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Updated: Feb 18, 2019

A memorable group joined us in Calgary to welcome the new year (2016) with a cacao ceremony!

Kristin and I traveled a LOT in 2015 and as 2016 drew closer we decided to make our way back towards our home base on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. We stopped in Calgary, Alberta to visit friends and family there over the December holidays. During that time we were invited to host a #cacaoceremony in the home of a lovely friend whom we'd known for many years. We decided that a #ceremony on New Years Eve would be a perfect way of honoring all that had happened in the year gone by as well as help to bring more loving intentions forward into the new year ahead.

A bubbling cup of ceremonial grade cacao, ready to be sipped!

Kristin and I had acquired two beautiful new instruments on our travels back to Canada and we were excited to share them with the guests at our new year's eve #cacaoceremony. We had each purchased a quartz crystal singing bowl, one in the key of “F” which is typically associated with the heart chakra and one in the key of ”B” which associates with the crown chakra. We had been experimenting with Tibetan singing bowls for a couple of years and had been working on manifesting crystal singing bowls for quite a while. We felt very blessed to have been given the opportunity to purchase and share these very powerful healing instruments.

A picture of our crystal bowls at a more recent event on Pender Island, BC. These bowls have really gotten around!!

The New Year's #cacaoceremony we hosted in 2016 was a huge hit and started a tradition of doing a #cacaoceremony every year at this time. The shifting of the calendar, although it IS just another day, can be a very powerful time to catapult our dreams and desires into reality if choose to make it that. This year we invited a small group to gather at our new home on Gabriola Island where we shared our intentions for what we were wanting to let go of from 2018 and the things we were most excited to manifest in 2019.

Little did we know but the #cacaoceremony in Calgary would kick start a flurry of #cacaoceremonies for us back home on Vancouver Island. When we returned to the island we were invited to share ceremonies in many new and exciting places and venues. Our first #cacaoceremony in Victoria was to celebrate Valentine's Day, what better way to enjoy some 100% pure #ceremonialgradecacao. We co-facilitated with a lovely woman from Victoria, BC whom we'd met during our #cacaoceremony in Sooke, BC, in 2015, named Tanya Devine. She is an amazing didgeridoo player, sound healer and space holder. Together the three of us hosted the largest #ceremony we've every pulled off to date with a whopping 60 people joining us in sacred space.

Tanya with two of her collection of didgeridoos and other instruments, all of which she is very talented at playing!

After we collaborated with Tanya a second time where we hosted a #cacaoceremony for 40 guests in Victoria, BC we began to receive invitations to co-create events with several talented sound healers in the area.

#cacaoceremony with didgeridoo sound journey performed by Tanya in Victoria, BC.

One of our favorite events from the summer of 2016 was a very intimate outdoor #cacaoceremony that we hosted near Victoria with a lovely woman named Tara who had invited us to share our #medicine in the back yard of her home. It's always been a preference of ours to host #cacaoceremonies in nature during the warm summer months here in #Canada, so this was a real treat! We collaborated with her and the amazing collection of alchemy crystal singing bowls she owned to create a magical #ceremony.

Grateful to Kristin for capturing a moment of the magic from the #cacaoceremony in the forest near Victoria.

Kristin and I also connected with one of our long lost soul sisters in 2016, who also happens to be a very talented sound healer named Astaria Light. Since then we have thoroughly enjoyed co-creating many wonderful gatherings with her. So many people have expressed how much they have loved the #cacaoceremonies and sound journeys that we've co-created with her.

Smudging Astaria prior to a 2017 #cacaoceremony in Port Alberni, British Columbia.

Kristin and I are grateful to have had the opportunity to do some personal growth work in 2014 with an organization called Time To Heal in Duncan, BC who later invited us to host a #cacaoceremony at their newly renovated space in 2016. Through hosting this #cacaoceremony we connected with a woman named Heather who invited us to come and host a #cacaoceremony at her home in Nanaimo, BC. We hosted several gatherings in Nanaimo at Heather's home that summer and we really enjoyed getting to know her and her partner, Andrew.

A snapshot from one of the many women's circles that Kristin has hosted over the years.

2016 was the year that Kristin got the message to start hosting women's circles with #cacao. She hosted a series of 7 #womenscircles that year with #keithscacao, each one focused on a different chakra, starting with the root and ending with the crown. Her courage to step into the unknown was inspiring as she was learning as she went regarding the chakras and their many subtle influences in our bodies and lives. The women's circles were a safe place for women in our community to share time together in sacred space, remembering the many commonalities they all shared and helping many to see themselves and each other with more love and compassion. Does it get any better than that?!

Kristin was invited to lead a workshop about #cacaoceremony at a womens gathering in Squamish, BC in the summer of 2016.

One of the other awesome opportunities that showed up in 2016 was that Kristin got invited to share a workshop about #cacaoceremony as a part of the Conscious Goddess Festival which happened in June, 2016. This was the first offer of this type where she had been asked to share her knowledge of this beautiful plant medicine. It was another time when she said "YES" to life and was willing to take center stage after many years of being afraid of speaking publicly.

The more we both put ourselves out there in 2016 the more connections started to spiderweb, helping us to remember why we call our business Cacao Connection. This is one more of many ongoing examples of how when we show up in the world in an authentic way, that life is waiting to conspire with those of us who are courageous enough to follow our dreams! DREAM BIG!!

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Updated: Feb 18, 2019

This was the name of the location where we hosted our largest cacao ceremony to date!

We had hoped to be able to share some #cacaoceremonies on our drive back up the West Coast of the United States, however, it wasn’t until we returned to Canada that we hosted our first #ceremony outside of Mexico. A wonderful friend of ours who has a yurt invited us to host a ceremony on his property, which seemed like a sweet spot to host our first Canadian gathering.

Celebrating my birthday while we were back in Canada with a #cacao infused cake!

We invited some friends and family members, and in the end there were 7 of us who shared that first #ceremony. Kristin and I learned a lot about ourselves in that first #Canadian #cacaoceremony and how important is is to be properly prepared, with more than enough time, and also what it means to be a solid facilitator. Some of the most challenging experiences we’ve had as facilitators has made us that much stronger and more resilient as we continue to walk this path into the unknown.

One of our closest friends on Vancouver Island made this raw pie with #cacao, it was absolutely divine!

We had been approached by a good friend of ours to participate in a full-day event that was being held in a beautiful community near us that is right on the ocean's edge. We weren’t sure what it would be like, but it sounded exciting, so we agreed to host a #cacaoceremony for a large group there that day. We had never met the owners of the home that the event was being hosted in, however we had heard lovely things about them and the types of events they had hosted in the past.

The altar for our #cacaoceremony in Sooke that was part of a wonderful full day event.

When we arrived in the morning to get prepared we were told that there would be 38 guests for the #cacaoceremony! Wow! This was more than double the size of the largest group we’d ever facilitated for. Luckily for us we had the help of one of our biggest supporters and mentors, my mom, Cori. We had heard that the couple who was hosting the event loved #cacao and were huge advocates for its use as an addition to a vibrant lifestyle. We certainly knew some of the nutritional benefits of using #cacao as an everyday super-food dietary supplement, so it was exciting to meet other people who had similar knowledge.

A picture of Kristin and I before the ceremony, holding 4 pounds of ground #cacaopaste.

I had ground 4 pounds of #keithscacao for the #ceremony that day and thankfully we had mom’s help with getting things prepared in the kitchen. The hosts were almost overly helpful in the kitchen arena. We later reflected on this situation with the understanding that she didn’t have a clue who we were or what we knew about #cacao or ceremonies, so they were committed to seeing that the #cacaoceremony would be loved and appreciated by all who attended.

Warm mugs of #ceremonialgradecacao waiting to be enjoyed.

The #cacaoceremony was a huge hit with the guests and afterword we had #Keithscacao for sale from the 150 pounds we had brought back with us in the trunk of our car from Guatemala. We must’ve sold 30 or 40 pounds that day and when all of the guests who were interested had bought some, the hosts told us that they would buy whatever we had left over!! Wow, this was beyond what we had imagined and truly blew our minds wide open to the possibility of these events being a integral part of our lives.

We made so many wonderful new friends that day and we still continue to meet people who attended that #cacaoceremony that we never met who’ve thanked us for doing it. We recently hosted a small and very intimate full day gathering at this same lovely home in Sooke, BC. The couple had decided to sell their beautiful home and we thought it would be nice to have one last gathering there to share a #cacaoceremony as well as to say our goodbyes to this most wonderful gathering space. A short time after we hosted the #cacaoceremony at their house this summer, the woman of the house passed on from this life. What an honor to have known her and to have been invited to share our #medicine in her home.

A few pictures from our latest #cacaoceremony in Sooke at this beautiful home. Thank you Lulu for sharing your beautiful home with us and for sharing your love and light with the world <3 #wildatheartwoman

Kristin and I had agreed to take another road trip, this being late summer of 2015. After we came back to Canada for just 6 short weeks, we hit the open road, headed for Houston, Texas to spend some time with one of Kristin’s oldest friends who was expecting her first child. We put our suitcase back into the trunk of our trusty VW Jetta and headed back to the United States, not really fully understanding of the magnitude of the next leg of the journey we were embarking on.

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Updated: Feb 18, 2019

Kristin standing in mango heaven on the side of the road in Oaxaca.

We said adios to the magical mountain town of San Cristobal de las Casas and slowly drove down toward the coastal town of Mazunte, the town we were supposed to do our Yoga Teacher Training at two months prior. The instructor had agreed to refund us our money as we had sent our friend, Felix, and another young man from Australia to fill our spaces. We approached sea level and could see a HUGE orchard in the distant lowlands ahead and we wondered what was being grown in such vast areas. When we realized it was mangoes we thought we'd died and gone to heaven! Neither of us knew that mangoes grew in so many different sizes, shapes colors and varieties. What a treat in the intense tropical heat! The man with the booth insisted on giving us samples of nearly every type of mango until we had belly aches. We bought ourselves a crate of about 50 Atulfo mangoes (You know, the normally pricey and delicious little yellow ones) for 50 pesos, or about $4. Amazing.

A smorgasbord of mangoes with our trusty VW Jetta in the background!

We stayed for one night in the small beach side town called Mazunte, Oaxaca, which is a surfing town with lots of international travelers and yoga schools. Apparently there had been a really big storm not long before our arrival and there were massive 45-foot tidal waves that had hit the coast there. We had no idea at the time but we were wondering why it seemed like the people around there were pretty haphazard with their boat parking locations! We had breakfast the next morning at a small second floor cafe on the beach, and we were watching this man sweeping what looked to us like the beach. We later learned about the wave and realized that the beach had come ashore!

There was a whole parking lot under where this man was sweeping. The beach started on the other side of the thatched roof in front of him, at least most days it did...

Kristin and I had been contacted by a man whom my mom had met while she was volunteering at a healing retreat center in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, the previous winter. While we were all together in Guatemala, he had asked my mom if she would run his retreat center for six months and she said only if he would hire Kristin and I to be the Assistant Managers with her. He seemed to have no problem with that, however, after talking about it quite a bit we decided that being in Mexico for the summer months was not our preference. The man who owned the retreat center had then asked that Kristin and I stop in there on our drive north up the coast of Mexico and check in on the staff that he had left in charge of the place while he traveled home to Europe for a few months.

A beautiful beach in Mazunte, Oaxaca on our way driving back up the coast of Mexico.

We had agreed to stay at the retreat center in Puerto Escondido for a week and let him know how things were going, which seemed a bit odd, as we realized after we had arrived that he hadn’t even let the staff know that we were coming. It became very clear to us that this was not due to a lack of communication on his part, rather that it was intentional...we were retreat spies. There were three lovely young folks running the retreat center, two of which were very happy and cheerful and one that was not very happy or easy to work with. We will call her Sally. Sally was not very good at communicating, which made it incredibly challenging for the three of them to run the center smoothly.

There were several paying guests staying and they quickly began to share with us, without any inquiry, how different their experience had been in comparison to what the promotional material had said it would be. Needless to say, the staff clued in to the fact that we were kind of “spying” on them for the owner which was a bit uncomfortable for us as we had never even met the man who had previously managed the retreat. Mom and our good friend Joanna had told us of their experience with him which was a year prior and it had sounded quite good, for the most part.

Mom and Joanna had met at the retreat center in Puerto Escondido in the Winter of 2013/14

We facilitated daily morning group discussions where we used non-violent communication and a talking stick (where each person has a turn to speak their truth) to try and smooth out the situation with the core management team. It was a great exercise for us to facilitate and it did seem to help on some level to at least give everyone a chance to say how they were feeling, which was a lot more than was happening outside of those morning meetings. At times, we all need a chance to speak and be heard in order to get some clarity for ourselves in our life situations.

We decided that a group #cacaoceremony was the best option for us to try and help to support the group, particularly the management team, to open up and communicate clearly with each other. There were also a couple of guests staying who were not paying and there was some funny business happening between Sally and these guests that was strange for everyone. It was one of the most interesting #cacaoceremonies we had facilitated, as we had never had a particular focus for the group at any #ceremony up until that point, and it was fairly uncomfortable for some of the participants.

#CacaoCeremony coming right up!

All things considered, we thought the #cacaoceremony was a huge success. The guests and management got to open up to each other about what had happened and was currently happening and share some very honest conversations. Needless to say, Sally hated the whole thing, even refusing to have her picture taken with the group afterwords! Oh boy, what a range of experiences we have been able to witness for ourselves and others through doing this work, and to think that this was just the beginning!

We attempted to have a Skype call with the owner later that week and let him know that things were not going very well with the staff, however the internet wasn’t working that day in rural Mexico, so I wound up writing him an epic email explaining our interpretation of the whole thing. It was not a sugar-coated email, it was straight-up, blunt and the honest truth about what was happening. He was more than partly responsible for the situation that had unfolded, which if he didn’t know beforehand, he surely did after reading my email. Over three years has passed since I wrote that email and I’ve never heard a single word from the owner, in fact I’m not sure that he ever even returned to the place once he left.

Talking with the group was after the ceremony was much easier!

When we left the retreat center and headed northward we had made ourselves at least a few new friends, one of which we have seen several times in Mexico and is like a brother to us. What a world, full of #connections that are ready to be made if you just get yourself out there into it.

Alejandro sharing some of this thoughts and wisdom with the group in Oaxaca.

Kristin and I sharing a memorable meal on an pier in Acapulco after our week at the retreat center.

We headed north along the coast, stopping for a night in Acapulco, which was a little bit too much like Las Vegas for the two of us. We then found ourselves in Zihuatanejo, looking for somewhere decent for two overheated vegans to eat and eventually stumbled into a place we found online via the website www.happycow.net called Pura Vida. The place had no sign outside, and when we got out of the car to look through the gate to see if anyone was around, a Mexican man outside who spoke perfect English invited us to come on in. The owner, Patti, a wonderful American woman from Chicago, welcomed us and prepared us an absolutely amazing raw vegan lunch while I took our car down the street to get an oil change.

Kristin and I enjoying a quiet beach near Zihuatanejo.

After lunch we expressed our need to find a hostel for the night and that’s when Patti offered us to stay with her for the night, as she had an extra bedroom and was happy to have us. Patti shared with us that she had a vision of operating a retreat center out of her home some day and we wondered if this was the foundation for a future collaboration being created. Then we started talking about cacao and it just so happened that she had cacao pods and beans, however they were dried out and had started to sprout which we had never seen. She was very intrigued about #ceremonialgradecacao as she had eaten cacao before, even mentioning that we could go see a cacao tree that someone had planted right down the street from her. We had never seen one at this point, so we were so excited.

Patti gave us two dried out #cacao pods that had germinated seeds inside.

These #cacaobeans were ready to plug into the ground and plant immediately!

These #cacaobeans had started to sprout and would have been good to plant in the right situation.

We explained our #cacaoceremony to her and she invited us to host one the next night at her place. We were a bit hesitant as it’s always best if you have some lead time to promote and let people know what is happening. We wound up hosting a #ceremony for her and one other local man who helped her around her property. This will go down as one of the times when we just needed to “show up” for who is right in front of us to do the work regardless of anything else. It was a lovely experience and I think we all got something pretty profound out of it.

Kristin and I (what a hairy beast!) with Patti's neighborhood #cacao tree.

A beautiful #cacao pod growing on the #cacao tree in Patti's neighborhood. Notice the two small white flowers behind which will become pods too!

The next day we packed up our car and said goodbye, promising to come and visit again if ever we were passing through on our travels. We got close this past year but decided to venture inland to drive through the much cooler mountains of central Mexico. Over the next few days we made our way up to the coast, staying in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Hermosillo before we crossed the border back into the USA. We had a distinct feeling that the US border was not going to be nearly as laid back as coming into Mexico from Guatemala had been, so I found the smallest border crossing available and we headed there.

A picture of me peeling a mango at one of the state borders where they wouldn't let us past with the fruit we had just bought, so I ate several of every fruit before surrendering the rest :P

What ensued was pretty hilarious although reasonably stressful for us. For whatever reason we realized as we approached the US border crossing that we had a couple of mangoes that we hadn’t eaten so the first border official directed us to pull into an inspection stall. We used our “Go to Glow” visualization technique as we drove past a large and intimidating group of heavily-armed border guards with dogs on the way to the stall they directed us to. Two friendly and totally normal looking border guards approached our car and began to ask us questions.

K and I always see funny license plates, this was one of those on our way to the border crossing! "AHO!"

They asked us, "what’s inside the boxes?" and we told them chocolate. “Sure smells like chocolate, that’s for sure!” they agreed. We also had a couple of cacao pods, one of which was empty, dried and hidden, and the other that was still fresh, which they took. They took one of the bars of #keithscacao that we had and did some quick testing on it. When they came back they had a whole stack of paperwork and they informed us that normally we would need to have a customs agent and pay duties and taxes but they were going to let us off with a "warning" this time. We wondered why the female border guard kept asking us from different angles if we were giving the chocolate away as gifts to our friends and family! She was trying to help us out, but we were a bit slow to pick up on it.

The last thing we remembered saying to them when we told them the chocolate we had was actually #cacao, which seemed like a term they had never heard before. They made fake guns with their fingers and thumbs, pointing them at each other while laughing and saying “CACAO!, CACAO!”. What a world this is.

Desert sunset magic after crossing the border into the USofA

Cacao Connection 2020