Beyond Costa Rica Guidebooks: Cacao Ceremonies for Spiritual Tourism

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    Costa Rica is renowned for its adventure tourism, from skydiving to zip lining to scuba diving.  What many people don’t realize is that in addition to these common adrenaline junky activities, Costa Rica also offers a one-of-a-kind spiritual opportunity for the intrepid tourist or expat: Cacao ceremonies.

    If you’re interested in trying something outside of the guidebooks and travel magazines, here’s what you can expect from this delicious ritual derived from nature’s original Hershey bar.

    What is a cacao ceremony?

    The objective of the ceremony is to provide meditation and personal insight in an intimate and social setting, facilitated by the medicinal qualities of chocolate in its raw form.

    For a more descriptive definition, imagine the shaman lead spiritual journey of self-exploration that you can receive from an ayahuasca experience, but instead of the gut-wrenching, nauseating hallucinations and epiphanies that might involve pooping your pants, you sit in a happy, comfortable circle of candlelight drinking slightly bitter hot chocolate with friends and like-minded new acquaintances.

    What happens during the ceremony?

    The shaman or guide will prepare the ceremonial beverage by boiling the pure cacao beans and then straining it, in a fashion similar to coffee.  The warm mixture will then be dispersed to the participants who are seated in a circle on the floor, while the guide explains how the ceremony will proceed.

    While everyone drinks a cup or two of the hot cacao, the ceremony moves forward with gentle chanting, drum beating, singing and affirmations that one generally expects from a tribal type of spiritual ritual.  Over the course of about three hours, the group is paced by the shaman, who subtly instructs the adventurers into various stages of reflection, from moments of quiet meditation with the twang of the guitar into heart-pounding, bongo inspired revelations.

    How does the cacao make you feel?

    Elevated. Elated. Wired. Slightly buzzed.  To quantify it, perhaps the after effects of about two shots of good tequila, with a little coffee mixed in.

    That being said, you won’t get the same feeling just by hitting up the local bar.  The significant difference is that the cacao bean provides an opening of the heart and chest area, which is why it is considered a medicinal therapy.  And that’s not purely in the ‘energy-oriented’ chakras way either; cacao is scientifically proven to cleanse and strengthen the heart thanks to the ton of magnesium it holds.

    Where and how can I participate in a cacao ceremony?

    These ceremonies are held at eco retreats and event centers throughout Costa Rica.  One of the best and most beautiful locations for this experience is at the Selva Armonia center in the South Pacific which overlooks the Ballena Coast.  This luxurious open-air retreat offers gorgeous ocean views set within an organic farm, deep in the mountainous Costa Rican jungle.

    If there’s no place near you that offers cacao ceremonies, it’s also possible to have the guides come to you.  Aguila and Zahrah are Costa Rica’s premier cacao shaman couple who will bring their positive energy, knowledge, and guidance to the location of your choice.  You can also come to their eco-farm that hosts a variety of Costa Rica events, such as permaculture and alternative healing lessons.

    Just about anyone can strap into a zip line or hike through the jungle, but to stop for a minute and truly concentrate on yourself and the world around you is a completely different kind of rush that you won’t find just anywhere.  For a truly unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience, don’t miss out on a Costa Rican cacao ceremony if you find yourself fortunate enough to be invited to one.

    For more information on retreats and activities click HERE

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