“Now I realize that I had, in a sense, been sleeping all those years and just dreaming I was awake—until I met Socrates, who came to be my mentor and friend. Before that time, I’d always believed that a life of quality, enjoyment, and wisdom were my human birthright and would be automatically bestowed upon me as time passed. I never suspected that I would have to learn how to live—that there were specific disciplines and ways of seeing the world I had to master before I could awaken to a simple happy, uncomplicated life.”
This best-selling novel by Dan Millman, Way of the Peaceful Warrior: A Book That Changes Lives, is part fiction, part autobiographical and can be touted as a book that reminds us that we deserve to be happy. This classic tale of a spiritual saga offers the reader the possibility to make connections. It speaks to the peaceful warrior in each of us—and that’s why it made the cut for this month’s PQ Book Club.
The story is set in the 1960s and describes the journey toward enlightenment by Dan, a college student and world-class gymnast at the University of California – Berkeley. Despite his many friends and large social circle, his accomplished schoolwork and his world-champion athletic pursuits, Dan is troubled by the sense that something is missing from his life.
Awakened one night by bad dreams, Dan goes out into the night and stumbles upon an old gas station manned by an eccentric, elderly man. Eventually, the two become friends and Dan nicknames him Socrates, partly because the old man refuses to reveal his name and partly because he ends up serving as Dan’s mentor and spiritual guide.
As Socrates works with Dan, he teaches him that the way of the peaceful warrior “is not about invulnerability but absolute vulnerability – to the world, to life… (A) warrior’s life is not about imagined perfection or victory; it is about love. Love is a warrior’s sword; wherever it cuts it gives life, not death.”
As Dan learns to be present and to experience him self as connected to the world and not apart from it, he begins to journey into the realms of light and shadow. And as Socrates presents Dan with a series of challenges, Dan is thrust into self-awareness, whether he is prepared and willing, or not.
The magical aspects of the tale, such as time travel, are told with heart and humor. And the journey itself leads the reader down the path and toward a final confrontation with one’s own spirituality and the timeless quest for finding purpose in life.
Way of the Peaceful Warrior: A Book That Changes Lives should be read for its message, particularly if you are seeking direction in your own life. We all have work to do, and we all need guidance. Discovering (or rediscovering) your purpose in life… changes your life.