The Journey of the Peaceful Warrior: Dan Millman's StoryJune 24th, 2022
By Will Gethin
Series 2 of the Follow Your Blissters podcast has just launched, kicking off with my conversation with Dan Millman, best known as the author of the cult spiritual classic and international bestseller The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, which was later screened as the 2006 film, Peaceful Warrior.
A semi-autographical book centred around Dan’s spiritual awakening as a young man and champion gymnast studying at Berkeley University in his early 20s - The Way of The Peaceful Warrior, originally published in 1980 - has inspired millions of readers worldwide, and was a real door opener for me when I came across it in my early 20s, igniting a curiosity for spiritual adventure which has informed much of my life and work direction ever since, including the Follow Your Blissters podcast!
The main fictional element of The Way of the Peaceful Warrior is the colourful and eccentric old wild-man sage and garage mechanic, Socrates (played by Nick Nolte in the film), who Dan encounters while strolling by a 24-hour service station in Berkeley one sunrise, the two men quickly becoming embroiled in philosophical musings. Socrates, as Dan soon nick-names his strange new friend, duly mentors and trains young Dan in the art of becoming a ‘Peaceful Warrior’, sharing cutting-edge spiritual and martial arts practices and insights from Eastern wisdom traditions, which also enhance Dan’s performance as a gymnast as he prepares to compete in the U.S. Trials for the Olympics alongside the Berkeley Gymnastics Team, achieving a victory.
When I wrote to Dan in January this year inviting him to be a guest on Follow Your Blissters, and to share his lived experience of The Hero’s Journey (mythologist Joseph Campbell’s map for transformational storytelling which can be used as a guide to make sense of our lives), I said I’d love it if we could explore the real-life story behind his epic Peaceful Warrior saga (as further evolved in his second book The Sacred Journey of the Peaceful Warrior).
The timing proved fortuitous: in his response to my email, Dan informed me that since he was about to publish his new memoir Peaceful Heart, Warrior Spirit sharing the very story of his real-life spiritual quest, he would be only too happy to explore it in conversation through the lens of The Hero’s Journey.
Duly reading a preview copy of Dan’s new memoir in preparation for our interview, I was amazed to discover that on its original publication in the early ‘80s, The Way of The Peaceful Warrior had sold only a couple of thousand copies, leading the publisher to decide not to run another print run. So the book had ostensibly failed, as - from Dan’s perspective at least – had his life at that juncture, with the falling apart of his first marriage and a general sense of his struggling to deal with the practicalities of life and relationships, as he candidly explains in our podcast conversation, despite his growing propensity for inner work at that time.
It was several years after the initial publication of The Way of the Peaceful Warrior that a retired publisher, on stumbling upon an old copy of the book, was so inspired by it that he offered Dan the chance to republish the book, forming a new publishing company for this purpose. As I read in Dan’s new memoir Peaceful Heart, Warrior Spirit, the ensuing global success of The Way of The Peaceful Warrior was to radically change his life, providing him with a platform and growing fan base to powerfully evolve his work.
The new memoir also reveals how Dan’s personal life transformed in the years following the initial publication of The Way of the Peaceful Warrior. As The Hero’s Journey teaches us, it’s in our darker times of challenge and crisis that we have the opportunity to grow the most, and to find, as CJ Jung put it, “the gold in the dark” of our experience. And during the course of Peaceful Heart, Warrior Spirit, as Dan describes his evolving journey framed around his trainings with four key mentors (variously refers to as ‘The Professor’, ‘The Guru’, ‘The Warrior Priest’ and ‘The Sage’), I witnessed Dan confront his fears and his shadow, and grow through the many challenges (his blissters). And on completing the book, my sense was that Dan had evolved into a veritable master in the art of Peaceful Warriorhood, like his fabled guru, Socrates.
At the end of a Hero’s Journey, the protagonist returns home stronger and wiser with an elixir to share for the greater good of their community back home. In Dan’s case, he returned again and again to share the wisdom accrued from his various journeys via his numerous books (now totalling 18) and evolving Peaceful Warriors Way trainings, and to a growing audience around the world.
In his new memoir, Dan describes how ‘The Sage’ - the fourth and last mentor he writes about in the book – directed his focus away from inner work and more towards attaining and teaching skills that can be used in everyday life. And with this mentor’s help, Dan then discovered how to live with his “head in the clouds and feet on ground” - this the crux of his teachings today, and the inspiration for the title of Peaceful Heart, Warrior Spirit.
All this and much more, I explore with Dan in our podcast episode of the same title, now available on my Conscious Frontiers website, as well as Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube, and all major podcast channels. I hope you enjoy the journey!
To watch a trailer for the new Series 2 Follow Your Blissters podcast episode with Dan Millman, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hK1VwolT9Dg.
For more information about Dan Millman visit: www.peacefulwarrior.com
To check out Series 1 Follow Your Blissters podcast episodes sharing the heroic journeys of Isbourne Guest Speakers past and present, including Thomas Moore, Sarah Rozenthuler, Satish Kumar, Tim Freke and Dr William Bloom, visit: https://consciousfrontiers.com/podcast/podcast-series-1/