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I’ve got a newfound respect for cacao!

A large majority of the people I work with tell me that they are addicted to chocolate.

Not that they consume gallons of it and have lost their jobs because of it, but they confide in me that they need to eat at least one or two (or three or more) pieces per day, every day.

Sometimes they’ll eat it in the morning, or mid-afternoon, and other times they will eat it in the evening at the end of their long day. In any case, it is certainly a daily habit that they cannot go without.

As a practitioner, I always wonder about clients’ cravings.

Our cravings speak volumes about what the body, mind, and spirit needs.

In the case of chocolate, I question if it is a nutrient like magnesium that is missing from their diet.

Or, are they craving it because they are feeling exhausted and need a little sugar to lift their energy.

I also wonder if the chocolate craving is because they are lonely and seeking love and connection? Chocolate has long been associated with “love” – you can read more about that here: Do you know how to support your heart?

All of these questions run through my mind as I try to decipher what they need.

Me, I’m not such a big chocolate fan. I eat it occasionally, but it’s not my go-to treat when I want something sweet.

But, after participating in a traditional Cacao ceremony, I have a whole new respect and understanding of this ancient medicinal food, and why my clients may be craving it.

I was away on retreat with The Vital Guide (my husband’s company) in Costa Rica.

Each day, as a group, we got to experience a new type of fun adventure.

We hiked through the rainforest to aquamarine blue rivers and waterfalls that were truly a spectacular sight.

We participated in a Sweat Lodge on the beach and then dove into the ocean to “cleanse and purify” and connect ourselves to the water element. Water is essential to our existence on earth and we need reverence for its power and importance. We can go for long periods of time without food, but we cannot go without water for very long.

We braved hiking to a volcano that was upgraded to a category 2 (danger zone!). Category 1 is the final level that indicates the volcano is about to blow.

Our guide warned us, “With a category 2 if you feel the ground begin shaking, run as fast as you can back down the mountain toward the van. And, if the van is not there, keep running!”

Needless to say, we didn’t have to high-tail it off the mountain, but it certainly peaked our senses and made us keenly aware of our surroundings.

After the hot volcano hike, we ventured back down the mountain and jumped into the base of a hidden waterfall that was refreshing and invigorating!

We completed our dangerous volcano trek by submerging our selves in the natural hot springs that were on the mountain and covering each other in volcanic ash and mud for some bodily cleansing and fun.

It was all truly amazing, and the highlight for me was sitting with the shaman and participating in the native cacao ceremony.

The shaman, Alejandro, explained that cacao is a sacred food. It connects us to our heart, opens the heart to our community, to the earth, and to our ancestors.

He said we have been abusing cacao by adding sugar to it and eating it without connecting to the spirit of its powerful medicine.

He began the ceremony by taking cacao and boiling it in water. He then gave us each a cup of the warm liquid to drink.

It tasted like hot cocoa without the added sugar and it was surprisingly delicious.

After we finished our first cup of cacao, he asked us all to invite our ancestors into the ritual to be with us.

He told us to close our eyes, and then he began drumming.

Within seconds of closing my eyes, I saw and felt the presence of my mother and father standing directly behind me. And, behind them, were their parents. My father’s mother and father were there, and my mother’s mother and father were there.

My mother’s mother was a little bit blurry and not quite as clear as my other grandparents. I had never met her. I had only seen old black and white pictures of her. She committed suicide when my mom was just 13 years old. Maybe that explained why she wasn’t clear in the vision.

Behind my grandparents were shadows of the ancestors that I had never met. They stretched out far and wide, in rows that went in every direction. There were so many of them.

As I write this, it brings me to tears. Cacao certainly is heart-opening medicine.

My ancestors are all with me, even though they are no longer here in their physical bodies.

The cacao ceremony was very powerful for all of us in our own way.

One the final day of the retreat, one of the participants said to me, “This week has been a lot of fun activities. When my husband and I signed up, we thought it was for a week of life-coaching. We would have NEVER signed up if we knew this was going to be about fun and connecting with each other, and playing with other people. But, I’m so grateful we did this. We need to do more of this.”

I agreed with her. She didn’t know it when she signed up, but she was craving a deeper connection, lightness of heart, and some fun.

Cacao taught me that we need to work hard, play just as hard, and connect with other human beings (including our ancestors) because it won’t be long before we will be the shadows for future generations to come.