QUESTION: Does one need to be of a superior intellect to become enlightened? How am I to know that I am watching my thoughts (meditating), and not actually thinking? Is there a simple step to ensure that one is actually meditating and not thinking?

ANSWER: Intelligence, the wonderful tool that can help us navigate our material world can, in fact, be a hindrance in spiritual pursuit. There is a common misunderstanding that enlightenment is something to be achieved. In fact, it is who you truly are and have forgotten. The intellect can not even imagine this truth. It can and does have many concepts around enlightenment, all of which have nothing to do with the real thing. Usually, one comes to deep spiritual seeking through pain or boredom with what is. The intellect, while useful, is a boat that is of assistance in the waters of the material realm. It can even be useful as we aim towards the shores of our true nature. Once on the firm ground of who we are, such tools are neither here nor there.

Hence, the Zen teaching of “don’t know mind” or “beginner’s mind” where we are taught to have a relaxed mind. This is to guard against the many preconceived ideas that our mind/intelligence always carries. Concepts that we are blind to, regardless of our intelligence.

A meditation teacher is invaluable in teaching us how to still the mind. Like training any muscle, practice is of utmost importance. Attention or distraction meditation techniques come in many forms - from sitting to standing to movement. Pick one and stick with it.

The most scientific way is to use EEG biofeedback equipment that gives direct feedback to whether one is meditating or thinking. This brainwave equipment is a wonderful tool in educating our bodymind to the difference between the FEELING of thinking and of meditating/non-thinking.