Wherever I go, There I AM

What a perfect time to release our 1st of the 12 Ferm Fatale Dirty Dozen recipes with signature example recipes of how to use them. Today we release ‘Samsara Jun-Tini.’ What is Samsara you ask? The literal translation of samsara: “a wandering through." This refers to the way in which everyone passes through a number of lives and states. Also known as Shakti or the essence of Life itself unfolding through the cycles of death and rebirth to which life in the material world is bound. The goal of nearly all religions that believe in samsara is to end its cycle of reincarnation by reaching nirvana, or enlightenment. This can be done by perceiving reality and the eternal Truth, generally found through meditation and inner silence. Acknowledging the wheel of suffering (samsara) can not only help keep the ultimate goal of liberation in mind (pun intended), but it can also help them let go of current troubles and traumas as they remember that this life is just one of many, and all is impermanent except the light in your heart…which is eternal.

Speaking of wandering…Three years ago I came across an account on Instagram of these people fermenting down in Central America on the deepest lake in the world. Memories of an old client of mine arose from 15 years prior (shout out Sid Banack!) that traveled the world and told me “Hey if you ever get to Guatemala, outside of Tikal, you need to go to the lake.” You wouldn’t believe the serendipity and random signs rolling in the past 3 years that made the path super clear. One of them was last summer right after Louis, my french bulldog, was diagnosed with cancer and I had to make a split decision whether or not to remove the initial tumor. It was a tough year of fighting cancer leading up to the launch of Ferm Fatale and building the company for the second time. Louis transitioned after a yearlong fight with a rare, aggressive blood cancer on January 29, 2020. I have so much gratitude for the friends that supported me during the most painful loss. To heal from the initial surgery I brought him with me up to 8000ft elevation to a primitive skills retreat. Camping and learning various primitive skills like how to skin and tan the hide of an animal, which was one of the few things I did not learn growing up. I chose to honor the life of a beautiful white breeder rabbit who was being killed because she couldn’t produce any more babies. There were Tantra classes that were super cool, little cult-y, but whatever, I met some unique people—one of them I did a cuddle session with (I haven’t talked about this since till now) with this shaman. I laid with him for an hour with the task of asking each other what we wanted. I got a wounded healer vibe from him but none the less, he told me he wanted to go to this lake in Guatemala. It was already on my radar. This was Life unfolding.

The details gracefully unraveled as time went on that were undeniable. From my feeling drawn to one particular retreat center that looked the most authentic and being sold out for two years in a row for their New Years 10-day silent. I gave up on that place and booked with another location that I wasn’t super thrilled about but I knew I needed to get out there and also just needed a personal break already. I was set to go March 19, 2020 and Covid-19 hit March 16. As time went on in 2020, Guatemala opened their borders, the retreat center I had my eye on for over 3 years opened up and they had space for me. A new friend who manages a local restaurant I frequent introduced me to his mom who lives in Guatemala and helped me arrange my first two nights staying at her brother’s hotel. All was gracefully coming together. As time grew closer I began getting intuitive hits about meeting a spotted jaguar shaman. I knew I was going from the ancient city of Antigua, where I would spend two nights but otherwise I would be in silence at one location the entire time so how would I ever have time to explore out beyond the compound to meet this indigenous healer?

Christmas morning I flew into Guatemala City at 6am, I walked out the sliding doors with 50 local men vying to hire them for taxi, and among them I spot my driver with a sign for ‘Julie Cielo’ and we were off. We left the quiet morning city and outside of the bouncy ride in due to the old cobblestone streets we went to an even quieter place. This city was spectacular and no one was really awake yet when I arrived to my hotel, so I dropped my bag and off I went on foot to explore. Everything was old old and you know it had story. A boom went off in the distance and poof smoke, the active volcano was close. Little did I know that one of the biggest ones very close by, was an aqua volcano with a crater lake at the top and the other active one erupted just two years prior and tragically killed many people. I was overcome with the history and richness of this place without having met any of its people yet other than my driver who was quiet. I was feeling the meaning of Christmas in my heart already. I head back to my room and discover a picture above my bed of a line of men all in a row with the exact spotted jaguar hide draped over their shoulders all the way down to the floor. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. A sort of nesting doll-type mayan artwork. This ancient hotel had a museum in it! Just gorgeous. Later I tooled around the city taking in the vibrancy. The next day I went to the most magnificent coffee plantation to tour their factory and discover how they ferment their fruit, who their buyers were, elevations and processes—(geeking out while getting high on caffeine—you know I’m a triple Gemini right?) Needless to say I had a blissful time, hitchhiked back to the city, had a much needed massage (I received zero bodywork for two years while starting Ferm Fatale) and at the most insane spa in the whole city. I was so relaxed going from a steam to cold to jacuzzi waiting for my massage. Afterwards, I went back to the hotel and asked the front desk in my very broken Spanish ‘Where I spend my last night here?’ He immediately says ‘Oh Ms. Cielo you must go Cafe Sky, it your name.’ Oh I said mucho gracious! Off I went to a local brewery instead, but nope, not my vibe. I decide to make the trek to Cafe Sky that the gentleman suggested. There I sat taking in the amazing ancient city on a rooftop looking at multiple volcanos and Christmas spirit all around. Sitting on the roof I felt most receptive to the Universe’s intimate caress with Life itself. I was enjoying tacos, Mezcal, music, and high vibe energy and walking towards me from across the bar is the most delectable young man. I was there in my SAT NAM beanie and wearing my newly acquired hand made, Guatemalan wool poncho with pyramid ruins and a quetzal, the national bird in the sky on it. When he introduced himself the volcano blew up behind his head. Of course, my first question ‘What is your sign?’ Immediately he replies, “Sagittarius”, and I thought ‘watch his birthday to be the exact polar sign to mine’. Well, long story short, we had the most amazing connection and that fire is still very much alive. He is a Guatemalan man who had just extended his stay another week right before he arrived to Cafe Sky. He lives in LA too with his new French bulldog puppy. His father whom I met told me his cousin runs a well known Mystery School on the lake.

After an epic night with Andres I send off to the lake after grabbing a coffee at a shop that the tour guide recommended. Hanging there was a picture of a black puma and spotted jaguar wrapped around a human heart. I don't want to get into it, but in Peru I discovered my spirit animal was a large cat. I thought it was the black puma. Now here he is entangled with a spotted jaguar wrapped around a human heart. I sipped delicious Guatemalan hand roasted coffee and made my way to the lake. An epic drop of heights we traveled passed as we near the lake and that resembled Positano in Italy. I make it to the retreat center where I am brought to my room and my cell phone is put in the safe for the duration of the 10 day silent. I was introduced to 12 other beings that I would be entering into silence with for the next ten days. Half of them men, half of them women.  One, the woman that has run Andres’ dad’s cousin school for nine years…the same amount of time I have been feeling like I have been walking across an arid desert as the big transition of my ‘previous life’ was FINALLY let go.

Wake time was 6am, before the sun. Six hours of seated meditation total per day…much gentler than the ten hours I was used to. A typical day consisted of a combination of Hatha yoga, self-practice, mindfulness nature walking, seated meditation, sky and landscape gazing, and other nature absorption practices. As far as meals, a light breakfast of fruits grown on property was provided. For lunch, a garden grown salad and a soup for dinner. Lights out at 830pm every night. No reading, no eye contact nor speaking. Minimal writing permitted and all for the sake of preserving a most internal experience.

I cannot begin to explain to you the insights that came along with this challenging experience. I got sick with severe anemia, a blood disorder on Day 3. It turns out I have had it for at least six years now. The cause unknown. I am sick without animal flesh though. I thought I could go without for 5 days, now only three. It sucks. I can’t take iron supplements as they also make me really sick.

Day 3 a part of me died. I had to go to the host and teacher and tell them I needed meat daily or I would have to leave. They weren’t thrilled, being lifelong vegetarians and with their personal beliefs asked if maybe I could push through it by releasing something, suggesting perhaps it was psychological. I explained this was actually a medical condition, I didn’t deserve it, and I needed help. My kidneys were pulsing, temperature dropping and I was having heart palpations. This was serious. I had discussed this with my doctor prior to going and he said “Julie, you need to eat meat but you also need time off.” After talking to them and initially getting the same lack of support I previously received from a ‘spiritual’ friend on a 10 day Vipassana retreat I was forced to leave early because of this same condition. Once again I felt judged, shamed, and misunderstood yet I also knew this was a pattern, so it had more to do with me than with them. I went to my room and wailed for over an hour crying to the Universe asking if my mother had put a curse on me. Why was this happening TO me but also, what could be FOR me? I was feeling some deep pity, anger, grief, embarrassment— humbled by the pain, my ego experienced several mini deaths. This is what actual transformation looks like— not some picture-perfect Instagram photo, it’s the snot nosed, in-your-face fear, feeling like you are in the fire pit or in my case, ‘iced out.’ I was so cold-frozen to the bone. It was 80 degrees there and I had multiple wool blankets stacked on me to get warm. After two days of the host having a worker pick up cooked chicken and eating it in my room away from the others every day at lunch, I was able to stay. It took days before I felt better. It made sitting much harder but I was so grateful. My heart was expanding and opening in a way I had never experienced before. I literally was called HOME, home to my heart and I was saying yes.

I discovered in order to bless your story, you need to let go of it because all we have is the Now. My need to feel ‘justified’ was keeping me in prisoned, no one else. Living in this state of openness to the Now is to surrender to the flow of Shakti, Life itself. May sound cliche’, but the cycles ARE our teachers. I was blessing the wheel of samsara itself as following my heart is what brought me back to my heart. It was the polarity of darkness that revealed the Light. Just like what MLK said… “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.” The question for me was always ‘how do I do that?’ I was asking the wrong question. The question truly is ‘what can I un-learn?’

What I was looking for is what was looking. I am the damn jaguar shaman. I know longer saw the need for anger, shame, blame, worry nor doubt as that is all mind stuff and I was tired of suffering, which meant letting it all go. As I released attachments to outcomes, I was feeling more and more free. I discovered you can live in the YES and still be discerning, not a doormat. You don’t have to eat ‘bad fish’ as Eckhart Tolle says. Life is offering a beautiful opportunity to share amazing probiotic mocktails with you, but also to share insights behind the creation of Ferm Fatale as my personal journey unfolds and informs it. Besides I fell in love with fermentation due to it's own process of death & rebirth and the vital nutrients created to heal the gut and beyond from consuming it. The heart of addiction is that of the mind. The death of the mind is the birth of wisdom. What is life offering you and how will you respond? As you sip either a 'Samsara Jun-Tini' or just the cycles of samsara itself, remember you are God. You are an eternal Light being having a human temporary experience. It is in the un-learning that true consciousness shifts occur.

Cheers to inner peace! May it start with us. Please see this month’s Dirty Dozen recipe with example signature recipe and Stay tuned on social as I share morning meditations to inspire Self-inquiry which can spontaneously lead to liberation.