Do you feel caught in patterns of behaviour and thought that are detrimental to your well-being, but in trying to do something about them that no manner of personal development tools, self-help books or even therapy or counselling have helped? Part of the reason may be, if you are a highly intellectual/rational person, that your level of engagement with life does not allow you to make that inner shift …

About five years ago I began my quest to discover what was going on in my troubled psyche. My initial tool for doing that was numerous books, then the occasional personal development course, as well as later a couple of sessions of counselling. While all of these pursuits provided great benefit, I found that things were not shifting in the ways that I hoped for. Having pursued a shamanic path for the last four years to achieve this inner transformation, I think in retrospect I have finally figured out why other forms of self-development did not work for me!

The shamanic path excluded, all the other pursuits involved me engaging solely at the level of intellect – and being someone with a long and strong academic background I found that very easy to do. So much so that my intellect was actually a hindrance to my personal development. Before their next chapter, next exercise, next question, I could figure out where the book, the course, the counsellor was going, and so lost interest. While, in hindsight, these experiences were at the time probably a very gratifying validation of my intellectual prowess, I have also realised that they represented a means by which I could avoid full engagement with life, and with the other levels of my being i.e. my body and my soul.

In this way, rather than using my intellect as a way into exploring and developing other aspects of my being, I used it to be more perceptive and wise than others, and therefore outwit them. Why? Because by being able to talk about and understand an activity/process I was able, for a time, to delude myself and others that I was participating in it - whereas, in fact, the opposite is true. And, by positioning myself as being smarter, as being above someone or something, I could seemingly assert my right to not need to engage with it.

I have gradually realised, through my own example, that for many, many people the intellect is a means by which to avoid full engagement with reality, with the world, and a means by which to avoid exposing the other levels of their being to people. Being intellectual and engaging solely through intellectual prowess is also a means by which a person can maintain a semblance of control over life and others. So in summary it is both an attempt to reclaim some form of power and a self-protection mechanism.

Being a sensitive soul, engaging only from my intellect kept me safe and, to a degree, satisfied for a number of years. But the further I went on my shamanic path the more I began to transcend the intellect, as other forms of perception, such as intuition, began to emerge. This is fundamentally because of the different way in which reality is engaged by the shamans, or at least those that I learnt from. From their perspective, each person has a four-levelled being – the physical, the mind, the soul, and the essential, or level of pure energy. In this model, beliefs, conditioning, emotions and trauma all have an energetic component. Ipso facto, a person who wants to make an inner shift is engaged at the level of the energetic, so as to clear out the deepest imprints of whatever their chosen issue is. Some of the shamans I have worked with will not even ask a person about their issue prior to a session; the entire process is undertaken at the level of energy.

In these ways, I am learning to embrace and move between the different levels of my being. In sharing these thoughts I hope that I have helped create a sense of what is possible for those who want to journey beyond their intellect, of the beautiful, exciting, experimental dance that awaits …

Author's Bio: 

A graduate of Oxford University, James Powell now works as a Shamanic Practitioner in the UK, and at a distance with clients all over the world. More information about him and his work can be found at