I am not in a wilderness, not on a mountain top, not by a rushing river. I can easily hear the four-lane highway a half-mile away, and I see the rooftops of my neighbors’ houses and sheds. I sit on a comfy patio chair, with my iPhone playing some gentle music, while I tap-tap-tap the keys of my laptop.
Because all the demands and distractions of modern life, especially our computers and smart phones, put a real burden on our brain. Our brains were designed to sip incoming data through a straw—instead, we are trying to drink from a firehose.
Being in Nature (at a sit spot, on a spirit walk, or sitting on your patio) supports us. It’s where we came from. Our primitive brains evolved out there to collect data about our surroundings, for our survival.
You don’t have to write in complete sentences. You don’t have to use proper spelling or grammar. You can write and draw on the same page. Don’t know the name of a bird you’re hearing or plant you’re seeing? Doesn’t matter--there is no better authority/expert than You. You are the expert about your experience in this moment, and only You can decide what to write about it. Describe the bird or plant with simple words or whatever juicy adjectives come to mind. Don’t stop, just keep noticing and writing. Don’t edit or scratch out. If you feel stuck, write “I feel stuck” and then try to notice something (a fly buzzing or the shadow of a leaf moving on your page).
For the first few sessions, just notice what your body is sensing. And then, when this feels more comfortable, you can start being curious about the one who is noticing. After all, we are also participants, not just spectators. “Our listening to the bird’s song is the other half of the bird singing it.”
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within and
Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life, Natalie Goldberg
The Wild Within: Adventures in Nature and Animal Teachings, and
Tracking and the Art of Seeing: How to Read Animal Tracks and Signs, Paul Rezendes
Tom Brown’s Field Guide: Nature Observation and Tracking
Writing Wild: Forming a Creative Partnership with Nature, Tina Welling
A Trail Through Leaves: The Journal as a Path to Place, Little Things in a Big Country: An Artist & Her Dog on the Rock Mountain Front, and A Life in Hand: Creating the Illuminated Journal, all by Hannah Hinchman
Zen Seeing, Zen Drawing: Meditation in Action, and The Zen of Seeing: Seeing/Drawing as Meditation, Frederick Franck
Holdfast: At Home in the Natural World, Kathleen Dean Moore