The Zen master who chain-smoked and had three mistresses. Maybe.

I recall a story I read somewhere about a zen master who chain-smoked and had one mistress, two mistresses or three mistresses - not sure how many they were, or if they were married or not. Can't remember.

Anyway. An American that was making his life about Zen... followed him to Japan. I don't recall the reason exactly. Either he had practiced with him in California or the reputation of this zen master was so awesome that he just had to see it for himself.

So, the student flies to Japan, seeks out, and starts practice with the zen monk. The practice was working for him. He sat. He breathed in. He breathed out. He was accumulating experience in the cradle of Zen!

One day, having some free time the student followed the zen master (or heard the story about someone else who had followed said zen master) to some place he frequented, frequented often, outside the practice.

The houses of said Zen master's, one, two or three mistresses - none, one, or all of them who might be married - with whom he got drunk and had an affair.

The student upon hearing or seeing this (can't recall which one) had a sudden crisis of faith, and after much inner doubt, confronting the zen master and asked why?

I don't know if the zen master preceded his answer by some knowing silence, said casually, or used telepathy or an imperceptible wave of the hand, but basically he told the conflicted American student to just sit, which, I believe the guy quickly caught on to as an important lesson:

Let go of the preconceptions of what the practice is about beyond breathing. Let go of the preconception of what the zen master should be about. To practice Zen was to sit. To breath in. To breath out.

Now. I don't know if I have butchered some story with some of these plot points, told it as it was, or made it up , conceiving it as someone else's story, or if the whole thing is apocryphal.

I do know this story is about the effect that judgement has in our lives. The effect judgement has in our mind and soul; in our decisions and in our actions. I could be wrong. But I think that's what it's about.

This post is about what I have learned about the effects displacing judgement with curiosity may have in your life. The benefits I have found from doing this as much as possible. What's there if you are curious to try it out.


I have no judgement about judgement. It must serve a purpose, no? We spend so much time learning about it, doing it. Do this; not this. Good. Bad. True. False. "Use your judgement to make the right decision, Mary." "Use good judgement, Brian." "Judge what's right for you." It must serve some purpose. Maybe many. Social order? Cohesion? Solving the problem in the best way possible? Getting the results you want? Who knows, really. It's there and a lot of us "judge" a lot of what we do. We do. Most of us. It's there.

I remember I used to take the bus to work everyday in LA. I could afford a car but I took the bus instead. Why not? I remember I used to arrive to and from work with a headache! A headache from judging. People came into the bus... who is he, she? What do they do? Where are they going? Are they working or loafing? Employed, unemployed? Can I use a tick they have in some kind of story, conversation? Why am I spending my time looking and thinking about these people? Could I be listening to music? To a book on tape? To my inner self? You know the drill.

Result. Exhaustion. Like clockwork. Exhaustion going into work. Exhaustion coming back from work. I began and ended my day drained.

I've been curious about why this happened, why I allowed then, and often allow now (it slips in, can't help it) my mind to judge. I mean judge non-life threatening thing. Judge the trivial. Judge what makes no difference, really, to my life. Judge what I can't really judge, or know.

I guess I did and do it out of training. Maybe inertia. Boredom. Maybe not knowing what else to do with my mind when not fully engaged. Who knows? Who cares.

The thing is that it's exhausting and this year I learned a tool that makes living less exhausting, makes living, makes living more fun.

Dr. Justin Mager, who we interviewed for the documentary in Sausalito, in March and July, triggered the click. He said a simple phrase that changed my life. "Displace judgement with curiosity."

Maybe I was ready for the phrase? Maybe it's a powerful mind-changing Koan I should share to liberate all from suffering? Maybe it's nothing. But this way of thinking, this mind-set can make a huge difference in your life. If you let it. If you are curious about it. I think.

A few examples from last year.

The documentary I am co-producing and co-directing Blood, Berries and Butter interviewed over 33 wellness mavericks, with different approaches, theories, that are somehow working. They are working for them. They are working for the people who self-select to try them.

These guys are not afraid to experiment. To thinks for themselves. To dig down the rabbit hole. To have, in the case of Nicholas Perricone, whole labs constantly stress-testing new ideas. To have, in the case Steven Fowkes, revolutionary theories about the importance of fat metabolism in brain function dysfunction. To have, like Dave Asprey, a store that sells the products he has researched, used, gotten results from, are hard to get, and he wants to make available. Guys who may or may not publish books and run organizations - promoting what they believe in - for a financial profit or loss. Guys (and gals), of course, who say what they believe in, what has worked.

Except for three guys - who we chose not to include in the documentary (one of them a super best-selling author holding cult status among many today), who are just liars, the guys we included are legitimately worth listening to. Sure. You can google any of them and find the critics. Sure. You may immediately dismiss them because they espouse a belief system different than your own. Sure. Just knowing that they are in the documentary, just reading a criticism, or seeing their ugly face may turn you off.

If it does and you judge you can't change this or don't care to change it. No problem. No judgement.

Remember, though, that anybody. Anybody who has said anything. Jesus. Gandhi. The Dalai Lama. Jay-Z. Elvis. The doctors of the Harvard and Stanford medical school. Everyone, everything have their critics, one star-Amazon reviews, the angry non-fan. Does it make what these people say or sing about not valid for the group of people that flow with the vision? When you listen to them... won't you kind of know if it clicks or not for you better than just shutting out up front.I don't know? I wonder.

If you are curious about what they are saying - even if it's how much you judge rehashed, how much of it you judge to be complete bs, how much of it you judge to be dangerous - whatever. If you are curious about what they are saying. Have tried everything for what's troubling you and want to try out something else? If you are curious at why things are working for them big time. Why is it that people taking completely different approaches to diet, exercise, mindfulness, lifestyle are getting awesome results. How our new ability to communicate and technology may be changing the way, the possibilities, I invite you to listen to what they are saying - in their own blogs, seminars, interviews, books - in our documentary, in other documentaries.  Take off your team's and brain t-shirt for a while and hang out.

Because I am truly curious if any of what they say may trigger a though/idea that may be helpful to you, because I am curious if this may be as life-changing to you as it has been to me and the many people I met this year. Dude. Many of them literally shine out health.... ( For real. I have the footage.)