Monday, January 7, 2013

The Primal Connection

A few weeks ago, Mark Sisson's company sent me his brand new book (the seventh in The Primal Blueprint series) which is going to be released tomorrow: The Primal Connection.**

I've always liked Mark's readable, organized writing. He has a knack for taking complicated and scientific subjects and distilling some common sense truth out of them. It doesn't mean I agree with him about all things, but I do always like his style and general message. Eat well, live well, play well, sleep well.

Dan Kroll: From Nowhere

The Primal Connection takes us beyond the food and exercise of The Primal Blueprint into further lifestyle tinkering along the same lines. It is a pop science book, meaning it isn't quite as hypothetical as it perhaps should be. For example, there is a popular theory espoused by The Primal Connection I've even explored on my blog, about a human population bottleneck somewhere around 50-75,000 years ago. The theory goes that as few as 1500-2000 individuals survived, and at that time a great leap forward in human technology and cave painting, etc. seemed to survive. Somehow humans developed some extra genius (was it shellfish and omega 3s Previc has postulated) during the bottleneck, and the smarter band survived. I've seen many writers (from Spencer Wells to Fred Previc) talk about this theory, but anthropologist John Hawks has posted some evidence refuting it, and some recent work published in Nature seems to suggest that the "great leap forward" happened more gradually some time in the last 100,000 years. Like many scientific ideas, the evidence is still being gathered.

Also, The Primal Connection continues to bash poor carbohydrates to some extent, and I rather wish he would just slap "processed" in front of carbohydrates, and I would feel secure in bashing them as a major component of a healthy human diet. It's just a small part of the book, however, in the beginning. It quickly moves on to other (still controversial) but very fun material, simple and meaningful hacks to making life better.

We begin with some psychology, but The Primal Connection really starts to build up speed when we move on to what is clearly some of Mark's favorite material, barefooting, posture, movement, and play. There are hacks for sleep positioning and even poop positioning.

Perhaps the most important part of the book is about disconnecting from modern distractions to connect more with nature, family, dirt (literally), and silence. Is our hyper multi-tasked digital overstimulated world detrimental to our primal brains? Probably. But Mark gives us tech-savvy, meaningful ways to reduce distraction, ditch the smartphone for select periods, and engage in serial, monotasked moments of play, creativity and flow, work, society, and solitude.

Eastern meditation tradition and books such as Calm Energy focus on engaging fully in the moment, living in the senses. Harnessing the serenity that comes from the present. A lot of what I do in my western medicine psychiatric clinic is talk basic relaxation and meditation with people. There's a lovely Buddhist saying I learned from Baron Baptiste: "The winds of grace are blowing all the time. All you have to do is raise your sails."

It's hard to help folks find that stillness, that serenity. That moment that can be easy to reach when you are standing with your feet in the sand, looking across the water at a Pacific Sunset. Perhaps not so easy when you have a huge pile of laundry and Dora is blaring on the TV. And it is hard to embrace the idea of going out barefoot to experience connectedness with the earth when there is 5 inches of snow on the ground. But primal connectedness can be found everywhere, any time, in its own way.

Just now I had to interrupt writing this post to put the 3 year old to bed. Little children can be challenging with the constant distractions. "Mama, mama, mama" is a constant refrain. Yet little ones also force you to "enjoy the moment" when they slow down your walk by needing to walk backwards, demonstrate a special spin move, or stopping to check every crack, ant hill, and puddle.  My youngest likes me to sit in the room with her when she is going to sleep, so I rock in the chair and close my eyes and listen to her lullaby songs, at least two or three. I listen to her breathing and the gentle music and try to keep the huge "things to be done list" and worries banished for that short time.

Even though those moments are filled with modern devices… ipods and stereo docks, rocking chairs, toddler beds… just existing with one's senses for a moment goes back to those days of hunting and gathering in the wilderness. Listening to the wind and calls of the birds and the rustling of leaves. Noting the colors of the grasses, seeing clues for direction, water, edible plants, signs of game. Sometimes my daughter wants to rock with me, I hold her hands in mine, keeping the soft little fingers warm. When she's nearly asleep, I carefully lift her into her bed. Those moments bring sanity from the distractions.

The Primal Connection is a roadmap to finding and maximizing those moments. From posture to earthing to swimming to sunshine to gardening, it is a way to move and exist in a more harmonious and natural way, one that will presumably complement our DNA and health. The science isn't all there yet, but the common sense is fully realized.

**Full disclosure, I am currently working with Mark's publishing company on a book about disordered eating.

9 comments:

  1. oh thanks for that quote about the "winds of grace"... very nice imagery.

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  2. A book by you on disordered eating! I'm excited! =)

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  3. One of my favorites:

    “Life is a child playing around your feet, a tool you hold firmly in your grip, a bench you sit down upon in the evening in your garden” – Jean Anouilh

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  4. "Eastern meditation tradition and books such as Calm Energy focus on engaging fully in the moment, living in the senses. Harnessing the serenity that comes from the present. A lot of what I do in my western medicine psychiatric clinic is talk basic relaxation and meditation with people. There's a lovely Buddhist saying I learned from Baron Baptiste: "The winds of grace are blowing all the time. All you have to do is raise your sails."

    May I recommend something better? Set aside a few minutes before the day starts or at the end of the evening and pray to God.

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    1. Yes, prayer is a fantastic way to acheive that connectedness and serenity.

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  5. thanks for the review, I'll be checking it out soon.

    Any chance you'll be doing a post on mindfulness meditation? I've noticed you mention it occasionally on the blog, and even though there's not a ton of papers on it, I would love to hear your thoughts/experiences with it. It just makes so much sense in the evo psych framework. thanks!

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  6. Ditto on the excitement re: your upcoming book. Any estimates on publication date?

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    1. I'm supposed to finish it by the summer…not sure the schedule after that.

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  7. What a lovely post. We were right there with you, keeping those soft little fingers warm...

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