Tuesday, October 8, 2013
The Sit Spot Meditations
In the past three weeks I've started taking up the daily habit of visiting a Sit Spot. The same spot, every day, mostly for around twenty to thirty minutes, once or twice for five minutes, for a single long deep breath and bow to the sun filtering through the trees. The concept of a Sit Spot was introduced to me about 8 years ago. I didn't quite get it, the full power and potential dormant inside a single humble little spot, visited every day, even if its an apartment fire-escape or a cement patio. So long as you are present, you engage with your senses, you open your eyes and ears and nose to the birds, to the wind, to the clouds, to the little bugs, to the grasses growing abundant on a hillside or tenacious between sidewalk cracks. The point is you show up, and you form relationships.
I didn't fully realize the deep power of the Sit Spot, even in these past two years of steady and devoted apprenticeship to the Art of Animal Tracking, until about three weeks ago, when I made a vow to myself that I was going to do it, not two times a week maybe, but daily. Wow, what a huge difference that makes. Within three days, the Spot-- this very steep bit of hillside a three minute walk from my cabin, where the sun (blessed wondrous sun) actually shines (unlike at my cabin, which is dark as a mole hole), surrounded by firs-- started to have a magnetic effect upon my mind. It seemed to call out to be visited. I longed to go sit still on the hillside, forced into a meditative posture by the slope, and feel that peace of being fully present rush on in, through my sit-bones, through my nose, through my eyes. I've always had a hard time meditating with my eyes closed because my mind really races, and makes up stories, and worries, etc. I know this happens to everyone at first, but I've found that being in nature, using my senses— sight, hearing, smell, touch— is more effective for stilling my mind than anything else. I need to engage beyond my own body in order to find peace deep inside of it.
This is the power of the Sit Spot. It gives you the gift of being fully present, as the trees and the chickadees and the toyons are. And then you start to notice wow, what extraordinary strange thin shapes the clouds are making today, I wonder why? Or, goodness, those woodpeckers are making a racket, what's going on? What species are they, anyway? Or, how long have these grass seeds been dormant beneath me, waiting for rain? And this deep sense of gratitude sneaks up on you without you even realizing, to be still in the midst of the wild lives of beings that are more-than-human—Douglas fir, spotted towhee, acorn woodpecker, dragonfly, gray squirrel, gray fox, lichen, cloud— whose very being-ness brings peace to the spinning-a-million-miles-a-minute modern human mind.
We are moving home soon, to a more urban setting. It will be a new and rich chapter, and I am looking forward to it, but I will miss, more than anything else about these woods where we've made home this past spring and summer, this humble hillside. It has given me a great gift in the last month, though, one I will take with me: wildness is not only in a big hearty fir-forest thick with acorn woodpeckers. Wildness is in a seed growing up through a sidewalk, that act of unfurling to the sun. And wildness is something inside, the quiet awakeness of your own animal body.
The chickadees deserve your silent soft Sit-Spot attention in an urban neighborhood as much as they do in the forest.