The indigenous Huichol people of Mexico still live by ancient shamanic teachings. Shamanism originates from the universal relationship with the earth that all people have. From living among the Huichols and learning their ways, I discovered a completely new, but actually very old, way to live in balance with the earth, and to draw wisdom from it.
Here are five simple but profound lessons, or truths, we can all learn from the natural world.
Reinvention and resiliency are part of life.
When we tap into the regenerative power of our environment, we are able to trust that everything will work out in the end. By consciously renewing our spiritual connection with the earth, we can see that change is normal, and rebirth is not only possible, it's necessary to life. The cycles of life that occur with the seasons offer constant reminders that to be alive is to be in constant movement, balance, and flexibility in an environment that is always sending new challenges our way.
Nature offers relief and energizes us.
Think about the feeling you get when walking through a dark forest, standing knee-deep in the ocean waves, or lying on the grass on the first warm day of spring. It's not complicated: nature makes you feel calm and happy. Just as nature feeds our body, it can also sustain our soul. When you feel tired, depressed, hopeless, self-doubting, or stressed out, go outside and walk around. Feel the sun on your skin. Breathe in the fresh air. Imagine the strength of the earth rising up through your feet and supporting you. The natural world gives and gives if you're open to receiving.
Everything is alive and has a spirit.
The shamans believe that everything in nature has a spirit--trees, flowers, mountains, lakes, rivers, and, of course, animals. If we accept this as truth, it changes how we feel about ourselves in relationship to our world. Huichol shamanism, like the shamanism of many indigenous cultures, is based on cooperation, on seeing oneself as a collaborator with all life. Contrast that outlook to that of Western sports and Western culture, which are based on competition and on seeing oneself as a rival against others. It's comforting to find our place in the world and feel at home in it.
The natural world unifies body and soul.
The Huichols maintain that by simply walking on the earth we can heal our body, and that through thinking good thoughts--connecting to the sunrise, the sunset, other humans, and the environment around us--we naturally heal our soul. They believe that our higher self, our soul, is connected to all life--it's not just an abstract concept. Good health happens through a union of two important aspects all human beings have--the body and soul.
Healthy beings need both strength and flexibility.
In nature there is a fine balance between strength and flexibility. Trees grow tall as they strengthen themselves with the energy of the sun, earth, water, and air. They also bend in the wind without breaking. Our good health also depends on this idea. Being merely strong--working hard, building muscle, pushing, and achieving--makes you vulnerable. Your ability to sway in the wind--to respond to life's challenges, changes, joys and stresses--without breaking requires resiliency of both body and soul.