Our society is obsessed with stimulants. Often, the healing aspects of those stimulants are long forgotten. Sure, coffee contains a lot of antioxidants—but it still gets you high. And way too frequently, this high is being abused to get us through a long working day.
Recently, however, there has been a change in perspective. Everywhere around the world, people are starting to go back to ancient methods of healing, often using stimulants in traditional, ceremonial settings.
Relax, love, and be creative
Until three years ago, I had never heard of ceremonial cacao. I knew cacao as a milky drink full of sugar (in short: just another stimulant). But this emergent trend of medicinal cacao was something different. Coming straight from Guatemala, it is completely unprocessed and contains all its active ingredients. “Most of the chocolate we consume today lacks 99% of the active ingredients in cacao,” says Júlía Óttarsdóttir, who has been holding cacao ceremonies in Iceland since 2015.
Raw cacao contains chemicals that are usually released in our body when we feel happy and when we fall in love. The magnesium helps your muscles relax, while anandamide creates a feeling of love in you, and theobromine increases your creativity.
After all this, you might wonder (just like me) what actually happens at a cacao ceremony. To find out, I attended one at a yoga studio in the heart of Reykjavík.
When I arrive, I am surprised to already see a group of people dancing. Júlía is in the middle, leading the dance flow. I join the fun and within 10 minutes, people are screaming with joy and delight. Mind you, no stimulants had been consumed beforehand. And yet, here I am, twisting and sweating. It feels great.
In short breaks between songs, Júlía guides us through breathing exercises, making us aware of the source of life that constantly flows in and out of our bodies.
A cup of laughter
After dancing all our worries away, we receive an introduction to the cacao’s components and effects. We thank the earth for this gift and start sipping the bitter beverage. Júlía serenades us with empowering mantras — something that will recur throughout the ceremony. “You have learned all you need already,” she convinces us. “Now you need to open your heart to make this wisdom available to you.”
How do you do that? Step one: do not take yourself too seriously. Let your inner child shine through you. And sure enough, the room is soon filled with childish laughter. Step two: surrender to your heart. Trust your intuition. Let yourself be guided by yourself.
Kissed by the cacao
As Júlía starts playing on her shamanic drum accompanied by her angelic voice, I feel my body relaxing and my heart opening. I smile. I laugh at all the times I took myself too seriously. I feel very connected to the people I had danced with so crazily beforehand, even though we do not speak at all. I lie down and I feel the floor beneath me, and I feel safe. Yes, I feel complete. Enough. At ease, finally.
The feeling is not as intense as a cup of coffee. In fact, it feels more natural, more grounded, as if you had eaten a lot of chocolate, but without the sugar. My body is relaxed, my mind clear. There is no tension within me, only gratitude for this beautiful moment I am experiencing.
Sharing is caring
After being in this state for an indeterminate amount of time, Júlía invites us to sit up, take each other’s hands, lift them up and breathe in unity. A feeling of a loving community is the consequence. I can see only smiles around me, making my own even wider.
In the end, Júlía invites us to voluntarily share the insights we have gained. The circle shares tears and laughter, accompanied by a little bit of wisdom from everybody. It is amazing to listen to these heartfelt confessions and it is almost unbelievable how much everybody seemed to have improved in the last two hours or so.
I, myself, feel completely balanced and I walk out into the rainy Icelandic evening with a heart full of hope, compassion and feeling of connection to everything and everyone around me.
Food of the Gods
This ceremony taught me the value of consuming this ancient medicine, which the Aztecs called “food of the Gods,” in a ceremonial environment. Without any technological device distracting my focus, I was able to be present, enjoy the effects of the cacao with maximum awareness, and heal myself from life’s daily infused anxiety. The feeling of connection and community is something that I will keep with me through good and bad, from now on.
As I write, I take a deep breath, close my eyes, and laugh with the wonderful feeling of being alive.
Info: Cacao ceremonies are held regularly in Reykjavík, and throughout the Icelandic countryside. Follow “Cacao Tribe Iceland” on Facebook to stay updated.
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