Spit Spot Experience
First of all, you have to feel safe. You must trust that no harm will come to you as you sit quietly in this space. You must find a comfortable seat, too. You’ll be spending at least an hour here. If you have to keep repositioning yourself in your spot, your attention will keep focusing more on you than on your surroundings. Bring a cushion that won’t make a sound with every slight move. I made my own sit-upon from a piece of shower curtain and with thick newspaper for stuffing, and I sealed all of edges with duct tape. It works just fine and can slip right into my backpack. I keep a stack of thirty sit-upons in the trunk of my car for conducting public programs.
Tune up your sensory awareness meter to a higher-than-normal setting. Our brains are useful machines. But they intentionally limit what we see and hear during our daily routines, so that we can focus merely on those stimuli that require our attention (like traffic lights and baby cries). This is the time to override your brain. Pay attention to everything: from the smallest pebble to the largest cloud in the sky. Be as open as you can be to see, hear, smell, and feel it all. Nothing is unimportant here. Nature is not just the background to your own movie set. It is where you live.
Turn off all electronic devices or leave them at home. This is your time with nature. If you have to think of it as an appointment, so be it. If you have to be mindful of the minutes and hours, bring along a watch (preferably analog, with hands that move around the dial). Keep it in your pocket so that you don’t check it too often. Time passes in its own natural way.
Bring a notebook and pen or pencil. Take brief notes on what you witness. Write down descriptive phrases that come to mind as you sit and watch and learn. When you get back home, you can write about your experience more fully. Use your notes as memory joggers. Imagine the place as you write about it. If you feel you must bring a camera, use it only sparingly, and aim it only at something unusual. Let your eyes be your viewfinder today.
Scientists tell us that the act of being attentive changes the connectivity between neurons in our brains. It alters our neural networks, for the better. And the more we pay attention, the more we can pay attention. We can retrain our brains and ourselves to become more aware on a more regular basis. Yes! This is exactly what we’re after here. Eventually our waiting times will decrease, and we will see and hear everything more immediately.
American author Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his journal in 1834: “Many eyes go through the meadow, but few see the flowers in it.” Well, we know why, don’t we? If these folks had taken a seat and had spent more time with the meadow, they would have eventually seen the daisies, the black-eyed Susans, the Queen Anne’s lace, and the asters. And they would have witnessed a whole lot more, too.