08/27/2014 02:07 pm ET Updated Oct 27, 2014

For Huichol Shamans, Laughter Is Strong Medicine for Stress

Laughter is an important part of Huichol life and tradition. They say it is a key element to healing, living, and being a whole person. No situation is beyond the bounds of humor for the Huichol -- NOTHING! They love to laugh and tease each other and joke around. They see laughter as good medicine, for the soul, and for the body. It makes us feel better. It shifts us into a positive outlook on life.

But Huichols are not all standup comics or joke tellers. Their humor often involves helping you take yourself and your problems less seriously, whether you're ready or not.

A First Encounter with Huichol's Playful Mockery

When Brant first arrived in the Huichol Sierra of Mexico, still in his 20s, a group set off to take a day's walk to town, and for some crazy reason Brant brought his backpack, filled with 80 pounds of useless stuff. Early in the day, the group stopped to take a break. Brant was already exhausted and sweating profusely. With miles left to go, he threw the pack down, grumbling about his condition. A Huichol woman in her 60s came over and, with a teasing tone of voice said, "Oh, you need help? You look tired!" Then she grabbed Brant's gigantic pack and started to run away. He jumped up and chased her, but could not keep up. This hilarious scene would be re-enacted as a comedy skit around many a fire down the road: a man in his 20s carrying nothing, losing a race to a 60-something Huichol woman carrying 80 pounds. That was Huichol humor for you. There was a lot of laughter at Brant's expense that day.

Learning an Expensive Lesson

After Brant had studied with the Huichol shaman Don José for many years, they went on a trip around the U.S. and Europe together. Just before returning to Mexico, they stopped in a bank in San Francisco to change some U.S. money into pesos. Don José did not like large crowded buildings, so he stayed in the car, parked in front of the bank, while Brant went in. Brant was worried about what might happen to this great indigenous healer, so unfamiliar with sophisticated urban ways that he couldn't possibly wander around by himself in safety. He might get lost, make some mistake, break some rule, and get in trouble. Brant said, "Don't open the door under any circumstances, no matter what, no matter who comes by. It's a wild city here in San Francisco."

When Brant returned, Don José was still sitting in the car, and remarked, "Hey, some nice policeman came by. He was smiling at me and I smiled back at him. But I think he might have known you, maybe he was your friend. He came by three times, and each time he wrote you a letter and left it under the windshield wiper."

Under the windshield wiper Brant found three expensive parking tickets. Brant had to laugh, because he had learned his lesson. Don't underestimate the sense and intelligence of a Huichol elder, especially in the humor department!

Humor Shifts the Focus

The Huichols use laughter over and over again each day of their lives as a way to rid themselves of fear and depression, to teach lessons, and to shift their focus away from what causes them stress, replacing it with hope. This is another simple, powerful tool you can use to dispel emotional stress, and enhance your overall performance, whether it's in sports, business, or life itself.