Questions & Answers
What I write is only as true and useful as what I live. My responses to these few sample questions may provide some insight into my life. I hope you will always find me an open book.
Click any question below to view Dan’s answer:
How did you go from being a college athlete and coach to write books about personal and spiritual growth?
While a college gymnast, it struck me that no matter how much I improved myself, only one person benefited – but if I could influence other people in a positive way, that made my life more meaningful. So I developed an interest in teaching and coaching. Over time, however, my interests took me out of the gymnasium and into the challenges of everyday life. Where I once sought ways to enhance a talent for sports, I began to seek ways to enhance a talent for living. I traveled and studied and explored the depths of my own mind and heart. I also began to study and practice writing and speaking. I’m still a teacher at heart – that hasn’t changed.
I was inspired by Way of the Peaceful Warrior, and Sacred Journey of the Peaceful Warrior -- but how do you apply these lessons to daily life?
Then, in response to many questions like this one, I found it necessary and helpful to write No Ordinary Moments: a peaceful warrior’s guide to daily life, and over the years, numerous other works.
My core teaching books also include:
- Wisdom of the Peaceful Warrior
- The Four Purposes of Life
- Everyday Enlightenment (available as an online course, “Master the Path of the Peaceful Warrior”)
- The Laws of Spirit
- The Life You Were Born to Live
These books offer tools for insight and comprehensive, practical guidance for living with a peaceful heart and a warrior spirit. Each book is another piece of the puzzle, another facet of the way.
In the spring of 2017 I’ll offer a six-hour audio program that touches upon key aspects of all my core teachings.
Your first book reminds me of the writings of Carlos Castañeda, and his teacher, Don Juan. Did you draw upon his earlier work?
Castañeda’s early work and Way of the Peaceful Warrior are similar in the sense they involve a struggling student and mysterious mentor. But life, literature and film overflow with such pairings: Arthur had Merlin, Frodo had Gandalf; Mitch had Morrie; Luke Skywalker had Obi Wan Kenobi and Yoda. And I had my Socrates.
How much of Way of the Peaceful Warrior is true? Is Socrates real or fictional?
Way of the Peaceful Warrior is an autobiographical novel (blending fact and fiction). I did indeed meet a flesh-and-blood character, a cosmic old service station mechanic, about 3 A.M. one starry night in December of 1966. Because he reminded me of the ancient Greek sage, I called him Socrates. My more recent novel, The Journeys of Socrates, relates the challenging saga of his life. (For a short video commentary about Socrates, CLICK HERE)
A more recent book, Wisdom of the Peaceful Warrior, responds to nearly all the questions I’ve been asked over the years about Socrates and the teachings. I consider “Wisdom…” an essential companion to my first book, to truly understand the original teachings.
What about Sacred Journey of the Peaceful Warrior - how much of that book is factual?
Sacred Journey is a novel — largely fictional, but containing some higher truths. Mama Chia is a composite of many women I’ve admired. I wrote it to convey the model of the three selves and the seven-tiered model of our human evolution, which explain much about healing, awareness, and other aspects of our lives.
In The Journeys of Socrates, you reveal more about your relationship to Socrates. How much of this is true?
It’s best to treat this book as a novel to avoid questions and confusion. Bearing in mind Pablo Picasso’s observation that “Art is a lie that helps us to see the truth.” As to the revelation about relationship near the end of that book, I can’t comment here since others who haven’t (yet) read the book may read this.
Your work avoids complex models in favor of an accessible, down-to-earth approach. Is it possible that spiritual sophisticates may not take your work seriously?
I believe it is my ordinary humanity that helps me to build bridges with my readers, and why so many readers personally relate to the material. My work isn’t just about me, it’s about all of us. I am not asking readers to trust me; I’m here to help you trust yourself. My purpose is to remind you of that you already know but might have forgotten. Simplicity is not easy; it’s quite a challenge to bring metaphysical abstractions down to earth. Those who prefer abstract concepts and intellectual philosophies can find them elsewhere.
Close All Questions
Why did Socrates speak to you so harshly at times?
In the course of the story, Socrates poked fun at me to show me how easily I became offended. He treated most people with respect. He had his style; I have mine. Sometimes it may be necessary to shake a student out of denial or lethargy. But I teach with compassion and with respect for the process of each individual.
Since you charge money for your seminars, have you ever been criticized for selling spiritual teachings?
Writers own the fruits of their labors and manner of creative expression. Ideas are free, but it takes considerable labor to bring those ideas into the world in the form of well-chosen words. If all music and literature were free, then few musicians or writers or other artists could support themselves through their creative work.
I'm an aspiring writer, and would love to have you review my work and offer advice. Do you answer such letters and requests directed to you?
While my schedule does not allow me to review or endorse or comment on developing manuscripts or even finished books, I can refer you, on request, to free-lance editors who can help you develop your work. But first, read The Creative Compass!
What is your daily life like?
Then, after a shower and breakfast, unless I’m traveling and speaking, I begin my work day of writing and emails, plus whatever tasks or other duties arise. It used to be family duties, but now that our daughters are grown, Joy and I have settled into new daily and weekly routines and rhythms.
Are you personally enlightened?
My wife and (now-grown) children don’t view me as a teacher, but as a husband and father, respectively. I have my quirks and human foibles, which they point out with regularity (having become my ongoing teachers). We cannot truly know anyone else’s degree of spiritual maturity except by observing how they live, moment to moment.
Do you have a religious affiliation?
My grandparents came from Ukraine. They were Jewish, but I was not raised in any religious school or tradition. I had to find my own connection to spirit. I am a member of no religion but a friend to all traditions that call us to our highest ideals.
I became interested in your books because they remind me of Buddhist teachings. When you depict stoicism in the face of pain, this is what I consider “Zen.” Have you had any formal Zen training?
I am glad my writings remind you of Zen teachings. Many have also noted an affinity to Taoism, Sufism, the Kaballah, Christian mysticism, and the other paths. I cling not to stoicism or any other philosophical school, but to simple humanity. In the face of pain, I hurt. This is natural. I am not trying to be other than who I am. This is also Zen.
Are you affiliated with the “New Age”?
Most of my work presents realistic principles, perspectives, and practices from the conventional and the transcendental – how to live with a peaceful heart and a warrior spirit — with our head in the clouds and feet on the ground. (Now that I have four grandchildren, the bookstores may finally move my books from the New Age to the Middle Age section in the stores.)
I love your life purpose book, The Life You Were Born to Live, a guide to finding your life purpose. But it doesn't seem to cover anyone born after the year 2000. What can you say about these children?
Any recent edition of The Life You Were Born to Live contains a new Afterword (at the end of the book) that responds to various questions, and also addresses the new life paths of some children born in the year 2000 or thereafter. As with any life path, the key is to guide children to work out their particular issues and energies in the positive. One- or two-digit life paths are neither better nor worse than any other; only more focused and intense.
Do you ever recommend other people or resources?
Yes – because no one is smarter than all of us. And there is only one Light but many lamps. However, a book or teacher with whom I resonate may not be a good fit for someone else. So above all, I encourage you to trust your inner knower and follow your heart.
Don't people need a teacher, guru, or guide to complete the journey?
How much of your newest book, “The Hidden School,” is true?
It is best to treat my new book as a novel that reveals higher truths. It does contain or reflect elements from my life. (especially Way of the Peaceful Warrior). As Neil Gaiman wrote, “Tales and dreams are the shadow truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes and forgot.”