Mindful Monday: Find your sit spot!

Often, when we travel to new places, we take some time out of our trip to experience the landscape and local culture. Whether it’s taking a walk on the beach, looking at native flowers, or listening to the local birds, we tend to focus more on our surroundings when we’re in a new and exciting place. When we’re home, we’re often too busy with our fast-paced life to pay attention.

Right now, we’re not able to travel to faraway places, but we are able to explore our little part of the world, which is coming alive with the arrival of spring. During the next few weeks, why not find a sit spot?

What is a sit spot, you ask? The idea is you find a spot outside that you will visit on a regular basis, taking time to observe your surroundings, and repeat as often as you’re able to. A sit spot helps you hone your senses and quiet your mind. As you become more aware of nature you become more connected to it.  This can be done almost anywhere and for any amount of time. If you want to take a journal to write down what you’re hearing, seeing, smelling, and feeling, that’s great!  But you don’t have to, you can just take this time to be outside, intentionally in the natural world. You don’t want to be making a to do list or just zoning out, you want to pay attention to what’s going on around you.

There is research that shows taking time to sit in nature provides exponential health benefits. Doing a sit spot also provides you with a sense of seasonal cycles and the interconnectedness of the ecosystems.

For the children in your family who might not have a long attention span, make it more of a game, as you take a hike or walk around your yard or neighborhood, designate a “lookout” spot to pause at every time you’re outside, make it a point to stop there for a few moments How many birds can you see? What plants have leaves, are there flowers, do you see any animals? Then talk about what you’re seeing that’s different from the last time you were out. If you’re near a body of water you could go on a frog watch, and discuss how many different types of frogs you see and hear.

Utilize all of your senses and observe the changes happening over time in the natural world. When you get to your sit spot here are some useful tips to develop a consistent practice:

  1. Relax and Breathe: we are so trained to be multi-taskers that the idea of sitting and doing “nothing” can be uncomfortable at first. You might want to start each sit spot session by closing your eyes, take a few deep breaths and allow yourself to relax
  2. Tap into Sensory Awareness: as you start to relax you may find you become more aware of things around you. Take a few minutes to focus consciously on each of your five senses, if your eyes are still closed you may want to start with hearing or touch
  3. Practice Nature Observation: this is different than sensory awareness, where you’re focusing on each specific sense. This is practicing watching, listening and observing whatever is going on around you that day intentionally

Visiting the same spot in nature on a regular basis provides a sense of place, you get to know the plants and animals we’re sharing this place we call home.

More resources for nature journaling:

The Sierra Club’s guide and template
Nature Mentor’s illustrated guide