Linear or Fluid?

Here is a perspective from our dominate feminine and masculine, left and right brained perspectives – our view of the Cacao Ceremony we offer. Depending on how you interact with the world, you may resonate with an explanation that is more linear or fluid – or both!

Feminine & Creative

Gathering in circle we begin our dance together of learning to bridge our differences into a common ground. We weave the web of interconnection by opening Spirit Doors,  calling in & honoring elemental energies that exist in all of creation. We awaken the dormant seeds of collective wisdom that exists in all of our DNA, our Hearts, our Souls.

We become more animal-being (and less human-doing) as linear time fades into the distance. Our senses heighten…we become more aware of our bodies and how we experience ourselves and others.

Copal, Sage, Sweetgrass & Palo Santo fill the air. The Ancient Songs & Drum beats our hearts. The warmth & elegant bitterness of Mama Cacao Medicine enters our physical body – and we feel it – somehow – opening our heart.

Something is changing, shifting.

We are happy to rest as the Magical & Mystical Gong sounds envelope the room & help us in surrendering to the elemental forces in the room. We journey. We slow down. We rest. Gently coaxed back into an upright position, we gather again in Circle.

We have changed.

Become….more Whole, somehow – through this journey of our senses, our primal nature has been awakened and we breathe deeper.

Spirits renewed, we step our again into the world, ready to Serve.

Masculine & Linear

As humans we are designed to thrive when we have healthy guidelines and instructions on how to live. A child for example does best when he/she has parents who raise them with values, morals and behavioral norms.

A ceremony in affect acts as a container with clear instructions and protocols while still allowing for the creative nature of persons to experience and express. Our Cacao Ceremony reflects these values and principles. As there are so many aspects of ceremony that could be discussed, I will focus on four main components.

The four main “players” in our ceremony:  Central Altar, Cacao, Sound and Movement. Each brings its qualities rooted in indigenous wisdom and supported by modern scientific investigations.

Cacao brings to us a mixture of chemistry including Anandamide, high levels of antioxidants, Theobromine and Magnesium. What has been discovered is these natural occurring chemicals have a unique reaction on the physiology of the body. Anandamide acts a neuro-stimulant on the pleasure center of the brain. It creates a sense of natural euphoria and well- being. Magnesium in this natural sourced structure relaxes muscles, supports the heart and increases brain power. Having higher antioxidant levels per weight than red wine and pomegranates, it protects us from age-related conditions.

Gongs have been in use in rituals & ceremony for thousands of years in Asia. The Planetary Gongs are a unique twist that were first introduced by Hans Cousto in the late 70’s. A trained mathematician and musician he discovered a way to tune the frequencies of certain planets into Gongs. Depending on which type of planetary gong, a very specific frequency is created when played. What we know is – much like drumming used in shamanic practices – the gong initiates a change in our brains.

The brain operates on frequencies; our normal conscious state operates on Beta frequency (12-30 Hz). A gong induces Alpha and Theta brainwave frequencies almost immediately. Alpha waves (8-12 Hz) are present in states of relaxation such as daydreaming or use of imagination. Theta waves (4-7 Hz) are present during dream sleep or deep meditation. Sometimes, even Delta waves (.5-4 Hz), which are associated with deep sleep and other unconscious states, can be achieved.

After only a few minutes our output of brain waves change. The sounds of the gong resonate in every cell of our bodies in a powerful and effective way.

Our Cacao Ceremony handed down to us by our Ancestral Ties & Spirit has been particularly developed to be a rich experience.

Due to our training outside of our indigenous teachings, we acknowledge the value in including all the senses. Therefore, we consciously add the other “players” in our ceremony. Hearing the drums, rattles, flute and ancient songs, seeing & feeling the physical aspects on the altar, smelling the aroma of sacred plants, feeling our bodies in movement or in response to ceremony itself. These are well documented in scientific literature as part of our human experience.

What is a Sweat Lodge like?

Sweat Lodge

There are hundreds of sweat lodges run all over the world. Their impact on one’s life is evident by the fact that people continue to seek them out for deep healing. It’s important to point out if you have never been to a sweat lodge, not all lodges are the same. Having attended lodge ceremonies for more than eight years (and continue to do so monthly,  I’ve had the privilege to sit and experience many different ways in which they are run from traditional Lakota to non-denominational styles.

The variety of lodges and discussing lodge with first timers has brought me to realize the value in sharing my experience to help those first timers navigate their way through ceremony. This article is my view of the beautiful and powerful sweat lodge ceremony. I’ll share some of my understandings of this ceremony and things to be aware of to present oneself with respect and presence.

Article Summary

What is a Sweat Lodge?
Who’s Pouring?
What Tradition/Lineage?
Who are the Firekeepers?
Where are you at?

What is a Sweat Lodge?

First off, for those of you who have never experienced what a sweat lodge is, or don’t even know what it is, here’s more about it.

An amazing, multidimensional question….what is a sweat lodge like?

The first part of the answer to this question is … it depends. It’s always different. As anything non-linear is. It’s like asking, what is a kiss like? Or, can you tell me exactly what painting is like? Or watching a sunset …. you get the idea.

I’ve found that there are a few main factors that influence what a sweat lodge is like ~ ~ ~

Let’s break it down….as best we can.

Who’s Pouring? 

“Who’s Pouring” means – who is leading the sweat lodge ceremony. You’ll often hear people say – who’s pouring water today? It will make more sense once you enter the lodge and see the process. I’ve heard one pourer refer to a sweat lodge as a multidimensional spaceship, another as a living medicine wheel.

I’ve found that it makes a huge difference on what the lodge is like by who is leading it. I encourage you to be cautious in attending a lodge by someone you have never met before. Find out about who will be leading it and what traditions they follow. Many good pourers are willing to – often even request – that you engage in a conversation with them before attending. In this age of many teachings being shared, it’s important to be careful with your energy. This ancient ceremony is very powerful – treat it as such.

I’ve been to lodges where the pourer has quite a bit of ego, and the ceremony will reflect this – it will be very very hot, and they will do their best to try to get you to stay inside, as if it’s a competition, even if your body is telling you it’s time to leave. I’ve been to lodges where the pourer has not cared who the firekeepers are, and again the experience inside will reflect this.

I’ve also had the fortunate experience to go to lodges where the pourer is extremely caring, integrous and honoring of the power of the ceremony. They know how to track each individual person and how they are doing energetically – yes, even in the dark womb of the lodge. They check in on people, and they do not treat it as a competition. They lead the ceremony from the standpoint of the “weakest link”, i.e., whomever is having the hardest time, they adjust the lodge to this person.

My advice is: check out the person who will be leading you in this ancient purification ceremony. Talk to them beforehand, see how they respond to your questions. If you have the opportunity, ask others who have sat with them before to tell you of their experience. It matters.

What Tradition/Lineage?

I’ve been to very traditional Lakota lodges, non-traditional Lakota lodges, Rainbow lodges, Mexica, and non-denominational lodges. Each lodge is very different in how they are led, who is accepted in, the etiquette,  what songs are sung, who is allowed to sing, what instruments are allowed in, what herbs are used, if mooning (i.e., bleeding women) are allowed in, etc. etc.!

Generally, a sweat lodge ceremony will have four rounds of prayer. These rounds are based around an intention, and usually songs are sung in each round for specific purposes. You can imagine how different each lodge can be!

KiAtswn and I highly recommend to have an idea of what tradition you are following if you are invited to a sweat lodge ceremony. There are protocols to follow in native traditions that many Westerners are not aware of, and can be extraordinarly offensive to the people leading the ceremony if they are not respected.

One safe rule is to always bring tobacco with you when attending a sweat lodge. Tobacco is a very sacred plant to native peoples. It shows respect and honor to the pourer when you give them tobacco before the ceremony. It’s also a way of giving the spirits who show up for the ceremony”food” and of asking permission to be part of the ceremony.

You may have heard a sweat lodge ceremony called “Inipi”, which is a Lakota term meaning purification. The word can be broken down to give a deeper meaning. “Ni” refers to the life force we are given at birth. “Pi” means abiding or perhaps continuing. So we could say (from this Lakota term) it’s the ceremony to help continue our life force.

Even if the lodge you attending is not Lakota, this way of explaining it is a lovely way of describing it, and something to anchor to.

Who are the Firekeepers?

I’ve been to lodges where, when I arrived a couple hours ahead of time, the pourer was looking for people to help keep the fire and carry rocks. This is a huge signal to me if I see this – to me, it means that the pourer is not in relationship with the fire and the people who will be with the fire, and that the ceremony will reflect this.

“Keeping fire” is another ceremony in itself, and I know many firekeepers who take this role extremely seriously.  “Carrying rocks” loosely means gathering the rocks from the fire and transporting them to inside the lodge. Again, this is a very sacred duty, and I have observed often not truly honored.

At a lodge we regularly attend, the water pourer is very connected with all of her firekeepers, and keeps a close watch on how they treat the fire, how they carry the rocks (Grandfather Stones), how they deliver the rocks, etc. The firekeepers are honored especially in each ceremony, where she invites them in at a certain point and honors them with gratitude & prayers for their lives. She knows that by taking care of them, they take care of the ceremony. It’s a beautiful example of a living & reciprocal exchange of energy. She knows that being a firekeeper is a very hard duty and service – and a calling.

Where are you at? 

Like pretty much anything, your state of being will determine how you will experience something. This is true of this ceremony also. KiAtswn and I have found over the years that how “hot” a lodge was and how “hard” the experience was was based on our level of resistance. I remember one lodge that I barely experienced as being warm KiAtswn found to be suffocatingly hot. And vice versa!

How is that possible? We have found the explanation to be about what our state of being is inside the lodge. What are we praying for in our lives? Who are we praying for? Are we resistant to something we are praying for? Are we resistant to something or someone in the lodge? Our experience will reflect this.

One pourer I have learned from speaks about letting the steam from the rocks go through you, instead of shrinking away from the steam. What a metaphor for our lives – how can we go through something, standing tall and looking it straight in the eye, instead of shrinking away from it?

In Conclusion (for now)

A sweat lodge ceremony is an individual experience that is challenging to pin down or describe. As part of my role on the planet is being a bridge, it feels necessary to share what I’ve learned for those who don’t know where to start on a more earth-based ceremony path. I’ve attempted to give a brief description to help my fellow Westerners who are new to this sacred and beautiful ceremony an introduction. Feel free to reach out if you have more questions.

Us after a sweat – wow we were tired! And in a lovely space, too.


Using Cacao in Ceremony

This feels like a hot topic these days – especially where we are currently based in Southern California. The word “cacao” and “ceremony” have become household words, and you are hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard of these terms, and either been to one, hosts them, or can’t wait to get to one.

I read the other day on Facebook from a community member in San Diego that they were going to purge if they heard of another cacao ceremony happening. I cringed, as the last thing I want to “be or do” is follow the status quo because it’s cool, because it’s hot.

Apart from that, this community member spoke to cultural appropriation and how she felt that people hosting cacao ceremonies are appropriating a culture that “isn’t theirs”. I speak more about that here.

So, the question is- what does this ceremony mean to us? Why are we investing time & energy into hosting these gatherings? Why do we lug all of our equipment (gongs, drums, rattles, feathers, wands, herbs, crystals, cacao beans, etc) with little assistance into places that are hard to get to – and sometimes with little attendance? Why do we risk being thought of as being “cultural appropriators”?

I could go into the linear or even non-linear description of what cacao does for us, and of course, yes, claro, that’s part of it.

I could talk about the urgency for our world’s health of gathering in circles, of horizontal thinking, or even what the Kogi call “Pensar Bonito”.

I could say, well it’s about the symbology we are bringing to it, the intention of balancing the masculine and feminine in our own and the world’s natures.

I could say it’s about the Prophecies of this time period, and how we feel we  (and you) are a part of activating them, and that we are magnifying this by praying together.

I could talk about our backgrounds, both ancestral and spirit ties, that give us “permission” to host this gathering.

But the true reason we host them?

Simple: because we are being led to. We have been told time and again by spirits and guides we connect with & receive guidance from that this ceremony is something to keep showing up for, keep bringing to people, keep refining, keep loving and keep praying into.


Amuha & Ki