This is the first in a series of guest blog posts by Julia Koskella on her travels, insights and experiences working with Fundación Pachamama, The Pachamama Alliance’s sister organization, which defends indigenous people’s rights in Ecuador.
What do you do in the mornings? Hit snooze too many times, jump out of bed -- oh no it's 7:18, wolf down the same cereal and scrounge for something to wear before rushing out the door?
Perhaps it’s time to rethink this. There's a lot to be said by the expression "start as you mean to go on," and I don't mean to be stressed, rushed and unobservant all day.
When I went to the Amazon on a Pachamama Journey in April 2011, one of the lessons I learned from the ancient culture of the Achuar was about the true power of mornings for deepening spirituality, focus, and relationships.
The Guayusa Ceremony
The Achuar partake in a guayusa ceremony every morning before dawn. Families slowly wake to brew tea over a low fire, using guayusa leaves fresh from the garden, or chakra.
Children observe from their beds nearby, drifting in and out of sleep. No one speaks, as stomachs are filled with the sweet-bitter, caffeine-rich tea. Then, one by one, people peel off from the group to purge, an important protection against parasites in this rainforest area. Purging is also seen as a spiritual cleansing process, when your being expulses negative energies, unsettling dreams, and past quarrels.
Then the mood suddenly lightens. The time for introspection moves to a time for sharing and interpreting the night’s dreams with family members. For the Achuar, the dream world coexists with the spirit world and the visible world, and it helps shape decisions about the day ahead. Dreams are also a way of sharing one’s fears and apprehensions with others, which in itself is a sustaining practice that is good for our souls.
Experiencing the Ceremony First-hand
While in Ecuador, I am invited to participate in a guayusa ceremony. My tired body isn’t that convinced about a 4am wake-up call, much less the idea of “purging," which I call “throwing up” thank-you-very-much. But I’ve never been the type to pass up a new experience. I accept.
The pre-dawn hums with opportunity. Jungle sounds slowly accelerate around us, hinting at the oncoming morning symphony of buzzes, chirps, and birdsong. I can safely say I’ve never awakened this early, but I feel alert, serene, and deeply connected to the silent individuals sitting nearby.
The tea brings me more energy and yes, I even “purge” – in the context of this ancient rainforest ritual it just feels right. We spend only 45 minutes sharing our dreams, letting them inspire and inform us. Yet time seems to pass slowly; we don’t rush and so we don’t fear it slipping away from us.
The sun has now risen, and we separate to start our daily activities. Before I meet my fellow travelers for breakfast I write an incredibly lucid diary entry. I compare how I feel now with the stress I awake to back home, and wish I had grown up in a society which has rituals: more “presence," strong relationships and less stress.
Then it hits me: I can create my own morning “ritual." Mornings are powerful. I see a vision of my future life, sitting by a wood stove in the kitchen sipping tea with my child and husband, wrapped in a blanket, sharing our dreams and plans.
Create Your Own Morning Ritual
We can all learn from the Achuar’s guayusa ceremony. Create your own morning ritual, leaving time for keeping a dream journal, jogging, yoga, planning your aspirations for the day, or simply eating a calm, balanced breakfast with your family.
Accept that giving yourself time in the morning will help your mental and physical health, and strengthen your personal relationships. Let your mornings bring you joy and opportunity.
What does your morning ritual look like? How do you carry positive energy throughout your day? I would love to hear your ideas in the comments section below.