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Take-home self-love: Self-massage and mindful chocolate tasting

Happily holding nectar of the gods in ice cream form.

“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” – Ronald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

A sampling of cacao nibs, raw cacao powder, cocoa powder, and carob powder.

Last Friday at Yangon Yoga House, we opened our eyes to the magic both within us and around us through yet another evening of self-love. This time, our Friday night event taught its lucky participants the skills to cultivate this sense of self-love outside of our studio walls through a take-home self-massage class and a mindful eating lesson. First, we opened our hearts by melting into a slow sunset yoga flow. After warming our bodies, we deepened this opening, unwinding with myofascial release. Finally, we continued the heart-opening by mindfully ingesting a substance that physiologically makes us feel fleetingly in love. Through opening our hearts, we opened our eyes to the potent power of our practice on the mat and to the culinary magic of our subject of conversation: Nectar of the gods, elixir of dreams, sweet alchemy of wonder, otherwise known as chocolate.

Each morsel of chocolate that melts upon our tongues whispers a story of its intricate personal life cycle, from bean to bar and beyond. Every puzzle piece of chocolate production can impart unique and distinctive sensory notes upon the finished product. From the genetic makeup of its parent seedling; to the terroir that housed its tree; to the delicacy of its fermentation; to its winnowing down to nutty nibs; to its grinding into an intense espresso-shot liquor; to its conching with quality ingredients of choice; to its tempering to a silky, snappy sheen; to it molding and packaging for consumer appeal; to its price and brand name popularity at purchase; to the surrounding mood, ambiance, and food pairings during tasting; to the experience that we can evoke by engaging our senses during tasting; to the individual differences in neurochemistry between tasters that shape and condition their taste buds; and finally, to the mental processing of our eating’s after-effects on social justice, environmental sustainability, and our own physiological health. The process that forms our subjective experience of feelings for a certain chocolate square is far more complex than we can even begin to digest.

Despite the underappreciated and elaborate nature of factors that influence chocolate’s taste, we should not acquiesce to gobble down mega-bars with overwhelmed inattention. Instead, we can appreciate the distinctly interwoven stages that have had to occur to bring our chocolate to lips and taste to mind. Chocolate is a metaphor for life, mirroring perhaps one twentieth of the individual circumstances that have occurred in sequence bring us each to the planet and into our coexisting interaction within the construct of our studio on our night of self-love. The divine diversity of chocolate is akin to the veritable variety of human beings on our planet. Call it karma, call it fortuitous chance, call it natural evolution, call it the magic of the chocolate gods. The take-home message is that we may eagerly unwrap our gratitude for the magic around us each and every occasion that we open anew a chocolate bar.

Beyond the bar: Vegan chocolate thumbprint cookies

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