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Walking through Villa Naya the morning of the cacao ceremony, I was immediately overcome with a sense of peace and surrender. Many of us had no idea what was to come during this ceremony, for friends who had previously participated were mysteriously secretive about the day’s events: “Something you must experience for yourself.”

Beyond the lush trees and shimmering pool was a wooden shala where we settled ourselves on pillows arranged in a circle around the ceremonious offering in the middle. Cacao plants were split open to reveal the beans within, and containers of the sacred elixir awaited us. Gazing around the room at the others slowly stretching and meditating around me, I had no idea how intimate we would feel with each other in just a few short hours.

We began with joining hands and singing, humming, feeling our souls connect to each other and the earth. The cacao ceremony is a powerful way of letting go, and bringing what you desire into your life. As each person went around the room naming that thing they intended to let go, I felt tears spring to my eyes and a surprising certainty settle over my being. The power behind letting go is the pure intention that fuels it, and here at last was a space to find freedom.

We were all here to let go of something, and to fill that space with freedom, love, courage, joy, faith. And the support of this loving community is what would help all of those old things that don’t serve us anymore, just fly out the window… and welcome in the new, the beautiful love, peace and freedom that would overcome us all.

What does it mean to let go of something you love? Does it mean you stop loving, or does it mean you love so much that there is joy and the utmost sense of peace in the release? A sense of power descended in the shala as each person released something that no longer served them and called in the energy they desired.

With intentions set, we settled into our circle to pass around the pitchers of the sacred dark liquid that would open our hearts and nourish our souls. Each person shared why they were here, we sipped and sang to gorgeous music, and slowly allowed the sacred properties of the rich cacao to flow through our blood. The shiva and shakti (the men and women here, representing the divine masculine and feminine) greeted one another, placing forehead to forehead in an intimate welcome and sharing pure, loving embraces.

Energized by the cacao, the shiva and shakti began to dance wildly to the tribal music, expressing the sacred masculine and feminine energies within us. Chanting and dancing to the rhythmic beats, there was so much freedom, expression and release. The shiva encircled the shakti, containing the wild feminine energy as we moved together, a flowing ocean, the music pulsating through our souls, releasing the energy within.

The world became dreamlike, a magical trance as our sweaty bodies melded, the feminine energy heightened and the deep masculine energy swept all around us, faster and faster, our voices rising in pitch until all became one with the sounds of the universe.

Slowly, quietly, the energy stilled and we found ourselves facing our counterparts, the shiva and shakti mirroring one another. As the loving connection flowed through our bodies, the energy slowly diffused, allowing us to sink deeply into ourselves. We were asked to repeat this prayer to the shiva or shakti we faced, to release any unexpressed emotions towards the men and women in our lives:

I’m sorry

I forgive you

I thank you

I love you

In this space, there was complete and utter safety and my heart broke open as I looked at my shiva and spoke the prayer to my ex-partner…letting go of everything unresolved…to my father…for all the emotions never expressed…and ultimately, I realized, to myself. In turn, we each opened our hearts and as tears flowed, we held each other in this sacred space. There is no power greater than love, but forgiveness has got to be a close second because as that prayer opened my heart, I felt forgiveness and gratitude wash over me, healing old wounds and creating space for moving forward.

Throughout the remainder of the ceremony, we sipped cacao and vibrated to the sound of the digeridoo, savored the flavors of juicy papaya and decadent cacao from each others fingers, and were each given a space to be held in 4 minutes of pure expression from our core.

Feeling the loving energy vibrating throughout the shala, we made our way to the pool for a wild and rambunctious circle of dance, connecting and creating a whirling typhoon of water to the drumbeat. Splashing and playing like dolphins, there was such a heightened joy and sense of not only release, but pure presence. This was all there was, all that mattered.

The ceremony concluded back in the shala, offering our blessings to a little, struggling cacao tree before planting her out in the back of Villa Naya. The beautiful words and prayers vibrated through the shala, granting strength and hope for this little cacao plant who brought us all here, who fostered this experience of love.

What is meant by true love and connection? True love is unconditional, purely abundant, relentlessly accepting. And this loving connection, when formed from a selfless and authentic place, is more nourishing than any food, more powerful than any force, more vibrant than any rainbow.

As we gathered to close the day with a final song and embrace, I looked around at these people who began this day as strangers, gathered to celebrate the sacred cacao, and together experienced the purest form of love and connection there is. What could this world be like if we could cultivate this connection out there in the world, always, sharing what we’ve created with the rest of humanity? I believe I speak for all who were present there on this day, that we experienced a great insight into what truly matters in this life, and a sacred connection that changed us from the core.