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Natural Awakenings New York City

A Weekend in the Wild With “Survivorman”

By Norman Balassiano, CMA

“I have made it my mission to help people understand the importance of the environment and how it affects their lives. It’s about reconnecting with the earth.” –Les Stroud, aka ‘Survivorman’

Nature is a very effective healer. By opening you up to new experiences, it grounds you for daily life, restoring balance and deepening your spiritual connection with all living things. I’ve found that nature doesn’t just help me heal; it also teaches me how to solve problems and streamline priorities, simplifying my life.

The Things We Carry

In the wild, you should only carry things you’ll use; simplicity is key. I believe the same is true for life.

Recently I ventured into the wilderness with Les Stroud—the famous Discovery Channel nature expert—and 32 people from very different backgrounds. We all had something weighing us down, something we were worried or excited or scared about. No one was there to learn how to survive in the wild. So why did we sign up for a weekend excursion with “Survivorman”? For the opportunity to heal, escape, learn, connect. The chance to just be.

One man had just suffered a family tragedy. He was there to heal. One woman was struggling to grow her business. She was there to learn. I was there to observe—to connect with nature and discover ways to help others heal through it.

To make a genuine connection with the earth, I needed to embrace simplicity. By only carrying what I needed, I could immerse myself in nature, unhindered by unnecessary weight. I was forced to ask myself, What do I really need to survive?

My moral compass didn’t take up any space, so that was good. I filled my bag with a rain jacket, map, water bottle, spare cash, healthy snacks, and a pen and paper if inspiration struck. I realized I didn’t need anything else.

Beyond Our Comfort Zones

Leaving your comfort zone teaches you amazing things about yourself and brings balance to your life. The wilderness can be scary, a reality check, especially if you spend most of your time in the city or suburbs or at the beach, like I do.

Feeling a different type of anxiety puts your everyday fears into perspective. When your survival is at stake, instinct takes over and there’s no room for trivial stressors. Suddenly all those worries from the office or home don’t seem to carry as much weight.

When you spend enough time in nature, you develop a connection. You learn techniques for calming your body, skills you can use every day. After just one weekend, I felt connected enough to understand an important lesson: If you respect and appreciate the earth, it will be good to you.

As I traveled through the woods, I felt the energy of the creatures whose homes I was intruding. They accepted me because I meant them no harm. Being humble and observant goes far in the wild. I didn’t use bug spray all weekend and walked away without even a mosquito bite.

A Purifying Cleanse

With simple and honest intentions, I was able to connect with people on a deeper level. By addressing his shoulder discomfort, I freed Les from physical pain. By listening to his family troubles, I helped him gain clarity. That is, after all, why he retreats to the wilderness: to cleanse himself of everything toxic in “the real world.”

Toward the end of our excursion, I could tell that everyone had undergone amajor transformation. By connecting with nature, each other and ourselves, we’d shed the weight of any personal struggles holding us down.

Before I left, Les handed me his survival knife, with the inscription “Natural healer.” Everything you put in your bag carries weight, but this was the good kind of heavy—the heavy attached to a story, a lesson and purpose.

Norman Balassiano owns Angels of Health in Brooklyn. For more information, call 718-208-5061 or visit