Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Wisdom of the Peaceful Warrior

Though I rarely go to the movies these days, the growing Spiritual Cinema genre excites me: we're finally beginning to use media to reach the masses in a positive way.

Peaceful Warrior, based on the best-selling autobiographical novel, "Way of the Peaceful Warrior," by Dan Millman, is a modern Hero's Journey in which a talented young gymnast who has it all (including a supersized ego) discovers his true self via an enigmatic wise man he calls Socrates--after a serious accident threatens to destroy Dan's Olympic dreams.

While a little derivative, it makes up in emotional impact what it lacks in originality (possibly because there is only one story in the world, and redundancy can be highly instructive!)

For instance, instead of sitting under a Bodhi tree (not the bookstore, for those of you based in L.A.) until he attains enlightenment, Socrates makes Dan sit on the hood of a jalopy, "Until you have something worthwhile to tell me." After innumerable false (though humorous) attempts, Dan stands before his teacher and repeats his own words back to him, with a sense of awareness for the first time: "There's always something happening. There are no ordinary moments."

And in lieu of the allegorical Zen teacher holding the eager student's head beneath water until he's nearly drowned, saying, "When you want enlightenment as much as you wanted air, you will be ready to learn," Socrates responds to Dan's request to "make it quick" by throwing him off a bridge into a stream on the UC Berkeley campus.

Yet there are a number of "ah-ha" moments that riveted me in recognition, such as when Dan struggles on the ledge of a tower with a hooded adversary--and discovers he's struggling with himself. He sees his egoic self and says tearfully, "Oh, you're the one I have to let go of!"

['Way back in 1989, when I was initially cleansing my body, I wrote in my journal that the toxic relationship I most needed to get out of was the one I was in with myself! About what awaited on the far side of this release, I wrote, "I am poised on the brink of an unknown, terrifying descent into chaos. All this attention to order does not appear to be the answer. Letting go, letting life happen, would be--if I can but gather the courage to plunge into the depths, trusting that I will not drown or die, but maybe, begin at last to live.

"This opens the floodgates, which says to me that I am on the right track. I've touched on a nerve, a rawness, and rather than analyze it, I should just let it see the light. And shine..."]

In the film, when Dan sarcastically tests Socrates by saying, "This is what you do? You work at a gas station?", Socrates replies with equanimity, "It's a service station. Service, Dan. There is no higher calling." And I remembered a challenging moment during my initial journey year in New York State, when the wisest person I'd ever met was making sandwiches in a tiny health food store.

The reminder that galvanized me most was when Socrates advises Dan to resume his gymnastic training. Stunned, Dan turns to him and shouts, "I have a steel rod in my leg!" And Socrates responds, "A warrior does not give up what he loves--he finds a way to love what he does."

[In 1997, deep into my healing journey, I published a series of articles that wove my personal evolution on the loom of the Mayan Calendar, an ideal vehicle for me at that time. In piece #6, penned just prior to my 40th birthday, I wrote, "I spent my first thirty-two years suffused with a nameless, lingering sadness, consumed by rituals of my own design. In despair over a lifestyle which felt like a sickness, I entered the tunnel.

"My surrender came in stages. And I began to experience a joy beyond anything I'd thought possible, as the crusty layers of doubt and fear and judgment slowly peeled away, revealing the vibrant being beneath. I made a conscious decision then to live through an open heart forever. I'm by no means perfect in holding to this resolve, yet I choose to return to this place of radiance again and again.

"There are only two ways to live your life, Einstein said. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. I'm dancing within the rainbow hoop, here in the Heart of Heaven."]


I discuss the film as it relates to the theme of our individual and global quest for happiness in the July issue of my e-newsletter, What Shines.

1 comment:

Santari said...

Love you my beautiful friend. Shine On!