At a glance a sit spot is just what it sounds like, a spot where you sit and pay attention to nature. Look deeper though and you see a powerful and simple way to connect with nature, feel more at peace, and discover what’s happening in your “naturehood”.
We’ve seen ample scientific evidence that time in nature is a great way to improve your health and wellness. Time in nature reduces stress, and in doing so, alleviates many stress-induced ailments. Regular time in nature is also a great way to become more familiar with your surroundings. As a regular community member of the natural world, you’ll more readily notice rhythms and patterns as they happen, opening up an entirely new world to your senses.
A sit spot is a simple tool to get those nature benefits and to begin noticing the natural world around you and it does not require anything from you, but a little bit of time. That said, we’ve included some simple suggestions and thoughts that can enhance your time out in your sit spot.
How to find the right sit spot?
There is no right sit spot, except the one that’s right for you. The best one will be one that is easy to visit regularly. If your sit spot is a secluded nature hideaway, but it’s all the way across town, your chances of being in it will decrease greatly. Instead consider a spot that is nearby, even if it doesn’t feel as wild. There is plenty of wilderness that can happen in a yard, or at a nearby park. That said, feel free to have a special sit spot that you visit less regularly, but that might have wilder attributes.
As you are looking for possible spots that will work for you, feel free to experiment. Regular sit spotters suggest somewhere that is relatively comfortable to sit (duh). Also somewhere that might be a little sheltered from the sun (for the summer time) or from cold winds (in the winter). Ideally, your spot is tucked away a little from the beaten path to minimize distractions. Keep in mind that noisy roads can also be a distraction, as you go hunting for a spot.
The greatest benefit will come from a spot that you use regularly, even if you switch around on occasion. You want a spot that you can watch change over the course of a year and where you can notice the comings and goings over time.
How long and how often do you sit for?
Ultimately, this is up to you. Even though we are proponents of sit spots, we know that other aspects of life can take over and that a sit spot practice can fall by the wayside. That said, a sit spot can be a soothing balm for your sense of busyness. Bob Staggenborg, Imago Board Member and one half of the podcast Nature Guys, says that “When you think you don’t have time to do a sit spot, is probably when you need a sit spot the most”.
If you have 5 minutes you can do a sit spot. We’ve found (depending on age and attention span) that at least 5 minutes is key, and that 20-30 minutes is a great goal. That time you invest in your sit spot will reward you with a greater sense of calm and attention.
Jon Young, nature connection mentor and proponent of sit spots (Jon introduced us here at Imago to the concept of sit spots as a tool for nature connection), suggests creating a sit spot challenge to help motivate you. Similar in concept to a fitness challenge, pick a length of time that you’ll visit your sit spot (e.g. every day for two weeks) so that are motivated to practice your sit spot, even when you don’t really feel into it.
Beth Brown, Imago’s Community Learning Facilitator, leads Imago’s camps in the summer, and afterschool clubs during the school year. Beth notes that paying attention to the “energy” of the day is important. For her summer campers, a sit spot can happen shortly after a fun and simple activity – when our campers have had a chance to move around a bit (to burn some energy) but are not too tired. Beth’s afterschool students rarely participate in sit spots as they’ve been sitting practically all day in school, and when they get to Beth they are ready to MOVE. A sit spot doesn’t work for them. Similarly, you too can pay attention to your energy to find a time of day that makes the most sense for you to practice your sit spot.
So what do you do at your sit spot?
Well, you don’t have to do anything. In fact, many of the sit spot regulars we talked to said that they just sit and pay attention. That said, you can also bring some tools with you as you sit. Some sit spotters like to bring binoculars with them to better see something that they might hear or notice in the distance. Others pack a journal as a way to record what they notice, through writings and drawings.
One thing you might notice as you sit there is an initial sense of boredom or fidgetiness. If you can, try to push through that. If you stay patient past that first bout of jumpiness (usually in the first two minutes), you’ll experience a “shift” and you’ll notice that your attention will be heightened through the rest of your sit spot time.
What should you expect to happen at your sit spot?
You might see something amazing, or it might seem like nothing happened, though in nature, nothing never happens (double negative alert). Sitting still, carefully watching an ant dutifully go by, or watching as a leaf falls from the tree and journeys slowly down to the stream can be as interesting as spotting a wild animal.
One of the reasons we suggest at least 5 minutes for your sit spot, is not only for you give your mind a chance to calm down and pay attention, but also a chance to let nature return “back to normal”. As a relatively large animal, when you first come into a natural area to start your sit spot, many of the critters there will quickly move away from you. As you sit there and become part of the landscape, the animals will slowly start to come back, and if you sit there long enough, they will stop regarding you as a threat, and return to their own normal routines. That’s when you can witness magical animal moments.
What do you do at the end of your sit spot?
We suggest concluding your sit spots with two simple routines. The first is to embody a sense of gratitude. Gratitude for what you’ve witnessed, for the beauty and wonder of nature, and for having the time to appreciate it. Secondly, we suggest sharing your story. At Imago, we try to end each of our educational experiences with a “harvest”. The Harvest is the time that we collect the stories and noticings of our participants. This is our students’ chance to share with the group what they noticed, what they learned, and what they appreciated. Take time to Harvest with someone you know (or if that’s not easily possible, share in a journal). Sharing your story will make it even more meaningful to you and will bring your appreciation to others.
Can kids do sit spots?
Absolutely! At Imago, we include sit spots in our youth lessons frequently. Some simple additions to the sit spot routine make them work great for young people. Laurie, Imago’s School Learning Facilitator, suggests adding a journal to a child’s sit spot. The journal acts as a focusing tool and gives a sense of purpose to the young sit spotter. Laurie will also give her school classes simple prompts to help focus them during their sit spots. Laurie might ask her students to draw a map of their area, or to make a list of the sounds that they hear and mark if they are non-natural or natural. Other prompts can be noticing one thing closely such as birdsong, or insects crawling by.
Beth, also suggests spacing kids away each other. Beth’s simple rule is “If you can whisper to a friend, then you are too close, find a place a little further away to sit”. Laurie likes to tell her students that “This is your time in nature, don’t let someone else take that away from you”.
Now it’s time to go find your own sit spot. Bring your sense of curiosity and wonder and be ready to experiment as you find the place, frequency and routine that works for you. Go out to your sit spot and and then tell us how it went in the comments. We’d love to hear your sit spot stories.