Seeking Center: The Podcast

Sacred Travel, Sedona + Shamanism - Episode 30

August 29, 2022 Robyn Miller Brecker, Karen Loenser, Jim Berenholtz Season 2 Episode 30
Seeking Center: The Podcast
Sacred Travel, Sedona + Shamanism - Episode 30
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

We're excited and honored to introduce you to Jim Berenholtz. Karen and I both had the privilege of having Jim spiritually guide us on recent trips to mystic and magical Sedona, Arizona.

His undeniable connection with Spirit, the land, Native American culture, music and meditation created life-changing experiences for each of us. Jim has extensive knowledge and experience within sacred travel, as well as sacred healing. Oh, and did we mention he's a composer, musician and artist as well? His life's journey so far is fascinating! This episode is going to be chock full of inspiration -- whether it's planning your own sacred journey or creating a daily ritual to help you tap into your most authentic you -- your soul.

Visit to find out more about Jim's ceremonial work. You can contact Jim about his Sedona tours through the email address on his website:

Visit to find out more about Jim's art, music and products.

In this episode:

-The history of shamanism
-Sacred travel around the globe + the USA
-What is an energy vortex?
-What is sacred and special about Sedona, Arizona?
-Medicine wheel
-The significance of fire and our third chakra (third eye)
-Connecting with the land and Earth from your home
-What Jim calls the 8th chakra

Visit for more from Robyn + Karen, plus mega inspo -- and the best wellness + spiritual practitioners, products and experiences on the planet!

You can also follow Seeking Center on Instagram @theseekingcenter

Robyn: [00:00:00] I'm Robyn Miller Brecker, 

Karen: and I'm Karen Loenser. Welcome to seeking center. The podcast,

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We'll talk to the trailblazers who will introduce you to the practices, products, and experiences. That may be just what you need to hear about to transform your life. 

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Robyn: We're excited and honored to introduce you to Jim Berenholtz. Karen and I both had the privilege of having Jim spiritually guide us on recent trips to mystic and magical Sedona, Arizona, his undeniable connection with spirit, the [00:01:00] land native American culture, music and meditation created life changing experiences for each of us.

Jim has extensive knowledge and experience within sacred travel as well as sacred healing. Oh, and did we mention he's a composer, musician and artist as well. His life's journey so far is fascinating. This episode is going to be chockful of inspiration, whether it's planning your own sacred journey or creating a daily ritual to help you tap into your most authentic you, your soul.

Let's get going. Hi, Jim. 

Jim: Hey, great to see you both. 

Karen: Oh, it's so great to have you here. we were coming up with questions robyn and I almost couldn't stop because there's so many incredible things that you do and teach and share with people. So we are just so excited to share you with the people who listen to 

Jim: our podcast.

Thank you. Thank you. I'm very honored and flattered by your words. I'm happy to be here. 

Robyn: Well, Let's start by talking about what you do. You [00:02:00] refer to yourself as a ceremonial artist and others refer to you as a shaman.

And when we were coming up, with how to refer to you today, we had a discussion about it and you really were able to express to us the idea and the meaning of shaman to you and to native American tribes and so forth. And we'd love to hear more about that what does a shaman 

Jim: mean?

Okay. It's an important question in our times where we have so much intercultural and cross-cultural activity going on, going back not so far, in time, few hundred years, Most of us, of our ancestors lived in small communities, not with that much contact with people in other parts of the world.

So now we have this global society, we have this technology that puts us in communication with each other. We can hop on an airplane and be on the other side of the planet within hours. So in that process, there [00:03:00] has been a lot of cultural appropriation going on. And some of it is just part of the organic process that happens when cultures meet each other.

And some of it is sensitive, shall we say? And as a modern person who grew up in a big city, but now lives more. Out in nature close to the land. It's a very important thing for me because although I do relate strongly to native American culture I relate to many native cultures.

I relate to my own ancestral culture. First and foremost, I see myself as a native human. And I think there are a lot of things about our cultural background as human beings that connects us to the land, to nature to the earth. So that is part of our heritage. It's part of us for every human being and nobody should feel ashamed or reluctant or incapable.

Of making a [00:04:00] connection, a deep spiritual connection with the natural world, because that is your heritage. That is your ancestral, right. As a human being. Okay. This word shaman has a lot of charge around it these days. Where does the word come from? First of all it is not a word in native American culture.

The word comes from Siberia, from the indigenous people of Siberia. Of course there are many indigenous cultures in Siberia. There are the Buryat people. There are the Evenks there's a lot of different cultures, but some of those people around the area of lake by which is a very sacred lake sacred body of water that actually holds about 20% of the Earth's fresh water.

And I was privileged to be there working with Buryat shaman's back in 2001. And that region of Siberia is where this word shaman comes from. Typically in those cultures, the shaman is a medicine [00:05:00] person, a healer, a person who communicates between different dimensions of reality. So our conventional reality that we live in that we have a sort of shared agreement about, yes, that's a tree and that's a car and I'm walking down the road and we're all in 3d.

But the shaman is able to travel to navigate into other dimensions of reality that are generally not. That accessible or visible to most people. some of us may have an experience here or there where we feel like we get a message from the spirit world. Maybe it's a relative of ours who recently passed away and we feel like we receive a message from them.

That of course is not unusual. We find this all around the world to this day, no matter how modern or scientific a person may think they are, people have these experiences. There is that kind of access to the other side, let's say, but the shaman does this on a regular basis. They [00:06:00] travel, they navigate to the other dimensions, not just past or future or to the realm of the spirit beings of the ancestors who've passed on.

Literally into other zones of perception of what this world is like vibrational realms, for example to not just see the physical tree, but to see the spirit of that tree, to see the vibrational field of the tree or of a bird or a mammal or another human. And when you are able to see those sorts of things or sense or feel those sorts of things, you can, in many cases, diagnose what's going on, maybe there's emotional or psychological problems.

Maybe there are physical or physiological problems that a regular medical person or doctor or psychotherapist. Just can't get to the bottom of it, but the shaman is able to penetrate into these other dimensions and often, [00:07:00] see instantly what is going on. They are perceiving energy. They are working with vibration.

So the Siberian shamans would do this sort of work. They often were people who had near death experiences or even a sort of psychological meltdown. And they recovered and it was through that recovery that they became a shaman because they had this healing crisis.

What we might call in modern mythical language, the wounded healer. The Siberian shamans have a certain kind of clothing that they wear. They have a hoop drum some kind of frame drum that they hold. , they will travel into the upper realms on a flying horse, a spirit horse. So these are classic elements of Siberian shamanism. The interesting thing is we find a lot of those same features in native north American culture. And even down through Mexico [00:08:00] central and south America, 

not all of them, but many of them. And so the word shaman has come to be used. In reference to medicine, people in different native American cultures, but traditionally they would have their own words for who that person was in their culture. 

Robyn: When I met you. Karen referred to as shaman, Jim. But that's not something that you really declare yourself, because there's respect, I think is what I got out of talking to you prior to this conversation. Can you just explain that? 

Jim: Absolutely. A lot of my early spiritual training was in Mexico with different native cultures. And in particular I studied with in Aztec were now at man of knowledge in central Mexico.

In Spanish we would call him Sabio in their indigenous language and now what he would be known as a clini. And he was a very gifted shaman or clini and A lot of what I learned was by observing him by observing the rituals that he and his [00:09:00] apprentices would do. And I became an apprentice as well.

And they periodically would hold these ceremonial gatherings on top of the mountain, where his Cal his community was. And people would come from other cultures, other native tribes, and there would be a lot of interaction in sharing.

So at one of these gatherings a native north American man came and he was very arrogant and boisterous and he challenged. My teacher not physically, but it was like a verbal dual, and saying that he wasn't a real shaman and that he was an imposter. And this guy was saying that he was a shaman.

my teacher was very calm and he responded. He says in our way, a person who is a shaman never says that about themselves. It is not their place to say that is only for their community, for the people who they work with to say whether or not they are a shaman. And, I could hear him saying this.

Like it happened yesterday and it really impacted me. And of course, as I studied with [00:10:00] other teachers and other parts of the world, including in Africa, et cetera I saw that same. Humility that same approach to the work that these healers and these shamans were doing, they didn't give themselves that title, but the people around them would say that about them. I don't feel it's my place to say that I'm a shaman or not. I can say that I work with shamanic practices that I've studied with gifted shamans, that I respect that as a tradition. So I'm very careful how I navigate around this territory because it is not my desire to. Offend anybody , but to really honor my native teachers from around the world to honor all these traditions to simply do the work I do. And if others want to say, I'm a shaman, that's fine.

It is a tradition that is found all over the world in one form or another. There's a great book, academic book by a Romanian anthropologist named Marcia Eliad. And it's [00:11:00] called shamanism. And anybody who's really interested in shamanism, I recommend they read that book because it gives you a global perspective on this tradition.

Karen: I think that says so much about you Jim, and the integrity that you have. I didn't know the depth 


Robyn: were walking in encyclopedia, but you've actually lived it too. So it's, so much to 

Jim: discuss. even though I'm not very good with technology, I am grateful to technology for a lot of the things that's enabled me to experience in my life.

One of which is to get on an airplane. Like homage to all those pilots who got me safely from one place to another. thanks to them. I got to experience shamanism in Napal, in Siberia, in different parts of Africa in south America, And I have a global perspective because I've been in about 90 different countries.


Robyn: Okay, so you've been in 90 countries. We know that you grew up in New York. What led you to Sedona? 

Jim: Yeah. So New York city is an [00:12:00] international city first and foremost, before it's an American city. It's an international city. There are people there from every part of the world, speaking all different languages, different ethnicities.

My parents were very involved in the arts, so I got to go lots of museums, lots of theater, performances, dance performances, concerts, music, performances, And having that international exposure as a child enabled me to have a window into some of these indigenous cultures around the world.

Some of those shamanic Traditions. And I was drawn to that. I was attracted to that. in 1970, I was 13 years old. The first earth day happened in April of that year. And it was in Bryant park in New York city. It might have been a few other places, but that was the main location. And I was there at Bryant Park. And for me, my feeling about nature about the earth [00:13:00] was that we are here in this time to protect the earth, to love this planet, to not destroy it. Not just because we need to be practical about preserving that for the future, but because every living thing, every animal, every plant, every human has an inherent right to live, to have home territory to be free. And I see that as a spiritual thing, not just as a sort of biological thing or a a practical thing.

So in the environmental movement, much as I felt connected to it, I also felt disconnected to it because that at that time, the spiritual element, the philosophical element was missing. It was practical, but it wasn't the same as this native American philosophy, which I started to read and come across in films. And other programming of that, every living thing has a place on this planet that we humans are no better than any other animal. We are [00:14:00] equally sharing this place.

And I love that. So I started going more and more deep into these native traditions and feeling that kinship with them. And because I was also involved in music and art, I began exploring more of the indigenous music and art that goes with this philosophy with this worldview. So by the time I was 14, I was writing an opera based on the life of sitting bull and black elk.

Who's the subject that, that book black elk speaks and 

Karen: 14 years old. Yeah. I just wanna make sure everybody heard that. Yeah. 

Jim: I was very determined from a young age 

. I had dreams when I was very young. And even certain kinds of visions where I knew I was connected to these native cultures. I didn't have the terminology or, the background to understand at that time much about the concept of past lives or things like that. But I knew that somehow I was connected with these cultures.

When I was 15, I did my first trip out west with a group of other teenagers. It was called [00:15:00] wilderness bound. So it was similar to a outward bound type program. And when I came back on the train in grand central station in New York city, my parents met me and I'd grown my hair long.

And I had a staff with feathers tied to. And they just looked at me they nearly had a heart attack. they were like, what happened? I'd already gone native, wow. And I knew then I would move to the west. I felt at home in the west, there were more feelings of connection with the native American cultures because they had not been as decimated as a lot of the cultures back east.

But ultimately I did end up working with a lot of native American people on the east coast with PTAN nation, with Mohawk nation and other ICO people or hetero Anas sound people in upstate New York with WANO teachers in Massachusetts, 

Robyn: so where did you go really

from New York. And then how did, you start your whole journey of traveling that led you to the sacred [00:16:00] travel journey? 

Jim: When I left to Northeast basically a year after college I moved to New Mexico 

and I lived there for seven years. That was a chance for me to deepen my involvement with indigenous people in New Mexico. And also in Arizona, I was doing quite a bit with Navajo and Hopi people at that time, going back and forth to Arizona starting to visit Sedona a lot. But eventually I decided to move to California to Los Angeles to pursue my music career and specifically doing film soundtracks.

So I ended up long story short being in California for 30 years was a great period of my life but ultimately I came back to the Southwest and this time I decided. To come to Sedona rather than go back to New Mexico.

 I partly chose Sedona because I think it's more sustainable with respect to the availability of water on a long term. And of course there is the huge piece, which is the spiritual energy here and the beauty and the fact that I could come here and do this work, which I love to do [00:17:00] with groups, with individuals, with the spirit of the land and that people come here from all over the world to experience that.


Karen: I know when Rob and I have each gone there, there's just something. So deep and spiritual about it. It's almost beyond words. It's a feeling, but since you've been there so long and been part of the land for so many years, I just love listeners to get your perspective of what is it to you?

What is 

Jim: Sedona to you? One of the things about Sedona that makes it so special from my experience, it is the most responsive place I've ever been in terms of how nature responds to our prayers, to our thoughts, to our ritual and ceremonial actions. For example, just yesterday, I had a group of 11 women here, all of whom lost a child within recent years.

They are bereaved mothers, which is a huge thing for them to carry. And so we did a ceremony in the medicine wheel [00:18:00] around the spirits of their children working with the four directions. A lot of water ceremony is part of that. And we were receiving rain and messages sounds and flyovers from birds at all the most appropriate moments as this ritual was happening.

And it was obvious to everybody that this was going on the would roll it, auspicious moments when we said, or did a certain thing. So finally at the end of the ritual, I had everybody turn and face to the east and hold their hands up towards the east. And I sang a Navajo song that is traditionally done.

When a child is born at their first sunrise of their life. And it's part of what's called the beauty way song. And as we're doing this, a huge rainbow appears across the Eastern sky and it was such a potent moment for these women, these mothers, to feel the spirits of their children in that rainbow.

I'm crying 

Robyn: right now.

Jim: This kind of thing happens in Sedona all the [00:19:00] time. It's like an electrical grid. That's all wired, hooked up together and adjusts. Happens. And so this magic, what we would think would be extraordinary is the ordinary here. This is the way it works here.


Karen: love that. we just have to add from my own experience, you are the orchestrator of that. You conduct talk about being a musician. You conduct the environment in such a way that a you see it, you are able to point it out to the person who is there experiencing it for the first time.

But I think there's something in Jim that, that conducts it in that brings it in. And it's you're the air traffic control of all of 

Robyn: that. It's very true. And Karen and I we were there at different times and different intentions. And that was so true, for Jeff and I, we had a whole day filled with different weather at different times, and they were very much on purpose for where we were at those exact moments. And to your point, Karen with Jim orchestrating different [00:20:00] meditations, different music at different points we felt, we heard, were very connected to all aspects of nature and both the spirit world and the earth and that was really thanks to you and your guidance 

Jim: So yeah, it is really a matter of being a facilitator, it's and I thank all my Buddhist teachers through the years. I was really lucky in college to have Robert Thurman.

Who's an amazing Buddhist scholar, he was one of my main teachers in college when I was there. And he used to be for many years, the main translator for the Dai Lama when he would visit north America. Through Buddhism there's a lot of teachings about humility and about keeping the ego in check, we all need a healthy ego. The ego needs to be your amigo, as they say, but not be over the top. And I can help to orchestrate or facilitate and experience, but ultimately it is natured is the earth.

That is the spiritual dimension itself that is allowing [00:21:00] these things to occur and for everything to line up. And, as I told the women in our circle yesterday who were asking about the ceremony we were going to do and why it would work, I said to them, 90% of the power of ceremony is in your intention.

If your intention is clear and strong, that's, what's going to carry this. That's what's going to. Make it powerful, all the other songs and dances and colors and activities, ceremonial objects, that's the window dressing. , 90% is a clear intention and a strong intention,


Jim: I mean it's, if we think about the humans that landed on the moon, that's quite magical that our species that is descended from other primates could manage to figure out how to get this thing out, into space and land on the moon.

That's crazy. But it was done because people had the intention to do it. They had the vision and belief that it was possible. It could not have happened if people didn't believe it was [00:22:00] possible. So living here in Sedona, I get to. Not only experience, but to illustrate for other folks on a daily basis, the impossible possibilities of the magic of this nature of this earth, that is actually normal.

It's really the way it works here. 

Robyn: And speaking of that, can you talk about the vortexes how do you feel them? Do you find that there are these types of vortexes or energies in other parts of the 

Jim: world? Yeah. The word vortex started to get used a lot by different spiritual teachers here in Sedona, in the 1960s, seventies, eighties.

And one of those teachers was a woman who was a psychic channel. Her name was Paige Bryant, and one of her channelings she spoke about there being eight vortexes in Sedona that four of them were active and four were inactive. And the four that were active, she listed and over time, those four locations became.

[00:23:00] Very popularized in the literature. And then of course with the internet exploded they became very commercialized by the various tour groups here in Sedona. Whether it's Jeep tours or other kinds of programs, a lot of people advertise, oh, we'll take you to the vortex.

And so all this expectation gets built up about these particular places. And, I've had many, a humorous experience in my work as a tour guide here where I'll see some other people out at one of the official vortex sites. And they're standing there with their friends or spouse saying, I don't feel it where's the vortex, and it's of course, this spiritual energy is not a push button thing.

There is a need to be in the right place at the right time to be receptive, to feel what's there. And what one person feels strong in one place. Another person might feel nothing. They might have a different place where they feel the energy strong, and it may not be one of these vortex sites.

The truth [00:24:00] is there are PowerPoints and energy points all over Sedona where I'm sitting in my living room right now, talking to you. I have a spectacular view to the east of a group of red rock formations, which we call the Eastern gate and around Equinox time, the sunrises right over those rock formations, one of them, which is shaped like a pyramid.

And I know. That is a high energy point that is directing its energy right into my living room where I'm , talking to you right now. So it's not on the vortex list, but that doesn't matter to me. I know from experience what it is. We have places here in Sedona that are very sacred to the Yavapai people, to the Hopi people, to the deje people, that's their name the Apache called themselves deje.

And these cultures who have been here in this region for if not hundreds, thousands of years they have their own sacred spots. These are places that connect with their. Cosmology, their [00:25:00] history is a people they're ancient roots.

And I do whatever I can to learn as much of the different cultural viewpoints about Sedona and the land. And then I drop all of it because ultimately the land, if you're open to it will speak to you directly and show you the truth of what it is. And this land is 350 million years of the Earth's history exposed.

So it's a lot older than the human presence on this planet. And the rocks really don't care what we call them, They are what they are. And that for me, Was so important when I first came to live in Sedona to really open up to the spirit of the land, to let it show me how its energy works.

And I came to understand the different chakra points or energy center points in Sedona in a different way than other people have attempted to explain it. Not that anybody else's view is wrong. It's just that the land showed me in its own way, [00:26:00] a view or a vision of how I could understand it and share that with others.

 And the chakra system, the way I see it here is circular. It's not linear, in our bodies, we have this thing called the spine. That's vertical. And so our chakras are lined up along the spine vertically. And so people who've tried to map out the chakra system in Sedona. Have tried to do it vertically, like it's on a line.

And I was shown very clearly that if you look at how the land itself is laid out here, it's in a big bowl. of red rock. It's circular, it's not linear. And most things in nature are circular, black elk who is, although I never knew him when he was alive he died before I was born, but I consider him one of my teachers.

And in his writings, he says everything an Indian does is done in a circle. And that is because the power of the world works in circles and everything tries to be round. So from that perspective, Seeing Sedona. I could see that [00:27:00] the chakra system was round. It was circular. And eventually I will do a, more public presentation about that.

So We have these chakra points globally. Each continent has all the chakra points. I've been mapping this out for years. The sacred sites or PowerPoints or energy centers around the world, whether it's the pyramids of Giza or it's Stonehenge, or it's Machu Pichu, or it's Mount KLEs and Tibet, all these points are just like Sedona.

They're these energy centers, these natural energy center, some places. People have built structures. They've built temples that mark, those points, other places, it's just the nature itself. That is what we might call as we do sometimes here in Sedona, a landscape temple that the earth organically formed these structures of red rock in such a way that they have symmetry.

They have balance, they relate to each other, just like an architect designs, a sacred [00:28:00] site to have symmetry in balance. And to me, I don't see the vortex's quote unquote Sedona as something unique and completely independence of all the other sacred sites in the world. This is one of many, all of those places have. What we might call a vortex. It's like an energy that is funneling up and down. It's like a spiraling energy that comes down into the earth that comes back up out of the earth, into the sky.

And sometimes these spiraling energies, these vortex energies manifest in unique ways. And it may be something that you sense or feel more than you see as a visual thing. But I can tell you for example, that when I first went to Hopi land the Mac is where the Hopi people live now in the Northeast of Arizona, I felt and saw the same energy.

That I felt and saw when I was 17 years old and I went to Jerusalem for the first time. [00:29:00] And it was a very particular type of spinning energy that I only have felt in those two places, not to say they are the only two places that have it, but there was something about those two places that is similar and that makes them each sort of a holy land.

 There are different types of energies in the land, in the earth, So someday perhaps as a global culture, we'll have all the languaging to really accurately describe what these places are.

Robyn: And I think there aren't many people like you or that at least Karen, and I know like you, that have been to 90 countries and have experienced different energies and can be aware of the energies in all of these places. So it's such a gift to hear your observations and for you to share what you've learned and what you've seen or felt in these different places.

And I would also ask, are there other places within the United States that people listening could also visit in addition [00:30:00] to Sedona where there are these special energies? 

Jim: Yeah, absolutely.

Absolutely. The other place specifically in Arizona that I feel is an amazing PowerPoint landscape. Temple is monument valley, which is on Navajo nation land. It's on the border area between Arizona and Utah monument valley energetically, as well as visually is absolutely spectacular.

The grand Tetons in Wyoming, just south of the Yellowstone national park, absolutely high energy spectacular place to me personally.

They are the most magnificent and spiritually charged mountain range in the lower 48 states. In Lakota tradition It is sacred council grounds for them. The black Hills of South Dakota also super powerful place known as Paha in the Lakota language and the highest point there, which I'm so happy is now called black elk peak used to be called Hardney peak, but they changed the name, which is [00:31:00] most appropriate as it is the place where black elk.

Had his powerful vision. There are other sacred points in that region devil's tower in Wyoming, which people be familiar with from close encounters. At the end of the film. Mount Shasta in California, very powerful mountain rain near, a number of the mountains in the cascades are very powerful crater. In Oregon really potent point.

 Niagara falls is a very sacred and powerful place here in this country. And beyond that up in Canada near Peterborough, Ontario is an amazing petroglyph site that is managed now by the Anishnabe people whose ancestors created it.

The Anishnabe people are the same as the Chippewa or Ojibwa people. They're just known as Anishnabe in Canada, but it's the same culture. And there are over 500 petroglyphs or rock carvings and this huge granite rock slab there. And it is a powerful place in the Northeast that not many [00:32:00] people know about, but worth going to I recently visited some of the ceremonial mounds of the Calusa culture in Florida, along the Gulf coast of Florida. People think of Florida, they think of, high rise buildings, condos on the beach but there were indigenous cultures in Florida that built ceremonial mounds up to 60 feet high that they used, like pyramids just like down in Mexico.

 We have so many of these sacred sites that are connected with ancient cultures that we may have lost a lot of the living expression of, I think it's important to go. To these places to feel the energy and especially for the indigenous people, to be able to reconnect with the memory of their ancestors in these sacred sites, because vibrationally those rituals, those traditions are still there.

They are still in the energy field and there can be a way to tap into that and to bring it back [00:33:00] alive. 

Karen: So much wisdom there. 

Jim: Karen, You're in Texas. There's an area in the Southwest of Texas that has the most fantastic cave paintings in all of north America. It's where the Pacos river flows into the Rio Grande and the cave paintings.

There are between two and 4,000 years you cannot go without having a permit through a museum in San Antonio, but that museum is managing these sites along with some of the landowners whose ranches these sites are on.

And I'm going back in October to another cave shelter that I haven't been to yet that I'm really excited about. And these are very sacred places. 

Karen: Who would ever think that's so cool. Who would ever think? Yeah, it seems like there's almost a place to go in every single 

Jim: state absolutely. Serpent mound in Ohio, another amazing sacred, choco canyon, national monument in New Mexico in terms of human structure of an ancient mystery school.

Ancient university of indigenous cultures. Chaco canyon is [00:34:00] like our Machu Pichu here in north America. It was really like an ancient university, the Oxford of north America in its thousand years ago.


Robyn: I love that. I feel like we should talk about spirit animals because They are part of your work as well, both in your art and also part of the experiences and what you talk about. Can you talk about how you incorporate them into your work? 

Jim: Yeah. So from a very young age, I don't know, 3, 4, 5, really young, I was drawing and painting animals and, lots of kids do that.

I think naturally children love animals. But for me, that continued beyond my childhood and as a young teenager, I became involved in the animal liberation front and the animal rights movement in New York city and beyond. And so I've always been very passionate about animals. They've played a big role in my art. And again, I started connecting more with the spiritual and [00:35:00] symbolic side of the animals because, if we look at the ancient and native cultures around the world, we will see every single one of them uses animal symbolism in their art, in their storytelling, in their cosmology and how they describe the stars and the constellations.

It is a part of. The imagery of the gods and goddesses in all these cultures, whether we're looking at ancient Egypt, whether we're looking at Vata culture at Hinduism, they all have this animal symbolism.

And it's much deeper than just, oh, the Jaguar has a beautiful pattern on , its coat, its skin, right? no there's deep. Meaning, the Jaguar is the Lord of the forest to these cultures for the Aztec and Maya culture. It's connected with the nighttime. That animal.

The daytime sun is often represented by an animal like an Eagle or a hummingbird, but when the sun is on the other side of the earth, when we can't see it, it becomes the Jaguar for the Aztec, it was also [00:36:00] a symbol of the power of the earth. It's inside volcanoes, which they call Tepilo. Each animal, if you look at all the cultural traditions from those cultures that evolved in the territory of that animal, you'll discover very rich world of information and cosmology about that animal.

And we can see whether we're fortunate enough to see animals out in nature free, the words wild gets used, but I like to think of it more as free. They're not imprisoned, so if we see the animals out free or we see them in films we get to observe their behavior and in their behavior, we can see the same attributes that we see in human psychology and behavior.

And the animal interpretations that I work with when I do an animal spirit reading for somebody are very psychological. And so it's like doing a psychological portrait of a person through their animal spirits. And back in the 1980s, when I started studying the Kabbalah, the mystical [00:37:00] part of Judaism I was learning about what we call the tree of life.

And there are 11 positions in the tree of. They're known as thes. And it's not the same as the chakras, but it's similar in the sense that each of these 11 positions represents a certain kind of energy, a certain kind of attribute or quality. And I had a vision when I was working with my own animal spirits of seeing them in the positions of the tree of life, of the ser road.

And then I began doing readings for other people where I would see their animal spirits also in these positions. And there's a way that it also correlates with the native American medicine wheel because we have in the medicine wheel, no Southeast and west, which is the number four. Then we have the four points in between Northeast, Southeast, Northwest Southwest.

So that makes eight. Then we have above, below and center, which is the vertical dimension. So you put the vertical and the horizontal dimension of the medicine wheel together, and you have 11 positions. [00:38:00] So the animal spirit readings that I do combine that medicine wheel approach with the tree of life approach.

And I go into a trance I'm chanting, I'm drumming, I'm using the rattle. I'm burning sacred herbs to see a person's animal spirits and give them a energetic and psychological portrait of themselves. And it's also in a way like an astrology reading because in astrology, we have nine planets. The earth of course, is not used as one of the planetary positions because we're on the earth.

So you have the eight planetary positions. Then you have the sun in the moon that makes 10 and your rising sign 11. So for each person's astrology chart, the key number is 11. So then when I do the animal spirit readings, if I go deeper with it, there's a correlation to the planets. And then I can take it out into what I call galactic astrology, where there's a correlation to stars and to constellations.

And it goes out into [00:39:00] many levels, but all of these are

UMW interwoven, they're interlinked. And, as I've developed my own spiritual path through the years in my thirties, I began to open more and more to the star knowledge. I remember having this idea. That, my spirituality is based in nature. it's all about the earth, plants and animals and the native cultures here, et cetera.

And I really was not that open to the stars and astrology and astronomy and all of that, cuz I considered it to be ungrounded but when I was 30 years old, I was able to experience a medicine plant from the Amazon called viral.

It's a kind of powder that comes from the bark of the tree and it's blown up your nose and it's similar to the same very similar kind of plant from tree Bart. That's traditionally used in the Caribbean by the native cultures there called YoPo or Nopa and when I had this experience with the it was at night, and it's only lasts maybe about 10 minutes. It's very intense and very fast. And [00:40:00] what occurred was that the world turned upside down so that the sky was below me and the ground was above me. And it was the strangest thing.

But I felt like the stars were all these little berries on the ground. And then if I reached up or reached down up, cause up, was down to grab the light of these stars. It was like, I was able to eat them like berries. And from that flip flop experience, I suddenly got what I had never understood before, which is that the stars, the cosmos is part of nature.

It's not separate from nature. It's just a different direction, we can go up, we can go down, but it's all part of nature. And I later learned much later decades later that when these indigenous cultures in the Caribbean would do the YoPo, as they described it to the Spanish conquerors that were coming in the shamans would tell them that the world turned upside down for them when they would take this plant.

And I had no idea [00:41:00] that was what that plant does. It just was what happened to me. I just thought that was unique for me, but it is actually what that plant causes. And it completely shifted my attitude about star knowledge and the star beans and the sky.

And that this is all part of nature. This is all part of the sacred environment of this universe. And so now I include all that in the spiritual work I do, even with the animal spirit readings, it's part of it. 

So all of this is knowledge that I've learned through my medicine plant journeys or through the trainings with the different native cultures, there's animal associations to all these star systems. 

Robyn: And my mind's a little bit blown cause I on all of it and I actually, the point you were making about the 11 and that significance in all of these different areas, obviously integrating into, I never thought about it that way.


Karen: of the layers, 

Jim: yeah. It's interconnected my native teacher from Mexico, who I mentioned earlier when he was [00:42:00] visiting me in New Mexico, back in the early 1980s, I was living in this partially underground house, built into a hillside and we walked out one night from the house and he looked up in the sky.

It was amazing starry sky that night, very clear. And then he said to me in exactly one week, there's going to be a huge volcanic eruption on the earth. He said, I'm not sure where it is, but it's a volcano and it's gonna be a really big eruption. And I said to him, I said, how do you know that? He said, I can read it.

In what I'm seeing in the stars tonight. So exactly one week later in the south of Mexico in the state of Chiapas, this volcano known as El Chicha now erupted, and it covered that entire region in Ash. It was a huge eruption. So this man was able to read the sky to predict something that was going to happen in not just the surface of the earth, but from within the earth, there's no question [00:43:00] that these things are interconnected. 

Robyn: If somebody can't get to one of these sacred places that we've talked about today How can they connect to the land and to spirit from their own home or from their own neighborhood? Is there something that you can suggest? 

Jim: First of all, for each of us, wherever we are at any moment in time, in the center of the universe as we are experiencing it. We have an above, we have a below, we have a right and left a front and back. Those are the four directions, the earth and the sky.

And you can begin with a meditation. To anchor that awareness into your living space or wherever you are, where you step outside and to see yourself in that sphere of energy you can ritualize it by lighting candles in each of the four directions in whatever room you're in or putting certain ceremonial objects.

It could be a crystal or a rock or stone, or maybe some colored fabric, [00:44:00] like the black, white, yellow, and red fabrics, are often used as sacred ties, cotton cloth, and those four colors to the four directions in a room to anchor the four directions of that room or your office space where you work.

And so you do that, and you call in the powers of the directions and you can make any space, a sacred space, and. If you're in a big city, most big cities still have parks. New York city has central park. I'm not sure what the name of the park is in Chicago.

You've got the coastline, and so you've go to these places, you've got the sun, you've got the moon, you've got these forces of nature that you can connect with no matter where you live. Embrace your relationship to the forces of nature, both of the ground and of the sky above and of trees. Trees are magnificent beings and to just. Stand with your back against the tree and feel that spine in your body connected with the trunk of the tree or to hug the tree.

There's [00:45:00] just so much that we can do. And so what if people think you're weird? If I were walking down, through central park and I saw people hugging a tree, I would think that is just so cool. I'm so happy they're doing that. Maybe other people would think, oh my God, they're weird, but it doesn't matter here in Sedona, fortunately we can do that kind of stuff and nobody thinks we're weird.

So true. But I think as people, become more comfortable with relating to nature in a very reverent. And a visible way that becomes the norm and it's not weird anymore. 

Robyn: We agree. And we're beyond, 

Karen: That's our goal actually. Yeah, exactly.

Robyn: Yes. And one of the things that I wanted to ask too, is there was a meditation that you did with Jeff and I on our journey with you. And it was so powerful. It is something that I've now incorporated into my daily practice. Can you talk about, do you remember which one it was ? 

Jim: Yes. Yes I do. In the classical chakra system from India, from VADC [00:46:00] tradition, there are seven chakras, And the two highest chakras of the crown chakra, which is at the top of the head and the third eye, which is in the center of the forehead. So the third eye is connected with our pine gland. It's called Pineland, cuz it's shaped like a tiny little pine cone. And it actually is sensitive to light just like our eyeballs are sensitive to light, but what we can see of the physical world with our eyeballs, our pineal gland can imagine.

And so its imagination is activated by light. And our Pineland developed from our earliest ancestors coming out of the forest, out of the trees, down to the ground, to the Savannah and learning how to use fire, to, cook the meat of animals that were hunted, but also to warm them at night or when it's cold.

And so that fire became the place where storytelling evolved. People didn't have TVs, they didn't have the movie theaters, they didn't have computers, they didn't have [00:47:00] smartphones. They had the fire. And so over hundreds of thousands of years, human consciousness, our imagination was activated by the light of that fire in a field of darkness in the nighttime.

That's how the pinial developed and we could get vision. Not just of what is, but of the future looking ahead, seen into the future. So the third eye is very much about that. Now there's another part of the brain, which is called the hippocampus. And it's more in the central back part of the brain going towards the occipital region, where the neck meets the head.

And so if everybody puts their hand up there in that sort of indentation, if you imagine going into your head a little bit, you'd come to the hippocampus. Hippocampus is the Latin word for seahorse, and they call that part of the brain hippocampus, cuz it's shaped like a seahorse. So that part of the brain is where our function of memory is centered.

Obviously memory has [00:48:00] to do with the past and. So it's very interesting to me that in the development of the classical chakra system, we have the crown chakra, which is in a certain sense, represents the eternal present. Everything is really in the present moment. And then in a certain sense, time is an illusion, that the past and the future are really all here in an eternal present. That's a big topic. That's a whole other podcast. 

Robyn: yes. It's, we'll have to do that 

Jim: another day but in any case, so that current chakra is connected to the eternal present.

The third eye is connected to the future. Why in the development of the chakra system was the function of memory, not included. As a key point. I don't know the answer to that question, but what I do know is that for our global society moving forward, if we're going to survive, if we're going to create a positive future, we need to tap into the wisdom of our ancestors, to the indigenous cultures, the ancient cultures, this past knowledge.

[00:49:00] And so I think for our times moving forward that the hippo campus as a spiritual center is really important. And so I call it the eighth chakra. And so that meditation that I developed is about linking the hippocampus of the past of memory to the third eye, the point of future vision to the crown chakra, the eternal present, and that forms a triangle.

It's like the holy Trinity, it's a different kind of holy Trinity of past present future. It was 

Robyn: so powerful. I'm now able to incorporate into my meditation every day. And I think when you talk about memory and the past and as you said, in order to move forward, we need to have learned from all of these cultures.

And , most people listening to this podcast are curious and open enough to believe in past lives. And so if we're talking about memory, that means. All of us at some point we're part of these different cultures, Correct. we can bring that [00:50:00] experience to the future by tapping in to the universal energy that can give that to us from our past, our own souls experience.

And it is so powerful. I really encourage people to tap into that, as you said, and create your own triangle as you meditate and visualize, In 

Jim: your everyday. Yeah. And, for the activation of the third eye to sit with a candle and light it and focus on that flame or to be outside around the fire and focus on that fire will.

, will engage your vision ability, your imagination in a really powerful way that television screen, the movie screen, the computer screen, the smartphone screen cannot do. All those things are replacing our imagination instead of engaging it. And so we need to come back to the fire, to the sacred flame, to activate that.

And this comes back to your first topic with me today, which is shamanism because where did shamanism [00:51:00] start? It started around the fire where the people told the stories at night. So theater, music, dance, poetry, visual art ceremony, all of that began. Around the fire. That's why I like to call myself a ceremonial artist.

All those art forms came from this evolution of activating our pinial gland, our imagination around the fire. They are all different art forms and shamanism is the sum. Total of all those art forms, including ceremony. It all came from that. Wow. 

Karen: I love that you tied it back to 

Robyn: that. That's such a perfect way to end today.

I learned so much today. Just having this conversation. I'm sure that everybody listening has a lot of things to, look into further even this way of ending and talking about the fire.

. I just haven't thought about it that way. And now when I do think about it, number one, to your point of being able [00:52:00] to visualize even stronger. I have such an attraction to fire in terms of, we have a fire pit several times a week.

And there's a comfort there. Yeah, there is. And I think it goes to your point of remembering of activating. My third eye, there's a 

Jim: comfort and there's a celestial correlation also So what is our biggest fire that any of us experience? Yeah. So if you gaze into the sun, close your eyes, focus on the third eye, feel the sun, the light of the sun penetrating the center of your forehead and activating that third eye.

That is your future vision. That is your cosmic internet. All knowledge, all information is coming to us , through the light of the sun. Even what's written in books, we could not read. If we did not have light and the light comes from that fire in the sky. So knowledge is linked with light.

And so the sun is linked to our third eye. The [00:53:00] moon is connected to the power of memory it's linked to the hippo campus. And it is that watery title, mystical feminine realm that is linked with memory with going back deep into our origins. We came out of the ocean, 

every fetus, as it's gestating in the womb is in a watery realm. and those cycles of women, as are governed by the Mo. so the hippocampus is connected to the moon and then our crown chakra, the eternal present is connected to the star energy, and everybody has different stars that are their sort of soul group star system, or star connection.

And it could also be a planet, which we see like a star. So for example, the morning and evening star is Venus. It's the brightest of all of them in the night sky, So you can visualize Venus above you [00:54:00] at your crown chakra, the moon behind you at the hippocampus and then the sun in front at the third eye.

Others might choose for the crown chakra point. To connect to the star series whatever star or constellation it is that they feel the alignment with. So the star energy above the moon energy behind the sun energy in front.


Karen: so much to think about. I would love to talk to you for days thank you so much for today. 

Robyn: thank you. And how should people, if they're interested in learning more about working with you or learning more about your work, your art, your books, your music, what's the best way for people to 

Jim: find you? I have a few different websites that people can go to if they want to learn more about my art or my music, I even have clothing, product products that are made with the art designs drums that are made with the art designs, all kinds of things. So they can go to this website. It's [00:55:00] So it's and the dash is the dash that's in the middle, who is the ancient Egyptian deity that represents the sound of the sun. Raw is the sun. I have another website which is more generalized and that's Jim barren

So it's J IM B E R E N H O LT And , there, they can see a lot more about my ceremonial work. My background as a composer as an ethnomusicologist there's a part of that website, which I hope to get up and running soon. That will describe the tours I do in Sedona, but it's not on there yet, but they can contact me through that website or through

Just by clicking on the link. And they can contact me that way with any questions they have about doing a program. 

Robyn: Perfect. And we'll also have those links within the show notes thank you so much, Jim. 

Jim: [00:56:00] It was so great to be able to share this with both of you, because we got to do it in person in Sedona. And I thank again for the opportunity to share this with a bigger group of people.

Robyn: Our pleasure and honor, . 

Jim: Be well too. You too. 

Karen: You too. 

Sacred Travel, Sedona + Shamanism