The Sweetness Of Adversity


in Make Money, Uncategorized

I hadn’t eaten in four days.

It was the first week of my 28 day survival course when I started to ask myself what I was doing in the Utah backcountry. I’d never experienced such intense hunger: no food whatsoever, couples with 12-15 mile daily hikes. Today was one of the toughest: we had battled uphill for seven hours in the striking heat of the desert sun. When we passed by a handful of discarded peanuts and M&Ms in the middle of the road, I asked myself, “Maneesh, has it really gotten so bad that you would stoop to eating sandy food from the ground?” At that point, it certainly had.

I asked myself over and over what I was doing here. “Why am I subjecting myself to such torture? My mom already offered me unlimited freshly cooked Indian food, just a day away. Other students have already quit. Why am I subjecting myself to such horror?”

When we finally reached camp, I sprawled on the ground and my small versacloth unraveled, revealing the only book I had brought along—Letters from a Stoic, by Seneca. I briefly glanced at the cover and leafed through it until my eyes fell upon an underlined passage.

“This is why we need to envisage every possibility and to strengthen the spirit to deal with the things which may conceivably come about. Rehearse them in your mind… Misfortune may banish you into some wilderness.’ (179)

Then I read another:

“Set aside now and then a number of days during which you will be content with the plainest of food, and very little of it, with rought rough coarse clothing, and ask yourself: Is this what one used to dread?’” (67)

I asked myself again, why am I here? It finally made sense–if I could survive this intense hunger, then I could survive anything.

Our instructor ordered us to get up and follow him, not allowing even ten minutes of rest. As he led us into the backwoods, far from camp, all thoughts of quitting and confusion and fear had disappeared. I was finally present and in the moment.

Our instructor led us to a bush. He ordered us to dig, telling us a story about the wandering willow, with edible tubules. We pulled out these ‘tubules’ and realized they were simply bananas: the signal that the Impact, no-eating phase was complete. I took a bit of that banana and had a sudden realization—no fruit had ever tasted sweeter.


Oshon August 19, 2013 at 6:43 pm

Very interesting experience and article. Life can be more fun with experiments.


Dianne April 1, 2013 at 5:00 pm

same principal applies to all sorts of hardship in life. I survived 19 years mostly without any sense of spontaneity or freedom because i cared for my daughter who has a servere disability. I didn’t realise until she moved into supported accommodation that i had naturally internalised the philosophy of the Stoics: it enabled me to survive and come out only a little scathed. Now i try to practice the same philosophy every day.
I enjoy your posts.


Michael Smith August 7, 2012 at 5:13 pm

I did a 4 day Sun/Moon dance in Bolivia where we did not eat or drink at all and were dancing for half an hour with an hour off during the day. We started with a sweat lodge and ended with another one. I was afraid that I would not be able to cope with no water for 4 days but I real didn’t feel thirsty. My mouth got dry but I did not have a raving desire for water or food. I even sweated in the second sweat lodge which suprised me!

And afterwards the food and water tasted the best ever.

I learned that I can do much more than I think I can. And that much of my urges for food or drink are emotional and not physical. And that if I set my mind to something I can achieve it.


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Thomas November 10, 2011 at 10:27 am

Now I want to try this, that’s adventure! (you inspired me to be an “explorer of life”)
Tons of lecons to learn. Man I love survival (and to learn from history and paleolithic stuff). -I couldn’t help but watch survivor and man vs wild, human planet and co, It’s quite addictive, gives you perspective.

Based en my experience with hunger, it goes away and then comes back. I never fasted 4 days, but often do it 1 day. A big part of hunger at first is psychological and just low blood glycemy. Hunger is quite supportable.

Check Epicurus “Letter to Menoeceus”, and Epictetus too. Good philosophy “centers” yourself.
If the worst is quite supportable, then what is it left to fear? It gives back your magic powers and stop you from being “the average victim”.

Good thing you post more often. I like to read inspiring stuff.

I would like to meet you someday. During some travel, or if you come to France..

And forgive me for my english, I know I make mistakes, godammit.


maneesh November 20, 2011 at 8:07 am

Hey Thomas!

Hunger goes away. When we didn’t eat for the first four days, you could barely feel it. As long as you eat fewer than a few hundred calories, your metabolism slows down and the feeling of hunger never even arrives (especially if you’re doing something…like hiking. I think a lot of the time, our feeling of hunger comes from boredom, moreso than physical hunger).


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