Tag Archives: Life skills

A poem inspired by a Peaceful Warrior master

Image: Svaneti by Paata

In case you missed it, last week I wrote a post on the 2-hour talk that Dan Millman gave at the Sydney Masonic Center on Tuesday, the 1st of April (link). Today, I’d like to share a poem I wrote while inspired by his talk. It is called ‘Reflections of a Peaceful Warrior’, and it goes like this:

Two hours
with my spiritual master;
Two hours
of wisdom,
of Universal Laws,
of jokes and quotes.

Two peaceful hours
with a wise warrior;
Two inspiring hours
with a foolish warrior.

A story of humility:
“I am inspired by you”,
said a student to his teacher.
“Don’t worry,” the teacher said,
“that too will pass”.

Humility with humanity;
Wisdom with laughter.
These were the hallmarks
that his teacher Socrates
once etched on him.
They’re now the hallmarks
he etches in us all.

Thank you,
my peaceful warrior,
for sharing your wisdom
with us today.

Thank you,
our peaceful warrior,
for laying your heart
open for us all to see,
to hear,
to touch and to feel.

Thank you,
Oh, peaceful warrior,
for making the mistakes that
took you here today.

Thank you,
my spiritual guide,
for being my friend
today again.

If you liked it, you may want to listen to me recite it on the link below.

Poem Recital: Reflections of a Peaceful Warrior (mp3 file)

The Peaceful Warrior Experience: An evening with Dan Millman

<p align=”center”><img src=”http://crazycolombian.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/cimg3135.jpg&#8221; alt=”Invitation to an evening with Dan Millman” align=”middle” border=”0″ height=”141″ hspace=”0″ width=”250″ />
<em><font size=”1″>Image: An invitation to The Peaceful Warrior Experience by </font></em><font size=”1″><a href=”http://crazycolombian.com&#8221; target=”_blank”><em>The Crazy Colombian</em></a></font>

Over the last 38 years of my life, there have been a handful of authors that have inspired me; many of their books even changed my life. For example, T. Lobsang Rampa’s fascinating description of life in Tibet in <em>The Third Eye </em>opened my eyes to a new universe of spiritual philosophy. Douglas R Hofstadter’s fascinating and congruent exploration of Artificial Intelligence in <em>Goedel, Escher, Bach: An eternal golden brace </em>proved to me that you can <a href=”http://crazycolombian.com/2007/11/01/are-you-a-specialist-or-a-generalist/&#8221; target=”_blank”>become an exceptional generalist</a> by weaving fields together that are seemingly far apart: in his book, Hofstatdter integrates disciplines seemingly as disparat as music, painting , logic and mathemathics. But it was Dan Millman’s semi-biographical tale of courage & growth in <a href=”http://crazycolombian.com/2007/07/26/book-review-way-fo-the-peaceful-warrior-by-dan-millman/&#8221; target=”_blank”><em>The Way of the Peaceful Warrior</em></a> that exposed me to an unusual path for achieving balanced enlightenment. This path was Dan’s unique blend of ancient wisdom and every-day-smarts. His approach was unique and refreshing, and helped me start living my life as a Way of learning, as a journey in which I can integrate and balance my Warrior and Peace-giving energies.

This explains why I got so excited one morning when my wife told me that Dan was coming to Sydney. Not surprisingly, I jumped from my chair; logged on to the web; and quickly found Nibbana’s web site. There I found that Julie Ann Storr, the company’s CIO (Chief Inspiration Officer) had arranged for a Peaceful Warrior tour of Australia & New Zealand (<a href=”http://nibbana.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=23&Itemid=1&#8243; target=”_blank”>link</a>). According to their web site, Dan would be visiting major cities in each country, where he would spend 2 hours explaining how to <em>”gain clarity and perspective in the face of life’s challenges and learn how to work with universal laws to achieve real-world outcomes in everyday”. </em>His tour would culminate with a 2-day weekend experience in Sydney, where Dan would initiate attendees into the Peaceful Warrior’s way, empowering your body, mind and spirit to discover a new way of living. I don’t really need to tell you I immediately booked myself for both events in Sydney, do I?

In this article I want to share my perspectives and impressions after attending the first event. This 2-hour talk was held on Tuesday the 1st of April at the Sydney Masonic Centre. At a later stage, I will post a follow-up article with a review of the 2-day weekend seminar.
<h4>Having a drink with other Peaceful Warriors: A unique experience</h4>
<img src=”http://crazycolombian.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/cimg31441.jpg&#8221; alt=”Dan’s dedication to my copy of ’Everyday Enlightenment” align=”left” border=”0″ height=”358″ hspace=”0″ width=”300″ />

Upon registration on the web site, I had an offer that was impossible to resist: if I registered for a Gold-Class reserve ticket, I would be invited to join Dan with a small group of people for an hour of drinks and canapes before the talk started. For anyone who has worked in marketing, that is what we in the trade call an <em>irresistible offer with a strong call to </em>action. You won’t be surprised to learn that I took it on the spot, will you?

For obvious logistical reasons, the drinks where held on the same building where the main talk was held, albeit in a more intimate room. A little before 5:30 PM our small group assembled. Everyone seemed excited to be there, and there was a small amount of tension in the air. As Dan entered the room, we all felt a subtle yet noticeable shift in the room’s energy; People were happy to be there, and the tension we had held in our bodies from anticipating Dan’s appearance quickly transformed into a sort of happiness to finally be with him.

Over the course of the ensuing hour Dan played the perfect host, working the room with his signature smile, ensuring everyone had a chance to talk with him. Some of us brought our books and DVDs for him to sign. Others were happy to just be there, and enjoy the conversation of our Peaceful Warrior master.

When my turn to meet him came, I introduced myself as <em>The Crazy Colombian</em>. Dan instantly recognised me, and had to remind me that hadn’t told him my real name, which I promptly did. After he moved on to the next group, I stole a peek at the dedication of my book, and was very appreciative of the succinct blending of my blogging and my real personas.

Whilst having an opportunity to meet Dan up-close and personal was exhilarating, getting to know the other attendees to this event was just as stimulating. Everyone I met in that room was a Peaceful Warrior on their own right, with a strong history of personal, spiritual and business achievements.

It was 6:30 PM when Dan discreetly left us to continue enjoying each others’ company. It was time for him to go and get ready for the main event.
<h4>Main course: The Peaceful Warrior Introduction</h4>
I was thankful (albeit not particularly surprised) to find that Nibbana had reserved the best seats in the house for Gold-Class reserve ticket holders. Like an eager student in his first day of school, I took my place on the front row, and waited patiently for our teacher to arrive. Julie Ann did the usual introductions, and amidst a wave of applause, Dan emerged to the front of th audience.

As many of you would know, Dan used to be an elite Athlete, so his introduction to this lecture will come as no surprise to you: In a demonstration that only lasted a couple of minutes, this 62 year-old warrior showed us that age and fitness can (and should) mix. In a humorous manner, he explained that giving talks is not what he used to do; and that his occupation many years ago was to do “this”. He then used his hands to hold on to the border of the table, and in a controlled and slow motion, brought his body to a 90 degree angle to the table; then went fully vertical; finishing with a slow and controlled descent. I was in awe. Even in my fittest days I could not have achieved such <em>simple</em> manoeuvre, yet here was someone quite a fair bit older than me doing it in front of 100 people – and that is after decades of not being a professional gymnast!

<p align=”center”><img src=”http://crazycolombian.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/cimg3133.jpg&#8221; alt=”CIMG3133″ align=”middle” border=”0″ height=”299″ hspace=”0″ width=”450″ />
<font size=”1″><em>Image: Dan Millman finishes his talk </em>by <a href=”http://crazycolombian.com&#8221; target=”_blank”>The Crazy Colombian</a></font>

But Dan’s gymnastic antics were only a warm up to the heavy intellectual & emotional lifting we would do with him over the course of the following 2 hours. To ensure he left no man behind, Dan used a variety of educational tools, including audience participation; Poetry reading; and Humour. The talk was structured around the theme of his book <em>The Laws of Spirit </em>(<a href=”http://books.google.com.au/books?id=ZcBOpxpfCdAC&dq=%22laws+of+spirit%22&pg=PP1&ots=rDyGtQQd7t&sig=2l77UdkReMN_BZkis79uWkBUmdY&hl=en&prev=http://www.google.com.au/search?q=%22Laws+of+Spirit%22&sourceid=navclient-ff&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1B3GGGL_en___AU202&sa=X&oi=print&ct=title&cad=one-book-with-thumbnail&#8221; target=”_blank”>link</a>), which covers 12 Universal Laws. In this talk, he discussed eight of those:
<li><u>The Law of Balance</u> : Everything that we do, we can overdo and underdo. If the pendulum of our habits swing too far to one side, it will inevitably swing back to the other.</li>
<li><u>The Law of Unity</u> : We begin our life on earth as separate beings; but just as each raindrop is a part of the ocean, so each of us is a part of Spirit.</li>
<li><u>Law of Choices</u> : The choices we have made in our past have brought us to our present, just as the choices we make today are shaping our tomorrow.</li>
<li><u>Law of Process</u> : Any journey starts with the first step, and unfolds only as we take every individual & subsequent step.</li>
<li><u>Law Of Presence</u> : Life is a series of moments; spending too much time in the past or in the future robs you of the ability to enjoy your life where it is lived – in the Now.</li>
<li><u>Law of Cycles</u> : “<em>Everything dies & changes, even radiators</em>” (<a href=”http://crazycolombian.com/2007/03/10/everything-dies-and-changes-even-radiators/&#8221; target=”_blank”>link</a>)</li>
<li><u>Law of Surrender</u> : Stress happens when the mind resists what is; go with the flow, and surrender to the moment.</li>
<li><u>Law of Action</u> : We may know something with our brains; but it isn’t until we experience it within our lives that we can truly comprehend them; The path to Awareness is paved with Actions, not intentions.</li>
Like I mentioned, one of the things that Dan did was encourage audience participation. In one such occasion, he asked for a volunteer to demonstrate a competitive game he wanted everyone to try out; given I was at the front row, and knew who I was, he asked me to help him. In this game, the 2 participants face each other at arm’s length. Palms facing out go out in front, as if you were going to clap on the other person’s hand. The idea is to gently (and not so gently) clap against each others’ hands, and try to get your ’opponent’ off-balance. You can achieve this both by pushing hard with your hands, in which case your opponent will likely be thrown off balance and have to take a step back to regain it; or you can just ’give in’ when your opponent tries to push hard, which will make him loose his balance and take a step forward to regain it. Every time you take a step forward or backward, your opponent scores 1 more point.
<p align=”justify”>The point of the exercise was to show us that in competitive games, there are 2 ways in which you can look at your opponent: You can either consider them someone you <u>must</u> beat at all costs, and who is not deserving of your respect or admiration (think George W Busg against the Middle East); or you can treat them as both your student and your teacher at the same time; your student, whom you will teach of his own weaknesses every time you win a point; and your teacher who will teach you of your mistakes every time you loose a point. Dan was very emphatic on his opinion that the ’ultimate competitive mind’ is, in his opinion, one of the worst things we have in modern life; and encouraged us all to consider how we approach our work lives; the sports we play; and our own relationships. Do we feel we must win at all costs, or do we engage in the game of life ’as if it really mattered’, but knowledgeable that it really doesn’t?</p>

<h4>Main impressions & Favourite moments</h4>
<img src=”http://crazycolombian.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/quote2.jpg&#8221; alt=”quote2″ align=”right” border=”0″ height=”73″ hspace=”0″ width=”200″ />

As you can imagine, I thoroughly enjoyed Dan’s informal style of presenting his material. From the first few minutes with his unusual use of acrobatics, Dan grabbed the audience’s attention, and held it throghout the 2 hours with his relaxed and down-to-earth style. His liberal use of quotes presented us with wise, irreverent, and sometimes funny ways of looking at some of life’s challenges. Of the poems that he read, I particularly enjoyed <em>Present Tense (</em>by Jason Lehman):
<blockquote><em> It was spring,
But it was summer I wanted,
The warm days,
And the great outdoors.
It was summer,
But it was fall I wanted,
The colorful leaves,
And the cool, dry air.
It was fall,
But it was winter I wanted,
The beautiful sow,
And the joy of the holiday season.
It was winter,
But it was spring I wanted,
The warmth,
And the blossoming of nature.
I was a child,
But it was adulthood I wanted,
The freedom,
And the respect.
I was 20,
But it was 30 I wanted,
To be mature,
And sophisticated.
I was middle-aged,
But it was 20 I wanted,
The youth,
And the free spirit.
I was retired,
But it was middle age I wanted,
The presence of mind,
without limitations.
My life was over.
But I never got what I wanted</em></blockquote>
I also enjoyed his reminder of how to achieve goals in our lives. According to Dan, whenever you face an important goal in your life, you can approach it in one of 2 ways:
<blockquote><span style=”font-style: italic; font-family: lucida grande”>(1) You can find a way to quiet your mind, create empowering beliefs and positive self-talk, find your focus and affirm your power to free your emotions and visualize positive outcomes so that you can develop the confidence to generate the courage to find the determination to make the commitment to feel sufficiently motivated to do whatever it is you need to do.</span></blockquote>
<blockquote><span style=”font-style: italic; font-family: lucida grande”>(2) Or you can just do it.</span></blockquote>
<p align=”left”>If you are not sure which of these two is the easy way to achieve, you may want to look at my previous post <em>How to Reach your Goals </em>(<a href=”http://crazycolombian.com/2008/02/27/how-to-reach-your-goals/&#8221; target=”_blank”>link</a>).</p>
<p align=”left”>Over the course of those 2 hours, there was only one thing that stood out as somehow negative, although it was not within Dan’s control. A number of people were disrespectful and did not switch their mobiles off at the start of the talk. It really puzzled me that after the first mobile phone went off, other people didn’t reach for their phones to ensure they were off; It was not too long before a few other calls came through into the room. Thankfully this only happened a handful of times, so the audience was able to focus on Dan’s talk and enjoy it for what it was : a wonderful opportunity to challenge our views; to recognise that our lives are simply a series of moments that are as special as those we enjoyed during his talk; and to continue on our path to become better, more peaceful warriors.</p>

<p align=”center”><img src=”http://crazycolombian.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/cimg3134.jpg&#8221; alt=”CIMG3134″ align=”middle” border=”0″ height=”300″ hspace=”0″ width=”199″ />
<font size=”1″><em>Image: Julie from Nibbana borrows Dan’s mic
to close the event </em>by <a href=”http://crazycolombian.com&#8221; target=”_blank”>The Crazy Colombian</a></font>
<h4>Closing thoughts: An experience worth having</h4>
Was the talk worth its’ price? It depends. If your criteria of value is to find entirely new material, fresh ideas, and learn new things every minute of the talk, then the answer for you would probably be no. Like I mentioned, Dan borrowed from himself and others a number of times, and used content that you may have come across before.

On the other hand, what makes this a valuable experience is not the content presented. Don’t get me wrong: the content Dan chose for this talk was as high quality as that he has previously put in any of his books. And what makes this a valuable experience is not either the way in which the content is delivered, which Dan did with flair and panache. To explain the value of this experience, I’d like to first use an analogy.

Imagine that you have never heard of the game of Tenis; and that someone told you of its benefits. You get excited, and decide to pick up a book at the library. You read all about the techniques; the great players of our times; and the various styles of the game. You then decide to finally put it all into practice, and go to a court. However, you become a bit disappointed: You miss the ball most of the times, although you manage to get a couple of really good hits. You attribute those to beginner’s luck, and decide to try a different approach. The day after, you write to the Wimbledon’s tournament winner, and ask for a tape of all his games; You also buy front-row tickets for some of his games, and make sure you observe and take notes throughout the games. At the end of this, you go back to the court, and this time you start hitting the ball regularly. You may not be winning against a decent opponent yet, but you feel you’ve learned the basics. You finaly decide to take the plunge and hire a good coach for a series of lessons in the court. In those, your coach gives you some general advise and shows you by doing; and when you ask for it, the coach also provides some advise specific to your situation. After your lessons end, you ask the top player in the club to play a game with you, and although you don’t win, you manage to hold your ground. Some years later, after weekly practice and many more games, you start winning on a consistent basis.

Today’s presentation was like the second step, when you observe a master in action. Watching Dan talk about the Way of the Peaceful Warrior gave us not only some of the knowledge he has put into his books, it also gave us an opportunity to watch a Peaceful Warrior in daily life. I anticipate the weekend experience, which should be analogous to the last step, where you get the master to teach you in person.

Thank you, Julie Anne, for bringing Dan to Australia. Thanks to the very professional team at Nibbana for pulling together a great evening. And Thank you Dan for showing us what a real-life Peaceful Warrior looks like, and for sharing the wisdom that comes from years of practice.

Aiming for excellence


Image by nattu

 On Dan Millman’s blog, there was a recent entry that generated some interesting commentary (click here to see the entry and comments)

This is what was said that grabbed my attention: “I feel the aspect of achievement and success and making-something-of-oneself plays less of a role here in Europe. These are, after all, deeply American values, and sometimes it’s overburdening to me.

Dan’s response to this was that “I’ve never aimed for “winning” or for “success.” Only for excellence (which is all that we can control — the quality of our attention and effort, moment to moment). We can control efforts, not outcomes.

On the context of my recent experience with a performance review, these words really make you think. Our ‘performance culture’ in organisations has aimed for a very long time to measure & reward success (outcomes). We are even told that our objectives for the year need to be ‘Smart’: Specific, measurable, action-focused, realistic, and time-bound. Yet time and time again we focus on what is achieved, rather than the effort of the individual in achieving those outcomes. At my workplace, they do try to have a measurement for the ‘behaviours’ that generated the outcomes: Not so much the what but the how. Yet in both cases, the focus is very goal-oriented.

Dan’s comment reminded me that in looking at life, one can easily allow other-people’s-values become entrenched in the way we feel and think. This obsession with ‘success’ and ‘goal-orientation’ is a great example. Despite my focus on the journey; on the effort I put into learning from every moment; on the positive or negative experiences I create for myself and others; I continue to evaluate my success by (a) how much money I make, and (b) How others perceive my achievements.

So what are you aiming for? Perfection of outcomes, or excellence of effort? You be the judge.

Are you a specialist or a generalist?

The UnAwakened always rewards Specificity.Only the Masters enjoy Balanced Versatility.

Image by Argenberg

Specialisation is highly regarded in this modern world.I have discussed career goals with many professionals, and I am yet to find someone who tells me “I want to develop a broad range of skills – I want to be a generalist“. But as the quote above (from an article by Steve Ilg) says, only the true masters enjoy balanced versatility.

There is that pesky word again: Balance. I don’t remember ever using it as often as I have over the last 18 months of my life.So why is ‘balanced versatility’ so important?

Because its alternative – excessive specificity , or ultra-specialisation – comes with a price tag that we should all realise is just too high for most of us. Truth is, no one has noticed.

Let’s talk about careers. Developing highly specialised skills is rewarded by higher salaries. As the supply for those rare skills in the market place is smaller, the price for the services increases. This is true in professional sports, in the corporate world, and even in the medical sciences. Professionals seek to gain a deep level of specialist knowledge, so that they will eventually be recognised as ‘experts’ in their field; write insightful articles; and receive awards at international conferences.

You can also look in the direction of social relationships. People advises you to develop your unique personality and flaunt it. Be generic, and no one will notice. Be unique, and people will appreciate you for your individuality. This advice, we are told, has proven to work in today’s world.

What about the scientific domain? Same thing. I challenge you to find a scientist who wants to be a mathematician, chemist, and philosopher, all at the same time. No, the knowledge domains are too vast to have a generalist knowledge base. Scientists accept as proven wisdom that you’re better off choosing a very specific topic and becoming well-recognised for the high quality of your work. I am sure somewhere out there we can find aPhD on the physiology of the left cornea of redheads in rural North Ireland.

Behind all these examples is the insidious influence of the industrial revolution. With the arrival of organised industry in the late 18th / early 19th century, we started accepting that high degrees of specialisation lead to efficiencies of scale, mass-production of items at low cost, and larger economic markets. Along the industrial revolution we then saw a social revolution that applied the same principle to the fabric of our own culture and society.

Unfortunately, this revolution came with some nasty side effects. A high degree of specialisation has a significant and often hidden cost. Over-specialisation stiffles creativity, generates work and social environments lacking on diversity and its benefits, and reduces the level of innovation. In the sports arena, over-specialisation will lead to unhealthy and unbalanced individuals. Don’t believe me? Just look at this picture of an ultra-endurance athlete. Can you guess how old she is?

Ultra-Endurance Athlete

She is only 45!!

Overspecialisation, like most things taken to an extreme, is not healthy. The question is what are you trying to become: a generalist, or a specialist?

Effective habits, or stale routines?

‘Personal development’ authors often recommend us to “un-learn” old routines, and make space for the effective habits they are about to teach us. These books then spend hundreds of pages to describe habits that promise to turn your life around. Having tried many of these habits myself over the years, I started asking some questions this morning as I was showering. Have I learned effective habits? Are they still effective, or have they become stale routines?

Forgetting about my commitment to water conservation, my mind drifted. I started reflecting. I looked back to the last 5 years or so, and started analysing the little routines and habits I have developed. I scrutinised those I abandoned, like a wrecked ship at the Bermuda triangle. I tried to answer the question: Where they effective? Would they still be effective? Should I bring them back to life, or change current ones for new ones?

Over time, many of the habits, routines and techniques have become ‘guiding principles’ rather than habits. I adapt them and use them as required, depending on the situation. There are, however, some habits that have stuck as habits. For example, I have developed the habit to wake up at 5 AM, before the rest of my family. This is a habit that allows me to have some ‘me’ time. I manage to fit in my meditation, exercise, and writing routines into my day. They are, at this point in time, very effective habits I developed and maintain. That was also the case just before the birth of my youngest boy. But these same habits were woefully ineffective during the last 8 months. My smallest decided not to sleep through the night until he became 9 months old. During that time, getting enough rest became a much higher priority than meditation; and my early-rising habit just dropped off.

What are your habits? Why do they work for you? How do you develop them? Do they still work for you, or is it time to ‘spring clean’ the attic of your mind and start collecting new routines?

As you reflect on these, remember that the only constant in life is change. No matter how much we try to model our world on industrialism and machination, we just can not make anything predictable. Especially our lives, our behaviours, or ourselves. Our environment changes every day. Do do our job, our friends, coworkers, enemies, and even our passions. Within this environment, a habit that could work for you extremely well today is destined to become dead-weight on your shoulders tomorrow.


I encourage you to reflect on those habits, and then make some decisions. Good luck in your journey. Even better, make your own luck by developing the habit of regularly increasing your self-awareness.

How to become an early riser?

A blog article suggests that going to bed only when you feel sleepy and getting up with an alarm clock at a fixed time every dayd of the week is the key. I am yet to get this method to work, but the theory stacks up. I managed to wake up consistently at 5:30 AM for about a month using this method, but have fallen into irregular sleep patterns as of late.

And the element that is implicit but not discussed on the article is motivation. I have found that it is far easier for me to apply such techniques successfully *only* when I have a true desire to make the most of my waking hours; and to have some time for myself.

A routine of meditation, light exercise, a bit of reflection and some writing (whether it is poetry or blog entries) seems to be a great way to start my day. I am working on establishing this routine as a consistent part of my life for the long term. Maybe you could too.

"Everything dies and changes, even radiators"

The above is a quote from “The Way of the peaceful warrior”, an insightful tale of self-discovery by Dan Millman. Taken at face value, it makes you reflect on the constant change that represent our lives. ince everything dies and changes, nothing that makes us happy (or sad) will be there forever.

The person that looks at the world through rose colour glasses will know that nothing that makes her sad will last forever, and continuously looks for a reason to change her state of mind into a happier one.

And the person that looks at the world through dark coloured glasses will focus on the fact that nothing that may be making him happy will last forever, creating a state of anxiety in anticipation of the moment when his current happiness will dissappear.

We all alternate the colour of our glasses with some frequency; the important question is how much of a choice do we have in which glasses we wear today?