July 16, 2023 -Bixler-Way of the Peaceful Warrior:
Today while reading another chapter of Earning Freedom by Michael Santos, I was reminded of a book I read long ago, Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman. The book is based on events of Dan’s actual life and highlights that regardless of how utopian one’s life appears, there often remains a sense of emptiness. That resonated deeply with me. Until discovering Dan Millman’s, I’d never given much consideration to the meaning of “enlightenment.”
In the book, Dan, a top gymnastic athlete and student at UC Berkley, seems to have a pretty great life. He’s had a life of privilege – good looks, athletic ability, social popularity and wealth. Yet his insatiable search for more meaning in his life creates anxiety and insomnia. Along his nightly search for meaning, he meets an older, wiser man who he calls Socrates because of his philosophical depth and wisdom. Socrates leads Dan on a journey of self-discovery, awareness, and enlightenment. His guidance transforms Dan and, ultimately, Dan learns that a life of fulfillment and happiness requires him to be fully present, in every sense of the word. Learning to tame his mind and live in the moment through acceptance and gratitude is the secret peace and contentment.
For several years after reading Way of the Peaceful Warrior, I thought about the book’s message every day. In some ways I could relate to Dan and certainly recognized that no matter how perfect someone’s life appears, reality is usually quite different. For a while, I made a deliberate mindful effort to master living in the present; however, I repeatedly hit the same point of confusion. How do I align what I perceive are two opposing ideas? For example, if I accept “it” (this moment) for what it is then shouldn’t that mean I’m fine where I am and don’t want more? Shouldn’t I feel free of desire to want anything different in the future?
At some point while overthinking this, I slipped back into the natural rhythm of hustling every day in search of more, like Dan. It was only recently, during the self-reflection of my legal situation, that I had an epiphany. The concept that Socrates was teaching Dan is simple… As articulated by philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” I initially misunderstood. Dan’s Socrates never said one can’t look forward the future, make plans or have goals. It’s not an Either/Or situation. Acceptance does not engender complacency.
As I was writing this, thinking about all the simplified ways people have translated Emerson’s quote, I thought of the sayings “Stop and smell the roses” and “Dance in the Rain.” I chuckled and thought of all the days when life has been up in flames rather than showered in roses and raindrops! So today if you don’t see any roses or feel the rain, roast marshmallows in the flames. Try to make the best of this moment while still moving forward.
Be well, Melinda Bixler