The Tao of Paleo: Finding Your Path to Health and Harmony


“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” ~ I Corinthians 13:11

JG: And that’s one of the worst ideas that ever came out of what is otherwise a pretty neat book.

JS: You mean How To Succeed in Emu Farming Without Really Trying, by Egon Karakov?

JG: No Joe, although I know you keep that one handy on the nightstand for inspiration. I meant the Bible.

JS: That was going to be my second guess.

JG: Of course. Anyway, the implication is that when we reach adulthood, whatever that means, it’s time for us to grow up and stop behaving like a kid - to accept adult responsibility and to permanently put away that childish part of ourselves. If you ask me, without getting too incense-burny, new-agey, hemp-oily here, losing touch with our inner child is one of the biggest problems in modern society.

JS: Take your Birkenstocks off at the door before entering the chapter, please, Jason.

JG: Ok then. Maybe you’ll agree with me that a major part of living a full paleo lifestyle involves learning - or maybe, RE- LEARNING - what every child knows intuitively.

JS: How to hock a proper lugee?

JG: No Joe. How to play.

JS: I have to say, I like it how you brought it back around to the title of this chapter, and in only about half a page. Also without your usual series of pop culture references and distractions.

JG: Ummm…thanks?

JS: Sure.

JG: At the risk of ruining the recently acquired goodwill, I’d like to bring in another character to chat with us about the subject of play. He’s waiting outside.

JS: Tell you what. I will no longer complain about this type of locution IF you stipulate that you are aware that I think referring to two-dimensional imaginary characters that we created as foils to help make our points (and to fatten up the book) as occupying mythical physical space “outside” is ludicrous, juvenile, and otherwise jejune.

JG: I have no idea what you just said.

JS: Just bring him in.

JG: I’d like to introduce Mr. Terrence Trevallieur.

TT: Hey, nice to meet you, listen, I’ve got exactly twenty-seven minutes put aside for this, I’ve got a conference call at 2:30 sharp, Donaldson wants those Powerpoints done by close of business, and then I’ve got to hustle to catch the 7:23 express back home. Wife’s got a to-do list for me a yard long.

JS: I’m feeling stressed just listening to you.

TT: Have a cup of coffee. It will relax you.

JG: Thanks for coming in Terrence. We’ll do our best to keep things moving.

On a physical level, Joe and I have extensively reviewed the dangers of excessive stress on physical well-being in prior chapters.

JS: We have. You know about cortisol, and what excessive amounts of it can do to you. We let you know about adrenal fatigue and other dangerous hormonal imbalances that are either caused, or aggravated by, excessive stress. You also understand how certain foods can stress your digestive system and lead to all kinds of undesirable results.

JG: Don’t misunderstand us - we’re not suggesting that it is possible or desirable to completely remove stress from your life. The right types of stress are vital to a healthy human. Exercise, for instance, is just a controlled method used to stress your body in a productive way. The proper application of this stress results in adaptation and growth.

JS: It’s incredibly stressful to deal with Jason, for example, but it did result in the Tao of Paleo. That’s a positive adaptation in my book. Pun intended.

JG: Remember that Joe and I are real people. We have jobs, children, homes, mortgages, and other obligations. If you’re an Average Joe, a below Average Joe, or even an Above Average Joe, you probably face similar challenges, and that isn’t gonna change anytime soon. Neither of us is recommending that you move out to the forest, wear a singlet woven out of moss, and spend the rest of your lives communing with woodchucks and french-kissing maple trees.

JS: Really?

JG: I just want to mention that if you french kiss a maple tree, make sure it’s consensual.

JS: (sigh)

JG: Dude, have you ever been popped in the chops by an angry maple tree? Not fun. Not fun at all.

JS: Moving on. There’s more at stake than the mere physical ramifications of too much stress. It’s trite, it’s cliche, but it’s also true - you only get one life and even if you live to a hundred and three, in the overall scheme of things, it’s pretty darn short. You can spend it going ninety miles an hour and working yourself into a ball of emotional shards of glass and barbed wire or you can take the opportunity to stop, look around a little, and enjoy the miraculous experience of being a real live human.

JG: Balls of glass shards and barbed wire are most assuredly not very paleo.

JS: Nope. So we recommend the following one-word paleo prescription against glass shard wire ball-ness: Play.

JG: That’s right. Play.

TT: Hold on you guys. I’ve let you two ramble on for quite a while, wasting my incredibly valuable time. I came here hoping to get something in exchange for my priceless attention and all you have for me is PLAY?? I’m going to call my assistant, maybe she can bump up my afternoon meeting with Gunderson. You guys can go play on the swing set or the teeter-totter or however you want to waste your time. I’ve got places to go, things to do, and people to see.

JS: Hold on a second there, Terrence. Let me ask you this. What do you do for fun?

TT: Fun?

JS: Yes, fun. Kicks. Jollies. Chuckles. A good time. Fun.

TT: (whispering) Well, you know sometimes, when we’ve finished all the work for the day, and the rest of the week, in advance, we take Marge Furkenburger’s TPS reports - Marge is in charge of the TPS reports you know - we take her reports, and we actually FILE them for her. (giggling) That way when she comes in the next day, she goes to file the TPS reports and they are ALREADY FILED! (laughing) Oh my goodness, that is fun.

JG: Wow, Terrence, you’re nothing but a walking, talking party, aren’t you, bro?

TT: I KNOW, right?

JS: Terrence what do you do for fun - OUTSIDE of work?

TT: OUTSIDE of WORK? I don’t understand those three words when you put them together. Are you speaking ancient Scotch-Romanian or Sanskrit or something?

JG: When you ARE NOT working Terrence, what is it exactly that you do?

TT: (thinking very hard) Ummm…eating? Although I usually do that at my desk, gotta be productive…hmmm…Oh! Got it! Sleeping! Woah, that was a tough one you guys!

JS: The problem is, there are too many people that Jason and I know that are exactly like Terrence here.

JG: Absolutely right. They have no concept of life outside of work and no idea what it means to play.

JS: Jason and I aren’t going to tell you how to play, of course…I know what I love to do. I might play this game my daughter invented where she and I hold hands and try to step on the other person’s toes. I go on hikes with friends. Sometimes I practice my kung fu forms, and I love traveling.

JG: I’m partial to going to an aikido class or to the yoga studio, or maybe I will go outside and throw the ball around with my son, or play some licks on my Stratocaster. Sometimes the line between play and exercise blurs, depending on what you like to do. Yoga, for example, can be a form of play but it can also be a strenuous workout. If your preferred forms of play resemble exercise, that’s fine, but just make sure you adjust your other activity accordingly so as not to risk burnout or fatigue.

JS: Some paleo people are fond of organized systems of play. We hear great things about MovNat, for example, an exercise system designed around teaching humans to move in the way nature intended. MovNat excursions allow participants to enjoy the challenges of moving efficiently outside in a natural environment.

Jason and I are always talking about how much we admire a British chap named Darryl Edwards, who does amazing work with paleo-centric diet and conditioning, but more importantly, trains his clients all around the world to restore the inborn but lost ability to play like a child. If you’re fortunate enough to live near Darryl in London, he’s terrific. If not, you can look for him when he visits a location near you. He travels extensively doing paleo play-out sessions that are really fun and effectively mask the difficulty and sophisticated programming involved. He can also work with you remotely - check out his blog or his videos on Youtube. Cheerio, pip-pip, stiff upper lip, now there’s a sticky wicket, guv’nor. Care for a spotta tea?

JG: Easy there squire. Other paleo folks like parkour, golf, hiking, tennis, basketball, bowling, curling, meditation, ultimate frisbee, orchid breeding, or that cool game that Stallone played in one of the Rambos where you ride around on a horse and try to throw a goat carcass in a circle while other dudes chase you.

JS: It really doesn’t matter what you do for fun. The important part is that WHATEVER it is, it needs to be a safe harbor, a calm place to ride out the storm of strife that life can sometimes throw our way, an oasis in midst of the soul-searing desert of the everyday…

JG: (rolling eyes) Cheesy!! Cheese isn’t allowed. It’s dairy, remember?

JS: It should stop your mind from racing and give you a break from trying to figure out how to solve the problems you’re facing. It needs to be a way to disconnect for a little while - to take a break from the stresses that are inevitable in modern life. Active meditation if you will. When you’re done, you should feel refreshed and renewed.

JG: Speaking of refreshed and renewed, you’re just chomping at the bit to bring it up, aren’t you?

JS: Who, me? What could you possibly mean?

JG: You know exactly what I mean. Ok folks, before we get started, just understand that Joe and I don’t and won’t dictate morality. Everyone has to find their own Tao. We also don’t advocate, recommend, or suggest risky behavior.

JS: Borrr-ing. Cut to the chase.

JG: This is one of your favorite topics, so why don’t you take it.

JS: Sure. Once you get established on the paleo path, odds are you’re going to feel great, both physically and mentally. You’re going to have tons more energy-and that means ALL types of energy.

JG: You’re really enjoying this, aren’t you?

JS: It’s part of who we are as human beings. My point is, with all this energy, and the added advantage of all your parts being in better working order, it’s likely that you’re going to see a dramatic increase in your sex drive.

JG: Can’t disagree with you.

JS: Within the bounds of your own moral framework, not to mention common sense, we recommend you take advantage of your body’s improved libido. Sex is, after all, a tremendous psychological and physical stress reliever. It’s therefore an awesome form of play. And it is very paleo.

JG: No doubt.

JS: We’ll be discussing the finer points of the hunka bunka in considerable detail in later chapters.

JG: Oh we will, will we?

JS: Yes. Don’t we have a chapter named Perfecting the Paleo Horizontal Mambo, or the Kombucha Sutra?

JG: No we most certainly do not.

JS: I’m doing the rest of this book under protest.

JG: Duly noted. Can we get back to the subject at hand?

JS: Sure.

JG: You might spend hours every day trying to get to work, fighting soul-crushing traffic or sweating on a packed commuter train. Maybe you’re scrimping and saving to try to make your bills every month. Maybe you hate your boss, but you can’t switch jobs. There’s probably not much you can do about some of these stressors, but the best way to mitigate them is to find a way to play.

JS: It may be that you don’t have anything in your life that fulfills the need we’re talking about. If that’s the case, look at it as a great opportunity - a chance to experiment. Try a bunch of different things - things you may have always wanted to try or even things you’ve never considered - until you find the thing, or if you’re lucky, the things, that restore your childish sense of joy. The things that give you back the ability to play. And go have sex. A lot of it.

JG: Strike that from the record, please.

JS: Party pooper.

TT: (softly) Square dancing…?

JG: Excuse me?

TT: Um…I really, really love to square dance.

JS: You’re kidding, right?

JG: Hold on, Joe. Terrence, how do you feel when you square dance?

TT: (dreamily) The sound of the fiddle - the feel of denim overalls on my skin… Oh man, when I do-si-do, it’s as if all the weight of the world is off my shoulders. When I spin my partner and promenande, wow…there’s no feeling like it in the world.

JS: (snorting) Yeah, I’ll bet.

JG: Terrence, don’t mind him, he’s still looking for sympathy between shoe and steak in the dictionary. Obviously without success.

TT: It doesn’t matter. No time for square dancing. There’s work to be done.

JG: What would happen if you decided to square dance for a few hours a week instead of working so much?

TT: (horrified) What would happen? Then I wouldn’t be at work!

JS: And?

TT: You don’t understand! I’d miss all that WORK!

JG: Seems to me you already do the work of two people at the office.

TT: (proudly) More like three.

JS: I’ll bet that work would survive without you for a few hours a week, and you might even be MORE productive with a little time off for fun. It would have a positive beneficial effect on your hormonal balance, too. Less stress, more energy, leaner waist…

TT: You know, I don’t JUST work. I spend time at home too!

JG: We established that. Sleeping.

TT: I also do a lot of work around the house. You know, housework!

JS: I sense a pattern.

JG: Again, Terrence, I imagine that you’d be even BETTER at housework if you just took a little time off to have some fun.

JS: This goes for all of you readers, by the way, not just the psychotically workaholic metaphorical characters we cooked up for the purpose of making our points.


JS: Sorry, T. It may be that you feel selfish taking time away from your responsibilities - whether it be at work or at home - to engage in some play. Maybe you feel like you’ll lose status or position on the job, or even miss out on a promotion.

JG: Maybe you feel like you’ll disappoint your family.

JS: Almost inevitably, we find that those who take time to play are actually more effective at work, and even better family members.

JG: That’s true. People who take time out to enjoy the restorative benefits of play become better employees and bosses, better husbands and wives, better fathers and mothers.

JS: To put it simply, they are happier people. And, by the way, more paleo thereby, both on a physical and emotional level. It makes for personal sustainability.

JG: Oh, don’t worry, there will be physical benefits. You’ll reduce your overall stress level, which alongside a program of proper paleo nutrition, exercise, and sleep with optimize your fat-burning and muscle-building skillz.

JS: I hate that.

JG: Hate what?

JS: When people artificially end words meant to be ended with an “S” with a “Z” instead, in some pathetic attempt to sound hip.

JG: Haterz always be hatin’. Don’t be one of the haterz, J- dizzle.

JS: Is there a wall around here that I can bang my head against?

JG: Right over there. Now Terrence, I’ve got a surprise for you.

TT: Surprise? Oh no, no time for surprises! Ack! We went over on this meeting! Oh no! Disaster! Catastrophe! Armageddon! What about Gunderson? The Powerpoints? Marge Funderburker and the TPS reports?? MY 2:30 CONFERENCE CALL STARTED WITHOUT ME!!!!

JG: Terrr-ence…oh TERRR-ENCE… Look what I’ve got here! Denim overalls!

TT: (lower lip quivering) Are those…?

JG: Yep. Osh Kosh B’goshes. Double XL, just your size.

TT: But what about work…

JS: Lookie here T! (produces fiddle)

JG: Here, Terry - try on this straw hat, too.

TT: Wow! Fits like a glove!

JG: Hit it Joe!

JS: Hit what? I have no idea how to play the fiddle, Einstein.

JG: This is a book. You can do anything. Like the Matrix.

JS: Do I have to take a blue pill or something?

JG: Dude…

JS: Ok. Right. Fiddle mode…ENGAGE. (begins to play flawless version of Turkey in the Straw)

TT: (dancing wildly) YEEEEE-HHAAAAA! This is FUN!

JG: Come on, Terrence! Ace of Diamonds, Jack of Spades, grab your partner, promenade! Throw your partner in the air… ummm…grow a yard of facial hair!

JS: Oh boy do you SUCK at this.

JG: Best I could do on short notice. You know how much square dance calling lessons cost?

JS: Obviously more than you had on hand.

JG: You playing me for a fool again? Don’t make me perform violince.

JS: And you had to do that right at the end, didn’t you?

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