It’s amazing how you can have a beautiful life, a wonderful partner and a great job while pursuing your creative fire…and yet, it is still so easy to get overwhelmed with the minutia of day to day life. I get swamped by the details, succumb to stress and lack of rest and my ever-growing to do list. I have all of these things: the beautiful bounty and the mounting burdens, and I struggle daily trying to find a comfortable balance somewhere in the middle. Part of the magic of being a creatrix is tapping into the sensitive channels of intuition and emotion–pretty much all the time. Which, when you’re feeling out of control with the mundane details of life, can quickly spiral into a first-class meltdown.
Oh, and did I mention I’m also in the thick of planning my wedding this coming September? Yes, much to do, much to do on top of the already bursting-at-the-seams schedule of life. In this regard, the quest to lose 10 pounds for the ideal wedding dress fit brings with it the gnawing catch-22 of denying myself pleasure one day (a well deserved indulgence of wine and chocolate) in order to sustain pleasure for some imagined moment in the future (the flawless beauty of the anticipated wedding dress).
Anxiety has become a constant, nagging companion…much to my dismay. I find myself often joking lately about how all I can think about is cupcakes, or a glass of wine, or a tub of luscious dark chocolate liqueur to bathe in at the end of a long, arduous day. The sheer blissful pleasure of indulgence. I posted to my Facebook friends the other day, half joking, asking if there was a Goddess of Anxiety Relief to supplicate myself to. The Xanax and Valium jokes followed of course, along with the familiar wine and chocolate quips. But it got me to thinking about chocolate as a real, honest to goddess remedy for stress and unhappiness, so I started digging around on the interwebz. We all know there have been countless clinical studies on the healthful and medicinal qualities of chocolate. But there is more to her than that. Chocolate has the ability to satisfy our hunger on not just a physical level, but an emotional one, a spiritual one, even a sacred one.
Enter Ixcacao, the Mayan goddess of chocolate. A lesser known deity of the ancient Mesoamerican cultures, Ixcacao was nevertheless exactly the treasure I was looking for.
A goddess of abundance, compassion and fertility, Ixcacao seems to speak to our need as a culture to slow down, appreciate the beauty and sensual pleasures of life. She nurtures, feeds the hungry, blesses the crops and gardens, and reminds us that both the body and the spirit need sustenance.
I wonder why in our culture we trivialize or even demonize things like chocolate, coffee and wine…that give us pleasure and release and even healing from our daily burdens? Why are they seen as a crutch, or an unworthy indulgence, or worse, a kind of failure of our ability to cope with reality? I suppose one could argue that these things are so commonly abused that they lose their worth as medicine, both physical and emotional. In my opinion, it is just another Puritanical sacrifice we have made as a culture by eliminating the sacred from daily life. It is hard to abuse something you consider sacred, that you respect and welcome as a worthy part of your sensual and emotional experience. “Pleasure heals,” as they say. And it is true, if you let it in.
I had myself the aforementioned first-class meltdown last week. The combined stress of my dayjob, my creative responsibilities, and a supremely inconvenient head cold all came to a climax right around the full moon. I found myself sobbing in the middle of the night, questioning my desires, my purpose in the world and my seeming inability to follow through on all the things I considered important. Once the smoke cleared the next day, I realized that once again I’d let myself be inundated with the mundane and had lost my connection to softness, receptivity, and the magical, healing power of pleasure.
When the weekend came around, I gave myself the gift of sacred creativity. I found I was possessed of a desire to create a shrine to Ixcacao. I wanted to remind myself of the beauty and healing that chocolate could bring my body and my heart. A reminder to give myself permission to indulge sometimes. A reminder that I could ask for nurturing, and accept its presence in my life–and my kitchen. A reminder that the sacred can always be coaxed out of hiding…happy to once more be recognized and appreciated.
I began by making a simple, primitive sculpture of Ixcacao from clay I made right out of the kitchen cupboard. One cup flour, one half cup salt and a tablespoon of cocoa powder mixed with warm water makes a play-doh like dough, easy to work with and bake in the oven. It took a few tries for me to get a handle on how to work with the dough, but eventually the figure of Ixcacao came to life in my hands. When she was formed to my liking, I dusted her all over with more cocoa powder, giving her a wonderfully soft, earthen look. I also sculpted a small basket for her, abundant with cocoa beans. Earlier that day I’d picked up a delicious looking round of traditional organic chocolate from Mexico from the Spanish Table, a wonderful boutique for Spanish foods and cooking accessories in North Berkeley. To the altar I also added an antique brown medicine bottle filled with homemade kahlua, a small handmade pot filled with chili-spiced chocolate for drinking, a giant chocolate applesauce cake muffin topped with raw cacao and pecans, and two roses from the bush I gifted to my fiancé for the one year anniversary of our first date–which just happens to be named “Chocolate Sundae.”
I assembled my sacraments around the figure of Ixcacao, and finished the shrine with a generous sprinkling of Chocolate Sundae rose petals. Now to fill those crystal goblets to overflowing with Cocobon, and sit back to welcome the weekend.
This makes me happy.
P.S. While we’re on the subject of sacred indulgence (and just in time for St. Patrick’s Day)…I’m giving you one of my favorite restorative recipes: Salted Caramel Guinness Brownies.
Magician, heal thyself!