Sharpening the Intellect

May 22, 2019

By Esther Veltheim

late Middle English: from Old French question (noun), questionner (verb), from Latin quaestio(n- ), from quaerere 'ask, seek'.

 Real courage is risking something that might force you to rethink your thoughts and suffer change and stretch consciousness. Real courage is risking one's clichés."

– Tom Robbins

As you surely know, life is messy, challenging, painful, difficult and also has its great pleasures, joys and wonders. To be human is daunting to each and every one of us. Nothing is permanent, nothing is sure, nothing is predictable. When our intellect dulls, its thinking processes are all geared towards resisting these self-evident facts about being human. It is this resistance to life that keeps us feeling trapped within ourselves and trapped by circumstance. No circumstance traps us. Not using our intellect to its full potential, that is a different matter.

To sharpen our intellect is not something many of us have been taught to do. Many educational institutions and religions and philosophies have taught us quite the opposite: dependence and subservience. They have taught us to even undertake practices to dull our intellect.

The practice of sharpening our intellect might well be called an unlearning process. We are not getting rid of anything at all. We are simply breaking the habit using one of the most brilliant tools we have in a very limited way. In the upcoming Satsang in Ireland, our focus will be to unlearn intellectually dulling habits. Each of these events will have as its focus honing the art of questioning. As children, the art of questioning just came naturally to us, so it was not an art.

As adults, for us to tap into this treasure again, a deep commitment to ourselves is required. Learning how to use our intellect effectively is, essentially, a growing up process. We are discovering how to take responsibility for ourselves in a way that nobody else can. This is why the process of sharpening the intellect is an art, a creative process.

As we shift from being slaves to our mental processes, the intellect serves us in remarkable ways. Our mind feels less contracted and increasingly expansive. As our relationship with our intellect transforms, this expansiveness is reflected throughout our entire system.
"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer."

– Rainer Maria Rilke

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