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  • cindybynature

I Survived

For the last several years I have been living in the world of what I will call “soft skills”. Exploring how to nourish a deeper emotional connection with the natural world and share that connection with others. As a gateway to that connection, I often contemplate how my ancestors lived along with the rhythms of nature. I will never truly understand what it’s like to not have temperature-controlled shelters, clothing that I didn’t have to loom myself and fresh water available at the turn of a hand. A desire to have deeper understanding has led me to an interest in outdoor survival and ancestral skills.

In the past, this knowledge would have been passed down to me by family members. However, as my ancestors moved into the industrial era and then into modern day lifestyle, the skills were lost. My daily life in suburban Westchester, does not offer many opportunities to end up in wilderness survival scenarios. Thankfully, there are people out there in the world, like the instructors at The Survival University, who dedicate their time and energy to teaching anyone who desires “survival training and nature based learning designed to increase confidence and build resilience”. Yes please! I signed up for the 5 Day Outdoor Survival Skills Basics 101 course. That was it. I was now going to become a survival expert in 5 days. I packed up my barely-used bush knife and headed to Colorado.


The first thing I learned was how badly altitude can kick your ass. My first morning there I woke up with a throbbing headache and couldn’t hold down my breakfast. I have spent many days at altitude in my life, but this time it was hitting me like a brick. I pulled myself together and drove over to The Survival University property where I was waved over to a field to set up my camp. Something you should know is that while I have spent MANY days of my life in the outdoors, I have never actually camped alone. I did practice setting up the tent solo in my backyard, but not with extreme nausea and throbbing headache. I barely got the tent up and it was time to head over to the main camp to meet my instructors and survival companions.


As the next 5 days unfolded, the list of what I learned is long. We learned about safety, gear considerations, knife skills, purifying water, birthing fire, building shelter, building a bow drill, tying knots, trapping animals, shooting a sling shot, making cordage out of tree bark, harvesting plants, animals and even insects for food. The weather was not gentle on us. The temperatures plummeted to 20 degrees at night, it snowed and high winds picked up for the last 2 days. I thought about making this a lengthy blog about all the stories that emerged, but I know how busy you are. I want to get to what feels most important about this experience.


Since I have been home from this experience I have been more relaxed and confident. My old friend, anxiety, has been quiet. I feel less pressured about what I am supposed to be doing and more called to what is really important to me. I believe this is because the root of fear is a fear of not surviving. We are afraid to lose the job or the reputation, because we fear we will become destitute. However, if you build skills that show you how you can lean on the natural world for your basic needs, it erodes that foundation of fear. It proves to you that you can indeed survive.


I believe programs like this can benefit everyone. I would even argue these programs benefit those of us living in suburban and urban environments even more because we have become so reliant on the man-made infrastructure. We have lost touch with our awareness of how to get our basic survival needs met without it. Consider finding a program like the ones at The Survival University, or our own local Urban and Outdoor Survival instructor. You may be surprised what you learn.

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