08/31/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

True Intelligence: Beyond The Intellect

A Japanese Zen master once received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

The master served tea. The Japanese tea ceremony is long and complex, and the scientist became increasingly impatient as the master went calmly through the 54 steps of the ceremony. When the tea was ready, he began to fill his visitor's cup. When the cup was full, he continued to pour.

The tea began to overflow, and the professor could restrain himself no longer. "It is already full. No more will go in!"

"Like this cup", the master said, "You are full of your own opinions and ideas. How can I teach you if you have not first emptied your cup?"

The human intellect is an incredible thing. It has birthed myriad discoveries, conveniences and inventions that continue to innovate the world we live in. The current advances in technology are fascinating, and are creating a way of life that a few decades ago seemed like science fiction. Yet the mind, for all its marvelous complexity, works within the constraints of duality. Good bad, right wrong, light dark, up down; these are the tenets that the intellect is ruled by. It is impossible for the intellect to see beyond its own constraints; impossible, for example, for the intellect to understand love. It can make an attempt maybe, at describing the feeling, maybe explain chemical reactions that create a feeling of love, but love itself cannot be fully conceived by the intellect.

If we wish to experience consciousness, we must go beyond the realm of the intellect. We must let go of the known, and move into the unbounded void. The walls we have built hold us in the safety of our limitations, but these walls also keep us imprisoned in dissatisfaction. Our natural curiosity will always pull naggingly from the subconscious, encouraging us to move beyond what we have become accustomed to and to seek something more.

The intellect is prized almost above all else in western society, yet it is so very limited in so many ways. This is lucky, for if we were to understand everything, we would lose the mystery that makes life an adventure. It is the uncertainty that brings intrigue and excitement into life. How very boring things would soon become if we knew all the answers.

Moving Beyond The Intellect

We have become so accustomed to the constraints of the mind that it has become like a matrix, in which we have become ensnared. We identify with the mind so profoundly that we think it is who we are. In order to return to our natural state of innocence and joy, which we experienced once as children, we must move beyond the intellect. How can we do that?

Be in The Moment

We've all heard it before, but how often are we able to actually do it? Being in the moment is a valuable habit to develop, and can be developed in the same way we have become accustomed to doing the opposite: living constantly in the past and the future. Every time you chose to bring your awareness into this moment, you are strengthening the habit of being present.

Admit It... You Don't Know Everything

"I don't know" is one of the most powerful expressions on the journey of inner growth. When you realize that you don't know something, you open to receive. Like the scientist, we must first empty our cup of the convictions and opinions that impede us from finding a new perspective, from hearing the voice that calls from beyond the halls of the mind.

Listen to Our Feelings

Our emotions are often overlooked by the intellect, but by allowing ourselves to feel, we become more connected with our bodies, and regain the abandoned territory that the intellect has come to repress and ignore. Allow yourself to feel your emotions innocently, and without judgement; you will find greater self acceptance and a deeper, more authentic sense of joy.

Don't Analyze

When you watch a movie, do you start wondering how the image got onto your television screen? Which satellite it is bouncing off, how each individual pixel creates all the different colors? No; that would make the movie really boring! Then why is it we cannot watch life in the same way, innocently embracing the wonderment and mystery, the unexpected chapter that is around the corner? Why are we always analyzing, dissecting? Try just witnessing your life instead of obsessing over the whys. What if there is no why? What if it just is, and all you have to do is simply be? If you try too hard to understand, you will only end up more confused! Instead, try being lighter, more innocent. You will start to understand things from a deeper space, beyond the doubts and uncertainties that inevitably accompany the reasoning of the intellect.

Listen to Your Internal Voice

There is a knowing that is beyond the mind. Unlike intellectual understanding, which always sees two sides of an argument, this voice never doubts. It trusts itself implicitly, and speaks with absolute clarity. When it comes, it will come without warning; suddenly you will find yourself speaking, without even understanding why. Yet you will hear the truth in your words. You will feel it. Listen. It is there, lying within. You will hear it.

Do you have any stories to share about how a bad time in your life has ended up being a gift? I'd love to hear about it in the comments section. You can receive notice of this blog every week by clicking on "Become a Fan" at the top of this page. Isha's latest book and movie, "Why Walk When You Can Fly?" explains her system for self-love and the expansion of consciousness. Her website is