How I found healing through Food, Chocolate and Ayahuasca in Costa Rica!

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There’s a strong feeling pulling at me. An overwhelming intuition is telling me we have to drive into the jungle today and find the little town we saw on a map this morning: Bijagual.

I have traveled all over the world. I love one day get-aways, sometimes I get to travel for a few months at a time and once I explored the Middle East and Africa for about a year. This time around I have one week for work and one week to play !
It’s November and I am in Costa Rica to lead one of my retreats.

As a Digestive Therapist I help people understand that psychological, emotional and spiritual healing is connected to how the Autonomic Nervous System works and that this greatly affects craving, metabolism, digestion, reflux, IBS and many allergic reactions. I help them find balance in their body, mind and soul through ancient healing practices as well as cutting edge scientific discoveries.

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I am also on this trip to do some reconnecting of my own.
My friend Jonathan is with me and I haven’t seen him in quite a while.
His life has gone through some big changes recently and we have chosen this motorcycle adventure through Costa Rica as a way to spend some quality time together.

Jonathan and I

We go up into the rainforest on three or four different trails and never find the town that was just a little dot on a map.
Jonathan is being a good friend and he entertains my quest.
Later that night he tells me, over a few beers and a delicious dinner, it’s the adventure of exploring he’s here with me for. It’s the journey, not the destination.

The next day I suggest we try one last time. As we ride over the ridge outside the little town of Bijagual later that day, it all makes sense. I feel at home here.

This little corner of paradise close to Carara National Park has it all: mountains, rivers, trees, birds, laughing children, smiling adults, delightful smells of fruit in the air, red mud and air so delicious that breathing it deeply nearly makes me want to weep.


When we drop into the next valley, the green of the tree canopy goes as far as the eye can see. We turn down a small dirt road and go for a few kilometers.
I am about to yell at Jonathan that this is probably a goose-chase when we come to a driveway. He has come up with a motto for us: “Whatever the question, the answer is almost always YES”. Should we go in ? The answer is almost always YES !

Traveler Palms Macaw

We are welcomed by a small field of (fucia ?) and traveler palms. Oh, how fittting. This place is heaven. This is The Macaw Lodge.

After we make it to the main lodge we are introduced to the owner Pablo, a high energy, enthusiastic, creative and intellectual type. I like him right away. He shows us around, no concern about time. Generous.

The Macaw Lodge generates its own electricity, they have an amazing aquaponics system, mind-blowing botanical and vegetable gardens, their own wood mill, a variety of ponds, a yoga deck, a great kitchen with wood-fired stoves and restful rooms and cabins.
The Macaw Lodge is the perfect place to connect with nature and reconnect with self. This is Pura Vida !

Seating Macaw

Are you fulfilled ? Are you malnourished in your life ?
What are you craving ? Are you hungry for something more ?

I am also known as “The Inquisitive Chef” and in my travels I have asked these questions over and over. How do different people around the world answer these questions ? What gives our lives meaning ?

When I search: “words in German that connect emotion with food and eating”. “Kümmerspeck” is the first word I find.

I always know, wherever I go, I will find these kind of words because all cultures, religions, races and languages have them. Humans have always recognized that our emotions and how we deal with food are connected and we see that reflected in our languages.
Now, science is ready to catch back up to that universal knowledge ! They have identified the “Enteric Nervous System”.
The stomach and gut are now called: “The Second Brain” by some.

Western science has been aware for a long time that eating disorders are actually psychological problems. It is now becoming more widely recognized that even “normal” emotions like stress, anger, depression and anxiety greatly affect our hormones, neurotransmitters, blood pressure, inflammation and many more elements of our physical chemistry ! We all experience these emotions from time to time.

Moods influence what we crave to eat, when and how much.

How many people you know run from diet to diet and from eating method to health food fad ? A lot of diet and nutrition books are bought but they often create more anxiety, guilt, fear and obsession for people.
Instead of chasing symptoms, it’s time we heal the cause!

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From November 8th- 14th, 2015 I am going back to my beloved Macaw Lodge and will lead another retreat in this special place in beautiful Costa Rica.

Our days will start with a yoga class to breathe in the day and to connect our mind and our body. We do this to reduce stress and to regulate the functions of the Autonomic Nervous System. Also, simply to feel good and strong.

After breakfast we will have different activities ranging from workshops on Digestive Therapy to cooking class by Macaw Lodge’s authentic Costa Rican chefs.

The staff at the lodge have been learning how to make chocolate and we will have a chocolate making class. We will start with cacao beans and end with chocolate bars !

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The next day we will take our experience to a new level and part take in a sacred cacao ceremony. Finally, you can choose to participate in the deepest and most profound healing experience with the holy grail of shamanic medicine of the Americas: ayahuasca!

There will also be plenty of time for relaxing, a trip to the beach, horseback riding or whatever you’d like to do with your personal time.Playa Blanca copy

Come join us in Costa Rica to live the Pura Vida life!
Come join us to learn about sustainable farming and cooking!
Come join us to heal mind, body and soul!


Walk Away Depression

Solvitur Ambulando

All the great prophets, saints, teachers, healers, mystics were walkers.
Many forms of shamanic work, spiritual practices and religions hold a pilgrimage as one of the highest forms of spiritual growth, insight and healing.

Walk and Talk Therapy

I love taking my clients on walks.  This helps the blood to flow, the breath to deepen and allows clients to not feel as confronted as they might in an office setting.  Of course it also burns calories and develops a good habit of simple physical activity.

  • Studies show that exercise alters neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine in the brain’s frontal cortex and the hippocampus, both involved in circuits of emotion; the changes are similar to those produced by antidepressants.
  • It appears to stimulate the vagus nerve, improving function of the brain’s emotion-sensing network as well as of the heart. The vagus nerve is increasingly recognized as an important pathway of depression.
  • By acting on neurohormones that govern the stress response, exercise seems to improve the ability of the body to tolerate stress and to meet changing demands. A dysregulated stress response, perhaps stemming from early psychological trauma, is implicated as a cause of depression.
  • Exercise has definite cognitive effects; it changes people’s perception of themselves, providing a sense of personal mastery and positive self-regard. It also reduces negative thinking.
  • Additionally, anxious or grief-stricken patients are also well served by walk and talk psychotherapy. “Because grief can be so totally consuming and feel so heavy, having the counterpoint of being outdoors and accomplishing something positive for one’s health can provide a sense of aliveness.”
  • Exercise keeps on working, making it especially promising for preventing depression recurrences. People who continue to exercise have continuing reductions in symptoms.Call me to set up a Walk and Talk session !

Portion Control

This is why I call my work Consciously Culinary:

In portion control there are 2 processes at play.
You have pleasure centers that emotionally react when they see food and there is the part of your brain that intellectually knows what’s best for you.

It is about finding the balance between those two, being conscious.
Consciously Culinary.


“Dr Hudry says her team’s study is the first to provide evidence that activity in different parts of the brain, involved with attention and adaptive behavior, quickly succeeded these reward-related reactions.

Using neuroimaging, the scientists documented the greater excitement that the women experienced in the “visual, salience and reward” regions of the brain when they first saw pictures of portions they subsequently judged to be ‘too big’, versus the portions that they judged to be ‘too small’ or ‘ideal’.

Brain activity was ultimately highest in the regions involved with attention and adaptive behaviour for the portions that the women decided were ideally sized, suggesting that they exercised dietary restraint when making their choices, balancing energetic needs against the desire to control intake.

“We found two mechanisms working in parallel,” Dr Hudry says. “One involved more in counting – how much food is present, how many calories and possibly how much reward. The second is this regulatory mechanism – judging what amount is appropriate for me to feel full until the next meal.”

Study leader Dr Julie Hudry suggests that those who overeat or ‘emotional eaters’ (whose consumption is triggered by anxiety, sadness or loneliness) may lack such control, but that education could help these groups.”


If you took the story of “the boy who cried wolf” literally and thought it was an instructional to bored shepherds instead of a tale to warn people not to lie so many times that others stop believing you, you kind of missed the point too !


First on the Dance Floor

I talk a lot with people about “being the first person on the dance floor”.

Today I saw something that illustrates that so absolutely clearly that I want to share with you all what I mean by that !

It’s taking the risk of being judged, by stepping into a vulnerability, to allowing/giving permission for a deeper exchange with a fellow human being.

Have you ever been to a party and there’s music playing ? A lot of people are tapping their feet and bobbing their heads until finally someone has the courage to be “silly/weird” (elderly persons get called “cute”) and steps out on the dance floor.

This first ice-breaker takes a risk in the social order of the herd where we are always torn between wanting to be accepted and being an individual.

Very quickly this person’s action will transform the atmosphere of the place and lift it to a higher level. A higher level of joy, of physical activity and of inter-connection.

Take a look at this video and listen to the reactions (and notice your inner voice’s reaction) as this guy goes from “silly person” to “hero of the party”….

Did you see how by the end, people didn’t just walk over to join in ?
They couldn’t run fast enough to be part of it !

That’s how it is with our thoughts and feelings !

Materialistically we, in the West, have more than overflowing abundance for our survival but we have very high levels of fear, anxiety, isolation, depression and a general sense of meaninglessness.

Why ? One of the major factors most phychologists agree on is a lack of (genuine) connection to others.

If you take the “risk” to start a conversation with someone about your worries, about your concerns for the future, about politics, when you share with someone what keeps you from sleeping at night or how it makes you happy just sitting in the grass, how you don’t think “being busy” is a badge of honor, or that working harder to buy that shinier car only felt amazing in the first few days , whatever is near and dear to you, express it !

I bet you will not be on that “dance floor” alone for long.

You just gave the other person strength to open up, to be vulnerable, to be a human.

It might not always be considered “appropriate” by some to be real like this, to be peronal, but I don’t think a society of people sitting in their seats, clenching their butts and wishing they were dancing but instead are sad and depressed and missing connection is appropriate.

See you on the Dance Floor !

Until We Break Bread Together,

Caspar Poyck


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My name is Caspar and I love food !    I love eating food but what I love even more is how food connects people !   I love how it’s connected to our brain, our psychology and our emotional well-being.

I have traveled extensively across our beautiful planet and wherever I went food was a connector for experiences, for community, for laughter and conversation.  It was always a way to share our humanity.

After a 12 year career producing and directing network television I spent 2003-2004 abroad. Upon my return to the U.S. I settled in Ojai and went back to school to become a therapist; I have always been fascinated by psychosomatics !

I also started my organic, whole foods catering company Consciously Culinary.

My weekdays were spent studying and I would see the principals expressed on the week-ends when I was providing the meals to yoga retreats.

When we think about food and food-related issues we tend to think about it in a few ways. We look at it in  terms of quantity: do people have enough or do they go hungry ?

The second way we look at it is in terms of quality. Is it Organic, what do GMO do etc.

Ironically, many of the people we know are the fortunate ones on our planet for whom food is both abundant and of high quality and some are becoming obsessed about what to leave out ! We also see a new eating disorder called “orthorexia nervosa”.  “Orthos” is Greek for correct and “rexia” indicates food (think of an-orexia; without food).  “Nervosa” means we are talking about an obsessive compulsive disorder. This is a disorder where people are obsessed about what they deem to be correct food.

In one way or another we are searching for what and how to eat !

I became interested in searching for what gives people nourishment !                     This is when I created the modality for What Makes You Eat ?


It’s a word we use to describe what food can do for our body but it’s also used to describe what we get from relationships with others, with our family and with ourselves.  It can describe joys, pleasures and all things that contribute to our health and well-being and a place of belonging and fullness.

A lack of good, healthy food leads to malnutrition and eventually illness.

In the same way, a lack of good, healthy contact with others can lead to spiritual, emotional and psychological malnutrition which can eventually lead to mental illness.

We know from research that people who are engaged in active social contact with others stay healthy longer, are more mentally alert, deal with less depression and even live longer.

This is one of the many reasons why the work of Meals on Wheels is so valuable !                 It provides crucial physical and psychological nourishment  !


Food and eating are deeply related to our emotions and psychology and I have come to find that it’s essential to examine this often overlooked connection when addressing food and nourishment.

Have you ever used the term “Comfort Food” ? How about “Emotional Eating” ? Have you ever said “love goes through the stomach” ?

When people fall in love they get butterflies in their stomach. When you’re afraid you get a knot in your stomach and when you are overrun by sudden, extreme fear you may “evacuate your bowels” or as it’s commonly referred to; “sh*t your pants”.

How about when we have a sense about something and we get a “gut feeling” ?

Everywhere around the world you find languaging that ties stomach, gut, digestive function etc. to emotion. We have always been aware of this connection !

Let’s look at this in the language of today: science !

Biological perspective.  Emotional Brain.

Neurogastroenterologists are examining processes in the gut that function wholly independent of the central nervous system.  They call it  “the enteric nervous system” or “intrinsic nervous system”.

The stomach, the intestines etc. can function on their own, separate from the brain or even from the spinal column !

This enteric nervous system also makes use of more than 30 neurotransmitters. Most of which, such as serotonin and dopamine are identical to the ones found in the Central Nervous System.

As a matter of fact; more than 90% of the body’s serotonin lies in the gut, as well as about 50% of the body’s dopamine.

By way of the vagus nerve, the enteric nervous system communicates with the limbic system in the brain.

The limbic system can be looked at as the emotional part of the brain and it also uses these “neurotransmitters of happiness, wellbeing and reward”.

Psychological development. Freud and Erikson.

When we start our learning as an infant this part of the brain is much more active than the neo-cortex, the part of our brain responsible for complex thought.

Sigmund Freud proposed that we develop in stages which he called “the psychosexual stages of development”.  (I must make clear that the word “sexual” here refers to anything pleasurable, not necessarily specific to sex.  He used this term to refer to how we are drawn to things. Some people might say that we are driven by two motives; love and fear, to move toward or away from something.

In the first stage of our development we are in what is referred to as “the oral stage”, meaning we are attracted to things through oral fixation. In all mammal infants we see that the infant will move toward the mother’s breasts. The child’s behavior is motivated by this oral fixation.  This is very logical of course !  After breathing, our next survival concern is to eat and drink.

This is also the same age range that Erik Erikson identified as the time when we develop trust vs. mistrust.

Very logical as well of course; we have to rely on those around us for our survival (including feeding us). How the world and the people around us care for us signals to us how we we can trust our world !

We see the two come together when we look at infants who are being nursed.  We see lowered stress response, slower heart-rate, improved immune response etc.

Trust is being built and trust is connected to food.

[In the past I have worked with The Joyful Heart Foundation and we see that when trust is damaged later on in life through child abuse and sexual crimes for instance, eating behavior can become affected as well.]                                                                                    Eating disorders are are in fact psychological problems expressed through eating behavior.

In growing up, parents sometimes reward their child with food while others punish theirs with it. I may have a client in therapy who when they were young and were crying out of sadness would be given a lollipop or other sweets instead of being listened to. As an adult this person gets a strong craving for sweets when they are sad.

An important way of how we learn is through associations; we connect things.              Think of the work of Pavlov. He rings a bell and the dogs salivate because the bell ringing always means there’s food coming. The mind perceives the bell and the body reacts !

Do the citrus hypnosis

The mind affects the body and the body affects the mind.

For some this might be a little bit of an unconventional connection to think about but let me give you some examples: exercise releases serotonin, dopamine etc. and these have profound effects on our mind. Consuming alcohol, caffeine, sugar etc. also have clear effects on our minds and moods as well.

The mind affects the body like this: take two people climbing a 100ft vertical wall. One person is an experienced climber while the other has a fear of heights. Both of them are in the same environment but the way they interpret that environment affects their blood pressure, heart rate, dilation of the eyes etc. It also affects their immune functioning, the secretion of hormones and neurotransmitters etc.  The emotional and psychological interpretation of the environment has profound biological effects on these individuals !

It is estimated that chronic stress is responsible for or is a contributing factor to 85% of all doctor visits.

In the realm of food and digestion we see that stress has a strong adverse effect on IBS, constipation, acid reflex, allergies etc.

When I ask What Makes You Eat ? , it’s “what nourishes you” I am asking about.

Nourishment is something we can achieve by feeling taken care of, full and complete.      We get it by being present; there’s a reason my company is called Consciously Culinary.

When we are conscious of our experience we get a lot more fulfillment out of it.

Unfortunately many of us don’t take the time to sit down and eat any more. We don’t pray or hold space for gratitude before a meal. we eat but are checked out or our attention is on something else like a t.v.  As a biological organism we need to breathe, sleep, eat and drink, watching t.v., driving etc. are not primary survival needs.                                          Let’s spend a little more time and attention on the important things !

I hope that I have been able to share with you today that our food and our psychology are deeply connected, that eating is much more than swallowing food.

All around the world births and deaths, weddings and holy days in all religions and cultures are celebrated and commemorated with food.  It is hard to imagine any of these without breaking bread !

Spending time together with our food and with each other is a crucial part of our humanity !  It is nourishment on many levels.


Those most vulnerable to malnutrition in our society are often also at a higher risk of emotional and psychological challenges.  Spending a little bit of time with people, saying a prayer or holding hands, listening to a memory and sharing a meal feeds hearts and souls as much as mouths and bellies.

I want to celebrate you today for donating to Meals on Wheels and enabling them to this sacred work.

And I want to celebrate all the people of Meals on Wheels for all  the meals they deliver and I also want to celebrate them for nourishing human connection, emotional support and psychological wellbeing.

Thank You !

Consciously Culinary ℅ Caspar Poyck    P.O. Box 451     Ojai, CA 93024     805.760.7730