Cacao Ritual – is chocolate sacred?

Chocolate. We all love it. But is this another case of modern society simply farming the land, ripping off the locals, spraying alarming amounts of pesticides around and reaping the profits? If chocolate is so great, is there some kind of super ingredient in it, a chemical that makes us feel love or power, a natural kind of magic that deserves a bit more respect than we grant when ripping off the wrapper to another bar of our favourite variety?

wpid-20150121_184120.jpg
The cacao ritual altar

I love the move towards more organic, raw, whole foods as well as fair trade. These shifts in consumer sentiment reveal a deepening awareness of and care about the source of our foods and this shows more respect for the earth – a shift that underpins a lot of what White Fella Dreaming is all about. But the next step – the thing that brings us back in line with the source at another level, that hums with the sacred and fills life with meaning – is to perform ritual.

wpid-20150121_192636.jpg
The chocolate being dispensed

Ritual can be very simple and brief, a silent giving of thanks or a bow, or it can be complex and lengthy, as in many initiation rites. It can help facilitate transformation, from one time of life to another, from everyday to sacred space, from one state of mind (such as so-called ‘ordinary consciousness’) to … something more. A type of awareness that appreciates more of the different levels or dimensions of a thing, or a time, or a feeling. So, yeah, I participated in a cacao ritual.

wpid-20150121_230150.jpg
Asher and Lydia

Facilitated by Asher Glass and Lydia Marolda, the group imbibed a batch of cacao imported from Guatemala specifically for this purpose. Inspired by his meeting with Keith Wilson, when travelling in Central America, Asher has begun bringing this same amount of respect for the active ingredient in chocolate – and for the place it is from, the people who farm it locally there, the process that goes into transforming it into an edible delicacy for us western consumers – to Melbourne. After discussing how we could allow the cacao, under these conditions of conscious intent, to help unfurl the body’s prayer, we danced. What’s the body’s prayer? Whatever it is for you. Mine, when offered to the group as we all did, was to more deeply embody the sacred mysteries. Yours could be whatever arises – yes, you can try this at home!

wpid-20150121_203523.jpg
Getting down for chocolate!

The dance session was facilitated in the same style as the Dancing Freedom events that Lydia runs. We dance as if we are earth, which we are; water, air, fire … we dance in the elements and celebrate life. The wind-down included some feedback from each participant following their experiences and their body’s response to the unfurling of its prayer through the ritual. For myself, I felt the usual reawakening of spirit I get from successful ritual; no surprises there, after the vehicle of ritual opened me up to a wild dance with conscious intent.

wpid-20150121_215714.jpg
Meditating on & sharing the experience

Finally, though, I just have to add: how easy would it be to dismiss this as a laughable new age fad, without some context. Chocolate shamanism, pfff. If I hadn’t shared so many of these kinds of experiences over the years, I might be part of that dismissive crowd. The intellectual field of academic thought and research, for sure, works hard to protect itself from seemingly irrational challenges much of the time. I know, I have spent years in that game. But what that perspective misses is what I had to go outside and look for – or rather, remind myself I always had – direct relationship with the sacred behind all things. To keep that alive, I’m prepared to consider rituals that resacralise any aspect of modern life; especially when such practices also align with the values of environmental justice I support as part of the ecospirituality movement. So enjoy your next taste of chocolate – in the best possible way!

All photos by author. Asher and Lydia are intending to hold this event monthly and the original invitation can be found here.

Embodied Spirituality

creek-nature-aboriginal-trail-bushland

It’s a great relief to discover that transcendence is not always a matter of overcoming of worldly limits via a flight to the heavens, or some other kind of transport to an off-planet haven in the skies. We can also discover great realms of freedom within, through careful attendance to bodily sensations, to the rising and falling of phenomena in this physical field – to the earth. We go beyond our bodies when we concentrate on breath, which enters and leaves through the portals of nose and mouth, which connect us to the world around us, to all else that breathes, from mice to whales to trees – and those who live in them …

Tawny Frogmouth

When we sense the breath of the earth, through our muscles and nerves, in our viscera, or the magnetic pulse of place, or the feeling of being home in a familiar landscape or building, or our connection to the ancestors that enabled our being here now, or the celestial intelligence that fires our minds, or the life of other beings and our communication with them (linguistic, symbolic, psychic, somatic – any way we carry out conversations in the Dreaming) … in any of these ways we can discover a sense of transcendence through immanence. Immanence is the direct path to experiencing embodied spirituality – something beyond the individual self, something greater than the limits of reductionist rationality is capable of entertaining, something sometimes more-than-human, connected to a greater sense of mind, which arises from within, keeping us aligned with Earth Wisdom (when we allow it) and Celestial Intelligence and all the other creatures between and around and within us.

ND Candles

It ain’t so hard. We just have to stick at it. See Part ii), coming soon: Practicing Embodied Spirituality.

Images: a rock wall along the Darebin Spiritual Healing Trail (story to come); a Tawny Frogmouth at CERES Environmental Park (story to come); candlelight in Notre Dame cathedral, Paris (i don’t have that much of a story from there, it’s just a majestic palace of worship, where the old Gallic Catholics bow in fervent and sincere prayer, priests incanting ancient rituals while shaking incense to the sky, billowing thin clouds of creamy smoke that rise against the kaleidoscopic stained glass windows in this otherwise gloomy, immense space).