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.
- 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.
- Make your own list of “natural wonders” you want to see. Make #1 your next vacation destination.
- Find – and regularly enjoy – music that sends chills running through you. If you can, see it performed live.
- 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.
- Read books that make you feel you’re living inside the story.
- 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?
- Go for a long night walk in the woods, through the fields, along a beach. No flashlights.
- Invest in experiences.
- 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.
- 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.
- Indulge in nostalgia. Reread old letters or watch family videos. Getting wistful over memories can enhance our feeling of connectedness.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Do something that scares you. (Anyone?) Revel in the sharp awareness that overtakes you. It’s a poignant dimension of being fully alive.
- Take on a creative project unlike anything you’ve committed to before. What do you want your opus to be? Begin it today.
- 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.
- Borrow a telescope or visit an area planetarium for their late night star gazing program.
- Find a beautiful vista-side or secluded outdoor “sit spot” and see what reveals itself in an afternoon.
- 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!