I studied abroad in Costa Rica during college. The experience was deeply transformative, and one that I wish for all young people fromeconomically developed nations. Our professors from the Institute of Central American Development Studies, Ileana Matamoros and David (so bummed that I’ve forgotten his last name!), carefully crafted an experience that asked me to examine all of my basic consumer choices and recognize and own my relative privilege, to step far outside of my comfort zone in communication via a new language, to navigate and respect cultural differences without negating the values of my own. They remain some of the teachers for whom I am most thankful (and there are many).
Easily the richest, most exponentially bursting time I spent there was during a month-long internship on an organic cacao (chocolate) and banana farm near the Caribbean coast and Panamanian border. The farm follows the principles of permaculture, a recognition of intricate, complex relationships between plants, animals, human animals and our planetary needs. No plot (and there are many) involves simply one species; coffee, bananas and plantains (42 varietals), hardwood trees, and cacao are interplanted, and rooting pigs, geese, other foul explore the undergrowth as howler monkeys cry mating calls further uphill.
Daily, I crossed the dirt road from my stilted-up, 4-room home with a family of 6 to harvest cacao pods and deposit their seeds and frothy “fruit” into a fermentation device. The Latin, Theobroma Cacao translates as “food, currency, elixir of the gods.”
Chocolate is a superfood native to mesoamerica, and there is ancient ceremony involving the sacred plant throughout the region. Cacao the bean is alchemized into an elixir of warm drinking chocolate.
Ironically, in many places, the younger generations of native Central Americans are more familiar with Oreo knock-offs than with the cacao plants of their own backyards. In my curiousity, I asked my host mother (not the farmer) to make us chocolate from scratch. Her children, as old as 16, had never witnessed this ritual, even though, like me, they were all little chocolate addicts.
Like most Western yoga teachers, I navigate nuanced cultural and consumer questions each class I teach, each blog I post, each newsletter I send.
In seeking a home for my next international yoga retreat, I have been exceedingly picky: exploring use of the word “eco-“, questioning gated resorts, asking hard questions about community integration and ecological footprint of all variety of centers that host yoga groups all over Latin America, where I ache to return.
You can imagine my utter joy in discovering Mystical Yoga Farm. Located under a sacred rock on the edge of gorgeous Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, it operates with the same principles of permaculture as the farm where I interned in Costa Rica. MYF offers farm tours teaching basics of permaculture…and the option to partake in the ancient ritual of cacao ceremony.
You have so many yoga retreats from which to choose.
With complete and utter bias, let me say that this one I’ve devised is special.
Genuine, ecologically based, solar-powered, organic vegetarian and vegan food, and mostly off the grid (with some, but limited Internet access). Our presence will support permaculture education, viable jobs for youth, community farmer support, yoga education, and increased use of solar energy. It takes place over President’s Day week in Feb. 2015. Remember the fierce unending cold of last February on the East Coast?…Lose your hesitation before Oct 1 (when prices go up).
We will challenge our bodies, minds and spirits with twice-daily yoga classes, and we will rest in the plethora of hammocks, resetting our adrenal glands, soaking up vitamin D, splashing, playing, hooping, jumping, meditating and manifesting.
Oh, and did I mention the chocolate?
Find out all the details and sign up here: http://sacredsourceyoga.com/yoga_retreats
For the earth,
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