I wasn't raised in a religious household. My sister and I were baptized Catholic as babies, but our parents left it at that. They wanted us to formulate our own truth.
I remember asking my church-going friends what all that stuff was about, and being puzzled by a lot of it. Especially that my fellow 8 year old friends had to confess. In the "eyes of a creator", what the hell could you do at 8???
The stories of having to live by a book, interpreted multiple ways by multiple different groups of people (and later revised...?), was enough for me to question it's "truth". Plus, I just couldn't imagine that all life was created by a fear-inflicting, vengeful deity, who commanded that you apologize regularly and go sit in a building every week. All this coupled with the disturbing number of inactive "God lovers" who supported the abuse of animals, our planet and / or "different" people, or just sat by, doing nothing to help "God's creation" as terror reigned, really turned me off of organized religion, and that 3 letter word, all together.
In my teen years, I realized that I genuinely enjoyed being nice and helpful to others. I didn't need fear or commandments to dictate my behavior, so I let go of wanting to know more about this god thing. I embraced the title "atheist" and left it at that.
Sometime in my early twenties I developed a new perspective: saying there's NO god seems just as arrogant as saying their IS one, since there's no way to prove or disprove - it's all perspective. So my "atheism" label morphed into "agnosticism". I felt my moral compass was guiding me down a humane path anyway, so this label change didn't matter. Plus labels are limiting.
Fast forward to today (and by "today" i mean more like 2009-ish). I began my spiritual journey with the recognition of energy as the force behind all things. My college days really illuminated the "process" of life (I was an ecology major). I spent time pondering what motivated a seed to germinate, cells to divide, genes to mutate, etc. I realized there was a force, what I called a "life pulse", and it seemed to drive life.
As I continued on my spiritual path, this "life pulse" was being discussed by countless thinkers and visionaries that I listened to: Eckhart Tolle, Wayne Dyer, Selacia, Gary Zukov, Marianne Williamson, etc. What they all said is that this life pulse "energy" is referred to by many names: Source, Holy Spirit, God, Universal Source, Universal Energy, etc.
Eek. That God word???!!!
It was WILD how I would just shut down inside as soon as I heard that 3 letter word, incapable of hearing anything said after it.
The part of me that judges (ie the other 3 letter word - ego) would throw up a brick wall and want to discredit everything the person said from then on - instantly! Even if they previously reiterated that the word God does NOT refer to the idea of a supreme being watching over us, commanding that we behave or else (throughout history, "man made god in mans image", distorting what was meant as the energy that drives ALL things, of which humans are merely one piece of, not the entirety of).
Even in the midst of hearing beautiful words from loving enlightened people, my knee-jerk ego would internally say "Ok, if you believe in God, you subscribe to all that angry vengeful deity stuff, so clearly you're not a reliable source of information." Frikkin' hilarious to watch my ego do this! It judges other people as right / wrong / stupid / smart / superior / inferior / evil / righteous / pretty / ugly. These are all opinions, formulated by the limited aspects of ourselves (c/o the ego), the part that doesn't realize we're all connected. It has a superficial view of itself and all life, and dysfunctionally feels it has to uphold an image, since that's the extent of the egos reality - the image (a body, social/economic status, opinions, book smarts, relationships, jobs, etc.) When we view someone else as "wrong", we're making ourselves and our beliefs "right". But to whom? To our limited perspective of life. We're all part of the same exact energy source, no one being is superior to any other. Division is ego based and brings dysfunction and suffering.
It's easy to type this, and "see" this, but that internal pattern takes a while to disarm. Learning to love it, not fight it, is the secret weapon ;)
My view point of this god thing has morphed over the years. If I was so right before, how can I be right now? I can't. There is no wrong or right. Only perspective. The 3 letters making up the word "God" have no meaning, other than what I give them. My ego wasn't just assessing the message, it was automatically discounting the messenger based on my ideas of rightness, even when I knew it was being misinterpreted! My ego's image as an anti-God feels it needs to assert it's position, lest it be annihilated! All the ego has is it's image. No wonder it freaks out so easily!
HILARIOUS! Once you begin to see the ego in yourself (and others), you start to take shit like this less seriously. It's so automatic, yet ephemeral. Humans are losing their "ego control" on the daily (crises motivated, yes, but it's happening).
What's cool is that over the years, I've been detaching from my ego's control, and am seeing results. These days, when I hear the word "God" come out of a spiritual / motivational speaker, my knee-jerk response doesn't have the power to shut me down inside. There's still a twinge of "eek", but - since I don't let my ego's interpretation of things drive my life - it's a fleeting eek. Those are harmless :)
If you, too, are embarking on the spiritual path and find yourself stumbling on the word "God" (or struggle with bits and pieces of dubious information seemingly credible people share), take what works for you and leave behind what doesn't. After moving to LA in 2010, I decided that I wouldn't "think outside the box". I got rid of the damn box. THERE'S NO BOX! Let limitations be a thing of the past and know your internal discernment will sniff out bull shit easily. You don't need to be on the defensive listening to visionaries speak. To this day, I don't subscribe to ANYTHING anyone says. If something feels right intuitively, I go with it. Things shift so frequently, holding onto ANYTHING as truth is limiting.
Except for love.
Like REAL love.
That's timeless :)
I've been asked numerous times how I'm able to stay optimistic in the face of so much crazy.
I haven't always been so optimistic. I've always known that I should try to be though...I definitely wanted to be happy and joyful. If you don't want to be happy, it aint gonna happen (we gotta be honest, there's parts of us that feed off anger!).
First off: anger is a normal, natural response to things that suck. It's a very important emotion! It's a sign that we're not fleshy blobs meandering about wasting oxygen. But it's no place to set up camp. If you're angry, sit in it. Feel it. Own it. Yell, stomp, punch a pillow - there's healthy ways to respond to anger. Letting it fuel your reactivity to things that suck can be toxic and cause more drama going forward. Not helpful. Disease causing. Ultimately destructive to our goals for peace.
So where's my YeeHaw disposition coming from?!?!?!
Less short answer (with great book suggestions):
Ultimately, it felt shitty to be angry. My gut in knots, my fuse short, my heart pounding every time I encountered altercation or disturbing information. I became disgusted by my own species. I had a hard time hanging out with folks and not talking about social and political justice issues. Eww ptewy buzz kill! I knew deep down that this a) isn't good for the quality of my life and b) wasn't going to encourage others to listen to my message of compassion for animals / the planet / justice in general.
In college, while my blinders were being blown off about how horribly abused our planet and her inhabitants are in the name of greed, I asked a light-hearted and wise professor how she's not a raging bull about everything going on. She said "It's a personal choice you'll have to make at some point." Part of me read that as "You have to go numb and / or sell out." Another part of me knew she was onto something, but I was waaaaaay far from even seeing there was a tunnel, let alone the light at the end of one.
Throughout those 2 years earning my Bachelor's, I learned so much about the human enterprise and became increasingly bitter and depressed. Oh, and drunk. Yes I was pickled a lot. (Clearly this blocks and prolongs the healing process since it just numbs you out and adds to your drama, so I do NOT recommend it.) Oh, and therapy. Lots of therapy.
I began reading books like "The Road Less Traveled" by Dr. Scott Peck, knowing that my response to the worlds issues was my choice. It never felt like I was choosing anger and depression, but I knew that emotionally breaking down wasn't helping heal the world. Closing my eyes or lashing out weren't options either. So I chose to invest in my peace - an inside job.
The Dali Lama's "Ethics for the New Millennium" and Peter Singer's "Ethics Into Action" were priceless tools for envisioning an action plan. I knew I had to actually DO something, just didn't know what.
I had also been introduced to the power of personal energy. My first read was The Celestine Prophecy, a book on how our life experiences are determined by our energy field. Then onto the human culture as seen today by way of the Mutant Message Down Under (I read this one 5 times and sent copies out as gifts).
I kept hearing how powerful meditation was so I began trying that too. It didn't stick very well, but I kept trying.
When I graduated college, I still had a long way to go to find inner peace in the face of all the chaos. I knew I wanted to help and continued with my own personal development. I met many amazing souls on my journey, like Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (the Compassionate Cook) who lectures on many things vegan, specifically being a "Joyful Vegan". This talk, and many of her other podcasts, kept my heart and head in alignment in my darkest days (her recipes make ya drool too ;-).
As I mentioned, doing activism full-time sucked me in. This is a precursor to burnout - no bueno. I read Patrice Jones book "Aftershock", which was a huge help for reiterating the need for balance. Developing hobbies, dancing, hiking, playing with m'gatos - these things breed sanity and yay's :)
While channeling my energy into peaceful activism, I sought out guidance from veterans in the advocacy world. One recurring tip was that all we need to do is raise consciousness / awareness. That people are already decent by nature and just need to see what's going on (animal abuse specifically). That they will take steps to help if we give them the chance. Connecting with hundreds of thousands of people showed me that people DO care about suffering. The more I healed my own wounds, the clearer this message could come through (because my perspective cleared - huge piece of our reality rests on just our interpretation of reality versus what is REALLY reality).
To better understand humanity I read books like: Ishamel, The Tipping Point, The Leader in You, and the mother load of all mother loads: A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's True Purpose.
I can't recommend these above mentioned books higher. Seriously read read read. There are many more fabulous resources out there, but these are the ones that fell on my path. Especially A New Earth. That opened my eyes to the human condition (ego) so I better understood the "playing field" and players (myself included).
The more I healed the pain inside of me, the harder it was for me to be "derailed" if someone disagreed with my message.
I know the world is evolving to be a more loving inclusive place. The more I healed my wounds, the louder this message got. I see why there's so much chaos and pain in the world. It's not because people suck (you would never have convinced me in college!), it's because good souls have been otherwise occupied by living while an unconscious minority took the wheel, steering us bat shit crazy. We're waking up (thanks to said bat shit) and are stepping into our power, recognizing that only love is real, and will begin to co-create a world that's born out of that space of love and inclusion. There will be bumps and bruises but I know it...I see it. And if you believe it, you will see it. It's our choice!
I hope this was helpful for you. Feedback and questions are welcome :)
Make love your bottom line. NOW'S the time! <3
An east coast native, Nikki spent her college years and beyond as an activist for animals, the environment and social justice issues. Needing to make sense of and come to peace with everything along the way, she began her work on the spiritual level. When she realized that the conditions of our outer world are just reflecting the conditions of humanities inner world, her focus shifted to energy healing arts and yoga. Now a Reiki Master, yoga instructor, author and speaker living in Austin, Texas she hosts discussions on the importance of living a heart-lead life, inspiring steps for self love and personal mastery - the recipe for global peace.
Services offered listed under HEALING SERVICES tab.