In 1980, a book was published that introduced a generation of seekers to everyday spirituality and authentic living. That book, Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman, sold over a million copies worldwide. This work of "true fiction" describes the author's encounter with a shaman, a peaceful warrior he calls Socrates, who shares a saner approach to living with the young gymnast. As we follow Dan's encounters with Socrates, we're pulled into a lively and fascinating adventure. The story moves in such a way that brings alive the spiritual messages without being "preachy" or dogmatic. For the 20th anniversary of this book, a new softcover, with additional comments by Millman has been released. I chatted with Dan during his recent visit to Dallas.
Tony: What practical lessons have helped you most in life?
Dan: I've found that the basic spiritual truths are simple and easy to know. However, the trick is turning what we know into what we DO. When we apply our knowledge, we turn it into wisdom. Reading about spiritual concepts is not enough to change a person, taking the concepts and applying them brings about true change in our lives.
Tony: What is the most basic element to enlightened living?
Dan: Free attention is the key to enlightenment. Without free attention a person cannot benefit from spiritual teachings. When a person can slow their mental chatter and concentrate on the present moment, they open up the possibility for experiencing what is real. Life is actually very simple--it is a series of moments. I've learned to deal with life "one thing at a time." This alone is a valuable tool that makes any situation more manageable.
Tony: What are some of the most basic things a person can put into practice to live a better life?
Dan: Having compassion for others is a simple, transformational way to improve your life immediately. Simply try to be a little kinder. Mother Teresa points out that "We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love."
Tony: You've written a children's version of Way of the Peaceful Warrior. What kind of spiritual teaching do you recommend for children?
Dan: Children don't need spiritual teachings, they are already in touch with Spirit. They need affection and sandwiches, attention and stories, and lots of hugs. Expose your children to a variety of pursuits, keep them safe, and teach them the value of commitment--how to push through the slumps to the realm of excellence. Most importantly, children learn by example, don't worry about their spirituality, just cultivate your own and you'll have a profound effect on their moral character.
Tony: You've published a new book, Living on Purpose, how is this book different from your others?
Dan: Living on Purpose is a distillation of spiritual teachings into a series of twenty-five key principles. The book can be read in bite-size chunks that can be absorbed and applied in any order.