I recently traveled to Iceland, also known as "The Land of Fire and Ice." As the name implies, I was astounded to witness such radical contrasts living side by side.
In just a few days we were able to visit glaciers, thundering waterfalls, and raging rivers as well as still turquoise waters and vast black sand deserts. We hiked lush green mossy (seemingly solid) rolling mountains to where craters and fissures unexpectedly open up the earth. I will not forget the exploding geysers and simmering hot springs casting warm moisture over frostbitten grasslands. I can still taste the clean ice cold water, that melted down from its historic glacial past, steadfastly cutting a path through tremendous boulders.
Iceland's extreme terrain often unfolds into lunar landscapes that lead right out to the sea. The topography quickly changes from harsh and rugged, to soft and flowing with these opposing qualities often framing each other.
Just as the land lives in contraries, the weather too changes every five minutes. We oscillated from our T-shirts to winter jackets several times a day. There are no trees to block the sudden and virulent winds. We took cover often as the warm sun was abruptly engulfed in clouds and rain rushed to almost hail-like violence pelleting the earth. Amazingly, just as quickly as it was stolen in the clouds, the sun reappears and rainbows sparkle. We were even treated to a triple rainbow one afternoon. Breathtaking!
On the third night, when I thought I was already awe-inspired, the northern lights unexpectedly danced into the sky not even five minutes after the moon emerged and dark heavy clouds dissolved. It is easy to understand how this culture is filled with stories of fairies and magic.
Beyond big beauty, Iceland offers HUGE lessons. My overwhelming “take away” is that in Iceland there is a constant experience of the pervasive and palpable energy that aggressively reminds us that we are not in control. Change is King.
With active volcanoes, glacial floods, earthquakes, and fires, Iceland is an acute experience in the transformative process: destruction and creation. Every eye-full of beauty simultaneously illustrates that remarkable aliveness that can grow out of fierce catastrophic power.
Now home, while my mind will long bend around all the unforgettable nature that I observed, I find myself thinking a lot about the Icelandic people. It is obvious that Iceland’s harsh conditions and unpredictability has bred a resilient populace. They are long tested by fire and ice, adapting to environmental change is central to their existence.
Through conversation, observation, and reading, I learned how after each natural disaster Icelanders have rebuilt time and time again, learning how grow and even benefit from the devastation. In fact, they have learned to take shelter in shifting ground - they design, and plan, and even embrace uncertainty and instability.
They have no standing army, police do not carry guns, and crime is not a topic of conversation. Rather than tearing each other down, Icelanders are committed to helping each other survive and thrive; even their elementary school curriculum includes training from the Red Cross, emergency services, and fire services. It is easy to observe that Icelanders value and practice living peacefully in the epicenter of change.
I am intrinsically altered by this country and its people. I have returned home more inspired to learn to live more robustly and at peace with opposites, with unpredictability, and in the face of change. So each Yogalicious blog in October will bring tools, practices, and inspirations to move you through your own challenges of change - whatever this season is serving up for you. And take a moment to peek at my photos from Iceland on Facebook and Instagram.
með ást (which means with love),
WORDS OF WISDOM
Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final
More Ways To Learn From The Fire & Ice
Meditation Practice To Open to Opposites
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What can we learn from Iceland in the face of global environmental change | DailyClimate.org