My friends in the nature connection movement, folks like Jon Young and Tim Corcoran, encourage people to find a "sit spot" someplace in the natural world. Coyote's Guide to Connecting With Nature explains the practice in some detail, saying in part: "Find one place in your natural world that you visit all the time and get to know it as your best friend. Let this be a place where you learn to sit still - alone, often, and quietly - before you playfully explore beyond. This will become your place of intimate connection with nature."
Even before I knew Jon or Tim, I understood the value of knowing a place as if it were a dear friend or a close family member. Almost by definition, indigenous cultures have established generational relationships to ancestral lands reaching back thousands of years. We remember the rivers and the mountains, the animals and the roots - and they remember us. Every year we travel to the same places again and again, always deepening our relationship to the spirits of this place.
As a culture, we have been sitting here for 10,000 years, and as individuals, finding a sit spot is a beautiful and deeply renewing practice.
Not long ago, I attended a workshop with Jon Young, Randall Eaton, and Tim Corcoran. They were encouraging the participants to visit their sit spots and to connect with nature in a meaningful way. A young man in the group said that he doesn't always sit; sometimes he goes just to connect. For this reason he prefers to call that place his "chill spot." Some folks laughed, but we all appreciate the way he re-scripted this enduring spiritual practice into a more contemporary, youth-savvy language.
Afterwards, I joked with Jon and said that I don't even have to visit nature to find my own personal chill spot. He gave me a questioning look, but then I laughed and explained that Chill Spot is a business that just opened down the street from my work. They serve sandwiches and frozen yogurt. I promised to take Jon to the Chill Spot on the way to the airport, but we got back later than expected. We'll have to visit next time he comes to Spokane. For now, he'll just have to appreciate this photograph that my wife and I took when we had lunch today. As we visited the Chill Spot, we thought of Jon.
All joking aside, Chill Spot may not actually connect folks to nature like a personal sit spot in the woods, but its business model takes a fresh, community-centered approach. The owner is almost always on site taking orders, manning the cash register, or serving food. When he's not helping customers, he's smiling, visiting, or making friends with the people who walk through his door. One night, he even sat down with my group and gave us a mini-exhibition of his daughter's art work. This is the kind of business I love to support. The food is great, but the atmosphere just makes me happy. Chill Spot is not some kind of distant corporate entity, but rather a locally owned place that adds value and connection to the Spokane community.
In the end, connection is all that matters, whether we're connecting to nature or to one another. In either situation, we need a time and place that allows us to escape our busy schedules and just chill.
Young, J., Haas, E., & McGown, E. (2010). Coyote's Guide to Connecting to Nature. Shelton, WA: Owlink Media Corporation.