Ross Heaven has just returned from helping a woman bury herself in the middle of a wood.

The woman dug her own grave, stepped into it and covered herself with earth.

Ross was on hand to help make the grave as comfortable as possible for her overnight stay in the ground.

Ross, of Wilbury Grove, Brighton, sees nothing unusual in a person digging their own grave.

A psychology and sociology graduate, he has been a shamanic healer for about 20 years.

He said: "What people see as new psychology has actually been used for 40,000 years.

"It is a rebirth, where somebody who has suffered trauma in their life is able to let go of it into the earth. The earth becomes a womb and they are reborn the next day at dawn."

Ross, 41, developed an interest in shamanism when he became disillusioned with the fast world of advertising.

The novelty of his job in sales had worn off and Ross decided to travel the world, picking up shamanic techniques in Peru, Haiti, America and Africa.

Shamanism involves the healer following a spiritual journey by entering a trance. In this state, he is able to heal himself or others and can seek guidance from the spiritual world.

Ross also developed an interest in voodooism, a form of shamanism originating in Africa and practised in Haiti and the Caribbean islands.

He became the first white ordained voodoo priest in 2000 but believes he has always had a connection with spirituality.

He said: "Ever since I was a child I have had a deep understanding that there is more to life than what you see out of the window.

"We used to live in a house where a man had shot himself dead and I would connect with this man and talk to him.

"We would have discussions about nature and the village where I lived in Hereford."

Now living in Brighton, Ross works as a healer and writer, using rhythmic music, rattling and chants to help people cope with stressful past events or existing problems.

He does not charge for his healing sessions but asks people to make a donation.

He said: "Shamanism does not decry other faiths, it is not a cult and does not force people to give anything up.

"There are two processes of shamanic healing. The first is to do with soul retrieval for people who have lost a sense of themselves.

"Parts of the soul may have taken flight in fear if the person has suffered physical or emotional abuse. The shaman is an expert in out-of-body experiences and part of my soul will go out to the spiritual world to negotiate with the other person's soul for it to return.

"The second aspect is to recognise that many of our interactions in life involve power play, such as office politics.

"The shaman conceptualises this as a spiritual intrusion where the other person is invading your spiritual sense of self. He will then extract the other spirit to remove it from you."

Ross has just finished his second book, Spirit In The City, which follows his debut title, The Journey To You.

Each chapter has practical exercises so the reader learns how to apply ancient shamanic principles.

In one exercise, readers are invited to cleanse themselves of past experiences by writing a life review and reliving difficult times. Another details ways to experience the feeling of being at one with the entire world.

Ross said: "This is a book for anyone living in the modern world who wants to learn practical techniques.

"It deals with the physical manifestations of stress, pressures at work and home surroundings.

"We know, for example, that stress leads to high blood pressure, thrombosis, depression and other illnesses which have an emotional cause. The healing therefore needs to work with these emotions.

"I offer practical techniques, such as chants and visualisations, which allow people to heal themselves.

"There are ways to empower your room. When you walk into a room, the area in front of you reflects yourself, it is your area of illumination.

"If it is full of clutter, then it shows you are attracting it in your life, and if it is full of work things then you know you are a person who finds it hard not to think about work.

"The key is fill it with good things, like a collage of pictures of the things you want to achieve."

Ross moved to Brighton about a year ago to be near his two daughters, Amelia and Jodie. To him, the Sussex coastline offers a calm living environment.

He said: "Brighton is hugely better than London, which is a place with no soul. Brighton seems to have a heart."

Spirit In The City, priced £7.99, will be published next week by Bantam.

Ross will be giving a public talk at Borders in Churchill Square, Brighton, on February 27.