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Lions Roar : May 2013
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2013 54 JEFF B RIDGES PLAYED his first film role when he was six months old, an uncredited part in the 1951 release The Company She Keeps. By nature he was a happy baby, but his part required him to cry. “Just give him a little pinch,” his mother suggested. “So that,” Bridges laughs, “was the beginning of my acting career.” Bridges describes himself as “Buddhistly bent.” As often as he can, he does sitting meditation for twenty minutes in the morn- ings and he reads the dharma, especially the teachings of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Pema Chödrön. He says he’s particularly into lojong, a Mahayana system of mind training, and is curious about the Kagyu lineage of Vajrayana Buddhism, sometimes called “the mishap lineage” and renowned for some outrageous char- acters who rejected the saintly stereotypes. Paraphrasing Pema Chödrön, Bridges says that “when you pay homage to these cats, whom people could think of as very flawed,” you’re paying hom- age to that side of yourself as well, accepting the full package of who you are. Like all of us, they started out as confused, mixed-up people, and yet—by never giving up on themselves—they ulti- mately discovered their own genuine quality, their buddhanature. According to Bridges, when he meditates he often makes small adjustments to get back into the space of simply being, and as an actor he does the same thing. He plays a scene one way, then another, and each time he makes an adjustment he clicks into a new space—the space of the present moment. As a kid, Bridges practiced his acting skills with his father, Lloyd, the well-known star of Sea Hunt, a high-adventure televi- sion series that was syndicated for decades. In The Dude and the Zen Master, Bridges recounted, “If we were doing a scene together, he’d say, ‘Don’t just wait for my mouth to stop talking before you answer. Listen to what I’m saying and let that inform how you talk back. If I say things one way, you’re going to react one way, and if I say them a different way, you’re going to react a different way.’ Or he’d give me this direction: ‘Make it seem like it’s happening for the first time.’ ” In Zen that’s called beginner’s mind. Recently, Bridges worked on the supernatural cop film R.I.P.D., and just before beginning a scene his costar Kevin Bacon would state gravely: “Remember, everything depends on this!” Because the filming was so clearly not a life-and-death situation, this would make everyone laugh and peel away the tension. But, according Bridges, there was a grain of truth in what Bacon said. In a sense, everything does depend on just this moment. Bridges’ late mother, Dorothy Bridges (née Simpson), played a great role in informing his spirituality. While he was growing up, she had him and his siblings read The Daily Word over break- Cybill Shepherd and Jeff Bridges in Peter Bogdanovich’s seminal The Last Picture Show, Bridges’ breakthrough role. THELASTPICTURESHOW©1971,RENEWED1999COLUMBIAPICTURESINDUSTRIES,INC.ALLRIGHTSRESERVEDOPPOSITE:©COURTESYOFUNIVERSALSTUDIOSLICENSINGLLC