If you know of Dan Millman, former world-champion gymnast and Stanford coach, you probably know him best as the author of Way of the Peaceful Warrior. In 2006, the book was made into the movie Peaceful Warrior starring Nick Nolte as Socrates, the enigmatic teacher and late-night gas station attendant who mentors Dan in the ways of the spiritual warrior. Millman has authored 12 books and spent his life studying and teaching the lessons he has garnered from the world’s wisdom traditions.
On Monday, May 18, Millman will give a talk at the Marjorie Luke Theatre called The Powers of Spiritual Law. He spoke to me by phone.
My 13-year-old daughter loved the movie Peaceful Warrior. As a parent and mentor, how can I-or should I-encourage her to explore further? We are all mentor-influencers-to our children, friends, peers, and even strangers we encounter. We mentor primarily by example. As James Baldwin wrote, “Children have never been very good at listening to what their parents tell them, but they never fail to imitate them.” So it’s not so much what you say, but what you do.
It is also our duty as parents to offer brief, practical advice, reminders, and guidance when called for, appropriate to a given situation. Follow their lead and interests. Give advice by showing. Many parents would be amazed at how well their children overhear, listen, and remember what we say-especially if we’ve earned their respect in our own actions.
What do you say to someone who says, “I don’t have a Socrates in my life. What can I do to deepen my learning?” Well, I’ve taken great care to write 12 books so that Socrates could become their mentor as well. Books can be wonderful teachers. But for those who want to go “beyond” books to a relationship with a living teacher, I point to my Web site, peacefulwarrior.com, where in the frequently asked questions section the last item addresses: “How can I find the right teacher for me?”
Could you offer three to five daily practices that could help someone deepen their happiness and their connection to the sacred in their life? The world is full of methods, techniques, strategies, systems, and promises to “deepen happiness” and connection to the sacred. If only it were so simple! We are told that if we just meditate, or put our attention in the chakras, or raise the kundalini, or do the flame purification, or fast, or do yoga, that will “do the trick.” All for this fleeting search for happiness.
Note the utility in, one: accepting our thoughts and feelings as natural to us in the moment; two: focusing on a constructive goal or purpose-dream big but start small; and then, three: doing what needs to be done in line with our goal. Also, regular, moderate exercise, eating a balanced diet, and getting enough rest contribute to higher functioning and a greater degree of satisfaction and fulfillment in daily life.
Did you write Way of the Peaceful Warrior, or did it write you? C. Day-Lewis, the father of actor Daniel Day-Lewis, once said, “I write not in order to be understood; I write in order to understand.” So certainly the process of writing-especially a book like Way of the Peaceful Warrior as well as my other books-was a transformative experience, demanding that I clarify and organize a body of knowledge in order to share it. So I’d have to say yes to both your questions: I created the book; it created me.
Could you give an introduction to the key teachings of your upcoming talk? By understanding how these [spiritual] laws differ from proverbs, theories, principles, or beliefs, and how they operate in every facet of daily life, we can make our lives work more smoothly. It’s like noticing when we’ve been fighting the current and learning to swim downstream. So in my talk I’m going to offer insight into spiritual law itself, then use examples of several key laws we can apply with great power in our everyday lives. I’ll also cite some favorite quotations to illustrate how the laws work.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned? There is no single “most important” thing. Lessons appear each day as gentle breezes or sudden storms. But one of the important reminders is to trust ourselves-to trust the process of our lives unfolding-to know that wherever we step, the way appears before us, beneath our feet.
Dan Millman will speak on The Powers of Spiritual Law at the Marjorie Luke Theatre (721 E. Cota St.) on Monday, May 18, at 7:30 p.m. as part of the Mind & Supermind lecture series. For more information, call 963-0761 or visit lobero.com. To register to attend the talk, call 687-0812 or visit sbcc.edu/adulted.