Giving Myself Gifts

I woke up this morning to my dog pacing around on my bed, as usual. I groggily dragged myself out of bed and let Higgins out of the room. My partner was already awake and fed him while I got my morning routine started. I forgot to make coffee last night so my first 15 minutes or so of the morning was spent staring zombie-like at nothingness. Eventually, the coffee was ready and I got some caffeine into my veins. My drug of choice never lets me down.

Then, I sat down and took a look at my calendar to see what my day had in store for me. The first thing on the list (after my morning journaling and Stoic reading) was a 2.5-mile run. I didn’t particularly want to go for a run, especially knowing that I really needed to run 5 miles to make up for skipping my run yesterday (I have set an 88-miles in 28 days running goal). But, with some reluctance in my heart, I slipped on my running shoes. I opened the door and when the chilly morning air blasted my bare chest I, again, wanted to just turn around, but I kept going and soon I was pounding the pavement.

When I really think about it I went running for one primary reason, as a gift to myself. In fact, I believe every decision we freely make is really a gift that we are giving ourselves.

When I go running I am gifting myself with better health and an investment in the future.

When I work I am gifting myself with resources to do the things I want and the things I need to survive.

When I pay bills I am gifting myself with lower stress and access to luxuries.

When I masturbate I gift myself with momentary pleasure and reduced likelihood of developing prostate cancer.

When I read Harry Potter I am gifting myself with relaxation and an escape from my normal life

When I read non-fiction I am gifting myself access to greater knowledge and a stronger mind.

When I take an ice bath I am gifting myself with a healthier body and proving to myself that I am mentally strong.

Every decision I make is a gift to myself. Now, I can choose not to view it that way. I can view running or paying bills or working or studying or masturbating as a burden (well, maybe not masturbating) but that will only bring my mood down. Instead, I try to view each action, each moment, each decision as an investment in myself, as a form of self-love. None of these actions are “good” or “bad”, they just “are”, the negative or positive emotions that they evoke come from the subjective value we place on them.

So, this morning I gave myself a gift. I ran six miles which made my heart and legs healthier, cleared my head for other gifts ahead of me today, allowed me to get some endorphins and vitamin D, and provided me with a sense of accomplishment and motivation to start the week. And damn, it was a wonderful gift. I am such a generous person 🙂

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a Snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail about life in general?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address:
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions: or
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

Everything is Optional

This morning I woke up and went through my regular routine. I groggily wandered into the bathroom and relieved myself, weighed myself, and took my Buproprion. Then I wandered into the kitchen to feed Higgins and Poncho, let Higgins outside, and poured myself a cup of coffee. I let Higgins back in and sat down at the kitchen table where a small “to do” list was waiting for me.

I set up the list last night, as I always do. I find that it is difficult for me to get into my routine each morning and if I reduce the friction to starting I am more likely to be successful. For the same reason, I set out my running shoes with socks next to the front door before going to bed.

There was very little special on my to-do list. It had a few work items, go for a run, hit the gym, clean the house, meditate, and pack up some boxes for our move to the new house next week. Usually, there aren’t work items on my Saturday list but with all the disruptions to my normal weekly routine, I need to wrap things up.

I sat there looking at my list, sipping my coffee, and I realized I didn’t want to be contained by a list today. For the last twelve weeks I’ve been sticking with a very successful routine to reach my goals and I feel like I deserve a break. All these things need to get done, and they will, but instead of trying to check things off my list I’m just going to do what I want today.

Maybe I’ll go for a run, and maybe I won’t.

Maybe I’ll hit the gym, and maybe I won’t.

Maybe I’ll wrap up a work project today, and maybe I won’t.

I am viewing everything today as optional and, strangely, I’ve had one of the most peaceful AND productive days in a long time.

I’ve packed a carload of boxes for the new house.

I’ve cleaned the house.

I’ve started working on a work project.

I also watched three episodes of Numb3rs, walked to the new house to check on my seedlings, masturbated, read my new Swamp Thing comic, sat outside and just watched the world drift by, and now I’m writing a blog post.

I did these things because I wanted to at the moment. It is nice that some of them are on my to-do list, but I would be content even if they weren’t. There is a peace that comes from a clear schedule and a clear conscience.

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail about life in general?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address:
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions: or
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

The End of a 12-Week Year – After Action Review

Alright friends and strangers, hold on tight, this is probably going to be a long one. Not only is this a weekly update of the random stuff in my life (which I’ll probably try to keep relatively short) but this is the end of my 12-week year and I learned a lot of things. But first, my weekly update (fitness stuff is at the bottom).

  • Pulling myself permanently off Facebook has generally improved my life but I wish I was in email contact with more of my friends and acquaintances.
  • I bought some things this week:
    • “The New Localism: How Cities Can Thrive in the Age of Populism” by Bruce Katz – This is mostly for work but I do have a growing interest in urbanism
    • “Stop the Clock: The Optimal Anti-Aging Strategy” by P Mangan – I’m always looking for more information on longevity
    • Escape Proof Cat Harness – It is cute that Poncho loves Higgins but it is really obnoxious that he “meows” for hours at the back door. I’m hoping that this harness will allow me to attach Poncho to a long line so that he can hang out outside. Maybe I’ll take him for walks too
    • 7 Wonders – A board game that I love was on sale. I wish I had more opportunities to play board games, especially more in-depth, serious, or Legacy games. Games like Scythe, I.M.E Stories, etc. basically require 4+ players with a couple of hours (sometimes over 8+ sessions) to really dedicate fully to the game. I’m reluctant to drop $50-$100 on a game without a pretty solid guarantee that I’ll have people to play it with. I love more relaxed games that allow casual conversations, but I’d also like to dive into something. To be honest, I could play board games for hours and hours at a time
    • “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” by Richard Feynman – I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while and I heard Feynman mentioned in an episode of “Numb3rs” which reminded me so I ordered it.
    • “Saga of Swamp Thing: Book 3” by Alan Moore – I read the first two and loved them, so it is time to keep the adventure going
    • HP OfficeJet 5255 Printer – My old printer fucked me over and I kind of ordered this one out of spite. I had an Epson but it stopped working after doing a software update. I googled around and found out that Epson updates their software to prevent non-Epson ink from working. I was using recycled ink cartridges. Fuck them for their stupid policy. I’m going with HP now.
    • Mpow H5 Active Noise Cancelling Bluetooth Headphones – I needed new headphones with a microphone for work and play. Earbuds just weren’t cutting it anymore for office work.
  • I scheduled an initial meeting with a new therapist for next week. Unfortunately, the VA doesn’t have the resources to see me more than once every couple months. I’m not sick enough. I get it, but I want more regular care so I’m going to be paying out of pocket.
  • My personal trainer and I have decided it is time to switch from weight loss to strength building. Now that I’ve got my body fat % close to my range and my body weight is about as low as it is going to go, it’s time to bulk up. Part of this plan is upping my calories from around 1800 per day to 2200 per day. I’m a little nervous because of my family history of obesity but I know it will be mostly vegetables, protein, and healthy fats.
  • I completed a 110-hour fast this week, which is pretty baller
  • I ended up doing an 8-mile run last Saturday (I had only planned on running 6.5). I’m gearing up for a 12-mile trail run next month and this was a good little practice to see where I am at. I think this Saturday I’m going to shoot for 9.5 miles
  • This week in Dungeons and Dragon my character tried to act like a noble but ended up passing out from smoking poisoned weed. Eventually, he woke up and used his acid to tear open a portcullis and stick his head inside without even attempting to be stealthy. A few minutes later he took his ax and shield out of a Triton’s hole, jumped into the room, and some guy told the group secrets and then his brain exploded. My character took some scented candles because he likes lavender. There was also an octopus that may or may not have been a polymorphed human. The party jumped off the ship and swam to shore but not before someone blew up the ship (it wasn’t me).
  • At the end of my fast, I cooked an awesome tortilla casserole from “The No Meat Athlete Cookbook”


Alright, on to the bulk of my post, the results of a 12-week focus. Twelve weeks ago I started using the Phoenix Journal to help guide my productivity a little bit. The results were pretty mixed but I learned a lot of things. I will say that there is nothing in this blog post that is revolutionary. Every lesson I had read about in books like “The Power of Habit”, “The 4-Hour Work Week”, “The ONE Thing”, etc. I read what I should do and then I just went ahead and did the fucking opposite. Oh well, I always was one that had to learn the hard way.

Physical Health

Let’s start with the clearest success, my physical fitness. At the beginning of this 12-week year, I was 187.5 lbs. and had a body fat percentage of 24.4%. Now, I am 158 lbs. and my body fat is 14%, that’s a drop of nearly 30 lbs. and over 10%. Pretty awesome. That translates into a loss of 23.26 lbs. of body fat, or 81,410 stored calories. That’s 814 bananas or 46 lbs. of sugar or 529 cans of beer or 3,256 carrots or 53 whole cheesecakes.

The first reason this was so successful is that I started out with a clear, measurable, and attainable goal. Instead of putting something like “be in the best shape of my life” I put “Weight ~155 lbs., Body Fat % ~15%”. I do want to point out that good health is not exactly the same as body weight and body fat percentage, but in my case, it was a good enough substitute. In many situations finding a decent substitute for my true goal was difficult.

The second reason that this was successful is that I had several measurable actions that lead (fairly) directly to my goal. I had a reasonable hypothesis about how I could reach my goal and I stuck with that plan. In this case, I had six key actions that I identified before starting the 12-week year. They were:

  • Run Daily
  • Weight Training 3x per Week
  • Daily Yoga
  • 10,000 Steps Daily
  • Weekly Fast
  • < 1,800 kcal

While these actions are all measurable and lead towards my goal I made two main mistakes with this list. First off, it is too damn large. At the end of March, I had my bi-weekly Skype session with one of my accountability friends. I was struggling and he recommended not having more than 2-3 actions at a time. Any more than that and you can easily become overwhelmed. So, because weight loss was my primary goal I decided to focus almost exclusively on achieving my nutrition goals of 1,800 kcal and daily intermittent fasting. I also merged the first four into simply “exercise daily”. That freed up a lot of mental space for me to focus on doing those things well instead of stressing about when I was going to lift or run or do yoga or what my steps were. Strangely, when I trimmed my responsibilities down I actually ended up running more, lifting more, and walking more (I haven’t done yoga in months).

There are three more things that really helped keep me accountable with this goal. First, I tracked my progress very consistently. There was no point in choosing measurable goals if I wasn’t going to measure them. As you can see from the below image I monitored both my inputs and outputs pretty thoroughly each day. At first this kind of annoying but soon it became kind of fun to sit down for five minutes each morning and plug in the info from the day before. Also, just tracking what I was doing helped keep me accountable. If I saw the weight creeping up or the calories going over my limit I took a hard look at my situation to make sure I wanted to take the actions I was taking. Even on bad days or weeks I took a picture of myself, recorded my progress, and pressed on.

Related to daily tracking is the necessity of getting bloodwork done. I wouldn’t drive a car that couldn’t track gas levels, engine temperature, and lacked the ability to check tire pressure. So, I don’t want to drive around in my meat suit without being diligent in checking my micronutrient levels and other key indicators of health. Ideally, my doctor would do that easily but that isn’t the case (and, as a vegan, I have some specific testing that is valuable) so I get an annual workup done using LifeExtension.

Second, I had professional help. Having a personal trainer was a huge benefit and I highly recommend it. Does it cost money? Yep, and it is worth it. If I could do it alone I would have done it already, the fact that I wasn’t in the shape I wanted to be in points to the fact that I need help. My trainer costs $80 per 1-hour session. That’s the equivalent of about 2.25 hours of work. So, I’m basically spending just over 3 hours for each hour of his personal attention and guidance (not including emails and texts and such). I think it is worth it and I am very happy with the results. This also provides an additional level of accountability. There is someone who is going to ask how my week was and they are committing to spending time with me, that helps a lot.

Lastly, I had events and sources of motivation that spanned the entire next year. Having a 9-mile race on the horizon, a 12-miler a few months later, a week-long bike ride in July, a vacation in Iceland that has clothing-optional hot springs in September, and such kept me going. I own two whiteboards (see below), one has my goals for the week, month, 3-month, 1-year, and 4-years. And, more importantly, it has the fun things that I’m going to be able to more comfortably accomplish if I meet my goals. The second whiteboard has my weekly tasks laid out by day.

In addition to specific events that I wanted to be healthier for I was able to add an ethical component to my motivation. Minimizing harm to others and taking responsibility for myself are two of my most important principles. When I neglect my body I am virtually guaranteeing my family and friends will suffer more and bear some of the consequences of those actions. Maybe I’ll die younger or need medical care. I want to be able to see my nieces and nephews have children and I don’t want my siblings to be burdened because I didn’t take care of my body.

Overall, there were no magic bullets for this progress. Everything I did is pretty common sense, but I could go into my specifics in detail if someone is interested. I kept count of my calories and nutrients, I exercised, cut out caloric drinks, drank more water, minimized processed foods, eat a whole-foods plant-based diet, and had a daily intermittent fasting. I was trying but I ended up on a pretty low-carb diet naturally.

My takeaways from this goal is:

  1. Keep goals and actions measurable
  2. Keep actions limited to three
  3. Track progress daily and pay attention to trends instead of specific days
  4. Get professional help
  5. Find a variety of motivating factors, both things that I want to avoid and things I want to accomplish or become.


Financial Health

Now on to a partial success, my financials. I had four original goals:

  1. Max my 2017 Roth IRA
  2. Pay off all my credit cards and only use them for reoccurring bill payments
  3. Reduce one of my student loans to less than $7,500
  4. Pay my taxes

My actions to accomplish this were:

  • Work at least 30 hours per week
  • Don’t spend money on books
  • Eat at home
  • Find other expenses to cut
  • Move money from the Blockchain if necessary to stay on track
  • Pursue other income sources

I actually managed to accomplish the first three of my goals. The only partial failure was paying my taxes. I completed my state taxes but I had to get an extension on my federal taxes and I will likely need to enter into a payment plan. The reason I didn’t save enough is because of some blockchain issues that effectively doubled my taxable income. I wasn’t prepared for that and I am hoping that after meeting with an accountant I will be able to save a little bit of money.

Overall, my hypothesis was a success but I could have done a lot more. Three of the key actions (don’t spend money on books, find other expenses to cut, and pursue other income sources) I did not really make any progress on. Like my physical fitness goals, I simply had too many things to focus on and some of them got cut away.

My takeaways from this goal are

  1. Keep goals and actions measurable
  2. Keep actions limited to three
  3. Get professional help


Creation and Knowledge Building

Which brings us to the last two goals I set up for myself. I believe I failed to achieve these goals over the last 12 weeks.

Knowledge Building –

I had four outcomes listed to increase my knowledge over 12-weeks. I wanted to read at least 15 books, complete a Tableau course on Data Visualization, complete a Codacademy course, and decide on which end-of-life doula training I wanted to go to. My only two key actions were read daily and work on skills daily.

There is a whole mess of problems here. First off, the category of “knowledge” is pretty broad and I included too many things in it. Data visualization, coding, reading, and end-of-life training are all things that are important to me but trying to really learn and master any of them requires that I don’t half-ass it. In the future, if I want to pursue them they should be their own 12-week goal.

Secondly, any time I put “daily” on the key action I am setting myself up for failure. Not only is “daily” too broad (how long each day? Or how many pages? How will I know I am done?) but it is something that can be broken after one bad day. It is too high of a standard for me to commit to without feeling like I failed after a slip up. I realize that I use “exercise” daily… so maybe this is a strategy that works for some goals and not others.

Third, my goals are completely unrealistic. The Tableau program alone is 6-courses that are 40 hours each and the Codacademy is similar. Lastly, my goals were not clearly related to my long-term plans or vision for who I am as a person. Why was I trying to learn to code? Why Tableau? Why reading more books? I didn’t clearly answer these questions in my mind or link them to a source of motivation. So, with the exception of scheduling my end-of-life doula training (which I currently have linked to a long-term vision), I really flopped this one.



My desire to create, specifically to write, was my last goal and one that I feel like I failed on. First, I had four specific goals (I’m sure you see the first problem already):

  1. Finish and publish a podcast of my book
  2. Write and submit a short story to a publisher
  3. Write and submit three things to a publisher
  4. Read 15 books

My key actions were:

  1. Work on the podcast daily
  2. Write daily
  3. Read daily
  4. Review submission options

With the exception of the 4th Key Action, the issues here are the same as with knowledge building. “Daily” actions that aren’t specific, too many goals and actions, no real long-term vision or motivation included, etc.

My takeaways:

  • Make sure the goals are realistic
  • Link the goals to a vision and long-term motivation
  • Key actions need to be specific
  • Keep the goals in each category related


New Thing, Habit Breaker

There is one additional thing that happened during this process that I think is worth noting. My partner and I decided to try and break some of our bad nutrition habits and committed to cutting all added sweeteners and alcohol out of our diets for the month of April. It involved a lot of extra label reading (sugar is in fucking everything) and more cooking from home but it was an absolutely wonderful experience.

We have both agreed that moving into May we are committed to only purchasing things with added sweetener and alcohol in a very conscious and intentional way for special occasions. We are going to have a celebration day next week to celebrate moving into our new house and everything we’ve accomplished, but after that, we are riding this momentum into May. My partner is also adding “no added oil” to her list and I’m removing a processed food from my regular shopping. There are only five processed things in my regular diet: almond milk, tofu, pea protein powder, Tofurky Sausages, and Lightlife Vegan hot dogs. I have no plans to remove the first three but it would be a good choice for me to minimize and/or phase out the final two.

So, what’s next?

Well, the 12-Week Year starts over again. I’ve learned some great lessons and I’m still flushing out the details but I think my basic goals and strategies look like this for the next month. I’m going to try and shift some energy away from things that have become habits and into things that are more difficult but will have a large impact on my life. Oh, and I’ve included my longer term goals at the bottom after my pictures as well if you’re interested what my current trajectory is before I turn 40.


Physical Fitness – May Goals

  • Goal #1 – 157.5 – 162.5 lbs
  • Goal #2 – 12.5% – 13.5% Body Fat
  • Goal #3 – Complete 12-Mile Blue Clay Breakout Trail Run
  • Action #1 – Run 88 miles in the month
  • Action #2 – Weight training 14 times in the month


Finances – May Goals

  • Goal #1 – $3,000 saved for quarterly taxes
  • Goal #2 – Develop a business plan for health-related consulting services
  • Action #1 – Work 27.5-30 hours per week
  • Action #2 – Complete end-of-life doula training
  • Action #3 – Finish 4-Hour Workweek and implement strategies


Personal – May Goals

  • Goal #1 – Complete Mindfulness Meditation Program
  • Goal #2 – Meditate for 5 hours total
  • Action #1 – Attend all program group sessions
  • Action #2 – Meditate for an average of 1.25 hours per week

Alright, here is the visual result of 12-weeks of health and fitness focus. I’m pretty thrilled with the results and I’m excited for the next 12-week year.


Physical Fitness

  • 12-Week Goals (April 30 – July 23)
    • Goal #1 – ~165 lbs
    • Goal #2 – 12% Body Fat
    • Goal #3 – Ride in RAGBRAI
  • 1-Year Goals (April 1, 2019)
    • Goal #1 – Complete a marathon
    • Goal #2 – ~10% Body Fat
  • 4-Year Goals (April 1, 2022)
    • Goal #1 – Complete a 100-Mile Trail Run
    • Goal #2 – ~9% Body Fat



  • 12-Week Goals (April 30 – July 23)
    • Goal #1 – Total debt less than $52,000 (not including mortgage)
    • Goal #2 – Pay one quarterly tax payment
    • Goal #3 – Business bank account open
  • 1-Year Goals (April 1, 2019)
    • Goal #1 – Student Loans less than $27,000
    • Goal #2 – Passive income over $5,000 annually
    • Goal #3 – Business started
  • 4-Year Goals (April 1, 2022)
    • Goal #1 – Student loans paid off
    • Goal #2 – $20,000 passive income annually


Personal (Entrepreneurship)

  • 12-Week Goals (April 30 – July 23)
    • Goal #1 – Business bank account open
  • 1-Year Goals (April 1, 2019)
    • Goal #1 – Finish Massage School
    • Goal #2 – Passive income over $5,000 annually
    • Goal #3 – Business started
  • 4-Year Goals (April 1, 2022)
    • Goal #1 – $20,000 passive income annually

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail about life in general?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address:
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions: or
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

100-Hour Fast

At around 2 am this morning I completed a 100-hour fast. I wasn’t awake for this milestone but I woke feeling pretty accomplished. In fact, I’m still fasting because I want to keep my body in my 1 pm – 7 pm eating rhythm so this is going to end up being closer to a 110-hour fast.

When I mention that I’m fasting to people (which I rarely do because it usually triggers all kinds of unsolicited advice or dietary thoughts from people who don’t know my body, goals, health, etc.) the first question is almost always “why would you starve yourself?”

First off (and this may come off slightly pedantic), starvation and fasting are not the same things. Yes, they both involve a lack of food consumption but starvation is unintentional while fasting is intentional. That distinction is important. Intention and the ability to change your situation are important factors and we recognize that in many situations. Boxing and assault are different things. Sex and rape are different. Torture and BDSM are different. In fact, it is the ability to change your situation and the intention that generally separates what we view as a crime and what we view as a perfectly fine (though possibly dangerous) activity. So, I wasn’t starving myself, I was fasting.

Alright, now that I’ve preached about the importance of words and definitions I’ll answer the heart of the question. Why do I fast?

There are actually a few different reasons. The main one is that I’m interested in pushing my abilities to see what I am capable of. The only way to know for sure if I have the willpower to do something and that food is a tool used by me and not something I’m a slave to is to intentionally go without it even when it is in abundance. I have had a generally unhealthy relationship with food where I turn to it in times of stress or simply for the pleasure of it instead of recognizing it as primarily a way to fuel my body.

So, having the mental fortitude to go days without it is a real sense of accomplishment for me. I see this as related to both my Stoic and meditative practices. The Stoics recommended that people go with bland food, poor clothing, and expose themselves to the elements regularly as a way to remind themselves that they can survive and it isn’t so bad. This removes the fear of failure, losing your job, and lacking other things we take for granted. Our species evolved during times of pretty severe fast and famine with the seasons, we used to walk barefoot across continents and over mountains, I think taking a few days off of food is a very small test.

As a mindfulness exercise, this helps remove the mindless eating that I normally do. I begin to appreciate food and my senses are heightened to the aromas, tastes, and textures of food as I go without it. My first meal this afternoon is going to be an enchilada casserole that I’m making and I plan to sit silently and savor every bite. Fasting helps me appreciate food again and get in touch with the intimate process of shopping, cooking and eating. Food is literally our life source and it comes from the death of other lives, that isn’t something to be taken for granted and partaken in mindlessly and casually.

The second reason is my interest in longevity. Calorie reduction is associated with longer life and by entering periods of fasting my body starts the autophagy process. Autophagy is a cellular self-cleaning process that breaks down and recycles damaged molecules and cell parts. This housekeeping keeps cells fresh, minimizes the unnecessary reproduction of new cells (which is a source of diseases like cancer), can help prevent neurodegeneration, and is an additional cellular defense against bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Obviously, there is no real way to test if I will be healthier long-term with or without fasting but the studies seem to point to significant potential health benefits and no real downsides (as long as you do it in a healthy and reasonable way).

The final reason is a little bit vainer. It is a great way to burn off some extra fat. After the second day of fasting my glycogen stores were empty and my body converted to fat burning mode. I kept my exercise routine which means I probably burnt about .75 – 1  lbs per day of just fat. I actually weigh 8.4 lbs less today than I did when I started the fast but I imagine I’ll gain 3-4 lbs back when I start restoring my glycogen and water. According to my scale, I lowered my body fat percentage by about .5% in the last few days. If I can keep running calorie neutral or with a deficit that reduction in fat will be permanent. Contrary to popular opinion, your body does not really burn muscle during fasting. Converting protein from muscle into fuel is a much more difficult process than tapping into our fat stores. Fat exists in our body to be used during times of need, muscle exists for a very different reason.

The next question I receive after “Why the fuck?” is “How is it going? Aren’t you hungry”?

It went pretty well. The first day was fine. I normally don’t eat until 1 pm or so and it was pretty easy to just not eat for the rest of the day. I ran 8-miles that morning and it went well (but I still had full energy stores from eating the night before).

Day two I felt a bit sluggish with a bit of a “meh” feeling. It actually reminded me of a mild form of MDMA hangover. I was able to get everything accomplished and was reasonably productive but I didn’t really have a desire or passion for things. My 2-mile run that day was kind of uncomfortable. I just felt like I was dragging ass. I was hungry most of the day and consumed copious amounts of decaf coffee, green tea, and vegetable broth to help keep feeling full. Oh, I should probably mention that every day I took a multi-vitamin each day and drank water with electrolytes in it.

Day three things started to get easier. I wasn’t really hungry and my 5-mile run went pretty well. I also went to the gym and did a solid upper body workout. I didn’t have a ton of energy for the workout but I got through it and my chest and arms are still sore, which is a pretty good sign. I started having a real sense of peace, calmness, and clarity on day three. I was really productive at work, was motivated, and able to concentrate on things.

Day four I was really in a groove. The hunger was completely gone. I still wanted to eat as a way to get pleasure or distract myself from work or stress, but I wasn’t truly hungry. Due to this, I was able to assess why I wanted food and act accordingly. My 2-mile run was really rough but that was because I had a tough morning workout with my personal trainer that day, I had plenty of energy but I lacked muscle strength. During my daily walks (I usually do 2-3 per day) I had a strange sense of “lightness”. I felt like I was floating or that my perspective was actually about 2 inches higher than it normally is. My body felt slightly unattached to my mind. It was almost like a light disassociative feeling that I’ve felt on ketamine (my god, are all my life references really related to drug use? That’s kinda awesome). It was really euphoric and I actually still feel it right now as I sit here on the morning of day 5.

Now that this is complete I am turning my mind to the next steps and whether this experience is going to change my routine.

Yes, yes it will, in a couple ways.

First, I’m going to try and shrink my daily eating window. I’d love to get down to a 5-hour or 4-hour window to maximize autophagy and fat burning during my day-to-day life. The only exception to this window, as is always the case, is if I have something awesome to do. I’m not going to miss out on brunch with friends, going to a beer festival, etc. just because I have a day-to-day fasting habit. My goal is to be on point about 80% of the time. I gotta love life as well as live it.

Second, I am going to try and do an 80-120 hour fast once a month. I might go beyond 120 hours as a mental experiment but it isn’t that important to me. As I’m feeling right now I don’t think that would be much of a struggle. Once the hunger passes I am not really pushing myself mentally and the autophagy and health benefits can be gained in a more pleasurable way by implementing 42-hour fasts. Which brings us to my next point…

Lastly, I think I’m going to start having a 42-hour fast 1-2 times per week. So, my plan for next week is roughly this:

Well, I think that is all my thoughts on this fast. If you have any questions feel free to email me or send me an anonymous message (see below). And if you are interested in reading more science and details about fasting check out “The Complete Guide to Fasting” by Jason Fung and Jimmy Moore.

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail about life in general?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address:
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions: or
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

A Moment of Mindfulness

Oh, I’ve had my moments, and if I had to do it over again, I’d have more of them. In fact, I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments, one after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day. – Nadine Stair

Every Friday I take a Lyft down to the VA medical center to sit in a circle with a half-dozen other people and focus on mindfulness meditation. I’ve tried many, many, many times to create a practice for myself without any particular support or guidance and I’ve always burnt out. That doesn’t seem to be happening this time around.

I’m three weeks into the eight-week course and I’ve managed to create time to sit and meditate nearly every day for at least 20 minutes. Sometimes that meant I had to set the alarm for 20 minutes earlier or not watch an episode of Numb3rs on Hulu, but it has been worth it. Those struggling moments of silence where I try to live in the moment have been way more beneficial than a few minutes of sleep or mindless tv.

While I find the time I set aside specifically for meditation to be beneficial, I think that the way it is creeping into my daily life is even more impactful. I find myself remembering to live in the moment in day to day tasks and it has made my life richer.

When walking the dog I notice the details of the street and trees more. I am trying to remember to leave my phone at home when I go outside. Instead of listening to music or podcasts or whatever I am trying to really take in my surroundings and empty my mind of thoughts about the future or past or fantasies or aspiration or fears (Spoiler: I am rarely able to do this for more than a few seconds at a time, but the attempt is worth it).

When eating food I focus on the smells, taste, and texture in a way that I never have before. Do you know what it is like to sit down to a meal with no tv, phone, music, or distractions and focus on every bite of that meal? I didn’t until I started trying to live more mindfully. Eating is a much more intimate and complex process than I ever imagined and I am learning things about my body that surprise me. A nice little side effect is that I’m eating a more healthy amount each meal. Just taking the time to lift the spoon to my mouth, savor the smell for a moment, put the food in my mouth, set the spoon down, and enjoy eating for a few seconds has helped prevent me from eating more than my body needs. I get distracted all the time and probably only truly mindfully eat one bite out of every five, but it is still progress.

Just recently I was sharpening my kitchen knives and I found myself noticing the subtle smell in the air, the warmth of the sharpener, and the complex sounds of the blade grinding on diamond. I had never really noticed that all before, it was a symphony of sensations that brought back a memory from deep in my past.

When I was in the Army I served in Afghanistan as a SAW gunner. Every day I would sit down, take apart my weapon, and give it a good cleaning. This daily maintenance wasn’t necessary but I enjoyed doing it. I am not really a gun enthusiast. I don’t find them to be particularly interesting or important, I don’t collect them or read about them. I own one handgun because I think it is important to take personal responsibility for our own safety, but the most I’d ever own is three weapons (a handgun, a rifle, and a shotgun) because they can each serve a unique protective purpose. But, to be honest the rifle and shotgun are more of a “post-apocalyptic zombie the world has descended into chaos” weapons. So, I’m in no hurry to get them.

Anyway, one day my team leader came over to me and mentioned that he thought I must love cleaning my weapon. I tried to explain that wasn’t the case, that I did it because there was something peaceful and calming about the process. I realize now that I was actually entering a state of mindful meditation. My mind was fully wrapped into cleaning dust out of all the small crevices and each day was a new exploration. I was accidentally employing the seven foundational attitudes of mindfulness (these are taken from “Full Catastrophe Living” by Jon Kabat-Zinn).

Non-judging: Close attention to the moment-to-moment experience without getting caught up in opinions, likes, or dislikes. I didn’t think about whether I was doing a good job cleaning or if I liked cleaning, I was just cleaning.

Patience: Realizing that things happen in their own time and rushing them is rarely beneficial and often harmful. I wasn’t in a hurry to get my weapon cleaned up, if I was I would likely miss key parts that could cause the weapon to fail when used.

Beginner’s Mind: Living each moment and pursuing each task as if it is the first time you’ve ever done it, because in many ways it is. Each experience you have is different than the ones before because you are different. Each day I worked on my weapon I found new places that dust hid or that needed attention, each day the weapon and I were brand new and that cleaning was the first (and only) that would happen.

Trust: Realizing that our own intuition and our own authority have value. I cleaned my weapon daily because it was what I knew to be right for me, even if those in command didn’t make that a standard practice.

Non-Striving: Doing a task without a goal in mind. This one doesn’t really apply to my example and it is the one I struggle with most during my practice. I find myself striving for peace, calmness, inspiration, etc. instead of just practicing to be in the moment.

Acceptance: Seeing things as they actually are in the present.  My body is the way it is and I can’t really move to improve it until I accept that.

Letting Go: This is really non-attachment to our thoughts, lives, relationships, experiences, and everything else. It is natural for our minds to try desperately to hold onto certain things because they give us pleasure or pain.

I would love to find a task today that I can naturally fall into with such intention. But, if I can’t find one then I will keep working on applying mindfulness to my daily life. Each run, each glass of water, each orgasm, each shower, each floor swept is an opportunity to pay attention to life. Life is only lived in the moment, it is all we have, the future and past do not exist and they are not worthy of our time.

I’ll end with more from “Full Catastrophe Living” by Jon Kabat-Zinn:

When it comes right down to it, the challenge of mindfulness is to realize that, “This is it.” Right now is my life. This realization immediately gives rise to a number of vital questions: “What is my relationship to my own life going to be? Does my life just automatically ‘happen’ to me? Am I total prisoner of my circumstances or my obligations, my body or my illness or my past, or even of my to-do lists? Do I become hostile, defensive, or depressed if certain buttons get pushed, happy if other buttons are pushed, and anxious or frightened if something else happens? What are my choices? Do I have any options?”

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail about life in general?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address:
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions: or
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

Week 11 Update

Have you ever had one of those mornings when the universe just seems right? Where you wake up with a sense of motivation, clarity, and optimism?

I can’t recall having many but today was one of those days. I don’t know what caused it. Maybe the reduced stress from finally closing on our house has opened up some room in my brain. Maybe the weekly group mindfulness meditation session I’ve been going to has started to have an effect. Maybe I just got a really good nights sleep.

The reason is really unimportant. What matters is that I woke up ready to be productive and had an intuitive idea of what my priorities should be and some of the changes I need to make. As is the case with most my good days I started by scheduling my day, a little journaling, and The Daily Stoic. Here is today’s passage from Epictetus’ Discourses (4.12.1; 19)

“When you let your attention slide for a bit, don’t think you will get back a grip on whatever you wish – instead, bear in mind that because of today’s mistake everything that follows will be necessarily worse… Is it possible to be free from error? Not by any means, but it is possible to be a person always stretching to avoid error. For we must be content to at least escape a few mistakes by never letting our attention slide.”

My interpretation? Small decisions matter. Our trajectory can be altered by little things. We must be ever vigilant. But how can we do so? For me, it is a multi-tiered attack. Part of the problem is neurological and biochemical, for that I have Buproprion to help. But that is not enough, I need to practice mindfulness through meditation to strengthen my attention neuro-networks. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, I need to set myself up for success by altering my environment. I must remove those things that are working against my attention, the things that may feel good in the moment but in reality waste my life.

To quote Seneca again, “You are afraid of dying. But, come now, how is this life of yours anything but death?”


While I don’t think my life is only death, there are moments when I have retreated to death. I have adopted practices that waste these very precious moments. My time is spent staring at screens, scrolling through feeds, and checking emails when my time could be spent reading books, connecting with people, and engaging in deep work. I keep pretending that I can half-ass it. That my life will somehow keep moving in the direction I want it too on hopes and dreams alone even as my habits barely change. I’ve known what I need to do for a while, but out on my run today it became crystal clear.

As Marcus Aurelius says in Meditations, “This is the mark of perfection – to spend each day as if it were your last, without frenzy, laziness, or pretending.”

Frenzy, laziness, pretending. Anxiety, comfort, fantasy. How often have I spent my hours, days, and weeks engaged in frenzy, laziness, and pretending? How many moments in my life have ticked away wasted? Will I be perfect? Fuck, no. But perfection, like all philosophical goals, is a target worth pursuing even when you have full knowledge that it can never be reached. It is to enjoy the path with no hope for the destination.

So, it is time for a radical change.

The first step is to get rid of social media and staying informed, which is, by far, the biggest drain on my time and energy. Have you noticed that it isn’t just the time wasted? When I turn off Facebook I never feel better or more enlightened than when I started. I feel worse, depressed, gross. I know some people have a much healthier and productive relationship with it… I don’t. It just doesn’t serve a purpose for me anymore.

Here are my concrete changes:
– Logging off Facebook for at least the rest of 2018. The only exception to this is to participate in the End-of-Life duola training that I need to complete before the conference next year. I have changed my password to random jibberish and given the only copy of it to my partner. She will only give it to me for acceptable use. I have tried to restrain myself but I am not yet strong enough.
– I’ve taken Instagram, email, and other social networks off my phone. The only exception is SnapChat because the temporary nature of it doesn’t lend itself to unhealthy practices. I am also keeping PokemonGo, but I’m not sure if that counts as a “social network”.
– I’ve informed my boss that I will not be answering emails after 6pm, before 9am, or on weekends unless it is an absolute emergency. He will need to call or text me to inform me of the issue.
– Whenever I’m doing things with other people, whether it is grocery shopping with my partner, watching a movie, or playing board games with friends, my phone will not be on me.
– No phone at all within one hour of bedtime (usually 10pm)

For people who wish to get a hold of me, my phone and email are still available during appropriate time periods.

Whew, I didn’t mean to open this up with such a big rant about a major change in my life. Here are the other bullet points from the last two weeks in my life.

  • Finally closed on our house. For the curious, you can check it out here on Zillow. It is a little terrifying to add another ~$55,000 to my debt but at least I have something worth about $75,000 to me to make up for it.
  • My meditation group has been going super well and I love having some guidance, structure, and homework.
  • We went to a vegan festival here in Wilmington last weekend that was a lot of fun. Two of our closest friends came up to visit and we had a great time at the festival and playing the Harry Potter board game afterward.
  • The “no added sweetener and no alcohol” goal for April is going really well. The only exception to this rule was the vegan festival and the two days of unexpected recovery (see below). My partner and I are both committed to maintaining this experiment by not keeping anything with added sweetener in the house (with maybe a single “cheat” day a month or something) and minimizing alcohol in the house. If it isn’t readily available during my moments of weakness then I won’t consume it.
  • After our friend’s left Saturday night I decided to take a little MDMA. I kind of told myself that it was to test a new product, but the truth is I just wanted to do it. It is weird how I try to make an excuse for rolling in a way that I wouldn’t for alcohol. If I had a couple glasses of wine (or a six-pack of beer) because it was a stressful week most people would accept that, but tell someone you take a dose of Molly because it was a busy week and there is more judgment.
  • Then, on Sunday, I rolled again. This was much more planned and coordinated. It was a lot of fun (as it always is when you dump your serotonin into your brain). It is such a beautiful experience and I really support anyone who wishes to try it (but be safe… ask me for more details if you want).
  • The downside of rolling two days in a row is the hangover was a little rough. I had the “third-day blues” a bit but the day after wasn’t bad. I think the stuff we used was cleaner or something. Regardless, it is still WAY better than an alcohol hangover.
  • I kind of regret getting Poncho. I have no idea how to deal with a cat and it is SO FUCKING ANNOYING when an animal is roaming the house for literally hours meowing. He wants to go outside but that isn’t a realistic option and there is no way (that I know of) to train him to shut his mouth. He also destroys stuff a lot. I don’t think we will get a second cat.
  • Taxes are the worst and I hate them. I had to postpone paying my Federal taxes because I am being royally screwed and want to talk to an attorney or accountant or something. It pains me so much to see how much money I’ve paid in taxes in the last decade and know that if that money was mine I would have paid off all my loans and I would be actually stimulating the local economy instead of bombing brown children and padding the pockets of the military-industrial complex. Somehow we can bail out banks but not people. Shit like this is why I’m an anarchist.

Hmm… that ended kind of on a bummer. Sorry about that. Here is my fitness progress for Week 11. I’m definitely pleased with my progress and I feel it is time to shift away from weight loss and more into heavier weights. I’ve got a 12-mile trail race coming up in May but after today’s 8-mile run I’m not too worried about that. I’m more interested in getting my BF % into the 10% range and look a little like my fellow people, like this or this (not really, I don’t have the time for that but I’d like to head in that direction). I gotta get fit for beach season and hanging out with friends naked and nude beaches/bike rides/skinny-dipping, and group sex. Besides, I feel an ethical obligation to stay as healthy as possible for my partner and other loved ones. But mostly, I just like to feel comfortable naked.


Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail about life in general?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address:
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions: or
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”


PS: I didn’t do a Week 10 update because I wasn’t really feeling it and I’ve been super busy and stressed. It just wasn’t a good week for me to do one.

Putting Down the Pen

For years now I have told myself and others that I was a writer and I wanted to make a career out of that. The potential to craft stories and worlds that impact people the way Tolkien and King and Lewis impacted me. Universes swirl around in my head that touch on our reality and inspire me in my day-to-day life.

But I haven’t written a damn word* (So, dear blog reader, this change will actually have zero impact on you because I haven’t actually shared anything as a writer)

It isn’t simply writer’s block or not knowing what I should do. The truth is, it isn’t really important to me at this point in my life. That is a truth that has been difficult for me to admit and accept. I have wrapped my identity around being a (future) writer so much that it has lead to stress and anxiety and heartbreak.

So, I’m putting down the pen (err… keyboard) and am no longer going to view writing as a career I strive for. I am still going to blog daily (mostly) because I really enjoy this format for spewing my thoughts out into the ether. I get a lot of joy out of blogging and sharing, it usually comes naturally even on the days when I’m just keeping the habit alive. I never felt that with my fiction writing. The truth is, I think the world’s in my mind are better suited for a video game or D&D style RPG or something.

Regardless, there is a stinging bitter relief that comes from laying down this burden. I have known for quite a while that I need to let this go and I’m finally ready. Maybe someday in the future, I will find myself longing to write a novel or short story or something but for now, I am going to focus on other things.

I don’t know what will take writing’s place in my headspace. I don’t know what costume I will wear instead of “writer”. I still lack a truly artistic outlet and maybe this is a chance to explore dance or painting or drawing or photography or music. I am also starting massage therapy school in a few months and am going to an end-of-life doula training session next month, so those experiences may provide me with some guidance.

There is a whole world out there for me to explore and I realize I had chained myself to an identity that does not serve me at this point. Maybe it will in the future, maybe it won’t, but I’m glad I mustered the strength to cast off a piece of myself that has caused me more suffering in the past few years than pleasure.

* Except for a memoir about my bike ride, but that isn’t really what I think about when I envision myself as a writer.

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail about life in general?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address:
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions: or
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

A Response

I got a response to my blog post from yesterday from (I assume) the submitter.

“I was drunk when I sent that last one”

That’s cool, I don’t judge. I think drunk people say what sober people think. It brought out a bit of your subconscious. I think drugs (and I include alcohol in this category because it is a drug) can be powerful tools that help you figure out what you really desire out of life. One of the reasons I love MDMA is it breaks down the barrier between who I am and who I want to be. It helps me come to terms with my feelings, my sexuality, and passions in life. In some ways, it is similar to alcohol because it lowers inhibitions but in my experience, it never lowers inhibitions to the point where you will do something you regret. It gives you the insight and courage to pursue your interests and ask questions (of yourself and others) that you want answers to. If you are my friend on Snapchat you may have received some of these random questions from me while I’m rolling.

Of course, drugsan also bring to the surface some pretty bad parts of our psyche that manifest themselves in harmful ways. Our past and demons we haven’t dealt with can rear their ugly heads. So, this tool isn’t for everyone but I know my life has, overall, been greatly enhanced by drugs and alcohol. I am not only an advocate of their legalization, I am an advocate of their use.

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail about life in general?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address:
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions: or
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

A Message

A couple of days ago I received the following anonymous message using the Sarahah service. It has been quite a while since I got one of these but I am really glad I did. I love communicating with friends and such, and I think an anonymous submission allows a degree of freedom that doesn’t exist when identities are known. If you would like to send me an anonymous message the links are at the bottom of this post. Also, if you’d like to read my previous questions and responses (I think there is over 100 at this point) I keep them all on my website on this page. Fair warning, a good deal of them are sex and relationship advice… which I actually love giving, so hit me up with your freaky questions 🙂


“I don’t know why, but I almost religiously read your blog posts. Why do you fascinate me? I don’t know. Is it because you live the life I secretly wish I could? Sometimes I disagree strongly. Mostly, I agree strongly.”

First off, thank you for reading my ramblings. It feels good to know that I’m not just screaming into the online ether here.

I’m not sure why you read it religiously… isn’t that a weird way to say it? I mean, I get the history behind it but I feel like using the word scientifically would be better. Religiously seems to imply following something out of tradition or because an authority figure tells you to without question. Scientifically would imply that you follow something thoroughly and adjust as needed to improve your life.

Anyway, unnecessary rant.

I am kind of honored that you find me fascinating. I find myself kind of dull most of the time. If you wish to live a life more like mine then I think you should go for it. I am not a unique or special person and my life is something that most people could replicate to some extent. It doesn’t require much money or resources or anything.

Sure, you may have made decisions in the past that may require some modification (like decided to raise a child or get married to someone or buy a house) but overall, my life is easy to replicate. Just be unapologetically yourself and get rid of things/people that don’t serve you.

Does your job suck? Quit.

Do you want to bike across the country? Start peddling.

Do you want to share your kinks and desires and raise your freak flag high? Start a blog… anonymously or stand proudly by who you are.

Interested in trying a drug or pegging or an open relationship or skydiving or sending nudes via Snapchat? Consult with any consenting adults that you need to consult and go for it.

You only live once. If you secretly wish you could live like me then I encourage you to give it a shot. I didn’t become who I am by jumping into everything at once, it was a lot of baby-steps. With each step I saw the world wasn’t as scary as I thought, the risks weren’t as extreme as I imagined, and for every secret desire there is a community of like-minded people who share that desire and would welcome you with open arms. The world would rather hug you than hurt you, and we are in desperate need of people who live unapologetically out loud and true to themselves. Don’t hide, you are beautiful and a gift to society if you live the life you truly want.

But, don’t necessary follow in my footsteps. Like you said, there are things you strongly disagree with me about (I wish I knew what they are, I’d love to hear your thoughts). Embrace those disagreements, analyze them, refine your arguments, test them against your logic and the logic of others. We grow stronger and more independent when we look at someone we respect and love and say “I disagree”.

You are awesome and I’m glad you sent me this message. I hope you are having a wonderful day, week, month, year and life. And I hope you reach out to me again. But mostly, I hope you live your life true to yourself, try new things, and shine brightly.

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail about life in general?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address:
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions: or
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

The Practice That Keeps Calling Me Back

I’ve tried to develop many different skills and habits in my life. Music, dance, learning a foreign language, painting, fire dancing, coding, and several others are all things that I’ve dabbled in from time-to-time. None of them really stuck and, to be honest, I never really felt enough passion to push through with them. For example, I may have a vague love of the concept of learning to play an instrument but it never develops beyond buying a bass guitar, fiddling with it for a few minutes occasionally, and then letting it gather dust in the corner.

I love the idea of learning new skills or improving my life or creating something more than I actually love the act of learning new skills, improving my life, or creating something. I think the disconnect comes from not being convinced of the long-term benefits of these interests. I have a very difficult time viewing any of these things as having value beyond the process itself. I guess I’m too “goal oriented” in this respect (huh, this is the first time I’ve come to this conclusions… this is why I love writing my thoughts out).

Anyway, one area where I have consistently come back to over the last several years is mindfulness meditation. I feel like I fail at it constantly and the practice is difficult for me to keep up with most days, but I keep trying because I’m convinced by the science that it can improve my life. Also, it seems that the world’s high performers all practice some sort of meditation or at least all the ones that talk with Tim Ferriss do.

With regular practice mindfulness meditation has been shown to:

  • Decrease anxiety, depression, and irritability
  • Memory improves, reaction times become faster, and both mental and physical stamina increase
  • Help create better and more fulfilling relationships
  • Reduce key indicators of chronic stress, including hypertension
  • Reduce the impact of serious conditions such as chronic pain and cancer
  • Relieve drug and alcohol dependence
  • Bolster the immune system to fight colds, the flu, and other diseases

That all sounds great but if you are like me that fifth point should give you some pause. Cancer? Can it help with cancer? That is a huge red flag. As Dr. Sydney Mcelroy from the amazing medical history podcast, “Sawbones” says, “If something claims it can cure everything than in reality it can cure nothing.” There are no medical panaceas and inflated claims of treating cancer usually means that someone is a snake-oil salesman (sidenote: this is one of my main issues with marijuana advocates, they tend to rely on shitty science or untested hypothesis to treat the drug as a cure-all which only discredits the actual medicinal uses of it).

So, to discuss the seemingly magical properties of meditation. First, it doesn’t cure anything but it can help reduce problems with serious issues. It is not a substitute for medical care but it is a free supplement that won’t cause any harm.  For those interested in the actual study on meditation and cancer the article is “A randomized, wait-list controlled trial: the effect of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction program on mood and symptoms of stress in cancer outpatients,” Psychosomatic Medicine, 62, pp 613-22 by Speca, Carlson, Goodey, and Angen.

Basically, meditation helps with stress and because stress fucks us up so bad and can really affect our health the meditation has a nearly universal benefit. But, like all things, it should be met with healthy skepticism and new research should be considered. At the very least though, I’m confident saying that there is no harm in starting a meditation practice and I think there is the potential for huge benefits.

So, I’m diving back into it again but this time I have more support than in the past. My therapist recommended that I join a mindfulness meditation group at the VA that meets weekly and I decided to do it. It is an interesting experience being in a group therapy session, I’ve never done something like this before. I think it will be good for me though, at the very least it will be good to have an explicit plan laid out for me so that I’m not just bouncing around on my own. I’m sure I’ll have more to report on during the eight weeks of the program.

If you are interested in trying mindfulness or reading about it here are my favorite resources on the subject, or you can send me a message (contact info below):

  • “Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World” by Mark Williams and Danny Penman – The plan I’m using over the next eight weeks
  • “Why Buddhism is True” by Robert Wright – A scientific and secular look at many of Buddhisms claims and practices, including meditation
  • Headspace app – My ‘go to’ for guided meditation, there are tons of different courses and they have a new meditation each day
  • “Full Catastrophe Living” by Jon Kabat-Zinn – A beast of a book that I haven’t read yet but was recommended for the group therapy program I’m in
  • “Hardcore Zen” by Brad Warner – A free-wheeling, DIY discussion of zazen Buddhism and meditation. It is more story than practice but shows how meditation helped the author.
  • “Run For Your Life” by William Pullen – Taking mindfulness off the cushion and into the world
  • “10% Happier” by Dan Harris – A memoir-style book by journalist Dan Harris that discusses how meditation helped him after having a panic attack on the air
  • “Everyday Zen” by Charlotte Joko Beck – An application of meditation to psychology
  • “Mind Over Mood” by Dennis Greenberger and Christine Padesky – Another recommendation from my therapist, I haven’t read it yet.

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail about life in general?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address:
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions: or
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”