Tea Ceremonies & Cacao: Developing our Mindfulness and Busting Stress & Depression
Stress Relief & Transformation with the Spiritual Use of Caco and Tea Ceremonies
Ever wondered how to bring the spiritual more into everyday life? Check out tea ceremonies – they’re all about infusing the moment with presence and awareness through ritualized movements and actions, which can bring stress relief and deep peace. Another surprising ally on the mindfulness and spirituality path is Cacao – raw chocolate. Eating cacao – including in cacao ceremonies – is about much more than having a ‘fix’ of chocolate without the sugar and milk nasties. Not only does it have a whack of nutritional benefits but it also gives our spiritual and creative development a boost, so we can get high and go deep. Read on to find out more about these exciting transformational practices.
Mindfulness and Using a Natural Anti-Depressant
So what’s all this drinking tea stuff about? And for up to four hours? It’s all about mindfulness and an open heart. As you pour the tea you also pour all your attention into the moment, into each ritualized movement. If you are the host, you prepare the tea as a gift from your heart to the guests. As a guest, you would sip tea from a single bowl that’s passed around. There’s a ritual way of doing everything, in a tea ceremony – when to speak, when to bow, how to handle the bow – and the guests participate with full attention. This creates an atmosphere of peace and clarity – like a moving meditation.
Cacao is a natural anti-depressant and has a load of different uses, from feeding your artistic creativity to helping you focus on your work. Cacao is a powerful ally for inner spiritual work like meditation, yoga, and shamanic journeying. Unlike the use of some entheogens and shamanic processes, the work is not done to you – cacao simply helps you to connect to whatever you want to. Cacao as a spiritual experience can open you up new discoveries about yourself, deeper connection with others, and some mighty life enjoyment as it enhances whatever you’re doing. Don’t expect a psychedelic trip, though you may experience some images and a warm hazy glow. There’s a lot of freedom to improvise within Cacao ceremonies, and they vary according to the ceremony creator, since little is known about exactly how they were done in ancient times. In a cacao ceremony, you will drink cacao in spread-out doses with others in a sacred way. You may experience tears and emotional release as the medicine of cacao undoes your repression and reveals what needs to shift in you. A word of warning: cacao, particularly ceremonial dosages, can cause headaches – and if you over-do the dose (over 3.5 oz/100 gms it too much), you can experience nausea and vomiting. If you give enough space, and get enough support, for emotional release this can reduce these kids of symptoms.
Letting Go of Busy-Ness Through Drinking Tea – and Using Cacao Ceremonially
The concept of mindfulness is key to Zen practice. The intention of tea ceremonies is to awaken calmness and peace in both body and soul, with a respectful, modest and polite attitude to others. Why do we need this? Well, how many times have you eaten or drunk something without even paying attention to it – wolfing lunch down while sitting on the laptop? A tea ceremony gives us a chance to slow down and let go of the endless stress and busy-ness, renewing our connection to life, ourselves and others.
There’s an indigenous myth that whenever the balance between humans and nature becomes threatened, the ‘teacher plant’ cacao comes from the rain forest to open people’s hearts and bring us back into harmony. The literal translation of ‘xocoatl’, an Indigenous Aztec word for drinkable chocolate, was ‘heart blood’ – and when you ingest cacao, you get a 30-40% greater blood flow. Cacao also contains the ‘bliss chemical’ anandamide, or ‘chocolate amphetamine’ which by changing our blood sugar and blood pressure levels, makes us excited and alert with an improved mood. But it’s not addictive like other caffeine or other stimulants. Anandamide also resembles THC, found in marijuana, bringing good vibes without the legal worries. Basically, the magic of cacao is that it opens up the energetic heart centre in powerful ways and helps us to release and process emotions. By using cacao ceremonially you will be able to go deeply into both your light and dark sides – exploring your multi-dimensionality and changing your reality.
Where to Get Started with Japanese tea ceremonies & How to Find Good Cacao
To try a tea ceremony at home, see this for starters. There are several different types of Japanese tea, but matcha is the type commonly used in tea ceremonies. You need quite a range of implements to do a true tea ceremony. Google or look on Meetup to find tea ceremonies and cacao ceremonies or groups near you. If you order cacao online, shop around for the best quality raw organic cacao. You can experiment with cacao at home, and can find some at health food stores and places with names like Guarana Bar. And not just any old chocolate will do. Most commercial chocolate has been processed out of all its beneficial properties – and even raw-food and organic chocolates vary dependng where the cacao’s been sourced and on other factors. A good source of cacao for spiritual purposes would be cacao grown wild by shamans – as the energy of the person who grows the plant, affects the consciousness of the plant itself.
Zen Practice, the Mayans and the Chocolate Shaman – the History of Tea & Cacao Ceremonies
Historically, serving and drinking tea became part of Zen practice over time, and included traditions like having a low door so that each person entering the room must bow. Sen no Rikyu in the 16th Century developed wabi-cha into a high art form, including flower arranging, a special kind of tea bowl, and other aspects of the tea-drinking experience. In China, tea was used by monks to keep them awake during meditation. Today, tea ceremonies have taken on a new life in the West. Cacao has a long history in Central and Southern American shamanism, and cacao was even worshipped as a deity in ancient times. Cacao was used as a currency by the Mayans, who inherited their cacao knowledge from the Olmecs. The Aztecs, who followed after the Mayans, saw the cacao tree as one of the great ‘world trees’. It’s only relatively recently that cacao ceremonies have taken off in the West, with a key figure being Keith Wilson, the ‘Chocolate Shaman’ and a Guatemala-based ceremony creator.
How will this help you to Switch On?
If you’re ready to transform, cacao is a powerful yet comparatively gentle plant medicine to assist you on your journey, opening you up to your heart, while tea ceremonies give you a taste of the sublime in the everyday moments, cultivating mindfulness and peace.
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