Breakups suck.

First, there’s the main event — the instant heartbreak. It elicits a visceral response that lasts for a few days: upset stomach, full-body heaviness and tears on tears on tears. But I’d argue that the weeks and months that follow a breakup conversation are actually far more painful — we’re talking about “getting over” someone.

This phase can feel like it lasts forever. And maybe, for some people who never really move on from a failed relationship, it does. When you’re trying to put your life back together in the aftermath of a relationship, you’ll try anything to feel normal and happy again. Which is how I found myself sitting on the floor in a room full of men and women, drinking raw cacao poured into my ceremonial cup by a Mexican shaman.

Let me back up. I’ll start by saying that yes, although I was single the first time I attended a cacao ceremony, I wasn’t looking for a mystical ritual to heal my broken heart. Honestly, I was really over my last relationship, and I’d found myself in that sweet spot of being happily, selfishly  single. What actually attracted me to the cacao ceremony? My love of chocolate.

As a superfood, cacao is relatively familiar to most people interested in wellness. It’s an antioxidant-rich smoothie add-in, the main ingredient in raw chocolate fudge and it’s loaded with vitamins, minerals and other beneficial compounds. Although it’s become a regular item on the shelves of Whole Foods, cacao has been an important spiritual drink for Mayans for centuries.

A ceremonial dose of superfood cacao is said to be a powerful heart opener, and has been used for centuries to release negative emotions and unlock euphoric states. It’s said that Mayan chiefs would drink cacao before making deals and sitting down for important conversations, because its heart-opening effects could help facilitate peaceful conversation.

Mindfully sipping on a raw cacao drink will definitely make you feel something — the theobromine in cacao triggers a subtle dopamine release in the brain — but gathering with a group to share the drink for an evening can be completely transformative.

At my first cacao ceremony, our shaman Maria Kupuli ladled the warm cacao drink into ceramic cups. We then placed our right hands on top of the mugs and left hands beneath them while we said a prayer of gratitude. After that, we sipped on the cacao until everyone had polished off their dose. (In its raw form it’s highly concentrated and a little bitter.) After a few sips you may start to feel a little elevated … not high, per se, but certain senses become more heightened. Some people even feel their heart rate increase. Maria proceeded to sing us traditional Mexican shamanic songs and led us through a heart opening meditation. Afterwards, we were encouraged to write about our experiences while they were still fresh.

Looking back on my notes from my first cacao party, I was surprised to see how many breakthroughs and inspired ideas I had jotted down. It was as if the cacao had deepened my usual meditation practice and had given me a new perspective on some problems I couldn’t quite figure out. Everyone in the circle was invited to share, and many people noted that they experienced a sense of inner calm, acceptance and gentle epiphany during the evening’s festivities.

Cacao ceremonies pop up every now and then on Conscious City Guide, but you can even hold your own sacred ceremony at home with some close friends. Simply mix one cup of water with two heaping tablespoons of raw cacao (or a raw cacao block, if you can find it!), plus honey and cinnamon to taste. Bring to a light boil while whisking to incorporate. Sip your cacao mindfully and take a few minutes to meditate, light some candles, or even lay out some crystals if you’re feeling really hippie woo-woo. When you’re done, take a few minutes to write down any visions, thoughts or ideas that came up for you. Act accordingly.

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