Chocolate – a love/love affair. I didn’t get the fuss about chocolate until I tried a small dark, sugar-free bar made from raw cocoa and fermented superfood powders about 15 years ago. A friend offered it to me when I went to meet her in a raw food cafe in central London. I started by saying no and that I wasn’t that bothered about chocolate (!!). However, she insisted, and I’m so glad she did. We shared that bar and about 20 minutes after I’d eaten, I was zinging – that’s the best way I can describe it: ZINGING! It gave a busy tube journey a whole different slant. Hmm, chocolate – I liked that, and what I noticed was from that experience onwards, I wanted more.
Since then, I’ve enjoyed loads of different types of vegan, raw and sugar free chocolate. Living mostly sugar-free as I try to do, the explosion in companies catering for this with amazing quality and often ethically traded or organic products has been a life saver, and sees me indulging most days (just ask my partner!).
As chocolate now seems to be such a big part of my life and what with it being the month conventionally given over to ‘Love’ (I try to infuse the spirit of love each and every day) I wanted to go deeper with a Cacao Ceremony – to immerse myself in the power of the cacao plant. Following describes my very first experience of a Cacao and Gong Ceremony by Sound Awakening and how the cacao plant can help you seen your relationship with self.
I entered the event and found myself in a lovely cosy room, decorated with hop boughs, candles and pink neon, with electric blankets covered by beautiful cloths on the floor to create a cosy environment. We had pillows and blankets to make us cosy while we went on our journey with cacao and the gong bath. Once we were all assembled Louise from Sound Awakening explained that she had prepared our drinks with 31g of ceremonial grade cacao. She explained a traditional dosage was 42g but that we should start with something a little weaker. She explained that we may find it difficult to drink it all, and that we should listen to our bodies – our bodies know best! – and stop when we feel we’ve had enough. She supplied honey to taste – cacao is incredibly bitter – which surprises some people who are used to thinking of chocolate more as the sugar and dairy laden confectionary. However, as a hardy herbalist, who celebrates and encourages the use of bitters, I decided to go cacao-commando and declined the honey.
Cacao is rich in theobromine (nothing to do with bromine, but rather taken from the botanical name for the cacao plant Theobroma cacao – meaning ‘food of the gods’!), which is a bitter alkaloid that is a vasodilator (which means something that dilates blood vessels), diuretic and heart stimulant. It is found in varying degrees in other plants such as Camellia sinensis (the tea plant) and Guarana (Paullinia cupana), and excerpts a similar but weaker effect on the central nervous system to caffeine*. Indeed it is one of caffeine’s metabolic by-products when it is broken down in humans before excretion. While it is not as addictive as caffeine it has been cited as the reason we can feel as though we are addicted to chocolate, and theobromine is also the reason attributed to chocolate’s aphrodisiac effect. What happens when we apply some of that love to ourselves?
*NB – Theobroma does have a toxic and lethal dose in humans so don’t go administering it without an experienced practitioner. Chocolate that is available commercially of course is considered safe.
Louise explained how cacao stimulates the heart centre and how that on an energetic level, this can clear emotional blockages of previous hurts and experiences that remain the in heart and the body, holding us back. The gong bath would amplify this effect. All sounded good to me.
We then imbibed the cacao drink from white ceramic beakers bearing the inscription ‘Love’, drinking only what our bodies told us we could accept. The further down the beaker I got the harder I found to swallow it – it got more and more bitter and finally just before the bottom I’d had enough – I could feel the cacao expand across my shoulders in golden rupture. I knew I’d had enough!
We then chose an intention and drew it down into our heart spaces using the breath. Laying down, making ourselves cosy with blankets and pillows, we visualised drawing up red earth energy up through our feet or base chakras, and drawing down white light from our crown chakras, where they swirled and mingled in our heart spaces to form a beautiful pink colour.
Centring in on this energy and our intention, feeling our hearts stimulated, we relaxed as the sounds of the gong increased, creating a hypnotic soundscape that takes you out of your mind.
This lasted for a blissful 45 minutes. Time to receive some intuitive wisdom straight from the heart.
The session ended with slowly coming back into the present space with a mix of sounds from other therapeutic instruments. We then shared some tea and chocolate and oat cakes, chatting enthusiastically with each other. The atmosphere in the room had changed, was more charged, and I felt full of enthusiasm to get on with all the projects I had swirling in my head.
So Chocolate, Cacao, what do I make of you now?
Well, I’m still just as addicted as I was, despite its bitterness, but I have a deeper experience of how it can be used for self care, for love, and to connect to our hearts’ desires. So much so that I then chose to train as a Cacao practitioner and in the before-times used to offer this at in-person events.
And how can this be used for intimate wellness? Well, it provides one way to connect in with your body and love what you’ve got. If you suffer with any intimate recurrent issue, you will know how it can make you want to disconnect from that part of yourself and ignore what is going on. I believe one of the key things to overcoming that is to love what you’ve got. You are enough, and its essential to engage in what your body is telling you, what blocks are there and to find a way to break down those blocks. This is one way.
What do you think? I’d love to hear from you.