|Volume 7: No. 12|
Ever wish that fortune cookies gave detailed, practical advice? Maybe a book-length fortune cookie, about your personal faults and how to overcome them?
I recently read Dan Millman's "The Life You Were Born to Live: A Guide to Finding Your Life Purpose" (H.J. Kramer, 1993). It's outrageously flawed, but useful. Millman is the author of several "peaceful warrior" books that I've enjoyed. This time he went off the deep end. The book's top-level structure (or "Life Purpose System") is based on birth dates and numerology. Everyone born on the same day, around the world, is supposedly facing the same sequence of emotional and spiritual challenges. What could he be thinking, except that people are suckers?
If you can get past the crackpot indexing, there's a ton of good coaching in the book. Millman defines nine dimensions along which you may be having problems: creative energy and confidence; cooperation and balance; expression and sensitivity; stability and patience; freedom and discipline; vision and acceptance; trust and openness; abundance and power; and integrity and wisdom. He describes at length the kind of personality associated with each problem area.
Here are my very brief summaries of four challenges, each requiring a balance between extremes:
Cooperation and Balance: To accept limited responsibility so that you can work with others. You must balance your sense of responsibility to others with your own needs and limits. You may feel overwhelmed, or resistant and reactive, or you start out overly helpful and then withdraw. You may be codependent (needing to "mother" or manage others) or resentful. With balance, you could learn to be a good diplomat.
Vision and Acceptance: To reconcile your high ideals with practical reality and to accept yourself, your world, and the present moment through an overview or expanded vision of life. You need to overcome perfectionist tendencies by remembering priorities. Your idealism leads to disappointment with yourself and others. You tend to be hypercritical, but with expansive vision and acceptance you could be a good judge.
Trust and Openness: To trust the spirit within yourself, in others, and in your life so that you feel safe to open up and share with the world. You may feel bitter, betrayed, or paranoid, or use intellect as a shield. You tend to be isolated and suspicious, but with insight and openness you can be a good scholar.
Abundance and Power: To work with abundance, power, or recognition, and to apply your success in service of the common good. You must reconcile your drive to achieve success with your opposing fears or your distaste for wealth and power. You tend to sabotage yourself. You may be opportunistic, passive-aggressive, or self-deceiving, but with productivity and generosity could develop into a philanthropist.
Millman urges you to grow from the harmful, negative side of each problem/path to the fulfilling, positive side. (Yes, the nine life "forces" each have a dark side. Or two dark sides. :-) You may be working on more than one challenge, so the book has individual sections on 37 of the ordered triples. (Millman claims that only these 37 triples actually occur. Extreme bullshit. But there's a lot of overlap, and you can probably identify two or three that cover your own personality.) For these populations he offers practical recommendations about work, relationships, diet, and choice of exercise, plus spiritual advice.
You can eventually sort out which challenges apply to yourself, your spouse, and your associates. Just ignore the numerology and read the book for its spiritual insights. Expect plenty of generality in each description -- as in astrological readings, or fortune cookies -- but also significant difference between them. Some will speak to your current concerns; others won't. There's a lot to think about.
The book starts from a flawed, pseudoscientific premise, but I look beneath that for the cultural aspects. (Ditto for chi gong, t'ai chi, feng shui, etc.) What do people get out of it? Why do they keep coming back? How could that benefit be offered in a scientific framework? It's an anthropological approach, and a pragmatic one. But a little strange.