You’d call me a nutter if I told you how a cup of hot chocolate helped me get in touch with my creativity. And that statement really does sound crazy. Because it is much more limited, lexically, than the expanse of feeling behind it.
Ceremonial grade cacao is more than a Horlix, however. Based in Guatemala, Keith’s Cacao provides shipments all over the world of the stuff, as well as ceremonies and meditations to help people find the Cacao Spirit and experience that connection. On the website, (www.keithscacao.com) cacao is described as “100% Pure” and there it says it “provides a sustained energy boost and mental clarity that enhances any creative and productive endeavour”. I signed up to a 22 day cacao retreat focusing on creativity with the fantastic Katrin Hahner, and journeyed to discover if that advertising statement proves true. In this month’s newsletter I will relay that journey, all I learn on it, and how I will utilised my newfound knowledge moving on.
The first time I drank cacao I must have been around 14 or 15 years old. I thought it was rank. I was used to Cadbury’s, and certainly not such a rich, strong flavour. I tried it with cow’s milk, vegan milk, water, sugar, sweeteners, cinnamon, cardamom, the lot. I just did not like the taste. But I would still drink it for the benefits, even though I was kind of oblivious to what they were.
Then I lost touch with it. I went down different paths. When I was younger I would do a lot of meditation and mantra. But in recent years, these practices have been put on the back burner. I have focused more on yoga asana, and little guided meditations here and there, but I let go of the hand of voyaging within. I couldn’t sit still, I couldn’t focus, and I couldn’t be bothered. Simple as that.
Then I started this 22 day cacao retreat, where meditation was part of the programme, and I wanted to milk the timetable for all it was worth.
I poured myself that first cup of cacao, with water, and added some maple syrup and cinnamon. I felt almost awkward about it. I was worried I would be holding my nose and guzzling it down; that I still didn’t like the taste. But on that first sip, after having given respect and recognition to the cacao spirit, I felt the thick, hotness of the drink flow into me, and it was delicious. I felt it quite metaphorical. I had put off something beneficial for me for years, and in a random turn of events, I know loved it. The same happened with the meditations. I wasn’t stressed out and fidgety; if I needed to readjust my posture of legs, I just did it, instead of fretting for the whole meditation about an ache or pain or tingle and missing all the good bit. I wasn’t nonchalant; I knew where I wanted the energy to go, and I led it there, or let myself be led by it, wherever it wanted to go.
I compared this to my new found love of onions. For years I would pick them out of food, or cut them so tiny I wouldn’t be able to detect them in my meals. Then early this year, out of nowhere, I just bloody loved the flavour and texture and couldn’t get enough. I’m not at the point of eating them like an apple just yet, but I still can’t believe how quick that switch around was.
And life can be funny that way. It can be temperamental and transcendental. “All things must pass” said George Harrison, and I understand that more than ever right now. Music I used to hate sounds good now. Food I used to hate tastes good now. Clothing I used to hate wears well now. I am evolving, and changing, and it is natural and passing me by before I even take note of it. I can tell when I am comfortable and relaxed and free from anxieties; it is when I told think about what I’m doing or saying before, during or after I do or say it. These little metamorphoses are happening constantly; whether it be taken up as a physical, mental or spiritual shift. Perhaps I don’t need to chart all of them when they happen, but just ease through it. I loved how Katrin said “YES”. It is more than a three letter word. It is a way to live life.
We had three Zoom calls to meet as a group during the 22 days. The first was purely introductory. We explained our intentions, and shared little bits about ourselves. The second was deeper; we were quite a bit into the retreat at that point and all getting to the cores of our creativities and perhaps our blockages in that area. It was amazing to step into this community; it felt safe and warm and comfortable. I loved being able to share freely with likeminded people that didn’t expect anything from me.
The third and final Zoom ended up being just Katrin and I. I’ll admit, I was a little bit nervous about this. I knew the session was scheduled to run for over an hour, and I was scared to not know what to say. We started it off with an opening meditation with cacao, and when Katrin guided me to explore how I was truly feeling in that moment, I got the balls to admit I was anxious about the call. It was faced, and it was detangled. My shoulders relaxed a bit, and my breathing flattened. My forehead unwrinkled. When Katrin told me to open my eyes, I felt ready for an intimate conversation with her and confident that with the cacao and the comfort of her guidance, I wouldn’t find myself in the deep end. I still had a few flutters, but once we started chatting back and forth, those butterflies found home in a different belly and my own wings spread. We spoke seamlessly, about a myriad of different things. It was enlightening, inspiring and something I will always cherish.
Katrin is an artist and musician. She is an apprentice of shamanism and leads cacao ceremonies frequently. She is as cool as a cucumber; in style, presence and personality. I found myself constantly inspired by her and her wisdom. She is also a dearly kind heart and soul; beautiful in every aspect. She made this retreat so special and effective. Meeting women like this as a young female myself is something I find vital to my own journey. Being able to see other women doing things I wish to do, being things I wish to be, is pure encouragement to stay on the right path.
Katrin’s social media links are:
And her Instagram is:
Please check her out and support her! You won’t regret it.
During a conversation with the group on Zoom, I told them how through this 22 day journey, I have reintroduced myself to myself. Each day we had writing prompts that pushed us to explore ourselves, our goals and our stumbling blocks in a deeper capacity. I find it easier to do things like this with guidance and a set task. I can write poetry off my own mind all day long, but I do find stronger motivation if I’m writing towards a recognised goal.
At the start of the retreat, we were asked to set intentions. Everyone else bought 1 or 2 to the first Zoom, and of course I bought bloody 5. But, these were the points that came to me during the first cacao ceremony, so I listened to them. I spoke first on the Zoom call anyway, so any embarrassment of my overly excessive input was shrouded by the others talking!
My intentions were:
- To be confident in all aspects of my life and never embarrassed of myself.
- To prioritise my creative work and ensure this succeeds as a lifelong career.
- To work hard, always. Never slack on the things that matter.
- To surround myself with good people that love, inspire and care for me. To not fall into bad crowds that make me second guess myself.
- To allow myself to be loved and to stop pushing away anyone who provides an opportunity to be.
And a woman on the Zoom inspired me to add another one, which was:
- Allow life to flow through and around me – to be present and free in everything.
Referencing back to these intentions, and answering the writing prompts in an instinctive and reactive manner, as in, trying not to analyse the question too much and skewing my answer with doubt, I got to rediscover my needs and wants in an open, honest and trusting space. The space of Me. It reignited my burning desire to pursue poetry and music as my lifelong vocation. Of course these desires were never put on the back burner, but this retreat reminded me that they need to be at the forefront, always, and that I need to put all my effort and work into making those dreams a reality. This doesn’t mean sacrificing everything and myself to do so; it means respecting my talent and longing enough to make shit happen. It also debunked quite a few anxieties I had, like thinking my artwork is shite and not worthy of being made. I know now it doesn’t matter if it’s crap; it’s the fact I’m making it in the first place that counts! I don’t need to create masterpieces; I just need to create. We also had a day dedicated to dispelling the notion that drama = creativity. I used to truly think that putting myself through torture was the only way I could create great poetry. I thought heartbreak, loneliness and depression were the only things that got me in the perfect place to write. I thought, “who wants to read poetry about unicorns and rainbows?”. But happiness isn’t some corny state worthy of so much cringe and dismissal. When I moved out of London, away from all my friends and social life, I had to spend a lot of time alone – bored and miserable and mundane. But it was only months after, when the fog started to lift, that I realised I had written and been creative throughout the whole ordeal. So, I didn’t need the drama and the chaos to be creative. The next idea that needed dispelling, was that I could only write poetry if I drank alcohol. I was hooked on this idea that to be a true creative you needed to be some alcoholic with thirty cats and a messy house. But I went sober, and lived the most boring chapter of my story so far, and the pen was never put down. It taught me that the creativity was inside of me; the talent and the skill weren’t effected by what was going on around me. All I needed was to respect it enough to flourish in its own sunlight, and to stop piling manure onto it in hopes of fruition. Hearing this in Katrin’s words, and learning of her experience of overcoming this, was comforting and inspiring. I hope reading this newsletter you have a similar experience.
One exercise we did was to create a superhero. This was essentially just writing down attributes that you find vital in a good person, or even a great one. We then had to mark 5 which we found the most important.
My 10 were:
- Cares for all life.
- A symbol of pure love.
- Sees all sides of the coin.
- Speaks in poems.
- Finds beauty in everything.
- Strong self-healing ability.
- Heals others.
- Non-discriminatory and helps make others so.
- A magnet and source of comfort.
The 5 I starred as top were:
- Cares for all life.
- Sees all sides of the coin.
- Strong self-healing ability.
- Non-discriminatory and helps make others so.
- A magnet and source of comfort.
This exercise helped me to realise what parts of myself I either value most, or need to work on most. By writing down values as if they were attached to a dream figure, I could be free and a little bit silly. But realistically all of the things I wrote matter a lot to me, including the five that weren’t starred. I love the simplicity of this exercise, as as Katrin says, “be childlike, not childish”. I have learnt how important this is. If you watch kids when they are just having fun, they don’t give a fuck. They aren’t caught up in the evils of adulthood; the worries, the insecurities, the negativities. They just giggle and play and let loose. It’s inspiring. If we approached all things with this fearlessness and freedom, I think we would find ourselves with less hang-ups and what-ifs.
Another one of the exercises was to tailor our own mantra. Inspired by Dr Jacqueline Hobbs (www.oraclegirl.org), mine came to be:
“In an easy and relaxed manner, in a healthy and positive way, in its own perfect time and for the highest good of all, I now manifest… receiving, giving and being pure love!”
Since doing this, I’ve subconsciously started to weave this notion into everything. This retreat taught me that everything we do is a creative endeavour. Cooking dinner? You’re creating a meal. Getting dressed? You’re creating a look. We do things without presence so often, we forget the power we all have. Painting, writing, dancing, are all fantastic creative outlets that bring ecstasy, but even the simple, mundane tasks of life are dripping in creativity. And why don’t we do all of those things with pure love?
During that final Zoom call, Katrin spoke about leaving hate behind by simply shifting our speech. Instead of saying, “I HATE the colour blue”, you can say, “I LOVE the colour pink”. Instead of saying, “I HATE walking”, you can say, “I LOVE driving”. Instead of saying, “I HATE them”, you can say, “I LOVE those”. Can you imagine how much more positivity can spread through our lives if we move into a space of embracing all the things we like and love, and simply not pay mind to the things we hate or dislike? It’s hard, and trust me I’m still working on it myself, but I loved this idea.
Of course, poetry is my main focus when it comes to creativity. It is my life essence; my drive. It is what keeps me in tune with my emotions and in control of my pitfalls. It creates something magical out of darkness, and it is what aids me throughout all the dips of this rollercoaster we call life. In the ceremonies and meditations, Katrin encouraged us to do anything creative that came up. I wrote a few poems, and I would like to share them to finish off this newsletter. Love, and take care. Here goes:
I’m syrupy with cosmic energy;
Dripping in God’s sweet delicacy
Of delicately fountained memories –
From stone and skin, toes and trees,
Cacao, the spirit and the breeze
Of my femininity, as it meets
On the heartbeat of my divinity
And merges with my masculinity.
I say Yes to creativity; definitely.
It’s definitively what makes me breath
So sweet, and psychedelically,
Because I’m within when I’m with
My passionate practicalities
Yet beneath the materiality,
There’s this raging fire of sanity’s
Sobriety, and a juicy jiggling
Of what makes me, Me.
It needs to be said by You,
No one else would do.
It’d be like trying to fit
The other foot’s shoe,
Onto a cunt with no feet.
I am the Universe.
If it weren’t
none of This would Be
and it could be worst.
But if all the I’s
we’d realise how
only exists in each
of our Heads.
Get Over The Scraps
If I’m eternal – and I believe I am –
Then why am I so worried about a handful of moments
Where I fucked up?
When they sit amongst
A thousand times
That I shined in my pure love?
There is Nothing I don’t.
And if I can’t choose;
Then I simply won’t.
A final thank you to Keith, Katrin, and all the other participants on this cacao retreat. I have learnt a lot, about myself, others and the world, and found inspiration round every corner. I’m excited to utilise all of this as I integrate it all into my life, and enhance my creativity, as I see now how it is the most important thing in the world. God, or whoever made all this, was a child playing with paint when he rolled out creation. The tiniest speck of clay is creativity. And what were Adam and Eve made of? By hands, like ours, that knew just what to do. We are all capable in our own ways of embracing and expressing creativity. And it is never too early or too late to open that door. Don’t feel like you have to become Picasso or Jimi Hendrix overnight, or even at all. Each body you pass on the tube or in traffic holds a whole universe inside of it; a whole network and life that matches your own. If it wasn’t for you, none of this would exist. You create everyday through this notion. Be proud of yourself.
WIAEA (What I Am Excited About):
Song: If Loved by Kenichi & The Sun – A beautiful song by Katrin, that was shared on the retreat to listen to as we did something creative. I listened to it on loop for about an hour. It is soothing and gorgeous and unique. I recommend the whole album.
Book: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – Wow. What a heartbreaking book. I couldn’t put it down. It is a novel about police brutality in America, told from the point of view of sixteen year old Starr who sees her friend killed by a policeman even though he did nothing wrong – an all too regular occurrence. Using AAVE and black references and slang throughout the book, Thomas creates a realistic and authentic world that makes the happenings hit even harder. It provides insight, and an opportunity for those who have never lived that life or that fear, to understand it.