Nature Awareness

"The tragedy in life is not what men suffer, but what they miss." - Thomas Carlyle

Experiencing Nature

  1. Clear the mind of all clutter, worries accumulated during daily living. This can occur naturally during an extended stay in the wilderness.
  2. Let go of time. Live in the now, not the past or future. Don't fret about the past, don't worry about the future. You are not on a schedule out here.
  3. Walk slowly and see more.
  4. Sit down. ("If you were to sit under an oak tree for an entire day, you would have enough information to write an entire book." - John Burroughs.
  5. Let go of worries. Identify what is worrying you and let it pass.
  6. Be alive. Pretend you only have a week to live and every moment matters.
  7. Be quiet. Silence in nature is the rule, noise is the exception. (example: walking through woods)
  8. Don't analyze (I.E. calculating gallons/sec of waterfall).
  9. Try without trying. Can you get to sleep when you try to get to sleep?
  10. Don't try to name things. Names can't describe!
  11. Nothing is commonplace. Each plant is unique, each animal different.
  12. Follow your heart! John Muir was asked, where are you going? "Anyplace that's wild!" If something looks interesting, check it out. Follow your instincts and urges and you will be surprised!
  13. What will people think? Who cares! Let go of inhibitions! Force yourself to do something crazy and you'll find it easier to follow your heart.
  14. Let go of prejudices. You never know what is going to be around the corner.
  15. Immerse yourself. Jump into the swamp, get dirty, play in the mud! (example: hiking in rain with cliff)
  16. Ignore discomforts, cold, hot, etc.. (remember as children?)
  17. Become that child!
  18. Best teachers are plants and animals.
  19. Nature is everywhere! Why do we have plants? To remind us of our connection to the earth. There is much to learn from a single potted plant.
  20. Deep relaxation, meditation can help! See below. Stalking can also get you into this relaxed alpha mind set.

The proper state of mind:

With all the skills below, don't spend time analyzing! Try without trying. Have fun!! "Don't resist your feelings. Don't try to make them different. Just accept them without judgment; and when you have truly given in to them, notice how invigorating it is to be free from limiting thoughts."


  1. Where do you look for animals? Ask yourself: 1) What are they looking for? 2) Where would animals be? Animals usually need three items: food, water, cover.
  2. Transition areas are where terrain and vegetation change (IE forest to river, forest to meadow). These make good feeding grounds (succulent plants) for animals due to the lush vegetation and provides them with lots of cover.
  3. Animals are habitual!
  4. Don't forget the food chains: hawks => mice => vegetation … scavengers.
  5. What affects their habits? 1) Time of year (I.E. do they hibernate?). 2) time of day (I.E. are they nocturnal?). 3) weather (I.E. lots of animal activity before storm, animals dislike hot/cold extremes)
  6. How to look? DO NOT expect to see animals in their "text book" pose. Don't look high! Lower your gaze and look into the brush.
  7. Lower your expectations. Expect only to see a tail or a part of an animal.

Seeing Nature

  1. Break the habit of looking at the same things over and over again. Instead, force your eyes to look at new things… OR look at familiar things with the eyes of a child as if you hadn't seen them before.
  2. Break habits, don't follow the same old paths. Less animals are seen because they aren't: 1) on or near our habitual paths, 2) in our habitual fields of vision, 3) on or near an object we deem familiar. You can practice this at home! Get out of those visual ruts!
  3. Get a new viewpoint. Pretend your are an ant!
  4. Avoid constant tunnel vision. Even if you are "speed" hiking, you can look up, down, and sideways. Go places you wouldn't normally go.
  5. Use wide angle vision (see below) to notice movement, vibrating vegetation. Alternate tunnel vision to wide angle vision.
  6. Get a closer look, imagine you are 2 inches tall and you'll discover a jungle of life!
  7. Get the big picture with wide angle vision, vary your vision (don't stare).
  8. Frame your vision like a camera. Curl up your index finger and look through the hole. This cuts out periphery and allows you to concentrate on whatever you are seeing.
  9. Use a magnifying glass.
  10. Use binoculars.
  11. See through the artist's eye, blot out the usual context you use when looking at something. Notice colors, shadows, see how some objects standout more than others. Describe the colors and objects to yourself, list adjectives, notice change in colors and shadows at different times of the day.

Hearing Nature

  1. Open your ears. With the onslaught of sounds we face in society, we loose a significant portion of our sense of hearing. Turn up the volume of everything that is around you. Can you hear the road? The wind?
  2. Try closing your eyes, minimize distraction and concentrate on hearing.
  3. Instead of trying to identify the sounds, just listen to them, enjoy them as a musician might enjoy a fine orchestra. Try sitting at a waterfall and closing your eyes. Learn to pick out sounds within sounds.
  4. Amplify the sounds by cupping your ears with your hands. Your ears become more directed, as binoculars are to sight.
  5. Learn from the dog… when a dog hears its name, it looks in the direction of the sound and then perks its ears up.
  6. Play with cupping your ears to determine distance and range of a sound.
  7. Place your ears next to natural sound catches to amplify such as rocks, trees, log, or sometimes heavy brush. Put your ear next to some of these objects, try a tree stump for example.
  8. Try to identify maker of sound. Use stalking to sneak up on the makers of these sounds.
  9. Concentric rings, for every action there is a reaction. Reading the symphony of sounds.

Smelling Nature

  1. Use your nose, not only olfactory sense but in a tactile sense as well.
  2. What do you smell right now?
  3. Gather items that smell subtly or smell strongly. Close your eyes and smell them. Notice the variety and richness of these smells!
  4. Get down on all fours in the woods and notice all the smells around!
  5. Smell is a great way to identify plants! (be careful though!)
  6. Next time you find an animal den, smell it. Try to identify the animal and remember the scent.
  7. When you smell a sweet fragrance, follow it to it's source

Touching Nature

  1. Close your eyes, what do you feel right now?
  2. Don't wear as much clothing. Get your sense of touch closer to nature!
  3. Pick a situation where you can expose your entire body. Take a shower in a waterfall, cover yourself with leaves or sand. How does it feel?
  4. Close your eyes and touch an object. How does it feel in your hands? How does it feel against other parts of your body?
  5. "At its best, a touch is a mingling of sprits that reaffirms the common bond between all living things."

Tasting Nature

  1. Taste a couple of plants in nature.
  2. Take a blindfolded bite of something familiar. Treat each food as a new experience.

Experiencing Nature

  1. Combine all the skills above.
  2. Sight is the most often overused sight. Blindfolding can be a powerful exercise. Take a blind folded walk. Try going blindfolded for a day in when doing a relaxed camping trip. You will feel like a walking radar with your other heightened senses! Try a string guided walk.
  3. "Sensible eating:" Prepare a large salad with a wide variety of veggies. As you prepare, pay close attention to all senses. Notice how the veggies feel and smell, imagine how they taste. Enjoy the salad leisurely.
  4. Try a pet rock. Experience the rock with all of your senses (except perhaps taste). Do this with other objects in nature.
  5. Try a night walk. The area of the retina most sensitive to dull light is located outside of the area of sharp focus! Therefore, use splatter vision (wide angle vision). Get low and silhouette against the horizon. Pick out animal trails and other landscape features. Focus on your sense of hearing, use focused hearing. Which way is wind blowing? Sound and smells travel in the wind. Don't forget the sense of touch!

The Nature State of Mind (taken directly from Tom Brown's Field Guild to Nature Awareness and Tracking)

It has taken years for me to understand the implications of Stalking Wolf's lectures on the various levels of consciousness. Trying to teach others what he taught me has been one of the most difficult challenges of my life. However, the explanation has become easier in recent years because of the discoveries of modern science. It is now widely recognized, for example, that there are four basic levels of consciousness -- called Beta, Alpha, Theta, and Delta -- and these, I believe, roughly correspond to the levels of awareness that Stalking Wolf was talking about.

Conveniently, each level has certain characteristics. First is Beta, which most of us consider a normal waking stat. To my way of thinking, though, Beta is quite abnormal. It is characterized by movement, activity, and surging thoughts. The mind is preoccupied, often agitated and in a state of flux. In the extreme, Beta is aggressive and belligerent. It would be very difficult to fully experience nature in such a state. A person who is agitated may be prepared for sudden action, but he or she cannot concentrate on shifting patterns and sounds or absorb subtle nuances of smell and bodily sensations. Such things can only be experienced when the mind is relaxed.

This relaxed state is called Alpha. It is characterized by internal calm and quiet. It is the state in which one is free of tensions and anxieties, unconcerned with the body, and alert to new stimuli. Science has found Alpha to be the mental state that is most conducive to learning. The mind is concentrated and sensory perceptions are greatly heightened. The body is relaxed. Healing powers are increased. Although most of us probably experience Beta more often, I consider alpha to be the most natural state of waking consciousness. Not coincidentally, it is also the state of relaxed alertness that most people reach after several days in the woods.

The third state of consciousness is called Theta. Since it is normally reached in the moments just before sleep, most of us don't experience it vividly enough to remember it. But with discipline, it can also be attained while fully awake. It is characterized by extremely heightened senses, intuitiveness, and even paranormal activity. It is the state of awareness in which artists, philosophers, scientists, and inventors make their greatest creations and discoveries. It is also the state in which you may automatically solve various problems of daily life. In nature observation, Theta is the state in which a person opens up to wordless communications and intuitively senses the patterns and connections in the flow of life.

Finally, there is Delta, the deepest state of consciousness. Very little is known about this state, since very few people are able to reach it while remaining awake. Modern science describes delta as a deep dreamless sleep, but yogis and other masters who have reached it through deep meditation has described it in much the same way Stalking wolf described the vision of oneness. I believe it is the area of consciousness approached by a shaman. For those who have experienced it, there is not sensation of separateness, but a blending of the self with all things. The vision is powerful and overwhelmingly beautiful, and it is only reached through extreme sacrifice and asceticism.

It is interested to catalog these different levels of consciousness, but it should be remembered that they are not entirely separate from each other. Like the fives senses, they operate simultaneously and are bound together so intimately that it is often difficult to tell them apart. It is very possible, for example, for the mind to be deeply relaxed or even experience an intuitive flash while the body is engaged in physical activity. It should also be remembered that it is not necessary to understand these different levels of consciousness in order to experience them. They are the birthright of every human being, and what they have to offer is beyond words.

Most of this information was taken directly from Tom Brown's Field Guide to Nature Awareness and Tracking by Tom Brown Jr.