“The Raft is Not the Shore” – A Reflection (Part 5)

This is the final part of a short series where I reflect on one of the most impactful books I’ve ever read, “The Raft is Not the Shore: Conversations Toward A Buddhist-Christian Awareness” by Thich Nhat Hanh and Daniel Berrigan.

Part 1 is available here.
Part 2 is available here.
Part 3 is available here.
Part 4 is available here.

But first… a very quick question from my Sarahah page. If you’ve got something on your mind feel free to submit it and I’ll respond here. As you can see from my AMA page, I enjoy discussing all types of subjects that most people consider off-limits.

“How do you pronounce your last name?”

🙂 I have definitely had this question before in my life. Whenever people find themselves in the unenviable position of pronouncing my last name (Neiger) there is always an awkward pause. I actually had a drill sergeant in the Army who refused to say my name and a squad leader who just called me “Peanut Butter” (because, apparently, I looked like the type of guy who would put peanut butter on my dick and have a dog lick it off). *le sigh*

Anyway, I’ve done some research into my name. My family told me it was German in origin. While it follows the German pronunciation rules with the hard “g” and “when two vowels go a walkin’ the second one does the talkin'” I’ve found my last name is likely Jewish and is more common in Israel than elsewhere in the world. (Note: my research is very elementary and shouldn’t be taken as fact).

The easiest way to pronounce my last name is to remember that it rhymes with Tiger, which actually happens to define my attitude (in bed). Rawr.

Now, on to “The Raft is Not the Shore”.


Chapter 8: Jesus and Buddha

“As the Buddha says, ‘My doctrine is only a raft helping to bring you over to the shore, not ultimate reality; you shouldn’t worship it.” – Nhat Hanh

This teaching, which is clearly the source of the book’s title, is something that I never really saw growing up. There was no sense of modesty in how Christ’s words were taught to me. Jesus was shown to me as a god to be obeyed (sort of) and not a guide on a path. His word was the shore, not a raft to find the shore. I should re-read the red letters to see what impression I get from his actual words now that I have been away from church indoctrination for over a decade.

“I always try to be aware of the fact that when the Buddha or Jesus said something, they were saying it to someone or some group of people. I should understand the circumstances in which they spoke, in order to get into communion with them rather than merely take their saying word for word.” – Nhat Hanh

This view of the big picture, this nuance is sorely missing from a lot of religious teachings. Instead of looking at patterns of love or tolerance or forgiveness, many churches get stuck on specific words or rules. I think this is truer when you read Paul than Jesus, but Paul’s impact on the church shouldn’t be understated. He may have more influence on modern American Christianity than Jesus.

“I thought one reason for the deep trouble among the students at the seminary was that there was no atmosphere around them inviting them to become Christians. Rather, the atmosphere was urging them to become experts in Christianity. And the two are very different things.” – Berrigan

I don’t have any particular knowledge of the seminary (obvi), but if this is true I find it troubling. Samual Clemens old saying, “Don’t let schooling interfere with his education,” applies to seminary as well as secular education.

Chapter 9: Communities of Resistance

“One should not be idolatrous or bound to any doctrine, any theory, any ideology, including Buddhist ones. Buddhist systems of thought must be guiding means and not absolute truths.” – Nhat Hanh

This mindset has become increasingly appealing to me. It is like Huxley’s “The Perennial Philosophy” or even Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” and Jung’s “Collective Unconscious”. Our species uses stories, mythologies, and religious teachings in the pursuit of an absolute truth that is larger than any of the individual means of attaining that truth. All are different paths up the same mountain, and no path has all the experience or knowledge to fully understand the mountain. I think this is why pagan practices and the Unitarian Universalist church both appeal to me so much. They are seeking truth and justice and peace without ideology.

“And resistance, at root, I think, must mean more than resistance against war. It is resistance against all kinds of things that are like war… resistance means opposition to being invaded, occupied, assaulted, and destroyed by the system. The purpose of resistance, here, is to seek the healing of yourself in order to be able to see clearly.” – Nhat Hanh

Resistance to sexism, racism, bigotry, emotional attachment, animal abuse, pollution, government… all things that invade, occupy, assault, and destroy our bodies and minds and others.

“the invasion, the loss of soul, loss of self-understanding on the part of many modern people. In the form almost of madness, one is invaded by demonic values of this world, and runs with them.” – Berrigan

We are a culture of damaged souls.

“If in many monastic communities people are praying and meditating but do not resist, maybe it’s because they do not pray and meditate properly… meditating and praying should be in the context of life. And if you isolate yourself from the reality of suffering, I think that something is wrong.” -Nhat Hanh

It is easy for me to scoff at religious people who fall back on “thoughts and prayers” for every tragedy or ounce of suffering in their community. But I’m just as bad. My time is often spent in relative luxury while others suffer and I just hope/think someone else will take care of it. Is that better or worse than just praying about it? I don’t know.

“Do not judge each other too easily, too quickly, in terms of ideology, of point of view, strategies, things like that. Try to see the real person, the one with whom you live. You might discover aspects that will enrich you.” – Nhat Hanh

Amen.

And this ends my reflection on “The Raft is Not the Shore: Conversations Toward a Buddhist-Christian Awareness” by Thich Nhat Hanh and Daniel Berrigan. I highly, highly recommend picking up a copy and flipping through it from time to time.


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

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
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/user/show/5292148
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

Week 2 Progress

My focus on improving my life has been chugging along at a good pace this week. I am DEFINITELY happier and more productive without Facebook. I’ve logged on a few times for very specific reasons and I think if I keep it to reasons like that then I can stay in a relatively good place with it. Here are a few milestones from this week:

  • Went to the doctor (finally) and had a good experience with the VA. I was able to schedule an appointment to see a therapist to assist with my mental health issues. I also had blood work done, aside from very slightly high levels of LDL cholesterol it all looks good. The VA even did x-rays of my left hip and knee (which I injured in the Army) and I start some physical therapy next month.
  • I started a new “Miracle Morning” plan where I wake up at 5am (my schedule below). It has been working really well for me the last couple of days and I plan on sticking with it. The book I got it out of is worth reading but it is a bit like an infomercial, so be prepared. There is good info in it but I got the feeling that the author was really much more interested in selling side products than actually helping people. It probably could have been a week-long series of solid blog posts instead of a book.
  • I checked out a new fitness place in town that focuses on Spartan-style obstacle course challenge and rucking, and I really enjoyed it. It is a social place and will complement my personal training and running really well. I signed up for an overnight event they have coming up next month, which is exciting. I really haven’t had much of a social life since getting to Wilmington, being an introvert and working from home can really turn you into a homebody sometimes. Oh, I also have a 9-mile trail run on Saturday, which should be fun.
  • One of the things I miss about Facebook is the social aspect. So, I’m logging on once a week or so to get email addresses and birthdays from the system and I plan on reaching out to people in a more personal manner throughout the year. Hopefully, this will sustain and build relationships with people that I like.
  • Today, I have a phone session with a life/career coach that I am considering working with. I have come to realize recently that I would really benefit from having someone to hold me accountable and provide me with support as I try to make writing more of a career, or at least expand my current position to become more stable and lucrative.

Alright, here is my routine for the last three days. It has been really successful but it will get more challenging soon. Anna has been gone the last three nights but she comes back today.

0500 – Wake up, brush teeth, drink water, feed animals
0515 – Meditation via the Headspace App
0530 – Affirmations
0535 – Visualizations
0540 – Light exercise (yoga, walk, jog)
0600 – Journaling (GoJournal and The Daily Stoic)
0610 – Personal Development reading
0630 – Creative Writing
0650 – Blogging
0710 – Reading
0800 – Right of Passage work
0830 – Skill-building
0900 – Gym or long run
1000 – Work and other daily activities
2055 – Set up next day
2100 – End of day journaling (GoJournal and Daily Stoic)
2115 – Evening Walk
2130 – Visualizations
2135 – Affirmations
2140 – Meditation via the Headspace App
2150 – Water, teeth, bed

As far as physical progress, things are still moving along but have slowed down a little. I think I just burnt through the low-hanging water weight fruit and now it is going to be a slower chug towards my goals. I definitely notice some slimming around the waist in my profile picture and front picture.

Weight:
Beginning – 187.5 lbs
Week 1 – 177.5 lbs
Week 2 – 176.4 lbs
Total Loss – 11.1 lbs
Weekly Loss – 1.1 lbs

Waist Measurements:
Beginning – 37.75 lbs
Week 1 – 36 inches
Week 2 – 36 inches
Total Loss – 1.75 inches
Weekly Loss – 0 inches

Week 2                                                          Beginning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, I’m happy with my progress but I’m still dedicated to moving things along. My nutrition has been on point and my work-outs are paying off. I feel much stronger even if my appearance seems to have stalled out a little bit.

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

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

Email address: 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”

Turning to the Pros

I’ve always resisted asking for help. I tend to try and do things my own way for far too long before seeking support. I don’t learn from others mistakes and I experiment irresponsibly, it is a wonder that I’m alive. I’m trying to change that this year, though. I’m trying to reach out and get support in order to reach my potential. There are a few key areas of my life where I am now seeking help.

First, my physical fitness. I can work out and get in generally good shape, but it is unlikely that I’ll reach my potential in a timely manner without help. So, I’ve joined a gym, hired a personal trainer, and started attending group classes. I will be able to receive guidance from people who specialize in building my body and increasing my health, and they will provide me with motivation as well. I’ve often heard something like “you know your body best”, and that is true to an extent, but I don’t know human physiology or what bodies are generally capable of. My mind is my own worst limit and having someone there who can structure a plan around my desires and has a larger pool of experience to pull from is beneficial.

Second, my mental health. For far, far, far too fucking long I’ve put off my mental health. I need a therapist (and so do you). I’ve neglected it by saying that my PTSD isn’t that bad or that others are worse off or that I can’t afford it (more on that below), but I was just scared. I didn’t want to know if I was broken completely. I didn’t want to tell my feelings to someone. I wanted to stay bottled up and angry or frustrated behind a stoic mask. I thought I could handle it, but I can’t (and I don’t need to).

Third, my career. I’ve read self-help books and I’ve implemented new routines and habits, but that can only get me so far. I want to be a writer, a  creator, and a healer but I lack the drive to do it on my own right now. I need an objective third party to help move me in that direction. I’m sure some people have the internal strength to reach their potential without help, but I am not that person and I think it is wise for me to admit that. If I try to become a writer alone then I am going to have decades of blank pages ahead of me. So, I’ve set up my first phone call with a potential coach tomorrow.

Lastly, I’m considering going back to school for something more healing. Massage therapy (with a focus on sports massage) is incredibly appealing to me, but I have a few reservations about it. I am also interested in becoming a therapist but the programs are so expensive and my student loans are still high. It is easy to say “the internet exists, why do we need schools?”, but I guess I don’t work that way. I’ve tried to self-educate myself to learn foreign languages and other skills, but it just hasn’t worked. Maybe I could have been an “unschool” kid but the time and energy it would take to become an “unschool” adult seems much higher than the time and energy it would take to just go back to school.

Yes, these mostly cost money but in each case, I’ve made a cost-benefit analysis. In some cases that analysis was fairly straightforward. If I pay a life coach X amount of dollars but I think it is reasonable that I’ll earn X+100 each month working with them, then it is a good deal.

With my physical health, it is a little bit more difficult to calculate but can still be done. Using random numbers, if I pay my trainer $100 a week and he gets me to my training goals in 3 months instead of 6 then I’m living the life I want for longer. I also feel like there is a mental health boost to physical fitness (the brain is part of the body, after all) and, though difficult to measure, there is a possibility that physical health actually will pay off financially through more creativity, greater confidence, and reduced health problems in the future. How much money will I save if I can prevent myself from getting heart disease or diabetes or face cognitive decline a decade or two earlier (or ever)? I don’t know, but an “expensive” trainer may end up being cheap in the long run.

The most difficult cost-benefit analysis is seeing a therapist. I think there are some potential work-related benefits, but again, they are hard to measure. If my therapist is able to help me work on my (increasingly bad) inability to focus, concentrate, or stick with a task, then I’ll be able to log more work hours and earn more money. I’ll also be able to build a greater skill set in school if my mind is in a good place. Dealing with PTSD won’t really provide a financial payoff that I can think of, but life isn’t about a financial payoff for everything. If dealing with my mental health issues allows me to have a life filled with more love, patience, and peace, then it is worth it. It is a service I’m paying for, not an investment. And isn’t that the point of earning money, to pay for experiences? To help other people? To make the most out of this life? Time is our most scarce resource (until technology advances more) and it is worth spending on getting guidance.

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

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
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/user/show/5292148
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”


 

10 Days Without Facebook

I’m interrupting my blog series about “The Raft is Not the Shore: Conversations Toward A Buddhist-Christian Awareness” by Thich Nhat Hanh and Daniel Berrigan to do a quick update on how things are going since I stopped going to Facebook. Well, I mostly stopped going to Facebook. In the last ten days I’ve logged on twice for less than five minutes each to see if I had any new messages. I scanned my notifications to see if there was anything particularly important (there wasn’t) and I didn’t even look at my newsfeed. Facebook is a great way to communicate one-on-one, so I’m checking it weekly to instruct people to email me if they’ve reached out to me that way.

So, how is this little experiment in anti-social networking going? Pretty good, but it isn’t without struggles.

First, the good. I am being WAY more productive. In the last ten days, I have blogged every day, meditated every day, gone on a run every day (for a total of 42 miles), finished reading five books, practiced yoga 8 times, scheduled my first therapist appointment and set up an interview with a possible life coach. I’m also considerably happier, am sleeping better, drinking less, eating better, and communicating better with my partner. I don’t think all these benefits really come from not wasting time on Facebook, I think it is more of a mental thing. I would always feel grumpy, exhausted, and combative when on Facebook, but like any addiction, I kept going back for a little fix, a little dopamine shot. I would scan the timeline hoping to see something, anything of value and then keep scanning because I was sure there must be something worth seeing just down the page. I would read people’s comments and get annoyed, and see news articles that are highlighting all the negative things in the world that are outside of my control. It was truly toxic to me and I am doing much better now that I’ve cut it out.

Now, the bad. I am kind of lonely. A significant part of my social life was online and I don’t really have a lot of friends here. I do miss a lot of the support and intellectual stimulation I got from the private FB groups. My introversion/anxiety/shitty internal dialogue often prevents me from getting into situations where I will make friends or asking my friends if they want to grab a coffee. I think this negative aspect may become something positive though, without my online social fix I am more motivated to be more proactive in the meat-suit world to meet people. I’m going to check out a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or an obstacle course fitness class this week (not sure which one) and I am also really interested in volunteering with the local hospital. Hopefully, I’ll push out of my comfort zone now that I need to find a network to avoid being lonely (working from home has its downsides).

Additionally, Facebook is really the best place to share my writing and thoughts. I don’t think anyone really checks my blog unless I post it on Facebook (which is why I decided to log on in a few minutes and share this post… I understand the irony). If I am series about becoming a writer and creator then I need to act professionally, and that involves a level of advertising that doesn’t come naturally to me. Maybe I can pay someone to log in to my account daily and share my posts or I can somehow use it without getting sucked into the negativity.

Anyway, that’s how my ten days are going. It has been a roaring success and I’m going to stick with it. I’ll probably report back at the end of the month with another update or when I have something professional to announce (hopefully, my podcast series will be done this month).

Until then, please feel free to reach out to me via non-Facebook means (see below).

Much love to you all.

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

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
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/user/show/5292148
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

“The Raft is Not the Shore” – A Reflection (Part 2)

This is the second part of a short series where I reflect on one of the most impactful books I’ve ever read, “The Raft is Not the Shore: Conversations Toward A Buddhist-Christian Awareness” by Thich Nhat Hanh and Daniel Berrigan.

Part 1 is available here.

Chapter 3: Exile

“Another difference is that in the Vietnamese language, the word ‘I’ (toi) is quite different from the ‘I’ in other languages. In our language, toi means ‘your servent’; there is no ‘I’ as such.” – Nhat Hanh

I think language can tell a lot about a culture and provide great insight into new ways of thinking. It is so easy to be Anglo-centric in my thinking, especially as English becomes a more dominant language throughout the world. It is a shame that we don’t have more exposure to other languages, I think it could really spark creativity if we explored the world through additional linguistic lenses.

“when religion is true to itself, it is embarrassing to the politicians.” – Berrigan

This is a theme throughout the book (and much of history). When religion is true to itself it acts as a powerpoint that politicians must fight or coopt. Religion is part of community and government is the opposite of community. Letting another source of power run free and criticize the government is embarrassing (or threatening) to politicians. Religion provides a moral standard for behavior that can often run counter to the legal standard of behavior demanded by politicians.

“That’s a terrible injustice to human beings – to carve the world up and declare who is eligible to exist and who isn’t. Of course, it is another form of war – a war against human freedom and dignity.” – Nhat Hanh

Open borders is the ethical choice if you support human freedom and dignity. If you see humanity as one race that is equally loved by God or deserve human rights then you can’t support putting up walls and punishing people for being born in a different area of the planet. Last I checked, Jesus didn’t command his supporters to allow the children to come to him EXCEPT those that were born elsewhere. His message of love and forgiveness and charity is supposed to apply to all corners of the globe, and that means tearing down the walls and opening our homes (and countries) to those in need instead of declaring war on them.

“After a while one gets the impression that if you are really speaking up for humanity, you’re unwelcome everywhere… practically everyone today should be either in exile or jail or in some kind of trouble.” – Berrigan

This immediately made me think of “Civil Disobedience” by Henry David Thoreau. As Thoreau said, “Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also in prison.” If we are acting justly, morally, ethically, and fighting for those in need then we should be the enemy of the state. Our lives should be a struggle. We should be imprisoned, exiled, and impoverished (just like Christ, et al). If not, then we are arm-chair Christians or advocates for justice. We are risking nothing but feel good because we pray, put things on Facebook, or occasionally march in the streets (as long as the schedule matches up with my work schedule and I won’t get in trouble). A real focus on higher ideals means rejecting this world.

“The nation-state is becoming more and more violent and suspicious and repressive. Yet we have no clear alternative to all this except to say no to it.” – Berrigan

I’m not sure if the nation-state is becoming more violent or not. I think that things overall are getting better thanks to the market and technology. It is more and more difficult for regimes to remain repressive, at least in the traditional sense. Violent police officers and war crimes are brought to light more quickly than in the past and people seem much more willing to mobilize than before. There is an alternative, but it is not popular or clear to me that it really would work well. Anarchy. That black flag that conjures up propaganda images of violence and chaos. What it really is is peace, love, and humans working cooperatively and consensually. Sadly, we probably aren’t ready for it.

“He dares to attack a convention, a polite way of coping or dealing; so they decide he must die.” – Berrigan

“Why don’t you do what everyone else does? But if you are determined to go your own way, to do what you like or what you think is right, they think you are crazy. In such cases, you are a little bit in exile just because you don’t act like others.” – Nhat Hanh

The first quote is in reference to “The Stranger” by Camus (I need to re-read that) and leads into Nhat Hanh’s thoughts. Society is often more concerned with maintaining norms than the pursuit of justice. We punish people because they fall out of line, not necessarily because they cause harm. Sometimes the justice is legal and sometimes it is a form of ostracism from society because behavior makes us uncomfortable. We preach and preach about being loving and accepting, but when faced with a way of living that isn’t our own we cast those people out. If you tell someone that you are choosing to remain childless, decided not to have a career and instead travel around for decades, have a consensually sexually open relationship, or responsibly use drugs recreationally then people (all but your closest friends) freak out. They become threatened by your life, even though it has no impact on them. I think this is because it stirs up doubts, it makes them wonder if they could have lived a different (better?) life. It is easy to be content when everyone is living the same way, but that contentment is shattered when a stranger walks into your life that is happy and did everything differently.

Alright, that’s it for today. Tomorrow I will tackle a couple more chapters with comments on sections that I highlighted. I definitely, definitely, definitely recommend this book.


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

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

Email address: 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”

Whispers and Roars

If you listen to a problem when it whispers, then you will never need to hear it roar.

I went to the VA hospital yesterday for my initial exam. I was supposed to do this over a year ago but I kept putting it off. I have an aversion to doing the right thing sometimes. Part of it is because of my introversion and minor social anxiety, I hate talking on the phone or going new places or bothering people.

I am undecided on whether the internet has helped or hurt this aspect of my life. On one hand, I can accomplish many things online with automated systems like order a pizza, a blood test, or schedule a sewage inspection by the city. This helps me get things done that I need or want done. But it also means that on the rare occasion when I actually need to call someone or visit a place in person I have no practice and am practically paralyzed. I want to take dance classes or get a massage or try a new yoga studio, but if I have to actually call the business for details then I just never do it. I’m even currently still paying a monthly fee to a gym that I am no longer visiting because canceling involves going down there in person and giving them bad news.

Anyway, that isn’t really what I planned on talking about. I just wanted to give you some background that explains why it took me 18-months before my initial physical exam at the VA hospital, despite having some mental and physical health problems that should be addressed. My body and mind have been whispering that I need to get things checked out but I kept pushing it down until that whisper became a scream, and now I wonder if the time I’ve waited was too long.

My body has had a few problems recently related to my military service. When I was on a training exercise in Lousiana my unit jumped in to a simulated warzone to spend a few days on mission. The paratrooper behind me went out of the C-130 wrong and sent me into a bad spin. As a result, I ended up landing very poorly and I lost consciousness and injured my left knee and hip. I thought this injury was in the past but after working with my personal trainer I’ve come to realize that I still have hip and knee problems. Part of me knew that these issues were coming up, but I just ignored them and hoped they would go away.

I have the same experience with my mental health. I thought my PTSD was under control but a few months ago I broke down in front of my partner. I found myself sobbing in the fetal position while my mind relived the lives and deaths of people I knew. It was a crashing wave that I couldn’t stop (and maybe didn’t want to stop). But after the wave subsided I figured I had everything under control and just went back to my normal life… even when my mind was yelling at me I tried to ignore the problem.

This is a common theme in my life, to ignore problems that whisper at me until they reach the point of yelling. Ignoring the trickle until it turns into a flood.

I was in a job in LA that I was not a good fit and that was contributing to my unhappiness, but I stayed until I hit a breaking point. I should have tried to do more to make the job work well for me and then cut ties when I knew it wasn’t possible.

I have been in relationships that weren’t compatible but I stayed in them because I didn’t want to admit the problems. I didn’t seek a therapist or admit defeat, instead I stayed until we hated each other. I lost the opportunity for a lifetime friend because I didn’t listen to the whispers of problems we had.

I’ve had car and bike and computer problems that I ignored because I wanted them to pass. A creaking sound in my bike crank, a check-engine light on my car, a slow start-up on my computer… all things that may cost a little bit of money to fix if I would have addressed them early become catastrophic and require replacement if I ignore them long enough.

So often, I’ve ignored problems and as a result, lost moments of my life that I’d never get back. Every day in a bad job or bad relationship is one that I won’t have in a good job or good relationship. Every dollar spent on repairing a problem that cascaded because I ignored it early on is a dollar I won’t have to adventure with my partner or it is an hour that I’ll have to spend working to make up for that cost.

My body, my mind, my relationships, my jobs, my possessions are all subject to entropy. They are going to wear down and possibly break, and if I love them and I love my life then I need to address these problems as soon as possible, while they are manageable. I am sometimes afraid of what I’ll find when I tear open the hood and see what the source of those whispers are…

  • is it cancer?
  • am I doomed to mental health issues my whole life?
  • is my partnership no longer compatible?
  • is this job wrong for me?
  • is my car breaking?

It seems better to ignore it and remain ignorant, but that won’t make my problems go away, it’ll only make them scream until I take notice, and then it might really be too late.

 

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

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

Email address: 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”

Week 1 Progress

I’ve been on my “no Facebook” routine for a week now and I am really quite thrilled with the results. I definitely feel like I have more time and energy, and my productivity has been pretty high. I don’t think FB really took up much time, but the constant fighting, negativity, and news kept my mind in “fight or flight or flee” mode, which isn’t conducive to creation and life improvement.

I’ve been fairly busy with work but I’ve managed to meditate every day, run every day, and hit the gym three times. I also stuck with my nutrition goals except for one “cheat day” that I allowed myself when my partner and I visited some friends. I also finished one book and will probably wrap another one up today or tomorrow. My podcast is also coming along nicely and I’ve been consistently working with Codecademy to learn to code. All that sounds great but it is difficult to truly measure progress without some objective measures. So, here are some of those with regards to my fitness goals (reminder: I generally feel healthiest around 155-160 lbs and 15%-17% body fat). But first, some photos… not a lot of visual progress but I feel like my waist looks a little slimmer. I also continue to look miserable in my pictures, maybe I’ll have my partner take pics in the future so that I can get a better angle.

Pre-Photo:                                           Week 1 Photo:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Measurements:

Pre Weight – 187.5 lbs
Week 1 – 177.5 lbs
Change – -10lbs
(This is mostly water weight, glycogen, and an improved digestive tract. I am aiming for only 1-2lbs fat loss per week)

Pre Waist – 37.75 inches
Week 1 – 36 inches
Change – -1.75 inches
(Again, mostly just bloating and water weight in response to not having a shitty beer and salt filled diet)

So, that’s where I stand now. I’ll update again next week whether it is good, bad, or ugly.

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

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

Email address: 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”

Little Moments

I got back from a work trip at 7pm tonight and all I wanted to do was zone out. Being productive, fulfilling my commitments to myself, keeping my habits going… that all sounded too exhausting. I wanted pajamas, a bath, maybe some masturbation, and the numbness that comes from zoning out to shows on Netflix that I’ve seen a thousand times.

But, I didn’t do that tonight.

Instead, I got my ass outside and went for a run. My partner and I have a daily Netflix and chill date most nights at around 9pm and I knew that I had limited time to get the things done that I needed to get done. It is always so easy for me to just neglect a day of habit building because I had to travel or work was busy or I have friends coming over or I have too many errands to run. There is always a reason why the day isn’t the perfect one and I should be excused from my commitments to myself.

There’s always tomorrow… until there isn’t.

Memento Mori

So, instead of waiting until tomorrow I made a quick list of what I needed (deserved) to do. Run, yoga, write, read, meditate, and coding. Yes, I can do all that in two hours. It won’t be a lot of each thing, and I won’t be great at any of them, but they will get done.

So, I went for a run. It wasn’t long and it wasn’t fast, but I beat the pavement.

Then, I meditated. It wasn’t long and my headspace was shitty, but I sat.

I followed that up with yoga. It was only 15 minutes and my mind wandered, but I practiced.

I also did some reading. Only a few pages and it was hardly mind-blowing, but I turned those pages.

CodeAcademy got some practice as well. The lesson was quick but there are new skills marinating in my mind.

And now I’m writing. Just word vomiting on the page, but I blogged something again and my daily streak continues.

Sometimes, or maybe even often, greatness isn’t about a result. Sometimes, greatness is just showing up (again and again and again), even when the day is long and shitty and you just want to sit down and lounge.


Day 4 and 5 Update of “Operation: Shut Off Facebook and Become Who You Want to Become”

Mixed results for the last two days. On Sunday I did a pretty good job of prioritizing my habits and eating well while I was at home. My partner and I went to Myrtle Beach to see some friends and because I had a work thing on Monday. Dinner went well but after dinner, we had some drinks while playing board games. My original plan was to go without booze for all of February but I’m rethinking that (or coming up with an excuse). I think I’m going to allow myself up to three light drinks if (and only if) there is an event going on with friends. I’m not going to force myself to have those drinks, but I’ll allow it if I feel like it, particularly if it isn’t beer. I also did a very quick Facebook check on Sunday to see if I had any messages or friend requests or anything urgent. There wasn’t anything of real notice and I felt no urge to scroll or post or anything… which I see as a good sign. I think a weekly check for urgent things may be a new thing I do too.

Monday was uber busy with work stuff, which really put my routine out of my control. I didn’t really get any exercise or walking and my food choices were limited. I did keep my kCals and eating time in check though, which is good. I just wish I would have had more time for some running or getting to the gym. Alas, no day will be perfect.

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? 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”

Invincibility – Revisited

Today’s “Daily Stoic” reading and associated journal prompt involve one of Epictetus’ most popular pieces of writing, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important or a bit profound:

Who then is invincible? The one who cannot be upset by anything outside their reasoned choice. – “Discourses”, 1.18.21

Two short sentences.

A question and an answer.

So much to digest and ponder over. (In fact, I did a blog post about this subject a year ago…)

First off, is invincibility even truly attainable? Or is it some sort of religious/spiritual/philosophical ideal that should be pursued with full knowledge that it will never be attained? Is it an end goal, or a horizon like Buddhahood or Christlike perfection?

I see it as the latter. Something to desire, to strive for, to put into our daily practice but realizing that we will never be invincible and that we will be upset by things outside of our reasoned choice.

I have two reasons for seeing it this way. First, Epictetus seems to treat invincibility as part of a binary. Either you are invincible or you are vincible not invincible. But that doesn’t seem to be the case in the real world. Control over your emotions exists on a spectrum, it isn’t “yes, I’m in control” or “no, I’m not in control”, it is “I am more (or less) in control now than in the past”. Controlling our emotions involves practice and building the mental muscles necessary to handle the challenges, and the challenges are infinite.

Second, to see invincibility as attainable is to see the possibility of becoming THE PERFECT STOIC. But perfection in this sense can’t exist. Our minds are a combination of genetics, free will (maybe), and reactions to our environment. We can’t control two of those and free will may not really be a thing. I think this is one of the weaknesses of Stoicism (at least as an attainable ideal), it doesn’t recognize that there is more to our mental processes than just being strong and using our rational mind. Mental health issues are real and they distort these processes, some people can’t just use their rationality to overcome their emotions. Trauma, chemical differences, and a plethora of known and unknown processes shape how we respond to the world around us. We are more than just reason.

But, I still think it is something to shoot for. There is great joy in pursuing something that you’ll never attain, struggling just to struggle, pushing to see how far you can get before this moist meat-suit that we call a body decides to return to the dust from which it came. At least it is to me.


Day 3 Update of “Operation: Shut Off Facebook and Become Who You Want to Become”

Yesterday was my first real weekend and it went really well. I went to the gym, got my 10,000 steps in, read, meditated, did some coding, practiced yoga, and kept my calorie consumption where it should be. I even went out for a friend’s birthday party and stuck to my diet… and I didn’t even drink alcohol! I actually had a really good time, I’m not sure why but I felt more open, personable, and interested than I normally do in social situations where I don’t really know anyone. It certainly helped that Anna was there, that I sat next to our friend, and that two of the people next to us were SUPER talkative and friendly. Sometimes extroverts can be overwhelming to me, but these people were good conversationalists and asked us real questions. We chatted about world travel, the military (he was a vet), and drug use very openly. I think it helped that I didn’t have booze or Facebook to retreat into.

So, it was a good day. I didn’t lose any weight (but that’s not surprising given the 7 lb drop on Friday) but the weekend was productive and off to a good start. I have reasonable goals for today (several of which I’ve already accomplished) and my partner and I are heading down to the Dirty Myrtle tonight to make the most out of a quick work trip I have down there on Monday.

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? 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”

In With the New

Pre-script: I’m sorry for filling this blog with just random “self-help” and personal routine stuff. I do plan on blogging about current issues, sexuality, and such more soon. And, of course, I’m always looking for questions for my AMA (Shit, I need to update that page with the last few “Ask PJ” posts). If you’ve got something you’d like me to talk about or have a question about relationships, sexuality, anarchy, drugs, or anything else that’s on your mind, or maybe you just want to tell me I’m wrong, then you can submit your thoughts anonymously to the following links: Sarahah or SurveyMonkey

This probably won’t surprise the two people who read this blog, but I kind of thrive off of new experiences. Variety is really the spice of my life and I find myself feeling confined, suffocated, and bored when things become routine. That part of my personality has driven me to live in 8 cities since 2007, bike across the country twice, explore drugs and new sexual experiences, and work at five different places since graduating college in 2009. I love that I’m adventurous and my personality pushes me into new, unexplored (by me) territory regularly.

Unfortunately, seeing “stability” as a four-letter word also has a downside. It is very, very difficult for me to stay interested and motivated with something long term. I get really excited about things and then burn out fairly quickly. I’ve been trying to be better about that, with mixed success. One thing I’ve come to realize is that I need to refresh my practices every few months. My morning routine has been awesome but it has started to feel a little stale and I’m happy that my current journal (Go Journal) ran out of pages and I started a new one (Phoenix Journal).

These two tools have a fairly similar goal but go about it in different ways. They both want to help improve your life, which is awesome… I need all the tools I can get. GoJournal is less of a daily time commitment, more philosophical, and great for reflecting on your life. The daily questions are mostly the same and include things like “What am I grateful for today?”, “How can I keep my life in balance today?”, and “What do I want to focus on today?”

Which are all great questions and they help get me into a strong mindset in the morning. Unfortunately, my answers got quite repetitive (particularly with that last question). I can only say I want to focus on finishing work, eating healthy, getting exercise, and reading so many ways. In general, my days are pretty repetitive.

Phoenix Journal, on the other hand, is much more “nuts and bolts” to improving my life and it is a significantly larger time commitment each day and week. I spent nearly two hours this morning answering the set-up questions (see below) and planning my first 3-month, week, and daily plans. There is a few philosophical type daily questions but a lot of the journal’s focus is on incremental steps to accomplish long-term goals. I think my daily commitment to this journal is going to be about 30-45 minutes (as opposed to 5-10 for the Go Journal).

That all being said, I’m super excited to start this. I’ve got that “New Relationship Energy” (or NRE for all you polyamory familiar people out there) with the journal and I think it is more in line with my personality and goals than Go Journal. And, as a way to help me flesh out my thoughts and educate and maybe motivate others, I’ve decided to share my answers to the questions I completed this morning to get the journal started. If this sounds like a good plan for you I highly recommend you pick up the journal and make it a part of your morning routine (or use it to create a morning routine).

Oh, first some quotes that I highlighted. Some of these are kind of cliche but they are powerful (at least to me):

“If you realize that there will never be a time outside of this moment to act in alignment with your full potential, then you will have discovered the key greatness.”

“In order to create a powerful vision and goal, try to connect it as tangibly as you can with the four main categories of life: physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual.”

“Your thoughts preceded your actions. Your repeated actions create your habits. Your habits create your life.”

“If you get into the habit of going to sleep and waking up at consistent times, exercising regularly, and eating the right foods – your levels of mental clarity, energy, and focus will advance tremendously.”

“By spending just a few minutes every morning reading and touching base with your future visions, you will set your focus and intentions in alignment with these aims. This is important because our aims manifest our reality. A routine of exercise, meditation, visualization, and planning, every morning, can radically transform the quality of your life.”

“Whether or not you achieve your goals, true success lies in having the courage to live up to your own word.”


The journal starts with asking me to make a commitment:
I, Peter, vow that from this point forward I will be a person of my word. I will no longer treat my time as a commodity. From this moment on I will endeavor to be the greatest I can for myself, my loved ones, and the world. I give my word to make time for this journal every day until it is completed, and in doing so bring to life my dreams, my purpose, and my highest potential.

Then, a vision of my future:
I want to be a successful writer. This will allow me the freedom to travel, security to care for my family, and feelings of accomplishment.

I want to become healthier and stronger. I want to try out for American Ninja Warrior, model nude, be considered sexy and attractive, and see how healthy I can become. Strength and health will allow me to travel, climb mountains, go on yoga retreats, improve my sex life, and live a longer, healthier life. It may even allow me to live to the point where death is an option.

I want to heal others using yoga, meditation, massage, therapy, or something similar. I want to be able to help people recover from past trauma and injuries, as well as reach their peak potential.

I want to be a leader in my community through volunteering and philanthropy. I want to lead my community into a stronger, better future.

I want to be financially secure so that I can provide for my family, travel without concern, and have a few luxury items.

I want to learn as much as possible, which will increase the chances that creation and creative solutions will come to my mind. 

Next, a future I fear:
I’m afraid of wasting my life and dying alone and unloved. The ideas in my head will die with me, never brought to life. The years pass and I live a mediocre life without travel or adventure. I don’t end up seeing the world from a mountaintop or dive into the ocean or experience silent meditation or try new drugs. Instead, it is a sad, mediocre life without financial security or new experiences. I don’t truly live and I never find my potential. 

Now, it gets down to time frames to make the kind of vague “life” into goals with a Three Year Vision:
In three years I want to be:
– A writer with at least one published novel, a bunch of short stories, and The Adventures of Higgins Complete
– In the best shape of my life and I have run at least one 100-mile race and several obstacle course races
– I have started training along a healers path of yoga, massage, or therapy
– I am a volunteer in the community with the Unitarian Church and as an end-of-life doula. I continue to work with CFCLT to assist low-income families and also volunteer at a hospital or animal shelter
– I am debt-free (except for my mortgage), have maxed out my Roth IRA for 2017, 2018, and 2019, and I have set up investment accounts for my nieces and nephews
– I have read over 200 books and developed new skills (TBD)
– I’ve gone on at least one meditation retreat and one yoga retreat

Three years is still way in the future, so the next step is a 12-week vision (which takes up all the active pages of this journal).
– I want to end my habit of drinking alcohol and have a healthy relationship with it
– I will have finished my Rite of Passage podcast series, written/submitted three pieces of essay size writing and one short story
– Near my goal weight of approximately 155 lbs and 15% body fat, run a half-marathon, and found an active hobby that I attend weekly (MMA, dance, rock-climbing, etc.)
– I have attended the Unitarian Church several times, I donate to the CFCLT, I have donated blood at least once, and found a new volunteer activity
– My Roth IRA is maxed out for 2017, I’m caught up on my taxes, my credit card debt is $0, and I have paid down 25% of one of my student loans
– I’ve found an end-of-life doula training session to attend and I’ve read one book each on meditation, yoga, massage, and therapy.
– I’ve finished 15 books, completed all the free CodeAcademy courses, and the Tableau courses I paid for on Coursera
– I am practicing yoga almost daily and attend at least one group class per week

After all that prep work it gets down into even more incremental details. I hope this works for me, but even if it doesn’t completely (or I flop on it like I have so many other times) I know I will learn something from it.


Day 2 Update of “Operation: Shut Off Facebook and Become Who You Want to Become”

Things went well yesterday. I found myself still occasionally opening the browser on my phone mindlessly and typing “f” in the search bar so that I could log on to Facebook. I don’t really miss it, but the muscle memory is there during times when I’m bored, procrastinating, or waiting for a work thing to load or download.

According to the scale I lost about 7 lbs yesterday, but I know that isn’t all fat. It is mostly water weight from a super salt heavy weekend and using up all my glycogen stores from fasting. Realistically, I probably lost about 1/2 of fat from the fast day. I stuck with my fitness and nutrition plan really well yesterday too, I only ate in my 8-hour window, consumed 1721 calories (despite having a small piece of cheesecake), walked 15,898 steps, and burnt 1,254 calories from exercise. My exercise was a 6.5-mile run, 20 minutes of yoga, and a little walking. I’m a little worried now that the weekend is here because there is less structure and more distraction.

Oh well, I’ve set reasonable goals for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday… basically go to the gym 1-2 times, run daily (even just for a mile), meditate daily, read when possible, get 10,000 steps daily, and keep those calories in check. Any other accomplishments are nice bonuses.

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? 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