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“Don’t Overthink It.” Brandon’s Story

Photo of Brandon Mills

By: Hannah Kimyon

You may have heard of Brandon Mills.  He’s a singer-songwriter who lives in Nashville, and his music has touched hundreds of thousands of people across the globe.  If you’ve listened to Brandon’s music, you know that it inspires strength, love, creativity, and community.  What you might not know is that Brandon’s ability to tap into these themes is, in large part, the result of his healing journey.  He’s worked through trauma, discovered his authentic self, and is working to build a life based on ceremony and intention. 

Brandon Mills spent his early career as a combat veteran. He recounts growing up with a “poverty mindset” that instilled in him a pressure to create financial stability right out of high school. He saw the military as a path to accomplishing that and joined the marine corps. He also wanted to serve and protect, believing that by joining the military, he’d get to help liberate oppressed people groups.  “It sounded very noble to me.” He started in the infantry and was first deployed as an assaultman to Afghanistan.  That said, he always sought out more extreme challenges and wound up taking the next steps into a special forces unit, Marine Corps Reconnaissance..  From there, he ended up in Scout Sniper School, after which he deployed to Iraq.  

Portrait of Brandon Mills
Photo of Brandon Mills playing guitar

When he left the military, he moved to New York City to study music.  While in NYC, a notoriously unforgiving place to live, school seemed to fade to the background.  He was a 27 year old enjoying the freedom of college life for the first time, and his vices ran the show.  He describes spending a lot of time chasing alcohol, drugs, and women, and he couldn’t understand why he didn’t feel fulfilled. 

When a friend with severe PTSD invited Brandon to join him on a journey to pursue healing through plant medicine in the Amazon, Brandon agreed to join him, thinking this would be yet another great adventure.  What he found there was the beginning of a radical transformation.  “Ayahuasca shook me in the most beautiful loving way it possibly could have and shifted my entire life.”  It helped him tap into a part of himself that he hadn’t connected to for years: a part of him that he had stumbled upon years earlier as a teenager messing around with mushrooms.  Brandon describes being grateful for his youthful experiences with psychedelics because they gave him a glimpse of “deep deep consciousness” that he was able to revisit and draw upon in his adult experiences. 

Although he came away from his first experience with ayahuasca feeling profoundly moved, Brandon quickly fell back into the habits and coping mechanisms that had been helping him survive adult life.  He’d been hoping that ayahuasca would be a magic pill to change his life.  What he would realize over time was that integrating the lessons he had learned into his lifestyle and revisiting plant medicine regularly would be the keys to lasting change for him. He discovered meditation and breathwork, and when he reapproached plant medicine a few years later, he did so with more intention.  

Plant medicine has since helped Brandon find self-acceptance and self-love.  He describes a shift in mindset around his music, the realization that his true talents are better shared with the world and honored than kept inside.  It also helped Brandon connect with the messaging he wants to put out into the world.  “I’ve learned that everything I do and say carries energy and significance.  I want all of my words to be give inspiration, courage, and hope, regardless of whether the music resonates with the listeners”  

Brandon describes having “a relationship” with plant medicine.  While he now knows he has the tools he needs within him, medicine experiences are like a kind and wise friend he can revisit as needed. In fact, he’s hoping to continue his work as a steward of plant medicine experiences and to help others navigate their healing journeys.  He sees plant medicine as a tool that is so powerful that he believes “it’s how we’re going to heal the earth and heal the mental health crisis we’re going through right now.”

“My best advice,” he says to veterans who might be considering plant medicine as a resource for healing, “is don’t overthink it.  Take complete sovereignty over your life.  Use community and plant medicine to heal.  It’s always worth the effort, the work, and the time. It pays dividends.”