Knowing Myself

Content Warning: The following post contains discussions of sex & nudity. Reader discretion is advised. Though, these issues shouldn’t be taboo

At the end of the year I decided to spend some time (probably close to two hours at this point) to try and give a good honest look at myself. What drives me? Why do I have the desires I do? What kind of a worker am I? How do I best learn?

I also wanted to reflect on what I could/should do about it. So, here is what I got.

Sex and Nudity: I have a pretty high interest in sexual things and overall nudity. I think this comes from two places: past intimacy and politics. The latter is pretty simple, I think it is harmful to members of our society to keep sex and nudity taboo. The lack of non-porn star nude bodies that people see (especially younger people) leads to body image issues and shame. Very few of us know what an average nude body looks like or understands that there is no real “average”, that nipples, labia, testicles, penises, butts, etc. come in a huge variety of appearances. Similarly, what people enjoy about sex and how it can be a healthy practice is something shunned in society. We all gain from openness, but our society doesn’t value that. So, by being open about my sex life, sharing nude pictures (with consenting adults), and such I am rebelling against social norms to create a better world. But it is also personal.

My family did not really address nudity or sex in a healthy way. My parents did the best they could, but it was something I think they were unprepared for, particularly in the modern world. Looking back, I have a handful of memories that I think kind of shaped my unhealthy discomfort with sex, my body, and my mind.

  • When I was around 10 years old, I was taking a bath with all my siblings. Six of us in the tub meant that there wasn’t really any cleaning going on, instead we were just sitting in a row (I was in the back) and kind of playing. I had an erection while playing, it wasn’t sexual or erotic or anything, it was just the result of a pre-teen whose body was smashed against something. At the time, I had no idea what an erection was for, it was just something my body did. My dad came in and saw us and said something to the effect of, “You two (Jordan and I) are too old to be taking baths with your siblings.” I was pretty confused about the whole thing.
  • A friend and I were playing in the woods at around the age of 13 or 14. I can’t remember why, but we took our clothes off and just kind of walked around naked. At one point he asked me if I thought he was a “weirdo” because of how he looked. I was confused, and he pointed out that he was uncircumcised. This started to stir up some erotic feelings in me. I told him that I didn’t think he was weird. I didn’t really know what circumcision was and his was the first uncircumcised penis I ever saw. I felt a ton of guilt due to my feelings for my friend.
  • In 7th grade we had to watch a terrible sex ed video. The girls went in one room and the guys in another and we watched separate videos. In the guys video there was a scene where they showed you how to check for testicular cancer. I started to feel incredibly sick and almost vomited in class.
  • By 7th grade I was masturbating somewhat often but didn’t really understand what was happening. One night, I was grinding on my pillow and I had an orgasm. I felt such a rush of shame that I cried myself to sleep that night. I felt like I had betrayed God, my “future wife” (a common source of prayer in our youth group), and everyone else.
  • When I was 18ish my mother discovered some porn, I had under my mattress. She said she found it while she was cleaning my room, which is something that never happened. I realize know she was snooping for one reason or another. That was during the time when she thought my brother was smoking pot (he was actually harboring a stray cat that he was somewhat allergic too), so maybe she was looking for weed. She trashed the magazine and then a few days later asked if her and I could grab some lunch together (again, something that had never really happened before). During the lunch she started crying and told me that she was date-raped as a 16-year old by guy she went on a date with. She knew that he watched porn and was convinced that porn lead to raping people. At that point, I felt like she was way off base because I had been viewing porn for a couple years and never had a single urge to rape anyone.

Sidebar: I think this all used to manifest itself in my porn preferences for a bit, but I think as I start to consciously look at these things and analyze them that is starting to fade a bit.

When I finally rejected my upbringing around sex, I started using it (and shared nudity) as a form of intimacy. In fact, due to the timing in my life I would say it was my only source of intimacy. I felt that the only surefire way to know someone cared about me was whether they would share these “taboo” acts with me. If they would send me nude pics or have sex with me then I knew they cared, and, on my end, I tried to get attention by sending pictures (sometimes unsolicited, I’m ashamed to say) and pursuing sex above all else. This is something that I still struggle with.

So, what do I do with this information?

To be honest, I don’t think much. My sex life and desires aren’t causing any mental distress or relationship issues. My partner is fully aware of everything, from my interest in multiple partners to kinks. I share nude pics with consenting friends and they share them with me, and we all get a bit of a confidence boost due to the positive feedback. I see it all as both harmless and an enjoyable part of life. I don’t think there is anything wrong with being titillated by friends or through exhibitionism/voyeurism, and I do like that my openness has lead to others feeling open.

I feel trusted when someone is willing to let me see their body as well as their soul and mind. Maybe I shouldn’t put so much weight in validation from other people (who are generally women) but I’m not terribly bothered by it. I guess everyone knows now that when they send me a nude pic they are really brightening my day and making me feel like our friendship is close and matters, it isn’t just masturbation material. And, even more so, I feel cared about when someone requests a picture of me. So, yeah, I am definitely curious about what my friends (and everyone) looks like naked, not necessarily due to sexual desire but as a, potentially misguided, interest in fellowship and intimacy.

Oh, one more thing came to mind that I think is related. I am starting to accept that I may have a distorted view of my body. I don’t think it reaches the level of Body Dysmorphia Disorder (at least not according to some quick googling) but my perception of my body seems off from what objective measures and others say. This has been an issue for most of my life, particularly with regards to my weight and genitalia. It is embarrassing how many times I’ve searched “average penis size” or asked a partner if I was adequate. Similarly, when I see myself in the mirror, I feel overweight or even fat, when I know that isn’t the case. I know it, but I may not believe it. Additionally, I have friends who I trust that have reassured me that I’m in plenty healthy shape, that my penis is fine, and that I’m a decent looking guy. I trust them because they have also been honest with me when my health wasn’t as strong as it is now. So, I’m put in the position of either believing my mind or believing my friends and objective measure. I think this is starting to get a little bit better, but I still find myself seeking affirmation from others (this is probably related to the nude pics too).

Motivation: I am kind of a lazy person. I don’t really like working hard and it takes a fair bit of effort for me to get things accomplished. Therapy and prescriptions have helped on this front, but I still lack motivation a lot. I do know that I am very much motivated by positive feedback. I am a “reward” person, not a “punishment” person. Whether it is someone sending a me a picture of boobs, a financial bonus, or a solid “nice job, that looks really good”, I respond well to positive feedback. It makes me feel good.

My only concern with this is how it can turn into a time-suck. I deleted my Facebook account for this reason. If I spend all my time trying to get more “likes” or getting a rush out of being a “rebel” then I don’t do the things I should or want to do. That’s another thing that motivates me, feeling like a rebel. I don’t have non-traditional beliefs or views just to get a rise out of people, but openly displaying my freak flag does give me a rush. I feel like I’m doing something positive for the world by standing tall as an anarchist, polyamorist, sexually fluid, atheist, recreational drug user, etc. I don’t think I’m alone though, a lot of people try to proudly wear their beliefs on their sleeves, especially when they think they are a minority.

Learning and Work: I learn by making mistakes. I am really bad at actually learning from other people’s mistakes or advice. I need to dive into a project, due it my own way, and then when things go wrong, I can correct it. I almost never make the same mistake twice, but I make almost every mistake once. Knowing this, I need to have “practice” assignments when taking on a new task and/or give myself a lot of time and space to work on them. I can avoid mistakes if I factor in significant time after a project to let it sit and then revisit it before submitting it. Or, ideally, be able to submit it to someone for review before final submission. Unfortunately, that isn’t really always an option.

December 17, 2018 – Morning Journaling (Getting Some Zzzz’s)

Here in Wilmington there is a pretty sweet monthly event called the “Whole Health Forum” that I’ve started going to. Each month there are three health professionals who come present and answer questions about topics they are experts in. The subject matter and perspective varies a lot and I love that they see health as more than just absence of disease, the speakers generally promote human thriving not just human survival. As someone with a family history of heart attacks and dementia, I’m all about finding ways to minimize those risks. 

Admittedly, there have been some speakers that have, umm, made the skeptic in me a little uncomfortable. I am pretty open to non-traditional things but I do prefer there be some evidence or plausible hypothesis behind what is being presented and that hasn’t always been the case. But, even those presentations have sparked individual research and critical thinking, which means it was still valuable.

So, last week one of the presentations really stuck with me, in part, because of how much research and evidence was presented. Like most things health related, it really wasn’t much of a surprise how important it is but to see the benefits laid out for me was impressive. We all know the most important health practices… eat a whole foods plant-based diet, drink water, reasonable caloric intake, moderate regular exercise and, the subject of this presentation, get good sleep.

Until the last six months or so sleep has been a struggle for me. I’ve been putting forth a lot of effort recently to get to bed at a reasonable time (around 10pm) and get about 7-8 hours of good sleep each night. For me, that means limiting coffee to two cups before noon and minimizing screen time after about 9pm. I know sleep is important but I guess I never really thought about the long-term effects of getting sub-par sleep, I always tried to get good sleep for short term benefits. But, after this presentation I am now more motivated than ever to get some solid zzz’s. 

So, what does good sleep look like? It’s pretty simple:
– For someone in my age group sleep 7-9 hours
– Don’t use sleep aides (alcohol or pills or melotonin)

Alright, now what is the harm from not getting enough sleep? I’m glad you asked!
– Heart Disease: Insufficient sleep engages the fight or flight response. The elevated stress has shown to increase the rate of heart attacks by up to 500%. 
– Alzheimer’s: Without proper sleep our body does not clear out the plaques and proteins in our brains associated with Alzheimer’s, increasing risk of neurodegenerative disease.
– Obesity: Reduced sleep disrupts balanced hormone production, including gherlin (turns on appetite), leptin (turns off appetite), endocannibinoids (increases drive for junk food), and prolactin (increases carb craving). Sleep restricted people also burn more muscle instead of fat.
– Diabetes: Lack of sleep makes bodies respond to insulin as if they are pre-diabetic by affecting several systems associated with insulin sensitivity, including inflammation, the sympathetic nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system, and metabolic and hormonal changes.
– Immune System: Lack of sleep increases the chance of becoming sick and can actually render vaccines less effective. People who get the flu vaccine and get less than full sleep for a week afterwards had fewer than 50% of the antibodies than the fully rested group. Similar results have been shown with Hep A & B.
– Cancer: A single night of getting four hours of sleep reduces the number of “killer cells” that hunt cancer by 70%. Getting less than 6 hours of sleep increases your odds of getting cancer by 40% and sleep deprivation has shown to increase the size and speed of cancer growth by 200%
– Sexual: Sperm and testosterone production is reduced significantly by lack of sleep, as is the hormones needed for regular ovulation and there is an increased risk of miscarrying. 
DNA: Significant gene distortion occurs without regular healthy sleep in as little as one week. The genes that were impacted included those involved in inflammation, cellular stress, cardiovascular health, and HDL.

So, yeah, I need to start prioritizing sleep.

Wanna chat? Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below!
Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Anonymous Questions or comments:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did! It desperately needs to be redone with a professional editor involved but here it is!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

December 12, 2018 – Morning Journaling (Cold Conversations)

While running I have a lot of time to be in my head. I try to be more mindful and just enjoy the moment but that’s tough, instead my monkey brain likes to wander, plan, reminisce, and imagine conversations that will never happen. Recently, these conversations are with Jason Momoa.

You see, the new “Swamp Thing” TV series is currently filming in here in Wilmington and, for some reason, I got it into my head that Jason Momoa was in it. I’m not sure how that happened but it did. So while running I’ve had these kinda day dreams that they will be filming in the park on my run route. Of course I stop to watch the filming and somebody notices that I’m running without a shirt in 30 degree weather, which leads to Jason inviting me to hang out and chat while they film.

The conversation usually centers around how I handle the cold weather and starts with a simple, “Aren’t you cold?” In which I respond cleverly, “do you want the short answer or the long answer?” And, because it is my running daydream I get to answer both. So, do I get cold while running in 30 degree weather?

Short answer: Yes

Long answer: I am working to use language that doesn’t attach my identity to feelings. So, when “I” am cold I break it down into greater detail. The concept of “cold” is relative, it is a convenient linguistic short cut that really means, “The current temperature is lower than what is comfortable for me.” One person’s cold is another person’s hot. Undoubtedly, because I’ve been running since August sans any clothing that I can without getting arrested I have am more comfortable at lower temperatures than others. 

Even the idea of “comfort” can warrant some further analysis. When I say I’m uncomfortable, what is actually happening? This question is where my mindfulness meditation practice starts to show some benefit. Instead of thinking “I’m uncomfortable” I try and pinpoint the feeling more precisely. For example, “my hands hurt” become “The tips of three of the fingers on the right hand have a tingling and pulsing warm sensation. The muscles in both hands are moving more slowly than before and feel ‘full’. When stimulated the fingers transmit signals to meant to discourage further stimulation.”

This re-wording of my internal dialogue (in the form of an imaginary explanation to Jason Momoa) removes my identity from the experience. By doing that, I am not longer trapped by the experience, it isn’t a part of me, it is simply a change in the environment that can be noted and explored. And, surprisingly, as I catalog the different changes and sensations I actually become less uncomfortable.

I had a similar experience at the dentist recently. I was getting a crown put in and the numbing stuff (Novocaine… is that still what is used) started to wear off. My first response was, “Oh shit, this is starting to hurt”, but I did my best to use some of the meditation techniques I’ve used and instead I tried to observe and explore the feeling. This “pain” became “a spherical object pulsing with warmth, it vibrates regularly with stimulation from the drill outside, electrical currents are being sent down into the gums.” And, guess what, I didn’t really notice any pain. The experience wasn’t “mine”, it was something I was simply observing.

Freaking amazing. Minds are freaking amazing. 

Post Script: I figured out why I thought Jason Momoa was in Swamp Thing. The casting call webpage for Wilmington has a photo of him on it because he is part of the DC universe. Hmm, I think I’m going to submit photos for the casting call, could be fun 🙂


Wanna chat? Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below!
Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Anonymous Questions or comments:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did! It desperately needs to be redone with a professional editor involved but here it is!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

December 11, 2018 – Morning Journaling (Creative Relationships)

“When you explore inspiration in the context of community, you get not only to see what influences the creative decisions of others but also to explore the mechanics of how others bring inspiration to life.”

The second aspect of developing a creative rhythm identified in
“The Accidental Creative” is Relationships. When I saw this I had, umm, mixed feelings. First, the idea of creating collaboratively makes my skin crawl a little. I’m naturally pretty introverted and throughout my time in the education system “group projects” really meant “Peter does a lot of work in order to not be dragged down by other people”. Depending on others rarely worked out well for me.

Second, creativity seems like a deeply personal and individual practice. This is wrong, but that is how it often seems to me. Maybe I’ve spent too much time reading Ayn Rand or something but groups don’t seem conducive to creativity to me. Most of my experiences mirror that old cliche joke, “What do you call a horse designed by a committee? A camel.” Basically, too many people involved fucks up the design.

Despite these misgivings I actually found this section of the book to be incredibly valuable so far (I’m only about halfway through this chapter). If for no other reason because I’m proactively trying to be more social and build a network/clan/tribe/group of friends here in Wilmington. So, some of the information here can be valuable in my personal and professional life.

Side note: I find it interesting that we so often separate “personal” and “professional”. I’ve found that advice for one works well with the other and that they are pretty intimately tied together. Maybe this social dualism, much like the body/mind dualism, is really kind of a bad way to view the world. 

There are three keys to cultivating stimulating and productive relationships:
1) The relationship must allow you to be real. No sugar coating, no pretending life is perfect. This isn’t an Instagram post. Real help requires real acknowledgment of reality.
2) The relationship must allow you to learn to risk. A good relationship isn’t one where the other person protects you from risks or encourages the safe path. It needs to involve skin in the game and the real possibility of falling down. We are adults and that means sometimes we get our asses kicked by the risks we take.
3) The relationship must be one where you will submit to the wisdom of others. Relationships don’t exist to give one person control or to allow a bunch of monologues. A good relationship involves trusting the other person, sometimes more than you trust yourself. Dan Savage talks about this a lot with relationships, we all need that friend that we trust who will tell us if your partner is a piece of shit or if they aren’t treating us well. Sometimes, we are so caught up in our own mess that we make terrible decisions. Trust people.

So, what does the book have to say about fostering relationships and creativity?

I’m glad you asked. There are three strategies mentioned to enrich relationships. I am going to try and implement these a bit more explicitly in my life. Here is the first one… I haven’t read the other two yet.

Strategy 1: Start a Circle
Get a group of people together in small groups to help each other stay focused and engaged. It can be a group of parents discussing issues with their children, artists talking about struggles with creation, entrepreneurs sharing tips on what works for them, or (ideally) a combination of these to get some new perspectives. Getting a group together in an intimate place to explicitly discuss our creative issues can be incredibly valuable and productive. 

I’m actually part of a circle and didn’t even realize it. Every two weeks I videochat with two friends of mine that I’ve known since about 5th grade. We catch up on each other’s lives but it is mostly to help each other with creative and entrepreneurial issues. We all have creative projects and businesses that we run or are getting started and it has been really valuable to come to each other with problems and get a new perspective. It is well worth the two hours a month.

If you’ve got some people to do this with I highly recommend it. If not, the book has a shameless plug for their website to help you out (accidentalcreative.com/circles). I don’t know how valuable it actually is but figured I’d share it. 

Within the circle there are three questions that should be asked and discussed:

1) What are you working on? What are the top creative blocks in your life? This isn’t a “to do” list, it is the projects that require some brainstorming and new perspectives. This question lets everyone know where you are coming from. During my circle sessions these can be personal “My partner and I are having trouble matching up our sex drives”, professional “I’m not sure how to inform my clients that I’m increasing my rates at the beginning of the year”, or artistic “I’ve got writer’s block with the dystopian novel I’m writing”. 

2) What is inspiring you? Most of the people I know are usually reading something, taking a class, or just working to improve themselves. They want to keep their lives moving forward and I often don’t know what exactly they are involved with. This question can really help provide books to read, artists to enjoy, movies to watch, apps to use, etc. Such a simple but powerful question. 

3) What would you like prompting on? This is all about accountability. What areas of your life would you like someone to check in on you with. Have you been procrastinating your daily writing? Eating junk food? Developing a business plan? Exercising? Making time for your kids? Tell your circle and let them provide accountability. Accountability encourages action and action breeds motivation. If you are constantly waiting for motivation then you will go to your grave without accomplishing your goals.

Interested in starting a two person email chain circle with me? Am I wrong about everything in this post? Do you have a deeply personal or mundane question that you want to ask anonymously? Then shoot me a message! 

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! It desperately needs to be redone with a professional editor involved but here it is!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

December 10, 2018 – Morning Journaling (Confessions of a Former Conservative)

I have a couple of friends that I often exchange emails with. We talk about intimate things and mundane things, it is a way to stay connected even though we live miles apart. Sometimes we respond daily and other times months can go by, but we do have a running chain of messages filled with all kinds of insights and reflections. 

Side note: If you are interested in starting one of these email chains with me please shoot me an email (pjneiger@gmail.com). It doesn’t matter if we’ve never met in person or used to be close friends, I’d love to reconnect.

I responded to one of these messages this weekend and one of the topics made me think about my perspective on life and how unique it may or may not be. I am certainly not the only former conservative of my generation and I’m not the only person who has family that are still conservatives. My drift away from the religion of my parents is hardly unique, I think most people do that… at least I kind of hope so, I wouldn’t be sure of my own beliefs if I hadn’t tried out a bunch of other ones first.

If there is a part of me that is somewhat (maybe) unique it is an understanding of the Christian perspective that isn’t so, umm, angry. I think we need to try and understand people and their points of view more than we do. Most conservatives aren’t against marriage equality or abortion or whatever because they are evil or hate freedom. Given their premises and values their conclusions generally make sense. 

And the same goes for liberals. They aren’t anti-American commies who want to destroy the country and they aren’t insane. Most liberals do not want to expand healthcare, change drug and immigration policy, or are pro-choice because they want to destroy America and kill babies. No, they have a set of principles and view of how the world works and their conclusions reflect that.

The thing is, both conservatives and liberals have the same basic goals. They want to live in a world that is free, safe, and prosperous. It is only the fringe minority that actually want to watch the world burn (so to speak). But I rarely see people giving each other the benefit of the doubt, at least online. Maybe people are better in person, I don’t really know.

Of course, this applies to more than just the political divide. It is so common for Boomers to ridicule Millennials and vice versa (I am certainly guilty of this), but maybe because I am an old Millennials I kind of see both sides of things. Both sides have a set of ideas about how the world works and what a good life is and the other side is different, so they are seen as a threat. But again, both sides really want the same things… stability, prosperity, and safety for themselves and their family. 

I’d love to actually engage in deeper discussions with people I disagree with, as long as they are willing to do the same with me. It would be nice to get in past labels and, instead, try and understand a person’s history, philosophy, and perspective that lead them to their conclusions. When we reach that kind of understanding it becomes possible to actually find a middle ground or actually work to change someone’s mind (not that that should be the goal).

I think that is part of why I love the email exchanges I do so much. It gives me an opportunity to ask deeper follow-up questions and take time to respond. We live in a world where people share images and memes that use stereotypes and straw-men to criticize people who are different, and when they are asked about it they ignore it or call you a snowflake. Remember, when you post something critical of someone different than you it tells anyone from that group that may see it that they can’t turn to you for support if things get bad. I have family members who I wouldn’t trust to help me out because they have been so publicly aggressive and critical of my generation and political belief. They have let tribe come before love. This only serves to divide, we’ve all gotten in the habit of fighting each other and punching down to those weaker than us that we have forgotten how to work together for a better world.

So, let’s try and listen once in a while. Send someone (including me) an email, go into detail about not only what you believe or what your label is but WHY you believe that or have adopted that label. Let’s stop being caricatures and one-dimensional, let’s be human. 

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below!
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”

December 8, 2018 – Morning Journaling (Reading Roundup)

I slept in a little bit today and really didn’t role out of bed until 8am. Usually, by 6:30 I’m up and halfway through my first cup of coffee. Today is Saturday, though, and I really didn’t have anything urgent on my schedule. Of course, that means that I ended up with a list of “to do” items that I’ve been plugging away at all day, so I’m just now getting around to my writing.

“Daily Affirmations for Forgiving and Moving On”: Occasionally, this book really shows itself as an AA book. It usually doesn’t bother me but I do take a little bit of an issue with some of the universal statements it makes. There are a lot of “never” and “always” statements the kind of take me out of my reflection. For example, in today’s reading it says “It is never a mistake to love”. I think that is untrue and to put love up on a pedestal it opens up the door for staying in abusive relationships.

“A Year with Rumi”: I just really liked two of the passages from today’s reading:
– This turning toward what you deeply love saves you. Read the book of your life, which has been given to you.
– Move into the emptiness of question and answer and question.

“The Accidental Creative”: I can already tell that I’m going to enjoy reading this book. Whether I end up successfully implementing the techniques in it still remains to be seen, but so far I like it. One of the things I like is that it provides explicit questions and tasks throughout the writing to help people tailor it to their own experiences.
The first aspect of being creative is “Focus”, something I am terrible at (though, much better now that I am on Adderall. I felt like a lot of the stuff described was talking about me. 

Question: Are there assumptions you’re making about your current projects that are artificially limiting your options?
Hmm, I’m sure there are. I have several routines and habits that have ingrained themselves into my daily life. I’m noting this question for a future blog post. 

Question: Where do you find the Ping at work in your life?
Holy fuck, yes. The Ping is that itch, desire, obsession, whatever to check your email or Facebook or phone or whatever. It is a distraction that takes away from our ability to focus and create. I can mitigate this through leaving my phone in another room while working, sticking strongly to a schedule, scheduling entertainment and breaks, and checking email only twice a day.

That’s it for today. Love y’all and hope you have a great weekend. 


Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below!
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”

December 7, 2018 – Morning Journaling (Another Trip Around the Sun)

Good morning, everyone! I hope you have a wonderful Friday and start to your weekend.

With the year coming to an end I feel a real source of energy and inspiration coming forth. It took me a long time to admit it, but we humans really do thrive with ritual and having a psychological reset button. Logically, I know there is no reason why February 21st or June 3rd or November 1st couldn’t be the date to start a new habit or commit to change, but having a socially recognized date really does help.

Of course, New Years isn’t the only one, many people use birthdays or the Temple burn or some other defined moment in space and time to decide, “Now, now is when it begins.” We do it on a smaller scale as well. We start workout routines on Monday or the 1st of the month, we start a meditation practice tomorrow morning, etc. These universally agreed upon moments of transition help us. We like to be able to separate then from now, and that is more difficult if your moment of change is 2:14pm on Tuesday, July 17.

I haven’t given a lot of thought to any particular goals for 2019. I had a video chat with one of my best friends last night and it made me realize that the coming year feels like one in which I will be more community focused. This feeling is a bit intangible but I just kind of have that vibe. The last year has been exciting and busy and challenging, but it has also been one that has been quite focused on myself and my immediate family. Now that a solid foundation is laid, it is time to be more tribe-focused.

So, there were a few pieces in my daily readings that stood out to me this morning.

“Daily Affirmations for Forgiving and Moving On”:

It is not what I have in life, but what I feel about what I have that makes the difference.

A little cliche, I know. But I think there is important truth in there that warrants an occasional reminder. Once you get past the first two layers of Maslow’s hierarchy a lot of our satisfaction and happiness comes from our own perspective instead of the objective facts. Perspective can make a billionaire unhappy and a middle class person satisfied.

 

“A Year with Rumi”:

I should sell my tongue and buy a thousand ears

I’m re-purposing this phrase for my own uses. In the context of the poem it is directed at God, but I think this is something we should all do with just about everyone. Shut up and listen.

 

“The Accidental Creative”:  I don’t have a particular quote for this but I do have an observation from reading many self-help and business books. I really kind of hate the format most of these take. They are pretty predictible and a little inflated for my tastes, but I realize that others may have different preferences. They usually go something like this:

  • Preface: Usually someone I don’t know writes a dozen pages about how great the book is. I always skip this.
  • Introduction: The author tells me why they wrote the book, usually due to personal experience or from years of research. There are some anecdotes and discussion of family to humanize the author a bit… “Hey! I also have struggled with this, this guy is just like me!” And then several pages are used to tell me what each chapter discusses and provides no more valuable information than I find in the table of contents
  • First 1/3-1/2 of the book: Here is why this is a problem that needs to be fixed. I find this to be tedious and often skip it. I picked up a book on creativity because I would like to be more creative, I don’t need 100 pages telling me why creativity is important or what the benefits may be, I kind of already understand that and I think this section (especially if it includes ‘common roadblocks’) should be towards the end.
  • The last 1/2-2/3 of the book: This is the meat and what I came for. I like concrete steps and methods for reaching a goal. I know each situation is different and there is no universally correct way to be creative (or whatever) but if you have a four-part system for creating a creative rhythm starting it on page 70 is annoying, that shit should basically start on page 3.
  • Final few pages: Other books to buy or things to subscribe to “Want to really implement this?!? Buy my patented spreadsheet and join the online community forums! I promise not to bombard you with emails or other sales pitches” (I immediately start receiving daily emails with titles like “I normally don’t do this!” or “Here are the first of 10 ways to improve things, for my subscribers only!”

This always makes me want to write my own book about what has been (minimally) successful for me. I don’t think anyone would pay actual money for it, but it would be good to articulate my experiences and ideas in a concrete way.

 

“Existentialism” by David Cooper: This is a new addition to the morning readings and I think it is going to be a slow read. I wrote a bunch in the margins already and I’m only on page 4. So far, my notes say:

  • This seems to assumes something completely unique about humans but I’m not sure if that is entirely true. We don’t know enough about the mind of ourselves or animals to automatically classify ourselves as unique.
  • Accounting for humans requires referring to other things, but isn’t that true of virtually everything? Every description is a language shortcut that defines a relationship. “Cold” is “the molecules around me are moving more slowly than they previously were (or that I am comfortable with or than the molecules over there)”. An exhaustive description always requires a direct or implied comparison to something else, sometimes what that object will likely become. Humans aren’t unique in that respect
  • “exist” = “ex-ist” = “ex = out”, “ist = a person who does something, stands” = “a person who is outside or stands outside”
  • “ecstasy” comes from the word “exist” and means “displacement from proper place or of the mind”, literally a person who is outside their mind.
  • Sartre thought that someone who said that being homosexual was a fixed property was a man of “bad faith”. Did he feel the same about heterosexuality?

 

Okay, that’s my morning. Time to go for a run, meditate, go to therapy, and then make that paper. Oh, that actually reminds me. I don’t talk about work much here but I do want to note that things are going really well on that front. I have some fun projects, my primary clients are giving me greater autonomy and responsibility, and I’m feeling really good. I don’t know if my situation has objectively improved or if my mindset is just better, but either way I am in a good place.

Toodles!

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below!

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”

December 5, 2018 – Morning Journaling (Creativity)

I’ve never considered myself a particularly creative person. In fact, I have many times broken one of my cardinal rules and I have identified with this trait. I’ve often mentally and vocally said, “I’m just not creative.” I have one theory about where this mindset came from.

I’m the oldest of six children and coming from a large family means that each child tends to fill some sort of role. We find ways to stand out and be individuals, often by filling pre-conceived archetypes that we aren’t even aware of. I have a brother who is 16-months younger than me and he was always the artistic one, even from a young age.

For example, I remember living in Sacramento and walking up to the neighborhood park (Colonial Playground) every day of summer. I was probably 5 or 6, he was 4 or 5, and we may have had our next youngest brother in tow who was about 3. The park had this program where they had adults at the park that gave out free meals, taught classes, and generally just looked after us.

This was clearly a different era (holy fuck, how old am I?) when a 6-year old would walk his two youngest brothers by himself several blocks to a park to be watched by strangers until dark. Surprisingly, I have a lot of memories of those days that involved a ridiculous amount of freedom. We would play in alleys and walk up to the grocery store to buy cigarette shaped candy. I walked myself and my siblings half a mile to Mark Twain elementary school (and then to the bus stop to get to Peter Burnett the next year). We also went inside neighbors homes that we didn’t know, picked fruit out of their yards, and accepted candy on a daily basis. We also ran around with a couple of the neighborhood kids who were a little older than me. We never got in trouble but we occasionally went beyond the borders that my parents had established for us. The worst thing that ever happened was a few skinned up knees or minor cuts. I even went with some people my parents didn’t really know to a San Francisco Giants game. One of the older kids that my mom trusted (I think his name was Francisco, actually) was going so that is all that mattered. I basically slept for the whole thing and don’t remember anything except the ride there.

Wow, it was a different time.

Anyway, at the park they once had a drawing contest. Everyone drew something and then we voted on whose was our favorite (we each got two votes). I remember being really embarrassed by my drawing after seeing my brothers. He has a real natural talent for art and that is something I’ve never had or tried to develop.

So, long story long, I wasn’t the artist in my family and I often explicitly identified as someone who isn’t creative. I’m changing that about me. In fact, I just started reading a book called “The Accidental Creative” by Todd Henry that I am hoping will provide me with some assistance in breaking out of this shell I put myself in. I’m only on the first chapter but here are some of the things that have stood out to me so far and my random thoughts.

  • Being sustainable creative requires adopting the goal of being Brilliant, Healthy, and Prolific. Without all three you will burnout, be unreliable, or be fired.
    • Currently, when it comes to my writing I would say I am partially brilliant, generally healthy, and not at all prolific. As Henry puts it, “To be prolific means that you not only have great ideas, but that you actually do something with them.” Damn, Henry, be nice. I’m trying
  • “Many of us view the creative process in the same way. It is mysterious, unseen force that can have powerful, unanticipated effects. We know it is there, but we don’t understand it, and so it seems beyond our ability to control. But like atmospheric pressure, once we grasp a few of its governing dynamics, we can harness its power by building structure to leverage it.”
    • This is me. I have often viewed creativity as some uncontrollable force that sparks randomly and not something that can be trained or funneled or practiced. I viewed it as a gift, not a muscle.
  • “There is the persistent myth that creativity results only from complete lack of boundaries and total freedom. The reality is that we are not capable of operating without boundaries… Total freedom is false freedom. True freedom has healthy boundaries.
    • First, I take issue with the word choice in those last two sentences. I think it would be more accurate to say “Total freedom is destructive freedom. Creative freedom has healthy boundaries.”
    • Second, the first part of that passage really struck home for me. I’ve experienced that first hand. When I have an entire day to do a few projects I get nothing done, or at least nothing good. When I have a highly structured day I end up working out, finishing work, writing, meditating, and finding time to see friends. Too many options causes stagnation.
  • “You must not confuse structure for formula… There is no formula for effective creating. Structure, on the other hand, is the undergirding platform that gives you enough stability to feel free taking risks.”
    • It is interesting that people often join the military to receive “structure” when what they are really receiving is a “formula”. In the military, there is no support for taking risks and the “structure” rarely helps outside of the military, especially if you don’t understand the reason behind the “structure”. There is a huge difference between getting up at 5am and exercising because that is what you were told to do and getting up at 5am and exercising because you understand that mornings are the best time of the day to get important health tasks like that done. The military is about following orders and not learning how to be creative and effective in the civilian world.
  • The “‘always on’ approach works against you (in creative outlets).”
    • But, many systems do not want creative people. Our school systems, many jobs, religious institutions, political institutions, none of them want creativity to thrive, they want people to fall in line and an ‘always on’ approach helps with that. If you never have a break, if you are constantly treading water, then you are never going to fulfill your passions and create great things. I’m sure I’m not the only one who finishes a day of work and is so mentally exhausted that writing a book or painting or even exercising is impossible. I may have the physical ability but my mental reserves are depleted.
  • The goal is to create “creative rhythm” by structuring five elements: Focus, Relationships, Energy, Stimuli, and Hours.
    • This is the meat of the book. I’ll be writing about each one as I read about them.

So, that’s it for me today. Now on to the rest of my day. I hope you have a lovely December 5.

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”

December 1, 2018 – Morning Journaling (Writing Beginnings)

About two weeks ago I decided to treat myself a little and subscribed to Masterclass. The concept intrigued me and I was really sold once I saw that Margaret Atwood had a course about writing. I’m not done with the course yet but I feel like I have already gotten my money’s worth.

One of the lessons that has stuck with me is the importance of the first page, especially the first sentence and paragraph. For many authors, those first words will be the difference between someone taking your novel home and someone putting it back on the bookstore shelf. First impressions are important, especially for new writers.

The beginning of the story has always been a struggle for me. I have concepts and worlds but figuring out where to start causes me to freeze. This is where I really felt encouragement from Atwood because she talks a lot about how important and common it is to change your book mid-writing, sometimes the true first line and page are not written for 50 pages. And that’s okay.

Another tip was to read the first part of books and authors that I like and try to really consciously think about what you are being told. There are a lot of subconscious assumptions that happen when reading and taking a step back to analyze them a bit can be the difference between developing a good first sentence and a bad first sentence.

Atwood uses some classic literature as examples of good beginnings, such as Moby-Dick, “Call me Ishmael”. Those three words shape our perception of the novel moving forward. We know the narrator survives and we can relate the name to its Biblical foundation, if you know the story of Ishmael then you learn about how the narrator views himself, as a first-born son who was cast out by his father but ended up being blessed by God out in the wilderness.

So, I decided to think about a couple of opening passages that have stuck with me. The first actually comes from the film American Beauty:

My name is Lester Burnham. This is my neighborhood. This is my street. This is my life. I am 42 years old. In less than a year, I will be dead. Of course, I don’t know that yet, and in a way, I’m already dead.

As these words are spoken we have an aerial view of standard suburbia with matching houses and cars. The first five sentences almost lull is into a sense of security until that last sentence. We now know that someone that many people may be able to relate to died early in his life. The audience is now roped in, who killed Lester Burnham? Additionally, we are given the tone of the story, this isn’t really about Lester’s physical death, it is about the spiritual death he experienced by living this “dream” cookie-cutter, White suburbia life. So, this is also going to be somewhat political and maybe a story of redemption if Lester can revive his spirit… but we know it will be a short lived revival.

I love that beginning. In six sentences you learn so much about what you are in for and have several issues that you want to be resolved. Damn.

The second opening passage comes from the first book of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, The Gunslinger. Now, this is my all-time favorite series and I’ve read it multiple times, so clearly I’m biased. But I do love the first passage. In fact, I think things actually starts before the first chapter with the book title and the first section title.

If you know nothing about the story and live in America then you can’t help but have visions of old westerns and tough men like John Wayne or Clint Eastwood when you read that title. Often the “strong, silent type” of men who stick to a very strong code. You are going to expect this story to involve a harsh environment where the strong survive sometimes and people live on the edge of civilization. Two words and the tone is set.

Then, before the story we are given one word alone on a page “Resumption”. King has stated this is the subtitle of the book and, personally, I think it is even more powerful displayed alone like this. One word and we know that this is a new beginning to an old task. There are years and stories behind us, as well as in front of us. And the reader hopes, nay prays, that they hear some of these stories as well. What is being resumed? We don’t know until we turn the page and read the first sentence:

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

Ahh… we are in the middle of a chase of sorts. “The man in black” instantly plays upon the established norm of symbolizing evil with the color black. Or at least a rebel of some kind, like Johnny Cash. We know that we are in a desert, which isn’t surprising given the title but still confirms the feeling of the story. With one sentence we can easily see in our mind’s eye a rough, cowboy of a man standing in the middle of nowhere with the sun high in the sky and far in the distance a man in all black fleeing. It seems he fears the gunslinger, or at least we are lead to believe that in the beginning.

Want to know how this chase is resolved? Well, now you want to buy the book. It drags you in and makes you want resolution. We humans hate it when things aren’t wrapped up tidy. And, spoiler alert, King almost never wraps things up for us. We are always left wanting more.

Hopefully, some day, I will find the words to start a novel that have such powerful imagery associated with it.

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”

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.