Learning How to Love Chocolate (continued)

The first part of this story is about my realization that chocolate really isn’t so bad. For as long as I can remember I didn’t like chocolate. But things are starting to change. Read Part 1 here.

The second cacao ceremony was a complete heart-opener.

Before the ceremony started, I was having a great day at the Mystical Yoga Farm, the spiritual community in Guatemala where I spent the winter. I woke up and stayed in bed to write myself a love poem (read that here). Then I fasted for the ceremony. Fasting is supposed to intensify the experience.

Cacao, or chocolate before it’s processed, has been used ceremonially for centuries in Latin America.

Continue reading

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Learning How to Love Chocolate

I have a confession to make: I don’t really like chocolate. This single taste preference has excluded me from many crucial bonding moments with other females. I’ve never devoured away my pain in a pint of chocolate ice cream or bought a chocolate bar when it’s that time of the month. I’ve never spontaneously bought a chocolate bar in the grocery store line or willingly chose chocolate cake at a birthday party. When I’ve received chocolate for various holidays, I’ve always given it away.

I’ve felt like this about chocolate for as long as I can remember. So when people have offered me some, I’ve politely declined. But recently I’ve learned that chocolate isn’t just one set thing. Chocolate comes in all different shapes and sizes. I’ve learned that even though I don’t like chocolate, I love cacao.

Cacao, chocolate before it’s processed, originates in Latin America. In its purest form chocolate is not sweet; it’s bitter. In the United States and Europe chocolate is inundated with milk and sugar, and most often, the ceremonial aspect of cacao is forgotten about. Until I went to Central America I had no idea that people used cacao as a plant-based medicine in ceremonies. Until I went to Central America I had no idea that chocolate is a plant, that chocolate grows on trees. Continue reading

What Life is Really Like at the Mystical Yoga Farm

Most days at the Mystical Yoga Farm feel like a dream. I feel like I’ve been here for an eternity. I’ve been here for 32 days.

I’m living in a lush roadless forest without a town name. I’m surrounded by the growth of green plants, flowers, vegetables and fruits. Sunlight dances across the lake almost every day. I stare at volcanoes every single day.

Loose leaf tea is served all day along with fresh fruit. Most of the food is cooked in coconut oil. The salad greens are picked fresh from our garden for every meal. A gong is rung when meals are ready. We sing songs to bless the food before we eat. I eat hand rolled freshly made tortillas a few times a week. We om before and after everything. Click to fall in love with life at the farm

24 Hours in San Pedro

San Pedro La Laguna is a town on the southwest shore of Lago Atitlán that sits beneath Volcan San Pedro. With a population of about 13,000 people, it’s primarily inhibited by Tz’utujil Mayans, expats and backpackers.

From the farm a group of us took a private boat to San Pedro and got dropped off at the west side dock: muelle municipal. This is also the dock where boats, lanchas in Spanish, arrive from and depart to Panajachel. Continue reading

Market Life in Santiago Atitlán

Hoy was mi primero tiempo going to the mercado in Santiago Atitlán. Santiago is the town diagonally across the lake from the Mystical Yoga Farm. To get to any other towns from the farm (other then the village of Chacaya), we have to take a boat to Santiago first.

Santiago is a mostly indigenous Mayan community of around 50,000 people on Lake Atitlán. The locals speak Tz’utujil (pronounced two-two-hill). There are a handful of ex-pats who also live in Santiago.  Women and most of the young females wear traditional woven stripped long skirts and huipiles, shirts embroidered with colorful birds and flowers. Continue reading

Life lead me to the Mystical Yoga Farm

Inca Medicine Wheel

Inca Medicine Wheel

Update: The day I posted this blog was the last day of the year of the snake in the Chinese tradition. I found out the next day. So when I arrived the farm not only was it the cycle of the serpent, it was also the rounding up of all the remaining snake energy.

When I arrived at the Mystical Yoga Farm on January 5th, it was the day of the serpent. The farm follows the Peruvian Inca Medicine Wheel where an animal represents each cardinal point. The direction of the wind and the animal that compliments that direction guide the cycle of life at the farm. The serpent is the wind of the south who teaches us the way to walk on the earth with gentleness, beauty and care, who teaches us to shed our past and egos, who is the primary life force, who drives deep into the darkest places, and who is healer and helps us return to innocence. Instantly, this serpent energy spoke to me.

I came to the Mystical Yoga Farm to deepen my journey inward, to strengthen my physical body, to live in harmony with everything around me, to break down walls within me and to stare truth in the eyes. I came to make important changes within myself so that I can be the best version of myself possible and shine my fullest light. I came to grow into the best anchor for others and to life a live where I bring positivity to all.

Many things lead me here. Life lead me here. Sometimes it feels like everything lead me here.

The entrance to the Mystical Yoga Farm

The entrance to the Mystical Yoga Farm

For years I’ve known that I want to dedicate a huge portion of my time studying at an Ashram and living at a spiritual community. This past year at Burning Man, I had a huge wake-up call as to how I was living my life. Saturday morning at Burning Man I rode my bike to the Temple, tears streaming down my face as soon as it was in view. Everything that made me feel happy and complete flooded my mind: health and wellness, eating wholesome food, being outside, practicing yoga, traveling, writing, reading, helping others, fulfilling relationships and connections with people and on and on. After crying and meditating at the Temple, I realized that I was ready to devote myself to practicing yoga and reaching a higher spiritual state. I was ready to connect with my true self and live life through her.

I knew I was ready I just didn’t know where to go. I want to go to India at some point, but at the time I didn’t feel ready to take that step. After traveling in Costa Rica and falling in love with Latin America a few months prior, I wanted to continue learning Spanish. So I knew in my heart I wanted to go back to Latin America.
volcanoes across from farm

A couple weeks after Burning Man I volunteered at Symbiosis, a conscious-awareness music, yoga, art, and dance festival in California. The first day of the festival I talked to some volunteers about studying yoga.

“Then you should definitely check out the Mystical Yoga Farm in Guatemala,” one girl said. Those combination of words: Mystical. Yoga. Farm. Guatemala. were enough to pull me in. Shortly after that I met another girl who recommended the same place. Then I ran into some traveling friends who I hadn’t seen since Costa Rica. They couldn’t stop raving about Guatemala. I’ve always felt called to Guatemala, and then everything was aligned.

The Mystical Yoga Farm is an intentional spiritual community that focuses on self-sustainability, growing fresh organic food and growing healthy yogi’s, teachers and practitioners. Off the grid in a roadless forest along Lago de Atitlán, the only way to access the Mystical Yoga Farm is by boat. The farm blends into the beauty around it. When approaching by boat, you’d miss the farm if you didn’t know it was there. The beauty surrounding the farm is endless.

The path we walk everyday

The path we walk everyday

We sit at the base of Volcán San Pedro, like a dog sits at its master’s feet and we stare directly at Volcán Atitlán. We’re right along one of the most magical lakes in Central America, a lake that’s steeped in Mayan history and culture. Grandfather Rock, a Mayan spiritual land monument, backdrops and shelters us. Mayans
believe that shamans’ souls come here when they die. Lush jungle plants and coffee trees grow around us. They call this part of Guatemala the land of eternal spring. Mornings and nights are chilly, but days are sunny and warm.

Grandfather Rock

Grandfather Rock

We use solar panels for electricity and composting toilets for the bathroom. At night we barely use electricity and instead stick with candles. The internet is spotty and slow, and we don’t use it often.

The Farm holds yoga teacher trainings through SchoolYoga Institute, hosts retreats, welcomes guests for the day, night or multiple nights, and has an active community of volunteers (karma yogi’s) who contribute through various projects. I’m staying on the farm as a Karma Yogi with the Ayani Harmony Tribe. As a member of the Ayani Harmony Tribe I’m a hostess for the farm. I greet guests when they arrive, show them around, and set up their rooms. I help with house-keeping duties, cooking, and gardening. I help with whatever projects are needed. Other than house-keeping duties, I’ve created space for a bench, painted the bench, painted trash bins, learned how to saw steel, and stained bamboo since I’ve been here. Soon I’ll be helping out with editing and social media.

As a Karma Yogi I also get to participate in the daily life of the farm. We meditate and practice yoga in the morning, have a lecture or workshop in the late afternoon and gather for satsang (community reflection usually involving singing) at night. It’s been an incredible experience so far, and I fall more in love with my surroundings each moment.

Want some Mystical Yoga Farm in your life? Hop on a boat!

From Santiago a private boat should cost no more than Q40 cuarenta quetzals.

Here we are in the grand scheme of the lake:
Getting to Mystical Yoga FarmThe closest village is Chacaya, a ten-to-fifteen minute walk along the lake. The closest boat ride is from Santiago. Check out the farm’s website for the getting to the farm guide.
The farm’s website also has tons of information about retreats, visits and volunteering. The volunteer commitment is for one month. If I wasn’t at the farm volunteering, I’d definitely visit as a guest. It’s the perfect place to relax, reflect and go deep within yourself.

My view at the farm as I was writing this blog post.

My view at the farm as I was writing this blog post.

Since the internet is spotty at the farm, I took a boat across the lake to Restaurante Bambú. Here’s my  current view as I post this blog:

The view from Restaurante Bambú.

The view from Restaurante Bambú.

Ah, life is so good.

Guatemalan Beginnings

On the fourth day of 2014 I left the United States to begin a life in Guatemala. A year prior I left the US around the same time to live in Costa Rica. The past two years for me have begun by migrating south for exploration, for warmth, for discovery and for freedom. After falling in love with Latin America, I couldn’t wait to return and fall deeper.
falling

My United Airlines flight was oversold and filled with primarily Guatemalan families. I was among the very few native English-speaking passengers. I sat next to a nine-year-old Guatemalan girl and her mother who was in her twenties. Between hearing Spanish all around me, sharing my snacks with the girl sitting next to me and helping her pick televisions shows to watch, my immersion began before I arrived in Guatemala. After months of not speaking Spanish, I was so thankful for this ease into the language.

When I arrived at the airport in Guatemala City I was surprised to see multiple signs first written in English and then Spanish written underneath in a smaller type. After exiting the plane, there weren’t separate lines for Guatemalan citizens and foreigners. Everyone went to the same line to meet the same Immigration officers. As a US citizen without a visa you’re only allowed to remain in Guatemala for 90 days. I fly back to the US after 90 days. As I walked toward the officer I felt my heart race, and nervousness set in. I memorized Spanish phrases, “Cuantos dias en Guatemala? Cuando es su vuelo de vuelta?”and repeated the responses in my head. “Relax. Remain confident,” I told myself. When I slid my passport through the officer’s window I said, “Hola, buenos noches.” He didn’t say one word. He just stamped my passport, and I was on my way.

A crowd of Guatemalans stood outside the airport doors. People of all ages circled the gate. My host told me later that going to the airport in Guatemala is like going to the market. “When someone flies back to Guatemala, their whole family comes to the airport to pick them up: their grandparents, aunts, cousins,” he said.

I spent my first night in Guatemala City at G-22, an environmental non-profit that educates people about sustainability and hosts guests. The director, Alfredo Maul, picked me up from the airport and explained some of G-22’s projects as we drove through the city. Before he even told me that some parts of Guatemala City were Americanized, I sensed it from seeing establishments like Dominos Pizza and a Shell Gas Station almost immediately after leaving the airport.

Guatemala City at night

Guatemala City at night

At G-22 Alfredo cooked me a delicious vegetarian dinner. “Everything you see here has a story,” Alfredo said as he poured me loose leaf black tea from somewhere in Guatemalan mountains and then poured white citrus honey into my cup. “You won’t find these items anywhere else.” I loved the way he gave life to the food and items we were using by saying, “Everything here has a story.”

We talked about his degree in Architecture and how he wants to spread sustainability to urban life and show people how to live simpler lives. I felt really connected to G-22 and their goals. I have strong interests in sustainability, especially when it comes to urban life. In a similar regard, I’m passionate about living a simpler life by being conscious of my purchases, reusing as much as I can, and giving new life to things I already have.

G-22

G-22

The next morning I left Guatemala City to begin my story at the Mystical Yoga Farm.