Finding Balance One Moment at a Time.
By Julie Starke
If you were to ask Dan Millman to define “peaceful warrior’ you would not find him at a loss for words. It’s a subject he knows all too well and one that has sustained him for over 30 years.
Peaceful Warrior. A seeming oxymoron yet a symbol of grit and glory.
It is this idea that has helped Dan Millman transcend the spiritual self-help, guru-of-the-hour marketplace and stay solidly on top. “Peaceful Warrior,” a household phrase and a story that has touched the lives of millions across the globe.
What began as a personal journey has turned into a bestselling book, morphed into a feature film, precipitated a global speaking career, and served as a springboard for fifteen subsequent books – each a facet of the peaceful warrior’s way.
Peaceful Warrior. A story that set Dan Millman on the stage of life as a teacher, speaker, and writer although his evolution began long before he met ‘Socrates,’ the character in his larger than life Way of the Peaceful Warrior.
As the story goes, Dan stumbled upon the philosopher-turned-mentor at a time in his life when he needed him most. An angry yet stellar athlete with little inclination for inner work, Dan found his gold in the shadow of a run down gas station and a hero that would turn into a way of life.
It is this ‘way’ that has served him well and one that continues to inspire, enlighten and entertain. The Peaceful Warrior Way. We should all be so lucky to discover our own.
A Man in the Middle.
A kind yet driving force on the self-help circuit, Dan Millman is very much a peaceful warrior himself. He exudes a calmness of spirit and a vulnerability of soul that belies his strength as an all-star athlete and an Olympic-sized coach. That very strength is evident in his posture and in the mere fact that, at 68 years of age, he can still perform a graceful handstand in front of an audience.
Dan is an anomaly of sorts; a quietly consistent teacher who was one of the first to open our mainstream minds to the concept of deep inner work. He is a former athlete whose quest for athletic prowess led him to gain recognition as both a champion and Olympic trainer.
In the eighties, his own personal journey caused him to pen the best selling Way of the Peaceful Warrior. As a result, Dan found himself in the ‘new age’ section of the bookstore. The mere fact that it was called ‘new age’ will tell you he was way ahead of his time and, as his audience grew, so did the genre, eventually becoming ‘Spiritual’ and ‘Self-Help’ sections as time moved into the twenty-first century.
The fact that he has remained smack dab in the middle of a potentially overdone market will tell you he is steadfast and pure – a living testimony to The Way and to the power of his message. Long live the Peaceful Warrior.
Striking a Balance.
Ask Dan how he continues to inspire and encourage others to new heights and he will humbly claim that every teacher brings a lineage of “resources and domains of consciousness to expand our perspectives.” The key, according to Dan, is simply to remind people of what they already know.
“My life and writings have a practical nature grounded in the realities of everyday life rather than a set of abstract concepts or metaphysical constructs. I’ve been able to avoid much of the magical thinking so popular today, and to help others trust their inner knowing and sense of discernment.”
You can hear the truth of that in his voice. Calm, thoughtful, warm and kind, Dan Millman is living his walk and is doing it well. The key, he believes, starts with an integration between opposites: flesh and spirit…science and art…male and female and, of course, the core of it all: peace and war.
It is this foundation that Millman has successfully cultivated all over the world. The essence of a peaceful heart that focuses on love, combined with a warrior spirit that focuses on an inner strength enabling you to stand tall within yourself. Or, as Dan, puts it – “keeping your head in the clouds and your feet on the ground.”
He takes this message on the road and, along the way, encourages us to find the center of our game; a life of balance that speaks to the shadow side as well as the light. “We seek mentors, teachers, and spiritual leaders because people tend to suffer,” says Dan. “In the quest for happiness, meaning, purpose, and connection one must deal with the darkness before they can deal with the light.”
The Driving Force
In reality, Dan believes there are a myriad of ways to do the ‘dirty work’ of knowing yourself. According to him, “there is no best principle, book, teacher, or religion to follow – no best exercise, diet, martial art, sport or way of life – there’s only the best one for each of us at any given time of life.”
He likens life to a highway, a rich metaphor to help us understand the some times complex world of personal growth. He says we are like cars on a highway- each of us driving different vehicles and choosing different exits on the road of life. We each go at our own speed and get on and off the highway as we desire. The only caveat, he says, is that without a destination in mind, there is no journey.
So, Dan asks: how can we develop a talent for living? A heart centered spirit that helps us turn what we know into what we do? To help us answer, Dan reminds us that our external changes affect the world and our internal changes affect ourselves. Both are necessary if we are to live a heart-centered life.
And what is at the heart of life? “Service,” says Millman. “Not as an act but as an orientation…turn your attention outward. Service is not a technique and it is not self-referential. It affirms connection.” And according to Dan, it can change our lives.
One Thing at a Time.
So, with service in mind, his suggestion that we dream big, start small, and connect the dots is grounded in a philosophy that says “a little of something is better than a lot of nothing.” In fact, when once approached by a student extending a dollar asking for advice, Dan gave him the best advice he knew: Here and now. Breath and relax.
“Life comes at us in waves of change,” says Dan at TEDxBerkely, an event that brings together world thought leaders to discuss a myriad of themes. “We learn to surf the waves of change and we realize that the quality of our moments become the quality of our lives.”
When I was young, I believed that life
might unfold in an orderly way, according to my hopes and expectations.
But now I understand the Way winds like a river,
always changing, ever onward, following God’s gravity
toward the Great Sea of Being.
My journeys revealed that the Way itself creates the warrior;
that every path eventually leads to peace
and every choice to wisdom-
and that life has always been, and will always be,
arising in Mystery.
The Journey of Socrates by Dan Millman