Lessons from Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman. The book is a semi biographical account with added metaphors and anecdotes describing how the author changed his life and reached awareness. Not all of us will be lucky enough to meet a guru like life teacher such as Socrates however, we can take some key themes away from the book:
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 was 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 that I had to master before I could awaken to a simple, happy, uncomplicated life.
Do not take yourself to seriously. The ego survives on making you believe you are the most important being in the universe and entitled to everything. This makes it harder for people to have real empathy for each other, communicate with compassion, accept lifes set backs and be none judgemental. Humour is a great way to stop negative thoughts spiralling and make perceived threats easier to respond to effectively without over reaction.
Stay in the present moment. You have to be the master of your own thoughts, let go of attachment to arising thoughts. Give everything your present attention:
when troubling thoughts and memories arise without your intent, it's not your brain working, but your mind wandering. Then the mind controls you.
Act on your knowledge. Knowledge alone will not make you happy, you have to use the knowledge to take the right course of action.
Take responsibility for your own life. Do not blame other people or circumstances for your situation. Every circumstance in your life has been, in large part, arranged by you consciously or unconsciously:
Your feelings and reactions, Dan, are automatic and predictable; mine are not. I create my life spontaneously; yours is determined by your thoughts, your emotions, your past.
Life is not suffering; its just that you will suffer it, rather than enjoy it, until you let go of your mind's attachments and just go for the ride freely, no matter what happens
You don't need a reason to be happy. It is who you are not something you feel. All achievements, goals, searches are equal but ultimately unnecessary. Happiness has always lied within you.
You don't need to control emotion. Emotions are like waves do not resist them let them occur, do not wonder if you should be feeling this emotion just let it wash over you. This way you will stop thoughts being attached to the emotion which will prolong it unnecessarily. Learn to use the emotion to take constructive action.
In the final part of the book Dan has a quite a dramatic vision which finally awakens him or enables him to reach a form of enlightenment. He has the most beautiful words to describe it:
I had lost my mind and fallen into my heart.
Though its quite unusual to have a vision of that extreme nature, quite often a search for greater meaning to life will occur after a particularly distressful series of events, loss, heartbreak or illness. When your behavior or thoughts suddenly don't make sense and you first start questioning what those behaviors or beliefs are actually based on you may feel like you are in fact losing your mind. But as Dan Millman evidences; its a necessary part of the process of learning how to live and be happy.
You can buy the book here
Dan Millman, Way of the Peaceful Warrior: A Book That Changes Lives - First released 30 June 2006