The Importance of Heart-Centered Medicines
There is a renaissance happening in the world of consciousness expansion, plant medicines & psychedelic research. Some have called it the 3rd Wave where “it’s about integrating intentional, measured, and responsible psychedelic use into our everyday lives. It’s about paying tribute to the civilizations who paved this path, while making way for a future where psychedelics are decriminalized. It’s a time to fuse ancient wisdom with modern-day science to spur transformation and healing—individually, collectively, and for society at large.”
This explosion of interest in altering consciousness is coming in the form of scientific research, legal changes, personal exploration, clinical training and academic inquiry among others. Whether it’s the classic chemical compounds such as LSD, or the traditional indigenous plants such as ayahuasca, peyote & psilocybin, humans are gravitating towards the deeper waters of experience and seeking to understand the nature of reality and their place in it.
Amidst all of this, the last decade has also seen a rise in interest in psychoactive plants, such as cacao. Unlike psychedelics, psychoactive plants work within ordinary consciousness to support access to expanded states where inner work is more easily navigated. They are more gentle and easy to integrate because they don’t throw us into the deep end. In this way, they work much like a regular meditation or yoga practice, where the value comes from regular use over time. Instead of an intensive journey to be taken on occasion (like psychedelics or a weekend retreat), psychoactives like cacao can be used regularly to help us create incremental change that is easier to apply to daily life.
As a support for our healing work, cacao is best known for its power as a heart-centered medicine. In an increasingly polarized world, and over the last fews years of economic & political turmoil (including a pandemic!), the need for these types of practices has become even greater. Plants like cacao help us soften into ourselves and our immediate experience in a way that grows our capacity to love and connect with others in genuine ways. This journey into greater self-love is the foundation for our relationship to ourselves, and by extension, the world around us. As we learn to love every aspect of ourselves, we learn to accept others as they are, and life as it is, regardless of whether it’s challenging or not.
For most of us, there is much to learn about being more embodied and connected with the wisdom of our emotional landscape. Heart-centered practices help us connect to the body and the clarity that already exists there. Our feelings are meant to help us navigate life in a way that is in alignment with what is true for us in a given moment. Cacao helps us connect with these emotions and learn to accept them as the welcome visitor that they are.
Rumi articulated this beautifully in his poem, The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
~ Rumi, ‘The Guest House’
The other important benefit of a psychoactive plant like cacao is that because it’s more gentle and doesn’t take us on such a trip, we can benefit from it regularly. Whether through a daily ritual or regular ceremony, cacao helps us shift our baseline ways of being in the world. While there are certainly occasions when we need a little extra push from stronger plant medicines, there are also times when we need the soft touch that reminds us that everything is okay as it is. As we get to know cacao over time and regular use, we find a more sustained way of staying centered, connected and in flow.
In addition to all that, integration work is much easier with cacao. It can often be confusing or challenging to process what happens in a psychedelic experience. It’s almost as if we need to first develop the language for these other realities before being able to comprehend them. Like waking from a dream, the fullness of the experience can be elusive. Not so with psychoactive plants like cacao. Because we don’t travel so far out from ordinary consciousness, we can connect the dots more easily with how the experiences relate to our everyday life. We can see the patterns, feelings and stories we carry with greater clarity so that as new situations arise in life, we can handle them differently.
Cacao specifically also has the benefit of helping us learn about our gifts and purpose, and how to share that with the world. Cacao wants to share the love, so it inspires us to do the same, however we are best able. Whether through our relationships, work or creative projects, cacao is a fuel for our positive engagement with others. It reminds us about what is truly important in simple, yet profound ways, so that we can eliminate the clutter and focus on what serves our heart and the hearts of others.
None of this is to say that one is better than the other. The important thing is to understand the value and place for both. Sometimes we need extra help or a deeper break from everyday life. Other times, a gentle nudge helps keep us on track and reminds us that things are okay, right here and now within our life. We are fortunate to have access to these beautiful tools and allies to benefit from the unique medicine of each.
Heart-centered medicines have a vital role in the richness of our own inner landscape, as well as in helping to create a more just, sustainable and vibrant cultural reality. As we do our own inner work, learning to open & love more, then we can share that with those around us. Each shift has its own ripple effect and inspires us to be a force for positive change in a world that so deeply needs us to show up this way. It is truly embodying the principle of beginning within and then creating the change we wish to see in the world.
What a wonderful time to be alive, standing on the shoulders of all those who came before us and whose work gave us a head start in learning what a life truly lived looks like. Through their mistakes, successes and willingness to share, we have gained so much and are able to be the support for those to come after us. We can take the bar and raise it another notch, so that the long-term vision of a more vibrant & sustainable culture can become that much more possible.
Let’s raise a cup of cacao in gratitude for the wisdom of the heart and the medicines that help us!