The Primal Connection: A Review


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**This contest is closed. Thank you to all for entering!**

I’ve always had a thing for Mark Sisson. 🙂 Since I came upon his website, Mark’s Daily Apple, in 2010, I’ve been an avid fan.

Here was someone who had a sensible idea, backed it up with science, was moderate and reflective in his thinking and responses, didn’t rant and rarely judged, and affirmed, all in one place, thoughts I’d gathered over years of reading about nutrition and health.

He also posted daily which, to a blogger who can take six hours over one post and feel like all the juice has been sucked out of her at the end of it, makes him practically superhuman.

Someone I could get behind

Thirty months later and my impression hasn’t changed. I read his site nearly every day (with a few exceptions – I skipped a series on fighting a while back, not my thing at all :-)). I would comment early and often. I share and link to his posts all the time. You could call me a ‘super-fan’.

Trending up

I’ve observed over the years of Marks Daily Apple posts, a gradual acceptance of his ideas. Some of his thoughts really got people going in the comments and I have great respect for anyone who can withstand the derision that met some of his thoughts back then, and press on regardless.

Over time, too, Mark’s posts have addressed more than diet and nutrition. They’ve gone on to explore issues relating to social connection, our tendency to be wired to technology like some kind of modern-day umbilical cord pumping us full of…something, our heavy workloads and the frenetic pace of our lives.

So I was intrigued when I discovered that he was bringing out a new book, The Primal Connection: Follow Your Genetic Blueprint to Health and Happiness. It was billed as a book “about setting your own daily pace, redefining your core values, and making time for play, for thrilling adventures, for quiet reflection, for friends and family, and for optimal rest and rejuvenation–while still enjoying the comfort and convenience of modern life!”


The Primal Blueprint, of course, was his groundbreaking book. It focused on diet and exercise, was deeply researched and dense. As I read a book, I tend to reflect, turn ideas over, stare out the window, that kind of thing, all the while forming my impressions. The Primal Blueprint had many, many points to make and for me to absorb, so it took me some time to get through in its entirety. Was The Primal Connection going to be like that?

Where’s that shovel?

Well, now I’ve read the book, I know. If Mark broke ground with The Primal Blueprint, he dug deeper and sideways with The Primal Connection. The Primal Connection complements The Primal Blueprint, taking what we know about ancient lifestyles in areas additional to nutrition and exercise and identifying ways we have become, to our dis-stress, disconnected from our true, genetically-designed ways of life.

Our right to happiness

At the core of the book is an acceptance over man’s need for the state of mind we call “happiness.” We are often under the impression that life of ancient man was short and brutal – an experience to be endured, often with great suffering, rather than enjoyed or appreciated.

But Mark refutes that, giving examples of how important play, social bonds, rest and slow living were vital to individual thriving and tribal survival. His point is that happiness isn’t unattainable or a luxury, but vital. If we are not happy, we are not living optimally, in best accordance with our survival-hypersensitive genes and, back in the day, this would have meant death. Developing this theme, The Primal Connection, in a similar vein to The Primal Blueprint, expounds on the ways we’ve evolved as a means to inform and guide us on how we should lead our lives today.

In the book, he focuses on the following areas:

Inner Dialogue:
Mark uses a list, The Ten Habits of Highly Successful Hunter Gatherers, to define a successful mindset – attitudes and actions that are best adopted to deal with the vagaries and opportunities of life. This section establishes the foundation of the book, much like The 10 Primal Blueprint Laws did in his first book.

1. Take responsibility
2. Be selfish
3. Build a tribe
4. Be present
5. Be curious
6. Trust your gut
7. Pick your battles
8. Get over it
9. Sharpen your spear
10. Be affluent

Not all of those habits are quite what they appear but you’ll have to read the book to get the full meaning behind what Mark Sisson means! 😉

Here, he focuses on posture, barefoot living, and gives detailed explanations on how to move, stand, sit. You’ll find yourself reading the rest of the book a little taller after reading this section. 🙂

Mark argues that responding to natural stimuli is inherent within our genetic coding. Modern day living means we are almost always indoors and need to reconnect with nature as much as possible, and certainly more than we currently do. I did a little happy dance when I read that:

“What we often mistake for ennui in the modern age is, in part, a physical restlessness – like the detached, lost acquiescence of a caged animal.”

So true!

Daily Rhythm:
This section discusses the importance of respecting our circadian rhythms and controlling our use of technology rather than the other way around. Mark also discusses why our brain chemistry, anchored as it is in our evolutionary past, makes withdrawing from the sights and sounds of technology so difficult, while emphasizing the importance of doing so.

The essence upon which so much of our connectedness, our joy, our sense of belonging is based is down to our social bonds. But ultimately it is a sense borne out of the need for survival. Many can make light work of much and when our total needs depend on so many skills, strengths, and numbers, it makes survival sense to stick around in a group.

We have all but forgotten how to play, truly play. We barely recognize activity that is undertaken without regard for the outcome – activities that are process, not achievement, oriented. Mark urges us to recapture that ability, as a means to rest, relax, create. We need to recharge so that we can meet the next major demand.

(I took this to heart when I realized the day I’d planned to write this review was a school holiday. I would normally have rather grumpily spent part of my weekend working to get ahead but instead, I spent my time as planned, just relaxing. And a few focused hours the following day resulted in some good work. Nothing fell through the cracks. Nothing important, anyway.)


Ideas for action

Throughout the book, Mark provides simple, but effective, actionable ideas to allow us to delve deeper and re-establish our connection to what we have been designed through evolution to satisfy in order to thrive. My absolute favorite was a list of houseplants that will help optimize your home environment.

As a often-time workaholic, almost permanently technology-wired woman-who-sometimes-does-too-much, reading this book was like curling up with a favorite, fuzzy blankie. It reminded me that everything I intuitively know to be true about how we live our lives, things that I often ignore in favor of meeting the demands of the non-paleo primal world around me, and to be fair, my own inner whip-cracker, is misguided.

Finding our way

We sit too much, have poor posture, ignore our neighbors, play too little, sleep not enough. If we get in touch with the cornerstones to rectify these situations presented in this book, Mark asserts that dissatisfaction and stress will dissipate and we’ll find ourselves not only enjoying life more but experiencing greater health, wisdom and connectedness.

As a roadmap to life satisfaction, and yes, happiness, this book was one of the best I’ve read. The Primal Connection is the yin to the Primal Blueprint’s yang; it completes the circle and offers you a complete manual for optimal living. At the end of the day (which, according to Mark, is much earlier than I’ll bet happens in your house :-)), we only have one life, and it is short. Mark’s message is that if we follow our bliss genes to live optimally, we’ll thrive and enjoy the ride.


This contest has now closed. Thank you to all who entered!

Win a signed copy of The Primal Connection!

Mark has kindly offered three prizes for a contest open to Paleo/NonPaleo readers. There are multiple ways to enter (see below). Three winners will be identified using on Sunday January 27th 2013, at 8pm PST, and will receive one of the books listed.

The winners will have 24 hours to respond to me before another is chosen. To include as many as possible, the contest is open worldwide. The prizes are copies of the following books in the Primal Blueprint series:Primal Blueprint Healthy Sauces, Dressings and Toppings

To enter:

There are multiple ways to enter, but you must complete #1.

1. Leave a comment below to say which area Mark talks about in his book (inner dialogue, body, nature, daily rhythm, social, play) is the most challenging for you. (1 entry)


2. Share this post on social media networks – Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest. You must let me know you’ve done this and which networks you’ve shared on, either by leaving a comment below, or emailing me at alison at alisongolden dot com. (1 entry for each social media network shared on, up to a maximum of 4)

Good luck!

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Written by 

Alison Golden writes on the topic of paleo over at Paleo/NonPaleo. She aims to share ideas, inspire and motivate readers by teaching them how to live paleo in a non-paleo world. She is also the author of the bestselling book, The Modern, No-Nonsense Guide to Paleo, a unique tool that gives the reader hundreds of strategies to navigate the learning process to successful paleo living.

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