Falling in love with life – cultivating awareness and deep connection to the natural world
Posted on: 23 July 2023
After almost a week away, one of the first things I did when I got back was visit my sit-spot. Eager to escape the heat of the village, I set off past blossoming broom and oleander, crossing the riverbed to begin my ascent. Following the dirt track, in the shade of the eucalyptus, up to the wild edges where fragrant rosemary and artemesia courageously inhabit this unforgiving landscape. Time passed and relentless cicadas tired as I climbed up to find my secret spot high above the swirling swallows, dancing playfully in the evening light.
As the sun dipped behind the mountains, I glanced back. There, silhouetted on the horizon was a young female ibex. Wild and vital. Also clambering the ridge in search of coolness after the searing heat of the day. We locked our gaze. In this transcendent moment my human-ness dissolved and we were united in stillness, sharing the most refined and crystalline presence, that I can only name as love.
In its simplest form, a ‘sit-spot’ as a place in nature that you visit frequently to cultivate awareness in stillness.
The intensity of her presence reminded me how important regular visits to my sit-spot have become and how valuable this time is for my own contemplation, connection and integration. I walked back at twilight and arrived home feeling grounded, relaxed, present and open with deep connection to myself, to her, to the plants, the trees, the rising moon, the stars and the sacredness of all life. A wave of contentedness rippled through every cell of my body. I felt a deep sense of peace and unity.
There are no photos of our precious moment together but more important than a visual reduction of this experience, is energy of the encounter. An experience that now lives in my heart and reflects a part of me that I am able to access and bring forth into daily life. A very wise teacher of mine Jon Young, who introduced me to the sit-spot, describes this as becoming a ‘walking sit-spot’. As we embody these sit-spot experiences life re-configures around us. We emanate nature’s presence and others begin to gravitate towards that sense of connection.
People are often curious about why I make time to go and get still in the same place time and time again. We are all familiar with nature education and nature recreation but cultivating nature connection is something all together different from the two. Jon goes into more detail in his TedX talk on ‘Becoming super-natural’ and describes this feeling of connection.
“You all know what it feels like with your pet, your best friend or with the person you love the most. But could you imagine if you had that with all aspects of nature?”
This kind of relationship with nature is not just a nice idea. We are hard-wired for this. Complex sensory input is what our wise and ancient bodies were designed to receive and what our nervous system needs; not only to feel calm, present and connected but to feel alive and to thrive. If these core needs are repeatedly unmet we are never fully sated. We go through life snacking endlessly on fleeting experiences in an attempt to quell these deep feelings of separation and emptiness. A hollowness that fuels many addictions, including the need to repeatedly seek new and more intense experiences. This pursuit pull us away from the here and now and prevents us from accessing a deeply sensual engagement with life. A degenerative cycle that creates perfect fodder for the consumerist narrative. Sucked into a kind of bucket-list mentality which not only perpetuates disconnect but fuels consumption, and like all aspects of consumerism, does untold damage to this beautiful planet earth.
While it’s true that we all had nomadic hunter-gatherer ancestors, their way of life required that they were fully in relationship with nature as they moved and in fact their movements and whole way of being was informed and guided by that relationship. Reinforcing a generative cycle of connection and interdependence. One day we might return to this nomadic existence, but first we would need to reclaim our connection to nature if we were to have any chance of survival.
Of course, the mountain goat in me loves adventure and exploring new horizons, and while there’s place for that, my sense is that what’s important is to become more fully aware of what we are doing instead of unconsciously reacting to the inner restlessness that so often underlies this impulse to move.
Like many, I travelled far and wide on my quest for home. But in the end the change really came when I acknowledged that it wasn’t the place I was looking for but the relationship to place. Once I began to slow down and take time to notice the fragrance of spring rain, the sound of summer and the texture of the changing soil beneath my feet. Once I made a commitment to place. To becoming curious about how the wind moves the trees and how the birds and animals communicate. Then I started to access right here, a feeling of home. The feeling my whole nervous system had been longing for all the while.
Regular visits to my sit-spot help me to know the other wild beings that inhabit this land. It is an intimate and deeply satisfying process that repeatedly quenches my thirst for deep connection and belonging.
When we make a commitment to our sit-spot we make a commitment to ourselves and to life. We come to experience the compelling vibrancy of a reality that is spontaneously co-arising in every moment.
This shift in perception stimulates our sense of aliveness and presence. Potent medicine in these distracted and disembodied times. We often wonder why there’s not more resistance when forests are becoming deserts and our seas dumping grounds. But we have to remember that we only ever stand for the things we truly love.
Until we fall in love with the natural world the idea of standing in her defence can easily be abandoned as an abstract concept. When this love of life expresses itself as a heart-centred way of being, it weaves it’s way into how live, the choices we make and the work we have come to do in the world. When we move through life with this heart-earth-centred alignment we find the idea of living in any other way to be deeply unsettling. When we fall in love with nature we fall in love with all of life. And with this love arises an innate desire to tend to, care for and protect life itself.
My sense is that cultivating intimacy and connection with the nature is the remedy for these times. I feel like I am only just at the start of a lifelong journey, but my relationship with the natural world has brought so much to my life that I am committed to mentoring others on their own journey of nature connection.
The ‘sit spot’ is one of the core practices I introduce to young people staying with me on my ‘Live and learn’ programme. Each spring I offer a limited number of places to young people between 20-30 years of age to come and explore nature connection, wild harvesting, medicine making, regenerative wellbeing, art and community. So if you are interested in developing a deep love of life through your relationship with the natural world please get in touch.