I’m excited to have a writer who’s books have shaped my life’s journey. On the show we have best-selling author, and speaker Dan Millman.
Dan Millman is a former world champion athlete, university coach, martial arts instructor, and college professor.
After an intensive, twenty-year spiritual quest, Dan’s teaching found its form as the Peaceful Warrior’s Way. His work continues to evolve over time to meet the needs of a changing world.
Dan’s eighteen books, including Way of the Peaceful Warrior: A Book That Changes Lives, have inspired and informed millions of readers in 29 languages worldwide. The feature film “Peaceful Warrior” was adapted from Dan’s first book, based upon incidents from his life.
The story is about a young gymnast Dan Millman played by Scott Mechlowicz, and his struggle to make sense of his life in which he is successful but still unfulfilled. By chance he meets his “Yoda”/Shaolin priest/Boss Paul who helps him “git his head straight” after which he goes on to be comfortable with his athletic prowess albeit not exactly Olympic caliber.
There is a lot of jumping around scene wise during which we don’t know what is dream (part of getting his head straight) or reality showing his maturing personality. He suffers a debilitating physical injury which forces him to work very hard to get back where he was ability wise earlier, but much wiser for successfully negotiating his transformation to wise old Grasshopper. T
Much of Dan’s time is devoted to speaking. His keynotes, seminars, and workshops span the generations to influence men and women from all walks of life.
His new book is Peaceful Heart, Warrior Spirit: The True Story of My Spiritual Quest.
“This story is mine, but the way belongs to us all.”
In this long-awaited true story of a search for the good life, bestselling author Dan Millman describes his quest for meaning in the modern world, including the story behind his writing of the spiritual classic, Way of the Peaceful Warrior. His evolution from childhood dreamer to world-class athlete catapults him, over a span of two decades, through mind-expanding experiences with four radically different mentors who prepare him for his calling as a down-to-earth spiritual teacher.
For forty years, through books and seminars, Millman has shown how to live with a peaceful heart and a warrior’s spirit. This memoir shares his course corrections, wake-up calls, and life lessons as he introduces readers to four key mentors: the Professor, a Bolivian scientist-mystic; the Guru, an American-born spiritual master; the Warrior-Priest, a martial artist and metaphysical healer; and finally the Sage, a different sort of psychologist and a servant of reality.
Enjoy my inspirational conversation with Dan Millman.
Listen to more great episodes at Next Level Soul Podcast
Follow Along with the Transcript – Episode 029
Alex Ferrari 0:09
I'd like to welcome to the show Dan Millman. How're you doing, Dan?
Dan Millman 0:12
Hey, just great. Thanks, Alex,
Alex Ferrari 0:14
thank you so much for coming on the show. I've been a fan of the Peaceful Warrior since I was just a wee lad back in the back in the 90s, when I first read it for the first time, and I'm excited to talk to you. So I wanted to, I really love the story, which is in your new book, peaceful heart, warrior spirit. This kind of like the origin stories of the way of the Peaceful Warrior, which I was kind of floored, because you think it's like, oh, it's a blockbuster head. It just comes out the gate. It's all good. Can you tell the audience, first of all, where you originally came up with the way of the Peaceful Warrior?
Dan Millman 0:54
Sure. I was teaching how as a professor at Oberlin College, in physical education, teaching courses like mirthful movement, which was an act circus course, teeter board and type of walking and juggling, and so on acrobatics, but I also decided based on my background is, as you understand in martial arts, I decided to teach an overview of Aikido and Tai Chi. And I was going to call the course the way of the warrior, which makes sense. But but these are internal martial arts. They're not really aggressive. They're more receptive. So a light bulb went on. And I said, Why don't I call it way of the Peaceful Warrior. So it first appeared in the catalog at Oberlin. And years later, when I want to share something, I wasn't sure what, based on what I learned, especially from the first two mentors of the four that I mentioned in the in the memoir. After that time, I wanted to share something, I didn't know what to call it. And then I thought, Wait, why don't I call it the way in the peaceful warrior. So that was the origin of the title of the book, and every book has its own title story, how you come up with it. But that's it. Again, I view everyone as a peaceful warrior in training, because we're all seeking to live with a more peaceful heart a sense of serenity, equanimity in the chaos of the changes of everyday life, as many of us have noticed recently. So there are, you know, we need to, we're all seeking that. But also there are times we need to live with a warrior spirit, in terms of rolling up our sleeves, marching into life and facing the challenges and joys of course of everyday life. So that's, that's the balance that's implied by this idea of peaceful heart, warrior spirit. And that's why I view everyone as a peaceful warrior in training.
Alex Ferrari 2:48
Now, can you tell a story about how the book got out into the world? Because that's a fascinating story to me. Like, like I said, originally, you think that oh, it just caught fire right away? How did it actually get into the world?
Dan Millman 3:02
Well, when it was first published, you know, the second to last draft was basically self help book, I remembered an old cosmic old service station attendant, I met about three in the morning. And that that image stuck with me, because it showed you can learn wisdom anywhere, even in an old service station. And so I decided to finally write this, this book. And the second to last draft said, I met this old gas station attendant. And here's what I learned from them. And the rest of the book was a straightforward bulleted point, self help book. But the editor who first saw it said, Dan, I'd like to know more about this old guy you called Socrates and, and your relationship with him. So I will be in elements that created more of a story in one intensive 20 hour a day to week rewrite. And the book was published by a gap torture was then in Los Angeles. And the editor thought it would be cute to call it a basically true story since it mixed autobiography with fiction. But bookstores didn't know where to put it, you know, and there was no internet, no online sales. And they said, where should we shove it? Is it fiction or nonfiction? It can't be both. Because there weren't many books like that. So it got into almost no stores and the book died. They got into maybe maybe a couple 1000 copies sold here and there independent bookstores, and then that was it. I figured I'd have had a brief career as a writer. But it was three and a half years later. An older lady had a friend named Hal Kramer, who was a retired publisher. And she read the book, she found it all hardback out of print, gave it to him and he said he was so excited about the book that he said, I'm going back into publishing, and I'm starting with this book. It took him two years to get the book stores to take one copy of each of the major chains then. And then the word of mouth started, which you can't control. Every writer would love to have word about people telling other people about a book. Promotion doesn't do it. What keep gives a book long life is word of mouth. And if you can, and I don't say it was any particular brilliance of mine, I just shared what I wanted to share. I thought maybe if you college students would like it, I had no idea. But word of mouth kept it going and and built and built and built, and now it's out and about 29 languages. And, you know, that's, that was its fate. So from there, of course, 17 other books, it only took me 40 years to write. And I don't just pump out books to write books, everyone is different, it has to justify itself. But finally it came to what is my culminating work. I want it to be old enough to reflect on a long life and career and in perspective, and yet, before I lost any memories, so this seemed like a good time to to share the new book.
Alex Ferrari 6:10
Yes. And I mean, you know, the way that Peaceful Warrior is one of those seminal, you know, personal growth books, that's always on the shelf. It's always one of those books that's on the shelf in the library of personal growth and spirituality and, and touching on that stuff. And I was, I just recently when I had when I booked you on the show, I was like, You know what, I gotta go back and watch the movie. I hadn't seen it since it came out, which was so wonderful. Nick Nolte he was just fantastic as Socrates. But tell me it was he good as Socrates? Because you knew Socrates?
Dan Millman 6:42
Yes, he was like the man I met in the gas station. But it didn't matter. It didn't matter, Nick has, he's a fine actor, he had his own way of stepping into the role. The book had meant a lot to him when he was younger, he'd read it. So he agreed to do the role within the within the budget, and so on. But who knows how Christopher Walken would have treated this. Or that would have been a very interesting, Alan Arkin, or George Carlin, for that matter when he was alive?
Alex Ferrari 7:08
Can you imagine a little bit of comedy?
Dan Millman 7:11
You never know, you never know. Well, you know, like life.
Alex Ferrari 7:15
Exactly, exactly. Now, one of your other books was called the hidden school, can you kind of discuss the concept of the hidden school really quickly, because I found it very fascinating.
Dan Millman 7:25
Well, it's hidden in plain sight. That was the takeaway from the book, the idea that the fundamental theme, which came in later in the book, it was more of an adventure story is, you know, but the major theme was that we all spend about 90 to 99% of our time and attention in the conventional world, conventional thinking conventional truths, as we appropriately should, taking care of kids getting an education, working, and so on. But most of us, there's a thread of attention of possibility. And people find a different way, some going to church, some going to our temple, some exploring spiritual growth. And that is the transcendent, and it has a different set of truths, which introduces the idea of paradox. You know, the opening of a tale of two cities, it was the best of times it was the worst of times. Both are true, even though they're opposite. We can argue for either one. And so there are certain fundamental philosophical principles like does free will exist? Are we separate individuals are we all want is death real? Does time pass? These are questions that have very different answers in the conventional world, where one thing is true. For the transcendent, which is the big picture of life. It's as if we go from the the weeds down at the base of a mountain, and find ourselves on the mountain top where everything looks more beautiful. In the distance, we see a panorama. We sigh and take a deep breath, we see it all that it's okay. The way it's unfolding. That's the transcendental the big mind view. And so I was seeking this. And by the way, I might interject, Alex, that I believe we're all on a spiritual search, whether we would phrase it like that or not, whether it's conscious or not. Everyone is seeking more fulfillment, peace, love, understanding, and even transcendence, understanding what we're here for. And that's that why I thought it was appropriate to describe my own spiritual quest, not because I presumed everyone wanted to read about this Dan Millman character, but because it really speaks to our universal quest for this big picture sense of fulfillment or liberation.
Alex Ferrari 9:58
Now isn't it is You've obviously taught 1000s and 1000s of people and millions through your, through your works in your books. Do you find that one of the biggest obstacles to spiritual growth is fear? And if and how people deal with fear, because I find that even in my own life, you know, if I, you know, I've started to see how fears, you know, I'm a little bit I'm not as I'm not a seasoned as you are. But I've been around the block a couple times, I've got a couple of gray hairs. So as you get older, you start seeing things differently. And fear is one of those things that you start looking I'm like, Well, what am I afraid of? And I think that only happens as you get older. Because when you're 20, you were terrified of certain things that you look at now going up Jesus. And now I'm sure I'm, you know, I'm afraid of things now that when I'm at your age, I'll be like, Jesus. So, so how do you? How do you any advice on how to break through those fears, letting go of those fears? And do you agree that fear is one of those major obstacles in spiritual growth?
Dan Millman 11:05
Sure, sure. Well, one can teach in a peaceful warriors approach to life without addressing this topic and thinking a lot about it. I, I experienced very visceral, objective fear of getting hurt or injured or killed. In gymnastics, when I was training, or any day in the gym, any moment of inattention could result in a serious injury. So I was quite familiar, it was a companion of mine. And yes, fear can obstruct whether whether it's in the spiritual realm or just everyday life, and there are many different kinds of fear. We have words anxiety, nervousness, insecurity, self doubt, these are all forms of fear that we face, even though it's not abject terror every day. But you know, it's funny, you see two people on a roller coaster, they're both screaming, one with excitement, one with absolute dread and terror. Why? Why are they screaming from different motives, because one is thinking, this is going to be so exciting. And the other is, I'm going to die. And so often the way we frame things and look at them affect how we how we view them. And, you know, there's a wonderful saying that I once read it to death is perfectly safe. Once we get past that, what is there to fear, but there's still things to fear, there was a Canadian study that rated public speaking as slightly higher than the fear of death. So we people fear, shame, and embarrass people not liking them. We have many different sorts of fears. But let's just get down to a boxing coach named custom moto once said, heroes, and cowards feel exactly the same fear, they just respond differently. And so maybe it's not about what we feel. Many people are afraid of feeling fear. But it's a part of life, I still feel fears of various sorts of various degrees in different situations. But I've learned especially from that fourth mentor of the four that I described in the book, the sage really taught me it's not about trying to control or fix our emotions, not feeling fear. And this phrase always seemed nonsensical, to me letting go of fear. How does one let go of fear? You know, if somebody is terrified in a situation, they're about to go up and out on stage to sing, but really ups the ante some and telling them just let go of fear? That's not very helpful.
Alex Ferrari 13:42
At the moment, no,
Dan Millman 13:42
no, How about how about except your fear is natural to you in the moment. You don't have to fix it, change it. Do anything with it, just notice it as you would in meditation? Yes, you're feeling afraid, or you have negative thoughts, fine. Except that is natural to you in the moment, but focus on your purpose, what are you here to do? And then do what you need to do? You know, I heard rumors that Bob Dylan used to throw up before performances during his career. But he got out there, he's saying, and wow, the world's better for it. So it's not about getting rid of the fear, letting go of the fear. It's feeling authentically, I'm open to all emotions now. Because I'm not afraid of them anymore. My thoughts are sometimes positive, sometimes negative. Because we grew up in a psychological culture. That assumes you have to have just the right thoughts or a quiet mind, and just the right emotions, like confidence and courage and, and love and kindness, then you can go out and live wisely and well. But what the sage reminded me of is we have less control over what they're passing through us like the weather in any given moment, or what thoughts are appearing in our awareness, random thoughts, but we do have more control over how we move our arms and legs and our mouth. What we say in what we do, the way we act, the way how we act the way we behave. And so the sage taught me to focus more on what do I need to do in this moment and then doing it.
Alex Ferrari 15:13
So you're, you're basically saying, to feel the fear, if you will, and do it anyway, in a certain sense, it's kind of like, it's weather patterns, it's things that you can't control, fear. Look, if there's a lion in front of you, you can't let go of fear at the moment. It's not that kind of fear. And that's also a different kind of fear than anxiety, or, you know, fear of loss or other things like that. But to feel it. And it's all we have control of is how we react to it, which is essentially, sage advice about Life is like Life happens, it's how you deal with the scenarios that happened to you is how, how it different how your experience through this life is experienced?
Dan Millman 15:56
Exactly. Cheers to Zary papouasie When said, everything that needs to be said has already been said. But it needs to be said again, because no one was really paying attention. So I express things in my own way. That's what I strive to do. Over the years, I don't parrot the words of the four mentors, though some of them their teachings do shine through. But for the most part, I'm teaching from the insights generated by my interaction with these teachers. So it some people may hear this as fake until you make it or feel the fear and do it anyway. And they're like slogans, they fit on bumper stickers, you know. But it's based on understanding that we will feel many emotions that have many thoughts. And the question always, before us, the major most important question in life might be, what do I need to do now, and then doing our best to do that. And that's what anybody who's high functioning does. And you know, that may not sound too spiritual or sexy, learning to function well, but those who function well have more of a default sense of fulfillment in their life than those who don't. And also, there's a reminder, and this is all any teacher can do is offer reminders, observations perspectives, is that we can't control the outcomes. I wish I could tell people guaranteed success. The boy, people would pay money to know how to succeed for sure. We all want that, whatever that means to us. But we can't control the outcomes in our life. We have no direct control by our will over that getting us but we can control our efforts. And by making an effort over time, we vastly increase the odds of getting the results we'd like overnight making efforts. So that's why I recommend to people dream big, but start small, and then connect the dots.
Alex Ferrari 17:51
Right, and the more work you put into a specific venture, when luck happens, when that's an serendipitous moment happens, you're ready for it. Because after I've been I've had the pleasure speaking to a lot of high, you know, high performing artists and people around the world. I've always they always say, there's a lot of luck involved. And it's there is a portion, there is a portion of I mean, if that woman wouldn't have introduced you to your publisher piece we would have you wouldn't be sitting here right now you would have been like I wrote a book once. And that was the end of it.
Dan Millman 18:22
Yeah. And I wouldn't have met the mentors either. Right, who helped influence my life and work? Yeah, when preparation meets opportunity that we call it luck it? And yes, anybody who's has a realistic view, and it's wonderful that you've spoken with so many people who are speaking from their experience, not just abstract theories, right,
Alex Ferrari 18:40
exactly. I always like getting into the, into the weeds of, of how they got to where they're going and, and how they dealt with fears. And and I try to humanize even giant Oscar winners and people of major magnitude because people look at them as a pedestal, but I always look at them like you're human, having the same experience as I am. You're just on a very different path than I am. But it doesn't mean it's better or worse. And it's it's very, it's very, very similar that way. Now, you also spoke about three primary approaches to spiritual life. Can you touch on that?
Dan Millman 19:13
Sure. That was something I learned from the guru. I want to credit him this is a chance to recognize and acknowledge my lineage. So yeah, the the guru explained, which is unusual for a guru, who was this transcendent being through whom the divine shines and transmits this to other people. It was a very different approach than the professor, the first mentor, but still, the guru told us I'm not looking, you know, you have to before you can become spiritual, you have to become human. And he described three approaches to spiritual life which correspond to three phases of human life, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood or maturity, and in the childhood of our spiritual seeking, we seek what children seek, and all powerful parents Failure to tell us what to do, how to live, someone that we can project all power and wisdom on. And they can guide us there. And there's nothing wrong with this approach any more than there's something wrong with childhood. But we need eventually to grow out of that phase. And rather than look for some great parent figure, we become adolescents. And many of us remember our own adolescence and have seen that in our children. And in adolescence, it's a natural time to throw off the values you've been taught and learn and find your own way. This is very important to individually. And so adolescence, it's like question authority, and only I know what's best for me, I'm all wise. And all these teachers are charlatans and fakes. None of them are any good. They're all just out for the money and you know, all these kind of adolescent approaches. So they tend to reject wisdom and don't even notice it when it hits him in the face. And then we grow through adolescence, which is relatively brief, hopefully not extended, as it is for many people into maturity, where we find wisdom, wherever it may be. You know, that saying, when the student is ready, the teacher appears we've all heard this, but many people misinterpreted to mean, when when we've suffered enough, when we're deserving enough, when we've prepared enough, then some teacher like Socrates is going to appear to guide us or kick us up the path. But I believe there's a different interpretation. When the student is ready, or truly paying attention, the teacher appears everywhere. In a tree bending in the wind, a cloud floating across the sky, we can learn from any incident nature has always been my primary teacher, but from our friends, from adversaries, from incidents and everyday life, we can actually learn lessons that can change the way we approach life. So that is how adults, that's that approach to spiritual life. Just be alert for wisdom, learn lessons and apply them in your daily life. How do we know if we've learned the lesson? There are two ways. One, our perspectives really shift, or change or grow, and to our actions change, that's the most powerful. So that's what I would say about those three approaches to spiritual life. And the reason I say it's unusual coming from the Guru is many gurus, many teachers encourage a childlike devotion to them. They thrive on it. But no, not this one. He said, I want mature human beings to work with not children or adolescents.
Alex Ferrari 22:46
Very, very, very interesting. I always found it interesting with your profession, because you were when you were younger, you were in the martial arts in gymnastics. And both of those, you really need to be focused on the moment on the now and I think you got a specialized training in being in the moment because of all those years of doing that. Is there any advice you can give the audience in how to appreciate and be in this moment, and not worrying about what happened? That you have no control of and what and worrying about the future, which you have little or no control over? And living in this present moment, which is all that we truly are given?
Dan Millman 23:28
Yes. And it takes time. I know it took me time. And I was had many advantages growing up and meeting the people I did. But it takes time to realize that not just understand intellectually, what you just said about all we have is this moment. Again, I mentioned that conventional and transcendental truth, time in conventional time, yeah, it passes. It's as if you or I are sitting in a rowboat floating down a river of time. And someone from the shore is watching the boat come from what looks like the past. And then it passes in front of them in the present. And then it goes off what looks like into the future. But from your your your viewpoint of mind sitting in that boat, we're completely still may be meditating, sitting in the eternal present. But to realize that's all we have takes a little time. And to recognize that what we call the past no longer exists. Even a few seconds ago, it's gone. All we have is this moment in this moment in this moment. Now someone might say well wait a minute, here. Here's a photograph, an actual photograph, digital or otherwise, of my last birthday, and how can you tell me the past didn't exist? This was my birthday in the past. But all that's happening is that person is showing me an image in this present moment. The rest is memory. So what we call the past is made of memory. And it's a wonderful human capacity to remember nothing wrong with that. We just don't want to confuse it for reality. And what we call the future is imagination. We can plan our day, I think I'll do this, this and this. But it's quite an interesting exercise to write down what you think is going to happen all your plans that day, in what order and see if what turns out at the end of the day is anything like what you wrote, because it will have changes, for sure. So we don't want to get too attached to the plans. But it's a human capacity to look ahead, what we call the future. But yet, in reality, there is no future happiness. We're either happy now in this moment, or we're not. And that's fine. Either way, you know, we're not happy all the time. If we were happy every moment, how would we even know it?
Alex Ferrari 25:49
Now, how would you how would you tell people who are are using the past as anchors or abuse of themselves or stuck in making themselves feel guilty or sad? And like, Oh, I remember when she broke up with me 10 years ago, or when this or that? So many people live in the past literally live in their minds in the past on a daily basis. And which doesn't allow them not only to appreciate the moment, but definitely doesn't allow them to appreciate what's coming down the line? Is there any advice you can give them to letting go? Of, or not even letting go but just not just not do it? Like there was this? There's this great, but I have to stop for a second. On a side note, I had this great skit that I saw Bob Newhart do. And he was playing a psychologist. Again. Stop it and stop it. Yeah, he was. Just tell you, there's so some of the lady comes in, oh, I have this problem. This problem. This problem is like, okay, okay. Okay. Like they told me you're the best. Yes. Okay. I got two words for you. Stop it. And that was that was his entiretherapy for that. Yes. Great topic. Such a great, wonderful. So yeah. So besides saying stop it?
Dan Millman 27:07
Well, secondarily, once the better we understand what we have in this moment, you know, it was either young Carl Jung or Fritz Perls, one of the psycho analysts or psychotherapist, or it might have been Joseph Campbell, who said often, many people drag the past behind them like a heavy black bag full of stone. And they drag it into the present. And they use it, whether they consciously would say they use it or not, as I've been traumatized, and that happened to me, and therefore I can't function very well now. And what we do carry with us, our bad habits, of perception of thinking of our traumas, may create a sensitivity to react rather than respond. We also carry tensions in the body. So I'm, and that can happen over time. fear based tensions, we don't carry fear in the body, some people say, but it's more of a metaphor, or a lyrical way of saying, but we do carry tensions, chronic stuff, which can block energy and limit energy in life, and limit movement. And because the nerves are all connected to our brain and the way we live life. So I do recommend most people explore bodywork of one kind or another, to start opening up the body. You know, even when we meditate. We're not just trying to quiet the mind. We're quieting the body. And when we quiet the body, the mind tends to follow their they interact so intimately. So let me just jump back a moment in and as I get to responding to your question, which is, I benefited from doing trampoline and gymnastics, which are warrior sports. They're sports in which you, you don't just lose a point or a match, you could lose your life, because the body's at risk. There are other other warrior sports of course, certain martial arts, deep sea diving, freediving, solo, rock climbing, all those kinds of things, bungee jump, being a racecar driving, sure, racecar driving. Yeah, we get the image, certain sports where the body's at risk forces you to focus completely on that present moment. So you learn to do that. But it's actually a beginner's practice because you forced to do it. The hardest point is doing it in everyday life, when you don't feel at risk in still remembering to focus on the present moment, the quality of this moment. So having done martial arts, having done gymnastics, but anyone who's played a musical instrument knows that sense of absorption, the zone, the flow and so on. And, in fact, if, when I'm with a group of people, I can take out some car keys, a ring of car keys and throw them to them and say catch, and as they reach out for those car keys, they're not thinking about the past. They're not projecting into the future, except maybe a moment. But they're reaching their like a cat, pure awareness. Because in this present moment, the mind is quiet. We can't think about anything. In this present moment, the moment we think about something, we're thinking about what we anticipate is going to happen, or what already happened. In the present moment. There's only pure awareness. It's a different way to live. But time flies when you're having fun when you're absorbed in something, Time does fly. So it's really a blissful feeling. Why do you think people like to play frisbee, they throw it and they're reaching for it. And they get these moments of freedom, where they're reaching, it's floating through the air, and then they catch it. And then they throw it, they watch where it goes. So we like to do sports and play musical instruments and do all sorts of things. To come back to that to revisit that moment of silence, that moment of truth, and get, some people call it a vacation from all the daily worries. So imagine living like that. Imagine every moment doing that
Alex Ferrari 31:04
is that kind of so that is why the popularity of video games, the popularity of movies, the popularity of Netflix and streaming shows and television, because when you when you are being told a good story, like in movies, you are golf 100% If it's being told, Well, if it's being done poorly, you you lose, you're in and out, when you're playing a video game, you are 100% in the moment, that's all you are doing. So I've never really thought of it that way. But that is a way of, for lack of a better word, meditating, because you are in that specific moment, and there is nothing else. You're not thinking about the girl who dumped you in high school, you're not thinking about your boss, you're not thinking about the bills, you are thinking about that specific place in time. And I think that is where we all strive to go to, but we don't know how to get there. And other than an artificial ways, like a movie, a video game, or maybe a sport, something like that, as opposed to a guru, like a Guru can get there by themselves.
Dan Millman 32:10
And you or I could do I'm sure it's not that terribly difficult. Let me tell you a quick story. The story I tell is about I'm in the gym, swinging around the high bar, and I let go and I do a full twisting double somersault, something like that. But I stick my landing. And that's a good thing. And so I go yes, you know, and, and then then I figured it's a good time to stop working. And as Socrates is watching, he's the only other one in the gym. And so I rip off my sweatshirt, throw it in my workout bag, I'm happy. And then we're going down the hallway. And he stops and says, Dan, you know, that last movie did that was really sloppy. And I go, What are you talking about sock, that was the best dismount. I did weeks. He said, Oh, I'm not talking about the dismount. I'm talking about the way it took off your sweatshirt, and put it in your bag. And he reminded me again, that I was treating one moment on the high bar especial. And another moment, putting my taking off my sweatshirt as ordinary. And then he again use those words, there are no ordinary moments. But he added something to that. And I got actually got this line into the movie, you may recall a couple of weeks before the start shooting. He said the difference between us is you practice gymnastics. And it could be video games, it could be anything. I practice everything. And I didn't get it, what he meant by that. But you know, most of us do things all day. We do the dishes, we do our homework we do we go to work and do our work. But we don't practice it. The moment we consciously intend to say I'm going to practice. We're intending to refine or improve what we're doing, how many of us are still improving our signature, or improving the way we walk across a room or sit in a chair and breathe? The moment we commit ourselves to practicing this moment I'm practicing speaking right now. It brings us back into that state of absorption, the problem of video games and they do serve that wonderful function of bringing you know that in the moment. But unless we can generalize that and learn to do it in everyday life, we become addicted, we have to go back to the video game and then back to the video game. Again, to experience that instead of experiencing it walking across the room and getting a glass of water, whatever it is. So practicing is one key to making life. That video game.
Alex Ferrari 34:36
You think that's one of the reasons why we're so addicted to social media, because it does the same function but it doesn't add fear. It pulls us in but it does it in such an addictive manner that you all want to see that like or I want to see this or you and I go down the rabbit hole every once in a while to even through even with good content like conscious content and inspirational videos and things but you just Get lost down that route. And I look like God Damn, I've been standing every 15 minutes. I got to get out of here. It's it's pretty powerful. But in, I think I think you again, social media has is basically the the crack cocaine version of watching a movie or or playing a video game or doing gymnastics would you look?
Dan Millman 35:22
Yes, I would agree. And in fact, look at how recent I mean, human, the human body mind hasn't adapted yet to technology. It's been two seconds. Since technology was invented, we have no idea how to do it. How many times have you or I said, huh, I can either read a book now it's pretty good. It's deep literary stuff. Or I can watch YouTube, huh, I wonder what choice I'm going to make? What's easier? What draws me in immediately? What do I have to put a little effort and concentration to get into. And the problem is our reticular activating system, which is in our brainstem, it's sorts for new and stimulating things in our environment. And what happens is people only want movies that are more grandiose, bigger explosions, more tense, more suspenseful. And we need to refine that and step back to appreciating the simple things again, you know, a little slightly flavored tea rather than a strong carbonated drink. So to refine that economize diet and sometimes sensory deprivation. You may recall when I was dealing with the professor and his school, near the end of that 40 day intensive in the advanced training, he had me sitting in a room and the other students for you know, Friday night to Monday morning, with a Windows blocked with some sheets, doing nothing, no meditation, no exercise, no reading, just sitting on my own in a room all day for the whole weekend. And after the sensory deprivation, because my eyes were have closed, everything was quiet, dimly lit. When I stepped out, I looked at the world with the eyes of a child, again, a young child, kind of like, wow, look at the sky, listen to the sounds of traffic. It was amazing, just like waking up. And most of us, we experienced this, when we go travel somewhere different, we go to the woods, the Japanese call it forest bathing. Or when we go to Europe, and we go, look, look at across the street, it's a laundromat, well, we'd hardly notice that here. But it's an adventure, doing our clothes in Europe, learning a new language trying to make our way somewhere. So the point is, if we change your environment, that's why they say travel is broadening. It's one reason because it wakes us up in a different way, we start to notice things and wait a wake up to them, instead of this dullness, we go through life. Just experiencing life through memories and projections, and images rather than directly the perception. So we've all we can, most people can relate to that at times at moments in their life, when we wake up to this present, and, and the and appreciate our senses, appreciate our ability to remember and to imagine, to appreciate the objects around us and the relationships around us. One of the online courses that my website is a four minute meditation, but it's a meditation bit unusual. It's on the process of dying. Now we all have beliefs about what happens when we die, that's fine. People have different beliefs. What we do know this, the body decomposes. And this particular personality Naita probably won't be around again, each of our lives is unique. In our lives, our egos our personality levels, like a disposable contact lens. It's no longer needed at death. The point is, you that may sound morbid, I mean how many people go, oh, a Deaf meditation. Um, so they're, you know, now most people like I don't want to go anywhere near that. But I've found nothing that helps us to appreciate our life as much as doing this meditation. That's worked. I did it for a year and a half every day, performative today, before I began to teach it, and doing this, and realizing all we need to do, all we must relinquish at when we die, helps us to appreciate what we have right now. And we take for granted
Alex Ferrari 39:31
is, um, you know, I always found it interesting, that we are always searching for peace outside of us. And we're always looking for, you know, obviously the materialistic world of the west where we live, is people are always looking for things and stuff. And I always like saying, you know, you never see a U haul attached to a hearse. Like it's generally not it's it's such a wonderful image when they I want to film that, because it's just like it's so yes, it's such a ridiculously that's what but that's how we treat our things. Because we're always looking for happiness outside of us. But people who are in that, and we never find happiness outside of us through relationships through instances here and there. But last thing really lasting happiness happens from inside, how do you suggest you connect with your inner or higher self, that inner wisdom that we all have?
Dan Millman 40:29
Well, it's tough to get in touch with a god or goddess of our heart. While we're monitoring the God of opinion, you may recall, and you may recall that exercise I gave in the new book, The warrior priest, was quite a dramatic guy exciting and he gave he worked with the subconscious very effectively, he understood what he called the basic self we call the subconscious mind. And so for those who are always checking out what other people think of me, and basically worshipping this God and opinion, he recommended that we get on our hands and knees every morning, we built an altar, like a maybe a white cloth and incense are flowers. And we put on that altar a little god of opinion. It could be something we make out of clay or Play Doh, or it can be a Darth Vader doll, whatever with someone's picture on it, some special person, you know, there are god of opinion. And every morning, when we get up, we bow down we touch her forehead to the floor is a sheepish as we may feel doing this. And we say I worship you got an opinion? How am I doing? How do I look? Am I being the right person? Do you approve of me? And we just do this too. We're kind of tired of it, then we get up and go about our day. And you know, it's great. If somebody comes in and us while we're doing this, then what are you doing? And we go, Well, I'm just worshipping My God and opinion. But you don't have to do this for more than a week or two. But it brings the subconscious into conscious awareness. Because when during our day, we see somebody who is seems to be judging us. We go, Wait, that looks a lot like the God of opinion. But it couldn't be because I know where it is. I left it at home on my altar. And here's the key. I've already worshipped it today. Enough, do I want to do that again. And so we stop worshiping this God of opinion, we start trusting the God of our heart. You know, one of the bad habits that people pick up and growing up most everybody. We compare ourselves to other people. And I would just say what Bob Newhart would say stop it. Because the moment we compare ourselves to anyone else, we're either going to feel superior, or inferior. And in fact, it's a profound disrespect for ourselves and our own process. Why would we want to compare ourselves to anyone else? You know, when I was a young coach at Stanford University coaching gymnastics, I also taught beginning gymnastics classes, which I loved. And some people I noticed learned a somersault quicker than other people. But I also noticed that those who took longer to learn it often learned it better than those who learn it quicker. So we have to trust our own way of learning our own way of living. Someone once wrote, I cannot write a book commensurate to Shakespeare, but I can write a book by me. And that's what we have to do is start to trust our own voice, our own way of life. As long as you're not hurting, you're exploiting anybody else, but to trust our process. And that's one of my missions is and that as the warrior priest did, he was a cheerleader to the soul, and so am I. And that's really how I view part of my work. And once once we stop comparing ourselves to others, because you know how young people often get depressed, looking at social media, because they see everyone else living their best life, and smiling and having such a wonderful time when we start comparing, I'm not having as good a time as them. And that's the problem because they're just showing their best self. They're suffering to do in their own way. They're struggling. You know, the cool kids at school, the ones that seemed the luckiest, they were having their own battles, guaranteed. One of my books, it called the life you were born to live, talks about the different life paths, we're all traveling. And we're all heading up different paths up the same mountain. We all face different challenges and have different strengths. We need to accept that.
Alex Ferrari 44:34
Yeah, I mean, as a younger man, I was very, very angry. I was an angry angry man because I wanted to be. I wanted to be a very big film director and I wanted to have the opportunity to direct my movies and things like that. And I had the the added salt on the wound of being in post production. So I got to see young directors younger than me getting three or $4 million for their budgets, and I'm sitting there and I'm looking at them and they don't even You know, this certain movie a day, they've I'm saving their movie because they didn't know what they were doing. And I would get so angry and I lived with a lot of bitterness inside of me. And it was about comparison, whether it's comparison to someone like that or comparison to idols that you might have, again, in the film industry, you compare yourself as Steven Spielberg, you're gonna be upset pretty much all the time. Because you're never gonna, you're never gonna win that battle. Because at the end of the day, that's his path. And you have your, and you have your path. And I and when I released that, when I stopped doing that, I became a much happier person. I always love saying when I speak, and when I speak to a group of people, I always say, How many people here know an angry and bitter filmmaker, and then a handful of people raise their hand in the room, and then I go, Whoever didn't raise your hand, you're the angry and bitter filmmaker, that everybody else
Dan Millman 45:53
beautiful example, in the field of filmmaking, sure. But you know, when we can look at somebody in our field, whatever that may be, they happen to be doing much better stuff. Or they see more successful, they're making more money, they got more respect, they're better known and more famous, whatever we can, when we can go, that's really cool of them, you know, Wow, great for them. Right? That, then we're really somewhere. Because their life is not connected to ours in that sense that they have their karma, if you will, their path, their destiny. Maybe they struggled horribly in a past life. Who knows? So what else can I say? Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 46:33
absolutely. And if you can understand your own path, and really just stick to your own lane, things become much happier. Like, you know, people look at me very strangely, sometimes you're like, Wow, you. You used to be a filmmaker. I'm like, Well, I still am a filmmaker. I make my movies when I want to and like, but I love podcasting. And I love talking to people. I love creating videos, I love creating educational products, writing books, like I've discovered new things that excite me that are just not the one thing that I was when I was 20. You know, it's kind of like when you watch a movie when you're 20. It was the greatest movie of all time, and you look at it back now you're like, Oh, that wasn't that good.
Dan Millman 47:11
That's a good sign. Actually, when I write a draft of the book, Ray Ray Bradbury said, well, actually, it was Kenny Hemingway, who said, the first draft of anything is crap. And that's true. When I write a draft, you know, there's that, that there's a creative intoxication. While I'm writing it. Wow, where did that insight come from? That was a cool phrase I just wrote, then you look back at it, like you say, and you go, Oh, God, this needs improvement. That's a great sign. It means your awareness has expanded of what's possible, and then you can make it better. And that's perfectly perfectly okay.
Alex Ferrari 47:46
Now, you also talk about the law of acceptance. Can you talk a little bit about that? Because I think it's a law that we all need to understand a little bit better.
Dan Millman 47:55
It's been called the first law of nature, the first law of spirit for human beings. When we can fully accept and embrace whatever happens, and we've all heard it different ways. Happiness is not getting what you want. It's wanting what you get. You know, there's a story about this man who had a beautiful lawn, he just put in this incredible sod lawn was bright emerald green, perfect. But then, crap crabgrass started growing up through it. And he wrote to the Agriculture Department. They were supposed to be the experts. And he said, I've got crabgrass, what can I do? And they wrote him back some suggestions. And they didn't work though. And this he wrote back more, you know, and that didn't work either. Well, finally, he said, Look, I've tried all these things. And I still got crabgrass. And they wrote back, learn to love crabgrass. And that's, that's really a story that points out is love acceptance. Now I call it the law of surrender even more so and many people misunderstand that. Does that mean surrendering to someone else's ego or capitulating and just giving up? Well, it's giving up in a higher sense. It's saying, You know what happened should have happened because it did. And we any amount of resistance isn't going to help that. So that actually acceptance and surrender to the moment, whatever arises is the highest law because what else is higher if you can just kind of flow with whatever happens? Martial artists, any good martial artists applies this law. It's the most creative, assertive approach we can take to life. And the strongest approach we can take because it flows with life. Whatever happens, let's say we go to a restaurant we've been looking forward to going out we haven't gone out for a long time. And we've been looking for this place has the best desserts the best. And so we sit down we have our meal, but we're looking forward to this dessert. And finally, the it's time for dessert, you go on the menu. I'd like this and they go off We're sorry, we just sold out of that, see that person at the table next to you, they're, they're enjoying the last piece. Now, you have a choice, you can go into resistance, This shouldn't have happened, you know, and start complaining and saying it's on the menu, you should have extra blah, blah, blah, which we do in life about a lot of things. Woody Allen said his mother used to complain. The food here is terrible in such small portions, you know, remember that. So we can play with so we complain about, about not having dessert, or we can just apply that law in our life and go, Oh, this is a chance to try something new. And again, colleague of mine, Byron, Katie used to say, resisting what is is like trying to teach a dog or cat to bark. It's not, you know, or what's that saying? Never try to teach a pig to sing it annoys the pagan. Yeah, so the point is, life happens as it will stress happens when the mind resists what is. So you want a stress free life, you apply the law of acceptance, and you someone pushes you, you pull, some impose you, you push, you go with the flow of life or the force and make good use of it. It's the old lemons to lemonade idea. But how do we apply it? That's the question. Something happens.
Alex Ferrari 51:22
I'll give you an example. Just this weekend, I went out with my family. And all of a sudden, one of my young daughters did something erotic at the table and knocked over an entire glass of water into my lap. Oh, tire glass. I was so whole glass, the whole glass soaked. Yep. And they were waiting for me to explode. Because Daddy has had, you know, I get angry sometimes because I have patients, the patients thing. Exactly, I have a 10 year old. So it's, it's a whole other thing. So, um, I, but for whatever reason, you know, as my spiritual journey has changed, I've, I've been modifying and I don't get ticked off nearly as easily as I used to. But that was a pure test. Because I was I was hungry on top of it. So I was hangry. And she got so I stopped there for a second. And I just say quietly, and all those things that you just said, ran through my head, like I can, and they were just like this waiting. And I just got up quietly, went can have a towel, please, came down. And they were just, they were kind of like, what's going on? Right? Why hasn't daddy gotten angry because unnormal they are, you know, it's not her fault. It was an accident and things happen. But in the moment you you can lose your temper. And you know, and I didn't. And I was like, very quiet about it. But that was the moment was like, you could either cry about what just happened, or accept what happened. You can make your daughter feel bad about what just happened, which was an absolute accident. Or you can just let it go. And I said it's okay. But it's just an accident. It's just, it's just some
Dan Millman 53:02
water, you take your management. And that's a wonderful story. And it points out that anger management courses don't manage anger, they manage behavior. And it's even okay, if you felt angry, that would be a natural feeling to you in the moment. But how do you behave in response? And that was a moment of transcendence for you. i That's why you remember that? You know, I
Alex Ferrari 53:22
think so too. And I think it was, I literally felt the anger of course, because you're gonna feel angry. But instead of holding on to that anger for the day, which, when I was a younger man, I did it ruin my day, that would have ruined my day. I just melted for a second. I said, Let it go. And it was gone. And I was like, Okay, now let's just deal with the situation at hand. And let's move on. And within a minute or two, we were all back to normal. Everything was fine. But it was a real learning lesson for myself and also teaching my children that because now they see Oh, right. Because they because they do see they do see they do react to what you do. And I've learned that yeah, no, um, where can people pick up your amazing new book peaceful heart of warrior spirit?
Dan Millman 54:10
Well, it's wherever books are sold, online, sport independent bookstores, wherever one might might be interested. Or they can go to my website peaceful warrior.com they'll see a picture of the book there a link, they can click there. But by the way, also at my website at peaceful warrior.com There's a free life purpose calculator, people can just click on that and learn some interesting information just to sample a taste of your life path.
Alex Ferrari 54:35
Now I'm going to ask you a couple questions. I asked all my guests. Sure. What is your mission in
Dan Millman 54:40
this life? Well, I found a calling early on as a teacher. So my mission I think is I love reaching out to other people. And hopefully through my example, because if you don't live what you teach, you don't have the spiritual authority, the word you're just mouthing the words. So I think My mission is to encourage other people also to write their lives down. Whether it's a page, a paragraph, or a whole book, whether it's published or not, to share their own life to reflect back on their life. It's a wonderful time to, to have a chance to live your life again with wisdom of your years, and learn a lot.
Alex Ferrari 55:23
And, and why do you think? Why do you think we're all here?
Dan Millman 55:30
Not so good at wise, because we make up our wise, I wouldn't give you I would manufacture why we're here. I believe, as I mentioned, in passing before that Earth, I see Earth is a divine school for souls. And daily life is our classroom. And every day, there are options to learn, to grow to evolve. And that's what we're doing here, I think. And there's no such thing as failure. If we've learned something.
Alex Ferrari 55:56
Do you believe that we all have our own missions in life? And if so, how do we discover what those things are? Because you were lucky early on, but most people, some people find it in their 60s, or in their 80s. You know, look, I always like using Colonel Sanders, he didn't start Kentucky Fried Chicken. Always it was in the 60s.
Dan Millman 56:12
Right, right. We I believe we have a set of traits, qualities and drives, and they're different for each person. That's why I mentioned this little life purpose calculator at the webpage. I wrote a book on the topic, we have a life path. And just as there is no tree on the planet exactly like one outside, where we live in the angle of every branch and root and leaf. You can say things about redwood trees, or birch trees that are different from redwoods or Aspen's or Oaks. So we are each we each have a pattern, and to discover that pattern. And that life path is one reason I wrote I took a great deal of effort in writing a book called the life you were born to live. And the life purpose calculator at my site gives a taste of that information. So that will help people guide them on their deeper purpose here as they navigate their way through life that often it takes years to discover.
Alex Ferrari 57:13
Dan, I really appreciate you coming on the show. It has been an absolute joy and honor talking to you my friend. Thank you for all the work that you've done in your life and continued success and many more years ahead of you of teaching and helping other people around the world. So thank you, my friend.
Dan Millman 57:28
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Links and Resources
- Dan Millman – Official Site
- Peaceful Heart, Warrior Spirit: The True Story of My Spiritual Quest
- Way of the Peaceful Warrior: A Book That Changes Lives
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