IE: The Power of Intermittent Euphoria

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about slow living, the philosophy that encourages us to reclaim our time and consciously approach the way we live. Slow living isn’t as much about pace as it is depth of experience – absorbing the full dimension of each moment and relationship. In slow living and other conscious living philosophies, we’re called to re-sensitize ourselves to life. We notice more, feel more, and perhaps come to know ourselves more. We leave behind an existence led on autopilot. We let go of routinization that can reduce life to a manic drill. There’s another level to this picture, I think. Even in a peaceful, productive, and well-balanced life, we can find ourselves feeling restless. The comfortable plateau we’ve achieved – with all good intention – can seem less satisfying. Where did the peaks of life go? Do we make space for exuberance or adventure anymore? In seeking to live vitally, we inherently value more than the necessities of survival, more than the elements of comfort. It’s a mark of thriving, I think, to test the scale and dimension of existence – in whatever way fulfills us personally. We can choose to prioritize the role awe, adventure, and uncertainty in our lives. The fact is, the power of intermittent euphoria (IE) can fill a deep – and deeply human – well.

IE. It likely makes you think of IF. That’s no mistake. Intermittent fasting, of course, is the occasional abstinence from food that allows the body to upregulate key metabolic and immunity related processes. It’s a kind of “reset” button for the body. The pattern parallels the likely conditions of our evolution. Our ancestors inevitably lived with a measure of uncertainty and periodic deprivation. If the body went into a immediate state of shock at the first sign of privation, our forebears wouldn’t have had much of a chance to survive. Instead of shutting down, the body instead uses the opportunity to shift itself toward increased physiological sensitization. On a more psychological level, I think IE does something similar. With life’s necessary obligations, schedules, and routines comes a certain emotional desensitization over time. We diligently maintain, but in doing so eventually give up some of the texture of feeling. In “slow” living, we can bring consciousness to each moment, but how about making space for experiences that allow us to step out of consciousness into something bigger, more imposing, more stirring?

The famous psychologist Abraham Maslow called these moments “peak experiences.” Writer Diane Ackerman labels them “deep play.” Whatever the name, they’re experiences that take us beyond enjoyment, beyond flow into more formidable physical and emotional territory. They bring us to extreme levels of risk or exertion, creativity or collective belonging. In form, they can range dramatically (e.g. observing the aurora borealis, climbing a taller and more challenging mountain, surfing an immense wave, spending time in a vastly different culture, creating music or art in an awe-inspiring landscape, witnessing a massive animal migration, volunteering in a natural disaster area, or scaling the side of a rocky cliff). In purpose, they challenge and move us in staggering ways. In effect, they change us. They reset us emotionally. We go forward with a different vision of ourselves, our abilities, or the world around us. We feel emboldened, enlarged, connected in a way we didn’t before.

In a survey taken a few years ago in the United Kingdom, some 85% of kids between the ages of 6-12 said they craved more adventure in their lives. Their longing can remind us of our own. True, there is something to the heady, hyperaware exhilaration of childhood. Yet, how often do we suspend our own yearning for excitement? Beyond the artificial drama that can fill our time, euphoric experiences are sources of stimulation that genuinely feed the spirit. We’re right to crave them. Paul Pearsall, author of AWE: The Delights and Dangers of Our Eleventh Emotion, suggests awe has the power to enhance both our physical and mental health. Witnessing or pursuing something that brings us to the edge of our own experience can awaken us. “Awe is the basic human emotion,” Pearsall explains, “that lifts us far above languishing, not because it makes us feel good, but because it makes us feel.” Through risk or awe, IE is ultimately about experiencing the core of life as the grand and precarious force it is.

From an evolutionary perspective, IE dovetails with the uncertain existence of our ancestors. They lived with threat the way few of us do today. Though their days were hardly one continual bout of human to beast combat, they engaged with danger on a frequent, albeit intermittent, basis. Evolution rewarded a measure of risk-taking, which motivated everything from big game hunting to global migration. A transcendental sense of connection and awe would’ve bound people together in powerful ways. Euphoric awe and exhilaration could’ve worked, as University of Michigan professor of psychology Barbara Fredrickson explains, as “‘broaden and build’” forces that expanded our ancestors’ thinking and “behavioral flexibility.” Translate this to today, and we first acknowledge we’re lucky to have to seek out risk. Nonetheless, we’re wired to handle it. On some level, our human brains still expect the unexpected. The pursuit of IE, however, doesn’t mean being foolhardy or putting ourselves in worthless danger. Euphoria comes from more than risk. Grappling with or encountering a force larger than ourselves, we learn respect. We gain an educating, stabilizing, even comforting sense of humility.

As research has shown, we measurably benefit from IE related pursuits. Beside the physical exercise inherent to many IE activities, there’s the uniquely rewarding adrenaline rush to be had in so-called “extreme sports” as well as other activities that vigorously test more emotional and creative capacities. Yet, the draw is more than the adrenaline cascade. It’s often the discipline, the challenge to one’s self, the connection with nature and perhaps with others. Adventure therapy, for example, is recognized as an effective treatment for everything from weight control (PDF) to addiction, behavioral issues to past abuse.Participants develop their coping mechanisms for stress as well as their self-esteem and interpersonal trust.

In terms of euphoric awe, Pearsall explains the neurological and hormonal shifts associated with awe have been shown to boost immune response, lower cortisol levels, and decrease the duration of adverse cardiovascular responses to negative feelings. In studies (PDF) conducted by researchers from Stanford and the University of Minnesota, subjects who experienced awe during the experiments showed more patience and less materialism. They literally felt they possessed more time and were more motivated to help others with their time. Feelings of awe, the researchers suggest, enhance our experience of the present and even alters or slows our perception of time itself.

Then there the effects euphoric experiences can have on the big picture of our lives. IE has the power to psychologically fortify us. As research confirms, it builds our personal resilience. We create a reserve of joy, of rejuvenation, of perspective with which to bounce back from adversity. True euphoria doesn’t simply up the ante for future thrills: it sharpens our whole perception and perhaps appreciation of experience. When we let it, IE can sensitize us to the wonders – both joyful and fearsome – in our daily existence. It can also inspire us to offer more energy, creativity, and novelty to our relationships. Having expanded our personal dimensions, we bring more vigor and vitality to life.

It’s true we each gravitate to our own sources and levels of stimulation. Some of us are natural thrill seekers. Others enjoy the rush of a good adventure but don’t require the same risk to come away altered for the experience. Even that, experts explain, comes down to a confluence of environment and genes. It’s part of the complex, hybrid picture of human individuality. As diverse as our novelty drives may be, however, we’re all enhanced by moments of physical, emotional, and cognitive rapture. The challenging pursuits that can fuel IE – whether extreme sports, creative performance, or life altering volunteer work – embody the “optional that isn’t optional” Primal principle. To use Ackerman’s framework, the “deep play” of these experiences harness the power of our species’ plasticity. They keep us growing, invigorated, and youthful.

Within the precarious, the unlikely, the bold pursuits of our lives, we continually expand the sense of our own strength and limits. When we test ourselves, we connect with what is most essential in our humanity. We scale the uncertain heights of existence itself – of physical risk, bodily endurance, emotional depth, creative power, and human connection. Safety is a blessing, but there’s also something to learned from risk. As Diane Ackerman puts it, “Where there is no risk, the emotional terrain is flat and unyielding, and, despite all its dimensions, valleys, pinnacles, and detours, life will seem to have none of its magnificent geography, only a length.” In the context of a lifetime, these realizations and moments of intensity are ours to carry with us. They help expand the proportions of our living and fill a well that sustains the life we go back to.

Thanks for reading today, everybody. I’ll talk more about IE next week, but let me know your thoughts. Have a great week.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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91 thoughts on “IE: The Power of Intermittent Euphoria”

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  1. That is a beautiful picture but it really bothered me. I watched a friend of mine fall to her death while rock climbing without a helmet. A helmet is an essential when doing this sport.

    1. She died doing what she loved, doesn’t sound so bad to me, far better than in a hospital bed once all your faculties have been lost.

      That said, I would probably wear a helmet as well, but I have no objection to people that don’t wear one.

    2. I mean this in the nicest way possible, but the helmet doesn’t do anything for falls in climbing. It is designed solely to shield your noggin from falling rocks. If you look at the design of clibming helmets, you’ll see that only the top provides protection. They will not blunt a fall. Therefore, while I almost always wear a helmet, certain locations have minimal risk of falling rocks and people opt out of it.

      Falls are prevented by using proper equipment, well, properly, having an attentive belayer and being intelligent about putting in your protection.

      1. I can’t count the friends that have died climbing on both hands… one of them in my arms. I still love climbing at 60 (and don’t wear a helmet rockclimbing). Berg Heil.

      2. Being a climber for 3 years, I concur. Many climbing situations simply don’t require a helmet. If I’m big wall climbing or ice climbing, I’m wearing helmet, no questions.

        Sport climbing? Very rarely is there a situation which smacking my head would enter my mind.

        Better safe than sorry is the best approach, of course, but it’s a personal decision I make based on several factors.

        Now all these folks here in Colorado riding motorcycles without helmets…I just don’t get it. 🙂

    3. Absolutely agree. But at least she was among friends and doing the one thing she loved to do… I would definitely put that helmet on from now on though

  2. I have never been a good surfer, and it is especially difficult here in Oregon with the trough shore breaks. However, being constantly in the moment as you calmly avoid the mayhem of crashing waves and float on the deep sea, one gets a sense of how tiny we are and a constant focus that stays with you for days after. Few things are more primal and transcendent IMO.

    1. @ Dr Jason – So true. I spent one year living in Huntington Beach – surfed every morning before work, watching the sun rise from the water. It was almost impossible to have a bad day afterwards..

  3. This is what makes me excited to go to Iceland next month, and to do (my first) Tough Mudder the following. Very IE-ish experiences. Great post – thanks Mark!

  4. Wow, great post Mark. It’s so true, I’ve just started my primal journey but I’ve been living slow for years.
    Going to Lapland this winter, looking forward to some truly awesome experiences.
    Grok on!

  5. AWEsome post! My focus is to live every single day in AWE of the world around me, even when not out on a great adventure.

  6. Great work, Mark! This information helps me understand myself better, and understand why I need AWE — it’s in my genetic code!

  7. I made a conscious decision to work to experience more IE in my life. When I look back on my years, these will be the moments I want to remember. Pushing ourselves to take risks, being scared as hell to take them but taking them nevertheless is key.

    And I’m glad you make the point about not being foolhardy. I’m not into that either. In fact most of my risks aren’t physical at all (bungee jumper I am not) but they still have the euphoric feel after the event.

  8. This post has come at the upmost PERFECT timing as I begin to plan my America walk.

    I’m walking across all 50 states and the first one is being voted on by my fans/readers.

    You’ll be able to join me on the journey!

    You can bet it’s going to the most epic adventure that anyone has ever been on.

    I’ll be taking a decade or more to do this. Breaks in between each state.

    When I am walking through YOUR state, would you want to join me?

      1. Reminds me of some fun times, stuffing towels in the crack under a door, or exhaling into them in my old cellar.
        Once I climbed up some metal shelves to reach my stash spot near the ceiling and climbing down my depth perception was so distorted it was like staring down from a huge cliff, and it felt like I extended that far too when I lowered one foot and was afraid of falling and hurting myself. It was about two feet high.

      2. i haven’t been high since thursday! what… oh todays thursday….

  9. Very good post Mark, but I’m afraid that with IE you are selling yourself short: I personally aim for a state of Constant and Perpetual Jubilation (CPJ)!
    The secret? “The healthiest of all human emotions is gratitude.”– Hans Selye.
    Keep in mind that the emotional part of the brain cannot distinguish between fantasy and reality. So make a gratitude list of good and wonderful things that have happened to you through the week. As you re-read the list, you will re-experience them emotionally, and feel joyful again. Also have a list of the things in your life you are most grateful about (your kids, your health, your web-site) and repeat. Enjoy! ?

    1. A gratitude list is an AMAZING idea! It is so easy to get bogged down by life’s little annoyances and allowing them to negatively effect us.

      1. i agree and sometimes i go on gratitude hikes which is just my morning hike where i just think about everything i am grateful for.

  10. Yesterday was intermittently filled with awe for me. It all happened because I decided to go for a walk in the woods. The first thing I considered awesome was a tree with a vine spiraling around it, practically perfectly. In some areas the tree was actually growing over the fine so it looked like one plant. Farther up the vine left the tree for others and I wondered how it could reach so far away and find supports, more like a tentacle than a stem.
    I kept walking, then was slightly startled by a sight on the ground when I pushed past some yielding branches obscuring my vision of the way I was going. There was a snake on the ground with its mouth clamped on the back end of a living toad, which seemed paralyzed because all it could do was breathe and blink. I considered trying to save it but decided not to. I thought it was probably going to die regardless of what I did. I thought about killing it to put it out of its possible suffering and leaving it for the snake but then thought it would be wrong to interrupt the snake’s feeding. I didn’t want to take sides so I just watched nature take its course as the snake slowly engulfed the toad. It was gruesome but interesting.
    Shortly after continuing my walk I happened across a fallen tree fairly parallel with the ground that I climbed onto and walked across a few times by holding onto a vine on another close tree and reaching feet first. It was unnecessary as there were various easier ways to climb or jump up but I felt some good muscular strain was in order. There were smaller living trees around the fallen one that provided excellent props for stunts and exercise. I put my feet on a nearby tree and did some slightly declined pushups with my hands on the top of the log, and pushing against its sides. One tree I leaped to from the log multiple times and spun down around. Two other flexible trees leaning away from the log I leaped to a few times, grabbed each, and hung on as they bent down until my feet touched the ground, or swung on them keeping my feet above the ground and then climbed back to the log, monkeying on the available tree growth for use. And so on. There was a lot of cool stuff to do at that spot. The leaping gave me an adrenaline boost and I felt infused with extra power. I vaulted back on the log a few times and at first I had to do so to one side, one foot at a time. After my first leap to the two trees I was able to vault up with both feet at once, centered, easier, more graceful, and quicker. I jogged back and forth along the log a few times.
    I plan to do a lot more of this sort of stuff (play!) in the near future.

  11. I’ve looked death in the face a couple of times in my life and, obviously, survived to tell about it. Once was brought about by my actions. Once by someone else’s actions. I’ve never been the adventurous type. I’ve never wanted to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, but I did take a few areobatic airplane rides once upon a time. Love it! Now, at 65, I’m perfectly happy to putter around the house, observing the wildlife I see on my long morning walks. Saw an assymetrical, 9-point stag, the other day, with the velvet still on the antlers. Walk by it within 25 feet. Just amazing! I live in a several thousand acre home-owners association place, no hunting allowed, so the deer aren’t as skittish as other places.

  12. I now know why my occasional visit to the strip club is so up lifting. I face many tests, trials, and tribulations to actually get there to “connect with what is most essential in our humanity”. Love MDA! And Mark’s blog is great too… BAZINGA!

  13. It may be silly, but when I first saw the new pictures from Mars, so clear and in true color, I was in Awe. Thinking about the massive distance, and that picture is showing the ground in a place where no one can just pick up and go to, a place so far away. It was very humbling.. and I think about it often. You never know what can inspire awe!

    1. If you think the buildings on Mars were/are amazing try a book by Joseph P. Farrell. That guy will blow your mind right out of your skull, pick up the bits then gently place it back again. Awe-inspiring is a criminally offensive understatement to describe the dots that legend has joined together.
      Physical euphoria, I always skied for that. Beats everything including wild sex…
      Yeah I am doing it right!
      : )

    2. I couldn’t agree with you more PD. That Mars landing blew my mind also and it shows you how much we don’t know about the universe. This vast landscape of knowledge could be said a source of IE that Mark had described. Btw a great article. I absolutely loved it!

  14. Great post Mark!

    Most of us aren’t testing our outer limits enough. Its about learning what are boundaries are and pushing past them one step at a time that moves us toward greatness. This inspired me to take a combat sport class today, Muay Thai or Jiu Jitsu.

    I would love to see an article on our Primal urges to fight. Do we ALL have something in us that comes alive when we are in a survival situation?

    What say you Mark Sisson?

  15. I am a physical coward. About the most adventurous I have been in the fear department was getting on a roller coaster with two loops that took us upside down. Cheap thrills as it turns out. I think I would get on a zip line if the opportunity presents its self. If it involves water or heights I usually back away. I have to feel that there is little possibility of death before I will take on a physical challenge that scares me.

    I am a risk taker with creativity, however. (Little chance of death here) I also love change so seek that out if things get too predictable. Too predictable doesn’t happen much around here. For me, change makes life more colorful.

    1. I’m by nature a risk avoider. I don’t like fast things (except women), heights, the cops, fighting, jumping out of a perfectly operating airplane, etc. One time I decided to live extreme. I mixed a bit of regular coffee into my decaf. Whoaa! Major head rush; totally IE!

  16. I climbed out to the end of a crane once. It really wasn’t risky because it was easy to climb (basically keep shuffling sideways and always have one hand on a bar) but looking down was quite awesome.
    Near there surrounding a city square there were some climbable buildings that I used to, well of course, climb. One was a bank so I felt like I was defying authority. Once I was on a building I’d sneak around on top and peer over the edges, trying not to be seen, not because it would matter if I was, but I got a bit of a thrill practicing my “hunter” skills, like spying as a kid.
    Which brings me to memories of trying to catch rabbits and wild turkeys. I’d stalk them and charge, never actually caught any. I was inspired by some Static-X music, one noteworthy lyric being “far too primal”. I remember looking up “primal” as a keyword after listening to that, hoping to find information all about savagery and whatnot. I think I actually ended up on this website – I can recall seeing post headings and read the words “high oleic safflower oil” or something like that and thought – basically – “what’s this nonsense?” and went back to the search list. oops.

  17. I used to love travel and scuba, now that Im more limited physically and financially I get the same kick and recalibration from helping at a soup kitchen. Never thought Id see this explained so beautifully. Thank you Mark!

    1. Though I’ve practically survived off soup kitchens, I don’t generally enjoy them. At peak feeding times it’s a horrid babel of simple formulaic jigsaw puzzle conversations, cackling maniacs and shrapnel-tangents. Sometimes the best thing to listen to is some old person trying to give bad advice. I try to get out as quick as possible, or show up late when most of the crowd is gone or loitering around the entrance smoking or bumming smokes.
      Sometimes they even complain about my supplemental cans of salmon. “Don’t open that when I’m in here!” Sadly I often won’t to avoid making a scene or getting in a dispute.

  18. Fit I have gotten a virus each time I have visited in the last couple of days.

    I just wanted to alert people. It appears to provide you with an official looking virus scan and asks you to click on it. I had never seen anything like it before. I was not sure it came from Fit Day until yesterday when I visited again and got yet another version of the same thing.

    I’m bummed because all my primal food and weight entries are there BUT – no more for me.

  19. Loved this, Mark! I often think about this concept, how Type A folks like me strive to maintain a sense of constancy and schedule. But at some point as an adult we do lose that sense of development, the idea that through anything but a trial we would see the world differently. This article reminded me that there are positive ways to expand our world view, safe adventures we can opt into.

  20. There are so many good companies out there that sponsor active, outdoor vacations. Whether you’re traveling domestically or internationally, it’s easy to find tours that take you:

    1. white water rafting;
    2. rock climbing;
    3. mountain climbing;
    4. cycling;
    5. trekking/hiking;
    6. sea kayaking;
    7. photography;
    8. sailing;
    9. volunteering; or
    10. wilflife watching.

    Disney has the bigger ad budget but the experience doesn’t compare to rafting the Grand Canyon or biking across rural Vietnam.

  21. Thank you for a wonderful article. I particularly liked how you said IE is more about the depth of an experience rather than the pace of it. In my personal journey, I have found that some of the smaller experiences have brought me more joy than the typically Western measures of success.

    I am wondering – how would you factor in spirituality and religion. After all, many people who live intentionally or experience IE may attribute it to their religious practice and beliefs – that all around us is a gift from a higher power and we are blessed to enjoy it. I am just curious about your thoughts!

    Thank you!

  22. Music can do it for me. Listening on one level, playing on another level. I have some pieces recorded that generate adrenaline no matter what my mood.

    Walks in the woods and along the shore are peaceful, but not euphoric for me. I’m not a cliff-climber, but I can see how it would work! How about sailing? 🙂

    Gratitude–most definitely!

    1. Euphoria comes in different ways, everyone is different. It’s all valid and legitimate.

  23. I picture the native american indians sneaking into enemy encampments and touching them in their sleep, and grabbing one of their personal items to show their comrades the proof. Counting coup would surely get the ‘ol juices running. Think I’ll try that with the wife tonight…

  24. While reading this, all I could think of was the Billy Joel song ‘Summer, Highland Falls’
    ” And so we choose between reality and madness
    It’s either sadness or euphoria”

  25. Really interesting concept. Did you come up with the term intermittent euphoria? This is the first time I’ve heard it.

    I usually think of it like this: we have a lot of tools for survival at our disposal, with the biggest one being our intelligence. Now, at least in most developed countries, we are able to live relatively safe daily lives with out immediate threats to our survival.

    There has to be an outlet for all that energy that would have normally gone it to fighting and figuring out ways to ward off danger, and often that means getting away from only engaging in the things that are comfortable to us.

  26. I really like this post, Mark. Intermittent euphoria, as you describe it, is too often missing in modern life. This will inspire me. To do exactly what, I’m not sure, but I’ll be thinking about it.

  27. Currently vacationing in Colorado, and switching most of my half marathon training to hiking, due to altitude.

    While on the Enchanted Mesa trail, I took a wrong turn and found the trailhead of the Royal Arch trail. I was mentally unprepared for the difficulty level, and had to turn back in the middle (at Sentinel Pass) because vertigo started really unsettling me. I hope that means I got enough awe out of it, even if no arch.

    Although, doing a slow run/walk on a flatter path, and scaring the crap out of some deer was probably just as awe-inspiring, but without the constant feeling I was going to fall off the side of a mountain and break my everything.

    1. Makes me want to start hiking again, depite very painful feet. I have always loved the mountains, which may be in my genes (descended from Groks who live in mountainous areas). Born in Denver, live in KC so Colorado is doable from here.
      My favorite IE for so long was sex that I didn’t put too much effort into finding other IE experiences other than travel—nothing compares to the view out of the plane window over the highest ranges of the Canadian Rockies or the Alaska Range. Now, it’s get into the car and go, preferably on a sunny day, maybe looking for a not-too-rugged place to hike.
      Not much for adrenaline but sure love just about anything that gets a big hit of dopamine going–satisfying amounts of Primal food very effective..

  28. I think someone once called this the power of now, which refers to mentally engaging in the moment, void of rationalization or cognitive thought. I’ve been diagnosed with primary isolated systolic hypertension many years ago, to this day still has no medical cause. Eating paleo has helped slightly but I think stress and unconscious anxiety of just living in a hectic world exacerbate the problem, so I’ve been trying to focus on ‘un-plugging’ myself. Mark I’d love it if you could write more about your methods of slow living and IE.

  29. Great post. Apart from my triathlon days I’ve never been an extreme physical risk taker. I do take risks in my normal life; selling everything I own to move to a foreign country, I also just quit a permanent contract job that I wasn’t happy with during this recession (without another job in sight). Some people would consider that stupid but I always land on my feet. I refuse to spend another day on this earth being miserable. Seek your joy!

  30. I’ve been basically playing the role on this website for a couple weeks now. I was just wondering if the feeling of awe that you referred to must come from physical challenges. Would it be possible to get that feeling of pushing the limit with a lively and spirited, yet still respectful debate? On a much less related note I was wondering if I could get your take on the China Study. It’s a forty year study put together by T. Colin Campbell. Thank you.

  31. Awe can be found anywhere. In the spring and fall when I’m out in the garden I sometimes hear a familiar sound and look around the sky for the geese flying overhead. I stand and watch for as long as I can see them and wonder how I can hear their calls when they are so high up and over the sounds of humanity.

    I also enjoy photographing nature. I have a shot of a flower about 2 inches wide – it has 5 insects on it: a green spider holding a house fly, a moth, a beetle and a caterpillar. It awes me to see all that life in such a small space.

    There have been a couple of “perfect moments” that I go to when I want to calm myself after an unpleasant encounter. One was a time one winter on the gulf coast – my friend and I were in the dunes in a depression to keep the wind off us. We had a blanket on the sand and we lay in the sun listening to the waves, wind and gulls. The other perfect moment was one sunny fall day when I set up a tent in my back yard (my truck was sidetracked and I couldn’t go camping). I sat in the doorway with a perfectly mixed rum & coke and my dog just outside looking content.

  32. I don’t believe in putting oneself in danger for sport….but everything else in your fascinating article reasonates with me. I can’t believe anyone would choose to get their adrenaline or awe in front of a TV ,in a movie theatre or at a game console…why live a fake life?

  33. So much of the time we are ‘wrapped in cotton wool’ in life. I think IE isn’t just about the good thrills – being with my mum when she died was a similar experience.

    I think this might be why losing weight is so easy the first time around – the experience of being in control gives a high – but if you put the weight back on and have to do it again that buzz isn’t there.

  34. Right now, I’d settle for Intermittent Existence! I’ve recently been diagnosed with Crohn’s and this flare-up’s now lasted nearly 3 months!

    I hate to take drugs (of the prescription variety) – and I’m sure many of my fellow PBers are the same. I’d far rather control my symptoms using diet and natural methods, and I’m certain I’d be infinitely worse if I wasn’t Primal (my GP sent me to a dietician; well you can imagine what a waste of time THAT was! She asked to see my food diary, and immediately suggested I cut my egg consumption down to “no more than 14 a week” and, if I wanted to eat more, to discard the yolks! She’s recommending my doc do a cholesterol test “because I’m concerned it’s dangerously high”

    Here in the UK, they rarely break cholesterol blood work down into its constituent parts – it’s either high – or it’s not (I often speculate that GPs over here are on commission from Big Pharma so the more folk on statins, the fatter their pay-cheques) so, obviously, because of my healthy, wholesome, and nutritious Primal lifestyle, mine’s gonna be sky-high – so expect me to be on Lipitor before the month’s out – NOT!!! The script’ll be going in the trash – where it belongs!

    She also warned me against consuming red meat more than once a week – she’s concerned about the state of my heart…

    Oh and she’s read all about EVCO, apparently; she’s read that it’s highly saturated, so it’s going to be “extremely dangerous” for my heart…

    I’ve a diet sheet: – I’m to start eating oatmeal every day for breakfast, a sandwich made with white bread for lunch and boiled white rice for dinner – guess what’s happened to that…?!

    My lifestyle’s so unhealthy, it’s no wonder I’m sick! Tried to argue my point – all I got was “I spent 4 years at university for my qualification – I think I know a little better than you…”. What I REALLY wanted to retort was “No, you spent 4 years at uni being brainwashed by the BDA and some other people who’d also been brainwashed by the BDA…” but I chickened out – wish I hadn’t!

    I know this is OT, but I know folk here will understand. The stress of having to fight with the medical profession over what constitutes a healthy diet isn’t helping the situation (and, of course, the severity of the flare-up is blamed on my diet! ARGH!!!)).

    Okay, rant over! Thank you for allowing me to get it out – I feel (a little) better now! Now, anyone know any natural remedies for IBD symptoms…? I’ve ordered some probiotics, and I’m going to try turmeric as a natural anti-inflammatory, and I’ve read that slippery elm and cat’s claw are beneficial. Anything else I can try…? Cheers folks!

    I’m to return in 6 weeks – and this time, I’m going armed!

    1. Everything I’ve come across about Crone’s and IBS indicates wheat/gluten is the monster, so I’m thinking stay away from that (and the sugars, rancid oils and “preservatives” that come with them). I’ve also heard bromelain (the enzymes from pineapple) is a good anti-inflammatory – that’s what I take (on an empty stomach).

      How long have you been Primal? I’ve been mostly Primal for about 3 years now and I’m still recognizing improvements, even very recently. We don’t get sick overnight, and though we improve at a fast rate, sometimes it takes a while for our bodies to heal completely. Hang in there and keep thinking like a cave man and the improvements will come.

      When they bug you about what you’re eating, you might tell them that you tried eating that way for x years and you got sick on it, and now you are trying something different and want to give it a year (or whatever) to see if it will make a difference and you’ll let them know the results. Remind them of the definition of insanity = eating the same things over and over and expecting to be healthy.

      Look up studies for what you’re doing (Mark is great about listing studies) and list the web sites on a paper to give to the nutritionist/doctors so they can look them up. List as many different sites as possible. Keep a copy so when you feel unsure, you can reaffirm what you are doing. Grok on.

  35. There is a saying here in NZ, “If you aren’t living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space”. I like that.

    I only have another decade or two so I’ll continue to adhere. It’s not always comfortable, but always rewarding.

    1. Need some advice. I’m 50 and am avid backcountry skier sometimes do fall you die skiing. I try to cheat every way i can to get to the top of a mountain by getting out in the dark, taking my time, resting as often as possible even when i don’t feel fatigue. I don’t know what to do about post exercise because i always feel dead for days after.

      Is there something i should take or an eatting method prior to or during my climbs?

  36. This is the first time I’ve heard an official name for what I’ve always referred to as the “Exclamation Point Moments!” in life. The times when you experience something so profound, that if you died right then you would feel it was okay because you had lived. It can happen anywhere if you are fully aware of the moment: at a concert when the last note is so perfect it just hangs in the air; or when you see something in nature that is so beautiful you almost forget to breathe. We all need these “moments’ in our lives.

  37. You always seem to capture what I’m feeling with great eloquence. I guess this need for exhilaration and excitement is universal. I get my kicks from zip lining, river rafting, scuba diving, and yes, hiking. Love it!

  38. Hi Mark,

    Thanks for the article. I linked in my blog as one of the most interesting reads of the week.


  39. Nice post! I agree with not being foolhardy but I would add cocky and arrogant in the face of nature. Years back I was with friends in Mexico.
    We walked to a remote beach, took off our clothes and all, except me decided that the surf was too big to navigate. Because I was used to body surfing in massive waves south of Puerto Escondido I thought it would be a piece of cake and decided to show my friends how it was done.
    It was a really steep beach break (something in my cockiness that I failed to notice). I waded in, arms in the air and dodged some massive water thinking that this was a piece of cake. It was when I tried to get out that I realized that I was in big trouble. I was in a washing machine and couldn’t
    get back up the steepness of the beach. My friends were lying in the sun & oblivious to my plight. As I was being slammed again & again I thought I was a goner. With every ounce of strength I had left I saw an opening & managed to get out of it collapsing on the beach & not able to move for a long long time. It was then that the awe set in. I lived. I got through it in spite of my arrogance in the face of the awesome power of the Pacific. How could I have been so reckless?
    I’m still in awe of that teaching moment. It reminds me time and again to stay humble in what I’m in day to day. It was and still is one of the major
    teachers in my life. I’m 62 now and still take chances but now I use my senses and engage my brain.

  40. Dancing, and the performance of dance and music provide a huge high, awe, and excitement…. and you don’t risk your life. Try salsa. I feel euphoria every time I have a great social dance. Plus, it is a physical challenge.

  41. This exact thing is a big part of why I love yoga. When I can manage to do a new pose that was previously too hard, like pressing up into a headstand or sticking a challenging arm bind, I get a rush of surprise and delight. It’s the most wonderful sensation in the world. When it happens, it is because I have crushed yet another fake limitation I placed on myself. Part of the delight of the moment is the feeling of another shackle falling away.

  42. Great article. Pity that hallucinogens or other drugs aren’t in the list of “peak experiences” that can “move us in staggering ways”. And I mean come on, plants like weed, peyote and ayahuasca are pretty much Primal. I’m not saying you should use them regularly, but that’s exactly the point when it comes to Intermittent Euphoria. Just once (in a while) does the job.

    1. Poppies too.
      Last summer I made poppy seed tea mixed with instant coffee, cumin (lowers opiate tolerance), honey, and I think some cinnamon – it was delicious and quite enjoyable.

      1. I’ve recently started reading Game of Thrones. They drink a lot of Milk of the Poppy. I got away with poppy seed tea at one shelter. I think I might try it here.

  43. My wife and I visited a winery near St. Helena, CA last week. It was one of the tiny, secluded vineyards where they only produce a few thousand cases a year. Sitting on the back patio of the owner’s house overlooking their vineyard, a vegetable garden, and the edge of the forest, I noticed several wild turkeys poking around at the edge of the garden. They lingered for a moment and then disappeared into the forest. It took my brain several seconds to process the fact that these were wild animals (which I’ve never seen before) and not a planned part of the setting. Everything just fit so well together – the tomato plants and lemon trees in the garden, the rows of grape vines sagging under the weight of almost-ripe grapes, the cool mid-day breeze under the enormous oak shading the patio.

    The wine was pretty good, too, and was poured for us by the 75-year old wife and co-owner of the estate. She told us about the evolution of the winery, which she has been a part of for 47 years, and explained the subtle variations in the wines caused by the growing conditions from year to year. Sharing a couple of hours of her life in a perfect setting was pure euphoria, even before I had the first sip.

  44. Man you’re killing me. Here I am, congratulating myself on my supreme course management skills while playing golf. Now I’m being told I need to take more risky shots!! haha.

    One of your better articles, Mark. How about an article one day on the primal benefits of playing golf? Even before I got into primal food, I remember reading that four guys chasing a golf ball down a fairway together is analagous to a hunt.

  45. I need some IE for sure. I don’t know what’s wrong with me lately. I am an emotional wreck lately. Taking the focus off of the day to day crap and having some adventure or doing some volunteer work seems as good of an idea as any. I need some direction… some new direction because I feel like life is just flying by and I am not really a part of it. I don’t know how to change this… I feel stuck.

    1. Jena, find a place to volunteer that truly speaks to you, it will pull you out of your own head and help you feel apart of the wider community of humanity.

  46. Can I simply say exactly what a relief to discover somebody who truly knows what theyre speaking about over the internet. You definitely learn how to bring a difficulty to light and work out it critical. The diet should see this and can see this side of your story. I cant believe youre less well-liked since you absolutely provide the gift.

  47. Hey Mark,

    Per usual, can’t get enough information from your site and loved the post. I also don’t want to be THAT GUY, who always informs you of outdated hyperlinks, but this one: “Adventure therapy, for example, is recognized as an effective treatment for everything from weight control (PDF)” is unfortunately one of those. Thanks again for everything, you continue to change my perception on life with every article I read.