The Primal Connection (Anglais) Relié – 5 février 2013
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* our connection with our inner dialogue (giving us 10 Habits of Highly Successful Hunter-Gatherers),
* our connection with our body by going shoeless whenever possible and learning proper posture and mechanics,
* our connection with nature (I'd recommend Bill McKibben's The Age of Missing Information for a fabulous extended take on this point),
* the connection with our daily rhythms (stop over-stimulating yourself with light and electronics after dark),
* our social connection (find about 12 people to be good friends with in the real world and forget about having a zillion Facebook friends),
* and finally our connection with play, relaxation, and downtime generally.
Two book themes are particularly interesting and worthy of further exploration.
The first concerns what Sisson calls "the Power of Posture," where he briefly summarizes the well-known work of Esther Gokhale and the Gokhale Method Institute in Palo Alto, California. Based on 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back: Natural Posture Solutions for Pain in the Back, Neck, Shoulder, Hip, Knee, and Foot, as Sisson puts it, "You can easily correct poor posture with a few simple lessons that can pave your way to a lifetime of pain-free activity."
Gokhale's approach starts with an anteverted pelvis--with the top of your pelvis pointing downward so that you have a slight "duck butt"--which results in a spine with a "J-curve," not the "S-curve" that most modern medical texts wrongly claim is ideal. Building upon this anteverted pelvis comes the correct alignment of the head, the shoulders, and critically the feet, along with ways of sitting, standing, walking, and laying down that supports correct posture. Most of us, most of the time, are simply not ideally posturally aligned, leading to ongoing pain, unnecessary operations, and no doubt ultimately diminished lifespans.
The second theme involves taking seriously the notions of slowing down, getting in touch with our natural rhythms, and learning to do one thing at a time. We are addicted to speed, Sisson tells us, and addicted to doing more than one thing at a time, and addicted to electronic stimulation long after our genes want us to experience a darkening and quiescence that will naturally lead to deep restorative sleep. Sisson brings together a wide variety of research and a bevvy of suggestions (some more useful and practical than others) to help us begin to capture some balance in our lives and help us return to something along the lines of the natural-home-and-hearth environment that our ancestors evolved in over many millennia.
So...play in the dirt? Yes. Exposure yourself to more vitamin D producing sunshine? Yes. Do one thing at a time way more frequently than you probably do right now? Absolutely. Build an inner circle of a dozen or so people whom you regularly see, touch, and really care for, rather than having thousands of Facebook friends who you barely know? That's exactly right.
Finally, Sisson's 10 Habits of Highly Successful Hunter-Gathers is a great, pragmatic, summation of what Sissons believes we should all do to be happier, healthier, and saner:
(1) Take responsibility;
(2) Be Selifsh (in a good way);
(3) Build a tribe (a dozen or so people you can really count on, touch, and love)
(4) Be present;
(5) Be curious;
(6) Trust your gut;
(7) Pick your battles;
(8) Get over it;
(9) Sharper your spear; and
(10) Be affluent.
This last point--"Be Affluent" is especially important. Affluence, as it turns out, involves a great deal more than monetary wealth, and when we define and strive for affluence in terms of the way our DNA wants us to define and strive for affluence--for example, finding ways to have much more down time and spend much more time in nature--we can't help but lead more vital and fulfilling lives. The Primal Connection is a must-read, highly informative, and well-written book that can teach us all a tremendous amount.
Mr. Sisson's book, The Primal Blueprint, has had a powerful, positive effect on my life. I have used his 90-Day Journal with good results. And I have gained tremendously from his website, Mark's Daily Apple. I HIGHLY recommend all those resources. Unfortunately, having read The Primal Connection, I cannot recommend it. In fact, I found it to be quite bad. Here's why: The Primal Blueprint identifies a scientific fact--human beings appeared in evolution under certain physical and dietary conditions; attempting to live, eat, and move as much as possible under those conditions will deliver optimal gene expression today. Eat and move like Grok, not Korg, and you will be healthier and happier. I'm doing it, and it works. The reason the Primal Connection fails (in my opinion) is that it goes so far from the base scientific fact that it strays into the realm of metaphor. Live like hunter-gatherers did (but not really).
Well, I could go into any era of human existence, pull out what I think were the best attributes of life then, and write a book telling people to establish a "connection" to that time. The Renaissance Connection, The Enlightenment Connection, The Medieval Connection (with lots of great stuff about chivalry--and mutton), The 60s Connection (just relax, dude), The Victorian Connection (after all, Darwin himself was a Victorian and it was a time of great discovery, without which we wouldn't even have the underlying truth of The Primal Blueprint). I could pull the best (or my interpretation/imagination of the best) out of any of these times, and give a framework for making a "connection." But I would fall into the same trap that Mr. Sisson does. Here is some of the concrete advice Mr. Sisson gives: "carve out some time and spend a day at the spa." Are you kidding me? This is warmed over drivel that I can get from Cosmo or Men's Health any day. "Have kinder communications with yourself...affirmations are wonderfully healing." Maybe they are. But what the heck does that have to do with being primal? I'm sure Grok sat around saying "me good cave man, me good cave man."
The Primal Blueprint gives us actions we can take to actually recreate the conditions of optimal gene expression. Thanks to Mr. Sisson (and my wife!), I have a cabinet filled with coconut oils and a refrigerator full of organic vegetables, grass-fed meats, Kerrygold butter, VitaCoco and more. I squat, sprint, lift heavy things, avoid poisonous things, play, and sleep. But I don't know how to reproduce Grok's mental world, and neither does Mr. Sisson. So he ends up giving us well-worn ideas ("nurture your inner child"--yes, that's actually in this book!) that we can find elsewhere. Here, it's just dressed up in a sexy loin cloth.
I honestly believe Mr. Sisson is well intentioned, but this book fails. Our ancestors had a complete connection to nature--complete--they were one with it. The only word we can summon that would even begin to approximate the wholeness of their connection would be spiritual. If Mr. Sisson truly wants to make that primal mental connection, he needs to push himself to see how we can reproduce that mental state in our "modern" world (I put "modern" in quotes because Grok's world was "modern" to him too). It's way, way, way deeper than spa days, nurturing your inner child, "surprising someone with a postcard," "enjoying your morning coffee with a sunrise," or "jumping from an elevated perch into water [for the] quintessential Primal Thrill." How are we REALLY going to cultivate the direct simplicity and profound freedom of primal mindfulness? If Mr. Sisson takes another crack at it, I'll definitely be interested in checking it out. But The Primal Connection won't get you there.
I've been feeling majorly disconnected from modern society for about four years now -- about the same length of time that I've been Primal. I've lost touch with many friends, as I no longer have much in common with them. When I started eating and exercising the way my genes expected me to, something deep in the recesses of my brain woke up. I started questioning why I did everything that I did: Why did I feel the need for a bigger house? What role was television playing in my life? Why did I want to be surrounded by people at certain times and completely alone at other times? Why did I suddenly hate video games and everyone who played them for hours on end -- the only `social' interaction they had all day? Why was I depressed after looking at Facebook? Didn't I have over 500 friends on there? Shouldn't I be happy to see what was going on in everyone's lives, including people I haven't seen since third grade and honestly haven't thought about since then?
Never before have we been this connected and yet this lonely and isolated. Admit it: we ALL feel it. Something is wrong. Something is off. Something is missing. We were meant for something more. We've missed our calling. Something isn't right.
Mark Sisson addresses this modern societal phenomena in his latest book in the Primal Blueprint series, The Primal Connection. The Primal Connections are organized into six categories in the book:
Inner Dialogue: Ten Habits of Highly Successful Hunter-Gatherers and how to implement them in your life.
Body: The body and mind influence each other in ways we're only now beginning to understand. Relearn how to sit, stand, walk and move.
Nature: We are hardwired to encounter the sights, sounds, scents and sensations found in nature. Find ways to reconnect with it.
Daily Rhythm: Honor your circadian rhythm and use technology without it consuming you.
Social: We are wired for meaningful personal relationships. Learn how to create them.
Play: Playing is how we learn. Learn how to play without any attachment to the outcome and free yourself.
This book is beautifully laid out and easy to read. There are concrete steps and ideas on how to reconnect with ourselves and how to live simple, happy lives while still embracing modern conveniences and technology. What I like most about Mark Sisson is that he has always been about combining modern society with what our caveman brains expect and need to thrive. This book isn't about breaking off from society and culture, living in a mountainside cave, wearing bear skins and shunning everyone you've ever met (which, I have to admit, does sound good to me on days like Black Friday. Just sayin'.). Instead, it's about "honoring our ancient genetic recipe for health while still enjoying the comfort and convenience of modern life."
This is a great book to take with you on a retreat, or to read on the train while you commute to work. It will make you think. It will make you aware. And, if Mark has done his job right, it should make you happier, more connected to the world around you and to your inner caveman. Grok on.
In this book, Mark lists the 10 habits of highly successful hunter gatherers:
1. Take responsibility (Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond to it. There is no failure -- only feedback. Grok didn't have time to mope. He was in a battle for survival. Stop making excuses and letting circumstances get the best of you or discourage you. Every choice you've made has brought you to where you are. Your life is what you go home to every day. What will you make of it?)
2. Be selfish
3. Build a (small, high quality) tribe
4. Be present
5. Be curious
6. Trust your gut
7. Pick your battles (prioritize ruthlessly!)
8. Get over it (don't dwell on the past)
9. Sharpen your spear
10. Be affluent (live with less, but only the best)
You really get the sense that he understands how to find happiness in our increasingly modern, frenzied world that is obsessed with speed, efficiency and "making it big". If you value peace of mind and capturing the essence of what it means to be alive, then I highly recommend this book.
He gives you concrete tips that you can enact that day, such as:
-raise indoor houseplants to naturally clean your air
-touch the earth (soil/ sand/ grass) with your bare feet once a day (I was shocked to realize that I never do this)
-listen to nature sounds for peace of mind
-honor the sun (don't stay up so late, and stick to candle light after dark)
Two of the most valuable parts of the book, for me, lead me to 2 other similarly life-changing books:
Clutter Busting by Brooks Palmer - not cited in Primal Connection, but Palmer teaches you to "be affluent" within Mark's definition by clearing out the useless material items you don't need while simultaneously clearing out the insecurities/ weak thoughts that make you crave material things in the first place. Clutter Busting
8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back by Esther Gokhale - Highly acclaimed by Mark, this book has helped tons of my friends and I continually recommend it to people with back pain or bad posture. 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back: Natural Posture Solutions for Pain in the Back, Neck, Shoulder, Hip, Knee, and Foot
Overall, an amazing book that will get you to try things you never thought you would.
While he does provide a basic refresher of the primal diet, this new book really expands into a much broader scope on how to live more in mindful harmony with the world as our ancestors did, despite modern day complexities and technological distractions. We are bombarded with "invented" and unecessary problems, psychological stressors, pollution and the need to accumulate an overwhelming amount of stuff, for example.
Sisson provides a practical path to reconnect with nature and our social and cultural lives, as well as to enjoy ourselves in the modern world. While not the first or only book that touches on these areas, he offers great insights from historical, physiological and psychological perspectives. This is a great extension to the Primal series and would be useful for people whether or not they are already familiar with or practice the Primal diet.
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