Film: “Peaceful Warrior”, by Pranada Devi

At Parvati Magazine, we especially like to showcase books, films or music that celebrate an “a-ha” moment where a person awakens to a greater reality than their limited ego. One such a-ha movie is the 2006 film “Peaceful Warrior”, in which an ambitious young gymnast encounters a teacher who helps him transform his life forever.

The movie, based on real life events, tells the story of Dan Millman, a college gymnast who seems to have everything going for him – competitive success, popularity, material abundance – but who has trouble sleeping at night because of unknown fear. On one of his insomnia-fueled bike rides, he encounters an old man at a service station who does something unexpected and apparently impossible.

Intrigued, Dan begins to study with the old man, whom he nicknames Socrates. “Socrates” guides him to release attachment to the “trash” – the endless thoughts – in his mind that keep him from being fully present. As Dan continues to practice with Socrates, he begins to experience a series of “a-ha” moments, awakening to the richness of the present moment and to compassion for others. As this happens, he becomes ever more capable as a gymnast – for a while. Then he hits a stuck spot, begins to feel more and more tired and unhappy, performs poorly, doubts the path, and leaves Socrates, plunging back into the lifestyle of drinking and one-night stands he had enjoyed beforehand. His friends and coach are pleased, thinking that he has gotten back to “normal”.

But Dan’s frenetic mind has not quieted, and a reckless drive on his motorcycle results in an accident that shatters his leg and apparently ends his career as a gymnast. His life falls apart.

Having lost any sense of who he is and what he can hold on to, Dan returns to Socrates at the service station. Socrates resumes the teaching, thwarting Dan’s egoic expectations at every turn to awaken him to deeper wisdom. Dan resumes gymnastic practice with this broader perspective. He finds the humility to apologize to his friends for not being a good friend to them. He regains physical strength and continues to grow in wisdom and presence.

Finally, Dan returns to his college’s gymnastic team and astonishes his coach and teammates with what he can do.

“Peaceful Warrior” is guilty at times of taking Hollywood shortcuts – focusing on dramatic special effects to illustrate the power of “a-ha” moments more than on really evoking the energy of the still mind from which such moments arise – such that it is not always energetically resonant with the teachings it’s illustrating. But the overall picture, of the power of a wise and compassionate teacher (who is really within you all along) guiding you to be fully present in your life, feels pretty accurate.

“Peaceful Warrior” could be a life-changing movie, if it’s the first time you’re hearing of teachings like these and you take the time to integrate them fully into your life. For those who are already acquainted with the teachings of a perfect master, this movie won’t show you anything new, but it will show the beauty and joy of someone who releases all attachment to fear and thinking, lives fully in the present moment and does what they are born to do. The more movies that illustrate such moments, the better!


Pranada Devi is a communications professional living in Toronto, Canada. She is the Managing Editor of Parvati Magazine, and serves as an advisor on marketing communications for Parvati’s various projects.