Student: OMG, I just realized something today. For almost my whole life I've intellectualized everything. Even my closest friendships, even my love affairs, my work, my play, my days off. Everything. Even Zen. Over the past few years, I've read hundreds of Zen books, and I've intellectualized them all instantly, every single sentence in every one of these books, every time. I'm trapped! I can't stop intellectualizing! I'm in a box and I can't get out. It's terrifying! Sensei, please help me right now.
Sensei: This sounds like a terrifying predicament. Tell me, so I can understand a little better. When you "intellectualize" things, what is it that happens in your body and mind?
Sensei: What does it feel like, this "intellectualizing" that you do. Can you describe it?
Student: I don't know . . . Vague . . . Anxious. Tensed up. A kind of weird dislocation feeling, a feeling like I'm removed from my surroundings, isolated & alone.
Sensei: Where are you isolated & alone? In what space?
Student: In my head!
Sensei: Where in your head? Front, back, or middle? Upper or lower? Shut your eyes if it will help you to concentrate. Point to the place where you're feeling the "intellectualizing" happen.
Student: [Points to forehead]. There.
Sensei: Right on the surface?
Student: No . . . About an inch inside, I think.
Sensei: Is that where you feel yourself thinking?
Sensei: What do you feel like now?
Student: I'm in a sweat. My skin is tingling. But for an instant there I . . . wasn't thinking! [Laughs]. I wasn't in my head, or out of it. But I was intensely aware. So strange!
Sensei: If this simple shout of mine could shock you out of intellectualizing everything, which you say you are used to doing all of the time, isn't it possible that you could find other ways to shock yourself, and might these instants of total "non-intellectualizing," once you've experienced enough of them to begin to explore in depth what they might mean to you as a human being, also point you to the Path you must follow? A Path of delight?
Student: [Laughs.] Maybe!
Sensei: What if I told you that all Zen students, in all of time and space, have had to learn how to "shatter the chain of thinking," which can only be done with energy, and that you're no different from them, and that now you've seen how "intellectualizing everything" blocks you from experiencing the instantaneous truth of life, you have an excellent "entryway" into Zen?