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An Interview With Dan Millman

by Edie Weinstein Moser

I predict that within a year, two lines from a soon-to-be-released movie are going to become part of the vernacular: "There are no ordinary moments." and the idea that life is about "para- dox, humor and change". These are core concepts in a book that I have recommended for years for anyone who is exploring spirituality and wants to stretch their beliefs about what that means. "Way of the Peaceful Warrior" was written by Dan Millman 20 years ago, chronicling occurrences in his life nearly 30 years ago when he was a student and world class gymnast at UC Berkeley. A series of events led him from his predictable world of books, athletics, adoring women, Olympic aspirations, applause and a fast motorcycle to one of unimagined challenges and bliss. Many years in the making, this summer, "Way of the Peaceful Warrior" will be released on the big screen. Starring Nick Nolte as Dan’s mentor Socrates, Scott Mechlowicz as Dan and Amy Smart as Joy (who eventually became Dan’s wife), it is both esoteric and main stream. If you haven’t yet read the book, then I would highly suggest it. If you have, check it out again! The movie will be released on June 2nd on the West Coast and (like many transformational trends :) will roll Eastward later in the season.

Wisdom: Do you and Joy look back on the time when the events in the book took place and think that it really does feel like a movie that you are

Dan: When the two of us were sitting in the screening room by ourselves for the first time, I was actually moved to tears to see the years
rolling back and to hear that character called by my name. Certainly my book was based upon my life and the movie was based upon the book. It’s
like a telephone game. It’s not every single moment from my life exactly as it happened, but it was close enough.

To see someone else portraying you, did it feel like he fit in your skin?

Dan: I was quite pleased with the casting of Scott Mechlowicz. He did a wonderful job. I don’t mistake a character up on a movie screen for me.

Wisdom: Were there times when you could close your eyes and feel as if he was emoting in the screen in the way you would have, like these were
the life experiences happening right there in front of you; as if it was deja vu ?

Dan: Yes it was. In many cases, certain events, like the motorcycle accident, the crash, he reacted as I did. I think he was true to the
experience. I especially related to the actor when he was acting out a lesson after a kind of conflict situation with Socrates.

Wisdom: So if Socrates could whisper in your ear now, what kind of commentary or feedback do you think he might offer on your life in the
interceding years since you first encountered him?

Dan: He’s been whispering in my ear ever since I knew him. People sometimes ask me: "Was he a real person? I assure them that yes, he was
a flesh and blood man I met in a gas station in Berkeley, California. Socrates was absolutely real. Sometimes I think that Dan Millman is a
fictional character. I’m becoming more like Socrates in my elder years. He would probably say something like: "Well done, keep practicing."

Wisdom: How long has it been?

Dan: The book was written in 1980, but I met him in 1966.

Wisdom: Forty years, wow. The last time I saw you was in Bryn Athyn, PA at the New Warrior Gathering, two years ago and you did a handstand on a desk on stage, to show that you still could. You are in your early 60’s now?

Dan: I just turned 60 and I still do handstands and jump on the trampoline and do somersaults. It’s part of that Warrior spirit; I try
to live what I talk about. It’s not about becoming a physical fitness fanatic or anything like that. It’s a balanced life. For my latest book: " Journeys of Socrates", which is a prequel, the life story of the old man, I went to Russia with a martial arts group. I trained in Russian
martial arts and went to a Special Forces base there. It’s the first time they had let foreigners onto the base. We did all night survival
training and ran a thunderstorm obstacle course with bombs going off. Once in awhile, during an adventure like that, reminds me that we can
rise to the occasion.

Wisdom: Why do you feel that people are hungry for movies like this one? Why is the time right for it?

Dan: I think that the time has always been right for it. There are historical movements and one thing prepares us for the next. In impoverished cultures in the world, they’re thinking about survival. As Gandhi said: "God is bread." In the developing world, we don’t necessarily worry about whether we are going to eat that day, we
experience a lot of what I call the Western solution to happiness which is achievement, possessions, success, status and so on. Many of us see that this doesn’t bring happiness. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it doesn’t lead to being a happier person. Many people have turned to inner solutions and Eastern solutions to happiness, which is about detachment
from all the things in the world and about going inside. I have noticed many miserable Easterners, though. What I call the Peaceful Warrior plan is about balance, taking the best of the East and West; flesh and spirit, left brain and right brain, science and mysticism, the best
qualities of men and women. I take all of these apparent dualities and combine them into a realistic, practical approach to living, with a
peaceful heart and warrior’s spirit.

Wisdom: How does the concept of right people, right place, right time, figure into your life?

Dan: You know those paradoxes we hear, like "If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with." or "Happiness is not about
getting what you want, it’s about wanting what you get."? Some people love the synchronicity of coincidences and our minds and spirits are
aligned. I see it differently. When bodies and minds are open to experience and when we are flowing with life, rather than resisting it, everything is at the right time and right place. It’s a matter of faith. I define faith as ‘the courage to live as if everything that happens to
us is for our highest good and learning.’ It’s a willingness to live on that basis as if that were true. Everything happens at the right time
and right place. This kind of discussion can be confusing to many, because many times we can look back at our experiences and say "Wow, my
timing was wrong. I spoke with that person too soon or too late." or "I got to that appointment too late or at the wrong time." Conventionally
speaking, we can experience wrong time/wrong place. Transcendentally speaking, everything is absolutely perfect. We don’t always like it, but
from a bigger picture; a place of higher wisdom, life is unfolding as it should. One teacher once put it: "What happened to us, should have
happened, because it did."

Wisdom: It’s like what Byron Katie says: "When you argue with what is, you lose...but only 100% of the time."

Dan: Exactly. Fighting reality is like trying to teach a cat to bark. I think highly of her teachings, because she is really applying in a practical way, the Law of Acceptance, which is one of the laws in my book "The Laws of Spirit". It’s been called the First Law of Spirit, because life is going to unfold as it will and we can either resist it or not. Suffering happens when the mind resists what is. In martial arts, when the force comes, that martial artist doesn’t resist; they
learn to immediately relax and let the force do what it does and just get out of the way.

Wisdom: It reminds me of something you said at the presentation two years ago. You told the story of a man who had approached you following one of your lectures and said that "you probably charge a lot of money for personal consultations and I only have a dollar to give you." He asked if you had any words of wisdom to share. He gave you the dollar and you said to him six simple words: "Here and now. Breathe and relax."

Dan: We are actually making Peaceful Warrior t-shirts that will be available on the website that say that on the back. Barbara Rafp; a
writer once said: "The lesson is simple, the student is complicated."

Wisdom: What message would you like people to absorb, what kind of discussion would you like them to be having on their way out of the
doors of the theaters?

Dan: It would be great if they had a discussion. People will talk about different things that meant something special to them. The themes of ’there are no ordinary moments’ and of living in the present are all there. Eckhart Tolle ("The Power of Now") wrote a wonderful quote about
it. He said that said he was moved to tears watching the movie.

Wisdom: You had said that you were pleased with the casting of Nick Nolte as Socrates. When I read the book, my immediate image was of
someone like Pat Morita.

Dan: I can see why you would think of Pat Morita, since he played a mentor in a martial arts film, "The Karate Kid". By the way, Peaceful
Warrior was written four years before the movie ever came out. It’s very important for people to understand that wisdom isn’t just found in the
East. Even an old gas station attendant who came from Russia, could have perennial wisdom to teach. That’s why I didn’t want to do a standard caricature of the spiritual teacher being from China, Japan or India. It could be anybody. Even an old gas station attendant.

Wisdom: I live in a community where people went bonkers over "What the Bleep" and "The Celestine Prophecy" and "Indigo", so your movie will have a huge impact here.

Dan: There have been two classes of movies that dealt with spiritual themes. One I would call mainstream movies such as "Ghost",
"Phenomenon", "Field of Dreams", "The Natural" and "Resurrection". They weren’t message movies. Then there are message movies that dealt with metaphysical content. We know what they are (such as those mentioned in the question) and they play at alternative sites. "Peaceful Warrior" is the first movie with a spiritual message that will build a bridge to the mainstream audience. It does have content, but it also entertains young kids who may never have considered reading my books. They could go to a movie and come out thinking about certain things. It might accomplish something I have hardly dreamed about, to actually do some of the good that the book did, when people get reminders about things that matter in their lives, rather than just have an experience and then forget about it. I think people may actually go back more than once and see the movie, if only to ask "Now, what did he say, again?"

Wisdom: The "No ordinary moments" quote is a powerful message. My friend Murray who is a therapist, has a sign in his office that has the
words "paradox, humor and change" written on it. He points to that when people ask him what life is about.

For his schedule of workshops and movie release dates in your area, please visit Dan’s website: www.danmillman.com Or www. peacefulwarrior.com

Rev. Edie Weinstein-Moser is a writer, speaker, interfaith minister, social worker, reiki master and clown. She can be reached via her website at www.liveinjoy.com 

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