January 5, 2011

Jeff Bridges hearts Chögyam Trungpa.

Jeff Bridges in Tricycle, and now Utne re Meditation, Chögyam Trungpa, Lojong.

The Dude abides? Jeff Bridges has been an easy idol to keep since Fearless and Fabulous Baker Boys and that movie with Robin Williams, awesome…and Tron of course way back (was one of the first movies I ever saw on my own with friends as a punk kid). Farther back, the Last Picture Show was killer. And these days, of course, the list is endless—he’s everywhere.

And now, in addition to being interviewed while going on a retreat with Roshi Bernie Glassman, one of our favorite people since I got to study with him a bit at a Vajradhatu Seminary (created by Chogyam Trungpa, who gave me my bodhisattva vow name), Jeff is talking about Chogyam Trungpa and the lojong slogans. Excerpts from Utne:

Read the whole thing at Utne…which, I just realized, all comes from our good pals at Trike!
A few excerpts:
Jeff Bridges enters the living room of his hotel suite carrying a dark blue Shambhala paperback by Chögyam Trungpa titled Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving-Kindness. “One reason I’m anxious—because I have some anxiety about this interview, like you do,” he says, as he arranges his long body on the couch, “is that I wish I could be more facile with these things that I find so interesting and care about and want to express to people.” He opens the book. “This will be a challenge for me,” he says. “But I’ll attempt it.”
In his hotel bedroom are his meditation bell, a travel-size gong timer, and a stack of Buddhist books, including Thich Nhat Hanh’s Walking Meditation and three by Pema Chödrön. Most days, before heading out to the film set, he meditates for half an hour: following his breath, noticing his thoughts, sitting in a chair with his spine straight and his hands resting lightly on his knees.
Right now he’s intently focused on the blue paperback he holds in his hand: Trungpa’s interpretation of the lojong [mind-training] teachings—59 slogans distilled by the 12th-century Tibetan master Geshe Chekawa from the writings of Atisha, a 10th-century Indian Buddhist teacher. They are pithy guideposts along the Mahayana path: “Transform all mishaps into the path of Bodhi.” “Regard all dharmas as dreams.” “Be grateful to everyone.” “Don’t seek others’ pain as the limbs of your own happiness.” “Always maintain only a joyful mind.” Throughout our interview he keeps threading back to these slogans, some simple and others arcane. “The basic idea,” he says, as he opens Trungpa’s book, “is that the things that come up, that we’ve labeled negatively—those are real gifts and opportunities for us to wake up.”

Turning pages, Bridges begins, “I just saw the word joy, and I see it’s underlined twice, and I’ve got a star beside it, so let me read this aloud and see if it’s interesting: ‘As you are dozing off, think of strong determination, that as soon as you wake up in the morning you are going to maintain your practice with continual exertion, which means joy.’ We were talking earlier about anxiety, excitement. That’s an exertion of sorts. But you can have that same exertion, but have this joyful attitude. Like I can study my lines for the day because I’m anxious about it, or I can just have fun studying lines. This word joy—another one of the slogans is ‘Approach all situations with a joyful mind’—I find in my practice that joy is a big part of it. My parents were very joyful people. Whenever my father came onto a set to play a part, you got the sense that he really enjoyed being there, and this was going to be a good time. And everyone was just—[raises his arms] raised! When you relax like that, you’re not trying to force your thing onto the thing. You’re just diggin’ it. My mother was the same way. That’s what I aspire to.”

So there’s joy on the one hand—and you mentioned negative things as an opportunity to wake up. Is this playing out in your acting in True Grit?

[Long pause] It’s difficult to talk about the work, because it’s like a magician talking about how the trick is done.

How about your character, then, the drunken, overweight U.S. marshal who teams up with a 14-year-old girl to track down her father’s killer?

I don’t know if it has anything to do with the lojong thing, but most things do, in a weird way. A bunch of things are popping into my mind. [Pause] “True grit” means that you’re courageous. The habitual tendency when things get tough is that we protect ourselves, we get hard, we get rigid [makes a chopping gesture]—bapbapbapbap. But with this lojong idea, it’s completely topsy-turvy. When we want to get hard and stiff and adamant, that’s the time to soften and see how we might play or dance with the situation. Then everything is workable. In True Grit, my character—all the characters are that way.


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