The Shift Doctors (TracyLatz M.D. & Marion Ross PhD.) have had the opportunity to take a wonderful Wild Edible and Medicinal Plant course in the mountains of North Carolina with Richard Cleveland, the Founder of The Earth School. During the past 17 years Richard has taught nature awareness and survival skills to thousands of people of all ages. He is an avid outdoorsman, fishing guide, writer, public speaker and a self-trained Naturalist. Some have called him “The Upstate’s Survivorman.” He teaches children as well as Navy Seals nature awareness and advanced self-reliance skills.
Richard’s Vision for Earth School is to create an environment where people can learn, share and respect the many gifts of Nature to connect with their roots (Mother Earth) once again. In this article, Richard describes a type of mindfulness practice which, with intention, can assist in reducing anxiety, pain, and stress. When using Richard’s technique, it is important to just be, observe and create awareness.
The Sit Spot – “An Experience for Life”:
Here’s a great idea to enhance your Nature awareness skills and it works for everyone! I call it a “sit spot”, (or “secret place” when I teach it to children). The good news is you usually don’t have to travel far. Here’s the concept…find a slightly out of the way place on your property, or perhaps at a nearby park and simply sit down, relax and just observe. You can even bring a chair if you’d like, though I prefer to sit on the ground to connect more directly with Mother Earth. This is a place that you should go to several times a week if possible. This practice will allow you to get to know one area intimately instead of roaming all over.
Most of us think we know our property or our favorite place in the park or woods pretty well, but this exercise might just change your mind. If you have the discipline to do this mindfulness exercise off and on for an entire year, you’ll be amazed at what you’ll discover and experience. Not only will you encounter and glean knowledge about the local wildlife, but your awareness and knowledge of plants and insects will increase dramatically as you experience the changing of the seasons.
I’ve been doing this exercise on and off for almost thirty years and have no intention of stopping. It’s too much fun and, quite honestly, I find it rather healing. It helps me balance the hustle and bustle of my daily routine. I’d suggest doing this a minimum of 30 minutes each visit, but longer is better. I’ve sat in the woods for an entire day more than once. The longer you sit the more you’ll experience. The more you experience, the more you’ll learn. Don’t be surprised if you learn some interesting things about yourself during the process as well 🙂
Most of us can’t sit still for even a few minutes. Remember, this is for everyone and I’ve found that this is a great lesson for children. Oh yes…they’ll resist at first, but once they start to really see things they’ll actually look forward to it. It teaches them patience…and that is always a good thing. You might not believe it’s the same child after a few weeks! I’ve been fortunate enough to see a multitude of animals during my “sit spot” time, including bobcats, coyotes, fox, newborn fawns, raccoons, opossums, skunks, mink, turkeys and I even had a squirrel climb up my leg once. A bit unnerving but exciting!
Here are some important points to remember when you practice your “sit spot” mindfulness time:
- Relax and quiet your mind…balancing your checkbook isn’t important now.
- Try not to fidget – keep your noise to a minimum. You will experience more if you are quiet.
- Sit as still as possible – when you look around turn your head slowly.
- If you see or hear an animal nearby don’t move – animals see movement.
- Animals are naturally curious – let them come to you.
- Look at everything around you – especially things you think you already know.
- Soak it all in – naps are considered acceptable behavior 🙂
- Give thanks – Nature is an important part of you.
Remember to visit your place often, and at different times of the day if possible. You may discover that even on slow days, when nothing much seems to be happening, your “Sit Spot” is just a great place to BE.
**Richard Cleveland lives in Asheville, NC and teaches outdoor programs at Earth School. He is a self-trained Naturalist and a local fishing and nature guide. For more info about Richard and his programs visit www.LoveTheEarth.com .
*****The Shift Doctors (Tracy Latz, M.D. & Marion Ross, Ph.D.) are available for keynote talks, classes, events or for seminars (1/2 day or up to 2 day) on personal transformation, team-building, motivation, anger management, intuitive development, or collaboration for private groups, conferences, corporations or corporate events. Contact them at email@example.com or find out more about them at www.shiftyourlife.com