Editor’s Note: I’m guessing you’ve heard the refrain as often as I have: we are living through “unprecedented times.” Part awakening, part reckoning, part restructuring, the shift is palpable. We’re all feeling the rumble in some form and navigating our way through. So how do we stabilize ourselves and even flourish during these times of change? How might we prepare ourselves to be of greatest service? Where might we find our power? I caught up with Brenda Salgado, spiritual teacher and social justice worker, who shared her wisdom on this topic in the following interview.
Brenda Salgado has over 20 years of experience in organizing and social justice, nonprofit leadership, and spiritual teaching. She is the founder of Nepantla Consulting, editor of Real World Mindfulness for Beginners, and former director of the East Bay Meditation Center, which, as she describes, “is considered by many to be one of the most diverse Buddhist Sanghas in the country and a model of gift economy and collective leadership.” These days, Salgado is using her gifts—her power—to found a land trust that will provide space for healers to practice in ways that are culturally and economically in tune with their ancestral traditions. May you find encouragement in her words. —Marcy Carbajal, Ed.
Ofrenda Magazine (OM): Thank you for sharing your wisdom with our community, Brenda! You’re actively involved in so many projects—consulting, working as a speaker and healer, and now, founding a land trust. Would you mind sharing more about your background and current projects?
Brenda Salgado (BS): I am a first-generation Nicaraguan-American, born and raised in the San Francisco Bay area. I am grateful to my parents and my ancestors for instilling in me the values and teachings that have led me to cultural, spiritual, and social justice work.
I work as a curandera, Toltec energy healer, and consultant. I am committed to the role of culture, ceremony, relationship building and community wisdom in creating a society filled with wholeness and beauty. I believe that individuals, families and groups have tremendous amounts of untapped knowledge, wisdom, and medicine within them. The best part of my work is creating space for that knowledge to be rediscovered and unleashed in the world.
I’m currently working to establish the Nepantla Land Trust, which will house a center for healing and spiritual renewal. We’re in the process of fundraising to purchase a 58-acre property in the East Bay [San Francisco Bay area, California].
There are many traditional community teachers and healers in the area who are committed to serving low-income communities and grassroots leaders, but they are often challenged to find culturally appropriate and reasonably priced spaces in the East Bay that would allow them to offer their teachings on a gift, reciprocity, or low-cost basis. The vision is to create space for this community and these services. The land will also serve as the administrative home for a network of properties, for community healing and ceremony, and open to hosting teachers so they can share more widely in the community.
OM: You’ve spoken about, from the perspective of your tradition, the time or epoch we’re entering—the Time of the Sixth Sun—and what that means for our planet and our relationships with each other. Can you share more about your understanding of this special time that we’re in and what it’s calling us all to do?
BS: In the Toltec understanding, we are closing the Time of the Fifth Sun, and embarking on the Time of the Sixth Sun. (You can watch my presentation on this topic.) This is a time of great planetary and consciousness shift, a time of stepping into our Quetzalcoatl path, where, in the language of enlightenment, we are “blossoming on our path of destiny.” I know that each of us has a unique part to play in this great unfolding, and also that part of what is required of me is to lean into personal, ancestral, and karmic healing, as well as reclaiming my power, sovereignty, heart, and wisdom in ways that hold integrity and compassion for self and for others.
OM: This great planetary shift is meaningful and important—but as humans, of course, we often experience resistance to change. How would you say we can find our power and rootedness in the midst of this “unfolding”?
BS: Though sometimes this journey may seem daunting, the universe often encourages me energetically by placing Kindred Spirits on my path, companions of destiny. It may feel as if we are just meeting, and yet at the same time, feel like familiar or ancient friends. Sometimes these new relationships are human, and other times they are relatives from other worlds (trees, animals, ancestors). Each time it feels beyond words, more of a feeling of curiosity, synchronicity, and alignment—and a mutual attention to energy and the creation of relationship rather than rushing to do something together. And often I sense a mutual witnessing of our roles as bridge builders and edge walkers in these times. Nepantleras unite!
Here’s an example of what I mean. I sometimes receive requests to speak at events, in person and online. If it is someone I don’t know, I usually ask if we can speak first, share story, and talk about our path and what spirit and ancestors are calling us to these days. Then after this occurs, we can discuss intention around the event and if we feel mutual alignment to work together. It is always an invitation to be human BEings together first, to build relationship before talking about human DOings. The response folks have to this request is already a measure of a gate of sorts, to pass through together.
Recently, a woman named Sara reached out to me about a Plant Spirit Herbalism Summit she was hosting during the Spring Equinox. In her email, she wrote this: “Plants are such loving beings of service. And in particular with everything that’s happened over the past year in the context of bigger planetary changes occurring, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the Plants are asking to connect more in reciprocity and offer more of their multidimensional healing gifts for all who are genuinely interested with an open heart. I’m so in awe and grateful for how much they continue to love and support us as humans.”
This was meaningful to me. I had excitement to talk to her and share our stories of plant relationships, our listening to these wise and loving nonhuman guides. We delighted in sharing what the plants have been whispering to us, teaching us.
When we ended our call, I was musing on the word “nepantla” and a quote from Gloria Anzaldua’s “Speaking across the Divide” that I love: “Nepantleras are the supreme border crossers. They act as intermediaries between cultures and their various versions of reality... They serve as agents of awakening, inspire and challenge others to deeper awareness, greater conocimiento, serve as reminders of each other’s search for wholeness of being.”
In Sara’s invitation, I saw her desire to serve in a Nepantlera role between humans and our beloved plant teachers and friends, and to gather a bunch of other plant Nepantleras to speak from our hearts, to share our various stories of deep relationship, and listen into what the plants want to speak through us.
OM: I love that, in addition to finding power and strength in relationship with kindred spirits, you mention cultivating relationships with plants and other nonhuman beings. We humans often neglect our relationships (in a reflective way) with other species. Could you share more on this topic? What are your thoughts?
BS: The nonhuman kingdoms all have deep kinship and wisdom to share if we are able to slow down and deeply listen in this way. A book I am delighting in right now is Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals, by Alexis Pauline Gumbs. Poetic, wise and observant, Gumbs delves into wisdom that our marine mammal relatives have to offer us. She offers meditations and invitations from these relatives that can help us individually and as a collective human family as we navigate these times of shift, to invite us to “Listen,” “Breathe,” “Stay Black,” and “Go Deep.”
OM: You identify as a “nepantlera,” which is a powerful calling. (We released an issue on the theme of nepantla, which has different interpretations but generally strong and important connotations in Latinx and Xicanx spiritual activism—including being able to bridge or weave together cultures, perspectives, or worldviews.) Can you tell us about what being a “nepantlera” means to you?
BS: These days, I often find myself bridging and serving as an intermediary in community when conflicts arise in organizations or communities, holding space, bringing in ceremony and circle work, and activities to slow down and hear one another across difference. In moments of joy, discomfort and vulnerability, I delight when community has the courage to bring their experiences, challenges, and collective wisdom to co-create a different way forward together. I feel grateful to be a Nepantlera not just between people, but also between people and their Ancestors, and between people and the other Kingdoms that have so much to share with us in these times.
OM: Thank you for sharing your thoughts and wisdom with us. In closing, what advice do you have to share with Ofrenda’s audience? How would you encourage them to engage in the power of kinship—or to work as a “nepantlera” between humans or species?
BS: Reflect on these questions: Where have you been able to slow down and listen deeply to our nonhuman relatives? To those you find yourself in difficulty or challenge with at times? Where are you being called to serve as a Nepantlera and to contribute to this threshold, this rite of passage, we are in as a human family? What healing work, personal and ancestral, has helped you to step into this role more fully?
And think about sharing the wisdom: Who have been your mentors on your Nepantlera path, and whom have you mentored and passed things to? And do you have peers to be in circle with, encouraging one another in this sacred work?
May you be energetically supported and find your Kindred Spirits, your companions of destiny as you do, Beloved Ones!
Find books by Brenda and other Ofrenda contributors in our Bookshop.
Find books by Brenda and other Ofrenda contributors in our Bookshop.
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Thank you. Gracias. Tlazocamati.