I have become familiar with this certain spot in the woods behind my house. When I go to this spot, my shoulders drop about an inch. My breathing slows, and my mind calms down. I see things I wouldn’t normally notice, and I hear and smell so much more. It has become my special spot, although it really belongs to the animals and plants that live there.
As a child I instinctually had a special spot in nature. I would often go up this rock ledge behind my house to be on my own, enjoy the sunshine, and maybe even see an animal. As I grew older, the business of adult life consumed me, and I forgot about this special spot. Looking back, it felt like forgetting about an old friend. Later on, when I learned about the concept of a sit spot, I was reminded of my special childhood spot. A sit spot is simply a place in nature that you visit regularly, like an old friend. My old friend was still there, waiting for me to come back and visit. So I did.
The benefits of regular sit spots are immeasurable. Sit spots improve emotional, mental, and physical well being by reducing stress, providing inspiration, and promoting reflection. Awareness of our surroundings leads to increased knowledge and wisdom gained from animals, plants and the planet. Connection to nature is also inevitable at a sit spot. You will see things you have never noticed. You will become part of the landscape, and as a result nature will let you in on her secrets.
This spring, get to know a sit spot of your own. It may be hard at first to slow down and take time out of your day to just sit. But once you do, you will notice a growing need to return.
Here’s how to make your sit spot work for you:
1) Slow Down. In the world of animals, people are predators. It takes at least 15 minutes for someone to be able to fully quiet themselves, so that animals see you as part of the background, instead of a potential predator. This slowing includes both the body and the mind. Let go of all of the thoughts of the day, and you will notice the animals around start acting more comfortable with your presence.
2) Any Spot is a Good Spot. The great thing about sit spots is that they can be found anywhere. Awe-inspiring landscapes are always great, but those ordinary places, like the corner of a backyard, often make the best sit spots.
3) Use Your Senses. Isolate your senses one at a time. Close your eyes and focus on sounds. Then use your hands to feel the objects around you. Take some time to breathe and notice any smells. A great vision tool is something I call ‘soft eyes’. Instead of focusing on a certain point, let your eyes go soft, like you are gazing far into the distance. You will notice much more movement in the periphery of your vision.
4) Bring A Journal. A journal is helpful to unload thoughts or feelings. It’s also great for sketches or to note interesting discoveries. A good sit spot journal collects baseline data including the time you visit, the weather conditions, and any observations. Reading over past journal entries allows you to appreciate patterns and seasonal changes.
5) Listen to Bird Language. Recently at my sit spot a group of crows suddenly flushed out of the trees above me, emitting short, sharp, loud alarm calls as they flew away. Those calls were the warning of an approaching predator. I waited, and about two minutes later, a bald eagle flew right overhead. From their vantage point, birds are often the first ones to see an approaching predator, and will often warn others.
The most important thing to keep in mind is to make your sit spot a positive experience. You don’t have to know the name of every animal that you see. It is far more important to know when it tends to come around and how it interacts with its surroundings. Do what you enjoy most at your sit spot, and let your child-like sense of wonder go wild. And most of all, enjoy the sit spot for what it is, a time to let go of the mundane world and enter into the reality of nature’s magic.