30 September 2013

The Dude and the Zen Master

The Dude Abides.

One September day, I read The Dude and the Zen Master in one sitting, about two hours, in the sun, in my back yard.  Seems like The Dude deserved the sunshine-y, high-quality treatment!

True confessions: I don't know much about Zen Buddhism, or even Buddhism in general. And this book isn't going to make you an expert either.  It might whet your appetite to know more, though, as it has for me.  What I do know seems to make excellent sense on how to be a decent human being.  How to live with yourself and others in a healthy way.

Little did I know that Jeff Bridges is a real perfectionist and pretty hard on himself.  I just always imagine him being just as "chill" as The Dude in The Big Lebowski.  Not so.  He worries a lot.  He worries about his performances as an actor, or as a public speaker.  Zen seems to help him escape some of this anxiety, that Zen is just "being" - just "showing up".  Kind of "don't sweat the small stuff."  I know that I can benefit being reminded of this!

I learned about this book back in January when Jeff Bridges was on tour promoting The Dude and the Zen Master.   Here's a link to his Daily Show appearance regarding this book:

The Dude and the Zen Master on The Daily Show 

This book is a transcribed conversation between Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman. It is highly readable, because you, the reader, are a fly-on-the-wall during these long talks between Jeff and Bernie.  Both of them feel like people I'd like to be friends with, very socially-active, loving people.  It's nice to know that a "big-shot" like Jeff Bridges is actually really down-to-earth.  He's been married to his wife for many years (30 or so?) but he's frank about how they do get on one another's nerves (and how they manage  to keep loving each other even at those times).  His relationships with his children, with co-stars or others he has worked with for many years in the film industry.  How Zen is a process.... 

This book covers a lot of ground, and I'm not very good at getting something as big as Zen Buddhism into a nutshell (is anyone?).  So I'm not going to try.  But I am going to tell you that not only is this book worth reading, I want to re-read it.  Because I think more of it will sink in the second time around.

I like knowing, and being reminded, that it's okay to "let go."  Here's their wonderful metaphor.  You may have a river you have to cross in your life.  In order to cross it, you create a raft, or a canoe, and paddles... awesome tools to manage your problem.  But when you get to the other side, you don't need those tools anymore.  They have served their purpose.  However, a lot of us get stuck: "I have these awesome paddles!  This terrific raft!" But what you're really doing is hindering yourself, lugging this stuff around a different environment... a woodland, for example.  When you have conquered some old stuff, and you're in a new place in your life, stop lugging the old stuff around.  It takes courage, but figure out and make some new stuff.... new tools to deal with your present challenges.

The Dude embodies a lot of what it is to be Zen, but you don't have to be as Zen as The Dude to also be adhering to Zen Buddhism.  I'm not The Dude, and never will be.  But I can be a pretty Zen "Aimee" if I want.  It's a process....

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