Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
28 Aug

20 Ways to Cultivate IE in Your Life

Recently, I caught up with an old friend of mine. He’d just returned home from a trip to the Northern Midwest, where they rented a cabin on one of the Great Lakes with family. He showed me pictures of his kids. Being used to a landlocked existence, his 6-year-old daughter had been wholly enthralled by the vastness of the lake, which she referred to as the ocean throughout the entire trip. One afternoon as their younger child napped, he took his older daughter to a nearby park reserve for a bit of exploration. She was mesmerized by a river gorge and more so by the brave, unruly souls who were hurling themselves off a rock ledge into the borderline hypothermic water hole below. What ultimately drew her in that afternoon, he explained, was a sandy beach cove lined with enough tall jagged boulders to make a dramatic show of the temperamental lake’s waves. She ran along that beach all afternoon, he said, scrambling up rocks, dancing along the shore, teasing the waves to catch her bare feet, and squealing at the cold and sheer exhilaration. In one picture, we stood looking out across the lake with outstretched arms, “commanding the sea,” as her dad described laughingly. When you’re six, after all, that’s entirely within the realm of possibility…. My friend’s eyes reflected a deep, parental sense of awe as he showed me the pictures and told me about that afternoon, his favorite time of the entire trip. He clearly marveled at his daughter’s innocent, wild wonder in the same way she marveled at the “ocean” that day.

Last week I introduced the Primal principle of IE – intermittent euphoria – to re-prioritize the peaks of life – the thrill, wonder, and amazement possible in this existence of ours. Thriving, after all, isn’t about accomplishing an inventory of “healthy” behaviors each day. It’s about living out the full measure of your humanity – in all its depth, vigor, and vitality. Euphoria, of course, isn’t something you can summon at will. It doesn’t lend itself to a handy checklist. In fact, it most often catches us unaware. Nonetheless, we can cultivate a mindset and lifestyle conducive to euphoria – one that seeks adventure, values awe, and relishes discovery.

Euphoria comes when we venture ourselves in some way. We give it space when we let go of our self chatter, inner list making, and task orientation. We open ourselves to it when we release the tendency, as author Paul Pearsall puts it, to be “too self conscious to be fully conscious.” In prioritizing IE, we can pursue experiences with the power to elicit deep feeling (e.g. fear, awe, connection) and simply cultivate a mindset open to wonder. Here you’ll find some modestly proposed ideas to galvanize a good Primal life with some intermittent opportunity. I hope you’ll add your own ideas to the conversation.

  1. Witness the wonder others experience. Seeing your child filled with awe is undoubtedly one of the most rewarding moments of parenting. You can encounter it, however, in your aging parents, close friends, your partner, nieces/nephews, and complete strangers. Seeing that unmistakable look in others’ eyes inevitably unlocks something in ourselves. We can be deeply moved witnessing another person’s awe.
  2. Make your own list of “natural wonders” you want to see. Make #1 your next vacation destination.
  3. Find – and regularly enjoy – music that sends chills running through you. If you can, see it performed live.
  4. Spend an entire day noticing things you know you otherwise overlook in a typical hurried day. Observe puddle reflections. Examine the trees in your neighborhood. Watch your children’s myriad expressions throughout an afternoon hike.
  5. Read books that make you feel you’re living inside the story.
  6. Watch (or attend!) events that evoke a sense of connectedness and wonder. It’s little surprise I’m a fan of the Olympics. To this day, I relish the moment in the opening ceremonies of the Barcelona Summer Games when the archer lit the cauldron with that flaming arrow. How many hundreds of millions – or perhaps billions – of people around the world hung on the arc of that arrow’s trajectory?
  7. Go for a long night walk in the woods, through the fields, along a beach. No flashlights.
  8. Invest in experiences.
  9. Volunteer on the front line of need. You may feel intimidated or maybe awkward. You won’t know the perfect thing to say handing out dinner to a young family in a soup kitchen. You will come away each time, however, having done something meaningful and having been changed in the process.
  10. Take up an “extreme” sport (it’s all relative here, folks) you’ve been pondering (e.g. deep sea diving/snorkeling, mountain climbing/tree climbing, trail running/trail hiking). Take a lesson. Sign up for an outing. If you’re already an extreme enthusiast, find a new destination or variation of your sport to challenge yourself.
  11. Indulge in nostalgia. Reread old letters or watch family videos. Getting wistful over memories can enhance our feeling of connectedness.
  12. Recall past experiences of euphoria. What have been the most thrilling, most meaningful hours of your life? What would’ve inspired you as a kid? Bring that fascination to whatever happens this day.
  13. Spend a day doing a novel kind of exploring. Go caving, map a trail, or set out on a hike with an artistic (e.g. photographic journal) or scientific (e.g. bird cataloging) goal in mind.
  14. Take an adventure vacation – as a personal retreat or a family project. Bike across the state, climb a triad of mountains, run a lighthouse for a week. It will be much more memorable than a hotel pool or standing in line at Orlando.
  15. Do something that scares you. (Anyone?) Revel in the sharp awareness that overtakes you. It’s a poignant dimension of being fully alive.
  16. Take on a creative project unlike anything you’ve committed to before. What do you want your opus to be? Begin it today.
  17. Spend a day in a busy public place (e.g. train station, popular coffee shop) and people watch. See how much you can learn or ascertain about the characters you encounter. Imagine their stories.
  18. Borrow a telescope or visit an area planetarium for their late night star gazing program.
  19. Find a beautiful vista-side or secluded outdoor “sit spot” and see what reveals itself in an afternoon.
  20. Put on a 6-year-old’s mindset for the day. Go out into the world – preferably the natural world. “Command” the waves, conquer the squirrels, orchestrate the clouds, hang from the tree branches, journey an animated path full of risk and marvel.

Thanks for reading today, everyone. Share what moves you to experience IE in life these days. Have a great week!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Raking a pile of leaves (since fall is on its way) and then jumping in.

    Taking a nap in the sun.

    Singing and dancing around the house.

    Ashley wrote on August 28th, 2012
    • Raking/sweeping/mopping etc. is a great cool down after an arm workout, and can sometimes even be one.
      No wonder when my occupation was janitor I looked like a gorilla.

      Animanarchy wrote on August 31st, 2012
  2. #18 “Borrow a telescope or visit an area planetarium for their late night star gazing program.”

    This Friday is a rare blue moon folks! There won’t be another for 3 more years, so get out there and experience it!

    mars wrote on August 28th, 2012
  3. Sometimes I like to go into my back yard at night, down a little bit away from the house, about 20 meters will do, and just look at my little ranch house, with the lights glowing from inside. And then look up at the stars. Then at my little house. “I own that!” and, “I’m part of all this!”

    Joy Beer wrote on August 28th, 2012
    • I do that with my campsites / makeshift shelters/ lurking grounds.. then I often think, “Damn, didn’t realize people can probably see me”.
      It’s considered uncouth to act like an animal.
      Once even doing the monkey bars forwards then backwards as fast as I could got me laughed at by some girls.

      Animanarchy wrote on August 30th, 2012
  4. Caving, yes! But if you’re not a caver, contact the National Speleological Society and find a friend who knows caving, so you and the cave finish the adventure unscathed.

    Kathy wrote on August 28th, 2012
  5. I have one more to add to the list: Journaling. It’s a great way to destress. It often invokes in me a moment of clarity that gives me more energy to tackle the day.

    Drewbie wrote on August 29th, 2012
  6. Great article! I’ve experienced euphoria yesterday, when I was walking to the grocery store for the first time in a month. Having been very ill from a deep vein thrombosis in my pelvis, I wasn’t able to move around the last couple of weeks. Now I’m starting to walk again, though heavily sedated, and I feel a renewed thankfulness for my body and it’s ability to move. Looking forward to dancing again, which brings me to my own addition to this list: dance like nobody is looking, enjoy the feeling of freedom and enjoy your body – because being healthy and able to do so is really something to be grateful for!

    MissusN wrote on August 29th, 2012
  7. Or do what Hunter Gatherers did and search out natural psychoactive substances!

    Evolutionarily wrote on August 29th, 2012
    • Yes!
      Spent like two hours once picking mushrooms in a cow field. Ate them all. Nothing.
      But I’ve gleaned a few green plants and their product here and there.

      Animanarchy wrote on August 30th, 2012
  8. Great post–inspiring!

    Julie wrote on August 29th, 2012
  9. Re. #14: Last weekend my husband and I stayed overnight at a lighthouse on a tiny island off the coast of Maine. During the day, we explored the island, watched seals and eagles, and foraged for mushrooms. My euphoric moment was sitting outside at midnight with the Milky Way in full view, hearing the horn sound, and watching the light slowly circle around. It was stunningly beautiful, and made me think of the connection between the sailors out at sea and the lighthouse keepers guiding them safely back to shore.

    This weekend is a surfing lesson and now I’m thinking a hike under Friday’s full moon is in order. Thanks, Mark.

    Amy wrote on August 29th, 2012
  10. I just got back from a 3 day trip to Canada. My friend and I wanted to do a road trip without necessarily picking a direction to go to, so we just headed north, and 11 hrs later ended up in beautiful Canada with its million lakes and rivers, bearth-taking landscapes, and all the wonders of nature.
    Instead of getting a hotel or motel, we just camped at different camp-sites.

    It was so relaxing. Things like that make you appreciate life and remember that there’s so much more to it than your job and daily grind that tends to suck you in.

    chocolatechip69 wrote on August 29th, 2012
  11. After living in Manhattan for 10 years, I moved to an old hunting cabin in the PA woods for then next 10. I learned something unexpected from that. Ever since then my rule for a home has been that I can hike out the door. I understand that being in or near town is prized by many and commuting sucks, but not having to drive to go hiking makes it easy to do regularly. I mostly try to find places on the sides of mountains so there are elevation changes.

    At one point I lived 20 min from Albuquerque, but also had a national forest bordering the development I was renting in. Nothing like climbing from 7200 ft to 9800 ft and back to get one’s morning started right. And on a day off I might stop and sit against a ponderosa pine and watch the sky for a while, meditating in the woods is very fulfilling.

    The bears and other wildlife encountered added a sense of how random wonder and delight can be, how it can be there waiting or sometime sneak up on us at a moment when we need to freed from the stuff in our heads. This alone is worth the price of novel experience. Stop expecting and planning and just go.

    speedyk wrote on August 29th, 2012
    • That’s awesome. That’s what I have done, make my life changes in major fashion every decade or so. I was a commuter monkey in Wash DC suburbs in 1986 when I swore off of commuting and suburbs forever, vowed to live either city or country. Moved to San Francisco for 14 years, loved it but forced myself to move on to a rural property in Shasta county and telecommuted from there for 11 years. Living with the dogs and horses, it’s been great. I’m getting restless again though…

      Dave wrote on August 29th, 2012
  12. Today with friends and their kids, we took a ferry boat to Port Cor island off the south coast of France. The bluest water I have ever seen. The island is a nature preserve… just stunningly gorgeous. With kids in tow, we walked a rough rocky trail for forty five minutes… picnic gear in hands… to the secluded beach. The sites and the snorkeling were amazing. And the kids had a blast.
    The most memorable part for me was the hike to and fro. I had a darling little 3 year old on my shoulder the whole way. She is a special child and we really bonded. She had so much fun being on my shoulders.

    flatlanderbythelake wrote on August 29th, 2012
  13. I participated in The Dirty Dash this last weekend, and laughed and shrieked my way through the five mile obstacle course. I had mud up to my chin by the time I crossed the finish line. It was the most fun I’ve had in years. I can hardly wait to do it again. How do we adults forget how much fun it is to get muddy and lose ourselves in play?

    Teresa wrote on August 29th, 2012
  14. Euphoric is no problem for me, it’s something I’ve always done. But I had gotten a little out of shape so going primal now at age 58, best shape I’ve been in since my thirties! My most euphoric times were always windsurfing off the Santa Cruz coast, now I am back and learning kiteboarding.

    The number one euphoric midnight walk for me was:

    Up to Delicate Arch under a full moon, it’s that famous arch on the Utah license plate.

    We were lucky to do this when in Moab a few years back. We were staying in town when I had the idea to do it, I had been up before in the day and it was a great little hike though there were many people there. I thought I had read that it was popular to do at full moon but when we got to the parking lot there wasn’t a soul there, probably it was a day or so off the actual full moon. The moon was high and bright enough to read a newspaper up there on the sandstone slickrock. It’s a steep but only mildly strenuous walking climb and nice and cool at night. Just fantastic. Eerie and incredible view from the top and you could spend the night if you like.

    Now here’s something else to do with a Utah arch, this is an awesome bit of euphoria here, hope you enjoy it:

    Dave wrote on August 29th, 2012
  15. Accidental Euphoria? Last night we went hunting, got stuck in a puddle in a mountain road and had to walk all the way back to our home. It was a warm clear night with a full moon. Absolute happiness, and I cherish the time it allowed me with my father.

    Dume wrote on August 30th, 2012
  16. Wow- thank you for this! Sharing this with my friends! My fiance plays live music 3-5 times a week and live music is definitely an IE experience!!!

    Connie Warner wrote on August 30th, 2012
  17. Natural childbirth for me. It was simultaneously the most horrible and most amazing experience of my life. I literally thought I was going to die for the 2-3 hours of my “transition.” I didn’t even know that level of pain was possible. To come out on the other side, though, and know that I survived, and had experienced what women have been experiencing for millennia, was truly a euphoric feeling. Plus I had a healthy, beautiful baby to show for it! Truly indescribable.

    Rebecca wrote on August 30th, 2012
  18. Well, I did a couple of these a couple days ago… I went mountain biking, by myself, in a new location, just setting out to explore and enjoy being on a bike again (I’ve been out of commission due to health for over a year).

    Not 20 minutes into the bush, I encountered a cougar. It was less than 70 feet away in a tree. I noticed it because I had to dismount to get my bike over a too-tall obstacle and heard a strange rustling.

    I shouted and clapped my hands, then backed over 100′ down the trail, ready to hoist my bike over my head if the cougar came any closer before getting back on my bike and riding (slowly) away.

    WOW I felt alive when I got back to my truck :)

    Angela wrote on August 30th, 2012
  19. Intermittent euphoria. What a great new term to decribe Burning Man. 😉 Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need illicit substances to see things from a new perspective out there. One of the most relaxing things ever is to go climb an art structure at dusk and watch the lights moving around the desert.

    elaine! wrote on September 1st, 2012
  20. Abraham Maslow called them “Peak Experiences”, everyone can have them and they give us a sense of connectedness to ourselves, each other and nature. I wrote a term paper on them last year. They are also anxiety reducing (likely lower cortisol levels), the memory can have an impact that lasts a lifetime and the great thing is you can train/teach yourself to have more!

    Heather wrote on September 6th, 2012
  21. I totally agree that IE is essential to a fully-lived life. In addition to all the wonderful physical experiences that have gotten me to that place, I have to say the most reliable one is my attendance at a regular 12-step meeting (mine is Al-anon). For one hour a week I experience joy and wonder and euphoria that’s equivalent to a rafting trip down a pristine wild river. Boredom and restlessness, too, but you can also have that during a week of 10,000+ feet hikes (just did that).

    Susan Leigh wrote on September 21st, 2012
  22. Some great ideas here. I guess I’m lucky in that I work outdoors and experience those magic moments nearly everyday. Yesterday it was the euphoria of walking through an apple orchard in full blossom and listening to the intense hum of thousands of bees. Other days it can be watching the sea turn from a tropical aqua to an intense threatening deep blue or watching a rainstorm sweep up the mountain range and running for shelter as it hits. Today it has been thunder and watching spring storms roll down the valley. These are the wonderful experiences I place above any material object and try to stay open to experiencing every day.

    Julia wrote on October 5th, 2012
  23. One thing not mentioned on here would be to do something directly spiritual/religious (though every IE experience is spiritual in some way). I know religion these days is a lot more organized than Grok’s would have been, but not every form or expression of it out there is scary. If you find the right place religion can be a regularly elevating experience. (What Mark called euphoria is also called elevation in psychology.) We can’t forget how primal belief in something supernatural is!

    Michael B wrote on November 19th, 2012
  24. I meditate everyday and find that a by product of this is increased states of euphoria. Also, when you meditate you realise that even the simplest of life’s actions can be an incredible experience. Having a present and complete experience of anything is a sublime experience – I’ve sat at home having breakfast some days after meditating and have just been blown away by the richness of my experience and rapt up by a wonder for life – just in virtue of the fact that I’m totally “there”.
    As you might imagine, it can make looking at beautiful landscapes and sunsets all the more awesome too!

    Alastair wrote on May 15th, 2013

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