In 2006 I was several years into my cleansing phase. After being raised in the fast food culture of small town Tennessee, part of my spiritual awakening was learning to eat healthy. I tried many different diets, paying attention to how specific foods made me feel. One day I noticed that I was very sensitive to sugar. This was bad news for my sweet tooth, especially considering that I’d been a chocoholic my entire life. What to do?
Off to Maui
I was back in Portland, Oregon, where I had been living since 1998. Having just returned from a year of solo travel between Europe and Central America, I settled back into my jobs of teaching yoga and waitressing. I never had the pull to go to college and accepted this as my career path. But I was restless…on a whim I took out a credit card and flew to Maui, my favorite place, to visit my sister, meditate, cleanse and ponder moving there. I took a side trip to the Big Island where I met a nice guy who convinced me to go explore Waipio Valley, an untamed place populated mainly by natives and wild horses. He introduced me to his friend Isis and I stayed at her lovely home in a dense jungle.
One day I was telling her of my sadness caused by giving up chocolate. She made a surprised face and answered “why would you do that? I’ll take you to a cacao tree. You don’t need sugar to have chocolate.” Now this really took me aback…what did she mean a cacao tree?! In all my years I had never even paused to consider where chocolate comes from. I was about to find out…and it would change my life forever.
At the Source
The cacao tree was beautiful and unlike any tree I’d ever seen. It was giant and the pods grew directly off of the trunk. We pulled a pod off the tree and opened it to reveal rows of bean shaped seeds covered in the most delicate, floral scented white fruit. I can’t even describe what the fruit tastes like and until you get to try it for yourself, you’ll just have to take my word for it when I say it’s almost sexual. Exquisite. I devoured the entire cacao pod and my brain chemistry went into bliss overdrive! My endorphins sang and I became as excited as a little girl on Christmas while simultaneously settling into the deepest calm and presence I had ever known. I was in love. Madly, deeply in love…with a tree. This, I thought to myself, this is what it’s supposed to feel like to take ecstasy! Yup, I was high. Naturally, legally high.
Chocolate for Breakfast
We collected buckets of these pods and I nearly lived on a diet of them for the next couple days. Upon my return to Maui I told my sister of my new obsession and my need to recreate that cacao feeling. We went to Mana foods so she could show me David Wolfe’s Raw Cacao Powder. “Just mix it with some type of oil and a sweetener,” she suggested. Every morning for breakfast I took my coconut bowl, coconut spoon and tried out different combinations. I’d sit with my bowl of raw chocolate and eat it in pure, ecstatic bliss. After my breakfast I’d do yoga and meditate, totally high on cacao. I literally cried tears of gratitude several days in a row and I’m not one to cry easily. I was enveloped in a world of magic, it was as if my angel was there with me, massaging my heart.
It was time for me to leave the island and hit Burning Man festival before returning to my work life. Deep in my heart, I knew two things: I needed to be sure to have chocolate for breakfast everyday. I was compelled to share the experience of raw cacao with everyone I knew.
A Business is Born
At Burning Man, I mixed up a new flavor of chocolate each morning for breakfast and each night before heading out onto the wild playa. I fed everyone around and noticed that each evening the crowd had grown due to people hearing that what I was mixing up would give them energy all night and they could be high without taking drugs. I shared willingly with everyone and began to carry a jar of my mixture around at all times for the joy that came from watching one light up when I fed them some. By the time I was back in Portland the word was out. I bought some jars, printed some stickers and starting selling the first version of Lulu’s Chocolate. By Christmas I had a pile of orders and from there it only gained momentum until a business was born. Born from the desire of those who wanted it and from my joy in sharing it.
Of course there are many more events that took place between those first sales in December of 2006 and today. You can dive into those juicy stories HERE. I turned 28 years old in the Waipio Jungle that summer as I had my first cacao experience. Astrologically that means I was entering my “Saturn Return.” On my birthday I went to a waterfall, overwhelmed with gratitude, and that rushing water whispered me my personal mantra that has guided me through all sorts of adventures and misadventures since that fateful day: