Peaceful Heart, Warrior Spirit
Lecture and Book Signing
Dan Millman, former world champion athlete and best-selling author of 17 books, will discuss what it means to have a Peaceful Heart and a Warrior Spirit on Thursday, November 9, 2017 at Unity North. A book signing will follow the event.
Dan’s work has had a significant impact on people from all walks of life, including leaders in the fields of health, education, business, sports, politics, entertainment, and the arts.
Exclusive Interview with Dan Millman
by Misty Cochran
1) What was your purpose in writing the Peaceful Warrior series?
DM: When I was a young gymnast and coach I focused on self-improvement. Nothing wrong with that, but I eventually realized that no matter how much I improved myself, only one person benefited. But if I could somehow influence or inspire others, that made my life more meaningful. So my interests shifted from talent in sports to talent for living. In a decade-long, intensive search involving travels and various mentors, I sought to understand life’s bigger picture. At some point I was moved to share some insights and experiences in my first book, Way of the Peaceful Warrior. Ten years later, I wrote the second story. Twenty-seven years later, I finally completed the saga with The Hidden School. The second and third book are expanded slices of what happened during my travels briefly mentioned in my first book.
2) How much of the series is autobiographical, and how much is dramatized?
DM: Way of the Peaceful Warrior blends autobiographical incidents with some fictional elements; my other peaceful warrior books contain more from my creative imagination, loosely based on autobiography. I’ve never called any of these books ‘memoir,’ since memoir should contain no deliberate fiction. Rather, they blend fact and fiction for the sake of a full and engaging reader experience.
3) How do you think people can use the series as a roadmap to peace?
DM: As much as we might desire world peace and an end to conflict, we have limited control over world events and the politics of an evolving world. We have more control over our own perspectives and actions. The term ‘peaceful warrior’ applies to each of us, since we all strive for a more peaceful heart — less stress, more equanimity — but there are times we also need a warrior’s spirit in facing the challenges of everyday life. Rather than dream about or wish the people of the world could be kinder to one another, we can practice kindness at home and at work.
4) Do you believe there is a first step on the path to becoming a peace warrior?
DM: Yes. It’s called birth. It’s called living a human life. Earth is a divine school, and daily life is our classroom. The challenges we overcome in the arenas of relationships, career and finances, and health teach us and help us to grow and evolve. Wherever we step, the path appears.
5) What is the best advice Socrates ever gave you? What is the best advice you have to give?
DM: His most practical reminders centered on actions — full, relaxed breaths, and focusing my attention on the needs of the present moment — that is, handling what is in front of me (even if that involves planning my day). My advice also echoes these fundamental life-skills. Here and now; breathe and relax. Mastering these skills can take a lifetime, growing more refined as we practice. Doing so helps to make all that we do more mindful, turning life into a meditation.
6) What role do you see nutrition playing in cultivating a peaceful heart and warrior spirit?
DM: Whether someone asks me about an emotional or spiritual or psychological issue, the first three questions I ask them are:
- Do you practice regular, moderate exercise nearly every day?
- Do you eat a balanced diet (for you)? and
- Do you generally get enough rest?
If we practice these three things, many of our so-called internal problems fade away. Even if we are still facing challenges in our world, we’re better able to cope with them if we do those three things. But since you asked specifically about nutrition — the key is to eat a little more of what is good for us and a little less of what’s not. Notice that I’m not preaching for a particular dietary system. There is no best diet (or exercise or book or teacher or religion or path); only the best for each of us at a given time of life. It is for us to experiment and find out what serves our own balance.
7) What changes did you notice within yourself after you became more conscious of your diet?
DM: I went through a period of experimenting, along with some dietary swings and cycles. For the past 50 years I’ve tended toward a vegetarian diet. It’s not necessarily for everyone, but it has worked well for me. A lighter but balanced diet of healthful food, allowing for the occasional treat, has opened a space for greater mental clarity, sensitivity, and refinement.
8) Do you see the mind, body, and spirit being connected in such a way that when you train one you also train the others?
DM: Yes. When we speak of the body, the mind, the emotions, and the spirit, we do so only to analyze our various parts. But we are not just a series of parts, we are a whole. While it is a controversial area of research whether the mind is in the body or the body in the mind — to keep this point down to earth — when doing a physical exercise like T’ai Chi, we engage mental focus, physical awareness, and breath and emotions to form a whole (greater than the sum of the parts) that we can call ‘spirit.’
9) Do you have any mental or physical reminders to help guide you back to the path when missteps occur?
DM: Yes: Here and now. Breathe and relax. These practices bring us back to the body, back to this present reality. With our heads in the clouds and our feet rooted to the earth.
10) What do you see as being the world’s biggest wound? And, how can we, individually and collectively, heal it?
DM: One major issue today is an ‘us’ and ’them’ polarity — in politics, between nations, and individuals. I’m not sure how we can collectively heal a wound, but when we as individuals make a fundamental shift from “what’s in it for me?” to “what’s for the highest good of all concerned?” we begin to heal this wound. When we shift from competition to collaboration, based on the realization that we are all One, all in this adventure together, then we may heal. We may yet survive and thrive as a species.