For a lot of us, our connection to nature is critical to our sense of peace, happiness and even purpose. But as we hurry, worry and scurry through the urban landscape of our modern lives, how do we connect to nature? Most of us can’t sit still for even a few minutes. The practice of “Sit Spot” could well be the answer.
The Sit Spot is a spot in nature to connect, observe and study life. It is an age-old dedicated technique used by all of the great teachers. Through this practice of connecting to nature, we can establish and anchor our relationship so that no matter the conditions, we will remain grounded in our connection to life.
Research from around the world indicates that spending time in a natural setting provides a plethora of benefits; from lower blood pressure to strengthened immunity to an enhanced sense of well-being and happiness. People who appreciate nature are happier, healthier and more innovative.
We intuitively know this. Now the trick is to act on what we know and get out into nature to reap all of those benefits. I’ve found that the practice of “Sit Spot” is one of the easiest ways to connect with nature. Here’s the concept…find a place on your property, or perhaps at a nearby park and simply sit down, relax and just observe.
This practice has had profound impact on my mood and sense of well-being and connectedness. It is the most natural thing for me to visit my sit spot regularly for about 30 minutes. The practice is also important for my professional development as a Forest Therapy Guide.
You too can spend time in your Sit Spot where you can simply be still and open your senses. But where? How do you find the perfect place? And for how long?
An isolated bench beside a creek in your local forest or city park is wonderful, but so is your garden which you have lovingly tendered for years. Don’t bring your cell phone. Make your time at your sit spot distraction and technology free. Thirty minutes is a good length of time for sitting. However, you can start with just ten minutes. The longer you sit the more you’ll experience. The more you experience, the more you’ll learn. Don’t be surprised if you learn some interesting things about yourself during the process as well.
Where should your sit spot be located? Close by!
When you are just starting with the Sit Spot, find a spot that is close to you: not more than a few minutes from your door. Your own garden is perfect!
Sunrise and sunset are especially magical times.
Always wanted to have lunch at the local park near your office in summer? Also perfect! The idea is that it needs to be easy and quick to get to. Most of us think we know our property or our favorite place in the park or woods pretty well, but this exercise might just change your mind.
There has to be some nature there, but not necessarily a lot. The point of the sit spot is to connect you to your local natural neighborhood.
Below is a list of natural features to consider incorporating into your ideal sit spot.
- Water. All life needs it! And wild life will frequent spaces where there is water to drink. Most community parks and forests have either natural or man-made water features.
- Edge habitat. This is where two types of landscapes meet i.e. forest meets field, meadow meets stream, thicket meets trees. Often in the edges there is a lot happening.
- View. It helps if you are able to see at least several meters in front of you to have a perspective of the lay of the land.
- Cover. It’s great if you can blend into the landscape a bit. Lean up against a rock or a tree. An ideal sit spot would be on the edge of a meadow against the forest.
If you work in the city, the Royal Botanical Gardens right in the heart of the CBD in Melbourne is an ideal location to find a quiet spot under a tree. I regularly take people on a forest therapy guided walk through the Ferny Gully. Your Sit Spot is a place where you can observe nature in some form, whether it is rushing water, plants, trees, or just sun, wind, and clouds.
Settle into routine and solitary time
At your Sit Spot, it’s important to be able to expand your senses and let go of thinking. When thoughts arise, come back to your senses; to the sounds, sights, smells, tastes and feel of your surroundings. It is also the place where you put your cell phone away. You may be surrounded by people in a local park, but you’re not interacting with them. You will likely feel most comfortable and be able to get into the peaceful zone if you are out of the mainstream traffic. Having settled into my sit spot, I was able to pay attention to the birds in particular, to observe their habits as the creeks gurgled by over the seasons.
Make it safe
You need to be able to relax at your Sit Spot and feel safe. This is important to allow yourself to simply just be, observe and enjoy your ‘mindful’ nature practice. Feel invited by nature to expand your awareness and soak it all in. When you feel safe your Sit Spot practice will be something you will look forward to – having settled in, feel no guilt to have a nap!
Keep your eyes open for hazards such as bees, snakes or spiders (this IS Australia!), dead hanging branches, fast moving or deep water, and dangerous things left on the ground. Use your best judgment but don’t let this deter you from finding a spot!
An experience for life!
Find one place in nature that calls to you. Visit your place as often as you can and at different times of the day. You will get to know it really well and begin to recognize the changes around you from one season to the next. Allow yourself to find pleasure and feel a deep appreciation for what you discover. If you like to sketch or journal, be inspired by your Sit Spot!
Don’t be concerned that you cannot go to your Sit Spot as much as you’d like to. Go for as long as you can, or for a short time if that’s all you can. Having a Sit Spot close by helps a lot.
Let it remind you of your place in the great circle of life and how your unique spirit is and always will be connected to all the splendor that surrounds you.
Have fun with it. I’m going out to my Sit Spot soon.
Even in the heart of the city there is a spiritual yearning we all have for a better connection with nature
Next blog post: Techniques to enhance your mindfulness through the “Sit Spot” practice