Pondering Peaceful Warriorship
A Conversation with Dan Millman
By Chris Kostman
Originally published in the California Events Schedule, August, 1993 after interviewing Dan in his home in San Rafael, CA
"Athletics is life; life is athletics. I don't recommend people dedicate their life to their training. I recommend they dedicate their training to their life, to the bigger picture, and really connect up what they're doing. I mean, who ultimately cares if someone can hit a ball into a cup on nicely mown grass, or hit a ball over a net rapidly so someone else can miss it?
"And we can make any athletic forum sound a little ridiculous when it's in a narrow tunnel vision. I mean, how many people have to run real, real fast? It's not necessarily a life skill. But the concentration and the focus they learned and the flow are life skills. And it's about remembering you're learning how to live better in athletics. So in terms of learning to flow in life, if you flow in athletics, you have a better shot at being able to apply that in daily life to carry outside the walls of the gym, or the courts, or the pool, whatever it is."
Those of you who have read Millman's two autobiographical works, Way of the Peaceful Warrior and Sacred Journey of the Peaceful Warrior, will be familiar with some of his life experiences. Such as winning the trampoline world championships in 1964, being named All American, Student Athlete of the Year, and other honors while a student and gymnast at U.C. Berkeley. Millman went on to coach at Stanford University, teach at Oberlin College, and recently was named to the Gymnastics Hall of Fame. He also traveled the globe to study yoga, different martial arts, and the spiritual life. Through the years, Millman "started seeing the principles that flowed throughout different sports. They weren't just `gymnastics is this, and track is this, and swimming is this.' The process was really the same."
This evolving world view was given a radical opportunity at Oberlin, a daring college that hired Millman with "only" a BA in psychology in hand. Valuing Millman's athletic background, world travels, and Stanford coaching experience to an almost unbelievable extent, the college allowed him to design and teach his own courses. The result? a course called Way of the Peaceful Warrior, which was "a compendium of the warrior's way of life, including exposure to different martial arts such as Aikido, T'ai Chi Chuan, and Karate. And we talked about self defense, not just from an attack, but from stress and from falls. We learned to roll and so on, and dealt with self-defense as an emotional thing, not just physical confrontation in terms of boundaries." Another course was called Mirthful Movement, which taught circus skills such as teeterboard and juggling. Millman's motivation? "I've always enjoyed teaching people more than they ever believed they could learn, because that breaks down all the self concepts and arbitrary limitations that we often set on ourselves."
In the intervening years, Millman has continued his exploration of peaceful warriorship, discovering its application and importance in every aspect of life. This led to the books, The Warrior Athlete (Self Transformation Through Total Training) and No Ordinary Moments (A Peaceful Warrior's Guide to Daily Life), and two children's books, Secret of the Peaceful Warrior and Quest for the Crystal Castle. Though all distinct, unique books, their motive is to promote and perpetuate what Millman, and others, view as the modern warrior. This new archetype is that of the fully balanced individual who seeks harmony in all aspects of existence, utilizing universal principles in total awareness of one's movements, thoughts, motives, even breath. Millman's friend and teacher, Socrates, noted that "Athletes practice their athletics; musicians practice their music; artists practice their art. The peaceful warrior practices everything. That is the secret of the Way, and it makes all the difference." Hence the title of Millman's latest work, No Ordinary Moments: it's not just when competing in life, sport, or business that one should give life one's all; rather no moment is unworthy of our utmost attention, respect, and best efforts. For as Millman explains, "The arena is daily life. The time is now. The method is simple action."
Some of Millmans' suggestions for total transformation through simple action? "I recommend stretching every day; it's very important. But in itself, it's only dealing with symptoms that continue, the tension comes back. Coming back to the present moment and looking at the breath are good ways to relieve tension. We need to recognize that the mind imposes tension in the body. So don't tense up, because the muscles don't work. We have a lot more power when we're relaxed. So if we see ourselves in training all the time and bring the same focus and attention to it, we can remind ourselves to relax."
Besides working on flexibility, staying in the present moment, dealving into breath, and not tensing up, Millman has further, superficially simple suggestions: Get massage and also deep tissue work. Use athletics as a healthy outlet for adrenalin and as a way to challenge oneself regardless of current fitness level. Strive to experience the joy of success without fearing failure along the way. Prepare gradually for any major challenge; winners aren't born overnight. Investigate food. What kinds of food and how much protein do you really need? Always look for balance, don't go to extremes in any area of life. Finally, realize that "nobody really ultimately fails. They just quit trying."
For more information on Dan Millman, visit www.danmillman.com