The Intuition Network, A Thinking Allowed Television Underwriter, presents the following transcript from the series Thinking Allowed, Conversations On the Leading Edge of Knowledge and Discovery, with Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove.


JEFFREY MISHLOVE, Ph.D.: Hello and welcome. I'm Jeffrey Mishlove. Today we're going to be discussing "The Way of the Peaceful Warrior." With me is Dan Millman, a former world champion trampoline gymnast, also co-captain of the U.C. Berkeley United States champion gymnastics team. In addition Dan is the author of several books, including The Warrior Athlete and Way of the Peaceful Warrior, and he has been on the faculty at Berkeley, Stanford, and Oberlin Universities as gymnastic coach. Welcome, Dan.

DAN MILLMAN: Thank you, Jeffrey.

MISHLOVE: It's a pleasure to be with you. You know, in your lifetime as a world champion gymnast, you have had to attain a level of concentration and psychophysical coordination that's very rare, that everybody envies when they see these kinds of performances on television or live, and very few people feel that they can attain them. But you have gone further than that in your work. You seem to imply that the kind of focus and concentration and self-control available to the gymnast through hard work can also be applied to every other area of life -- to eating, to walking.

MILLMAN: That's what I discovered. My gymnastics career and whatever I achieved was a mixture of love and hard work. First came the love. It was something I just enjoyed doing; it set off a spark in me. And then the rest was hard work. I think anyone who has been called gifted in any area will tell you that. But over time my physical skills, which became quite strong, after the years passed, weren't enough. I still had to deal with my relationships, with money issues, health issues, many of the things that we all deal with, and I began to explore Eastern as well as Western kinds of approaches to what is life about. And so over time it became a matter of developing skills not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. And that led me on some adventures.

MISHLOVE: And you've described those adventures in Way of the Peaceful Warrior, which is a novel based on your life. In that book you talk about, for example, discovering that the way you ate food was sloppy, was not conscious the same way you would consciously work in the gym. In other words, you had arrived at a level of development which was focused within one limited arena, as you describe it, in the gym; and the rest of your life was fairly haphazard.

MILLMAN: Yes. I found -- recently I've expressed it as the way of the peaceful warrior, and the training arena of the peaceful warrior is daily life. I practiced somersaults, flips, and swings, but I wasn't practicing eating, I wasn't practicing walking, I wasn't practicing tuning in to other people, I wasn't practicing calm mind and clear emotions. And over time I began to see my whole life as a training ground, and it's not a matter of some heavy obligation. It was more fun. It was a challenge, the same joy I took to gymnastics. I said, "Well, how can I do this a little better?" And so I never lost sight -- no, I take that back; there were many times I lost sight of it. But over time I began to remember if I wasn't having a good time and I wasn't happy during the process, I could be wonderfully self-improved, but it wasn't worth much unless I was able to really enjoy life too.

MISHLOVE: You know, Carlos Castaneda's Don Juan books were written by a University of California student originally, and purportedly not fiction; purportedly they were factual. You acknowledge that your book, although based on your life, is a work of fiction, and in many ways it's much more approachable than the exotic, kind of shamanistic altered realities that Castaneda presents. You suggest simple experiences whereby you would be working with a spiritual teacher who would be reminding you of things that you had forgotten to maintain in your life.

MILLMAN: Well, the old man I called Socrates, he described himself first as an all-night gas station attendant, and only second as a metaphysical warrior. I was gifted with experiences so I could share with other people. And you're right, it was not in the desert, the nagual, as it was with Castaneda; it was in a gas station, in the midst of daily life, in my case as a college student.

MISHLOVE: In downtown Berkeley.

MILLMAN: Downtown Berkeley. With all my importances and my studies and my papers I had to turn in. It reminded me of a student I saw; he talked to me the other day. He called me up and said, "I'm writing a paper for my comparative religions class on Taoism, and I chose to write a paper on nothingness. The problem is, I'm only halfway done and I have nothing else to say." I suggested maybe he was done. He said, "But I have to do it in twenty-five pages." And I said, "Well, maybe you can turn in some blank pages." I was like that young student. I was very involved with my life, and it was so serious, and this old man showed me a new perspective, a humorous perspective of myself first of all, and life.

MISHLOVE: There is a sense there in which you describe him as an all-night gas station attendant, which would be pretty much on the bottom rung of the social ladder in this country. And yet the artfulness with which he would walk across and greet somebody and put gasoline in their car, wash their windows, was so satisfying to that man, as you wrote about him, that he needed nothing else. His life was perfect, it was complete, and he was an inspiration to you. I presume he was also based on a real person.

MILLMAN: Yes, I did meet a man in a gas station whom I called Socrates who inspired the character, and other teachers and experiences and influences fleshed out his character. So it wouldn't be true to call the book a fantasy, nor would it be true to say it's literally, every word, factually true. It's a mixture, to convey some lessons in I hope simple and humorous ways about the lives we're all dealing with.

MISHLOVE: One of the sections of the book that really struck me, is you wrote about the Berkeley gymnastics team winning the NCAA championship, and your role in that. And then you come around to your teacher, and he points out to you that you're really not in touch with your body at all.

MILLMAN: Right. That was a bit of a surprise to me, because I thought I had some empirical proof that I was. But then he showed me ways to get in touch in much more subtle ways, in terms of the inner workings of the body, deeper in the nervous system, not just the muscular system and how coordinated I was.

MISHLOVE: You describe, for example, taking about a five-hour period of time, and massaging each part of your body until all of the muscles became soft, working all the hardness out of your muscles.

MILLMAN: Well, this was based upon an ancient practice. The Mongolian warriors used to do a bone massage. It wasn't actually massaging the muscles. It was going as deep as the bone, actually scraping the bone surfaces. It sounds painful, and it's really not; it just goes deep into the body to release old fears which are stored in the neuromuscular system, and it does soften the body, and I will someday be working with this with other people, showing them how to do this.

MISHLOVE: Do you find today -- and I imagine you maintain your athletic conditioning -- that that kind of softness in the muscles is really what you want to strive for?

MILLMAN: That's my sense of it. My own view of what fitness is has evolved over time. It used to be fitness was having big muscles. That was back in the forties and fifties. Men were considered more fit than women, because generally they had larger muscles. Now of course today, with Ken Cooper in the sixties and the seventies, and the knowledge that we have about the cardiovascular system, aerobic conditioning, we're going deeper in the body, the heart and lungs. And I believe we're evolving into a place that the yogis have known for centuries; that is, going even deeper into the nervous system. When I was a personal fitness coach, maybe five years ago, someone said, "Dan, I can only afford about five seconds of your time," and he gave me a nickel and he said, "Can you give me some advice?" And I said, "Yes. Breathe and relax." Maybe it was the best advice I ever gave in that brief time.

MISHLOVE: One of the really striking points -- I thought it was perhaps the strongest point you made -- is that you're really responsible for your own emotions. For example, your teacher in your book would constantly do things to show you up, to humiliate you. Even when you thought you were being very proud of yourself, he would show you how silly or stupid you were and call you a jackass quite often. And then you would get angry. This happened again and again and again and again, until you learned that you were the one who was getting angry -- that it wasn't because of anything that anybody else did to you. Rather, that was your state of being.

MILLMAN: Yes. And he had to do it again and again because I was a little slow in learning. It is a stretch for most of us to feel like when we get angry that it's just us doing it, because it seems reasonable to get angry in many situations. And when I talk about dealing with the emotions, Socrates said that the peaceful warrior chooses happiness, and it has to be unreasonable, because there are many reasons to be unhappy; read the daily newspapers. And there are not a lot of reasons, the mind can't just always make us happy. So he said the peaceful warrior chooses to be unreasonably happy. But I'm not talking about playing pretend, where we just suppress emotions or suppress negativity; I'm talking about we know what our feelings are and recognize them and express them appropriately, but nevertheless, still be able to radiate to other people from having a broader perspective of what our life is about. And from that perspective, looking back from the ends of the universe, to see us down there on earth somewhere, running around with our little problems, it gives us a little bit of humor about ourselves, and I had to learn that.

MISHLOVE: It's interesting, at one point your teacher in the novel asks you, "Where are you?" And you say, "Well, I'm in Berkeley, I'm in California." Finally you go, "I'm on earth, in the solar system, in the universe." And he says, "Well, where is the universe?"

MILLMAN: His point was we ultimately don't know anything. We've gathered facts and opinions and beliefs, but this world still is a mystery. And that is what he was trying to convey in that situation. He also asked me what time it was, and naturally I looked at the clock on the wall, and he had to remind me the time is now and the place is here.

MISHLOVE: And there was this exquisite sense that this fellow, who you called Socrates, being at home in the universe, could be in a gas station or a garbage dump or anywhere, and he would be at home, he would be fulfilling himself. So much, I think, in our lives we seek fulfillment through attainments, through achievements, through career, for example. And you seem to be kind of getting underneath that and suggesting that that can never really be fulfilling, in and of itself.

MILLMAN: Yes, achievements are fine, and I had many achievements. In the beginning of the book, I described that I'd had many successes. One of the best things about going to college is that we find out it doesn't make us happy. And it's the same with getting rich, or getting married and having children, or retiring. None of those things in themselves make us happy. They may be functionally very useful; that's what I found. I've gone to college, I'm married, I have children, but none of those things in themselves will make us happy. They can be very useful, but happiness depends on us. Happiness isn't something we get, it's something we give. That's my sense of it anyway. That's the discipline, because anybody can be happy when things are going well, and I've learned that. But when things aren't going well, that's when it draws out that inner warrior in us, to radiate that and bring whatever happiness we can to the situation.

MISHLOVE: Well, it's a tricky thing here. I know your teacher expressed it in your book by expressing anger, by acting unhappy with you, from time to time. And surely in our own life there are situations that occur where we are going to act unhappy, because we're responding. We wouldn't want to deny that within ourselves.

MILLMAN: Right. In fact, let's take fear, sorrow, and anger. If a gorilla is chasing me down the beach, I'm not going to stop and tell it about my childhood. I'm going to hoof it, I'm going to run, I'm going to express fear, and it seems perfectly appropriate. If I'm at a friend's funeral, it would be very appropriate to express sorrow, and if I'm dealing with bureaucrats, sometimes anger can be very useful. So the expression of full emotional affect -- like children. You know, babies are so real. When they're angry, they let it out, and then they let it go. And so I'm not of a school that we should just pretend to be calm all the time. That will beat us bloody inside. There's a saying that the organs weep the tears that the eyes refuse to shed. But I am talking about using our breath and simple techniques we can apply in everyday life to clear the obstructions, the cramp, right in here, in our chest and stomach area. And then we can express ourselves more fully without being choked up.

MISHLOVE: Could you amplify on that a little bit -- the cramp, and how that could be cleared?

MILLMAN: Well, to do it simply, in the few moments we have here: all upset starts in the mind. Stress happens when the mind resists what is. And so if we're resisting something, either fear, sorrow, or anger is going to come up. It's a contraction, whatever word we have for it. And whenever we're contracted our breathing is affected; it gets imbalanced. By bringing the breath back into balance and remembering to breathe fully and calmly, we can release the obstruction in the moment. When that happens, then we can express whatever is appropriate, and it's very important to be able to do so, and many of us -- that's the hardest thing. A lot of people work on the body, and work on the mind; but to be able to have the courage to express how we're feeling, who we are, and what we need -- that takes a peaceful warrior's courage. You know, life develops what it demands. We've all noticed that. If there are no demands placed, we don't develop. And so my sense is, that peaceful warrior in every one of us comes out through the demands of life. Life is a school.

MISHLOVE: Well, you suggest towards the end of your novel that this teacher Socrates whom you describe is really your higher self at some level -- not a single human being who was with you through four years of college. Yet there's also the sense that if you didn't have somebody placing those demands on you all of the time, your life would have been a little more mundane. You wouldn't have pushed yourself the same way.

MILLMAN: Something I would like to emphasize to anyone -- and I've seen it time and time again -- we all have a high self. We all have a Socrates inside of us. Everybody does. Many people say, "Oh, I wish I could meet a wise, eccentric, powerful old man like the one you met, Dan." Well, if we all had to do that, there aren't that many to go around. I was given those experiences not just because I'm a nice person, but because I was going to share it with other people. And all of us have that potential. We don't have to be a metaphysical warrior. Someone in one of my lectures said, "Dan, I'd like to do spiritual practices and become a peaceful warrior, but I can't because I have a wife and three children and a job." And we had to have a good laugh over that afterward, because of course that was his practice. The way of the peaceful warrior begins where everybody is, right now.

MISHLOVE: Being a husband and a father and a worker -- those are the very challenges.

MILLMAN: It's tougher than sitting in a cave and meditating.

MISHLOVE: You refer very often to deep experiences in the mind, astral travel type experiences, but really to going deeply within yourself -- for example, to actually reliving your own childhood, to the awe that you felt as a baby when everything was fresh, everything was wonderful. The simplest act of crawling seemed like the most magnificent thing in the world.


MISHLOVE: Is it important for people to enter into those states of consciousness to be on this path?

MILLMAN: That's what I really would love to express -- that we've all done it. Everybody I've ever seen has been a baby. It's not a matter of adding armor to ourselves. It's just a matter of clearing the obstructions. There was a story of a man who stood on a mountaintop, and he reached up to the sky and he cried out to God and he said, "I'm ready, I'm waiting. Fill me full of light!" And a voice came down from the heavens, and it said, "I'm always filling you, but you keep leaking." We all have been peaceful warriors. As infants our mind was clear, our attention in the present moment. Our emotions were open and free-flowing; our body was relaxed and supple and sensitive. It's only a matter of remembering that, rediscovering it. So it's not anything out of reach of anyone.

MISHLOVE: Well, you say only a matter of remembering. Many adults never remember their infancy, even their youth.

MILLMAN: That's why it's good to remind each other, and that's one of the blessings of parenthood, because when you have that baby you see it right in front of you, and you remember yourself.

MISHLOVE: What's your take on psychic phenomena? Many people will read your book and they will think that you're writing about a man who has the ability to appear and to vanish and to turn his body into light, perhaps even to walk through walls or to jump onto rooftops, things of this sort. Do you really encourage an openness to this type of thing?

MILLMAN: All of us travel the inner planes. All of us have out-of-the-body experiences, or what we might call out-of-the-body experiences. There is a paradox to it. In the dream state -- and there are some excellent books on lucid dreaming -- we are experiencing things like this. That's how our subconscious gives us messages. Edgar Cayce, the famous "Sleeping Prophet," worked a lot through his subconscious, literally getting in touch with the bodily consciousness of other people, and it's been documented time and time again the work he did. I don't encourage fascination with that sort of thing. Much that's happening in the "new age" today, many what I would phrase as Atlanteans are being reborn again with interests in crystals and healing. And all these things are wonderful to explore, but it still comes down to simple, ordinary daily life -- recognizing there are no ordinary moments, not escaping from here. Many people are trying to jump out of the body, and they've never really gotten into it.

MISHLOVE: What do you mean when you say no ordinary moments? What does that mean to you?

MILLMAN: Well, to me it's not waiting for spiritual experiences to happen. It's like altered states of consciousness, and seeing luminous beams of light coming out of myself. I can go to a movie and see that sort of thing, that's wonderful. But it's recognizing, right now, sitting with you, the play of light, enjoying the presence that you have, enjoying this moment. What more is necessary? And if more comes, that's wonderful, too.

MISHLOVE: In other words, the idea that some moments are more extraordinary than others, is sort of what you're getting at.

MILLMAN: They can be made more extraordinary, depending on our state of consciousness and our awareness. My sense is the peaceful warrior has his or her head in the clouds, but feet on the ground. And that's a stretch for a lot of us. But it's not just fascination with the higher-self phenomena, or with just the Rambo lower-self phenomena of achievement in life. It's a balance; it's embracing all aspects of ourself -- body, mind, and emotions -- accepting who we are, where we are, and just traveling the journey from there.

MISHLOVE: Dan, you have been a world-class athlete, and that's a level of attainment that very few people will ever reach or get to enjoy. When you work with people who are out of shape or simply not athletic, do you push them to develop their bodies? Is athletic training important?

MILLMAN: Because we have a body and a mind and emotions, and a chain breaks at its weakest link, so do we. It's important to work all those areas, but people don't need to be competitive athletes. That's one path many travel. There are people who are only competitive athletes, who haven't really worked much with their mind or emotions, except as they train in their athletics; and there are other people who have worked the emotional realm but haven't explored their bodies much. So my emphasis is, we need to balance, integrate all areas.

MISHLOVE: And when you use the term warrior, you're really suggesting, I think, a path of spiritual development which involves action, involves being in the world, not sitting and meditating necessarily.

MILLMAN: Exactly. In life most of us think we understand concepts like commitment, self-trust, living in the now. But doing is understanding. Only action has the power to turn knowledge into wisdom. Once Socrates and I were servicing a car, and I was doing the windows and he was pumping the gas, and I said, "Well, what is the difference between knowledge and wisdom?" He just looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and said, "Knowledge is knowing how to clean the windows, and wisdom is doing it." Wisdom is practice, practice, practice.

MISHLOVE: What does commitment mean to you? How would you describe that?

MILLMAN: It's very simple to me, yet there's an artfulness about it. To me, commitment means no matter what. Many people feel they like to do something, and they say, "I'm committed." But then an obstruction, a difficulty, comes up in life, and they say, "I changed my mind." Now, I'm not saying we can't be flexible and recognize circumstances, but commitment means no matter what comes up, it's like a hurdle we overcome and strengthen ourselves in doing so. Commitment means you go for it, unless our heart, our inner knower, tells us this really isn't the way.

MISHLOVE: So in effect, when we talked earlier about happiness, the commitment to happiness is to be happy no matter what.

MILLMAN: It's practice. It's like the saints to me are the sinners who just keep trying.

MISHLOVE: That's an interesting notion, but I don't quite get it.

MILLMAN: Well, let me say something else about commitment.


MILLMAN: When I was letting go of the horizontal bar in gymnastics and doing full-twisting double somersaults, I wasn't thinking, "Maybe I'll go into golf." I wasn't thinking about breakfast or dinner. I was totally focused on following through with what I'd begun. Commitment is related to love, it's related to motivation in many things. When I say the saints are the sinners who keep on trying, the sinners are like us, ordinary folks who are just struggling along in life, doing the best we can. But the difference is if we keep going. If both of us decide to read War and Peace, and I stay up all night and the next day and I keep reading it, and maybe you go on vacation and come back, and you read a few pages and then something else calls your attention, and I finish it first, it doesn't make me smarter, it doesn't make me more spiritual. I just went for it. And that's the difference in life. If people knew what they were capable of -- and I've seen it, I see it in people, I tune in to those things.

MISHLOVE: Well, you describe in your book a period in your life when you were asked by your teacher to be celibate, and then you had a breakdown, in effect. You met an attractive woman, spent the night with her, broke all the rules. And I guess the interesting thing is, then you didn't just give up at that point but you went right back at it.

MILLMAN: Many people have said, "I've tried this, and I've tried that, but I failed," and usually I show them two cartwheels. The first one I fall down on, and the next one I show what I can do now. And it's clear that between that first cartwheel and what I can do now were many falling downs, many failures, time and time again. So stumbling blocks are just stepping stones. And failure is as much a part of the process as ultimately succeeding.

MISHLOVE: Well, that must have a lot to do, I suppose, with the notion of heart.

MILLMAN: Yes, it does.

MISHLOVE: I recall from Castaneda's works that to be a warrior one must have heart.

MILLMAN: Well, I have to agree with that. But again, as a practicing peaceful warrior, I like to try to translate poetry or philosophy into something that people can apply in their daily life. And one concept I could talk about is spiritual weight lifting. Often in life we're given weights to life, sometimes heavy weights to lift -- a bankruptcy, a divorce, a death in the family. And life sends us reeling and we fall to the mat, to the canvas, and we get up and we can say, "Is that your best shot? I'm still standing here," and recognize that the difficulties are just spiritual weights we're lifting to develop our spirit. So instead of ever feeling like a victim: "How could this happen to me?" it's more a sense of, "I'm in training now. That's what life's giving me."

MISHLOVE: Here I am.

MILLMAN: Here I am. Wherever I go, here I am.

MISHLOVE: Well, Dan Millman, it's been a very interesting experience being with you here. You seem to be the kind of person who is finding the extraordinary in the most ordinary events of life, and I think that's a rare talent, and quite a gift that you offer to people who can hear you and work with you and be with you.

MILLMAN: And I feel blessed to do it.

MISHLOVE: Thank you very much for being with me.

MILLMAN: My pleasure, Jeffrey.


Index of Transcripts      Intuition Network Home Page    Thinking Allowed Productions Home Page