"The tragedy in life is not what men
suffer, but what they miss." - Thomas Carlyle
- Clear the mind of all clutter, worries accumulated during
daily living. This can occur naturally during an extended stay in the
- 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.
- Walk slowly and see more.
- 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.
- Let go of worries. Identify what is worrying you and let it
- Be alive. Pretend you only have a week to live and every
- Be quiet. Silence in nature is the rule, noise is the
exception. (example: walking through woods)
- Don't analyze (I.E. calculating gallons/sec of waterfall).
- Try without trying. Can you get to sleep when you try to
get to sleep?
- Don't try to name things. Names can't describe!
- Nothing is commonplace. Each plant is unique, each animal
- 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!
- What will people think? Who cares! Let go of inhibitions!
Force yourself to do something crazy and you'll find it easier to follow
- Let go of prejudices. You never know what is going to be
around the corner.
- Immerse yourself. Jump into the swamp, get dirty, play in
the mud! (example: hiking in rain with cliff)
- Ignore discomforts, cold, hot, etc.. (remember as
- Become that child!
- Best teachers are plants and animals.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Animals are habitual!
- Don't forget the food chains: hawks => mice =>
vegetation … scavengers.
- 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)
- How to look? DO NOT expect to see animals in their
"text book" pose. Don't look high! Lower your gaze and look into
- Lower your expectations. Expect only to see a tail or a
part of an animal.
- 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.
- 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!
- Get a new viewpoint. Pretend your are an ant!
- Avoid constant tunnel vision. Even if you are
"speed" hiking, you can look up, down, and sideways. Go places you
wouldn't normally go.
- Use wide angle vision (see below) to notice movement,
vibrating vegetation. Alternate tunnel vision to wide
- Get a closer look, imagine you are 2 inches tall and you'll
discover a jungle of life!
- Get the big picture with wide angle vision, vary your
vision (don't stare).
- 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.
- Use a magnifying glass.
- Use binoculars.
- 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.
- 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?
- Try closing your eyes, minimize distraction and concentrate
- 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.
- Amplify the sounds by cupping your ears with your hands.
Your ears become more directed, as binoculars are to sight.
- Learn from the dog… when a dog hears its name, it looks
in the direction of the sound and then perks its ears up.
- Play with cupping your ears to determine distance and range
of a sound.
- 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.
- Try to identify maker of sound. Use stalking to sneak up on
the makers of these sounds.
- Concentric rings, for every action there is a reaction.
Reading the symphony of sounds.
- Use your nose, not only olfactory sense but in a tactile
sense as well.
- What do you smell right now?
- Gather items that smell subtly or smell strongly. Close
your eyes and smell them. Notice the variety and richness of these smells!
- Get down on all fours in the woods and notice all the
- Smell is a great way to identify plants! (be careful
- Next time you find an animal den, smell it. Try to identify
the animal and remember the scent.
- When you smell a sweet fragrance, follow it to it's source
- Close your eyes, what do you feel right now?
- Don't wear as much clothing. Get your sense of touch closer
- Pick a situation where you can expose your entire body.
Take a shower in a waterfall, cover yourself with leaves or sand. How does
- Close your eyes and touch an object. How does it feel in
your hands? How does it feel against other parts of your body?
- "At its best, a touch is a mingling of sprits that
reaffirms the common bond between all living things."
- Taste a couple of plants in nature.
- Take a blindfolded bite of something familiar. Treat each
food as a new experience.
- Combine all the skills above.
- 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.
- "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
- Try a pet rock. Experience the rock with all of your senses
(except perhaps taste). Do this with other objects in nature.
- 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.