In July another intern and I were talking about how we could use wilderness pedagogy in a wider sense and not only in the “classical” way in projects for children and teenagers. In the last few weeks I have been thinking about this topic a lot (and because it was our homework to frequently do sitspots) and I have to say that sitspots are a great tool for people who like to be in nature but don’t want to do the whole “wilderness/survival” program. Sitspots are wonderful for everyone who wants to experience more nature.
But sitspots are especially great for people who need a time-out and want to get out of a stressful everyday life.
What are sit spots?
Sitspots, according to Jon Young (book: „Coyote Guide“), are used in wilderness pedagogy to offer people an access to nature and give them the opportunity to connect with nature.
The first time I heard of sitspots was in Canada. One of our interns at the daycare introduced us to sitspots.
We went with the kids (3-5 year olds) to the forest and looked for a quiet place. Every child chose one spot. Then we sat still and focused on our surroundings. At first, the kids sat still for about 30 seconds until one child started talking, at the third or fourth time we managed up to 2 minutes. After that we got together in a circle and talked about what we had seen and heard.
Doing sit spots is part of my training as well. In the last few weeks I tried to do one sit spot per week. That was not always easy because I’m travelling at the moment and I have to explore new places to do a sit spot.
How do I do a sit spot?
Regularity: Once a week
It’s important to do it frequently. It’s like doing sports: If you want to become fitter you can’t avoid tot rain regularly. During sit spots you train your senses, so get up whatever weather it might be, you don’t have to sit for an hour in pouring rain 😉
Time frame: 30 to 60 minutes
Everyone is different. Some adults don’t find it difficult to sit still for one hour, other already move after fifteen minutes. Start with small steps, don’t plan to do too much and practice sitting a little bit longer every time you do it.
Place: In Nature + comfort factor
A forest nearby (!), a quiet park, a meadow, a field or your backyard – everything in nature is great as long as you don’t get interrupted by car sounds or walkers all the time. Roam around for a while before getting on the ground. Try to listen to your guts and what it tells you. If you feel drawn to one specific place you have found your sit spot.
Distractions: Smartphone and food
It’s possible to leave your phone at home for 30 to 60 minutes once a week, right? And don’t mix up the forest with cinema, snacks stay at home as well – although sometime the film of nature can have a cinematic effect 😉
Materials: A pad and rain protection
I usually take a soft pad with me so that I can sit on any ground and nothing sticks unpleasantly or gets wet. On cloudy, rainy days I recommend a rain jacket and rain pants – even with drizzling rain you can be at your sit spot 😉
Mental preparation on the way to your sit spot
I already try to mentally prepare myself for my sit spot on the way there, try to be calm and breathe slowly and clear my thoughts; listen to slow music or I am just aware of my surroundings.
If you would like to follow up with the effects of your sit spots, write it down!
Train your senses
When you start doing sit spots, I recommend to focus on one sense first. Start with small steps, concentrate on one sense until you feel confident and able to fade out other sensations.
Listen to birdsongs. How do trees sound in the wind? Do you hear the stomping of the squirrels? (see here)
Watch beside you, under you, right and left and straight ahead. Look at the details and look at the big picture.
Dig your fingers in the ground beside you, stroke a leave, a stick, take a rock and feel its surface. How does it feel like?
Breathe through your mouth and taste the smell. Try some soil, lick at a rock, take a bite of a leaf and explore how nature tastes like.
Smell at some bark of the tree you are leaning on. Take some soil, a leave, a rock and smell it. Breathe deeply and absorb the fine nuances that come from the object of your interest.
Goals of sit spots
First goal: Access to nature
Like I have mentioned before, sit spots are first of all about being close to nature or connect with nature. But it is also about being more sensitive for your environment, understand the connection between nature and human to be more attentive towards our environment.
Mindfulness and perception
As with a body scan you also concentrate on a specific part on your body during a sit spot: Your senses. In the sense of a senses scan you train your mindfulness for your body and mind, your perception increases for yourself and your environment and a feeling of “be one” arises.
Sit spots are also great for escaping everyday life and reducing stress. No phone will ring in the forest (if you don’t bring it!), no washing machine beeps and wants to get emptied, so leave your everyday life behind!
Sitting still during a sit spot can have a meditative effect (don’t be surprises if you fall asleep when you start). Your breathe slows down, your body relaxes, after a short while you are awake and fully concentrated without being tense.
Connect with your inner child
So many little things slip through our perception. When we are at our sit spot, we discover things we have never seen before or have forgotten. Sit spots also mean: To watch the world with the eyes of a child and explore and wonder again!
Effects in everyday life
Often our everyday life is full of typical city noise and we will forget about nature. But after a few sit spots you will be aware of birdsongs again in the city center or you will recognize the grass between rocks on the walkway. For sure you will be reminded of your sit spot and the positive feeling you have when you are there.
What are you waiting for?
Go and look for a sit spot!
Have fun! 🙂
PS: During one of my sit spots a pine marten ran behind me, not even 2 meters away from me, and he only recognized me when my rain jacket made a sound when I turned after feeling his presence. Be prepared to wonder!