Way of the
Peaceful Warrior


Menstuff® has compiled information and books on the issue of Living. This section is the Archive of Dan Millman's column featured on our homepage. Dan is a former world trampoline champion, Stanford gymnastics coach, and Oberlin College professor. Dan has written eleven books - two novels, seven non-fiction guides, and two children's books. Each book provides a new and different facet of a peaceful warrior's approach to living wisely and well. In a sense, each book is another piece of the puzzle of personal and spiritual growth. Way of the Peaceful Warrior, Sacred Journey of the Peaceful Warrior, No Ordinary Moments, Secret of the Peaceful Warrior (for children) and Quest for the Crystal Castle (for children), The Life You Were Born to Live, The Laws of Spirit, Everyday Enlightenment, Body Mind Mystery, Divine Interventions, Living on Purpose, Warrior Athlete (out-of-print), The Peaceful Warrior's Path to Everyday Enlightenment: 12 gateways to your spiritual growth, and The Journeys of Socrates. His books have inspired millions of readers in 22 languages. His talks and seminars have influenced people from all walks of life and all ages, including leaders in the fields of health, psychology, education, business, politics, sports, entertainment, and the arts. www.danmillman.com


An Interview with Dan Millman
Bridging Two Worlds
Sacred Journey and the Three Selves
The Urge to Transformation
Peaceful Warrior - The Movie

Bridging Two Worlds

Our awareness resides, moment to moment, in either the conventional or transcendental realities. Each of these realities has its own truths. From a conventional view, illness is a misfortune and death is final. From a transcendent perspective, illness (or any adversity) is a perfectly natural part of life and death is an illusion-our transcendent self-pure Awareness, is never born and never dies.

Most of the time, conventional reality monopolizes our attention with the stuff of everyday life-the challenges of education, earning a living, relationships, family, and health. Conventional reality contains the complications of experience, memory, identity, and duality fashioned out of the meanings and stories we impose upon a pure and mysterious Field of Being. Our dramas, played out in the theater of gain and loss, desire and satisfaction, seem real and important to us. Conventional life involves the pursuit of satisfaction and fulfillment, wherein our happiness depends upon events unfolding in line with our desires, hopes, and expectations. Thus immersed in our conventional agreements-clinging to the versions of reality that seem entirely true and justified, trying to make things work out-we suffer from attachment, craving, and anxiety, leading lives of "quiet desperation."

Then one day, on the path of our personal evolution, we simultaneously realize two things that had previously escapted our notice: First, we discover that we live and believe, nearly all the time, in the conventional world; second, we notice that we are suffering. If our pain takes the form of an acute illness, injury, or personal loss. If we suffer a lack of money, making more money alleviates this pain; if we suffer physical illness, a return to health solves this issue. Every problem has a solution.

Only when we are willing risk all that we think we know, to relinquish familiar truths that no longer serve, to look beyond consensus reality and venture into the unknown can we finally step out of the endless search for conventional solutions. We need to realize that we ourselves are the center and cause of our situation. This marks a turning point: We become interested not just in self-improvement, but in self-transcendence. We take a leap of faith that launches us on our search for a Teacher, Process, or Path to awakening. We may attend seminars, read books, engage practices, and learn from a variety of guides.

The spiritual traditions point to such a transcendent Reality than that which we perceive in our usual state of consciousness. This Reality lies outside our everyday stories and assumptions, beyond the boundaries of our common beliefs. Its truths are not found in formulas, visions, or mystical experiences, but in a simple yet profound shift in perspective-a shift that reveals the Great Simplicity of What Is, prior to all our complications.

The Great Traditions point to It, recommend It, remind us of It, and rhapsodize about It. They may advise paths or practices involving meditation, fasting, breathwork, bodywork, chanting, concentration, contemplation, reflection, and service. The sufis advise, "Live in the world but not of the world--to function in this conventional world while viewing it from a larger, transcendent perspective.

My work is not about abandoning the "Western Solution" to happiness, striving for material success. Nor do I recommend exclusive focus on the "Eastern Solution" to happiness, turning from the world and "going inside" for answers. My work involves integrating both East and West, male and female, flesh and spirit, reason and faith, left-brain and right-brain, conventional and transcendental truths.

Freedom lives right here, right now, in front of our noses, as close as our breath, as intimate as hour next hearbeat. Awakening does not require us to abandon the conventional world. Rather, we can bridge both worlds and all apparent dualities; we can keep our head in the clouds and our feet on solid ground. (As an Arab sage advised: "Trust in God, but tie your camel.")

We are already free and perfect. Nothing needs to be done to complete or fulfill us, because we are already Home, because no separation truly exists, and no others, no world, no time, no space, and no God exist separate from us. All is the Heart.

When we do grasp this Great Simplicity, this Realization does not make us famous, successful, glamorous, wealthy, or even holy. Nor does it release us from the obligation to raise our children, go to work, and live our lives. It only brings us peace. It only gives us joy. It only sets us free. As the poet Masahide once wrote, 'Now that my house has burned down, I own a better view of the rising moon."

Such liberation from conventional beliefs may appear unpredictable, even frightening to those who have not yet tasted it. So, like children on a school-day morning, we may turn off the alarm, put a pillow over our head at the first wake-up call, and say, "Please let me sleep just a little longer!" We start out wanting to wake-up, but end up settling for success within the dream. This is perfect, too. Reality waits with infinite patience.

We do not need to heal; we need only see that we were never sick in the way we imagined; that our "sickness" was itself was only a story we believed and so experienced as true. The transcendent perspective reveals that no matter what our apparent challenges, our lives are always unfolding in divine order and perfection. Not always pleasurable or pleasant, but perfect in terms of our highest good and our soul's evolution.

A bridge exists between worlds. It is right in front of us, around us, inside us. To cross it we need only inquire into and profoundly trust our own true nature, to see the transcendental perfection of this world. When we open our eyes in this way, in this moment, we find within us the truth that sets us free.

I'd like to close by sharing with you a brief excerpt from the epilogue of my book, The Laws of Spirit. The woman sage bids me farewell after an adventure together, with the following words:: "These are my wishes and prayers for you, all the days of your life. May you find grace as you surrender to life. May you find happiness, as you stop seeking it. May you come to trust these laws and inherit the wisdom of the Earth. May you reconnect with the heart of nature and feel the blessings of Spirit.

"The challenges of daily life will remain, and you will tend to forget what I have shown you," she said. "But a deeper part of you will remember, and when you do, life's problems will seem no more substantial than soap bubbles. The path will open before you where before there grew only weeds of confusion. Your future, and the future of all humanity, is a path into the Light, into a growing realization of the Unity with the Creator and all creation. And what lies beyond is beyond description.

"Even when the sky appears at its darkest, know that the sun shines upon you, that love surrounds you, and that the pure Light within you will guide your way home. So trust the process of your life unfolding, and know with certainty, through the peaks and valleys of your journey, that your soul rests safe and secure in the arms of Spirit."

The Urge to Transformation

We are changing--we have got to change.
We can no more help changing
than leaves can help going yellow
and coming loose in autumn.

D.H. Lawrence

God helps those who help themselves. And since few of us experience abiding inner peace or fulfillment, most of us strive to improve our body, our finances, our relationships, our lives. Few would argue with the desirability of improving one's general lot in life, but those more deeply committed to personal growth are sometimes debunked as self-indulgent. Like rich desserts, self-improvement books, seminars, teachers, and practices become difficult to enjoy it without lingering guilt. After all, as some might assert-instead of self-improvement, shouldn't we spend our time and energy improving the world? Why don't we just accept ourselves as we are? After all, reason some, abandoning efforts at personal growth frees up time and saves money.

Yet we persist, because the urge to transformation is deep within us. Call it escape from pain, the drive to freedom, or the force of human evolution. Anais Nin put it well when she wrote, "Then the day came when the risk it took to remain tight in a bud was greater than the risk it took to blossom."

The following incident helps clarify and resolve the apparent contradiction between working on ourselves or serving others: One day Socrates (my mentor as described in my book, Way of the Peaceful Warrior) and I were walking along a street by campus when we came to some posters on a wall. One was about helping oppressed peoples; another had faces of starving children; a third asked for our support in saving the whales. Reading these posters, I said, "Socrates--I sometimes feel guilty, or selfish, doing all this work on myself when there are so many people in need out there."

Socrates continued walking, saying nothing at first, until he stopped abruptly and said, "I'll give you five dollars if you can slap me on the cheek." I had no idea where this non-sequitor came from, but refused to play his game until he started slapping me playfully, challenging me, until I finally took a swing at him--and found myself on the ground in a rather painful wrist-lock. "Notice," he said, "how a little leverage at the right place and right time can be very effective?"

"Yes," I answered, getting up, "I noticed."

"It's commendable that you want to help others," he told me. "But before you can help others you have to understand them. And before you can truly understand them you have to understand yourself. Follow your heart, by all means, and help where you can. But only when you've first developed clarity, courage, and commitment will you know how to exert the leverage to really make a difference."

One need not choose between self and world. We can accept ourselves as we are, and at the same time, use whatever resources that instruct, uplift, and empower us to lead better lives.

According to a Chinese sage, "Only the supremely wise and the ignorant do not change." Like the caterpillar, which goes through the dramatic change into a butterfly, we have birth, puberty, menopause, and eventually, death. But our lives also involve many small transformations, many opportunities to be born and re-born. To what? That is the question, and the mystery, which remains before us. A puzzle not to solve, but to celebrate.

On our quest for self-improvement, some teachers or methods are more effective than others, and we need to be wary. Alan Watts advised us to "beware of teachers who pick our pockets and sell us our own wallet." Ironically, that's all any teacher can do, because the treasure is inside us, and the keys to the treasure chest are found in our life experience.

Ultimately, no one requires books, seminars, teachers, or practices to evolve. Daily life is guaranteed to teach us everything we need to learn. Our relationships, children, work, and bodies reveal us to ourselves--all our weaknesses emerge, and our strengths. I continue to teach and to write because I offer a kind of map to daily life-to help most people learn more, learn faster, and learn easier the lessons of everyday life. I write and teach because I can save people some time and some pain.

Meanwhile, wheverever we step, the path appears beneath our feet. So follow your nose and trust your instincts. Take the day off, or take the lifetime off. Still, the path continues. If we lose our heartfelt connection to others, no method avails; if we open to love, nothing else is necessary.

The ultimate purpose of transformative practices, of "consciously walking the path of personal evolution," is to clear away the obstructions that hold love trapped within us and free it to expand into the world as joyous service to the common good. We're on this journey together. We may as well enjoy the scenery.

Sacred Journey and the Three Selves

This month H J Kramer/New World Library is publishing a newly-revised edition of Dan Millman's groundbreaking book, Sacred Journey of the Peaceful Warrior, whose new cover was painted by Terry Lamb, the same artist who created the classic cover to Way of the Peaceful Warrior.

Summary: In Sacred Journey, through a story of his meetings with a Hawaiian kahuna named "Mama Chia," Dan learns of the three selves that make up a complete human being, and learns how to access enhanced powers of healing, energy, motivation, and intuition -- even "past life" experiences and abilities.

This model of the three selves is as profound and sophisticated as any proposed by Freud, Jung, or others in the western traditions. Although these selves have been described by Max Freedom Long, Serge Kahili King, and others, in Sacred Journey Dan directly encounters each of these selves for a visceral understanding.

To clarify their fundamental nature here, he has graciously allowed us to excerpt the following description from his book, No Ordinary Moments:

The Three Selves

Body, mind, and emotions form one kind of trinity that comprises the human being. Another powerful trinity, called the three selves, provides a useful model for appreciating the scope of our lives. The three selves are comprised of the basic self (or subconscious), the conscious self (or ego), and the higher self (or spiritual consciousness). Insight into these three distinct forms of consciousness provides powerful leverage for attaining greater awareness, motivation, enjoyment, and inspiration in our lives.

The Basic Self

The basic self has sometimes been called our "inner child" be-cause the qualities, motives, and characteristics of this consciousness closely resemble those of a four-to-seven-year old child. Like young children, basic selves share common qualities, yet some basic selves show more strength, confidence, and understanding than others. Separate and distinct from the conscious mind, the basic self closely identifies with the physical body and manifests as our body wisdom -- our instinct, intuition, gut feelings, latent drives and abilities, and memory. In charge of our body, the basic self works through the autonomic (involuntary) nervous sys-tem to maintain our body's functions and generate our energy for life.

Like most children, the basic self remains highly open to sug-gestion (hypnosis), programming, visualization, or any form of healing that works with the subconscious. If secure and happy, the childlike basic self demonstrates playfulness, energy, inspi-ration, loyalty, determination, and spontaneity. But if our conscious mind ignores, devalues, or suppresses the basic self (as often happens), then it tends to withdraw, block energy, lower immune response, and sabotage our endeavors. By becoming more conscious of how our subconscious works, we can access energy and courage and improve our health and sense of well-being. The basic self serves as a foundation from which we can leap to higher states of awareness.

The Conscious Self

The conscious self serves as the center of logic, reason, and discrimination -- all necessary tools for life. Its major function involves conscious learning so that we can better adapt to and thrive in our environment. I use the terms conscious self, conscious mind, and ego interchangeably.

When working in harmony, our conscious self guides, educates, and reassures our basic self as a parent would a child, helping it understand life while allowing the basic self to express its own unique capacities. When out of balance, the conscious self tends to use logic and reason to devalue the feelings and intuitions of the basic self the way some adults tend to devalue the feelings of children. This results in an estrangement between mind and body; we lose touch with our feelings and our deepest intuitions. To heal this imbalance, our conscious self can learn to reestablish rapport with our basic self, which leads to a renewed sense of vitality, pleasure, and health.

We need to value and use our powers of reason, logic, and the other functions of the conscious self, but also recognize its limitations. As we see our conscious self in perspective, we recognize that life works better when our basic self and conscious self cooperate under the loving dominion of the higher self.

The Higher Self

The higher self, a radiant aspect of our consciousness sometimes referred to as our "guardian angel," completes the trinity of the three selves. The higher self awareness manifests qualities of selfless courage, love, compassion, wisdom, altruism, and joy. It serves as a "cheerleader to the soul," reminding the conscious self of the spiritual possibilities beyond the material world and the limits of the conscious mind.

The higher self has deep empathy for the conscious self and basic self but exists in a state of loving detachment; it gently guides without interfering, allowing the conscious self to make its own choices and learn whatever lessons it needs.

By mastering the powers of the basic and conscious selves, we can enjoy great success in the world, but staying in touch with our higher self adds the dimensions of joy, love, and an experience of the higher possibilities of life.

Basic selves evolve into conscious selves (just as children grow into adults); conscious selves are here to mature into higher selves, even as we live.

An Interview with Dan Millman

Q: Let me start by asking how did you get from training yourself for Competitions to not just training others but also writing a number of books to help other people?

A: Even as a college gymnast I enoyed teaching. No matter what I learned, only one person benefitted; when I taught, many could benefit. I was later appointed Director of Gymnastics at Stanford University, then served as a professor at Oberlin College, where I studied the fundamental qualities that developed a talent for sport, such as strength, suppleness, stamina, and sensitivity (coordination, rhythm, timing, balance, reflex speed). Later, my curiosity took me to the larger "arena" of daily life. I began an inquiry into the fundamental qualities that develop a talent not for sport, but for life.

Q: You write in "Way of the Peaceful Warrior" that you had an injury once and healed quickly on a vegetarian diet.What does your diet consist of before high intensity competitive events?

A: As it happened, after my right thigh bone was shattered into about 40 fragments in a motorcycle collision, and shifted to a vegetarian diet, my physician and coach were equally concerned. Yet I trained hard to recover, felt extremely healthy, and became one of the strongest gymnasts in the nation. The fuller account I describe in "Way of the Peaceful Warrior" is essentially accurate. Today, thirty years later, my old coach now tells me he's eating less meat! Still, no one diet is right for all people. We each need to experiment, pay attention, and trust my instincts.

Q: Who is your strongest inspiration in sports? In spirituality? And what activity do you find intellectually most stimulating?

I do not have a single strongest inspiration either in sports or spirituality; rather, I find moments of inspiration in many people. But I would have to say that my primary teacher of sports, of spirituality, of life, has always been God, revealing all necessary lessons in the world of nature and in the school of daily life. I believe I convey these lessons most clearly in a little book called "The Laws of Spirit" a parable in which a woman sage teaches me twelve laws for living up in the wilderness.

Being a teacher, lecturer, workshop leader and having worked with many people. And having been asked many questions about life. What do you see as the hardest thing for people to do or to understand?

A: We know much, but bringing what we know is highest and best into everyday life - acting in line with our inner wisdom, is always a great challenge. It may take ten years to embody what we have learned. I emphasize, however, that even small actions can make a big difference. A little bit of something seems better than a lot of nothing. Also, I believe we need to trust the divine spirit within each of us, in our hearts, and to trust the process of our life unfolding.

Q: You write often about the non-competitive principal in sports promoting healthier competitive events. How can one who is used to "beating" his opponent throughout many years of competitions achieve this feeling of higher winning other then just the satisfaction of being better then the opponent?

A: In my new book, "Body Mind Mastery: Creating Success in Sport and Life," I address the issues of competition and cooperation. On the basis of many solid studies as well as my own experience, I have come to believe that cooperation accomplishes more than competition. But rather than do away with competitive sports, I believe we need to examine and transcend the competitive state of mind (which even "non-competitive" artists, dancers, and musicians fall prey to). We can do this by viewing our "opponent" as our student and our teacher (intentional or not). In a tennis match, I may play my very best-not to "beat" someone or "make them fail," but to serve as their teacher, show them their weaknesses, even as they do the same for me.

Q: How do you cope with exhaustion in training when the body just doesn't feel like exercising but you have a competition coming up in a few weeks that you need to prepare for?

A: Tough question. A Zen master was once asked, "What is Zen?" He answered, "When I am hungry I eat, when I am thirsty I drink, when I am tired I sleep." In other words, a natural, ordinary, human approach to life. Yet in the pressures of competition (or, say, deadlines at work) we lose this natural sense. As a general rule, if one is exhausted one should rest; this is only natural. But at times of need, we can also test and temper ourselves, transcend our everyday capacities and reach deep inside to find inner strength. Doing this on occasion may not be best for the body, but it can be good for the spirit. If it becomes habitual or chronic, (as when doctors go through internship) we may a price as we go against our own body's wisdom.

Q: You seem like a very positive person, have you ever been seriously depressed? Did things look at some point in time really grey for you?

If yes, how did you "get yourself going again"?

A: Of course I feel depressed at times; any sensitive person ought to feel depressed at times by man's inhumanity to man. It is important for all of us to realize that writers, teachers, gurus - even "enlightenment masters" - can get depressed. We should not speak in the past tense (as in "did you used to feel such-and-such) as if someone's life is complete. We are all human, all dealing with much the same challenges. Life is a series of moments; sometimes I feel happy, and sometimes I feel sad. The important thing is to focus on constructive action despite whatever we are, or are not feeling. I do my best to live on the basis of three principles: (1) Accept your feelings; (2) Know your purpose (in this moment); and (3) Do what needs to be done.

Q: I think that every athlete, as withactors and other performers, have from time to time fears, be it stage fear or fear of failure etc. How do you deal with such fears?

A: As you say, fear, self-doubt, anxiety, and insecurity pass through us all in different situations. As I clarify in my book "Everyday Enlightenment" under the chapter titled "Face Your Fears," the only way to deal with fear is to accept the feeling (whether or not we happen to like it); then do what needs to be done. Fear is a wonderful servant but a terrible master. If the fear is objective-involves danger to the physical body, let fear guide you and prepare well, take precautions, etc. If the fear is subjective -fear of failure, embarrassment, shame, rejection-then cut through it and do what you fear.

Q: What advice can you give to people who just started to participate in competition or acting careers to deal with their fears?

A: Use the fear. The only difference between fear and excitement is whether you are breathing.

Q: Every person has from time to time "blue" days, especially sportsmen and women who have to exercise or perform on a regular schedule and have most of the time, especially in the morning some pain here or there. How do you make yourself get up and do those things? How did you develop your own discipline?

A: I cover this in detail in "Everyday Enlightenment" in the Second chapter: "Reclaim Your Will." I believe I've already given some clues in my responses to previous questions. Here I'll just add: Start small. If you find it difficult to begin a workout, then just put on your workout clothes. In other words, do a little. Tell yourself you'll just work out for three minutes. The "blue" days are the most important ones of all to reclaim our will and "just do it."

Q: Would you like to close with any final words or reminders?

A: I'll close by sharing with you a brief excerpt from the epilogue of my book, THE LAWS OF SPIRIT. The woman sage bids me farewell after an adventure together, with the following words:

"These are my wishes and prayers for you, all the days of your life. May you find grace as you surrender to life. May you find happiness, as you stop seeking it. May you come to trust these laws and inherit the wisdom of the Earth. May you reconnect with the heart of nature and feel the blessings of Spirit.

"The challenges of daily life will remain, and you will tend to forget what I have shown you," she said. "But a deeper part of you will remember, and when you do, life's problems will seem no more substantial than soap bubbles. The path will open before you where before there grew only weeds of confusion. Your future, and the future of all humanity, is a path into the Light, into a growing realization of the Unity with the Creator and all creation. And what lies beyond is beyond description.

"Even when the sky appears at its darkest, know that the sun shines upon you, that love surrounds you, and that the pure Light within you will guide your way home. So trust the process of your life unfolding, and know with certainty, through the peaks and valleys of your journey, that your soul rests safe and secure in the arms of Spirit."

© 2007 Dan Millman

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Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful. - Samuel Johnson

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