Of Cacao and Keith, the Shaman

Imagine yourself in an outdoor yoga shala set on a lake surrounded by towering volcanoes. With three sides open to Guatemalan forest (looking more like jungle to the Western eye) and the lake changing its appearance on a whim every few hours, our first cacao ceremony with Keith, the shaman, reflected the exotic and whimsical setting.

Our group consisted of 500 & 800 hr yoga teacher trainees, learning to hold ceremony, movement work, meditation and visioning in the shamanic and mystic tradition. Eclectic and experienced teachers and an international group of already established facilitators flowed through day after day of morning practice, spiritual teachings, deepening work and – for the outsider – unusual practices.

For an athletic, overachieving and bubbly girl raised in Northern Germany, this was as close to how my imagination had painted Narnia or other magical worlds as possible. Here, I felt, I suspended reason at times and felt with my heart. Here, anything was possible.

In this setting, complete with the sounds of church bells across the lake, rattles in our hands and the palpitating sound of my daring wild heart at times, I first
first truly encountered cacao. I had used it before during ironman training and even sold cacao balls in a few places around where I lived in Sydney’s East. But while I loved the energising and heart opening effect it naturally had on my system I wasn’t aware of its potency as a transformational tool.

So, when a skinny, towering shaman called Keith and his stunning equally wispy and lean wife first stepped into our midst in December 2014, I had no idea what I was in for. Keith writes the following on his website about the potency of cacao:

“For me, a major advantage to ceremonial cacao is that participants, once beyond the novelty of having their brain flushed with the 30-40% greater blood flow that cacao brings, are able to hold a good multidimensional focus for at least 4-5 hours, allowing more time for deep work with much less mental or emotional fatigue. Many find that as their meditational focus-holding ability improves and they learn to work on other levels, a full ceremonial dose is unnecessary. …”

When Keith led our group of about twenty through the process, we responded strongly. There were tears, laughter and deep processing. I believe I came out of the process with a new understanding for what it means to be an empath, with a pathway laid out for me to start changing my ways and deeply connected to my heart and those in ceremony. When Keith looked into my eyes and spoke, I felt like his words came from a timeless place. They echoed deep through me and I cried tears of letting go of old ways of being to make way for the new.

Over the coming weeks, our group took turns facilitating ceremonies combining yoga and cacao during our training in mystic and shamanic tradition. We discovered the potency of cacao for our own practice and teachings and developed our own relationship with the plant.

From this point on, I have felt a deep connection to cacao as a gentle heart opening tool. Used together with other meditative and movement techniques, it has the potential to help us vision and choose from a more expansive state. While no hallucinogenic, some more sensitive people who already experience strong visuals in meditation sometimes experience a heightened state of awareness and connection to spirit.

Ultimately, cacao – like any other tool we may use to assist us to connect with our true nature – helps us bypass our limiting beliefs, our old stories and the illusion that we are separate. As a heart opener, it allows us to work on our connection with self and others and on envisioning our deepest desires aligned with our heart.

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