Sitspot routine as a mentor

`Core routines of nature connection` as starting point and fundament of `Coyote Mentoring`

In wilderness education and deep ecology it is assumed, that modern people are often not connected with the signs, sensations and voices of their inner self and of the natural world around them. Our body system is tuned into the daily routines and habits which follow the requirements of a so called civilized lifestyle and our genuine natural feedback systems are often half asleep, weakened, distracted or overloaded so to speak. That lack of awareness leads into more or less consciously disregarding the essential needs, vitality, wisdom, flow and cycles of our inner and outer nature – a state of mind and being which is named `disconnection`. Core issue of wilderness pedagogics is to light the spark and nourish the fire of `reconnection`. To awaken and strengthen that genuine human ability it is essential to practice so called `core routines of nature connection`.

Deeper meaning of the `core routines of nature connection` is to expand the human consciousness due to opening up for aware and present being in nature with all senses and getting experience based to realize one´s own close interweaving with the natural network of life, what reawakens curiosity, amazement, openness, trust, awe, gratitude and responsibility for us and our universe in the face of miracles of life.

After five years of personal practicing and deepen and broaden that experience while sharing with my colleague and mentees via performing, journaling and reflecting I have the impression that the `sitspot` or `secret place` might be one of the most valuable mentors among a broad diversity of `core routines`. Mainly because it teaches you to come back to a quiet, open and observant attitude. For me the `sitspot` is like the calm space in the eye of the storm – helps for all what you can meet and find in life.

`Core routine`: `Sitspot` or `secret place`

The `sitspot` or `secret place` is an exercise of precepting, observing and hence re-connecting back to nature. Over the course of the season you regularly visit a place to spend some time in silence to experience the animate earth with all senses and consequently to get in touch and resonance with it. Due to that you will get to know your place and yourself in an intense and awareness rising way. You can find that place following criteria of preferences or the place can find you e.g. guided intuitively by aimless wandering. It makes sense to stick to one or two locations you will become familiar with. So you will learn to perceive changes, to understand movements and processes that the place undergoes in a year´s course. You will recognize the influence of the weather regarding well-being and phenomena. By fully aware approaching the place and staying there you will give animals the chance to get used to your presence and to show themselves – even make contact. You could extend your perception of `sitspot` and your way there by drawing a map of the surroundings, by sensing which story(s), which song(s) the place induces, by exercising in listening, seeing, tasting, smelling, feeling, balancing or meditating. There are no limitations to the curious and friendly tuning into the inner and outer nature within the here and now, except not feeling comfortable and dealing with spinning and jumping thoughts. So you have to find out how to comfort your body and to calm down your mind before or while being at your place. With your returning presence, openness and allowance the place will begin to talk, evoke questions, give comfort and companionship to you.

Personal task as preparation for the LTTA in Germany

Please find your `sitspot` and note how you found the place or the place found you. Which are your criteria for a good spot?

Please note your preparations in order to feel comfy and calm at your place. Do you bring something with you (gear, food …)?

Please try to visit that spot at least three times before we meet in Germany. Take your time and be present.

Take some notes afterwards: thoughts, images, experiences, questions, sensations, songs, poems – whatever appears/ comes up. Which time of the day have you been there? How was the weather/ atmosphere? How did you feel when you entered the place? How afterwards? How long did you actually stay? (…)

If you want, you can extend the core routine by wandering, mapping, sketching, tracking … whatever comes to your mind – only: Please try at each visit to stay at the place in silence and aware for a while before falling in activities again; say about half an hour minimum.

GW

Outdoor learning in Romania

In February wildnismentors of three countries got to know the Outward Bound experiential learning approach in a 10 day Erasmus+ funded mobility in Sovata/Romania. We enjoyed team building as well as energizing games, cooperatively climbing the Jakob´s ladder in the ropes course and an expedition to the Gurghiului mountains. Watch our video to get to know about leader of the day ceremony, snowshoe walking, digging a snow den to sleep in and so much more. Also visit our January blogpost to see stunning animal footprints we have found in the mountains.

For a detailed description of one of the Romanian participants visit Timmi´s blog.  AP

MEMORIES
from
Szováta, Outward Bound
February 2022


Here comes a collection of memories, thoughts and photographies from the swedish group that visited Outward Bound in Szováta, Romania. Each one of us have contributed in our own way so that you as a reader can get a glimpse into our experience of this very interesting and developing journey.
We hope that you will enjoy it!

TOVE, Swedish student

This photo shows a moment that I dearly remember from our journey. It is when we on the second day hiked up on a hill with a beautiful little chapel looking out over Szováta and were encouraged by Emöke and Dorina to engage in a solo moment. I chose a beutiful pine tree to lean my back against and enjoyed the wiew. What came into my mind at this moment was that we sometimes really need a moment of solitude or space to be able to take in, process and enjoy our new experiences. Moreover it’s a great opportunity connect with nature, to be in it with all your senses, and with your full attention. It is truly wonderful to be in a group/team and chit chat, laugh and share stories, but these moments of silence and space in between makes the social times even better!

This moment is also very important to me. It looks dark, wet and a bit tough perhaps… But it wasn’t at all! A couple of us decided (with Adáms help) to build a quinzee. We worked until it got dark, and although it took a lot of time and hard work it was so fun! We initiated a system where two people were digging inside the quinzee, one person was handing the snow filled bucket out to two other people who emptied the bucket – to send it right back inside again. While doing this we came up with these little sounds: ”HUH!” and ”HAH!” which made it feel so much more enjoyable. For me I was glad to notice that we as a group made something that could’ve been (as before mentioned) dark, wet and tough, into a fun and joyful teamwork experience!

CHELSEA, Swedish pedagogue

How the exchange affected me? Well, I remember having had a couple of hectic days where we had done loads of team-work activities and I felt a little worried about how we were all going to manage to be outside together for three nights. As we were planning the expedition there were discussions about what differences and similarities our schools had towards the concept of “bringing groups out in nature” and it seemed like we had quite different ideas and methods. The Romanian Outward Bound Program and the Coyote Mentoring methods which the German group uses seemed different from how Sjövik does “Friluftsliv” and “Färd”. But there we were, four nights later, and it felt like we had all become a big family. We climbed the mountain in snow shoes, sang songs together, made fire under the stars and enjoyed “fika” in the sunshine. We followed the tracks of a wolf through the snowy trees and on the top of the mountain, the snow was so deep the spruces were made into ice sculptures and all we could hear was the wind. We all enjoyed being outside together so much our different “methods” made no difference. Being together, laughing together and looking for bear tracks in the snow brought us all together, and I felt so close to everyone even though we had only known each other for a couple of days. This, for me, was a very cool experience. That regardless method, we all want to achieve the same thing: being together outside – exploring nature.

JONATHAN, Swedish student

This moment was very special to me cause the view was both special and amazing. It was so new for me to be able to see through the trees down to the earth. You can se the tree line then under that is the mountain line. The nature is truly wonderful.

LINDE, Swedish student

This photo represents how much fun we had playing in the snow and literally walking in a fairytale.

This photo represents how we made it to the top and enjoyed our lunch. Some were colder than others, must most of us happy and ENJOYING nature and each other’s company. Such surrealistic and beautiful surroundings. Like we were in a dream but than even better! Also really cool how the group became a group on the expedition! 

No words…. <3

Jonthe and me 🙂 because we had so much fun together and because he and sooooo many others where so loving and helpful lifting my backpack on and off my back without any problem (because I had injured my hand I wasn’t allowed to lift). The helping hands meant a lot to me <3

This pic represents group effort and thankfulness. The second group (my group) arrived later at the cabin, where the first group had started working already. It looked like a LOT of work and it was so wonderful we came ‘home’ to that. AND great to see that they were doing it with a smile.

This one is of me, Tove and Malin with our Romanian outward bound buffs and a feather sticked into our hair. It just makes me happy. How we’ve became (even) closer but also how we all in our group enjoyed nature’s gifts so much.

Here’s to the group that found something interesting again. I loved how we all dragons got so curious, excited, creative and conscious on our trip. We really took time for it. Really loved being present!!!

Of course I had to add André being excited about tracking. He made me super excited about it too!!!

DANIEL, Swedish Student

Being together with people you don’t know, that come from several different corners of Europe, and all living outdoor life together in ways you haven’t ever tried before, created many deep moments of connection and experience.

MALIN, Swedish Student

The first picture is from the second day in Outward Bound, Jacobs ladder. To be able to get to the top we needed to work together and communicate. When climbing with my group I felt free and right in my comfort zone. I liked the way we communicated and the feeling everytime we came one step higher and then finally reaching the top with the help of each other.

The second picture is about a challenge from our expedition. I got the chance to practise and overcome my uncertainty with reading maps and compass, it was a great feeling being able to navigate and finding the way, with the help of the group!

JONATHAN, Swedish student

TRAVELING BETWEEN SEASONS AND BIOTOPES

We started approximately 600 meters above sea level close to Szovata. I quickly began to curse my choice of boots for this hike. After some consideration I had chosen to bring my Lundhags Guide-boots, a boot made for harsh winter conditions. But so far winter in Romania looked like a whole different thing from Swedish winters. Snow was nowhere to be found, the sun was shining, and the temperature was around ten degrees. After an hour or so the hike started to get steeper, and we were gaining altitude quite rapidly. But it was still spring, especially as far my overheated feet were concerned. 

We climbed a hundred meters, then another hundred, and then another hundred. Now things started to look promising. Suddenly we were surrounded by snow, in the middle of a beautiful beech forest. Now, as a swede, this was very fascinating. In Sweden we do have beech forests, but they are located in the southern part, on sea level. I was stunned by how beautiful this, for me, new type of winter was. And my feet happily thanked the change in climate.

We continued climbing. When we at 1400 meters altitude arrived at our final destination for the day, a nice hostel at the bottom a ski slope, the snow was almost a meter in depth. Groves of spruce trees started to break the previous domination of the beeches. 

The day after, we continued our climb. Spruces continued to gain ground on the beech, until we found ourselves in a completely spruce-covered landscape. The snow depth was now around one and a half meter. Being this high up, while still being surrounded by trees in this winter wonderland environment, was nothing short of amazing. The experience of travelling this quickly between seasons and biotopes is something that I will remember for a long time.

Impressions of two German participants

Simone

I am deeply touched by the beauty of the Romanian landscape and nature which seems unspoiled in some areas. The expedition to the mountains was an amazing but also exhausting experience. The group really became a unity. The collective experience caused cooperation and trust among all participants. Everybody could develop further by overcoming hurdles and relying on the group. For me the communication in English, the ascend on the Jacob´s ladder and some other challenging situations presented such hurdles.

It was very interesting to learn more about the differences and similarities of our programmes.

The feeling of community, the warmth and cordiality, the laughter, the singing, the joy, the fun, the interesting conversations and the friendship to participants from 7 nations will always be a very fond memory of mine. Simone

Christine

When I think about those 10 days in Romania, I feel blessed – blessed to meet a lot of wonderful people, to see and feel and connect to the Carpathian landscape.

We arrived as a bunch of mostly strangers and left as parts of a big family.

I was challenged every day in a lot of ways, physically and mentally. I learned to rely on the others and to care for me as well as the group. I learned to step up as a mentor and a part of the group and to content myself with limited energy. I questioned my beliefs and adapted them. I used snowshoes for the first time. I learned some Swedish songs and the first steps of Kulning (a Swedish vocal technique). I re-discovered the art of needle-binding. I took a bath in the snow. I danced to Romanian folk music. Sometimes I felt totally exhausted and yet elated, connected, part of something great.

These days will stay with me as a profound experience. Now I am more aware of my skills, my limits and my understanding of nature connection and mentoring style.

Tracking mammals

Just another rainy day. Perfect conditions for spotting animal footprints that got stuck in the ground. Watch the video to get an idea of the basics of tracking mammal footprints as well as walking patterns. Document your findings by taking photos or drawing pictures. That way keep records of single tracks and full cycles of footfalls. Follow the track to find out about the way of locomotion the animal was using. Ask questions. If more advanced in that you might measure width and length of a single footprint as well as stride (step length) and straddle (trail width). Send little stories of your personal tracking experiences in the comment section. Happy tracking! AP

European Wilderness Mentors on Summer Friluftsliv Tour in Sweden

In August course instructors as well as future European Wilderness Mentors went on a Friluftsliv summer experience to Sweden. As in the years before we were hosted for three weeks by Sjöviks Folkhögskola in Folkärna. The mobility was funded by Erasmus+ programme. Swedish Friluftsliv mentors in training were taking us up north for a canoe trip on Dalälven river, a crafts week at the cabin camp Nysätersvallen as well as a 5 day hike in Vedungsfjället Nature Reserve. This hands on learning experience provided us with numerous skills for a simple and comfortable life outside. Paddling techniques, manoeuvering, capsize training, splitting wood, making fire, carving, fishing, food planning, navigating, building camp, open fire cooking are only some examples. Some of the participants changed visibly during the stay in close contact with their group and the elements. That trip has given us lots of impulses for our work at childcare and youthwork settings in our region as well as for a Coyote Camp in November (see blog entry before). AP

Foldable saw out of greenwood

Some years ago I made my own Bo Weslien style model of a foldable outdoor saw at Sjövik Folkhögskola. Having no machines at hand back home for high precision wood engineering I was thinking of making a copy of it out of green wood and traditional tools: a froe for splitting a small log to get both handles; axe, shavehorse and drawknife for shaping the handles, carving knife for making the peg, tenon cutter for cutting both tenons at the end of the cross brace that goes into both handles.

Tools from front to back: Japanese saw, froe, carving knife, drawknife, axe, tenon cutter

Freshly cut maple wood was at hand. The two slots for taking up the sawblade I did with a Japanese saw. The exact position of the holes for the sawblade are given on the packing. Holes need to be only slighthly smaller than the fullthread screws to avoid splitting! Before screwing them in, fix the sawblade with a bolt or a nail opposite where the screw goes in, otherwise it might not meet the exact position in the slot which can result in splitting the handle. While screwing the handle part with the slot needs to be clamped to avoid splitting. Two more holes to take up the Paracord and the sawblade can be tightened. Sawing with it is light work and great fun.

Sjövik´s Model (in the back) and first non-foldable greenwood version in the front
Splitting
Shaving
Carving the peg with an axe

A good project with children or youths. Once you have gone through the tricky bits it might only take about 3 hours to make such a saw out of greenwood.

Making it foldable…

meant a bit of measuring and calculating for a shorter crossbar. I shaved a log of Robinia wood one side to take up the tenons. I also shaved the tips of the crossbar for which I used a log of maple. Then I cut the tenons and did the slots for the blade. To protect the blade when folding the saw I needed to cut a slot all along the back of the handle (last picture). I used a Japanese whaleback saw for that. Handles could have been a tad longer and I should have sticked to the position of the holes as in my first try. Next time.

All in all it is quite compact now but it feels a bit heavy for taking it on tour. I might get rid of some of the material by shaving the crossbar and handles. But in that case it would loose some of its rustic charme.

Wilderness Training: Winter Friluftsliv

In January 2020 five Romanian Outward Bound instructors, five German future childcare practitioners specialising to be Coyote Mentors and seven Swedish QVF Mentors in training went on a winter Friluftsliv Färd to Northern Dalarna. When we left the Campus of Sjovik Folkhögskola in Folkärna it was not until we had arrived to Särna after about 4 hours up North to see the first snow. Unusual as they were telling us. The next 10 days we all would live a simple life outside at the cabin camp Nysätersvallen. All activities like fetching water from the frozen well or even toiletting needed to be done on skies. A good fire was our permanent company: it crackled in the tent oven of the tipi, our gathering place, it provided us with good food on our day tours. The Swedish showed us how we can use it for bending spruce stags to make traditional snow shoes or how to prepare a log fire to slightly heat up the open baker tents where we slept in during our nights out. A signal fire even guided two of our teachers to find their way home in the darkness. In mixed international groups we needed to discuss where to find the best place to set up camp for our nights out. For some of us it was the first time of sleeping outside in rough wintery conditions. We would not have believed that it can be so comfortable sleeping on a bed of spruce, the Swedish way.

Getting to know our differing approaches and backgrounds as outdoor mentors opened up the opportunity to start questioning our own practices. Watch our trailer on that 10 day LTTA in Sweden. AP

Participant´s voices:

Dorina (RO):

The Swedish experience from January, for me, was great from every aspect: the people, the experiences, the nature. And from these come the highlights and the learnings. I absolutely enjoyed spending that week in the  wooden cabins without electricity. I feel it has helped us connect in a very natural way with ourselves and the others. I had an amazing experience when we slept outside one night and  that’s where the main learning comes from: we can be very comfortable being and sleeping outside in wintertime, if we know how to plan and prepare the whole experience. If you know how to do that, then you can find the beauty of the more harsh and difficult conditions.  I cannot wait for the first opportunity when I can implement those things that I’ve learned on that occasion!

 I’ve met in Sweden people who respect nature in a deep and profound way and you can see this in the way they act and behave when they are outside. 

After this course, I’ve become more open to the idea of doing winter programs and together with other colleagues we have submitted a project to get Erasmus+ funds in order to organize a winter training and youth exchange in 2022. 

Thank you for an amazing experience!

Ted (SE):

It created a memory deep in my mind. Wonderful time with all the fantastic people, both Germans and Romanians. Great for me to be a mentor in the arctic winter. I had forgotten how hard it can be to go skiing.

Think we all got connected to nature in an amazing way.

Réka (RO):

The best experience for me was the last day trip to the waterfalls, with nice study skiing on a longer trail, being able to use the skills we’ve acquired until that day, going down and then back up again without taking off the skies, being very comfortable, having nature very close: beautiful landscape, waterfall, a hermelin coming down from a tree, snowing magically, animal tracks in the snow. It was like a nice summing up of everything what happened during the week, the friluftsliv life-feeling.

The last day back in Sjövik Folks Highschool was also very interesting, we had a chance to work on wood in the workshop-cabin.

I’ve learned new skills, like skiing, going on winter expedition on skies, new ways of cutting/chopping wood, orienteering in that kind of environment (also practicing my previous orienteering skills), new knots, I didn’t know before, eating advices for winter expedition, things about wool clothing and about outdoor equipment, how to stay warm.

I got an eye on another kind of logistics, ideas of organizing.

The entire program brought me much closer to winter outdoor environment, gave for me the motivation of wanting to be more outside in the wintertime.

All the above makes me more comfortable in my work with the groups as an instructor at OB.

Yvonne (D):

The two incidents, which come first to my mind, when I think about the ten days in Nysättervallen in Winter: I chopped a tree for the first time in my life and I witnessed the rare phenomenon of the mother of pearl clouds.

But of course there have been many more things I learned and experienced.

It has been a very intense ten days because I learned so many different things like: how to find firewood in the snow, how to build up a camp to be warm and cozy during a night outside, how to ski off the beaten track, how to navigate with nothing but a compass and a map, how to build snowshoes.

It was an interesting and illuminating experience to be able to stay outside in the snow in winter day and  night  long without getting cold. Now I know how easy it can be to live outdoors if you have the appropriate knowledge, equipment and techniques.

Apart from this practical learning we also had a great and deep exchange of ideas and knowledge.  People from three different countries shared one big issue: how to get back to nature, how to reconnect with it. It was interesting to learn about the different approaches to this topic and to discuss different ways. That also widened my horizon immensely.

And I am still thinking about my first tree I chopped: how grateful I felt for the firewood the tree provided, how satisfied I felt at the warm campfire, where we shared our stories of the day.

Sitting there looking at the happy faces of the people of the group illuminated by the campfire: it makes something with you. At least it made something with me: It was a mixture of feeling humble and grateful, and of feeling connected to nature.

I realised during the night outside in the snow that nature is not against me but with me, and that I am a part of it. What I need is the knowledge of how to use the treasures nature offers me and to be aware and sensitive of what nature needs from me. 

And that is what I would like to teach the children I work with. I want them to regard nature as part of their life. I would like to aid them finding their way to nature and not to see it as something strange and dangerous. Nature should become something worth to be protected and not to be destroyed. I see it as a part of my job to make the kids understanding this.

Emőke (RO):

I experienced an other attitude towards the concept of comfort: in Friluftsliv we take time to prepare good food, cozy camping place (we dedicated half a day for setting the camp with all the details: in the middle the fireplace, with our skis as benches, wood for our whole stay, a baker tent and a tarp, pathways in the knee high snow till the toilet place, bringing water from the nearest creek etc.), to take time to sleep 7-8 hours per night. They aim to create comfort in natural settings, in wilderness, and this was inspiring for me.

I learnt:

  • Alpine cross country skiing
  • Setting a camp in the thigh-high snow: creating fireplace in the snow, anchoring the tent/tipi in the snow, cutting wood in the snow
  • Emergency signaling with smoke
  • How to make snowshoes
  • Carving
  • Techniques and tips for winter expeditions and proper clothing
  • Becoming more familiar with cold weather
  • New ideas in outdoor cooking
  • The concept of Friluftsliv

Christiane (RO):

There was more than one highlight of the course for me. One was to spend the evening and night outside in winter in a comfortable way without getting cold. But I also liked a lot the sociable evenings in the cabin with talking and singing. One of the best experiences was the last daytrip to a frozen waterfall, where everybody was already skiing confidently and securely and I could enjoy the beautiful Swedish winter landscape.

I knew how to ski in cross-country style before, but it was very interesting for me to practice it with hand-made, traditional wooden ski and also to pull a sledge with them. New to me were the methods and small tricks that we learned for setting up a winter camp, for example digging out the fire place, making snow benches using the ski, lighting a fire with collected material and constructing different types of campfires. I learned more about dressing up in winter, e. g. with wool clothes, and staying warm in the sleeping bag. But I also had a chance to practice and get new ideas about cooking on fire and navigation.

Anna (D):

Snow, amazing sunsets, crackling fire and pure nature.

We shared our knowledge about nature, outdoor skills and different traditions.

I learned how to set up a camp in winter, how to build snowshoes, many different kinds of knots, to make a log fire  and to be fine with the cold. We experienced nice gatherings and had fun during the day and overnight trip. I enjoyed being outside the whole time and was really sad when we left. It was the second time for me in Sweden with the Friluftsliv course. Now I decided to apply for that course in 2021.