12. The Dude in Moments of Undudeness
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When the Dude is squeezed by life, when he or she has no time to call their own, when they are too busy to sit quietly and recline with an air of ease, how do they stop themselves from becoming undude?
Life can be tough. Despite your wanting for a relaxed day you might find yourself rushing at work to complete a project, stepping through the door at home to find you are instantly needed, that something only you can fix has gone wrong, that the kids need a dinner on the table and only you can do it, there's washing to be done, there are plates to be put away... life, life, life.
So, What Do I Do?
So, right now, I have just completed a tiring day at work. One of my customers has messed up with something and needs my help to make it all better. Fine. No problem, that's why I am here. But I am also at home. My partner has had to take her daughter to an interview miles away, and has the baby too. They are going to come back hungry. I know it. They won't have fed themselves on the road. The two boys here are playing on games consoles and I've just given them pizzas. I'm also hungry and need to do something. The water between the kitchen and the bathroom hasn't been clearing away properly and I've been gradually fixing it. There's the dishwasher things to put away, the kitchen to clean, some bills to pay right now, and so on.
And I sometimes feel myself clenching inside. And this is resistance. A struggle between what is and how I want it to be. Look at the boys, I hear myself saying, nothing to do but play games all afternoon. And I know they need to enjoy it because these free times don't last for long in mankind's busy life. And look at me, not a second to sit down, always rushing, always facing expectations. Blah blah blah.
The mind cannot fix this.
You Cannot Talk Yourself Out Of It, But You Can Do This...
Even if I were to talk myself into feeling better by comparing my life to those less fortunate: there are people in the world in a much worse position (true), there are single mothers in the world having far greater stress (true), but then I also know there are hordes of people sitting outside a pub right now sunning themselves while they slack off from life's needs and reward themselves with a nice root beer and something to eat.
So, what do I do?
The same presence of calm that can be felt during meditation is always available to me because it is always present. It's a case of finding it. It's between thoughts. It's between the thrum of life that flows through your body. It's in the life around you. Right now as I type...
The baby cot is completely still. The curtains are hanging still, the plants are still, the lightshade is still... Look where you are and at the things around you.
And it's not just stillness. It's how they feel. It is a presence of something incredibly settled. Some greater people than I have called it the Source.
Returning to the Source
And when I return to that. When I say no to my thoughts and return to the only thing that matters; the settled presence of where I am and what I am doing now, then I return to the Dude. I return to the thing that never changes, the thing that is always present whether I look inside myself or I look at the curtains and the baby cot. Stillness is life's quality. It lies behind the energy of everything. It's behind me and you, behind our faces, within us. And the same goes for everything else. And when I notice this...
I lose some of my tension.
I drop being uptight.
Guarding the Beauty Within
So, now that I have written this blog, and I will go to cook something for when the girls return home, and I will clean the kitchen to reduce their stress, and I will read through some important documents that I need to sign, and of course, I need to get my son ready for bed, and spend time with my baby daughter...
I can't do that without carrying the stillness within me.
In Daoism, it is called guarding the yin. To hold and protect the presence of calm that rests in our torso. It is to walk and work as though a cauldron of water lies in our bellies and our thoughts and tension cause it to spill over. When it does, it creates an upward movement of energy that turns into a feeling of stress, of shortness of breath that goes from our belly into our chests, it brings a tension to the shoulders, and we begin to contract, and often with that we experience headaches. But the opposite releases all of this, and the energy returns to a settledness at the base of our belly. And unlike thoughts, unlike feelings, and unlike stress, it is always available to us.*
The Dao de Jing asks, do you have the patience to wait here and let the mud settle so that the water clears?
When we look inside, through the clear still water, passed our thoughts, passed our stresses, at the endless stillness there, when we look inside that, we see the Dude staring back at us.
Love and stillness my Dudeist brothers and sisters.
The Reverend Thomo
*Please note that if you have been diagnosed with clinical depression or think that you might suffer from it, you should seek advice from your doctor or psychotherapist because looking within can sometimes deepen a sense of depression.