A Conversation with...
Dan Millman

Spiritualityby Aaron Thunder Hart
For Spiritual Endeavors

Spiritual Endeavors: Dan, you're probably best known to most people for your best selling books. Your first book, Way Of The Peaceful Warrior, has been read by millions of people, translated into 12 languages, and has a major feature film in development. But athletics was your first love. You had a wonderful career teaching and coaching gymnastics at Stanford. You took a dormant program and in four years turned it around to produce world class and Olympic athletes. You put in all the hard work of changing it around, but didn't stay to reap the rewards, why?

Dan Milmann: I stopped coaching when I realized I was admiring the other team as much as my own athletes. I didn't care who won. I cared if everybody played a good game and did their best. In my view, no one looses, because whenever you play, you're learning something about yourself. I treated opposing athletes not as the enemy, but as potential teachers. So I decided it wasn't really appropriate for me anymore.

Spiritual Endeavors: I understand that you used some unusual techniques at the time; fairly commonplace now, but unheard of back then.

Dan Millman: Yes. Other coaches used to rib me because they considered me kind of a weirdo at the time. They'd say, "I heard rumors you have your athletes meditate before competition." And I'd say, "Of course not! I have them meditate during the competition."

Spiritual Endeavors: From being an athlete and college coach, how did you get into writing books like Way Of The Peaceful Warrior, The Laws Of Spirit, and your other books?

Dan Milmann: I started my writing career with articles about natural principles of training for a gymnastics magazine. Later, these principles expanded to the broader arena of skill training, including other sports, such as dance, martial arts, and music. During this time, I wrote the book now titled The Inner Athlete (formerly "The Warrior Athlete), to convey how to become a natural athlete (or musician or anything else) about the larger promise and potential of training. Having done that, the scope of my work expanded into the realm of daily life. I went on to write Way Of The Peaceful Warrior and the books that followed.

Spiritual Endeavors: I realize that it's not as important as some people think, but for the record, is the character Socrates real or fictional?

Dan Milmann: The character of Socrates is based on a real old man I met in an old gas station on the corner of Oxford and Hearst Streets in Berkeley, California, about 3 A.M. one starry night.

Spiritual Endeavors: How much of that book is true?

Dan Milmann: Except for the items I've already noted, most of the book is factual. I did go to Berkeley. I was a world trampoline champion and gymnast. I did shatter my right femur in a motorcycle accident and recover to join my team and win the NCAA Gymnastics Championships. I did travel around the world studying various martial arts and spiritual traditions; I was married to Linda with whom I had a daughter, Holly. I did have an experience one might call "ego death" and powerful insights that continued to surface over the years.

Some people are very disappointed to learn that it's not all factual, because they are so strongly hoping for "magic" in the world that contrasts with what appears to be a mundane existence. My intent is not to create illusions, but to point out the extraordinary event of daily life, right now. Let's keep our heads in the clouds, but our feet on the ground. Why be concerned about traveling "out of the body" before we've even gotten INTO it? Let's not get so fascinated by "near-death" experiences that we fail to notice that THIS moment is a near-death experience. Some of us who want to know all about past and future lives aren't yet paying attention to this one.

Spiritual Endeavors: I understand. Here at Spiritual Endeavors we've had that lesson drawn to us also. Idealistically, we'd love to give everything away free. But that head in the clouds philosophy doesn't keep Spiritual Endeavors alive, to keep on benefiting others, unless the bills are paid. I would imagine that being the great success you are, you would have had to do a bit of soul searching in the "money and spiritual truths department". How did you work it out for yourself?

Dan Millman: Some people have negative or unrealistic, idealistic views about money, especially when it comes to what they see as spiritual teachings or spiritual life. Images of the Indian sadhus, ascetics who own nothing but a loincloth, or the Buddhist monks with begging bowls, are archetypes in our psyche. Popular media laud the "poor but good-hearted people" and the "nasty, spoiled rich." Remember the film, "It's a Wonderful Life"? The term "rich person" has become an epithet.

Money is neither my god nor my devil. It is a form of energy that tends to make us more of who we already are, whether it's greedy or loving. If one lives alone, one can live without much money; if one raises a family as I do, and wants the best schools and a comfortable life for them, then one needs to work. I make my living writing and lecturing. I charge a respectable fee and give all I can. This is how it works for me.

Spiritual Endeavors: At Spiritual Endeavors we are understanding that more clearly with every passing day. Yet, let's play devils advocate for a moment. There are those people out there who would say, "Dan you have information others should know about. You should be giving it away, not selling it".

Dan Milmann: Anyone who disagrees is welcome to express their view. After all, if we all agree on everything, only one of us is necessary.

Spiritual Endeavors: Well put.

Dan Milmann: People are welcome to express agreement or disagreement, and to criticize me. No one is above criticism. I don't require people to believe me or even to trust me; I encourage them to trust themselves. It's important to test what we read or hear against our own life experience to see if it is realistic or valid.

Spiritual Endeavors: And that is so important! That's probably the one thing we try to convey the strongest at Spiritual Endeavors. So many "New Agers" tend to gulp down the latest philosophy without even bothering to chew it over. The real spiritual knowledge is eternal and gained through the discernment of all ages. How do you feel about your books being considered New Age?.

Dan Milmann: I really haven't the faintest idea what the "New Age" is. First of all, it's not really new; most of the shamanistic, positive-thinking, proto-Atlantean healing technologies, occult, extra-terrestrial, subliminal, affirmative this-and-that have ancient roots. Second, the "new age" differs from the warrior tradition in that the "new age" has no shadow; it is aggressively pacifistic, idealistic rather than realistic, hopeful to the point of denial. Anyway, now that I'm 50 years old, I've asked the bookstores to move my books out of the New Age section and put them in the "Middle Age" section.

Spiritual Endeavors Dan, this has been delightful. Perhaps I better ask you some questions for your readers. Some of your readers think that through your experiences with Socrates you've become enlightened. How do you respond?

Dan Milmann: We've all read about these idealized figures who have "reached the state of permanent enlightenment." I'm a little skeptical about that. If life is a series of moments, we each have enlightened moments, and moments of being asleep, ignorant. Sometimes I'm an illumined guy, and sometimes I act like a jackass. I do have more good moments than in the past. Someone who observed my life would find it pretty compassionate, balanced, committed, responsible, functional, altruistic, and at other moments less so. That seems more realistic than talk about enlightenment, as fascinating as that may be. Enlightenment, to me, is less like turning on a light switch; more like gradually turning up a dimmer switch. In a sense, we're all becoming more "enlightened" over time - that is, if we're paying attention to the bigger picture.

Spiritual Endeavors: Do you believe in God?

Dan Milmann: One of my favorite sayings is this: "There's God; and then there's not paying attention." To me this has nothing to do with saying I believe or don't believe something. Anyone who has looked into the depths of the ocean or up at a starry sky or really looked at a flower or a tree or anything else is also somehow gazing into the heart of God. At least it seems that way to me. But if you mean do I agree with or state my allegiance to one or another holy book, well - yes and no. A mountain path is my church; so are the city streets. Church is everywhere because Spirit is everywhere.

Spiritual Endeavors: Spirit is everywhere. And in many ways it could be compared cyber space. You maintain your own web domain. Are you finding the Internet a useful tool for reaching the Personal Development audience?

Dan Millman I have an almost religious zeal--not for technology per se, but for the Internet which is for me, the nervous system of mother Earth, which I see as a living creature, linking up. In fact, the only way to get information about me and my work, currently other than what's written in my books, is to check my web site. I encourage all my friends to get online. Saves paper, increases interconnection and communication. To me we are in the midst of a quantum evolutionary leap and it's impossible to predict what it will mean.

Spiritual Endeavors: And now there's another site, (site now defunct), which aids people in discovering their life purpose. How did that come into being?

Dan Milmann: I was approached by a very bright group of people who were so taken by the material in my book, The Life You Were Born to Live, and had the Internet expertise to do it right, that I agreed to put the life purpose system online for those people who would like to receive the information through this growing medium. So far, the Life-Purpose Workbook orders are modest, but I know it will grow and serve a valuable purpose.

Spiritual Endeavors: At that site people are actually able to get a free preview life purpose reading according to your system. I was there a few days ago. I submitted my birth date, and I was impressed. Helping people discover their life purpose is right down our alley. What do you say we put a link in the Spiritual Endeavors FreeStuff pavilion?

Dan Milmann: Let's do it.

Spiritual Endeavors: Okay.  What other projects are you currently working on?

Dan Milmann: My next book, Everyday Enlightenment: The Twelve Gateways to Spiritual Growth will be published by Warner Books. It should be in the bookstores by April . I also have more stories in the works, including a special Christmas story, a sweeping novel, and a book of principles, quotations, and stories.

Spiritual Endeavors Everyday Enlightenment. Now there's a concept to practice. How about a sneak preview?

Dan Milmann: Love to. [Editor's note: That exciting preview will be featured in the next issue of New Beginnings.]

Spiritual Endeavors: How about being a guest speaker at the Tuesday Gatherings during your visit here in February?
Dan Milmann: Love to. Let me check the dates�. Opps� I won't be coming in to Las Vegas till Thursday. Perhaps another trip?

Spiritual Endeavors: You're on. Dan, you certainly have been very gracious. Is there anything you'd like to add?

Dan Milmann: Sure! That's why I'm still writing. When I have nothing else to add, I'll stop. Let me close with this: Some people have called with one or another problem--maybe it's a relationship issue, or health or finances or a difficult decision. I end up saying the same thing: Trust the process of your life.

As the title of one of my books, The Life You Were Born To Live, indicates, our lives may be predestined in some sense; yet we also have the free will to make choices which shape our lives. There may be no ultimate right or wrong, but there are consequences. Responsibility means recognizing the consequences of our actions for ourselves and others. Faith is the courage to live and act as if we "can't make the wrong decision." In other words, we make our choices and live as if it were the best possible choices.

A path we choose may turn out to be difficult, but that doesn't mean it was the wrong choice. Let's treat difficulties as forms of spiritual weightlifting. All we can do in this life is to handle what's in front of us, accept ourselves and others as we are. We can be gentle with ourselves, and compassionate, and at the same time, call forth the best within us. There's the paradox; there's the humor; there's the path of daily life, the way of the peaceful warrior.

Spiritual Endeavors: Thank you Dan.

About The Author
Best Selling author Dan Millman is probably most known for his book, Way Of The Peaceful Warrior. He has written 8 books to date, two of which have been best sellers.