The Pleasure Principle

Last week a friend of Carrie’s was over for a visit, and I overheard a bit of their conversation while I was in the kitchen. She’s a new mother with all the stresses and string of obligations that come with it. On Saturday she’d gone for a massage – a gift Carrie had given her some months ago at her baby shower. She’s normally a very relaxed, low-key kind of person, but she was surprised at how much she had changed in the course of a few months. “It took me half way through the massage,” she said, “just to stop all the mind chatter – the list making, the reminders, the planning, the questions that never seem to stop running through my head these days.” She was finally able to let go after the therapist worked out some of the shoulder knots. “By the time she started on the legs,” she said, “I was a wet noodle.” Her experience got me thinking about the tension we all carry around with us and the tendency we have to get bound up in it – mentally and physically. A lot of Carrie’s friend’s angst revolved around doing all the right things for her child’s health and well-being. Even our efforts toward living a healthy life can give us grief. What set it right, in this case, was a massage – a luxurious, indulgent, sanity-restoring massage. I think we neglect this appeal to our detriment: the pleasure principle has something to teach us about health.

A few days ago I ran across an article called “Health Now: A Provocation.” The author offers a partly  serious, partly tongue-in-cheek critique of “health nuts,” as he calls them, for wasting “epic measures of energy” on their “futile” interest in the “banal” “maintenance of biological life” – their own specifically. Our country is apparently “full of people” on this crazed “quest” for longevity in and of itself. Apparently, anyone with more than a cursory interest in enjoying good health must be a wretched, small-minded killjoy. The pattern, too, infects the fabric of our society. According to the author’s musings, we’re a nation populated by obsessive freaks frantically stair climbing away from our own mortality and – in vexing contrast – the merry, “fat” Falstaffs (his reference) who baffle us.

The article got me thinking…. First, I’m going to take a wild guess and speculate that few of us here live the way we do for some perceived chance at immortality. We likely value the “life” healthy living will put in our years, however extended they will be. We enjoy the energy, the vitality, the sheer physical power and potential of being healthy. (Then there’s the looking good naked part.) But many people have told me, too, about another dimension of their Primal journey – intuitive perception of their bodies’ needs and sensitivities, heightened sensory experience, and especially a reacquaintance with corporeal pleasure.

There are many pleasures inherent to Primal living: a good red wine, a partner’s intimate touch, that post-workout calm, a great night’s sleep. There’s the feeling of the sun on your face, your feet in the wet sand, and your hands in the cool dirt. It’s the thrill of pedaling down a rugged dirt trail and the peace of floating on a quiet lake. A couple of weeks ago, for me, it was tasting the best shrimp of my life – grilled perfectly tender and flavorful in the shell with a mango-citrus dipping juice. Eating with my hands, sitting on the beach, enjoying the company of my wife and friends, I relished the full moment as much as that enticing platter.

Part of Primal living for many people involves claiming their physical selves – their physical health but also the physical experience of the world – from a new vantage point and deeper level. Some people start from this premise. Others find it along the way. Upon going Primal, people discover what previously held them back from living fully and richly in their own skin.

Too often in our society we cultivate an antagonistic, dysfunctional relationship with our bodies. We joke about how little activity we can perform in a day or brag about how long we make ourselves run ragged on the treadmill. Whether we live in abject denial of our bodies’ needs or aggressively set out to tame our health and shape our physical shells, however, I think there’s something off in our efforts.

There are, of course, many reasons behind the distance. Sometimes it’s a reflection of a negative body image or a grappling with our upbringing. Other times it’s the vestiges of a long-term illness. Still, the tendencies are often less personal. We’re busy residing in the rational, even virtual world of modern day life. In this age, we pride ourselves on our cerebral mode of living. We’ve entered a technological mode of existence, a virtual space to enact our lives. We’ve “evolved” into a new realm that no generation before us could even envision. What’s the trade we’ve initiated? As John Conger puts it, “The victory of an over-rationalized life is promoted at the expense of the more primitive and natural vitality.”

In an overly intellectualized existence, we diminish the sensory and kinesthetic dimensions of our lives. In the process, we abandon something essential to our humanity. We’re evolutionarily designed to move and to experience the world through the acuteness of our senses. We’re adapted to feel pleasure from the exertion of natural exercise, from time outdoors, from intimate socialization, from creative pursuits and contemplation. The body, as obvious as it seems, isn’t some archaic vessel to tame or dismiss. Our bodies are more than shells to be adequately fed, sufficiently groomed, and otherwise tolerated while we attend to what really matters in the world. Our bodies require more than this, and they offer far more in return. Not only is there little to gain in locking horns with physiology, I think it kind of misses the point of living. Pleasure is a significant part of this loss.

Likewise, we too often dampen our experience of pleasure with guilt or distraction. As a result, we end up skimming across a minimally gratifying surface in our physical lives. When we give up our emotional inhibitions and clear away our rational hindrances, we can feel our way back to the primitive core of sensation. Experience can reach us there again.

Of course, this isn’t a justification for shallow hedonism. We’re more than bonobos with smart phones and clothes. We live a more nuanced life than that. One kind of pleasure can’t stand in for another, but the unchecked pursuit of one can assuredly undercut the potential for others. We’re all grown-ups. We get it. That said, there’s something stingy about unmatched rationality. Living Primally, after all, is rooted in the conditions of our ancestors’ existence. Theirs were lives of the physical (eventually) guided and enriched by the adaptations of reason and thought – adaptations that came into being to favor physical survival. The sensation of pleasure is inherently bound up in that process, at once a catalyst of our species’ evolutionary success and an essential principle behind our individual vitality.

Living a life rich with healthy pleasures (e.g. flavorful and satisfying food, vigorous play, luxurious sleep, etc.) continually reorients us in this relationship with our physical selves. What comes of it in time can be a kind of trust in the body, an intuition about what feels healthy for us, and perhaps a more open experience of pleasure. We taste our food more. We notice the subtler sensations during and after a sprint. Our senses become heightened with time outdoors. We reconnect with pleasure and reignite something in our humanity – a more elemental way of encountering both ourselves and the world.

How has Primal living affected your relationship with your body – your experience of physical life? What role does the “pleasure principle” play in your concept of health? Thanks for reading today, everyone.

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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82 thoughts on “The Pleasure Principle”

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  1. People and town/city life is what drags me down.
    I wish I could live like people did 200 years ago, on my own land, growing my own food without ever hearing a car or truck engine.
    The over population everywhere I go is really taking a toll on me. I hate people.

    1. I used to hate people too. I’m serious. In general, I avoided people.

      I’ve changed since going primal. I now love just about everyone I set my eyes on.

      We live in a confusing world where people are clueless on how to love an awesome life. They go with the status quo and thus fail miserably. My life is vastly different. Ive taken the risky route. It sucks ass at times but it kicks ass most of the time.

      We all have a choice. I choose to live in the moment. I choose to take risks and go against the status quo. I ask for advice and often do the opposite. I choose to live a fun life. I’m not perfect. No one is. But I choose to accept that.

      I choose to do the best I can with what I have from where I am.

      I choose to love people.

      What’s your choice?

    2. Wow, you hate people? You know what they say…if you wish to change things around you, it starts with one’s own attitude…

    3. Ah misanthropy. I also am a misanthrope; have been literally all my life. A room with more than one person drains my energy. I avoid social situations like the plague.

    4. The way the economy is going we may have to return to rural/agricultural/ranch life once again.

      1. Man, that sounds incredible! And I’m only kind of kidding.

        I can envision the next Bond villain right now: working to destabilize the world economy so that he can go live in the woods in a big anarchoprimitivist commune…

    5. I feel you , but some how accepting my individual human nature has made me more fond of humanity , and the people I find myself surrounded with.

      I need an ebb and flow , lots of people around , solitude , a few people around ,solitude, lots of people around ect.

      You may be Amish but I’m not a doctor.

      Check out:
      over population is a
      their slick videos might make you feel better.

    6. One word….AMEN! You totally made my day with your comment. Thanks.

    7. Over population where? You wouldn’t think it living in Ireland, in fact there are probably to few people in Ireland. I will agree that people can be epically stupid and ignorant. However there are worthwhile people out there.

      1. I agree, I am so tired of the lie/myth/propaganda of this whole overpopulation crap. Get out of the city, buy land in the country, MOVE. It is pretty convenient to complain and have excuses instead of changing. Read, study, look into life and take responsibility. Overpopulated, do you want to go first?

  2. Eating primal hasn’t really changed my relationship with my body. I’ve always had a huge connection with nature, even when I was hugely unhealthy. Pleasure has always been more important to me than anything else.

    The one thing that has changed is my self-confidence, though. I am far more social than I ever used to be and don’t spend as much time by myself anymore.

    1. I’m the same way! I used to be super shy and super anti social for many reasons. Today I’m the exact opposite. I’m all about spending time with others. Family first then primal friends and friends I’ve known for years. Strangers too!

      Smile often. Say hi. Shake a hand. Volunteer. You will enjoy life more. Thats promise!

      1. I agree, tribal association is a very strong bond!
        It always was, modern life made us socially retarded and introverted.

        1. “modern life made us socially retarded ”

          You’re totally right. That is exactly how I felt before going primal. Always felt awkward being around anyone other than my husband. Having a conversation with strangers drained every bit of energy out of me. Attending family get togethers was dreadful. I was raised by a mother who’s always been worried about what others think and feel about us. When I was a child she’d always tell me what to say, so I never learned to form my own ideas and opinions in a conversation.
          I felt socially awkward most of my life and being primal has changed it quite a bit. But, I still hate crowded places, the noise, the smell (crowded places comes with junk food scents) and the rudeness from most. Nobody these days seems to be considerate and everybody thinks they’re entitled to everything. People don’t greet each other on sidewalks, nobody gets off the sidewalk for the old or handicapped, I see someone coming with 4 dogs and I step off the sidewalk so they don’t have to drag the dogs into traffic for me…but nobody has ever done that for me. Inconsiderate, griefing dicks is what makes me hate people and hypersensitive, easily offended women.

  3. The best part of my day is getting off work, heading down to the gym, working my body intensely for a short period of time, then going home to my family, cooking dinner (who ever thought cooking dinner could be gratifying and rewarding :)), including chopping vegetables, preparing meat, firing coals, or whatever else needs to be done to turn the raw materials of life into something finished, smooth, and ultimately delicious. It’s a fun time for my family to be together, work towards a common goal (dinner, in this case), and generally have a lot of fun.

    So, if you don’t prepare meals, or if you rush through it, maybe take a little more time and ‘smell the roses’, as it were. It could turn out to be the best part of your day.

  4. Living life to the fullest. That is the reason I changed my course. I was unable to seize every day being worn out and overweight. I enjoy being able to go all day without being exhausted. I enjoy being able to go out and run around with my daughter after a long day at work. Embracing life makes it much more enjoyable and taking a zen approach by actually doing what you are doing makes all the difference in the world.

  5. Nobody knows how long they are going to live or what surprises life is going to bring. I eat healthy because I want to feel good until that last day comes.

  6. As the subtitle says, it is a thought provoking article. Deliberately provocative. Some of the satire actually reminds me of Mark’s description of the Korgs.

    Living a long time isn’t a big thing for me, except . . . I am 68 and I have a 3 year old grandson. So, to see him grow up, I do have to think about longevity.

    One of the many things I love about the Primal Blueprint is that it tells me how to enjoy life AND extend it.

  7. I’ve always liked being strong. I prefer to be physically active and accomplish things, as opposed to going to the gym or working out. Over the last 10 years gluten intolerance and the host of physical problems that come with it left me sluggish, fatigued, I gained weight and wasn’t all that productive. Now primal, after working a full day I change into something I can get dirty and get to fun work. I’m currently landscaping the front yard, unloading truckloads of compost and fill dirt, mulching, digging, planting. The other night I was moving rocks and amazed myself that I could carry an 80# specimen about 20 feet. That’s over half my weight. And it felt good. The exertion, sweat, dirt and accomplishment.

  8. Great post! I think that sometimes we can get too over analytical in our pursuit of the optimal. When it stops being fun, you have a problem. I am enjoying my life more, and a lot of it is just feeling physically better and being in a lot less pain. As a mom of 2 young kids, I understand Carrie’s friend’s feelings. For busy moms it is particularly important to schedule relaxation time as a priority in order to maintain mental and physical health. It was my omission of it that caused a lot of my health problems, IMO.

  9. This article really sums up the way I’ve been feeling lately. I’ve realized that I spend so much time in my thoughts and in my head that I miss out on the world around me. I think this has a lot to do with working in an office all day and spending most of my time on the computer.

    A lot of us think of ourselves as our minds and not as our entire bodies. Personally, I have so many thoughts and ideas running through my head that I forget about living in the moment.

    Lately, I’ve really been trying to experience the moment, but it’s really hard to turn off the inner stream of consciousness. It’s a battle to shut it off and just enjoy life.

    I’m not really sure how to get there, so if anybody has any ideas, let me know.

    1. Read Alan Watts Tao: Watercourse Way if you can get a second hand copy (out of print now). Also I just finished The Wise Heart – Jack Kornfield – has really given me the tools to be in the present.

      1. A good book about being present is The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. He also wrote a book about escaping the ego called A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. These books changed my perspective a bit. I’ve never been a “mean person” but I wasn’t very humble in the past, even though I pretended to be. I feel like A New Earth helped me become more humble while remaining proud. It sounds like a contradiction but it’s not. There’s a difference between pride and hubris/arrogance.
        I still have trouble being present a lot of the time, mostly around people. I have a lot of trouble shutting off my thoughts during conversations. Sometimes I miss what people say to me because I’m too busy with rapid-fire paranoia attacks on myselfor I’m just distracted. I’ve never been ultra social. I’ve been somewhat shy my whole life. If I’m alone and in a setting I want to be in (whether that be on the computer or out in the woods etc) I find it easy to live in the moment, also sometimes with other people. Sometimes I give myself a vacation from normal life and go on a sort of vision quest. I spend most of the day outside alone climbing trees, wandering around, eating wild berries, sipping cold wild catnip tea, going barefoot, sitting and watching the river etc. and sometimes I sleep outside. I think times like that, where I just let go and do what I really want to, help keep me emotionally stable. I also get great exercise. I’ve become a more nimble tree climber/walker since I started doing this. My old escape used to be violent video games and back then I was a spazz. I punched holes in the wall. I went outside with a stick or metal bar and smashed branches off trees. I did a lot of unproductive, negative things. (Except smashing dead branches is not bad.. I’ve made it possible to run through part of a forest by my house that way, gotten exercise, and probably fertilized the ground. I’ve mostly given up on technology as my escape. I barely ever play games anymore. I mostly use computers to learn and communicate. Nature seems to nurture though. I’ve thought for a while that going out and behaving wildly is probably what keeps me mostly emotionally stable. Instead of trapping myself in the cage of modern society I frolick about freely with the animals and the bugs. For a while, I feel like a true creature, and I feel like I belong where I am. I have a saying for myself: temporary insanity is what keeps me sane. But then again, maybe when I’m out in nature not really caring about anything is when I am actually sane.

    2. I also work in an office all day. I am constantly running through my mind everything that I need to get done as well as what my boss needs to get done and keeping us both on task. When I get home sometimes I still find myself thinking about who needs to get what done.
      For the most part I have learned to just flip a mental switch. The first step is being able to realize that your mind is in overdrive. Next you have to learn how to slow it down (or just turn it off). When you walk out the door at work stop, take a few deep breaths and let go. Take a moment to feel the sun and hear the birds before heading home. I think practicing yoga helps a lot. You learn how to just be.

    3. When I leave the office I blast the radio on the way home, it is my off switch for the work day. when I get home I do something physical that also requires concentration. Right now it is my garden. Organic gardening is hard work, weeding and finding and banishing the various pests that would like to eat my produce. It definitely puts me in the now. I’ll have to find something else after I put the garden to bed

    4. I think the best cure for being too “in your own head” is to do something intensely physical and if at all possible, FUN! Even just putting on some music when you get home and dancing like an idiot can give you a tonne of energy and remind you you have a body. 🙂

  10. I’m struggling with a couple long-term illnesses that severely impact my quality of life. I hate my body right now and feel deeply betrayed by its stupid meat-sack self. I’ve been joking since I first got sick that I’m just looking forward to the day when I get my robot body, thank you very much.

    However, what I would dearly and truly love is to be able to feel pleasure and pride in my physical well-being and strength. I love lifting heavy things, I love hiking, swimming and just being out-of-doors. I hope I eventually regain the ability to do all the things I love again.

    1. I feel your pain. (literally). It took 1 month of PB to overcome 15 years of pain and fatigue from Fibromyalgia. Ah, the healing power of bacon!

      1. ” Ah, the healing power of bacon!”

        LOL, that made me laugh. So true, I agree!

  11. “When we give up our emotional inhibitions and clear away our rational hindrances, we can feel our way back to the primitive core of sensation.”


    I’ve been working on the inner paleo through Buddhist psychological principles and Taoism over the last few months – what a difference.

    For me now, having sorted the physical/physiological, it’s definitely about addressing the whole person … that’s what’s missing with so many in the evolutionary movement; they get stuck down in the weeds.

    Great post, again.

  12. I just tried a 12-minute Body by Science workout this morning with my trainer. The super slow movements require intense focus on the contractions. Was like a physical meditation. Now I am enjoying the HUGE amounts of lactic acid wobbling my muscles. lol. Short, intense and very primal. Thanks for the link, Mark.

  13. Massage really is amazing. I always think I feel normal going into a session, only to discover halfway through what being relaxed actually feels like. It is a mind-blowing experience every time and leaves me brimming with euphoria.

    All primates groom each other for fun and relaxation, but with humans (at least in this culture) there’s some sort of weird taboo about touching each other. That’s a real shame, because the world would be a vastly better place if we could just relax and give each other a kindly shoulder rub once in a while, without it being mistaken for some kind of creepy advance.

    Primal living has brought me many corporeal pleasures, but the greatest involve testosterone and strength, two things I never really had until going primal last year. Now, rather than living the life of a craven subordinate male, cowed by the alphas around me, I am really enjoying the the impetuous feeling of having healthy male hormones. I feel like a real man for the first time in my life and it’s wonderful.

    When I lift heavy weights I feel especially aggressive and intense, like I could wrestle a yak to the ground for giving me a sideways glance. Those impudent yaks! I’ll show them a thing or two.

    1. I actually have a coworker who swaps shoulder rubs with me at work. We don’t get to it every day, but it’s incredibly relaxing when we do.

  14. Primal Living has really just encouraged me to get out and enjoy life more in general.

    To get out doors and enjoy nature, the sounds of the world and all the beauty that is in it.

    When I tell people about this kind of lifestyle, it always comes down to the same thing: food. Now although food is a huge part of it, there is still tons more to living primally.

    There are the walks you get to enjoy with your loved ones, being outside having fun, relaxing, sleeping, and just living life to its fullest.

    So many great benefits. I know I am enjoying life greatly and am constantly searching for more ways to better myself. Going Primal is just the start!

  15. well said mark. reminds me of the zen idea that we are already enlightened, perfect, etc., it’s just getting through all of our bullshit (rational thought and the like) to our core that’s difficult. once we peel back the layers we find more peace(calm), more vitality, and more of our self than we ever knew before.

  16. I find myself enjoying the quiet, and lamenting the fact that i live in the middle of my town (albeit small, it’s still noisy). I want to move back to where i used to live as a kid, with sun and lush grass. Sigh…

  17. Nicely said as always Mark!

    Since I have gone primal, I have been experiencing much more deep satisfaction type pleasure which I have traded for short term craving/bingeing type pleasures. It is amazing how fulfilling a big green salad with meat and avocado can be as opposed to a sandwich or a cupcake. I have also recently done a 4 week coffee reduction plan and am finding more pleasure in taking walks, naps or doing something other than going to the cafe to get my fix. Here’s to the truly good life!

  18. Great article, and something I have been thinking a great deal about the last few years.

    Much of the shunning of the physical body is prevalent in the religions of the world. In the US, it seems to have grown out of the Puritan movement – ie, the flesh is evil, and only the spirit is vital. Who cares how we live, and those who do must have something wrong with them. Or the converse, telling people how they should live.

    This has struck me as interesting, because from a strictly theological standpoint, the jumping off point for Christianty was the Resurrection, where God affirmed the flesh and brought it up. The Resurrection, according to all original sources, was bodily as well as spiritual.

    So is true health.

  19. This article makes me think of exactly why living a Primal life was/is so easy for me. It took the hard work and bad relationship I had with food out of my life. Living while “counting points” and obsessing over my weight on the scale was very stressing, throw that on top of taking care of two kids and my mind never turned off!

    Now I focus on enjoying one of my great loves which is cooking!! Its no longer a stress and leaves more time for me to enjoy my husband, my kids and my life.

    I still get stressed, there is still a list of things that need to be cleaned and taken care of, but long gone are the days of thinking that getting those things done defined me as a mother, wife, women!

    A deep breath, some yummy food and playing with my kids is what makes this short time I have on this earth so great!

    GREAT ARTICLE TODAY!!! Even those of us who “obsess over this Primal Paleo thing” can learn a lot from this today!!

  20. Living a primal lifestyle allows me to enjoy life and health guilt free. I have been eating healthy, exercising and getting massages (etc…) for years but always in an obsessive-compulsive kind of way…primal living has given me total freedom to just live and actually enjoy the journey and path of health and wellness…

  21. Eating primally has changed me in ways I don’t even feel I can adequately express. I’m so much happier. I’m thankful, like, beyond thankful. I feel more connected to myself, to my friends, to the earth. I no longer have anxiety. I don’t just choose to eat this way to elongate my life or to stay thin. I do this because this is part of the source of my contentment. It’s good for me, it’s good for the earth. I’m just…happy!

  22. Very good post. Over the past few months I have found myself very much in the hectic pattern that Carrie’s friend was in. I was living a healthy life in terms of nutrition and fitness, but my mind, more specifically my soul was never at rest.

    Which leads me to what I believe is one key shortcoming of Primal Blueprint (dare is say this on the Author’s own blog…..:) Since readingi it I felt Mark missed on one critical point and that is the need for the spiritual. In my opinion its as necessary as nutitious food, adequate rest, sun, play and exercise.

    Its why man has sought spiritual meaning through various paths since the dawn of time.

    In any event, I realized that no matter how pure and clean my diet was, no matter how wonderful my exercise, sun exposure, play or quality of rest was, until I could allow my soul to settle, I was not totally healthy or at peace.

  23. I discovered something very pleasurable recently. Maybe I’m the last one in on the secret: headphones. I was in the Apple store waiting for a friend and I played with the ipods and headphones. I couldn’t believe how wonderful it was. The music felt visceral and so pleasurable that it was as if music was all that mattered in the world.

    The headphones in the apple store were pretty expensive so I got some more affordable ones at walmart. I’m going to play with them every day.

    1. Listening to music has helped me immensely with cardio in the past. I used to have a running playlist. I don’t have an mp3 player anymore though. I want to get a new one. Poverty sucks sometimes but can also be beneficial. I’m wearing headphones and sitting in front of a computer now and worrying about the long term cumulative effects of electromagnetic radiation.

  24. This is my first post on MDA. I have been primal for about six months without really knowing it. About a month ago I found this site, and it really has helped me along in my primal (apparently) journey. This article was great, but on top of that, the comments by the community were exceptional. I’m super excited to have found such a great source of community and information.

  25. There’s no doubt that a primal diet builds healthy bodies & brains, and only a healthy balanced brain has the energy & correct signaling it takes to truly appreciate and revel in the feelings of health, strength and vitality that come as a reward for your conscious decision to choose a better way of eating & living. The imbalanced, unhealthy, toxic bodies and brains of people subsisting on a sub optimal diet of man made processed “foods” are just physically incapable of understanding & appreciating this truth until they make the change and experience themselves.

    The other night I took a new friend, a bottle of wine and some cheese out to my back yard fire barrel and built her a fire. This city raised girl said she’d only been camping once in her life, years ago when she was around 12, because her mother didn’t enjoy it.

    She sat on my lap completely mesmerized, hypnotized, almost paralyzed by the light, heat and dance of the flames, the crackle & pop of the wood as it burned and the smell of the smoke as it washed over us, bathing us with it’s healing. When it died down she’d toss more wood on the coals, letting out a little “yay!” as the fire came back to life. Her silence told me her mind was calm, clear & free from the day’s worries. Four more of those and it was after 2AM when with full hearts & an empty bottle we reluctantly left the fire & went inside. The highlight of the night was when she gave a little sigh and said “You know, this is *really* romantic.” That night she re-learned the calming transformative power that fire has on the human mind, heart & spirit.

    I don’t know if it’s correct to say that fire is essential for happiness, but I do know one thing for sure. Fire is primal.

  26. I am reading this article while sitting in a rehab office waiting for a friend. So many people are here because they are not taking care of themselves ( not all of them!) I have been eating paleo and exercising regularly for over a year now and at 50 I feel better than I ever have. I will continue to do so for the next 50 years in hopes of avoiding being a patient here!

  27. It’s amazing how a great massage can help set things right! Primal living is a wonderful concept that we should all truly consider. I have always used aromatherapy through essential oils to help me ground myself physically, mentally and emotionally, but that is only one aspect to the way I live primally. It’s all about keeping in touch with the simple pleasures and not letting life get away from you. Great post. Thanks for sharing!

  28. Really good post. I’m a fairly solitary person also. Ironically, I think I experience the world in a more real when I make more of an effort interacting with people in person as opposed to online.

  29. I can’t know how long my days on this earth are. Eating primal may or may not extend them. I am certain though that eating primal makes every day a healthier one. I feel more alive, more alert, more grounded since going primal. Great post, Mark.

  30. Finding pleasure when most people do not even have a clue as to what that is, makes my Primal lifestyle that much more difficult. It is wonderful to be free of CW but difficult to help others break free of it.

  31. Mark, you can count me out of the immortality club. Everyone dies, mortality doesn’t scare me. It’s morbidity that strikes fear in my heart XD

  32. I’m relatively early on in my Primal journey, but I have seen great differences in my approach to life and what I get out of it.

    This past week was a perfect example. I ran barefoot on the beach for the first time and I enjoyed the experience more than any other run I have done.

    I’m getting closer to the basic pleasures of life and I love it.

  33. I think probably the most significant part of a primal lifestyle is the easiness and simplicity it has to offer. It’s the whole, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. The simpliest ideas/things usually always stand the test time and work better than the complex and elaborate. And it doesn’t get much more simple than a primal life. It’s really quite surprising sometimes the minimal amount of effort it takes to sustain this style of living (and feeling pretty darn good about it). Once you get out of your own way and revert back to the bare necessities, you realize how much more enjoyable the simple pleasures in life truly are.

    I don’t find this lifestyle restricting at all because I feel free from the bonds of rules and guidelines (less stress). I’m my own boss, and if life does get in the way, so what? Nothing is perfect and their is always tomorrow. Knowing that things aren’t always going to work out can be easier said than done; however, when their isn’t so much clutter in your life it really makes what you do have count that much more.

  34. I also think others over estimate how much effort it takes to maintain healthy habits once they are formed. Eating primally, exercising hard and efficiently, loving people and experiences…. this all comes pretty natural to me at this point. Its not like I’m waking up every morning forcing down the eggs and bacon…. this way of life is an easy choice for me.

  35. Great Blog today. Life is to be experienced and the healthier the vessel is that takes us through this experience the less distraction to the experience. More focus on fun. More alive one feels the experience. Whoops… hedonism. Take care of business then have fun, nobody gets out of here alive… and ya ain’t coming back. Good night, long day.

  36. I just want to say how much I love coming home after a long day (had my final today) and sitting down at my computer and finding such a beautifully written article. I have often felt like this but have not known how to articulate it. You really have a gift and I appreciate that you take the time to share it with all of us.

  37. Today’s piece really resonates with me and I’m really enjoying reading everyone’s comments.
    I’ve been eating primally for nearly 2 years. Clean eating lifted a fog and gave me a clarity I’ve not known in my adult life. When I found a breast tumour earlier this year, I know it was the new clarity, stillness and connection to my body that allowed me to find it. Even though it had probably been growing for 5-10yrs, my body guided me to find it with odd sensations, that in my old way of living I would certainly have ignored. And most importantly, eating, exercising and sleeping so well now gives me the calm and strength to manage the ongoing treatment. I actually think I’m the happiest and calmest I’ve ever been!
    To go back to eating crap food is unthinkable now and I am so thankful for this new way of life.

  38. A while after reading this, when the library I read it in closed, I set off to do something pleasurable. I decided to make my way along the edge of the town’s river, which is basically a nature obstacle course. After falling into the approximately knee-high river while trying to cross it with a low tree I ended up taking off my shoes and creek stomping, stopping to climb appealing trees. It was fun and felt good.

  39. What I love about your posts, Mark, is how often they veer from the specific, the technical and the scientific to such a literate and evocative attempts to express the almost ineffable spirit of your ‘Primal’ approach.

    I appreciate the way that you recognize how quickly following the ‘new Primal rules’ can become as psychologically limited as the conventional lifestyle approach is physiologically limited, if it’s approached with the wrong mind-set.

    Any approach – even Primal – can become a rigid system, or fixed straight-jacket of conditioned responses and habits, rather than a way of living that frees us mentally and emotionally. (Clue: if you’ve spent the last 6 weeks building an Excel file that details your lowered daily carb-intake you may have adopted the facts but not the spirit of Primal!)

    For all the private success I have had with improving my body (my blood-sugar levels used to be all over the place), I am aware of just how much further I need to go before I can feel my highest potential everyday. And that means addressing the mental side, or the ‘mind-body’ connection.

    To me this means having a mind that’s truly in touch with own body means letting go of our conditioned quests for success, correctness and approval; it means moving our attention away from our restless inner-chatterings; and, instead, being in communion with the myriad of bodily sensations that our body is open to if we are able to engage with our environment on a moment-to-moment basis.

    It means the full use of our senses and paying unfiltered, un-analytic attention the people and location immediately around us. It means looking and listening to see things as they truly are, and not through the filtering lens of our own petty wishes, wants, judgments and preferences. At least that’s the way I see it.

    I believe the first step on the quest, for me at least, is learning how to properly RELAX, fully, under almost all circumstances; not that Sunday-lethargy, bummed-out in front of the TV ‘relaxed’, but alive and attentive to things as they happen and moments as they unfurl.

    Massage seems like a pretty good start if you have a willing masseur/masseuse!

  40. After reading this at my office in the countryside, I immedietly went outside and walked/ran through the woods for 5 minutes before returning to my desk exhilerated. It was a lifechanging experience.
    Thank you Mark

  41. Great post! I credit a big part of my former obesity with this disconnect between the value I placed on my body as an intellectual, and the value that it actually has on my mental health. Though I am of normal weight now, it is still a daily struggle to maintain a healthy mind-body connection. Every time I realize how much I enjoy a fleshly pleasure (going for a run, playing with the kids, feeling air on my skin), it recalls my attention to how much BETTER I feel in all aspects of my being when I am taking care of my body.

  42. A man moved to a new town after living in a another town for a while. As he was moving into his new house, the man next door noticed his new neighbor in the vicinity. With a smile on his face he went over to meet his new neighbor. After a brief greeting and shaking each others hand, the man asked his new neighbor “so how did you like the last town you lived in?” The man replied “oh I didn’t like the people” The other man replied “well you are not going to like people here either”

  43. Loved the post, loved the comments. Primal Toad’s “I choose to love people” is going to be a new affirmation for me.
    While hiking in snow covered woods last winter I fell through an ice covered stream. At the time I was thinking my affirmation for that day “I walk confidently through this world”, isn’t that a hoot. There I was my butt in the snow and my legs in ice water up to my knees laughing so hard I couldn’t get out. I then had to slog my way home two miles in squishy cold boots, chuckling all the way. When I told this story to a friend she said she would have been so pissed. My primal lifestyle has helped my good attitude to evolve to a new level. I am grateful to you and your readers for wise advice that helps me travel this primal path.

  44. Mark,

    I agree our society often overlooks things like getting fresh air, good sleep, and relaxing down time. I believe there needs to be a balance between the modern world and the primal world where these two lifestyles coexist in harmony and this is how I try to live my life.


    1. I agree. Some modern comforts, luxuries, and conveniences are great and enjoyable but there’s a lot I find odious and pointless about the modern world. I can’t stand being in a building and having one of those electric air refresheners on the wall spraying out chemicals at me. Gets my back up. Makes me feel like I’m under attack, like a bug being sprayed with pesticides. Do humans really stink so bad we need to resort to filling the air with unhealthy particles? Why don’t they just keep some pot pourri around? There’s enough pollution as it is and many of us have to deal with lots of toxic chemicals on a regular basis, for example janitors. Why would we poison everyone in the building’s air with something that (in my opinion at least) doesn’t even smell good, but artificial and sinister? (By the way vinegar is a good alternative to toxic cleaning chemicals).
      In school I’d sometimes go on a “bathroom break” to walk around the halls or even go outside and jog for a few minutes. I bet sitting around so much in school with just a few short breaks and a lunch break takes a toll on all the students’ health. Yes education is important but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be more frequent breaks to walk around a bit or get some fresh air. I think all buildings, but especially public buildings, should have lots of plants growing in them to help filter the air and keep the oxygen content high. Plus the government totally overlooks sleep studies when it comes to high school hours. (Teens generally fall asleep later than other age groups). Apparently today’s society is the most sleep deprived in history. Sounds plausible to me. I was so sleep deprived at one point in high school that one day my math teacher asked me if I’d been in a fight because the bags under my eyes were so dark and pronounced.
      Modern society, by coincedence and design I believe, does not serve to further human potential and improve the quality of everyone’s lives but to cow us and turn us into “functional” robotic slaves who are too (some or all of the following) weak, tired, feeble, helpless, narrow-minded, hypnotized, incapacitated, sick, and mesmerized by smoke and mirrors and boogeymen (I’m sure I missed a few) to be able to be able to work together for the common good and enlightenment of all because economies thrive on negative bullshit and there’s so much corruption in the governments.

  45. i am a bodyworker and the primal lifestyle is an amazing compliment to the work i do. Its listening to the body. I am convinced my body is as vast and deep as the entire universe. And when my cells are aligned with nature, i feel joy on a deep and holistic level. The Primal lifestyle is an aid in that alignment. Being free to skip a meal, to take time to play, to feel our bodies and recognize signals, to be barefoot, to forgive. I love it! Thank you Mark!

  46. Been doing Primal Living for about two weeks now, which makes me a real newbie! Sadly was successful with low carb before (lost 90 lbs about a decade ago), but gained much of it back. What I can say is that somehow, for me, the pro-inflammatory state that Mark describes also plays havoc with the mind/body connection. But in a fat-burning, anti-inflammatory state, I am more aware of my body, take better care of myself instinctively, and have a higher sex drive and greater need for intimacy. Always been a bit of sybarite, so it’s not about ‘hang-ups’ or upbringing. Hard to describe, but I would probably chalk it up mostly to Primal Living down-regulating cortisol (I have a genetic form of pseudo-Cushings), and that in turn makes it easier to live in the present, rather than battling low-grade anxiety all the time.

  47. I am an acupressurist and massage therapist and fully believe in what I do–everyone can benefit! However if you walk/run barefoot–please do us a favor and wash your feet before coming in for a session(if you want your feet worked on!) Had a client the other day who always goes barefoot–could not work on her feet!
    I agree with others–I am into healthy living because I love how I feel now not because I am trying to live longer.I also like not having to spend most of my money and time on medical care like so many people I know.

  48. Oh my gosh I could write a book about how much Primal living has affected my relationship with my body! Through reading this blog as well as other pleasure/mindful focused books, I started really developing an actual relationship to my body – I started talking to it like it was a beloved animal and asking it what it wanted to do. Now when I do crossfit and start rowing, I tell my body ‘ok, who wants to go play?’I talk to my body a lot now – telling it how good of a body it is, how healthy, how awesome and strong. And hilariously, it’s had a huge effect on weight, fitness, etc. I’m now at a weight and fitness level for the first time in my life that I’m happy with, at age 49! Plus all the primal tenents fit so well with the ‘body as beloved pet’ concept – we’d never dream of keeping a dog locked up in an office all day without going outside for a walk in nature and fresh air at least a couple of times a day, we wouldn’t feed it things we know is going to make their stomach hurt, we’d make time for the dog to socialize with other dogs, etc.