With this in mind, try to gain a sense of balance in both body and soul. By doing this, when winter arrives you will be prepared for the darkness because you will have nurtured the light within yourself.