I’m a sucker for reality TV survival shows and recently dipped my greenhorn toes into Naked and Afraid, Season 10. The setup is that a man and woman (strangers to each other) are dropped into some harsh environment with one tool each and no clothing, then they have to survive for 21-days.
Spoiler below! Don’t continue reading if you intend to watch this and want to be surprised.
The contestants are expert survivalists who take pride in their hunting, shelter building, and fire-making skills.
Each contestant gets to bring one thing, and the show provides a third. Usually, it’s a machete or big knife, a pot for boiling water to make it safe to drink, and some third item of thoughtful gear.
In the episode Threesome, they introduce a twist: a third person shows up, a second woman. But in my mind, there was an even bigger twist: one of those contestants is Makani, from Venice, CA, who speaks of becoming one with the Amazon, vision quests, and her habits of yoga, meditation, and veganism.
The show provides a pot, David brings a fire starter, Sarah brings a machete, and Makani brings…a hammock.
While I am rooting for her, I’m pretty certain at this point that Makani is going to have serious trouble in this environment. I fear that she’s not taking the situation seriously enough.
What happens, though, is remarkable. Makani notices immediately that the campsite proposed by other team members is in a riverbed and that rain is coming. She figures out that the water from the waterfall is probably okay to drink with the effort of purifying it. She sits and meditates. She expresses gratitude for the nature around her. She notices edible and water-filled plants that she takes back to the others, who are seething a bit because she’s been gone (but are grateful for what she returns with). She doesn’t hurry. She rests. A lot.
Even after seeing only a few episodes of this show, it becomes clear that bug bites in the tropics are one of the biggest sources of trouble. Contestants aren’t able to sleep and are driven half-mad by itching and lack of quality sleep. Sometimes they are even pulled by the medics due to bites. The hammock ends up being a wise choice…it allows for more comfortable sleeping, off the ground. Makani’s ability to relax and endure are evident and may be in large part to her mindfulness habits. She doesn’t seem to be especially bothered by bug bites.
Most shows are full of contestants burning energy trying to keep a fire going and hunt for protein. Makani, though, isn’t excited by these activities exasperates her fellow contestants by being pretty nonplussed by all of their exertions.
Okay…reality TV is anything but real. But I have rarely seen such a great accessible example of the power of meditation to provide a sort of practical stoicism and emotional regulation that can completely transform one’s experience of a difficult situation. By the end of the episode, I am delighted and surprised by the sense of possibility in what one’s potential truly is (and happy to be wrong about Makani’s abilities).
And of course, the show producers get the jealousy triangle they were no doubt hoping to set up. The other take-away here is that if you’re cold and want to be cuddled, act cuddly.