Bulgarian man quitting his corporate UK job to connect with his heart in Medellin
Ivaylo is now offering Cacao Ceremony and Plant Medicines retreats.
Welcome, Ivaylo. Please introduce yourself, give us some information about your background.
I’m originally from Bulgaria. When I was 17 I went to live in the UK. I left the UK two years ago, at the age of 29, and came to live in Colombia.
I’ve been connecting more and more with ancestral medicines and various practices of wellbeing that I previously used for myself. Now I facilitate events to spread awareness about breathwork meditation, Tai Chi, Wim Hof Method, and cacao ceremonies. Also, I recently started organizing ayahuasca ceremonies and supporting people with pre and post-ceremony integration work and coaching.
When did you first encounter cacao ceremonies?
I started drinking Ayahuasca about four years ago after I came across it for the first time in Spain, Ibiza. A lot of people think of parties and other types of substances when they hear Ibiza, but the truth is that there is a very big spiritual community in Ibiza.
I had a magical experience when I went there. After coming back to London I wanted to be able to connect with people, people who were on the same page with me, people who share the same knowledge as me, and see the world the way I do.
I don’t know exactly how it happened, I don’t remember if it was on Facebook or Eventbrite, but I came across a cacao, drumming, and chanting circle.
I went because I had been singing for a while and I wanted to sing in a group. I didn’t know much about cacao at the time, and playing drums also seemed like fun. I went there and it was magical.
We learned about cacao and I would go every Tuesday night. It was my chance to reconnect and charge my energy because I had a very stressful corporate job. So every Tuesday night we would drink, cookout, drum, and then sing at some point. There were all kinds of instruments jamming for like a couple of hours, like two and a half hours. And then I would feel amazing.
That’s how I first encountered Cacao.
You’ve told me that you met a lady that taught you how to cook it?
So, my teacher’s a musician. She’s well known amongst people who use spiritual music, like monks and people who like to make mantras, etc.
I developed a very beautiful connection with her and we’re still in contact.
After facilitating the Wim Hof Method for some time, I started thinking of another practice I could share and I thought the cacao and breathwork go well together. The cacao gives you this sense of joy, energy, happiness, and creativity. And then it opens the heart, the cacao is the medicine of the hearts.
I began to facilitate an event combining cacao, breathwork, and a heart chakra opening meditation. It was a beautiful combination and gave me a lot of happiness. So I spoke to my friend and asked her how to prepare the cacao.
The difference between the cacao or hot chocolate we drink every morning and the ceremonial cacao is the intention. Of course, it has to be 100% pure Cacao, no sugar, etc. But it’s the intention. So when I prepare the cacao, I cleanse the space with a bit of Palo Santo or Salvia, then I say a prayer and sing to the Cacao as I prepare it. And that’s where you connect with it as a medicine.
It’s plant medicine, and as with any other plant medicine, the intention is the most important part.
Since you’ve been practicing this, how has it changed your life in the long term? What are the benefits you’ve enjoyed?
I was talking to some friends recently and letting them know how the last two, three months of my life have been amazing. With lots of projects happening, I am very fortunate to be part of an amazing community where I live.
I like the feeling of abundance, it feels great. But it hasn’t always been like this, I’ve had moments when I felt very low, very depressed, very stressed out. And what the cacao has helped me with from early on is to kind of connect with this energy, it gives you a sense of relaxation.
Cacao has different substances which stimulate the production of dopamine and lower stress levels. These substances also help with digestion. It has a lot of iron and magnesium. It’s really good.
Taking some time every day to connect and deal with intention is to me an act of self-love. I believe that drinking only water with intention makes the water more beneficial. So if you’re drinking Cacao, which on its own has benefits, it multiplies. On a personal level, I think it has helped me reconnect with myself, I feel more relaxed and I have more joy.
Opening and operating a space where I invite people and share with them the cacao and breathing practices has been a great privilege and experience for me. It’s been a privilege to have people open up and share difficult things they’ve been experiencing with the group. Having a place to say something out loud without judgment is healing in itself.
Recently I started co-facilitating Cacao, mushroom, and temazcal ceremonies. It’s been amazing, I can go deeper and deeper into that world. I love it.
Can you get me through what a ceremony looks like?
In a ceremony, we begin by sitting in a circle. For me, the circle is very important. It creates a particular group feeling. For all my practices I focus on the group feeling because I think that it’s really powerful. Of course, I have people that I work with one on one, but working in a group is very powerful.
We sit in a circle and share our intention for the practice, then I give people some history on cacao and its background. Cacao was first used in a ceremonial setting by the Olmecs who are the predecessors of the people in Central America, after which it was adopted by the Maya and the Aztec. The name comes from the Mayan words ka, which is fire, and Koh which is power, so it means firepower.
After the sitting arrangement, I give them a bit of information about the benefits they stand to gain by participating in the ceremony. Then we begin by singing to the cacao and sharing the cacao.
I pour the cacao in however many cups I need and pass it in Keratan, which is like a coin response. So I would say “Ca Caooo” and then people sing “Ca Caooo.” There’s a song that I came up with one morning as I was cooking the cacao, “Cacao medicina pedimos tu ayuda abrir los corazones y sentir la luz a dentro,” which means Cacao medicine we ask for your help to open our hearts and feel the light within. And then when we sing that it grows the energy, after which we go into some breathing techniques. There are various breathing techniques that you can use to relax and there are other techniques that you can use to go a little bit deeper.
After finishing the breathwork which takes us deep into a meditative state, we go into a heart chakra opening meditation, which is my interpretation of a Maya meditation. We fill up the body with lights, visualizing the breath as light, and then filling up the chest. And then we connect the love we have for others and the love we have for ourselves.
Could you share an intense experience you had that involved an attendee at a ceremony?
Probably the most intense experience that I’ve had in a ceremony was this lady who was going through a divorce at the time. We did a heart chakra opening meditation which helped her connect with all the difficult feelings she was experiencing.
We’re all ready and eager to feel happiness, joy, excitement, optimism, etc., and it’s great when we feel them. And we have to be grateful when these feelings come. But oftentimes when we feel anger, sadness, or feel despair and other low vibration feelings, we tend to resist because we don’t like how it feels. But it’s this resistance that keeps the energy inside. So the way to release the feeling of anger, sadness, or pain is to let it out. Cry if you need to cry, scream if you need to scream, do whatever you need to do, but let it out.
It was amazing that through this particular ceremony this person connected with all the pain that she was feeling due to her separation from her husband, and it was very beautiful. Before that, she didn’t give herself the space to do that to feel good. And then she came to the circle and she could just let herself be vulnerable and just cry it out a bit. She finished with a smile on her face, it was amazing.
It’s a privilege to do this kind of work where people can come and just liberate stuff. So I would say that’s an intense experience.
Let’s finish with what you’d like to share with our readers.
Something which has been a very big lesson in my journey ever since I started working with the medicines is how it’s important to get out of my head and connect more with my heart, my intuition, my gut feeling.
I feel like I still have so many things to figure out, but something that has worked for me, something that I do a lot is listening to my inner voice. For example, if there is a decision that I have to make, instead of thinking, thinking, thinking, thinking, like, “What I do?” I take a breath and try to feel my body, then I go, “Do I want to go out tonight, or do I want to stay at home?”
To give you an example, I broke up with a girlfriend a few months ago, and breakups happen for a reason. But when you break up, you start thinking about the good moments and how nice it was and how much you miss the person, how much you want to cuddle them, etc.
And then I had this moment when I wanted to contact her and tell her stuff. But then I connected with myself and the response I got was a clear no, but my mind wanted to. And I did, I contacted her, and I felt worse.
Several times I’ve noticed that when I ignore my inner voice, like my intuition, and follow my mind instead, I always do the wrong thing. So now, even if I feel like I want to do something and my inner feeling tells me no, I don’t do it.
Follow your inner voice, not so much the mind.
Choose a path with heart and wherever it takes you, this is where you need to be. Any other path you choose that doesn’t have your heart on it, wouldn’t matter. Follow your intuition and not your mind. Don’t believe everything you think.