I kind of know what I’m doing!

A friend of mine recently asked for some book recommendations for overall health and wellness. I’m no nutrition expert (but I have one as a partner) but I’ve done a fair amount of personal experimentation and research. The books that really impacted me were not really traditional health and fitness books. For specific exercises and such I tend to just grab something online to act as a guide. The books I read did serve as a huge source of motivation, which for me is much more important than the details. Here are the top books for me (in the order I read them):

“The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest” by Dan Buettner – Research into areas of the world that have a disproportionately high number of healthy centenarians. Buettner looks for common practices that seem to lead to longevity. The book is worth a read but if you’d like a summary of what Buettner discovered let me know and I’ll send you a list.

“Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen” by Christopher McDougall – This is one of two books that really made me realize how amazing the human body is and what our potential can be. It is also what got me running, something I HATED doing (and I now I only kinda dislike it). Realizing that we are relatively recent descendants of people who walked across continents and chased down elk to kill them with spears is really empowering. The genetic code to do those things are still inside us all.

“What Doesn’t Kill Us: How Freezing Water, Extreme Altitude, and Environmental Conditioning Will Renew Our Lost Evolutionary Strength” by Scott Carney – This is the other book that sparked an appreciation for my body and it is the one that inspired me to run without a shirt, even in 30-degree weather like today. The basic premise is that our comfortable living has really prevented important parts of our anatomy from being exercised. We have systems in place to help with cold like creating brown adipose tissue that develops in cold temperatures, brown adipose tissue also improves glucose homeostasis and insulin sensitivity, bone health and density, reduces obesity, and creates irisin. Basically, we have neglected systems that are necessary for overall health but can get them back through certain practices.

“The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg – Basically, what habits are and how to change them. This was pretty instrumental in me developing a running and nutrition routine and sticking to it. I still kind of suck at habit creating and breaking, but this book helped.

“The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living” by Ryan Holiday – Not only does this provide a lot of wisdom but having a quick morning reading helped me develop an overall health routine consistently.

“The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day, and Extended Fasting” by Jason Fung – This is probably the only book that I’d really classify as health and nutrition. Dr. Fung looks at the data and shows the benefits of fasting. There is also a great documentary on YouTube called “Eat, Fast, & Live Longer” from the BBC that actually inspired me to look into it and eventually start an intermittent fast routine.

Honorable Mention: “How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease” by Michael Gregor, MD – I haven’t actually read this book but I have flipped through it from time to time. It is more of a reference book than something to read through. The chapters are things like “How Not to Die from Brain Disease”, “How Not to Die from Heart Attacks”, which I find a little hyperbolistic (apparently not a real word) but the information is backed by research. Literally the last 150 pages is just referencing and notes. The book also includes a summary of best practices for overall health.

Also, here are some general tips that have worked for me. After reading tons of “self-help” books I know that you can find contradictory advice pretty easily, so this stuff may not help you, but it certainly works for me.

  • Share struggles and successes on social media. It kind of feels like bragging but it is motivational to me to share post-run pics on Instagram or send a Snap to others that I know are exercising or trying to improve their lives. That endorphin rush from likes and comments can keep you going. Side note: did you know that “endorphin” is an contraction for “Endogenous morphine”, it is literally an opioid created by our bodies. Aren’t bodies the coolest?!?!?!?
  • Get up early. You gotta do the tough stuff in the morning when your mental energy levels are at their highest. As the day goes on the desire and drive to do tough things diminishes. For me, this is exercise and meditation, if I don’t do it before work or anything else then it usually doesn’t get done.
  • Food groups, not macros or calories. Basically, focus on a micronutrient complete day. My daily goals are 3 servings of nuts/seeds, 3 servings of fruit (at least on being berries), 3 servings of leafy green vegetables, 3 servings of non-leafy green vegetables, and 3 servings of legumes. After I hit all those marks, I’m usually at about 1600-1800 calories.
  • Experiment and track. I’ve tried different forms of fasting, nutritional systems, and exercise routines. I’m a big data geek so I track things like weight, mood, calorie inputs, time exercised, water consumed, etc. I find it interesting and it keeps things in perspective for bad days, either the bad day is a fluke and should be ignored or it is part of a pattern and change is needed.
  • Drink water. This clearly is not revolutionary, but it may be one of the most important things I do. Every night before going to bed I fill a growler with water and set it on my desk and I don’t go to bed until it is empty.
  • Go to bed early. I try to be in bed by 10pm every night and my alarm goes off at 6am, so I get a full 8 hours of sleep and I have enough time in the morning to reach my goals.
  • Prep your morning ahead of time. I try and make my morning coffee, decide on my exercise route, set out my exercise clothes, prepare my alter area (I meditate/pray at an alter in the morning), and basically do all I can to make the morning less draining. Waking up early sucks, I hate it, and every little bit that can make it less troublesome is good.
  • Minimize your decisions. This is kind of only tangentially related to physical health, but it helps me. I basically only own 2 pairs of jeans and a dozen t-shirts (either colored with no pattern or some logo from a 5k or something). The decision-making process for getting dressed is non-existent, I spend no mental energy doing it. Steve Jobs had the same technique, that’s why he is always wearing a black turtleneck, he very consciously decided not to waste any mental energy on things that did not significantly improve his life. You can actually standardize a lot of things. For example, two of my three meals each day are basically the same thing: a protein shake and a veggie scramble with legumes. I’ll change the spices I use, which fruits are in the shake, which legumes I use, etc, but it is a standard meal that I can make ahead of time, portion out, and just grab and eat.
  • Use stupid apps for motivation. I use “Pokémon Go” and go to stops, hunt for Pokémon, and take over gyms on my run. I also use “Run An Empire” and take over different castles and areas while running. I use Strava as well to track my runs and, as you may notice, I take a post-exercise picture every day. If there is a reward, app, or anything else that will push you to get out the door in the morning then take it. There is no shame in that.
  • Find lots of sources of motivation. I have a sheet that notes different sources of motivation, sometimes one is really motivating and sometimes it isn’t, that’s why variety is key. Mine includes things like: ethical duty to take care of body, honor the gift of my body that the gods gave me, feel confident at an orgy, abs, see my nieces and nephews have grandkids, live forever, run a ultramarathon someday, higher sex drive, climb a mountain, sleep better, look good naked, prevent obesity, etc…
  • Develop indirect healthy practices. It is surprising where momentum can come from, it can be the littlest things. Some days, when I remember to floss in the morning it sparks healthier habits throughout the day. Some key ones for me include flossing, having a clean house, meditating, reading, writing, and learning something new (usually just watching an educational YouTube video or Masterclass).

So, that is a long-winded run down of my thoughts. If you have any questions at all or if something is unclear please reach out to me.

Who will speak for the voiceless? The disappearance of Indigenous women and girls in the United States

Note: The data listed in this blog post comes from the recent “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls” report from the Urban Indian Health Institute. I did some basic analysis but they deserve all the credit for bringing this issue to light. The whole report is worth reading and this post is only a summary of some data that I decided to frame differently.

Additionally, the terminology I use, such as Indigenous, as opposed to Native American or American Indian, is due to what is in the report. Basically, I’m a white guy and I’m going to take direction from others about what the proper terms to use are.


The Urban Indian Health Institute identified 506 cases of missing or murdered Indigenous Women & Girls in the United States. That is a shocking number, but that is likely just a fraction of the cases that actually exist. You see, data is difficult to come by for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Lack of resources: UIHI was only able to reach out to 71 selected cities and couldn’t afford the FOIA fees
  • Lack of support from law enforcement: Only 40 out of 72 law enforcement agencies provided data
  • Lack of tracking: Out of the 5,712 cases reported in 2016 only 116 were actually logged in the Department of Justice database.
  • Racial Misclassification: Sometimes individuals are misidentified as part of the majority race. It is more likely that a law enforcement agency will just check the “White” box instead of the “Indigenous” box but the reverse isn’t true.

So, even with those limitations the numbers are astounding. Can you even begin to imagine what the numbers actually are if all law enforcement agencies complied with the FOIA requests for free and accurately tracked the murders? I can’t.

Before I get started on my calculations, here is the most terrifying stat I learned:  murder is the 3rd leading cause of death of Indigenous women. THIRD! 

There aren’t enough expletives to handle that.

Alright, no on to the numbers. I could just regurgitate data from the list but I wanted to do more and put some of that into perspective, specifically by diving into the city data. Here are the top 10 cities with the highest number of MMIWG cases:

  • Seattle, WA – 45
  • Albuquerque, NM – 37
  • Anchorage, AK – 31
  • Tucson, AZ – 31
  • Billings, MT – 29
  • Gallup, NM – 25
  • Tacoma, WA – 25
  • Omaha, NE – 24
  • Salt Lake City, UT -24
  • San Francisco, CA – 17

The first thing I wanted to do to get some perspective was to try and even out the comparison a bit. Trying to compare an event based only on raw numbers isn’t particularly informative, those cities have populations that range from less than 25,000 to 850,000. That’s why a lot of the comparisons between cities and states you see around the news are garbage, you need to break the data down into the smallest, most uniform geography possible (usually Census Tracts).

WHAT IS GOING ON IN GALLUP, NEW MEXICO??? The other numbers are bad but they are absolutely dwarfed by Gallup where an Indigenous woman or girl has a 1 in 1,000 chance of being murdered or missing.

As unacceptable as that is, it is actually much, much worse. Comparing the total population doesn’t tell us everything. These aren’t just missing or murdered people so comparing them to all people is misleading. These are Indigenous women, which means we should be comparing the numbers from the report to that specific population.

That is not an error, those are the numbers for 1 in 1,000. With this comparison we see that Gallup is not alone, Omaha has joined the top rung with SLC not far behind. In Omaha and Gallup, an Indigenous Female has over 2% chance of being murdered or going missing.

That’s 1 out of 50.

That is about 100 times more likely than dying in a car wreck.

Can you imagine if there was a city of 20,000 in the US where White women were disappearing or being murdered at that rate? There would be a national outcry. Federal agents would swarm in looking for a serial killer or to investigate corrupt police agencies covering things up. It would be all over the news until things changed.

The population of New York City was about 7.5 million in the late 70’s when Son of Sam was at large. He killed 6 people and injured 7 others, so fear felt by that city ended up reflecting a 2 out of a million chance of being injured. Can you imagine the fear that Indigenous women live with every day? There are only 1,411 Indigenous women in Omaha and 20 of them have been murdered or missing, I’m willing to bet every women alive knows one of those missing or murdered women.

East St. Louis, Illinois has the highest murder rate in the country with about 1 murder per 1,000 people. That city would have to see a 20-fold increase in murders to match Omaha and Gallup. I know people who wouldn’t dare step foot in East St. Louis because of the perceived danger, what kind of fear must these Indigenous women have when they go home or travel in their own city?

The city with the highest murder rate IN THE WORLD is Caracas. Their murder rate? One hundred and sixteen per 100,000, or 1.16 per thousand, barely more than East St. Louis and absolutely minuscule when compared to Indigenous women in Omaha and Gallup.

So, what should be done? I don’t know, but UIHI has some ideas (my thoughts in italic), including:

  1. Require tracking and reporting of murders. I can’t believe this isn’t a thing. Indigenous women can easily be left out due to jurisdictional issues and even the Feds aren’t required to track it.
  2. Allow Tribal nations to advocate for their citizens like other sovereign nations, just as our government would advocate if an American was killed or went missing. I imagine that if this many women were killed in a foreign country and there was a clear cover-up or no response we may actually go to war over it.
  3. Funding for research to support effective policies must increase.

I’m now thoroughly bummed, but this information is important. We can’t just pretend that this isn’t happening.

Post Script: If I messed up any calculations please let me know. I would love to be wrong about some of this.

Post Post Script: If anyone would like me to visualize any other part of the date using charts, graphs, or maps, I’m happy to do so. I just kind of slung this together but I can spend time making things a bit prettier if needed. Just email me at pjneiger@gmail.com.


 

Sources: Demographic data came from the 2012-2016 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates tables B01001C and DP05 . Death statistics came from this link. And here are the links to murders in East St. Louis and El Salvador.

November 28, 2018 – Morning Journaling (Tough Questions)

My morning readings today presented some tough questions from two different directions: personal and philosophical. Let’s start with the philosophical. I knocked out a few more pages of “30-Second Philosophies” and the one that really stuck with me is the discussion of Parfit’s Persons. I read several others such as Zeno’s Paradoxes, Chalmer’s Zombies, and a brief biography of Descartes but they didn’t really impact me.

The basic question from Parfit’s Persons is “what makes a person the same person over time?” There are some sci-fi ways to think about this. If my brain is swapped into another body, am I a different person? If I step on a transporter and an accident happens that creates two of me, which one is “me”? The latter was actually a plot from Star Trek: The Next Generation, I remember feeling a bit dissatisfied with their resolution (and really all the ethical issues that come with transporters) but it has been a while since I watched TNG.

Would you follow orders given by you, even if you thought that you were wrong?

 

Mental Note: Start watching TNG again.

As is pointed out in the book, this isn’t entirely a sci-fi issue though. Am I still “me” if I suffer brain damage and have a new personality, ethical foundation, and no memory of my past? Is that really substantially different from a body swap? Do we punish a consciousness that had no ability to prevent or impact a crime that took place? On a somewhat related note, how do you punish conjoined twins if one commits a crime that the other didn’t consent to or prevent? What about dissociative identity disorder where there may be two or more distinct consciousness inside one body, is it just to punish what one did while the other wasn’t in control?

Our bodies completely regenerate entirely every decade or so. There is not a single part of me that is the same as when I was 27, so am I still “me”?

I didn’t know it at the time, but one of my best friends and I actually had a discussion about this when we were in high school. At that time, we were both really into cars and the street racing aesthetic (think “Fast and Furious” but without all the ridiculous lights and million dollar budgets). We were in a auto parts store and I asked him when he thought a car stopped being the model that it started as.

If I swapped out the engine of my MR-2, is it still an MR-2? It would look the same but the internal system would be completely different.

What about leaving the internals the same but removing the body and putting a new one on so that it looked different. Is the cars identity only based on external appearance?

Does it take just one aspect (engine or body) to change the car to something else, or does it take over 50% of the parts? Over 90%?

While we can easily just call a car a hybrid between two or more other models, we can’t really do that with people. Am I a hybrid between child Peter, adolescent Peter, military Peter, college Peter, etc.? If so, how responsible am I for decisions made by someone who I am not fully (or possibly at all) part of?

I’m tens of thousands of dollars in debt because of decisions pre-25 year old Peter made before his brain was fully formed and he couldn’t fully understand the consequences of his actions. How much responsibility do I, a person who shares memories but little else, to pay those debts? How much should I also reap the benefits of those years that someone else lived?

Sidebar: I just realized that our legal system kind of does this already in a way. When my parents die they can’t pass on their debt to me, yes the debtors get a first shot at the estate but if there is additional debt it can’t be passed on to me or my siblings, but if there are additional resources those will be passed on to us. So, I will be made better by my parents good decisions but not made worse by their bad ones.

Of course, there are easy practical answers that seem to help society move more smoothly. My memories and a body that spawned from younger Peter is good enough. There could be chaos if we had a system that treated yesterday Peter different from today Peter. But just because a system is chaotic doesn’t mean it isn’t more just.

So, where do I actually stand on this? Like most things, I have a pragmatic and philosophical stance. Philosophically, I don’t know how much me is a sort of universal and unique “me”. Hell, maybe there really isn’t a “me” at all and the more eastern philosophical traditions are more accurate.

Pragmatically, I think we do need to generally treat future body/mind connections as if they are the same as previous body/mind connections, but with some additional leniency. We already kind of do this with crimes committed by children or teenagers but I think we cut that off at too young of an age. Encouraging marriage, child-rearing, and significant debt for people who can’t fully comprehend the consequences is dangerous and I think there should be systems in place to kind of reset any bad decisions (well, obviously not with children). So maybe find a more nuanced and middle ground to what we have now.

Whew, that was actually longer than I planned. Now on to the personal questions, which came from “The War of Art”.

This book is often a kick-in-the-ass and raises questions that I struggle to answer. Some of them are more rhetorical, but as I approach the end of the book I find myself with a desire to actually articulate my answers. I need to create a concrete response to try and prevent this from (again) becoming a self-help book that I quickly toss in a pile upon completion.

After today’s reading, I feel like a hack. A hack, according to Pressfield and Robert McKee, is someone who asks what the market is looking for instead of being authentic.

Holy tit balls. I was behaving like a hack and didn’t even know it. I often look at what magazines are looking for and then try to write a story that meets that requirement.

Looking for a 2,000 word short story about vampires? I’ll try that.

How about a 10,000 word story with a LGBT sci-fi theme? Worth a shot.

Does your magazine only publish stories of exactly 3,798 words that include a character name Dilman and takes place at Burning Man in the year 2123 while space aliens team up with Bigfoot to take over Atlantis? Cool, let’s see what I can pump out.

While these prompts can be good practice (maybe… or am I just trying to justify things?), using this technique I have produced and submitted exactly one piece of writing. One. Uno. Eins.

They haven’t inspired shit but they have taken away from the stories that are in my head. So, I’m going to do my best and really just tell my stories, do my work, and then submit what I have if/when it seems appropriate. I am going to stop looking for an audience.

Interestingly (or terrifyingly), most “real” jobs actually require you to be a hack. Your audience, whether it is your boss or a customer, determines what you do and create. Your artist is intentionally stifled, it is buried down and muted in order to make others happy. It is no wonder that so many people (myself included) get done with a day of working and don’t have the energy to paint, write, exercise, or parent; who we are and who we can become are put into a “temporary” coma every day and we expect (hope) that it will wake up ready to roll in the evening. I think it is no coincidence that one piece of near universal advice is to create art in the morning before your job. Wake up early and do your Work before you go to work. There is just no way you can get back after 9+ hours of commuting, suppression, and commuting, and then wake the Muse up.

Be who you are first and then be a hack to survive, or else you will never be who you are and will live your whole life a hack.

There are four questions in the pages that I read that I’ve decided to try and answer. I live so much of my life, especially my writing, kind of randomly and spur of the moment, I rarely sit down and try to figure things out in a concrete way. I usually just make a decision after a few moments of reflection, which has some benefits but has also held me back. This is an attempt to bring something more than that instinct to my writing.

  1. What do I myself want to write? It is funny, I’ve never really asked myself this question when it comes to my fiction writing. I write whatever the fuck I want here on my blog and on Facebook, but for some reason it never occurred to me to examine this question for my fiction. I want to write sci-fi  stories that tackle socio-economic-political-religious issues. I want them to be fairly optimistic about the future of technology and society. I also want to write fantasy stories based here on Earth that are rich and have some consistent realism about them. I also want all of my stories to reflect some of my own experiences from the military, a conservative upbringing, bisexuality, nomadic travels, etc.
  2. What do I think is important? I think it is important to provide an optimistic, if not utopian, view of where the world is going and what we could become. I think it is important to provide a realistic view of what war is and an environment that allows for representation of people who are rarely found within sci-fi and fantasy, especially with regard to sexual orientation, non-monogamy, and gender identity. Representation matters.
  3. What’s my territory? Pressfield talks about the difference between living hierarchical and territorial, and artists should be the latter. My territory right now is when I’m running, when I’m blogging, and when I’m giving advice or thoughts about sex and relationships. I want to expand my territory to pull all those things into a more united territory that I live professionally.
  4. If I were the last person on earth, would I still operate in those territories? Running and exercising? Yes, I’d still do that. That isn’t a huge part of my identity right now but it is becoming increasingly important to me. Blogging? Yeah, I’d still do that. Sex and Relationship Advice? Hmm, that might be difficult without an audience but I’d probably still heavily read and research and think about it. Finally, would I still write fiction? Would I keep moving into that territory? Yes. In fact, I think I’d do it more. I’ve been thinking too much about an audience, I need to just write. I need to do my Work, which is a concept I’m still trying to internalize 160 pages into “The War of Art”.

Well, that’s where my brain is at 6am on Wednesday morning. Now it is time to do some of my Work (running) and then come back to do more of my Work (writing) and then go do my job.

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

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

November 24, 2019 – Morning Journaling (Knowledge)

Socrates famously said “I know that I know nothing”. Well, he maybe said it. Who really knows? That was thousands of years ago. But the basic principle stands, we should be skeptical about what we are sure of in this world.

Today, in “30-Second Philosophies” I read about how philosophers have debated what knowledge is. Apparently, the standard account was pretty simple, for someone to know something it must meet three conditions:

  1. You must believe it
  2. It must be true
  3. Your belief that it is true must be justified

Kind of makes sense, though I definitely feel like I know some things that I don’t believe, particularly when it comes to mental health issues. But overall, it makes sense. You don’t “know” something if it is false and you don’t “know” something if your belief isn’t justified. Saying the sun is purple or saying you believe the sun is yellow because it is round like a lemon and all round things are the same is not knowledge.

Unfortunately, a lot of politico-religious beliefs in our society really ignore the second two points. Belief has become all that matters and truth and even justified belief has been thrown out the window. Really though, this has been going on for a long time. This standard account of knowledge was a replacement for the old standard, that knowledge is “revealed” by some divine force that just so happens to agree with whatever the people in power say.

In some ways, we still live in a world where many people believe knowledge is revealed and not justified. That truth is kind of irrelevant. I’m not sure how to address this. If two people cannot even agree on a middle ground of what is appropriate knowledge then where do you begin?

This really wouldn’t be an issue if we didn’t have systems in place that allowed people to have power over others. If knowledge was confined to just personal decision making then at least a lack of truth or justification wouldn’t directly harm others. Of course, I would love to help others get out of Plato’s cave but it least they wouldn’t be dragging people in with them or attacking those who try to leave.

Putting down an explicit definition certainly makes me reflect on the things that I “know”. The largest hurdle is really justifying a belief that things are true. Where is the threshold for a justification to be good enough to extract truth?

While I can say that I believe my partner loves me and point to many experiences to justify it, isn’t it possible that this is a big con that she’s pulling on me?

I also believe that a Basic Income Guarantee would be a net gain for society and can point to studies and theories to back it up, but the world is complex and dynamic and isn’t it possible I may be wrong?

I make a lot of decisions off of beliefs with varying degrees of justification. So where is the threshold? Is there some sort of mathematically stable point that applies to all situations, or is the answer an unsatisfying “it depends”?

Again, I’m left with more questions than answers, which I love. Because I “believe” that increasing my knowledge and challenging myself will make my life better. I hope at least that belief ends up being justified strongly enough to reflect truth.

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

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

November 23, 2018 – Morning Journaling (Incentives)

One of the most important concepts that I was formally introduced to while getting my degree in Economics is incentives. I think we are all familiar with the idea of incentives but it is really a powerful force in human behavior. In fact, you could even say that every decision we make is based on incentives to either avoid pain or gain pleasure. It is how we evolved, and it may be the ONLY way that life can evolve.

Unfortunately, our dumb lizard brains are not necessarily good at judging outcomes, particularly long into the future and we also tend to avoid examining decisions to make sure the perceived results are accurate. In a sense, incentives can be false or out-dated.

For example, there was a time in my life when going to church brought me joy. In fact, I still have sort of a subconscious happy tingly feeling at times when I think about it but I am confident that if I actually went to a church that was similar to my youth I would be very uncomfortable. The wiring in my subconscious has not caught up with the reality of my life today and it takes a conscious effort to realize that the perceived incentives are really a mirage. Incentives can be changed by our perception of them.

After yesterday’s day of gluttony the incentives of food and exercise are on my mind. For years of my life exercise has been treated as sort of a punishment for food consumption. I avoided food because I didn’t want the “pain” of exercise, the incentive to eat better was to avoid pain.

But I think that thinking was distorted, or maybe just too simple. Food is primarily a tool for greater health, but so is exercise. They are no more opposing forces than a hammer and a screwdriver. Both food and exercise complement each other and are necessary for health as both a hammer and a screwdriver are complimentary and necessary for construction. Sometimes you need nutrients and a strong heart, you need a way to put in nails and to put in screws.

Of course, all of these tools can be misused, that is why we need to use our conscious, logical mind to see what incentives accurately reflect the results we want. Sure, we gain pleasure from eating an entire apple pie in one sitting. That sugar tastes hella good. But if we want long-term pleasure then it is better to practice some moderation.

Not only will the negative consequences of bad health not materialize, but we will actually have quantitatively more pleasure from that pie if we eat it over several days. The first bite of any piece of food is stronger and more pleasurable and each bite after that has reduced pleasure. If I get 100 utils from my first piece of pie each day and then 80 utils from the second, 70 from the third, etc. Then if I eat a whole pie then I get 520 utils in a day… or I can get 800 utils by spreading it out over 8 days. My lizard brain wants it all at once but I can fight against nature and those incentives.

(Of course, it is more complicated than all that but I hope you get my point)

When it comes down to it, food should not primarily be a reward for exercise and exercise should not ever be a punishment for eating. Linking healthy behaviors in our mind with “punishment” is psychologically dangerous. Health and punishment should not be synonyms. In fact, I don’t really think “punishments” are a good way to change any behavior, ours or others, at least not in the long term. If they were then parents would only need to spank their children once.

Side note: I did a quick google search about this and it turns out that some research shows that negative incentives work better for younger people but positive work better for older people. I’m going to read into these studies a bit and I’m curious about how much we can actually infer from them.


Today, I added a new book to my morning reading routine. I realize that makes four books that I check out daily… which is starting to feel a little bit much for me, but yolo. The book, “30-Second Philosophies” is pretty awesome. It has 50 different philosophical principles summarized on one page. It really gets my brain juices flowing. I’ll probably do one a day and, when I want, share my thoughts about it.

The first chapter was on “Language and Logic”. I read that all yesterday and am still confused, so I don’t have anything to say about that. Today’s reading started the “Science and Epistemology” chapter and I kind of have more questions than answers, but maybe that’s a good thing.

The topic today is Descartes’ famous maxim, “I think, therefore I am”. Which is basically the only thing he is sure of, that because he is thinking he must exist. “I think” requires an “I”. This mostly makes sense to me, though it doesn’t really help us understand anything else about the world without agreeing to Descartes’ belief that he proved God exists too. Full disclosure, I haven’t read his proof but I’m slightly skeptical.

So, here are my questions and comments:

  • Is our own solitary existence the only thing we can be sure of? Is knowledge necessary binary, only “I know” and “I don’t know”, or is there value in using a spectrum like “I’m 80% sure” and “I’m 30%” sure?
  • Descartes seems to say that nobody can doubt that “I” exists, but I’m not sure I agree. Many Eastern philosophies seem to argue with the existence of “I”.
  • I also think it is possible that there are kind of many “I”s in each of us that may be able to operate independently as well as together. I kind of see it like colors. There is red, yellow, and blue that operate independently but yellow and blue can get together to make green, a seemingly unique color. Where is “I” located? What part can be removed or added to create “I”? Or does it require a mixture of parts that we don’t fully understand? I is convenient for language but I’m not sure that it is 100% grounded in reality or that simply thinking proves its existence. Does the internet exist in the same way “I” do? It is a collection of computers around the world, none of which are necessary for the internet to exist, so where is it?

Now my brain hurts. I love this feeling. Anyone want to chat about Descartes with me?

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

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

November 22, 2018 – Morning Journaling (Thanksgiving)

It is kind of funny. I woke up today and had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to blog about. That is pretty rare for me, usually my thoughts don’t really coalesce until I meditate, go for a run, do my readings, and/or some hours pass. Some days, the thoughts never come and I turn to a small list of “potential blog posts” that I have on a post-it note next to my computer.

But no, not today. I knew what the subject would be and, of course, my readings inspired another several potential posts. I thought about just adding them to the list but decided against it. The Muses are whispering in my ear, I’m not going to tell them, “Thanks, I’ll get to this tomorrow.” Instead, I’m going to try and touch on all the points. That means this may be a long post, or maybe it will just be a scattered one, I really won’t know until I get to the end.


In the US, today is Thanksgiving. This holiday, like many others, is a bastardized version of an agricultural festival, many of which have Pagan roots reaching back thousands of years. The word “Pagan” comes from the Latin words pagus and paganus meaning “country, district, villager, rustic”. There is a certain irony that people in rural places of the US, who tend to be very Christian and conservative, would have been called pagans in the pre-Christian Latin world.

But I digress…

I’m not a huge fan of holidays, especially ones that have such, umm, troubled beginnings. The US has linked Thanksgiving to early colonization of the continent and that cannot be divorced from genocide and enslavement. The meeting honored by the holiday of pilgrims and Native Americans coming together in peace had terrible consequences for the Native American population. I don’t know for sure, but I imagine that this day is not celebrated by many of the ~3 million Native Americans in the US.

Did you know that the traditional “first Thanksgiving” in 1621 was attended by Squanto, the last member of the Patuxet band of the Wampanoag tribe (whic was wiped out . Squanto learned English while a slave in England and his tribe was wiped out by plagues that may have come from colonizers… so that’s fun.

So, I have mixed feelings about today. I LOVE the idea of a day of thanks and reflection on the blessings in our lives, especially if it includes recognizing our privilege and working to improve the lives of other. Linking it to a harvest festival makes sense as we give thanks to the Earth for its bounty and the ability to live through another winter of harsh weather. But do we really need to link it to the Pilgrims and genocide? Can we not find a more inclusive way to celebrate the idea of “thanks” and “harvest”?

I’m not even sure this change would need to be a legal one, it can be a cultural shift. There is no reason that giving thanks and harvest can’t be celebrated without the Pilgrims. Or we could even tell a complete story and admit how terrible many of the results were. Is our society and patriotism so fragile that we must sugarcoat our history? That is what you do with children, not adults.

I will admit, Thanksgiving is less problematic than most holidays based on people. I stand by my previous statement that there should not be any holidays named after people. If there are things that person stood for then the holiday can be based on that. We can change:

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday to Civil Rights Day
  • George Washington’s Birthday to Leadership Day or something (TIL, “President’s Day” isn’t an official holiday, it is still “George Washington’s Birthday” according to law)
  • Columbus Day to Exploration Day

Etc… That makes holidays more inclusive. People are problematic and their negative actions (which range from minor to absolutely unforgivable in the list above) cannot be divorced from the person or the holiday. As much as the modern Federal government is treated more like a religion than anything else, I think we should avoid deifying people. If there are principles to celebrate and reflect on (and I think there are!) then let’s do that instead of trying to anthropomorphize ideas.

With all that criticism above I do want to honor the idea of thanks and the harvest. Here is an incomplete list of things that I’m thankful for:

  • My overall mental and physical health
  • My partner who continues to enrich my life in ways I couldn’t imagine
  • A secure job and housing
  • The health of my loved ones
  • The help I’ve received from my therapist
  • My dentist
  • Modern medication
  • The continued strengthening of my relationship with my parents and siblings
  • Poncho the Cat and The Higgins
  • Coffee and other drugs
  • Financial security
  • Those who challenged me and mentored me in the past
  • Books
  • My many friends around the world who accept me for who I am but don’t let me use that as an excuse for bad behavior

Whew, now on to the readings today that sparked some thought and reflection.

“Daily Affirmations for Forgiving and Moving On” – The quote from the end of today’s reflection is just sitting with me a little and I wanted to share.

Only in a house where one has learnt to be lonely, does one have this solicitation for things. One’s relation to them, the daily seeing or touching, begins to become love and to lay open to pain. – Elizabeth Bowen

 

“A Year with Rumi” – It has been a while since I quoted Rumi in this blog. Like I said before, I don’t really connect with his writing very easily. Today, things were a little different. “The Guest House” is probably one of his most famous poems but I think it is worth sharing again and reflecting on a bit.

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary  awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all.
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

It is so easy and natural to try and embrace positive emotions and suppress negative emotions. We welcome in joy, happiness, and love, but ignore or push down sorrow, disappointment, and hate. I don’t think we should necessarily act on these negative emotions but we can’t pretend they don’t exist. They are a result of some disruption of our psychological homeostasis, they need to be observed and, in a way, honored. They are a messenger and message, they are not the root of any problems.

We all have a darkness in us. That is one of the major lessons I got from one of my very few LSD experiences. I have a darkness, I am not a being of light or goodness, I am a mixture and I (like you) are closer to committing “evil” acts than is comfortable to admit. But we must admit this, we must observe and respect our darkness, if we don’t then it will grow powerful and toxic. Problems don’t go away by turning your back on them, that only guarantees that you won’t see them coming when they want to stab you.

 

“The War of Art” – The Muses are among us whispering inspiration into our minds. Are you listening? I’m usually not… But they keep trying and they are rooting for me. The blocks that come up are my own creation, not theirs. They live on a different plane of existence, they do not grow tired or impatient, but someday I will die and be beyond their reach. I honor them for their divine nature and pray to them, sustain me for my song. I don’t need sparks of inspiration, I need the strength to endure the time and hardships that are required for me to do my Work.

 

That’s all for today (maybe). I hope you all have a wonderful day that gives you a bit of what you need, whether that is time with your family eating or time alone or just a normal day. I love you.

 

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

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

 

November 20, 2018 – Morning Journaling (Brain Food)

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. So, yeah, this is just a blog. Talk to your doctor about changes to your diet and routine. But, if your doctor discourages you from exercise or eating fruits and vegetables or reducing stress or drinking water then they probably suck (in my non-professional opinion).

Last week, I went to the monthly “Whole Health Forum” that is put on by some local health professionals. It is basically a forum open to the public where 2-3 health professionals come in and speak for about 15-20 minutes on different subjects in their field. I am really happy I got over my nervousness and “new place anxiety” (thanks to therapy) to attend.

There were two speakers, one who spoke about the vascular system (blood flow) and one who spoke about neurological health. Basically, habits to help have a healthy blood system and brain system. There were definitely some “aha!” moments, as well as some “hmm, I’m going to need to do some independent research on that one” moments, and some “yep, already knew that” moments, but I was really impressed with the information and the handouts to make implementation easy. It was clear that these professionals want to help people make healthy choices.

Most people who know me know that I am fascinated by anything involving the brain. In 5th Grade I actually wanted to be a neurosurgeon. I’m constantly looking into nootropics and practices to keep that 3 lb blob of gray matter doing what it is doing. It is the most powerful computer on the planet and one the greatest gift I ever received, the least I can do is try to maintain it. Luckily, the presenter provided a very convenient “Top 10” card with ways to have a healthy brain. (I hope I’m not breaking any copyright laws by sharing this, please don’t sue me)

  1. Socialize – Go meet and interact with people instead of watching TV. The results from Marian Diamond’s rat studies showed how different social environments can have neurological affects on brain health. Similarly, Dan Buettner’s research into “Blue Zones” found Social Engagement to be be common in all areas with above average longevity. This is an area that I’m really trying to proactively improve in my life, working from home means that I have very little meaningful social interaction in my day-to-day.
  2. Exercise – This was one of those “duh” moments. We all wish there was a magic bullet or some sort of drug that makes us perfectly healthy, but there isn’t yet. The brain is part of the body and the body needs exercise. An increased heart rate for 20 minutes every day is really good for the brain. So, unless your masturbation periods are wilder than mine every day it is probably good to go for a run.
  3. Do Something New Every Day – This one overwhelmed me at first, but then the presenter said “it can be as simple as taking a different route to work”. So, I’ve been running different routes, listening to different music, and watching educational YouTube videos during my lunch. The point is to keep yourself out of “muscle memory” mode to exercise your brain.
  4. Make Good Food Choices – Again, “duh”. We ALL know what a healthy diet is. The research is damn near universal, a whole foods plant-based diet is shown to be the healthiest diet. You don’t need to be a vegan like me, but if you want a healthy brain then you need fresh, minimally processed food. Ten foods were provided (walnuts, avocados, blueberries, bone broth, broccoli, celery, coconut oil, eggs, turmeric, and fish). Not shockingly was how these foods seem to overlap with other research (see chart below).
  5. Change a Habit – Try and break bad habits and create new ones. Not only does this develop better habits but the actual act of changing a habit exercises your brain and creates new neuropathways. Each year, each month, each week of your life should be different than the last.
  6. Play A Game – Get out and have fun! I’m not sure if video games count in this category but I know board games do. Learning a new game and just being joyous or goofy or silly is great for the mind.
  7. Meditate – “Duh” number 3. I have read a bunch of research on this and I am convinced of the benefits for the body and mind… and I still struggle with it. It would be best to do 20 minutes, twice per day but I’m currently doing only 10 minutes once a day. I’m trying though, and as you often hear in meditation groups, you just need to “begin again”.
  8. Take a nap – Offices should have nap rooms. Sleep is important. I work from home and never take a nap, maybe I should schedule that in…
  9. Be Optimistic! – Alright, this is tough as shit in today’s world but it is worth striving for. You can also use some of the other techniques above like meditation and changing a habit to help. Studying ancient Stoicism has REALLY helped my optimism and happiness. I’d also recommend not paying attention to politics (or really any news) and shutting yourself out of social media if it is a stressor. Getting rid of my old, politically bogged down, Facebook page was a huge boon to my productivity and happiness.
  10. Let it Go! – Related to above and very in line with Stoic philosophy. Stoicism is really has two parts: determine what is within my control and ignore the rest. There is so, so, so much outside of our control that taxes our brain and body. From Donald Trump to weather, there is nothing I can do to change them. All I can do is alter my response, ignore (in the former) or put on appropriate clothes (for the latter). Just ignore what you can’t change and forgive people for the things they do. The past is as unchangeable as Trump’s temperament, so learn from it and just let it go.

Okay, those are the ten things. While at the forum I couldn’t help but see overlap between what was being presented and other things I’ve read. So, here is a chart I put together that is in no way comprehensive but still shows some overlap in the habits for a healthy brain, healthy circulatory system, and longevity.

So yeah, let’s get healthy so that our brains don’t stop working!

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

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

 

 

Bonus Blog Post – Iceland!

I should have written this months ago but then a hurricane happened and then I procrastinated until late November. I was going to write a series of posts on my experiences in Iceland but my memory has started to fade and my notes aren’t particularly good. Instead, I’m going to take an email I recently sent to a friend who is going to Iceland and talk about some of my favorite things and lessons and observations and such.

So, here we go.

First, as a reminder, when Anna and I went to Iceland we didn’t really have a solid plan. We mapped out a few places that seemed cool and then just headed in a rough direction towards them. We stopped when we saw something cool, we took wrong turns and met interesting people, camped out next to waterfalls, and really only drover about 2 hours per day.

Second, some random practical stuff that I wish I knew ahead of time.

  • If you are renting a car and planning on going to the highlands make sure you get one specifically outfitted for that or you won’t be able to access that area.
  • Gas was about $8 a gallon while we were there, so just be prepared for that.
  • Eating out can be expensive but if you go to grocery stores it isn’t so bad. There is one called “Bonus” that is really popular and has prices similar to here.
  • If you will be camping or eating grocery food bring your own utensils, there are almost no disposable plates and utensils in the country.
  • An Icelandic/English dictionary isn’t necessary for speaking but it is really helpful for reading and shopping.
  • Cash is accepted but it rarely used, American cash is accepted pretty much everywhere in Reykjavik too. And all the banks in Iceland will exchange Krona and Dollars
  • You can’t by medicine like Tylenol or Advil at grocery stores or gas stations, you need to go to a pharmacist (Apotek or Lyrja).
  • Traveling is pretty easy because the way they name things is pretty universal. “Foss” means waterfall, “Hvir” means hot springs, “fjara” means beach, and just about every fall, hot spring, or beach will have that word at the beginning or end of the name.
  • The one part about driving that was difficult was when we were in Reykjavik. Make sure you look up the street signs. Some of them are really intuitive and some make no sense. No Entry, No Parking, No Stopping, and No Traffic At All are similar. https://www.whatson.is/what-does-it-mean-how-to-read-icelandic-roadsigns/
  • If you are driving to somewhere in Reykjavik I would print out your directions first, there are a lot of one-way streets and pedestrian-only zones that make winging it pretty tough
  • WiFi is pretty common, even out in the small cities. Most coffee shops, breweries, and tourist locations have it for free or pretty cheap.
  • It is worth it to buy a road map
  • Google is really incomplete, there are a lot more options in most towns than appear on internet searches
  • There are almost no cops outside of Reykjavik but they have speed cameras along the highways and will ticket the rental company, who will then charge you.
  • Bring a notebook and pen to write down assorted thoughts and places you go. It will all become overwhelming at some point and it is nice to have pictures and notes to look back on.

Thirdly, some assorted observations about Iceland in general.

  • Reykjavik is a really international city. We heard half a dozen languages just walking down a short street.
  • The people are kind of “grungy”, in a good way. There isn’t a lot of fashion or heavy makeup, a lot of the clothing is practical. High quality and meant for the environment.
  • There is an interesting balance of nature and technology. You can camp at a sheep farm that has WiFi.
  • It was actually really easy to be vegan in Iceland. The grocery stores had clearly labeled vegan items, even at gas stations.
  • The whole country is entirely environmentally conscious. I don’t know if this is because of the culture or for practical reasons. When you live on a volcanic island that is mostly glacier you don’t have a lot of good options for disposing of trash. I don’t remember every getting a straw or a disposable plate while there.
  • Things are expensive, again for practical reasons. Shipping things costs money and most things are shipped in.
  • Similar to the clothing, all the vehicles were very practical. They were either really fuel efficient (gas was about $8 per gallon) or they were meant to go off-roading into the highlands. There weren’t any trucks that clearly had never seen mud and I only saw one sports car.
  • The general culture for being out in nature is “do what you want but if something bad happens it is your own damn fault”. Due to that, there are hiking trails that go along cliffs without railings and there are almost never any employees, even at national sites. They trust people to be adults and not do something that they can’t handle. For the most part, everyone respected the signs that forbid damaging plants or going certain places.
  • We were only in Reykjavik two days and one night, but there was almost no visible alcohol culture. Beer was available everywhere but nobody got drunk
  • I also didn’t see any homeless. A quick google search says there are 111 people living on the streets or similar conditions in the country. I think this is due to three factors: the social welfare system in place, the chance of dying if you are in the cold, and the fact that most people in Iceland have strong social networks (you don’t just hop a train to Reykjavik alone like you might to Seattle or Los Angeles).

Lastly, you can’t go wrong in Iceland. I don’t think there are any “must see” places, but the whole country is a “must see”. That being said, here are a few of the experiences that stood out to me.

  • Glymur Waterfall – The hike to the falls took about 2 hours and we didn’t make it all the way up because we ran out of daylight. It was a fantastic climb though and not very crowded because a lot of people don’t do any physical activity when they visit.
  • The Golden Circle – This is a route near Reykjavik that circles around the area. There are a lot of cool falls and geysers and such, it is definitely worth doing at least once.
  • Akranes is a city north of Reykjavik and kind of off the normal path but it has some beautiful light houses that you can climb to the top of and an amazing view over the Atlantic.
  • Seljavallalaug Hot Spring – A natural hot spring that has been diverted into a pool. There is a room to change your clothes in. Just to warn you, a lot of the natural hot springs don’t really break up changing areas by sex, people just all kind of change in the same room. If you go to this place and it isn’t really your thing then continue along the path to the right of the building. There is a isolated hot spring back there away from the crowds. Anna and I had it all to ourselves.
  • North of the town of Hveragerdi is a place called “The Boiling River” where basically boiling hot springs dump into a cold river and you can go swimming in it, alternating between hot and cold water in just a few feet. There is also a geothermal park in that area.
  • We traveled south along Route 1 and kind of stopped at waterfalls and such, they were all pretty awesome.

If anyone has further questions please feel free to hit me up 🙂

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

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

November 19, 2018 – Morning Journaling (The Professional)

Whoa, has it really been four days since I journaled publicly? Oops.

It has been a really good weekend. Very relaxing. My partner has been petsitting at someone else’s house since Friday and I’ve had some time to kind of recenter myself. We love each other dearly but we are also pretty independent people who are comfortable (and even enjoy) periods apart from each other. We even keep our finances and food separate for the most part.

So, yeah, it has been good to have the house mostly to myself, strengthen some routines, and be a little bit bored. I like having a little boredom, especially on Sunday nights, it makes me excited for the new week to begin.

Today’s reading from “The War of Art” was about treating yourself as a professional or, as Pressfield calls it, becoming “Me, Inc”. When I first read this book about a year ago I was skeptical of this section. I didn’t see how filing some government paperwork would change my view of myself or my work. Government paperwork certainly didn’t change my view on my marriage, why would it here?

I was wrong, though. When I became “Neiger Consulting, LLC” there was a shift. Having a separate email account, bank account, Amazon account, etc for work transactions shifted my mindset into becoming more professional. I have CEO Time every Monday to go over weekly goals and review past performances, I set up quarterly budgets and finances, I am working with a graphic designer to get a logo for business cards and a new website. These acts have slowly helped silence my impostor syndrome, I feel like I am a professional.

Unfortunately, I have struggled to apply this to my writing or other artistic pursuits. Rereading “The War of Art” has really helped me refocus on that. I even started taking a Masterclass put on by Margaret Atwood to provide some guidance and instruction and structure. I’m loving it and already feel like one of the stories in my head is starting to take shape, it is also impacting the RPG, CCG, and Board Games that I’m developing with a friend.

All in all, I feel good about where I’m at this week. I have some solid work ahead of me (it is one of my busiest months as a consultant) and some ideas roming around my head that I’m excited to explore. Oh, and my half-marathon training is going well. I’m almost into the 160 lb range, which is where I tend to feel the healthiest and enjoy the look of my body most.

I hope you all have a wonderful Monday.

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

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

November 15, 2018 – Morning Journaling (Identity)

“Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either, your choices are half chance, and so are everybody else’s.”
– Baz Luhrmann

Well, good morning everyone! I hope your Thursday is off to a beautiful start. It is a tad rainy and chilly here in the Cape Fear area but it could be a lot worse.

Today, in “The War of Art” I continued to read about the traits of professionals (as opposed to amateurs). The main takeaways for me were to not make excuses (got the flu? tough luck, do your work), to “play it as it lay” (life is unfair? well you can’t change that so sit down and do your work), and to prepare for the deep fight, especially against my own habits of self-sabotage. Resistance is a clever douchebag.

My “Daily Affirmations for Forgiving and Moving On” reading sparked a little more inspiration in me than “The War of Art”. The reading was about separating ourselves from our actions and feelings to try and view things as an unbiased observer. This is basically what meditation is, just observing without judgement. By doing that we separate our identity from our thoughts and deeds, which aids in changing behavior.

If I say, “I am a smoker” then my identity is tied up in that behavior. But to think “I am a person who smokes” the behavior becomes an optional act. This is more than just semantics, the way we speak (including our internal speaking) shapes the way we view the world and ourselves. It is difficult to change part of our identity and we feel threatened when others suggest changing behaviors that we identify with. This identity-act connection also prevents us from giving others the benefit of the doubt.

When we say “He is a selfish person” we glue the person to the behavior, instead it is better to think/say “He is a person acting selfishly at this moment”. We are all complicated, multi-faceted, multitude-filled individuals who are more than our actions and thoughts. Much more. Tying ourselves to behaviors limits us and reduces our love in the world.

If I say “I’m not a runner” instead of “I’m a person who is new to running (or doesn’t like running or doesn’t see running as important right now or is choosing not to run)” then that opens the door to someday taking up running more easily. It reduces a barrier, a limit, on my life. Similarly, if I say “I am a runner” and I end up getting injured then it is not just my body that takes a hit, it is my soul. It is better to think of myself as an individual who enjoys running, that way if I get injured I am losing just one thing that brings me joy and not my identity.

The same can be said for titles like mother/father, artistic pursuits like author/painter/actor, or struggles like depression/physical handicaps/PTSD. These things do not define us, they are simply articles of clothing that we wear from time-to-time.

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

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”