Balancing stones, balancing myself (wisdom from my trip to Hellnar)

On Monday morning I woke up with a thought: I need to go to Hellnar and balance some stones.

This is not a secret code or some metaphorical expression. Oh no, I was very literal. I made tea in one thermos bottle and cacao in the other, I dressed warm and packed extra layers of waterproof clothes because weather forecast was predicting rain – and off I went to Hellnar.

Now, a short note for those of you who are not from Iceland or not living here. Hellnar is a small fishing village in the south-west part of Snæfellnes peninsula, about 2,5 hour drive from where I live. It is a popular tourist destination because of a little coffeehouse situated on the beach and a short but very picturesque trail connecting Hellnar to another beautiful village nearby, Arnarstapi.

Hellnar happens to be one of my favorite places in Iceland. And it is the beach that this story is about. But if upon hearing “beach” you think about long shore of yellow (or black, as it is often in Iceland) sand… think twice 😉 Okay, there is some black sand on the beach in Hellnar, but most of it is just stones. Big and small, round and oval stones polished by the sea. And it was the stones that I needed when I woke up on Monday. I needed to balance them.

Have you ever tried balancing stones? Taking these round, oblong shapes and stacking them one on the other in a gravity-defying manner, without any glue or support?

This art is like no other – a true yoga for the mind. I always experience a very similar scenario, similar journey. First I sit and look around, searching for the base stone. It will become the foundation. I choose intuitively. Then I look for the first stone to balance. Again, I choose intuitively. Breathe in, breathe out. I touch different stones, feel them in my hands until I find one that wants to be balanced. Read it again: it is the stone that wants to take part in this. Then I try to find a perfect position for the first stone on the base stone. Not the easiest one, when you just put in on and it stays. A perfect one. Perfectly balanced. I position the stone on its narrow edge and look for balance. The balance is already there, I just need to feel it. Sometimes it takes five seconds, sometimes twenty minutes, and sometimes I give up and choose a different stone.


Lessons from the stones

Here’s the thing: as I balance the stones, they balance me as well. Every step, every moment of this journey carries a teaching. To me, the first one is: what is possible? what is impossible? what is that my mind says that is impossible, that the world proves possible after all? You see, when I choose this first stone to place on the base, my mind always says: it is impossible, Magdalena! You are nuts! Have you seen this stone? Have you seen how narrow the tip is? And you want to place this narrow, slippery tip of this stone on the other stone?

Yes, mind. This is exactly what I want to do.
But what for? First of all – impossible. Second – what a massive waste of time!

And so our conversation goes until I prove my mind wrong. Because, you see, it is possible. Deep in my heart I know it is possible. It is when the heart loses hope that I put the stone aside and try another one. It still doesn’t mean that it is impossible to balance that particular stone – it just means that my heart can’t believe it. And when your heart is not there, it can’t be done. That is another big lesson I received from the stones.

balancing stones in Hellnar

This moment when the stone gets balances always comes as a surprise to me. I move the stone ever so gently, millimeter by millimeter, looking for the perfect position. I can feel it is there. Sometimes it is almost there – and then it flips. But you know what? Once the balance is there, IT IS THERE. Once the stone is balanced, it is SOLID. And this is the moment of a biggest surprise to me, always. A second ago it was totally unbalanced and now it just stands there. Not moving, not shaking, not about-to-fall. It is solid. Like a rock 🙂 Awesome lesson!

I took a short video of part of the process – it shows really well what I am describing here.


The second stone now becomes the base. And as I look for another stone that wants to be balanced, I get to think: what is balance, anyway? What is balance in my life? Do I feel different parts of my life as solid, or are they wobbly and shaky and I constantly need to hold them or they will fall apart?

Let me tell you something: holding some of the bigger stones for a long time is really tiring for the arms and shoulders. Same in life. Think about it.


Proving a point

This trip to Hellnar brought another deep insight. As you can see, I took some photos and videos of the process of balancing stones. And here’s the truth: at some point I was more focused on doing it for the video than actually for myself, for the fun of doing it. I got frustrated that I couldn’t balance the stones because I needed that video. This was the moment when the big lesson arrived.

Breathe in, breathe out.

Trying to prove a point is a waste of life. 

Mic drop.

I relaxed into this lesson. How many times in my life I was trying to prove something to somebody? And what a massive waste of time and energy it was! Every. Single. Time.

My life is not a proof of anything to anybody. My life is mine to live.


What supports your balance?

When I was sitting on the beach and balancing stones, it started to rain. Just a drizzle, but a constant drizzle. Stones got wet. And I noticed that wet stones are actually easier to balance. This layer of water behaved like glue. My meditation then was: what is the “glue” of my life? What puts everything together? What makes it easier for me to balance my life?


I don’t have time for this

I can almost hear some of you saying: I wish I had time for sitting on a beach and playing with rocks.

Well, let me tell you two things. The first one is that long time ago I stopped saying “I don’t have time” and it changed my life. I still often don’t get things done, but not because I don’t have time – this is not true. How about saying: I don’t want to. This is not important to me. This is not my priority. I don’t want to use my time (or money) on it. I choose to spend my time differently.

Sometimes, instead of I don’t have time, I should actually say: I am afraid to make a change. I am afraid to look into this matter. I am afraid to fail. I am afraid to prioritize myself. I don’t think I am worthy. I don’t want things to change. And so on, and so forth – so much hides behind I don’t have time! Try this. It is truly liberating to be honest with yourself.

The second thing is: it doesn’t have to be literally balancing stones that I am inviting you to. You don’t need to literally go to the beach or riverside and spend hours stacking stones (though I really recommend it! :)). But ask yourself, what is your equivalent of balancing stones in Hellnar? What is your way to get insightful, meditative, quiet inside? What is your way to receive deep wisdom  and teachings, to hear your intuitive voice? What is your way to balance yourself? And then do more of this in your life.

Especially if you, like me, wake up one day thinking: I need this.



IMPORTANT NOTE: if you actually want to try balancing stones, awesome! Once you are done with your stone stacking, once you meditated on them, please don’t leave them like that. Unbalance them, put them back in place – especially if you are doing it in the wilderness. Leave the nature as you found it. Also, believe me, unbalancing stones is as meditative as balancing them. Brings more lessons. But maybe more about them some other time 🙂

My first time ever balancing stones. Hellnar beach, June 2020.




2 thoughts on “Balancing stones, balancing myself (wisdom from my trip to Hellnar)”

  1. Ten tekst jest inspiracją do głebokiego wglądu w siebie, trudnych pytań z których wyłania się światło. Dziękuję.

  2. Wonderful! This is just wonderful. You are totally right.
    Once the balance is there, IT IS THERE. And there is no wind, no rain, nothing that can stop that magic, unique moment. It can last for few seconds, or some minutes but in that moment there is just the wisdom of the full PRESENCE.
    I think many times we are not in balance with our life because there is no PRESENCE. As we begin to breathe and get in contact to our self, we start to see the world with different eyes and all that is impossible become possible.
    Thank you for this pear of wisdom.

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