PARK WATCH Article December 2023 |

Caitlin Griffith reflects on the mindful activity of simply sitting in nature

I have a confession. Often, I find getting into nature a bit overwhelming. I find myself trying to birdwatch, identify trees, complete my nature journal, find fungi, chat to people, name the wildflowers, bushwalk, notice the insects, exercise, observe the ferns and mosses, check out all the scats and tracks, be mindful, take photos and submit my observations to a citizen science project and check out the geology. I attempt to do all of that at the same time! I’m a nature nerd, but not a specialist in a particular area. I try to do everything all at once more often than I care to admit.

Something that has helped me challenge this need to do everything is the idea of a ‘sit spot’. A sit spot is simply finding a nice spot in nature, sitting there and observing the surroundings. Ideally you choose one sit spot that you re-visit regularly. I actually have a couple of spots I like to visit.

When I visit one of these spots, I usually spend at least 15 minutes sitting there. I don’t do anything in particular. I just sit quietly. I am usually restless when I start and often don’t notice so much at the beginning. However, after a few minutes of settling in, I start to notice how much is really happening around me.

On a recent ‘sit’ (for around 30 minutes) I must have seen at least 15 species of birds, heard at least 10 different bird calls, saw the light change as the sun went down, observed microbats emerging, watched a Swamp Wallaby watching me, heard the wind in the treetops and the sound of the nearby creek, watched a trail of ants, noticed the moss and grass by my feet. I left feeling both calm and thoroughly entertained by the experience. Most importantly for me, I did not feel overwhelmed (or underwhelmed), I just felt ‘whelmed’.

This is not a new or ingenious invention. People have been sitting quietly in nature forever, but it was nice to be reminded that it was a thing I could do.

How to sit in nature

  1. Find a spot in nature that inspires you and is comfortable.
  2. Sit there.
  3. Keep sitting.
  4. Take your time.
  5. Finish when you are ready.

Optional extras

  1. Take some deep, calming breaths.
  2. Observe what is around you. This could be things really close or in the distance. It could be tiny insects, birds, trees, waves in the ocean, sunrise, stars.
  3. Focus on just one thing and observe it very closely, e.g. a wildflower.
  4. Think about what you observe.
  5. Think about the universe, the forest, the ocean, the ant, the fungi, the meaning of life.
  6. Take pencils and paper and draw or write (but keep it low pressure).
  7. If you are restless, set yourself a minimum time to sit, that may give you enough time to settle.
  8. Revisit the spot regularly, notice any changes over time and seasons.