A few years ago, I was flipping through a celebrity magazine, and on one of the pages, they’d asked different celebs what their guilty pleasures were. Most gave the typical answers like wine, chocolate, or online shopping, but one person, I wish I remembered who, wrote: “I don’t have any because I never feel guilty about my pleasures.”
The perfection of this caught me off guard, and it had such an impact on me. I’ve actually seen it quoted by a few different people since then, but the origin isn’t important. What’s important is how profound and amazing a concept this is.
Living things are hardwired to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Obviously, right? It’s a survival mechanism, but also, what would be the point of living if it weren’t for pleasure? Somewhere along the way (many would blame organized religion, but that’s a whole other topic), the idea arose that pleasure was to be avoided and that to “indulge” in pleasure must require a healthy dose of guilt.
The message this sends is that we can’t be trusted around pleasure as if it will derail us, or something. In this scenario, guilt acts to protect us from ourselves and keep us “safe and in line.”
I’d like to propose though, that instead of only occasionally indulging in pleasure, while also feeling guilty about it, we just fully own it and make our lives as full of pleasure as possible. I think if we made pleasure (which translates to happiness) a priority, the world would be a much better place.
Because we’re so stingy with it, we’ve come to associate pleasure with selfishness or greed. But if we were more open with it, we’d see that it’s the exact opposite! Pleasure is like rocket fuel for our lives and the more we embrace pleasure, the happier and more loving and generous we can be.
How do you feel after a day of hard work, having also denied yourself delicious food, rest, or play? Are you full of energy and ready to help others? Or do you want to simultaneously cry, sleep, and eat a tub of ice cream? Now compare that to how you feel after a day of chatting with friends, eating delicious food, being outside, and having some great sex (or whatever it is that you find pleasurable). You probably feel happy, at peace, and more open to helping others.
Pleasure doesn’t have to be an expensive or lengthy process (i.e. it doesn’t need to involve a trip to the spa or a five-star resort). It can truly be as simple as taking a few deep breaths, making yourself some tea, or hugging someone you love. The beauty of pleasure is its simplicity. Pleasure means caring about yourself and offering yourself the love that you deserve.
While I write this, I keep pausing to check in on my breath and any tension in my body. The more I breathe and relax, the more pleasurable anything and everything feels. Practicing presence is practicing pleasure.
I also believe that we should be able to eat chocolate, drink champagne, take mid-day naps in the sun, go for 2-hour massage appointments, and buy ourselves beautiful things. We are spiritual beings living in a physical world, and the best way to celebrate this is by diving head first into the pleasures that this physical world can offer. We are here to have fun!
Most importantly, I think it’s important that we don’t see these as guilty pleasures that we only earn by putting in a hard day’s work. I want us to see pleasure as our prerogative, our birthright, and a celebration of what it means to be alive. I want us to know that pleasure doesn’t have to be earned.
I used to take life so seriously and having fun just didn’t seem overly important. But life changed for me, not all at once, but gradually, when I changed my perspective on pleasure. It got a whole lot more fun and a whole lot more amazing. I’ve made fun and pleasure my spiritual practice, and I am never looking back.
Love chocolate? Well chocolate loves YOU! We discover how in ceremonial doses, raw cacao is a powerful heart opener that paves the way to transformation through self-love…
A while back, we had an intern working at The Numinous who celebrated turning 21 at a raw cacao ceremony. “Most of my friends would have been downing shots of tequila…but I was getting high on chocolate!” she joked. But it turns out raw, ceremonial grade cacao has been used for centuries to unlock euphoric states, release negative emotions, and connect to pure heart energy.
Chocolate + ecstatic healing and transformation. Seriously, is anybody NOT down for some of that?
Guinevere Short has been working with cacao in ceremony since she founded Heart Beats Raw Cacao and Dance Ceremonies in 2013. We got her to give us the lowdown on why chocolate is essentially a catalyst to radical self-love…
WHERE AND WHEN DID CACAO CEREMONIES ORIGINATE? It’s thought cacao was first used as a health elixir and ceremonial medicine as far back as 1900 BC by the ancestors of Central America, the Olmec people, before becoming a ritualistic medicine used by the Aztec and Mayan cultures. Signifying both life and fertility, it was ingested by Royalty in ceremonial God worship and in sacrificial ritual.
CACAO IS ASSOCIATED WITH UNIVERSAL LOVE – WHY IS THIS? IS THIS WHY WE GIFT CHOCOLATE TO OUR LOVERS? Due to certain active ingredients that help release ‘feel good’ emotions, cacao is considered a heart opener. Creating feelings of emotional intimacy and pleasure, it has long been considered a luxurious delicacy, especially with the addition of sugar and spices to suit modern palates. Without realizing, we still get to enjoy a small fraction of it’s potential when we eat cacao in a regular chocolate bar. And yes, this is why it has become associated with romantic gestures and pleasurable indulgence!
WHAT IS A CACAO CEREMONY, AND WHEN DO PEOPLE SEEK THIS MEDICINE OUT? A cacao ceremony is an opportunity to connect to yourself and open your heart. Because of cacao’s ability to increase your connection to your inner self and your heart chakra, it aids in any transformational shift you are working towards, whether you are looking to deepen your understanding of who you are, release old patterns and traumas, or move into a more self-confident space. Whatever your path, the intention is yours to set, and the cacao allows you to the insight and awareness to move towards that goal.
HOW DOES A CEREMONY GO – WHAT’S THE RUN OF PLAY? I have attended many different ceremonies, and they vary in their approach. I was introduced to cacao initially by my mentor, Daisy Kaye, who brings in a powerful five elements dance journey, and I have also worked with a shaman in Guatemala who honors the cacao with meditation and inner reflection. In the ceremonies that I hold space for, we begin by sitting in sacred circle, honoring the cacao spirit with shamanic prayer, and humbly asking for our intentions to be heard. We serve the cacao in liquid form, and drink together.
Depending on what’s being called for, I intuitively offer sound healing or meditation. We then enter into a sharing with each other, of what we want to let go of and what we are calling in, which creates an intention for our journey. This is a very safe and intimate space, and the people that attend always surprise themselves at how they are able to open up to strangers, especially when they start to realize they we are all a mirror for each other, all just human beings with the same fears and sufferings, the same hopes and dreams. We end with dance, during which the cacao activates within the body and the heart, allowing a truly transformative and ecstatic process to unfold.
HOW IS THE CACAO SOURCED AND PREPARED? WHAT IS A CEREMONIAL DOSE? I have used cacao from Bali, Equador and Mexico, but I discovered a ceremonial grade cacao sourced in Guatemala by a man now internationally known as the Cacao Shaman, who has been working with the medicine and connecting it to the Western world for many years. Keith and his Guatemalan compadre Tat Isaias (Tat meaning Shaman) work alongside the local indigenous community to provide the highest grade cacao possible, grown in the purest conditions and harvested and prepared with love. A ceremonial dose is around 1 – 2 oz of cacao, mixed with water into a drink. Traditionally cacao was served with chilli and honey, but I have sometimes combined it with other herbs or super foods to assist a particular journey.
WHAT IS THE IMMEDIATE PHYSIOLOGICAL EFFECT? One of the main active ingredients that we experience in our physiology during ceremony is Theobromine. Theo-broma literally translates as God-Food, and potentiates the release of dopamine, the ‘pleasure’ hormone. This, alongside phenethylamine, which is known to help relieve stress and depression and which is released in the body during emotional euphoria, create heightened sensation and empathy. Alongside these, the high amount of nutrients in the cacao support and nourish the body, whilst also inducing a detoxifying effect on the liver and kidneys.
AND THE EMOTIONAL IMPACT? Due to the euphoria inducing ingredients, the emotional impact can be profound. Everything feels heightened within the physical and emotional body, including your awareness to your deepest sense of self and to your heart. The experience of love and empathy, particularly for yourself, can literally feel as if your heart is opening like a flower. With this, the body can become flooded with the many emotions stored in the heart, some of which can be painful. It is not always an easy experience, and I have seen many tears shed as people peel away old layers of hurt. But as the cacao facilitates a deep sense of self-love, tears are always followed by smiles of deep gratitude. In other moments, the sheer ecstasy felt from the cacao can be described as nothing other than a divine experience.
WHY IS THIS SUCH A PERSONAL PASSION OF YOURS? Because I believe in love! In the heart. In opening wide to our potential to follow that heart and be guided into the most alive and joyous expression of our selves possible. Acting on the momentum this creates, people can transform their lives to be living in their highest potential, creating positive experiences for themselves and everyone around them. This for me is a story of evolution; the more that people connect to self-love and awareness of themselves and their behaviors, the more that they can make loving and conscious choices for the greater good of all.
My personal story is that cacao has been part of a journey to heal myself from a chronic illness that left me bed ridden for most of a year. I had lost any sense of who I was or why I was here. Cacao came into my life at a time of transformation, and revealed insights to me that I had waited years for. It was a big part of restoring me to feeling fully alive in myself, totally connected, and fully empowered. Now I am truly blessed to be able to share that medicine with others.
HOW HAVE YOU SEEN PEOPLE’S LIVES CHANGE AS A RESULT OF WORKING WITH CACAO? I am continually amazed by the transformational aspect of working with cacao, and there have been many emails and phone calls to tell me that since the cacao ceremony, ‘everything has changed’. I think cacao gives you the space to enter into a place of deep reflection and self communion. It allows you access to the subconscious to reveal and heal the deepest aspects of yourself. Especially when used in a ceremonial and intentional way, cacao gives you an opportunity to move towards the fullest expression of who you truly are…and this can be catalytic in removing barriers in all areas of your life; relationships, career, personal growth, creativity, or wherever your focus is. Ultimately, cacao can help deepen your connection to your heart, and expand your capacity to love and be loved. In a world where we’re realizing that everything is love, that’s a pretty potent medicine. And everyone deserves a taste.