January is a month awash with so many sentimental attachments – fresh starts, resolutions, and of course reflection. On January first, Auld Lang Syne sounds as the bells ring in the New Year, fireworks explode and the next thing we know is, a New Year is upon us. Reflection comes naturally at this time of the year, as we ponder our achievements of the previous twelve months and map out our hopes for the coming year.
If I learned anything in 2017, it is that it is important to make time to allow for these thoughts to collect and to grow. Iona is the perfect place to meditate on these thoughts.
In November I was privileged enough to tackle and successfully complete the Everest Base Camp trek in Nepal. It was a truly humbling experience to stand in front of our world’s largest giant, Mount Everest. What I found most compelling in this sublime experience, was how the region began to remind me of Iona. In the isolation of the area, my mind began to perform in a similar manner to how it does on Iona.
Perhaps it is due to the relentless wind, but the connection to nature in the Everest region is as strong as it is on Iona. The weather in particular is relied upon to determine the day, the familiarity of the land that allows us to ‘see’ in the dark, and of course the stunning landscapes that will be forever sealed into our minds are some of the more striking similarities that occurred to me. Of course, the length of the journey to arrive in both destinations corresponds between the two as well. We are lucky enough on Iona that we don’t have to physically carry everything to the island or rely on helicopters for provisions (though I did begin to wonder if a helicopter freight service is the way forward…) and Iona doesn’t sit at a startling altitude making it difficult to breathe. The return to the mainland after a time on Iona is not unlike the return to Kathmandu after a couple of weeks in the mountains. This got me wondering about what is it that makes this kind of isolation so appealing?
Upon my return to Kathmandu I participated in an insightful meditation workshop led by a Nepali yogi and general Master of Zen. While I definitely gained some peace and solace from the experience, I did not find the answer as to why isolation appeals so much. However, being away from distractions and the hustle and bustle of the rat race certainly plays a big part. The still and calmness provides the perfect setting to connect, collect and reflect. A calm winter’s day where the light is clear, the air is cool and the blues of the water and the yellow of the marram grass is particularly vibrant – these are the days to look out whilst looking inward and filling ourselves with intention for the coming year. The limited hours of daylight create an urgency to make the most of the day before it disappears. Now that January is upon is, it won’t be long until the island comes back to life as the hotels open and summer hours of operation resume. The time has come to think forward and to take action for the year ahead.
I often tell people that the reason I travel so much is because I am looking for a place I love as much as I love Iona. But lately I have been seeing it in reverse, maybe I love Iona so much because Iona connects me to the world.