In our interview, Dan Millman shares when he was 20 years old, and a world-class gymnast, and shattered his right leg in a motorcycle accident. His healing became a spiritual awakening as he transformed from an ego-driven, Olympic-caliber athlete into a ‘peaceful warrior.’
SHARON: First, tell the audience if they’re not familiar with your spiritual quest. What started you on ‘your path?’
DAN: I’d like to say first that I believe every human soul is on a spiritual quest looking for meaning, connection, and fulfillment. But for some, this quest is more conscious and for others, not so quite yet.
My own quest was a process of disillusion actually. I was successful in the field of sport and gymnastics but I realized it didn’t lead to any lasting fulfillment that I might have hoped. Everything was temporary and I began to see that and understand and realize, I guess, one of these basic Buddhist teachings: Everything is temporary.
So I tried this and I tried that. I began a search first in the realm of sport and then as my interest expanded into the larger arena of everyday life, I stumbled upon if you will, various mentors and influences and I was so excited about these.
I’m actually writing about them in a new book which may be my eighteenth and final book ─ a memoir about these four mentors and how they represent the spiritual search, the search for happiness, healing, health, fulfillment and so on.
It took me through these experiences and I realized I wanted to share in a way people could get at the heart level, at the gut level and not conceptual. So that’s what eventually led to Way of the Peaceful Warrior; and it led me to search for how to create more talent for sport into “How can we create more talent for living, relationships, health, finances, and all the events and challenges of everyday life?”
I finally found an approach to living and I won’t go into any depth about how this term came up. It wasn’t some strategic idea of thinking of a brand but it was from the realization that we’re all peaceful warriors in training. Everyone I know wants to live with a more peaceful heart but there are times when we need a warrior’s spirit to face the challenges of daily life.
So that idea of peaceful heart/warrior spirit became this approach to living that I call the “peaceful warrior’s way” and that’s what I’ve been doing for the last forty years or so.
SHARON: … and been transforming so many lives in the process. Thank you for having the quest. It’s been awesome to watch from afar ─ reading your books and then having the opportunity to spend some time with you as well.
As I’ve said, one of the things that changed my life during the workshop was your approach to taking action. So many times, I’ve been to events, workshops, trainings, and types of things and it was all very good rah-rah and you left feeling rah-rah.
But I so appreciated you teaching exact skills about taking action. I’m trying to remember the quote you had, something about the effect that you can do all the learning but if you don’t take action, it doesn’t matter.
DAN: A French person, a poet named Duguet said, “The smallest good deed surpasses the greatest grand intention.” Thinking about something is the same as not doing it.
But it’s not as if it’s some sort of a frenzied approach to act, act, act, do this, do that. It’s more a recognition of how reality actually works.
You know, today, we hear all about fake news and fake this and fake that. Unfortunately, because science is changing ─ they have one conclusion, then a new study shows something different; but they’re open-minded, always exploring and trying to find the laws of reality.
Scientists and mystics are on the same search. They want to find the laws of reality; they have different methods of investigation.
And so, I came to realize, working with these various mentors, that we have more control over what we actually do, how we move our arms and legs and what we say. Even though our mouth doesn’t always feel under our control, generally, we can control that.
We have more control over what we do, how we act, how we behave than we do over what thoughts ─ positive or negative ─ happen to appear in our awareness and pop up in the discursive mind. We have more control over what we do than what emotions pass through us like the changing weather.
We can’t will ourselves to feel differently than we do in any given moment. Feelings change all the time and there are many ways to influence how we feel. To feel differently and look at things from a different angle, to take a deep breath, to relax ─ all these things may influence how we feel but to control it to say “I want to feel different now,” wouldn’t that be a great talent if we can actually do it?
As you know, Sharon, so many books and teachings are about “Change your thoughts to change your life; think positively and feel grateful and feel happy and peaceful and strong and confident.”
Well, that’s wonderful. I’m all in favor of positive feelings and thoughts when they happen and when you consider the alternative. But I came to realize that they’re not in our direct control. We can’t will ourselves to feel or think differently.
So I came to peace with my mind. I tamed my mind not by trying to quiet it but by allowing it to do its thing and not let it push me around so much. And that’s the purpose of meditation. We get some distance from these arising thoughts; we kind of see them rather than have them take over and mistake them for reality.
Mark Twain once said, “I’ve had many troubles in my life most of which never happened.” Most of our troubles are from the past or future, from our imagination or memory. What’s right in front of us, we can generally handle.
So I emphasized action simply because we have more control over what we do. We can ask someone out and meet someone and say something that’s a little scary. Even if we’re feeling afraid or underconfident, those feelings don’t have to determine how we behave. And this is a real form of liberation.
And so, whether we’re feeling confident, whether our thoughts are positive or negative, we can still say, “Okay, what do I need to do now?” And that’s what I mean for your listeners when I say that the focus of the peaceful warrior’s way is about action rather than fixing our thoughts and feelings so we can finally live well.
SHARON: Thank you so much. What a blessing! Listen to the complete interview and share this link with your family and friends www.UnderstandingAutoimmune.com/Dan
In the full interview, Dan also shares with us how his work continues to evolve, to meet the needs of a changing world, and his teachings have now found form as the ‘Peaceful Warrior’s Way.’ Plus,
• Six essential words to keep top of mind,
• Three ways to optimize your potential,
• The real purpose of meditation
and so much more…
More about Dan Millman: Dan is a former world champion athlete, university coach, and college professor. His books offer inspiring reminders about life’s bigger picture and higher potential. Dan prefers practical outcomes to abstract philosophy. He affirms that his purpose is to teach, share, and remind people of what they already know (and might have forgotten.)
Everyone, have a wonderful week whatever your adventures. Join me next week for another episode of The Autoimmune Hour. I so appreciate you all. Thank you.