This July I attended a Gathering of Elders in Kangerlussuaq, a small town in western Greenland. Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq, an Eskimo-Kalaallit shaman who travels widely to speak on climate change, led the weeklong event. It was an opportunity for all in attendance to witness the melting of one the world’s largest ice sheets.
Few communities have experienced the impact of climate change like the Kalaallit peoples. Angakkorsuaq led this gathering, and others like it, for people from around the world to contemplate the spiritual significance of their changing environment, now reshaping itself faster than ever. (For more on Angakkorsuaq’s work and teachings visit www.icewisdom.com.)
As an organizer, staff member, and participant of several such gatherings in Greenland, I have sat with the melting ice many times and contemplated my role in the web of life. I’ve watched millions of gallons of water gush into thousands of roaring rivers and have recognized, chilled, that the ice before me was melting for the first time in 25 million years and that there was no turning back.
I have heard grim pronouncements from the Kalaallit elders, but I’ve also learned a striking lesson: Before we can impact our external environment, we must tend to our internal environment.
In other words: The most important ice to melt is the ice in our hearts. “Without doing so,” Angakkrrsuaq says, “Mankind will not be able to use its knowledge wisely.”
The most important ice to melt is the ice in our hearts.
In our daily lives, the potential for stress, reactivity, and conflict is high. Our reactions creep up unconsciously; to protect ourselves from pain—ours and others—we often encase ourselves in a layer of ice. It is only through cultivating inner awareness and inner peace that we can begin
to consciously melt the ice in our hearts.
A series of studies have established that those with daily gratitude practices are thriving.
They have strong immune systems, low blood pressure, are sound sleepers and mentally acute; they report feeling happy and optimistic, are socially adept, and find it easy to be generous, forgiving, and outgoing.
Dr. Robert Emmons, Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Davis and one of the world’s leading scientific experts on gratitude, suggests that the practice of gratitude has two interrelated components:
The result is a mutually beneficial loop.
Over the centuries, Buddhism has taught the art of acceptance through meditation and mindfulness. A regular meditation practice offers us the opportunity to embrace what is occurring in the present moment without judgment and to integrate this philosophy into our daily lives. The end result is greater happiness and a return to our hearts.
Another beautiful way to melt our ice is to walk in awe. Take time to encounter things that are vast and beyond comprehension. Take a moment to be moved by the magic that surrounds us as we walk through our days.
Our days are often packed, allowing for little time to celebrate the gifts that surround us, inconspicuous treasures we take for granted that enhance our lives. Running water. A computer. Fresh produce. Take a moment on a daily basis to create a small celebration for something simple yet profoundly impactful. Imagine yourself without it and let your heart open in celebration for having it.
Safe touch offers an opportunity to relax and feel safe, and consensual physical contact elevates the presence of oxytocin in the brain, the hormone responsible for creating bonds between humans.
The art of melting our ice begins with consciousness. Being aware of our inner landscape and understanding how our emotions and thoughts drive our behaviors—toward ourselves, others, or our environment—is the first step in taking responsibility for the melting of our ice. Mastery of our own inner world is a true stepping stone to lasting world peace.
Enjoy the melting of the ice within you.