Sit Spots - Two views on this topic
The unspoken law, that Grandfather expected Tom and Rick to uphold, was to
go to their sacred areas every sunrise and every sunset. They didn't have to,
but if they didn't, Grandfather ignored them. So why is it that Tom tells us
about that story in every standard class, and in virtually every advanced
class after that, first off we are expected to go out and find a sit spot, at
the beginning of class. Why? Because it has everything to do with what Tom is
doing his best to convey to us. Then we go home and "It" doesn't fit
into our lifestyle. Some of us even start to do it, choosing a secret spot,
but what purpose does it have? So it is abandoned, because it's something else
we have to do everyday. We wish we had someone like Stalking Wolf to mentor
us, not because Tom isn't a great teacher, but because we want someone to push
and motivate us. Going to our sacred area every day means we have to face our
biggest demon, our self!
Being a caretaker at the primitive camp in the pine barrens, the hands down
toughest part of the whole year of living in the woods, is you have to
confront yourself, everyday you are in your own face, you either deal with it,
and work through your sh-t, or bail out and leave. Ghandi once said, "ALL
of man's problems, stem from his inability to sit quietly in a room
alone." All our grief and the gunnysack of excess baggage that most carry
with them through their entire lives, has to be worked through and discarded,
before we can move into the place of," service for the people."
Of course there are a gazillion reasons why not to go to that secret spot
we've chosen,... it's cold, it's raining, I'm tired, it's too far, blah, blah,
blah, blab-bla. It's so much easier to stay in our comfortable box, our own
personal cage that society has for us, to keep us safe and secure, the four
walls that cut us off from becoming our true potential. All the great prophets
and teachers went out into the wilderness and spent time, do we not have the
same potential? Didn't Christ say, "even the least amongst you can do all
I have done, and even greater things still."
Tom uses the sit area for almost all of his classes, and allows ample time
for students to go there during the week. Most don't, unless Tom makes it a
specific exercise to go there. Jon Young, was Tom's first student, Jon was ten
years old, and had a snapping turtle on a string that he was trying to get
home, when they met. Tom befriended him, and Jon decided he would stick like a
tick to Tom's side. Tom told Jon he needed to get a place out in nature where
he could go, Tom knew a ten year old isn't going to go out there and sit, so
he told Jon to practice making fire. And then the questions began, which
direction do you face, what kind of tree do you sit under, and on, and on, and
on, for seven years Tom continued to ask questions, and he only walked through
Jon's secret spot once. Jon Young does his best to motivate other's by his
Kamana program, now there is a purpose to going out and sitting in nature,
there are questions that you need to answer, and reference books that you need
to get to complete the program. It's no longer a tweety bird in the tree, it's
a chestnut sided warbler, who you become to know as George, and his mate
Martha. Everything at your secret spot, you come to be familiar with, and grow
to know intimately. Eventually, in six to nine months of going to your sit
spot, a shift occurs, it's an internal change. What happens is you go native.
What is native? It's someone with close ties to the land. A hundred years ago,
whites who "went native",
were despised, they were looked upon as a savage, below civilized people. What
happens is you go wild, you become the wilderness, and it becomes you.
Once the shift happens it stays, you can put a wild animal in a cage to
tame it, but it is still wild. The sacred area is the doorway to the
wilderness mind, but once there, it has to be camouflaged, why? Because this
society is afraid of wild animals, they are not under it's control. So they
are either driven off, or killed. Doubt it? Then go back in history.
If you want to save the Earth, then you have to surrender to it, the world
of nature is our greatest teacher. As the familiarity of the secret spot
grows, and we continue to ask the sacred questions of, "what dis?"
And, "what dis mean?" Our awareness begins to shift to deeper
levels, from physical, to force, and then to the essence of all things,
spirit. There is no short cut that I know of, it's discipline and work, always
pushing ourselves. It has everything to do with passion and choice.
How bad do you want to be one with the Earth?
P.S. What do I do when I go to my secret spot? Prayer, thanksgiving for
everything, sacred silence, meditation, honoring the four teaching directions,
asking sacred questions and seeking the answers.
P.P.S. If you make the sacred choice to have a sit spot, don't make it so
far away that it is inconvenient. I know someone who has dozens of stories
about doing her secret spot in her back yard in an urban area, with
experiences with deer, woodchucks, and at night, skunks and raccoons, inches
from her feet. The adventure is there, all we have to do is seek it.
Things get complicated when they become formalized. These days, it seems
nothing is worth doing unless it's formalized & given a name. People
actually need to be told to go sit outside? "Find a 'sit spot.' "
Why does it have to be the same spot? Almost everyone lives in an urban area;
ergo, where we sit will not be "wild" unless it's an inconvenient
spot located several kilometers from home. Shouldn't a sit spot be a place
where one can go anytime & just sit, without thought, without purpose?
I have always sat outside. For many years I lived right downtown - I would
sit on the bottom steps going to my house at any hour of the day or night,
although not very often & not as long in the winter months. Numerous
animals from the urban forest came by - raccoons, squirrels, various birds,
skunks, an occasional opossum, mice, to name a few. Sometimes I sat in the
backyard - a surprise there: fewer animals; I guess they liked the street
side. I never figured it out. Maybe I should have started a school &
taught people how to go sit outside of their houses (because I believe that is
the key - "outside of their houses"), out of the box.
Out in the country I would prefer to sit in a field, or by a stream, or
under a tree, or in the middle of the bush - but this is highly impractical
for a day to day affair. I have more to say on this subject, but what I'm
really getting at is: do people need to be told everything? And once told,
does it need to be formalized & ritualized ( thereby making it an
unnatural & forced act), something that MUST BE DONE? The next step then,
is the same as what happens after people decide to exercise & join a gym:
a billion excuses as to why it's inconvenient or they're too tired or the
"oh no! I haven't sat in my sit spot for 2 weeks!!!" guilt thing, as
tho they're doing it not for themselves but for someone else.
It's all very well when one's life revolves being outdoors, & this is
what they do for a living, or for a good part of the year. Or if one lives
alone with few ties to others. Life in the real world is very different. We
have families to (try to)spend time with, pets to feed & walk, elderly
parents to care for, friends in needy situations, after work meetings to
attend, shift work to deal with, yards to maintain, kids to keep track of,
shopping, car & house maintenance - of course we're tired. After all this,
a sit spot on the bottom step leading up to the house (or in my case away from
the house) is most welcome, & always in our path. The urban wilderness
will come to us if we let it. And I discovered there's still plenty of wild in
Please know that I don't intend to demean anyone's experience. All are
valid, however they come by them. But I feel that the "big deal"
that some make out of this may in fact scare some people off. Too much effort
& time. In this world of instant gratification, those who don't
immediately, or very soon, experience an "epiphany" might give up.
The real experience in this busy world is dropping down & letting go,
anywhere, thereby allowing all senses to take in whatever's there. Then when
they actually have the opportunity to be in nature it's easy. One may expect
"going native" to be an instantaneous occurrence by paying too much
attention to someone else's experiences.