I’m not sure exactly why January gets all the hoopla here. When it comes to change, it seems like winter (all right, not here in Southern California) might be the most difficult time of year for some people to take on serious change. Sure, after the excess of the holiday season people are feeling penitent. They’re also perhaps ready to accept some quiet, “inward” time after the social overkill of the previous weeks. And, of course, it’s cultural sentiment to look back fondly on the year, clink the glasses at midnight and envision a beautiful, better year ahead – a vision that holds our collective attention for about a week. Well-intentioned as it is, New Year’s motivation is too often a flash in the pan. Maybe little wonder. The winter weeks that follow – truly brutal in some areas of the country – can be as inspiring as scraping your windshield. While I’m all for making change whenever (Isn’t it always a good idea, regardless of the calendar?), I wonder if there isn’t something backwards about this typical scenario. Personally, I get to June and sense that a certain energy and rare enthusiasm are accessible again (not to mention the inviting weather, longer days and fresh markets). You can literally see it in people. Who doesn’t know what I mean here (those of you with standard seasons at least)? Doesn’t this seem like the perfect time to imagine something new and ambitious for yourself? Part challenge, part resolution, part bucket list, part self-experiment? Humor me on this path for a bit….
When I lived in Maine decades ago, I always had the sense that the world woke up about now (blackflies aside). You saw your neighbors again (sans parka and shovel). Face it: you saw your own skin again. Literal and metaphorical layers were exuberantly shed. Community calendars were filled to the brim, competing for the limited supply of summer weekends. It’s an interesting mentality, especially for Northerners – something like carpe diem on steroids. I was thinking about the concept this week. How do we harness the energy (and opportunity) of the summer while resisting its more manic pressures?
Personally, I like to use summers to develop something new in my Primal life. It’s not about applying hard core discipline to reach a new level of strictness. In fact, it’s usually about loosening up. By choice and circumstance, I open to new possibilities I hadn’t considered before. Slowing down helps that, and for me summer is for slowing down more than ramping up. I dare say if you went back in the archives here you’d find that a lot of new dimensions to the Primal Blueprint made their first appearances in the summer months. Certainly, The Primal Connection came out of a couple summers’ worth of exploration.
So, here’s my thought….
What would it take to make this summer somehow the best ever – a new pinnacle for you? Seriously. A more fulfilling time, an experience that initiates a new chapter, a welcome if unexpected change? Sure, it smacks of that old Seinfeld theme, “the summer of George.” We laugh at the concept, but maybe in the back of our minds we’re kind of wondering, “why not?” Put aside any skepticism or any thought that this summer is already accounted for with work and family plans. Just brush that to the margins and hold the idea for a moment. What would it take?
I’m not talking really about a bucket list, which too easily becomes an inventory of “achievements” in the same way people talk about “doing” Paris or “bagging” Hong Kong. For a moment, take a step back from the generativity mindset that drives this strange bus of a culture we live in, and get in your Grok mind. What would leave your Primal self fully sated come Labor Day? What would make you feel meaningfully expanded and content in ways exceeding your summers in the past?
Beyond the realm of acquisition or (most kinds of) achievement, there’s unfiltered experience and undistracted connection – rarities in the modern world. Even experts stress that experiences are what offer us lasting joy, that memories are the “durable goods” of a life well lived. Will a boilerplate summer routine offer you much of that?
In true Primal fashion, I’m not suggesting living well means living large or that we need to upend every welcome custom of summer. Think back to your own positive memories of childhood summers. What comes to mind? A lot of it might seem mundane in adult retrospect, but what’s likely underlying it is a sense of natural ease, of unbridled freedom, of subtle ritual, of sensory keenness, of unfettered connection. Funny, these are exactly the layers of experience we lose touch with as adults, as we expend our energy attempting to manage our (or our kids’) experiences, record every meaningful moment on our phones (or encapsulate it for a Facebook status). Maybe we’re so tired, overworked or distracted, we seldom even get that far. Sometimes people work a whole summer waiting for a big vacation that barely registers past the ride home.
A bucket list can work the same – this restaurant, that park, this outdoor festival. We check off the experience but maybe don’t take much away from it. What if, instead of acting on our list like a collection of do-to items (however positive), we prioritized our own lens and let the places we go and things we do act on us? Have a list of what intrigues you, but go and do with the thought of coming away changed. Seek out what touches and transforms you on a personal, however simple or subtle level, and what makes the list just might change.
If you’ve been doing the diet and absorbing the fitness suggestions up until this point, resolve to jump in with both feet this season. Challenge yourself to appropriate it as a way of interacting with life and not just as an alternative meal plan. Use the concept of “Grok mind,” “Primal lens,” or whatever makes sense. Push your own envelope with self-experimentation – daily. Embrace the dirt, the wild, the reflection, the exertion, the quiet, the attentiveness. Master the art of doing nothing, live outside every possible moment (cajole your way to working from home?), seek out 15 minutes of pure silence (in your own head) every day, catalog the birds you see every month, go barefoot and look for sensory opportunities for your feet, lose any inhibition about baring your body (within legal limits) no matter what your size, grow something, spend an entire afternoon observing natural or manmade minutiae, get in the water, watch a dog in the water, let go of a grudge, sleep on the ground, people watch at the lake, do a weekly bonfire, cook something you catch, put your furniture outside, burn a message you have about yourself, watch the clouds at 2 o’clock on a Wednesday, build a fort, sit outside at night and listen to the bugs, get up for the sunrise and walk barefoot on the morning dew, create or record something that captures the thoughts you have when you break the routine this way.
What does this bring up for you? What ideas or interests come to mind? What could be different or uniquely Primal about this summer for you? Offer up your thoughts, and thanks for “journeying” with me today. Can we say it yet? Happy Summer, 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.