Have you ever seen your local yoga studio or retreat center selling cacao and wondered, “What is this stuff and why is everyone buying it?” You may have also thought, “Isn’t that just chocolate? Why is chocolate being sold in a spiritual setting?” Within a few paragraphs, I will explain what cacao is, and how it can be used in spiritual practices.
Cacao is a large seed that grows on trees in Central and South America and, yes, it is an ingredient in chocolate. Mayan and Aztec cultures have used cacao for thousands of years due to its medicinal effects. In the West, many refer to cacao as a “superfood” because of its health benefits, such as blood pressure reduction and immune support. Outside of its medicinal use, cacao is also utilized in a ceremonial setting.
Cacao is used in ceremonies because it is a powerful heart opener. It is a vasodilator meaning that it opens up your blood vessels and increases circulation, but it does not cause anxiety or jitteriness as some vasodilators, such as coffee, can. Due to this effect on the body, cacao can be used in meditation. When you use cacao prior to practicing meditation, you are able to take your practice to a deeper place without falling asleep.
Your body may remain in a place of stillness, but your mind is open, awake, and connected to the heart chakra. This state of being can promote a conscious awakening in the mind. Meditation is just one of the many spiritual rituals that cacao may be paired with; others include ecstatic dance, vinyasa, kirtan, and journeywork.
These spiritual ties to the sacred plant are exactly why you find yoga studios and retreat centers selling cacao. The plant has a long history of being paired with yoga and meditation, so studios and centers offer the gift of cacao to their patrons in hopes that they will find healing through their experience with it. Some studios and retreat centers also provide cacao ceremonies for first-time users. This is so a guide can lead first-time users through their experience with the plant medicine and direct them to a state of conscious awakening.
At a ceremony, a shaman or guide will distribute the cacao for consumption and then immediately aid you into a deep meditation. By the time you arrive in a meditative state, the effects of the cacao begin to kick in and guide your meditation or journeywork. This can induce an intense experience in some participants if they are working through trauma, loss, or other aspects of darkness in their lives.
The cacao does not force any experience on you like a hallucinogen would, rather it pushes you to the door that may open up to some issues in your life that you may need to confront. It is always your choice as to whether or not you wish to open that door and start that journey; you are always in control.
No, cacao is not synonymous with Ayahuasca and it is not a hallucinogen. The plant is simply a tool to guiding you towards a more enlightened state. I highly suggest trying cacao if you have never experienced its incredible effects on the human experience. That being said, if you are struggling with any darkness in your life right now, you may want to consult a sacred cacao guide before engaging with the plant medicine.