Three Take-Aways from “The Dude and The Zen Master”

The Dude Is A Zen Master
Being an adventurer is not limited to the outer world. Personal development is the ultimate adventure and it is crucial to the open-mindset of the adventurer. Jeff and Bernie do a great job of bringing some basic Zen practices into focus through the lens of The Big Lebowski, in “The Dude and the Zen Master.” Here are the three concepts I brought away.

The Dude and The Zen Master
Describes 3/4 of my life

Personally I am fan of Jeff Bridges, and The Big Lebowski was the first time I encountered him. The Big Lebowski evolved from a movie I enjoyed watching as background noise to a persona around which I built an entire brand. It’s fitting that this book was recommended to me by a close friend after he had read it. 

In short Bernie Glassman and Jeff Bridges sit down to a chat between friends on Bridges’ ranch. Bernie had been wanting to make the Zen teachings more relatable to the average individual. He was toying with using an assertion that Jeff’s character in The Big Lebowski, “The Dude”, is a zen master.

The book was a super easy read using a simple conversational tone to cover some “really big stuff”, as a friend of mine would say. The simplicity of the text leaves plenty of brain power to contemplate the thoughts being discussed between the two. 

I found these three points in the book to be of interest, and have even been able to apply a couple of them. 


They take some time discussing the statement “Yeah, Well, Ya Know, That’s Just Like, uh, Your Opinion, Man.”. My take away from the discussion is that remembering what others say to us and what we say to others are simply opinions. This fundamentally changes how I view a conversation. 

The point is that it’s ok to have different opinions. Unlike one person being right and the other wrong, a very confrontational view point, both sides are free to retain their opinions and go forth unburdened by conflict. 

I have been trying to apply this in daily practice over the last month. As I sit here writing I can think of a dozen instances I should of used it that I did not. The instances that I was successful in applying the concept, I found it to be very useful. 

3 Concepts of Mindfulness In This Book

 “Yeah, Well, Ya Know, That’s Just Like, uh, Your Opinion, Man.”

 “Row, row, row your boat, gently…”

“I’m living like I’m already dead.”

Gently Down The Stream

Row, row, row your boat GENTLY down the stream. Bernie & Jeff hop into a story in which this childhood nursery rhyme is applied to addressing the daily challenges of life. The short and the sweet of it is life is the river and we can work to experience life by gently rowing our boat down the river.

As they continue their conversation they refer back to the anecdote through out the book with “Row, row, row…” either as a reminder to take things in stride or as a solution to specific instances of angst.

A mentor once shared a similar mantra, “The waves come and go, but the ocean abides.” In essence, the challenges of life, big and small, will come and go. Like the ocean experiences the wave yet remains unchanged, we can strive for balance in our daily dealings. 

Again, these are some big concepts yet they seem easily within reach when boiled down to a nursery rhyme. Bravo!

The Dude Is A Zen Master
I picked this great image up from CriticalCactus.Com's blog "15 Reasons Why The Dude Is A Zen Master," check the blog out by clicking on the image.

“I’m living like I’m already dead”

In the last few pages of the book Jeff brings up living like one is already dead as a way to embrace the fact that little is so dire that it can truly affect us in the longterm. It is a very liberating and perspective setting idea. 

I like how the discussion led to a simple conclusion, if death is the ultimate uncertainty and you can convince yourself that you have already addressed that then what is left to be concerned about? Admittedly I am struggling to pull this one into daily practice. I will likely have to mull it over a bit more to fully grasp it. 

Jeff did a nice job summing it up by speaking about his mother in her later years.

“There was no time for mincing any words, just: This is it. And there is something beautiful and kind of relaxing about that.” 

There were many more points that I am sure were lost on me. I would recommend giving this a quick once through, maybe even a second pass if you find a particular gem you would like to dwell on. 

I am just beginning my journey in mindfulness and was able to pull two useful daily practices and a point to mull over for future implementation. That is a pretty decent yield for a single book that reads like a conversation with an old friend. 

Share your thoughts on practices that you use to develop your mindfulness in your daily life.

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