Have you ever heard of ceremonial cacao?
For thousands of years ancient tribes have considered cacao as a sacred plant with healing properties. Not only was cacao used in ceremonial settings but it was also renowned as a medicinal plant that aids in the healing of and opening up of the heart's circulation. Because of it's heart opening qualities cacao is a perfect pairing with meditation, yoga, dancing, and therapeutic work such as reiki. It facilitates greater connection to other people and to yourself. It's sure to add a certain sacredness to your personal practice and a buzz to your social gatherings.
Ceremonial cacao is not the same as regular chocolate. It wasn’t until Europeans came across it and brought it home that sweetener was added and what we now know of as chocolate was created. Today, chocolate is usually laden with extra ingredients such as sugar, milk and preservatives and people often see it as either a guilty pleasure or junk food. Chocolate still gives us that feel good effect but the medicinal properties are close to none because so much of the good stuff (aka the fat) is stripped away.
My first ever cacao experience
The first time I tried cacao was not intentional. I was at an open house at Brooklyn Boulders in Somerville about 5 years ago. There were vendors, activities, art and climbing of course. My friends and I heard there was a cacao ceremony in the yoga room so we decided to try it out. We walked into a PACKED room of people sitting on the ground, cross-legged, waiting for the ceremony to begin. Behind us was a table with a large cauldron filled with what I presumed to be a hot chocolate-y drink. A gentleman stepped into the middle of the space and said a few words before we lined up for our mini cup of cacao. It was a teensy serving, making me wonder what I was getting into. I knew this was a "ceremony", but wasn't sure what I was going to feel. I had heard that ceremonial cacao can interfere with certain anti-depressants which, even though I wasn't on any, as somebody with anxiety this made me a bit anxious. Once everyone received their cup and sat down, we all closed our eyes and meditated on the cacao in our hands.
After drinking the cacao, which was super thick and bitter (it's pure, with no additives so it's tastiest when mixed with maple syrup or honey) we were prompted to yell out something nice about somebody else in the room. The silence quickly turned into a buzz of positivity, love, and laughter. It was beautiful. But I didn't feel anything different per se. I was mostly just excited about drinking chocolate in a guilt-less setting. After about 30 minutes I had a huge burst of energy and started doing headstands (because I just learned how to) on repeat. I felt so good! The cacao elicited euphoria and body high which was reminiscent of an illegal drug, a mixture between a stimulant and a psychedelic. It was something else. That was about 5 years ago and I hadn't thought about ceremonial cacao until just recently.
The Spirit awakens
My yoga teacher and mentor started posting about her daily morning cacao rituals at home and to say the least I was intrigued. I was surprised she was drinking this stuff everyday! Was that okay? It seemed intense judging by my last experience. Following my curiosity she brought me a cacao elixir before one of her yoga classes. I chugged it because, well, it was a chocolate drink and felt like such a treat. I have to say that was one of the most powerful yoga classes I've taken in since my yoga teacher training days. My heart burst open and tears streamed down my face with emotions of happiness, lust for life, wanting, passions of pursuing my work, and a new devotion to my dharmic commitments.
I came home on such a high, immediately had a coaching call with one of my clients which I absolutely nailed because I was so OPEN. I could distinctly sense a deeper connection to my client in ways I haven't been able to prior. After the call I sat down and created a comprehensive plan for a Silent Disco yoga event... something that would have felt like pulling teeth just yesterday. This stuff was intense. It was a lot to come down from because I was so stimulated from the cacao properties. I realized I had too much. I drank 1 oz of cacao. After having my free 10-min consultation with Jonas from Firelfy Chocolate I knew that I only need 1/4 to 1/2 oz until I can hear the invitation of the cacao plant inviting me to go deeper into my practice.
Continuing my journey
There are a few cacao brands out there - my teacher recommended Firefly Chocolate. I love it because it's blended with rose blossoms for an extra heart-opening experience. I cherish the process of making cacao, pouring it in my favorite mug, creating my own little ceremony and meditating as it enters into my bloodstream. In my latest solo cacao ceremony I was dancing my ass off in my living room, rapping my own lyrics (I so wish I recorded myself), and gardening. All things that I haven't done but wanted to do for so long. Especially rapping.... ha! Actually I've been putting off planting my garden and thanks to cacao now I have little kale sprouts! Let me walk you through how to host your own cacao ceremony.
How to Host Your Own Cacao Ceremony
You can host a cacao ceremony at home by yourself for a more introspective experience or with friends to increase intimacy and cultivate a deeper connection with the ones you're with.
Start with 1/4 oz of cacao if this is your first time. You can drink up to 2 oz but personally even 1 oz was too much so I really recommend starting slow and building up as you get to know the plant and how you interact with it.
Mix cacao with hot water, mix and drink or create a cacao elixir by following the recipe below. Do not mix with cow's milk as it will not work properly because of the fat content. I like mixing in Sun Potion Ashwagandha (20% off here) and Sun Potion Chaga (20% off here) for added stress-busting benefits. You can read more about Adaptogens in my blog post here.
Cacao takes 20-30 minutes to take effect and can last about 3-5 hours depending on the person and dosage. Eat lightly prior to drinking cacao to increase absorption.
If you're drinking alone, sink into the energy and go where you need to. Whatever you're feeling will be heightened. Deeper meditation, abundant creativity, increased happiness. If you're drinking in a group it's nice to drink together in a circle, maybe even sharing the same mug. In both instances it's nice to create space, acknowledge the plant you are about to drink and bow in honor of the upcoming experience. You could even go around the circle and check-in, share names and say one thing you are grateful for. From there, the magic of cacao does the rest and you can enjoy the buzz!
Drink plenty of water in the later stages of the ceremony and afterwards. If you want to ground after, eat some food, dense food works well. Some people may experience a mild headache or nausea - don't fret, just drink too much water and drink a little less cacao next time.
Even though there are a few contraindications (please do more research on your own, this article is meant to be more of an overview) it's important you take fear out of the equation. It can be scary to try something new, especially if you are sensitive to coffee and stimulants but just take it slow and know that you are safe and no harm can come of this experience. If you want to discuss this further I'm happy to chat!
Cacao Elixir Recipe
1/4 oz to 1 oz Ceremonial Cacao (I use Firefly - this is not sponsored. You also get a free 10 minute call with Jonas where you can ask him anything about cacao.)
1/4 tsp Ashwaganda powder (click to get 20% off)
1/2 tsp Chaga mushroom powder (click to get 20% off)
1/2 to 1 tsp maple syrup or sweetener of choice
Dash of cayenne
8oz hot water
Optional: 2 scoops Vital Proteins Collagen (adds creaminess and frothiness, not a vegetarian product)
Blend on high for 2 minutes. If you don't have a blender you can use a handheld frother but the drink won't come out as frothy.
Benefits of Cacao
40 Times the Antioxidants of Blueberries.
Highest Plant-Based Source of Iron.
Full of Magnesium for a Healthy Heart & Brain.
More Calcium Than Cow's Milk.
Have you ever tried ceremonial cacao? I'd love to hear your experience!! I'm considering leading a public cacao ceremony in the Boston area so definitely let me know if this is something you'd be into.