Are you stressed out? feeling anxious, uninspired, and unmotivated?
If someone said to you “Hey, why don’t you try a ‘Sit Spot practice?’ Just go outside and sit in your garden for 21 minutes every day, for the next 21 days” what would you say? Some of the answers might include –
What is a Sit Spot?
How will sitting in my garden help me with my stress?
Are you bonkers? it’s freezing!
I’m too busy. I don’t have time.
How do I do a Sit Spot practice?
These were the exact questions I asked when Mike challenged me to take up a sit spot practice for 21 days. So, I’m hoping my experience will bring some clarity about this for you too.
I was feeling stressed out, overwhelmed and burnt out with recent challenges lockdown had created. I desperately needed to step away from my screens. Mike had told me about this practice.
But to be honest I couldn’t see how sitting in my garden for twenty-one minutes in the middle of winter, was really going to help.
Make it a Ritual
If I could alleviate some of those negative thought patterns and feel a little better, I would try anything. Plus, it was free and required me to use zero exertion. In my mind, it was minimum effort for a potentially maximum return.
I decided to make my morning coffee a ritual by taking it out-side.
Finding a Good Sit Spot
It was a chilly Saturday morning. The sun was just beginning to peep over next doors roof and the wind shifted the palm tree gently above me.
With my coffee in hand, blanket and meditation mat tucked under my arm, I stood in the garden. My mission, to find a suitable place to sit. I took a few moments to look around and find a spot that stood out to me. It was an intuitive choice.
A little patch of sun was marking my place. There was something appealing about that spot. Let’s say it had a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’. On the grass where I could make myself comfortable. Tucked in between the lemon trees, facing the Aloes. Perfect.
I settled myself on the mat and took a few deep breaths. All was calm, for a millisecond. Then…Did I turn the fire off? I need to feed the cat! I need to add toilet rolls to the shopping list. Wow! my mind was going berserk! It’s amazing what babble popped up when I was trying to sit quietly.
So here was my first challenge. How was I going to shut that internal dialogue up?
I must admit, it took a while. But I used a technique called ‘Alive in Five’. This is a sensual practice where you focus on each sense in turn.
Listen to the Sounds
I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. I began to focus on the things I could hear. Near then far.
The wind through the palm tree sounded like a giant bird ruffling its feathers. I could hear layers of barking dogs near and far throughout our neighbourhood. There was a steady pulsing hum of Saturday morning traffic in the distance. In between those sounds, I could hear the jolly song of a Cape Robin and then the violent honking of a Ha-de-dah as it flew over-head.
What Can I See?
I opened my eyes. I saw the different layers of my garden. To my left was the Lemon tree. Behind me, the Lavender had a lively hum of bees around it. Every now and then they buzzed close to my ear.
What can I Taste?
I took a sip of my coffee; it was warm, and I could taste the bitterness. Placing the mug next to me on the grass, I put my hand down and felt the ground. There was a hint of cool dampness. I looked closely for a while. Nestled in among the grass, there were different kinds of small plants and a couple of tiny bugs milling around.
What can I Smell?
As the sun got higher, it began to warm me up. I let my gaze wander up into the sky. It was mostly blue, with a streak of wispy clouds. I took a deep breath. There was a heady scent of Lavender and Basil emanating over my right shoulder. A pigeon landed on the fence and gave me a sideways glance with its beady eyes. We watched each other for a few moments.
I could hear the neighbourhood beginning to wake up. It sounded like a big machine clunking into action.
How do I Feel?
That was my first experience, and it was wonderful. After I finished, I felt calm and relaxed. But this was just the beginning, I had another 20 days to go.
Day two was just as serene as day one. The weather was calm and warm. It left me feeling inspired to carry on. I can do this, I thought to myself.
Then Monday arrived and with it, my next challenge.
Overcoming Sit Spot Obstacles
Sitting in your garden when the weather is lovely, on a weekend when you have nothing else to do, is great. But add a Cape storm to the equation and a to-do list as long as your arm. Things change slightly.
I was only on day three, I couldn’t quit now. What would Mike say? I could almost hear him giving me a pep talk.
“If you are serious about making a change to your life and genuinely want to feel better. You must follow through with this commitment. Even the easiest of practices have their challenges. That is what makes them worthwhile. If it works for you, you will be so happy”
It was fine, I just needed to adapt my sit spot slightly. So, I moved it two metres back under the shelter of my stoop. I could still see my original spot. I put my hat and coat on, grabbed my coffee and out I went.
I must admit, it was a lot more difficult to quieten my monkey mind, but I followed the steps. Eventually I came to a point of relative quiet, despite observing the craziness of the blowing palm tree and birds whizzing past, frantically trying to flap against the wind.
But each day it got easier. Even on the days where the weather was terrible, I felt the benefits of being out in nature. I observed something new every time. It left me with a sense of achievement. I was fulfilling the commitment; I had made to myself.
A Successful Sit Spot is About Perseverance, Adapting and Change
The days flew by. I noticed subtle differences, not only in my surroundings, but within myself. I began to look forward to my practice, even on cold or rainy days. It felt like a life raft in a sea of chaos. A place of sanctuary.
Another challenge that came up was timing. I had a couple of days where I couldn’t sit in the morning with my coffee. So, I just changed it to the afternoon after work.
I soon realised it didn’t matter what time I practiced my sit spot, just as long as I did it. I noticed new things like, changes in the light and shadows. Different birds were active in the afternoon. More importantly I noticed the differences within myself. I could feel a marked improvement in my mood, energy levels and stress levels.
Finding Calm and Inner Quiet
I began to feel supported by the garden. Like I was in a bubble of protection for twenty-one minutes, away from my monkey mind. I could see my place within that territory, where I fit in. I was becoming part of it. I had stopped trying to label things too and was happy to just observe.
Then on day 15 I noticed something new. I had dropped into a quiet mind, and I began to have some profound thoughts. These were not thoughts of a ‘to do list’ or a ‘he said she said’. They were deep thoughts about the nature of reality and how I saw myself within it. I felt like knots were beginning to unravel, issues that once bothered me greatly, began to fall into perspective. This was a revelation.
Who knew that a simple ‘Sit spot practice’ could have such a powerful effect? Over the 21 days I have realised that even the simplest manoeuvres, if done correctly, with the right attitude and persevered with. Can be life changing.
I would 100% recommend this to anyone who is dealing with stress or anxiety. I will be continuing with my sit spot practice. The benefits have been priceless to me.
Why don’t you try it? Challenge yourself. If you don’t have a garden. Go to your nearest park or sit on your balcony and if you don’t have either of those. Sit and look out of your window. I have realised it’s just as much about allowing yourself the time to just be, to observe yourself and your surroundings, as it is about being outside. You might be surprised how inspired it makes you feel.
For more info on 'How to Sit Spot', have a listen Awaken to Nature's Meditations episode here.
Good luck and let me know if you give it a go.