Citrine, a powerful crystal. Photo courtesy of cobalt123.

“We call in the directions to invoke the energy (the spirit) of the elements to join us in the circle. It is a way to honor Mother nature and her powerful healing abilities.”

Tonight I’ve decided to do something totally out if the ordinary for myself. A Moon Healing Meditation Circle in New York City, hosted by Sarah Eve Cardell, the Culinary Shaman, promised spiritual healing and good vibes through the honoring of the elements, a journey to the heart and a lesson on how to use meditation and shamanism to help with solving everyday challenges and for harnessing power, love and strength.

Oh yea, and raw vegan chocolate. Yum!

Sarah Eve Cardell, the Culinary Shaman. Photo courtesy of Sarah Eve Cardell.

The Culinary Shaman And The New Moon

Cardell, who feels she was “completely guided to be on this path,” has studied with a number of esteemed shamanistic practitioners, including Itzhak Beery, Ipupiara the late Makuniman of the Ure-wau-wau tribe, Tom Cowan, The 13 Indigenous Grandmothers, crystal energy work and John of God in Brazil. Additionally, she holds yoga instructor certification from Sri Dharma Mittra.

“I often bring many traditions to my circles — entitling them moon healing meditation circles to encompass all the teachings,” she explains. “Crystals, herbs, mudras, mantras, shamanic limpias (cleansings) and crystals are some of the numerous elements included. Every circle is quite different. I do not plan anything — spirit shows me what to do and what to bring before each circle.”

According to Cardell, the proper training of a healing meditation facilitator is imperative, as attendees often journey deep into their pasts, sometimes re-encountering trauma in order to heal. When drumming, she’ll often go into a deep meditative and almost trance-like state where she can obtain healing energy and positive vibes from loving spirits.

While new moons aren’t the only time one can have a shamanistic experience, it’s a great time for letting go of any negativity in our lives and replacing it with something positive, such as a new career path or fulfilling relationship.

“Every circle, whether a new or full moon, is quite different with distinct elements or medicinal qualities introduced,” Cardell explains. “Some times crystals, flowers are used, some times different sounds, incense, etc.”

Cardell’s delicious raw vegan chocolate, infused with magic and the energy of those who attend her meditation circles. Photo courtesy of Jessica Festa,

My Personal Journey

Lately, I’d been feeling an odd mix of suffocating over-ambitiousness, anxiety and off-balance. While I could picture what I wanted in life so clearly, I often felt like the path to get there was a rough current, and I was sinking and coughing up water along the way.

Sometimes I’d grasp a floatation device, but eventually, slip off as my plate piled with deadlines and my inbox filled with everything except my golden ticket.

It was an endless struggle between Olympic swimming and just trying to stay afloat.

Hopefully, I could connect enough on some level with the spirits to guide me and tell me what I was doing wrong or what I could do better.

If you love crazy experience stories, keep reading, because this was certainly a wild and beautiful ride.

Upon entering The Bhakti Center in Manhattan’s Lower East Side I remove my shoes and pour myself some Runa Tea, cultivated in the Amazon from guayusa plants by local farmers. We’re instructed to hydrate, as the drum circle often shifts energies dramatically. When trauma is released through healing being hydrated helps with the detoxifying process. It feels immediately calming, attendees talking softly on yoga mats and cocooning themselves in soft blankets. Balls of raw vegan chocolate in various flavors like raspberry, while, almond milk and chai are offered, as Sarah explains how cacao is the food of the gods. In fact, God Quetzalcoatl was apparently punished by the other gods for sharing the treat with mortals, as it’s said cacao was originally reserved for higher beings only. As I savor Sarah’s delicious heart-shaped raw brownie infused with coconut and cranberry, I’m glad Quetzalcoatl made the sacrifice.

Before the lights are dimmed we’re instructed to place something in the center of the circle that we want to focus on. Credit cards, wallets, business cards and photographs are all placed amidst sacred objects like mala beads, feathers, crystals from Brazil, Shaman stones, a photograph of yoga instructor Dharma Mittra and a mask Cardell picked up from Bali from a sacred place called “Island of the Gods.” The elements are also represented, candles for fire, a glass of water and smoke (air) from incense. We’re asked to stand with your bodies open and arms in receiving position as sage smoke is wafted over our being in order to cleanse the aura, raise our vibrations and release unwanted energies.

meditation circle
Healthy healing during a meditation circle led by Cardell. Photo courtesy of Sarah Eve Cardell, the Culinary Shaman.

“I applaud you for being brave enough for coming to heal yourself,” praises Sarah. “By taking the time to deal with our personal attachments, fears, blocks, and looking deeply within the self, we are taking responsibility for every emotion and action in our life. It is not often easy to come to the understanding that we are all individually responsible for all of our pleasure as well as all our pain. But, the reward of self-realization and change is ultimate bliss.”

The drum circle begins with us standing and calling in all directions — east, south, west and north — for the energy (the spirit) of the elements to join the circle. According to Cardell, this helps the group raise our vibrations and shift our internal energies. Moreover, it’s a way to pay homage to Mother Nature for her powerful healing capabilities.

Next we passing around a sacred talking stick — a rattle from Cardell’s teacher Ipupiara from the Amazon — each saying what spirit or powers we wish to call upon, like fire, sunlight, prosperity and personal spirits we may have encountered in the past. As it is used to shift energy, the talking stick is passed in a clockwise direction as to keep the energy flowing.

natural healing
Natural healing. Photo courtesy of Sarah Eve Cardell.

For me the enlightenment really occurs during the next section of the evening, which involves crystal work. The healing crystal for the evening is citrine, known for its ability to cure third chakra issues, promote mind clarity, aid in digestion, improve endurance and increase wealth. As I had placed my credit and business cards into the center of the circle, I find this very fitting and hope it is a sign I came on the right night.

My Vision

With my back on the floor atop a yoga mat, eyes closed, legs uncrossed and crystal in my right hand as to fully accept the Earth’s energies and crystal’s powers, I’m taken to my safe place, guided by the beat of a drum and Sarah’s soothing voice. For me, my refuge switches between my bedroom and my boyfriend’s bedroom, although ultimately for me it seems I find his room more soothing. In my vision there’s a red door — which I later learn means welcome and new beginnings — which I exit through to begin my journey to meet my crystal in another form. In my mind the door is glowing, beams of light beckoning me out of the room. There’s a long spiral staircase leading down from the clouds where I apparently had been resting, and when I descend there is my crystal, in lion form, which I later learn symbolizes strength, personal power, confidence and also, sometimes, aggression toward another being.

Interrupting the encounter are images of water and sneakers pounding pavement. The sense of calm and a pang of longing allows me to understand almost immediately what the images are telling me. And once I begin speaking with my crystal through the vision, my suspicions are confirmed: I need to slow down and allow myself to get back into healthy habits. Lately I’d been so stressed I’d been neglecting my passion for eating nutritiously and running. In fact, I hadn’t jogged in over a month, making the excuse that I was too busy. But, you know how the Edward Stanley quote goes: “Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”

As it was my first time ever doing an exercise like this it was a bit difficult to focus at first; however, once I got the hang of it and was able to block out any mental noise like wondering what kind of sandwich I would get on my way home and what would be on my upcoming sommelier test I was able to have what I felt was a genuine conversation with my crystal, or at least with myself.

Lately I’d been the epitome of stress and anxiety, my heart racing like I was on speed every time a new email entered my inbox. I made lists in my sleep and worked on six projects at one time. My breath was shallow, and my eyes bloodshot. While I was productive it didn’t feel genuine, as there’s a difference between just trucking along and truly harnessing your inner passions and creativity. Getting work done doesn’t necessarily mean you’re working to your full potential. And oddly enough, sometimes in order to see prosperity in your work, you need to take some time off, or at least slow down enough to catch your breath and listen to your heart beat.

At least, that’s what I learned from my journey.

Some of Pacha Mama’s — or Mother Earth’s — beautiful work. Photo courtesy of Sarah Eve Cardell.

In order to manifest our spiritual journeys, the group forms a circle. Eyes closed, we envision our hopes, our dreams and our destinies, pressing them into the floor and connecting them with pacha mama, mother earth. We walk in a clockwise circle, allowing the energy to continue to flow.

“We are grounding the energy into our bodies and into the Earth,” says Cardell. “The journeys take us out of the physical realm and we are bringing them back into physical manifestation.”

Another Soul

Next we move on to partner work. This is difficult for me, as I can be shy with strangers. The girl I am partnered with is someone I have never met before — not even for a second — and we lay side by side on our yoga mats, arms brushing together, trying to read each others’ energies as we embark on a journey to meet the others’ inner child, the beating of the drum guiding the way.

While the energy I feel leads me to a place where I meet a 10-year-old girl in crazy printed leggings with bright pink walls and costumes everywhere, I keep second-guessing whether what I am seeing is real or if I’m trying too hard. I also receive flashes of images: chocolate, tall golden grass, bubbles. The young girl I meet on my journey gives me a clear message for my partner, although I think it is also for me: take the time to appreciate your small accomplishments, as they’re stepping stones to your larger ones. She also tells me to spend more time breathing deeply and living slowly, enjoying life for what it is and not being frustrated for what it’s not.

meditation circle
The center of the meditation circle, where sacred and personal items are placed. Photo courtesy of Jessica Festa.

When I tell my partner what I’ve seen the color drained from her face. “Wow, that makes total sense. Last week I went to Puerto Rico and I met someone, who told me that if I just slowed down I would see things more clearly. They told me they could tell I was from New York and that I was impatient.”

She also tells me the girl I described in the vision was her best friend. “She’s an actress who’s room is full of costumes. And she always has on the wildest leggings.”

I feel strangely rewarded. While the entire time I lay wondering if I’d even done the exercise right, in the end I’d helped another human find some clarity. It feels good. Really good.

Her reading of me is also dead on, as she relays that the girl she met was dancing and beaming with joy, and kept talking about her parents.

“She also told me you have special powers that you know about, but aren’t quite sure how to use. She advised that you need to slow down and relax in order to find the answer.”

It was like I’d gone to a psychic reading.

Bodhisattva Mahasthamaprapta, Vajrapani
Bodhisattva Mahasthamaprapta, Vajrapani. Photo courtesy of Wonderlane.

We end the drum circle with some yogic mudras led by Amandev, a certified instructor in Kundalini Yoga, which seeks to enlighten and heal. The focus of the mudras is prosperity, affirming my hunch I really had been called to come on this particular night.

“It’s not just the breadth that creates prosperity. It’s the combination of everything the mantra, mudra, and breath,” explains Amandev. “It brings the moon and Jupiter energy together. It changes ones vibrational frequency.”

The first exercise is the highlight of the night for me, as it teaches how to give myself natural energy. After performing it once, I had so much vigor I don’t think I’ll ever need to waste $3 on a 5-Hour Energy drink again. It is called the Breath of Fire, and is performed in lotus position with hands relaxed in gian mudra on the knees. The breath is supposed to come from just the naval, quick short powerful breaths through the nose with both the exhale and inhale in equal parts.

Our second mudra is called Tattva Balancing, as it balances the elements in a person and allows them to make clear-minded decisions. Here, the finger tips are placed together with a space between the palms, the breath a regular inhale with an eight-part exhale through rounded lips.

Lastly, a one-minute breath allowed the group to be overcome with calm as well as stabalize the space. This was achieved by a 20-second inhale, 20-second breath hold and 20-second exhale.

While I’ll admit some of these mudras were diffficult for me as I’m not used to breathing deeply — something I really want to work on — after I get into a rhythm it’s easy to lose myself in relaxation and pure energy.

Cardell preparing some Runa Tea for her attendees. Photo courtesy of Jessica Festa.

Experience Shamanism For Yourself

One of the problems that exists right now in New York City is people having one Ayahuasca experience and deciding that they’re a shaman. What’s dangerous is that when you agree to help heal someone using shamanistic methods, you open the door to potentially hurting them if you’re not trained, as some people see things so intense it unsettles their mind. In the past Cardell has received phone calls in the middle of the night with people needing guidance on what they’d seen in a session, or who began to have things surface hours later. What’s important in this situation is that Cardell is properly trained and experienced in this realm, and knows how to handle these situations.

I encourage everyone to try a healing drum circle at least once. When I went I wasn’t the only newbie, as many people are curious about what it can offer and how it can change their life. The space is very welcoming, no matter what who you are. If you’re still nervous, Cardell hosts myriad other events focused on physical, mental and spiritual health and wellness, like yoga and vegan brunch classes, a raw vegan pop up dinners, and the opportunity to bring in an ingredient and learn how to successfully cook with it for optimal wellness and taste.

Stay up to date with The Culinary Shaman’s events on Facebook, Meetup and their website.

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Jessica Festa

Jessica Festa is the editor of Epicure & Culture as well as Jessie on a Journey. She enjoys getting lost in new cities and having experiences you don’t read about in guidebooks. Some of her favorite travel experiences have been teaching English in Thailand, trekking her way through South America, backpacking Europe solo, road tripping through Australia, agritouring through Tuscany, and volunteering in Ghana.

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  1. This sounds amazing Jessie! Sounds like you had a really positive experience and such vivid visions too—glad to hear it.

    I’ve personally never attended a healing drum circle but love all things of this nature. I’m definitely intrigued 🙂

    1. @Mariana: From what we’ve talked about it sounds right up your alley. If you ever visit New York I’ll take you to one of her classes I think you two would get along 🙂

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