Little Rituals: Sit Outside

woman wearing black long sleeved shirt sitting on green grass field near mountain under cloudy sky
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“When we live solely to do or fix or make things happen, we miss a huge opportunity to cultivate the balancing effects of yin energy – receptivity, presence, intuition, surrender – qualities that are only available to us when we slow down.”
~ Stephanie Bennett Vogt

Today’s little ritual is quite possibly my favorite of them all. I rely on it often to help me return to baseline in times of stress, anxiety or frenzy, and to promote gratitude in times of ease.

This practice invites you to find ten minutes of space in your day to do nothing. Absolutely nothing. On purpose. And to go outside while you do it.  If being outdoors is not possible, then at a minimum sit by a window.

Often, we think time spent like this – sitting still, doing nothing, resting – is time that is wasted.  We live in an age and culture that moves fast, rewards production, and craves instant gratification.

But the human experience, the one we are biologically and psychologically designed to thrive within, is not fulfilled by only “doing”.  Just as there are polarities around us in nature – of light and dark, winter and spring, sleep and wakefulness – we too are born from nature and must design our lives to include both action and stillness.

I learned about the practice of Sit Spot from parenting coach Margaret Webb about six years ago, and then explored it further during my training with Sagefire Institute.  Sit Spot is a term that Jon Young, co-founder of the Wilderness Awareness School and co-author of Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature, coined to describe a sense meditation practice that helps connect a person intimately with their native environment.

And while I am not suggesting you tackle the practice of Sit Spot today, I am suggesting you experiment with what could very well become its gateway drug.

When I slow down and make time to sit outdoors, my life feels more deliberate, more calm, more attentive, more intentional.  I end up getting more done in my productive hours because I have clarity of mind and focus that was otherwise competing with mental clutter.  Parenting coach Margaret Webb often says that getting still is how the snow globe of life begins to settle; how things come into focus.

Just as plants go dormant and inward every winter, replenishing their reserves for the spring season ahead, so too must humans make space for stillness, reflection and rest if we wish to have energy for times requiring action.

If we give ourselves the space to pause, we begin building an unconscious muscle that is far better tuned, during both times of stillness and action, to see through the snow flurries and strategically navigate and design the experiences we want for our lifetimes. If intention is the campfire, the art of stillness is the fuel that feeds the flames of passion, creativity, and inspiration.

Surfacing this kind of magic can only happen when I find space to silence my mind’s chatter.  And the best way I know to do this is to sit outside and notice everything surrounding me. And by taking in the details of nature, my creative mind more effortlessly uncovers and utilizes the gems I’m holding within.

Getting started:

Find a space outdoors to sit for ten minutes each day without interruption. Observe everything around you, with open eyes, ears, and nose, and preferably with your butt on the ground.  After you sit, I invite you to simply notice if your life feels a little more “right” in the hours that follow.

We can adopt some of the The Wilderness Awareness School’s Sit Spot tips when it comes to choosing where you will sit:  1) It needs to be close to your house, 2) you need to feel safe while there, and 3) accessibility is more important than aesthetics.

I use my backyard for sitting. I leave my kids and dogs inside, turn my phone to airplane mode and set the timer for ten minutes. And then I sit.

The first time you try to sit without interruption, you may find it frustrating.  If you experience a “crawling up the walls” sensation, start smaller.  Sit for three minutes instead of ten.  Likewise, if you find ten minutes is not enough for you, stretch it to fifteen.  Play with what feels right, but don’t throw in the towel if you start with an amount that feels unsatisfying. Just adjust and try again.

If you can do this practice for a week, wonderful!  Thirty days, and I can almost guarantee that your life will feel changed and more your own.

Since learning this practice, my life has evolved in both measurable and immeasurable ways, and I am without a doubt a happier, more satisfied, integrated person than I was six years ago.  When I feel lost, sitting outside is the first place I turn.  I rely on this practice, of being quiet outdoors, as a means of returning home to myself.

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“Find one place you can get to know really, really well. This is the most important routine you can develop. Know it by day; know it by night; know it in the rain and in the snow, in the depth of winter and in the heat of summer. Know the stars and where the four directions are there; know the birds that live there, know the trees they live in. Get to know these things as if they were your relatives, for, in time, you will come to know that they are! That is the most important thing you can do in order to excel at any skill in nature. Nature and your own heart are the best teachers, but your body, mind and spirit all have to attend the class, and do the homework. There is no replacement for this experience!”
~Jon Young

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Photo by Anders Kristensen on Pexels.com

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I am convinced that ritual is one of the key ingredients to a life well-lived, or at the very least, a great way for a busy person to pause and actually notice when he or she is in the midst of a life well-lived.

And I am even more convinced that ritual is most likely to happen consistently when it is simple, easy, imperfect, and quick.

I’ll be sharing several little rituals I rely on this January and February. I encourage you to try one, and see if it’s something that adds meaning or space for reflection and integration of all the seemingly ordinary yet rich facets of your own every day life!

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