The Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman is one of the first books that got me started on the path to self-mastery. The first time I read it, I must’ve been around 16 or 17 years old. It was an entertaining read that truly planted some beautiful seeds into my mind which would later unfold in amazing ways.
I remember walking through the hallway in my high-school practicing breathing and mindfulness. I felt like I was starting to wake up. This also marked the beginning of me purging friends who weren’t on board with self-development and instead forming new and fulfilling connections.
Similar to the Way of the Superior Man, this book bridges many insights from Eastern and Western philosophy.
Why you should read the Way of the Peaceful Warrior
Spartan Ownership is all about masculinity, self-discipline, self-mastery, spirituality, and more.
This book provides many insights into all of those areas especially when it comes to becoming more self-disciplined and living a joyful purpose-driven life. You will start to understand how you can live joyfully yet to a high standard without self-sabotaging yourself. You will also experience insights into human nature and spiritual growth. Put simply, this book will enhance your ability to perform physically, mentally, and spiritually.
About Dan Millman
Dan Millman is a former world champion athlete, university coach, martial arts instructor, and college professor. After an intensive, twenty-year spiritual quest, Dan’s teaching found its form as the Peaceful Warrior’s Way, expressed fully in his books and lectures. His work continues to evolve over time, to meet the needs of a changing world. Dan’s seventeen books, including Way of the Peaceful Warrior, have inspired and informed millions of readers in 29 languages worldwide. The feature film, “Peaceful Warrior,” starring Nick Nolte, was adapted from Dan’s first book, based upon incidents from his life. Much of Dan’s time is devoted to writing and speaking. His keynotes, seminars, and workshops span the generations to influence men and women from all walks of life, including leaders in the fields of health, psychology, education, business, politics, sports, entertainment, and the arts. Dan and his wife Joy live in Brooklyn, NY. They have three grown daughters and four grandchildren. (source).
11 Insights from The Way of the Peaceful Warrior
#1 Life requires more than knowledge; it requires intense feeling and constant energy
“Use whatever knowledge you have but see it’s limitations. Knowledge alone does not suffice; it has no heart. No amount of knowledge will nourish or sustain your spirit; it can never bring you ultimate happiness or peace. Life requires more than knowledge, it requires intense feeling and constant energy. Life demands right action if knowledge is to come alive.”
It’s not what you know but rather what you do about it that has any significance. And to do, you must be able to navigate the knowledge you have, feel into it, use your intuition, and make a decision. To take action day in and day out, it requires lots of energy.
Therefore the way of the warrior has a lot to do with cultivating energy and living a healthy lifestyle. How are you going to act on what you know if you have no energy?
This insight is important as it switches the prioritization from a highly cerebral approach where you’re constantly reading and researching things to death. Instead, you learn a few things and then spend time learning how to apply them. You go into the world and take action. You experiment. Stay in your head and you’re dead.
Insight #2 A warrior acts, a fool reacts
“Your feelings and reactions are automatic and predictable; mine are not. I create my life spontaneously; yours are determined by your thoughts, your emotions, your past.”
Put simply, most people are functioning on auto-pilot. They learned methods of thought and behavior from an early age that they just stick to for the rest of their life. Some people change unwillingly usually through traumatic events.
This is called reactive living. This is where they have no conscious choice over their behavior and are slaves to their old habits.
A warrior, on the other hand, takes full responsibility for his conditioning and trains himself to break free from it. Then he trains himself for better and more upgraded ways of being for every aspect of his life.
In essence, this is what Spartan Ownership is all about; taking full responsibility for one’s life and making the warrior effort needed to change it instead of blaming people and circumstances.
Insight #3 The importance of life-long integrated training
“You may experience the mind of a warrior on occasion, resolute, flexible, clear, and free of doubt. You can develop the body of a warrior lithe, supple, sensitive, and filled with energy. In rare moments, you may even feel the heart of a warrior, extending compassion to those around you. But these qualities are fragmented in you. You lack integration. My task is to put you back together again, Humpty.”
To be a warrior, training must be done on all fronts (mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual). Ask yourself where you’ve been slacking. If you want to be a man who lives his life to a very high standard, you must train your entire system as a whole. Otherwise, weakness in one area will permeate into other areas as well. You may very well have a strong body but if you get emotional really quickly then you need some more work. You may be a mentally tough person capable of disciplining his mental focus but your body may be fat and your posture crooked. Once you learn to train all the facets of your being as a whole, you will experience reality in a way more powerful way.
Insight #4 The difference between the mind and the brain
“The mind is an illusory reflection of cerebral fidgeting. It comprises all the random, uncontrolled thoughts that bubble into awareness from the subconscious. Consciousness is not mind; awareness is not mind; attention is not mind. Mind is an obstruction, an aggravation. It is a kind of evolutionary mistake in the human being, a primal weakness in the human experiment. I have no use for the mind.”
“The brain can be a tool. It can recall phone numbers, solve math puzzles, or create poetry. In this way, it works for the rest of the body, like a tractor. But when you can’t stop thinking of that math problem or phone number, or when troubling thoughts and memories arise without your intent, it’s not your brain working, but your mind wandering. Then the mind controls you; then the tractor has run wild.”
Too often in life, we are a slave to the monkey-mind.
I personally used to be under constant assault from my own mind. Incessant thoughts, fantasies, anxieties, etc, would be playing internally all damn day. I would try to numb it through alcohol, weed, video-games, junk-food, etc, but all those things are just crappy short-term solutions.
My life changed when I started to bring my attention to the present moment here and now. If your basic necessities are handles (food, shelter, water, etc) then there isn’t much to really worry about. This doesn’t mean that you don’t seek to build wealth and increase the quality of your life but rather it means that you move towards your goals gently and without incessant stress and obsession. Relax, turn off the mind and enjoy the ride. Your life will be better because of it.
Insight #5 Anger is a powerful emotion that can be transmuted to give your gifts
“Anger is stronger than fear, stronger than sorrow.”
“Fear and sorrow inhibit action; anger generates it. When you learn to make proper use of your anger, you can change fear and sorrow to anger, then turn anger into action. That’s the body’s secret of internal alchemy.”
In my experience, whenever I feel self-pity, sadness, or loneliness, I don’t feel very powerful. I feel weak and tired. There isn’t much charge in me.
Although acting on angry impulses that are destructive towards oneself and others is not recommended, anger itself is a powerful emotion with a lot of charge. You can transmute that charge into productive action if you know how.
Insight #6 How a warrior uses meditation
“The warrior uses the sword of meditation with skill and understanding. With it, he cuts the mind to ribbons, slashing through thoughts to reveal their lack of substance.”
Most people who meditate think it’s just for relaxation. Others do it for a grounding effect. Meditation is a highly versatile tool but according to Dan Millman, meditation can be used to cut through the illusions that the monkey-mind creates. Meditation can be used to reveal which thoughts are aligned with truth versus which thoughts are just products of reactivity in the moment. A warrior uses meditation to sharpen his focus/awareness.
Insight #7 Warriors indulge themselves to celebrate and do so with discipline. Fools indulge themselves to numb their pain and they do so way too often resulting in bad-habits.
“Any unconscious compulsive ritual is a problem. But specific activities-smoking, drinking, taking drugs, eating sweets, or asking silly questions- are both bad and good; every action has its price and its pleasures. Recognizing both sides, you become realistic and responsible for your actions. And only then can you make the warrior’s free and conscious choice-to do or not to do.”
“Smoking is not disgusting; only the habit is. I may enjoy a cigarette, then not smoke again for six months. And when I do smoke, I don’t pretend that my lungs won’t pay a price; I follow appropriate action afterward to help counterbalance the negative effects.”
So many times we seek a black-and-white answer to the question of indulging ourselves. We look for a one-size-fits-all solution. Either we go all out and live lives of mediocrity giving into whatever impulse for pleasure we fancy or we take the extreme path of not indulging ourselves at all. None of these mindsets are sustainable in the long-term without significant internal-debating. The true solution is to enjoy vices with a spirit geared towards counter-balancing. In other words, if you want to indulge yourself, go ahead. But do so with full consciousness and then counter-balance in the other direction by returning to a more healthy/clean way of being for some time. Example, have your piece of cake and/or a few drinks but then go 30 days being totally clean.
Insight #8 Counter-balancing is key, not moderation
“It’s better to make a mistake with the full force of your being than to timidly avoid mistakes with a trembling spirit. Responsibility means recognizing both pleasure and price, action and consequence, then making a choice.”
This is similar to insight #7 but it’s worth making it its own idea. A lot of people speak of moderation but the problem with moderation is that it’s a mediocre way of living. With moderation, you’re like the man who relaxes and thinks of work and then works while thinking of relaxing. You can’t let go and live fully. It’s better to go all out with everything you do and milk the moment for everything its got. Then go the other direction fully too. Once again, the wisdom lies in counter-balancing.
This approach allows you to enjoy life more as opposed to half-living.
Insight #9 Being a warrior is cheaper
“You are rich if you have enough money to satisfy all your desires. So there are two ways to be rich: You earn, inherit, borrow, beg, or steal enough money to meet all of your desires; or, you cultivate a simple lifestyle of few desires; that way you always have enough money.”
“A peaceful warrior has the insight and discipline to choose the simple way—to know the difference between needs and wants. We have a few basic needs but endless wants. Full attention to every moment is my pleasure. Attention costs no money; your only investment is training. That’s another advantage of being a warrior—it’s cheaper! The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”
What are you waiting for? Are you waiting for a certain amount of zeros to appear in your bank account before you can finally let go and enjoy life? I remember hearing that Warren Buffet said he doesn’t sleep easy unless he has twenty-billion in cash. Imagine living life that way? Only 0.000001% of the population would have any peace of mind if that were the case. Plus a person with this mindset could only achieve peace of mind for a very short duration of his life if that were the case as accumulating that much money would take so much time/energy. That’s one of the biggest advantages of taking on this mindset because you can find peace right here and now. The only investment if your willingness to be impeccable in this moment. This takes life-long training but it’s not a destination but rather a way of being here and now. The path and the warrior are inseparable. Being a warrior is a way, not a destination.
Insight #10 Forget the search, forget the grind, once you’ve gotten a strong enough foundation then prioritize presence
“There is no need to search; achievement leads to nowhere. It makes no difference at all, so just be happy now! Love is the only reality of the world because it is all One, you see. And the only laws are paradox, humor, and change. There is no problem, never was, and never will be. Release your struggle, let go of your mind, throw away your concerns, and relax into the world. No need to resist life; just do your best. Open your eyes and see that you are far more than you imagine. You are the world, you are the universe; you are yourself and everyone else, too! It’s all the marvelous Play of God. Wake up, regain your humor. Don’t worry, you are already free!”
The above insight usually takes most seekers a lifetime to realize. It’s only after they exhaust themselves on their search that they realize what they’ve been looking for (inner-peace, spiritual freedom, self-mastery, etc) was within them all along. Right now, we have all of these gifts within us but we keep making the mistake thinking that they’re out somewhere else on a mountaintop.
Insight #11 Unreasonable happiness
In essence, this is what The Way of the Peaceful Warrior is all about; It’s about living happily no matter what goes on in the outside world. It’s about the disciplined pursuit of less. Just breathing is enough. This doesn’t mean that you stop your worldly pursuits but rather you build your life from a place of contentment rather than endless reliance on the external world and it’s material possessions and pleasures. Happiness is not something you pursue but rather a state of mind that you commit to being in no matter what.
My experience a week in the mountains of Costa Rica with Dan Millman (Peaceful Warrior Retreat)
A few years ago, I spent a week in Costa Rica at Dan Millman’s Peaceful Warrior retreat. There were about 30 other people there total. It was at a beautiful retreat center in the mountains. I met some very integral people at that retreat including a man who helped me design the Spartan Ownership logo. It was also one of the places where I made the internal commitment to self-mastery and the path of Spartan Ownership. Having actually met Dan Millman in person, I can say that he is someone to aspire to be like. At 70 years old, he truly embodied his teachings and looked exceptionally vital for his age. Till this day, he is the only 70-year old that I have met who moved like he was 20 years old. I still remember shaking his hand, his grip was like that of a mountain climber, strong and firm. During this retreat, I learned a secret death meditation that I then practiced for a year that changed my life and made me more comfortable with the fact that this journey will end for all of us someday. The warrior prepares for his meeting with death so that he goes in full consciousness instead of fear and attachment.
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