A Moment of Mindfulness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Email address: 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”

Memento Mori

I’m probably going to die someday. It is possible that medical technology will advance to the point of immortality before my consciousness disintegrates (or transfers to some other existence), but I’m increasingly doubtful. It is also possible that I have some sort of genetic mutation ala “The Man From Earth” and I’m immortal, but that seems even less likely.

So, I’m probably going to die. But I’m okay with that. I don’t fear death, even if I’m not particularly interested in it happening anytime soon. I used to be terrified of death back when I was a Christian, which is kind of ironic. I’m not sure how close the connection is between my spiritual evolution and my comfort with non-existence, but I can’t help but think they are at least somewhat connected.

Religion didn’t give me much peace because there was always this fear that I wasn’t “truly saved”, that I had fucked up something between baptism and death and would be spending eternity being tortured by red-horned demons. Now that I think about it, that is pretty psychologically scaring, particularly for children.

Death is often on my mind, not as a fear but as motivation. If this is all ephemeral, if can truly “leave life right now” then life is put in perspective. It motivates me to make the most out of my time here, but also not to take things too seriously. It is a source of inspiration to write a book, record a podcast, skydive over Antarctica, and try anal sex…. because if I don’t do it today then I may never get a chance to do it.

But, it is also a way to provide a little modesty. I’m simply not that important. I’m going to die like everyone else. My name will be forgotten. I will return to stardust, just like everyone else. And that is a huge relief. I can enjoy life and the moment for exactly what it is. As Hairy Soul Man says in his Stoic Hedonist sonnet, “Fuck Everything”:

Now I know most of you don’t agree
with my bleak outlook on life
But I say, it’s the thing that sets me free.

Cause I don’t give a shit what you think of me
No, I don’t give any shits
That’s right, I don’t got any shits to give

Now I’m not saying you can’t go out
and live a fantastic life
You totally can!

You just need to remember
You’re not the center of the fucking universe

So I want to celebrate the absolute insignificance of our existence by coming together, coming together to say…

Fuck everything

So, today I will go out and live my life because I might leave tomorrow. That means enjoying the good things that are within my control. I will enjoy time with my partner, go outside for a run, test my body and mind, and enjoy that strawberry even if there is a tiger trying to eat me. Also, I will try and ignore the garbage in the world like the news and most of Facebook and trash TV (unless those things provide some mental health benefits). I may die tomorrow, but that’s okay because my life is been lived. Besides, my death won’t matter to me or anyone else in the long run and it shouldn’t be taken seriously.

If you have a question or comment feel free to use the links below. There is literally nothing that is off-limits. You can also email me if you want a personal response and I won’t post anything publicly if you want privacy.

Sarahah: pneiger.sarahah.com
SurveyMonkey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Email: pjneiger@gmail.com

Oh, and if you get some value out of this I’m always accepting tips and my book is available via the Amazon link below on Kindle and paperback.
Book: http://amzn.to/2f2tkYi

PayPal: pjneiger@gmail.com
Bitcoin Wallet: 3BZQcA31awrYj7LAXmMY5armp5s1T2gpsL
Ethereum Wallet: 0x05F040cd6FB61377c375d487A37229359Dd6D976

For The Love of Life

At D&D on Wednesday one of the other players commented that she liked my gym photos on Facebook/Instagram because I look like I am suffering. I’m not sure if she hates me, was flirting, or something else, but she is correct, I am usually pretty miserable at the gym (and while running).

I’ve never been someone who enjoys working out. I don’t find it relaxing or therapeutic. I don’t easily jump out of bed and throw on my shoes to pound the pavement. I do everything I can to procrastinate it including, but not limited to, cleaning the house, masturbating, reading, writing, doing laundry, etc. But I do try to exercise daily for one simple reason: I love life a whole fucking bunch.

From all the research I’ve read there are a few key factors in our control that can increase the quality and quantity of our lives: don’t smoke, exercise regularly, eat whole foods plant-based diet, drink water, and sleep. Everything else is just details. So, I exercise in order to increase my chances as a longer and more pleasurable life. It sucks, but I view it as an investment. I spend 4.17% of my day in order to make my one life better then that is probably a good payoff, particularly since the gains are not only a longer life but one in which I can do things I’m interested in…

I want to climb mountains and camp under the stars and see the Pyramids, Great Wall of China, Pantheon, Dead Sea, Red Square, and Antarctica. I want to raft down rivers and sail across oceans and take a spaceship to the moon. I want to know what it feels like to be exhausted and sweaty and bleeding as I wander up to the top of a mountain and see the world below me. I want to weep tears of joy and suffering as I see land for the first time in days or weeks.

I want to dance at my great grand-nephew’s wedding. Cycle across the country with my partner when I’m 100 years old. I want to be able to give 1,000 pints of blood. I want to see what the next five generations of Neigers will be like.

Sidebar: Despite having five siblings (four of which are male), at this point, there is nobody carrying on my last name. That doesn’t really matter to me, I just find it funny. My sister has two boys but they took her husband’s name (as did she when they got married) and I my two brothers who have reproduced have only had daughters. This isn’t important, just kinda funny.

I want to know what my body is capable of, whether that is getting a six-pack, trying out for American Ninja Warrior, or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro without a shirt. My body is the greatest gift I have ever received, I don’t know if there is a conscious source of this gift but I am still going to try and respect it, care for it, and take it to the limits. It would be a shame to go to waste because I don’t want to be uncomfortable for 4.7% of my day.

I want to live. I love life and to get the most out of this (probably) one life then I need to suck it up and go for a run, lift some weights, and practice yoga. Very few things are within my sphere of control but, to some degree, my body is.

As I think about it, this love of life is really a big part of a lot of my identities. I’m a vegan because I love life and don’t want non-human animals to suffer or die for my pleasure. I’m an atheist (partially) because I love this life and want to make the most out of this one existence, looking towards an afterlife would hold me back. I’m an anarchist because I see the state as the largest threat to and violator of life and freedom would expand life. Part of why I’m polyamorous and pansexual and a psychonaut and kinky is because I want to taste and experience love and intimacy and reality in as many forms as possible.

So, that is why I run and lift and suffer. That’s why I pay money for someone to push me beyond my comfort zone or why I sign up to run with strangers at the buttcrack of dawn. Because in those moments I experience life and I expand my potential for more life in the future. And damn it, I love life.

If you have a question or comment feel free to use the links below. There is literally nothing that is off-limits. You can also email me if you want a personal response and I won’t post anything publicly if you want privacy.

Sarahah: pneiger.sarahah.com
SurveyMonkey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Email: pjneiger@gmail.com

Oh, and if you get some value out of this I’m always accepting tips and my book is available via the Amazon link below on Kindle and paperback.
Book: http://amzn.to/2f2tkYi

PayPal: pjneiger@gmail.com
Bitcoin Wallet: 3BZQcA31awrYj7LAXmMY5armp5s1T2gpsL
Ethereum Wallet: 0x05F040cd6FB61377c375d487A37229359Dd6D976

What Kind of Life Employee Will I Be Today?

I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life. I started earning my income around the age of 12 when living in Gresham, Oregon. I delivered newspapers, sold sodas at the local park, worked in my grandfather’s rare coin shop, and mowed lawns. Since then, my “career” has been a bit unconventional (a full list is at the bottom of this post), but I’ve noticed my work style at each place usually fell into one of two categories: run out the clock and create value.

What determines how I approach a job seems to have little to do with the job itself. Take being a grocery clerk, for example. When I was 15 I started working for Safeway as a grocery clerk. I didn’t care about the job and I felt like I was just a cog in the corporate machine. I saw no opportunities to create or add value, so I just did what I was told. I was running out the clock each day.

That experience was very different than my time at the Good Food Store when I was 33. At GFS I was constantly looking for ways to improve the system and make life easier for all of us clerks. I felt like I was part of a family and my supervisors cared about me and would take my recommendations to heart. The social incentives were in place for me to work hard. I felt like being a value creator.

The reasons for my different approach during these jobs are many. Certainly, my age difference and life experiences played a big part, but I think the institutional incentives were a big factor as well.

I write all this because I’ve been thinking about what kind of employee I am within my own life. Are my days spent “running out the clock” until payday, vacation, the holidays, or death? Sadly… sometimes, yes. And on those days I’ve only hurt myself and wasted moments of my life that I’ll never get back.

On my best days, I am a value creator and that value grows exponentially. When I work to improve my skillset for work or read a book on a new subject or go for a run or eat right or write I am adding to my life, but it is more than addition because that growth acts like compounding interest. And, as Einstein might have said, “Compound interests is the most powerful force in the universe”.

Take my crypto investments, for example. Over the last 115 days, my cryptos have earned ~0.67% per day, which seems like nothing. That isn’t even a new penny for every dollar, but over time that daily growth becomes incredible. If that growth rate continues then a $100 investment becomes nearly $150,000 in three years. I don’t know if my financial investments will keep growing at that rate, but I hope my life can.

I don’t know if my financial investments will keep growing at that rate, but I hope my life can. If I can grow as a person by 0.67% per day than my body and mind and life will grow quickly. All it takes is a little time per day, a little focus, and a little perspective… 30 minutes a day or so dedicated to personal growth (and, of course, more time means faster growth). Every action I take plays off other actions I’ve made, exercise clears the mind and improves neurological function, reading books on new subjects increase creative solutions to old problems, writing publicly grows my network, meeting new people provides new opportunities and perspectives, etc. It isn’t necessarily important how I start being constructive each day, maybe it is a run and maybe it is meditation or maybe it is chatting with a friend, the important thing is that I actually start doing it.

I only have one life and I need to decide, am I just running out the clock as entropy takes hold or am I working to make this the best damn life I can?

 

Full List of Jobs (maybe?)

  • Age 15 – Grocery Clerk
  • Age 17 – Papa Murphey’s Pizza Maker
  • Age 18 – Lube Technician at a Honda Dealership
  • Age 18 – Papa John’s Delivery Driver
  • Age 19 – US Army
  • Age 23 – Go-Kart Track Attendant at a NASCAR themed track
  • Age 24 – Security Guard at Strip Mall filled with bars
  • Age 26 – Papa John’s Delivery Driver
  • Age 26 – Student Body Secretary
  • Age 27 – Intern for Economics Department
  • Age 27 – Student Body Vice President
  • Age 28 – Researcher for Non-Profit
  • Age 29 – Operations Manager for Non-Profit
  • Age 31 – Security Operations Manager for Private Security Firm
  • Age 33 – Grocery Clerk
  • Age 34 – Researcher for For-For Profit Organization

Got something to say? Wanna buy me a beer? There are many ways you can show support and connect with me! Send me a message anonymously via Sarahah or SurveyMonkey or email me. If you’re interested in a bike adventure I went on you can read my book! And I’m always accepting tips via PayPal or Bitcoin.

Sarahah: pneiger.sarahah.com
SurveyMonkey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Email: pjneiger@gmail.com
Book: http://amzn.to/2f2tkYi
PayPal: pjneiger@gmail.com
Bitcoin: 3BZQcA31awrYj7LAXmMY5armp5s1T2gpsL
Ethereum: 0x05F040cd6FB61377c375d487A37229359Dd6D976

6 AM

I am not a morning person.

When my alarm starts buzzing at 6 am it takes all my effort to get out of bed and as the haze of sleep starts to clear up I often ask myself the same questions.

Why wake up at 6 when I work from home?

I ran yesterday, why run today?

Can’t I just be more productive at night instead of pushing myself in the morning?

These are rhetorical questions. I know the answers very clearly… I wake up because I want my life to be more than what I’m paid to do. I wake up because yesterday’s run is part of a lifelong habit and not an excuse to be lazy today. I wake up because I know that I won’t be productive at night if I sleep in, that just isn’t how I work.

Every day there are two finite resources at work: the hours in the day and my motivation to be great. Both of these resources count down regardless of whether I am being productive or not. My drive to write, create, and exercise will be less at 5 pm than it is at 7 am, even if I don’t write, create, or exercise during that time. Mornings are where the magic happens, particularly when it comes to things I find difficult.

There are certain things that I know I will do each day, regardless of circumstances. Maybe they are things I love to do, like reading or listening to podcasts, or maybe they are things that I need to do, like work for pay. Either way, I don’t need to worry about getting them accomplished, they will happen even if I am low on motivation. It is the tough things that I need to knock out in the morning because those are the things that I’ll find excuses for or neglect in the evening.

Whether it is creating a new habit, running five miles, or calling my credit card company to ask for a lower interest rate, it must be done early or it won’t get done. The rest of my life, the habits I’ve developed and the work I know I need to be done can wait.

So, that’s why I wake up early because if I don’t then my life will drift along in mediocrity. I won’t meet my potential, I won’t experience as much of life as I possibly can, I won’t know my limits because I tried to push through them. Whether it is using my mind and body to transform my body or to write a book or to gain financial security, my mind and body are at their best in the morning.

It sucks sometimes, but truly living requires early rising and when you rise early there are plenty of hours in the day.