In Awe of Iguazu

With my aunts and my uncle reluctantly returning to the bitter polar vortex going on in Chicago, it was now just me and my parents. And we did the opposite. We headed to the jungle in the very north eastern tip of Argentina to see Iguazu Falls. I was so excited to show them my Argentina, and it was especially cool to start out with a place that was new for all of us. Iguazu Falls are at the tri-border of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay, although most of the falls are in Argentina. There are supposedly 275 drops (not sure how that is determined) with the height reaching up to 269 feet.

There are all sorts of facts comparing Iguazu to other famous waterfalls, but no impressive facts can substitute for a day directly in the company and awe of these spectacular falls. It felt so good to be back in the jungle, hearing too many sounds of birds and insects to count, smelling the sweet fresh air, surrounded by so much life and green that you almost feel you are glowing green yourself. The jungle consumes you like that. IMG_0535

Iguazu is one of those sites where you have to just accept the crowds and understand that they are there in such abundance because the site is just that impressive. So we came up with our game plan for following the trails and walkways to soak in the falls from every angle. We headed on the higher trail, which took us to a platform directly over one end of the falls. From this angle we could see the water flowing gently, but swiftly to the cliffs edge and then powerfully plunging over where it appeared the earth had just stopped. Some flowed more gently and then there was one section of the falls that was the beast. Water did not flow or pour over the cliffs there, but seemed to simultaneously erupt and consume everything in its path. There was the massive force of water, but looking closely it seemed that there were fireworks of water, a million waterfalls within one giant one. Hawks swooped overhead and I couldn’t help but think what a fortunate, fantastical location these birds and trees were born into.

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We took a small boat out onto an island where we could hike to more of a landscape view of the waterfalls. There were brave lizards along the path and crossing it, and the raccoon-cat looking hybrid coatis that were all over the place, tails up in the air, noses stuck in the ground hunting for food. I think we may have thought they were cute had we not already seen signs with gory gaping wounds from coati attacks, should you try to feed them. Every now and then a butterfly would flutter along side us, sometimes occasionally landing or posing for a picture. From this view, you could feel the mist grace our faces.

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This was just a tease for what we’d do next. We got on another boat that took us to different sections of the falls, including into a waterfall itself. That was so intense. Like what a good water ride at a theme park tries to do when it imitates nature, but could never quite match. The water just pounded us and everyone was cheering and giggling and whooping so loud in a screaming match with the roar of water. We also went to the bottom of the falls that were spread out like a great theatre curtain waiting for the big show. Although I can’t imagine a more spectacular show; this was my favorite part…camera tucked away for a bit, looking up from the very bottom of the biggest, broadest waterfalls that I’ve ever seen, feeling like paradise is a secret, magical place for nature to show off in all its glory and I am physically in it.

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Deep into the Amazon I Go

The air is so sweet and so dense that you just want to eat it. This was my first impression of arriving to my 5 week stay in the Peruvian Amazon. My senses were overwhelmed in the best way possible. I had my own little hut complete with mosquito netting, a desk, candles and a hammock. It was about a 15 minute walk into the jungle and I spent much time there writing, being and listening to the symphony of sounds flow with the time of day.

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I had met a couple of acupuncturists while hiking in Argentina who had told me of this place in the Amazon. It is winter in Argentina and I decided it would be a good time to give myself the gift of my own space and time to soak in my experiences from this year. And of course being deep in nature is the best place to do this!

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There was life everywhere! When the sun shone through the canopy, all the different leaves and vines and life would light up with a bright glow. You can quite dramatically feel the vibration reach a unique intensity around you. There were hummingbirds, ducklings, butterflies by day and tarantulas, bats, cockroaches and spiders the size of my head by night. I only saw a few snakes…no anacondas!…but I’m sure many more were hanging out. To be clear, the mosquitos did not discriminate between day and night; they were relentless!

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We spent our time doing everything from yoga, Qi Gong and other body work, to dream work, meditation, walks in the jungle and incredibly refreshing swims in the river (a tributary to the Amazon!) with the piranhas. Playing music and singing were a huge component as well, and perhaps my favorite.

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The jungle has immense healing properties that we were able to experience. There are many sacred plants there that are known for their healing properties. It was like that saying “there’s an app for that” except, “there’s a plant for that” no matter what you were trying to address. We ate so clean and so healthy and also worked with different plants and teas depending on our personal health needs. All meals were cooked over open fire and enjoyed by candlelight. I feel completely detoxed and am experiencing energy like I have never felt before. You can check out the movie Sacred Science for some more insight into this place and the healing stories that it has supported.

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We had many ceremonies, sometimes with local/indigenous shamans, aimed at collective healing and transformation. In the last such ceremony as we were holding an all night vigil, I was feeling intense gratitude and was focused on sending love to my family. I literally thought, “I hope they can feel this love right now.” A few days later when I left the jungle and checked my email, sure enough I had received a note from my Dad about this. During that same night, at 2am, my parents woke up to an owl that had flown to the window and was wildly hooting away, trying to get their attention. They both said they could tell its message was something in relation to me. Don’t call me Harry Potter or anything, but things like this really do validate my belief in collective consciousness.

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If I had to choose three words to describe my experience, I’d say intense, awakening and community. This month gave me the opportunity to connect with nature and like-minded people to continue discovering, learning and growing in such a unique way. Every person and every situation has something they can teach you. How cool is that? I’m grateful for the experience to focus on the art of living and tapping into my connection to all that is alive.

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With experiences like this, it takes me quite a bit of time to process and integrate it into my natural way of being. So while I could gush about how amazing it was (and it was), I really believe it will be in my day to day life that I feel and live the discoveries and practices I experienced in the jungle. I’m now off to make my way down through the Sacred Valley, home to some old rocks you might know as Machu Picchu, en route to Argentina.