The Peaceful Warrior is a film version of Dan Millman’s popular autobiographical book about spiritual awakenings he experienced in his youth. In the film, young Millman is guided by Socrates, a wise older man who teaches him how to gain control over his busy, wandering mind.
One of my favorite scenes in the movie takes place at the gas station where Socrates works. Socrates challenges the young man to stand in a particular posture for just five minutes. Millman thinks this is no big deal and takes the position – standing on a small table with knees bent and arms extended outward. After only a minute or so, Millman starts fidgeting and demanding to know how much time has passed. Before long, he loses his balance and stumbles backward off the table. Embarrassed by his failure, he stomps out of the gas station.
Yeon Dahn and Getting Back to Your Core
Stopping him before he leaves, Socrates tells Millman, “Everyone tells you what to do and what’s good for you. They don’t want you to find your own answers. They want you to believe theirs.” Millman replies, “Let me guess. You want me to believe yours.” And Socrates responds, “No. I want you to stop gathering information from outside yourself and start gathering it from the inside.”
This scene reminds me of the one of the most effective energy development exercises I know of, called yeon dahn. The word yeon in Korean refers to the process of hardening steel through pounding and fire, as when making a sword; the word dahn means “primal energy.” Like the sword is strengthened, your mind and energy are strengthened through yeon dahn. The practice involves holding a posture for an extended period of time, not unlike the one in The Peaceful Warrior. And just as Socrates suggests to Millman, the practice offers a great way to get back to the core of who you are.
A standing posture like the one in the movie, however, is very difficult, so I recommend an easier one to begin. The usual beginning posture is one called “Sleeping Tiger.” Before you start it, you should stretch and open your body. You could do it right after your daily yoga routine, or you could do ten to fifteen minutes of any sort of stretching, so long as you work all your muscles and joints. Follow these steps to take the “Sleeping Tiger” position:
- Lay down on the floor on a towel or yoga mat in the Corpse pose – feet slightly parted and arms to the side with palms to the ceiling.
- Close your eyes and breathe naturally, bringing your breath down into your belly. Scan your body from head to toe, releasing all tension from the body.
- Slowly bring your legs up, holding the hip and knee joints at 90-degree angles. The legs should remain parallel and the knees and feet should be parted slightly.
- Bring your arms up, your palms facing the ceiling and your elbows slightly bent.
- Hold the posture for about five minutes to begin, up to 30 minutes when you’ve practiced a while.
- As you hold the posture, focus on your lower abdomen, the site of the second chakra. You will feel heat and energy gathering here. You may also experience some shaking or burning in the muscles as your energy meridians open up.
- When time is up, slowly bring your arms and legs down. Cross your legs in a lying half-lotus and place your palms on your lower abdomen. Feel the energy circulating in your body and return to Corpse posture when you feel ready.
As you practice “Sleeping Tiger,” you may notice your mind wandering here and there, going outside of yourself and the moment. This is normal, so don’t worry. Just keep bringing your mind back to your lower abdomen, which is the center of your physical and energetic self. This posture teaches you how to stay centered and calm – and true to your highest self – throughout your day.
As you learn to stay in this center, you will open yourself to insights from the very core of your being. Or as Socrates puts it, you will learn to gather information not from the outside world, but from right within yourself.