Cacao practitioner | Ceremonial cacao | Consciousness | Inner work | Practitioner profile
Meet Paula Gibson, Cacao practitioner and trainer based in Wicklow, Ireland! Paula has been working with Cacao since 2011, spending 3 years receiving the teachings and guidance of Keith Wilson (aka the Chocolate Shaman & founder of Keith’s Cacao) in Guatemala. Having learned how to work with and share this medicine on a very deep level, she became Ireland's first Keith's Cacao Practitioner in 2015.
Paula's personal journey with Cacao is really wild! She first met Cacao while traveling through Central America during a particularly challenging period in her life. Though in exploration and travel mode, she also needed care and silence to process the grief over the loss of her mother, who had passed just two months before. Drawn to San Marcos La Laguna in Guatemala because of its reputation as a Mecca of all things spiritual, within minutes of arriving, the message she received was loud and clear: go see the "Chocolate Shaman."
To Paula, Keith and Cacao are inseparable. She had never heard of Cacao before. It was Keith who first handed her a Cacao pod, then a Cacao bean, then a cup of his magic Ceremonial Grade Cacao. She says, "I was really not prepared for the journey that that moment was gonna take me on!" Within an hour, she was pulling skeletons out of her darkest closets, having vivid, visceral releases. And yet, through it all, she was fully sober and perfectly in control. She felt tremendously supported by Cacao to go deep but was fully aware that she was doing the work herself.
From that first encounter forward, Cacao has accompanied Paula on some of her most beautiful moments and guided her back to softness and compassion during her most difficult ones. The journey with Cacao has been one of acceptance, self-love, and really meeting herself in her darkest spaces. It has helped her move through a lot of grief, shadows, and a sense of futility. Cacao led her to remember there is reason and purpose to the difficulties and the shadows. There is some magic to be found there; if you are willing to go!
There were moments of great frustration, hearing Keith reassure her she would get through it but not telling her how. Desperate for quick answers and solutions, she learned that Cacao's unraveling is gentle: it requires space and time. Paraphrasing Keith, Paula says, "She (Cacao) will show you, but She is not making it happen. It's all about you taking ownership of your own journey.” Gibson adds, “And that was the real journey for me with Cacao. It was taking ownership of all of my beauty, of all of my power, of all of my magic. And also of all of my wounded spaces and parts."
Paula never thought she'd be sharing Cacao. It was not something she had planned to do. Yet, when she finally returned to Ireland for good, she felt she must. Cacao had brought so much to her life. She just had to share it with others. And so she became the first Keith's Cacao Practitioner in Ireland, sharing Keith's Cacao in many different formats and in combination with many modalities: from yoga to dance, meditation and breathwork.
These days she holds regular ceremonies, 1-to-1s, deeper containers, and Cacao training programs. Coming to understand the importance of giving space for the medicine to work, her offerings are now less filled with activity. Though she still uses certain practices to help clients and ceremony participants connect and start to feel how the medicine moves within them, the emphasis is on space, stillness, and silence. "Cacao is subtle," Paula says. "If there is too much distraction, it is easy to miss the messages coming through." So often, these messages come in forms that are all too familiar to us, like body discomforts. Taking the time to notice and sit with these mind-body connections can bring some miraculous healing. One of the greatest gifts that Paula received from Keith is the understanding that "the symptom is the message." All her work involves turning to these "symptoms" and "discomforts" with compassion and kindness and seeing the deeper message that is there.
Her work also involves looking at the belief systems that are not in alignment with where we want to be. But it always begins with acceptance of where we are now. What's the benefit of our current situation? How is the difficulty, the discomfort, "the problem" serving us? When we listen to the message, the cycle can be completed, and we can move on.
For Paula, one of the greatest misconceptions about Cacao is that its only purpose is to make you feel good! Paula knows that Cacao, used for spiritual purposes, makes you feel whatever is there to be felt! The good, the bad, the difficult. Cacao is here to help you feel it all! Cacao should not be used to bypass difficult feelings but rather to facilitate and help us sit with compassion and explore what those feelings are trying to show us.
Not only was Paula the first Irish Keith's Cacao Practitioner, she was also one of the first to ever share this medicine in Ireland. Since then, Cacao has spread across the land like wildfire! Paula attributes this to the enchanted land and the readiness of Ireland's heart-led, but also wounded people, to reconnect with their magic. "It's amazing to watch people here meeting Cacao for the first time, “just pop!” They are life-changed in a day!"
Paula feels that the biggest lesson she has received from Cacao is acceptance. Cacao has taught her to accept herself and life as it is. It has given her the courage and compassion to meet herself, all of herself. Especially those parts and places that are the most difficult to go to. It is this courage that then opened her up to see her power and beauty.
Inspired by Paula's story? Find out how you can become a Keith's Cacao Practitioner here.
Read more stories of Keith's Cacao Practitioners on our Blog.