“I am loved. I am a blessing. I am sacred just the way I am. I have dignity. I have wisdom and gifts for the whole.” The 2016 graduating class at Naropa University echoes Brenda Salgado’s words after she addresses them at their commencement ceremony
is a first-generation Nicaraguan-American who was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has over 17 years of experience in nonprofit management, movement building, women’s health, and environmental and social justice. Her work reflects a strong commitment to reclaiming our stories of wholeness, healing our connection with land and people, building regenerative cultures, and above all, empowering others who seek to walk this path as well.
Brenda knew from a tender age that she wanted to be a healer. Her first foray into the field of traditional medicine started in Mexico where she received teachings from teachers and elders. In her sharing with WisdomWomen
, a collective of whom she is a founding member, Brenda recounts how her grandmother came into her dreams when she first started seeking guidance from ancestors as part of the ceremonies she was officiating. An indigenous woman from Nicaragua, Brenda’s grandmother had died when Brenda was a little girl, but that dream connection touched Brenda, setting her onto the path of healing and traditional medicine, after a long line of women healers in her lineage who had heeded similar callings to heal.
Brenda was guided and well-supported on this medicinal path, receiving training from elders in Purepecha traditional healing, Xochimilco traditional healing with roses, and herbal medicine and ceremony from various teachers in the U.S. and in Central America. Her teachers taught her that at the heart of traditional healing and medicine is a recognition of one’s relationship with plants – one that is grounded in humility, respect, and grace. Plants and nature, to Brenda, are regarded as teacher, elder, family and friend.
While Brenda’s draws much of her wisdom from ancient roots, weaving indigenous teachings for our times, the importance of her work in today’s context of upheaval in economic, political and cultural systems, has never been clearer. Brenda’s work shines light on the immense potential for inner transformation each individual has. It is only in accessing one’s unique gifts and understanding the nature of interconnectedness that individuals can bring their wholeness to the table.
Brenda’s involvement in organizing work includes having served on the board of Movement Strategy Center
, which uses vision, embodiment, connection as an approach to driving social change through transformative movements. During this time, she co-authored Out of the Spiritual Closet: Organizers Transforming the Practice of Social Justice.
In the past, she has served as the Director of the East Bay Meditation Center where her deep experience and commitment to community healing, social justice, and alliance building has been said by Naropa University President Charles G. Lief to provide a strong scaffold and fertile ground for birthing and sustaining work that will support a society filled with wholeness and beauty. She also serves on the board of on the board of Lion’s Roar Foundation
which seeks to communicate Buddhist wisdom and practices. In 2016, Brenda released her first book Real World Mindfulness for Beginners: Navigate Daily Life One Practice at a Time
, featuring a wide range of voices from mindfulness thought leaders seeking to help individuals bring a more mindful presence to their personal and work lives while navigating life with greater courage and clarity. It is Brenda’s belief that self-care when taken collectively as a response to the challenges of our times, can be a revolution on its own.
To create transformative social change, Brenda sees the necessity in the emergence of heart-based leadership -- one which is less concerned with authority and hierarchy, and more about responding from a place of love and compassion. It is when one leads from the heart, Brenda says
, that we may begin to create new systems that will replace the old. In highlighting the importance of feeding the system we want to live in, Brenda says, "We need to stop asking the systems that are dying for permission to build the world we want. We need to just start building it together”. In 2017, Brenda founded Nepantla Consulting
as a space offering restoration and community, for individuals and changemakers driven to build systems and models which are regenerative in nature.
It seems almost natural to respond to themes of suffering and turmoil with despair and helplessness. However Brenda remains hopeful, believing that this time of transition offers great opportunity. Brenda talks about darkness as a gift. “Dark places are the places of reverence and rebirth. A seed cannot grow without the darkness of the soil. The rest. The pause. Connect with the rich and dark soil so that we can grow”.
Join us in conversation with this remarkable, heart-driven leader!
Five Questions with Brenda Salgado
What Makes You Come Alive?
Giving and receiving love, hugs, generosity, forgiveness. The power of circle, and of holding space to witness each other's stories. Partnering with our relatives, human and otherwise, in personal and collective healing. The natural world and how trees, the earth, animals, and sacred waters can teach me and ground me.
Pivotal turning point in your life?
Being at Standing Rock with over 500 other spiritual leaders in November 2016 was a true gift, and it took community to get me there. I also carried many gifts and donations from community there, which was a deep honor. One of the pivotal points for me personally was a moment when religious leaders burned a copy of the Doctrine of Discovery, a papal document from the 15th century that sanctioned the theft of land and harm to indigenous people in the name of God. As someone deeply connected to ancestors, I felt this brought tremendous healing to me as well as to my ancestors.
An Act of Kindness You'll Never Forget?
I was set to come home when Lyla June Johnston announced that she would like to hold a Forgiveness March to Morton County Police Station. Spirit and ancestors told me I needed to stay for this, and to support this prayer. I had no money to change my flight home, and prayed on a way to be able to be present. My dear friend Marianne Manilov understood, and she said she would take care of arranging my flight home. She knew I needed to be there too, and I am grateful she was so supportive of me following what spirit was asking of me.
One Thing On Your Bucket List?
Many years ago a set of trees called me to be with them in sunrise ceremony. They taught me so much and also guided me on my next steps as a healer in the community. They also told me I would become steward of a large piece of land near there that would become a sacred retreat space of collective healing and teaching about this time of transition, and to usher in these times together. My bucket list item, to happen soon, is to fundraise for and purchase that land for the Nepantla Center for Healing and Renewal, and that it will be part of a network of properties where we are ushering in and co-creating the new world together.
One-line Message for the World?
You are loved. You are a blessing. You are sacred just the way you are. You have dignity. You have wisdom and gifts for the whole.