Back to Basics: The Sit Spot as Daily Practice

I’m pretty upfront when it comes to telling people about Kamana. “I don’t care if you never buy the program, or if the books just sit on your shelf,” I say. “AS LONG AS YOU GO TO YOUR SIT SPOT EVERY DAY!” Those green books and binders are a fantastic way to help you pay more attention, read inspiring stories, and know the next step on your journey of nature connection. I’m not suggesting that you shelve them. But there is no substitute for enmeshing your senses with the world. How else are you going to find out what the universe is up to that day? And isn’t each day unique? Who knows what will happen? The curiosity draws me outside day after day. So if you have said that you want more connection and awareness, I’ll ask what you are doing about it. Let your feet match your mind.

After nine years of responding to student work from around the globe, I wonder: Is Kamana really just a set of exercises to fill out and photocopy? Or is it a tangible way to express your desire and commitment to understanding yourself and the world at large? Whenever the program seems daunting, or you feel resistance to continuing, remember that sitting outside is a basic human need and right. And not that complicated. This is why I heartily recommend a sit spot that is close and convenient to where you sleep. My bedroom is within the 100-pace radius of my sit spot area. I’m typing to you from that circle now.

So make it as basic as you need to. Design your day so that it contains elements of the Core Routines. You don’t need to be in some sort of Zen-like state. Go sit anyways! Some students tell me that it is daunting to try to be in a thought-free state every minute while at their spots. This holds them back from even going. Go to your spot and think to your heart’s content, then. I sure am glad for all the woes and worries I have brought to my spot over the years. I either get perspective (these trees pretty much don’t care about my relationship issues) or a shift in mind-set (it’s hard to be grumpy when a Douglas squirrel’s ears are comically flattened by a twig as it’s foraging for seeds).

As of this writing, I have been to a sit spot about 4,500 times, and I’m still not even close to done with the lessons of the practice. For me, visiting a sit spot has been the primary and longest-standing door into greater awareness than I thought possible. Do I still sometimes have moments of spectacular inattention? Perhaps a wee dent on the front of my car? Trip over a curb now and then? You bet. I’m not holding myself out there as an omniscient ninja. But I do know that my life has been immeasurably enriched by a dedication to connecting with nature. I do know that the core routines laid out in Kamana Two (Sit Spot, Sense Meditation, Thanksgiving Address) give me plenty to work on for the rest of my life. Over the years of practice, I have come to new insights in all of those “basic” routines. I’ve been thankful in hotel parking lots, and tuned into my senses on airport benches. I’ve mapped my sit spot over and over, finding new surprises each time. The exercises in Kamana all build on each other, reinforcing a native way of being on this planet, a fundamental approach to being human. However many journals you have done, whatever esoteric insights you have had, I’m still interested in the time you spend at your sit spot. And, of course, the time I spend at mine—I’m not asking you to do anything I’m not willing to do!

Much of my life is about breadth rather than depth, but in the sit spot practice I have chosen depth, and I feel amply rewarded. You’ll have to find that balance on your own—each person has their own ways of connecting to themselves and the world. Your daily practice may be playing the violin instead of sit spot. Power to you! But don’t lose sight of how nature holds fascination and lessons for us during our whole lives. I don’t know anyone, from baby to elder, who would not benefit from a pause to breathe and listen. I still ask you the question: If you truly want more awareness and connection, how about spending five minutes on your porch each day, maybe with a cup of tea, just greeting the world and saying thanks? The world will receive you as you step outside.  Take a deep breath. Be yourself. How much more basic can you get?

Wilderness Awareness School