This interview comes from a group called Soul Stories which meets bi-weekly to "gather simply because we know life is much fuller when we can shed our masks". They meet to engage one another in honest, soul-baring story telling, to grow, to learn.
[This is an interview where one of our members, Niki B. speaks on her experience at Soul Stories]
Looking back on it, I feel like I’ve grown so much in the past six months since I’ve been going because once I go, I have something new to think about. Like a new perspective. It’s, like, fresh and I get rid of what I had been thinking and I have something new to think about, so it keeps me going for those two weeks. I go back and I get rid of something else and I keep moving forward. Just – my mind has grown in so many ways just being there and listening to everyone and sharing.
Well, just as Soul Stories is, which is kind of like an organic dialogue, it was kind of a go-with-the-flow moment that brought me there. I was hanging out with my buddies – we went to yoga. Um, it was Dana’s yoga class over the summer at Cheesman Park [Denver, CO] and we were hanging out after, and she was like, “Do you wanna come to this thing that Danny does?” She didn’t tell me anything about it, so I had like absolutely no expectations. So I was just like, “Whatever. I don’t have anything to do on this Saturday, like, I’ll just, like, roll with it, you know.”
It just – it just, like, flowed so naturally. I ended up joining a conversation, and I was very, very uncomfortable to talk at first. And after that, I just felt so good, like I felt so...man, I can’t think of the word right now to describe how I felt after that, but I knew I wanted to come back for more. It was kind of like it was freeing.
I use alcohol a lot to help me cope with things, which often helps me avoid what is actually inside me. And that day, after doing that, I felt like I didn’t need substances to make me feel better. It was just this bare sense of community, um, that brought out so much joy in me. It kind of, like, put what was on my mind to the side, to something that was beyond me. So I did feel, like, at peace. Like peace and blessings man.
This Saturday, the topic was on self-love and shame and somewhere in our small group discussion, I don’t remember exactly what brought it out, but I came to this realization when someone else was talking, that, um, all my life I have felt shame in myself to have grown up nicely. My parents, you know, let me have a good education, allowed me to lead a good life, but I didn’t...I don’t know... and when I didn’t perform for them, I felt really bad. Like I wasn’t doing what they needed me to do. And they kind of made me feel bad at the same time. Like, “Oh you’re not doing that good, look how your brother is doing.” They compared me to my brother a lot, and from that I had a lot of...I had a lot of self-confidence issues. I didn’t – whenever I failed, I didn’t want to try again.
When I didn’t live up to expectations, I thought worse of myself. And I continued on and I didn’t really recognize it through high school or anything. It wasn’t until I got to college that I recognized it. That’s when I really picked up the drugs and alcohol and I just tried to avoid being around my parents and my family…and just getting fucked up and forgetting about it, you know. And then I decided I needed to do something with my life because I wasn’t doing well in college. I was still having those issues where if I failed, I didn’t try.
I was using other ways to hide my shame and avoid feelings and making it easier for myself by blaming someone else, but it was a battle within me, and I’m starting to come to terms with it. And I still battle my feelings every day, but now I’m understanding it, which is a huge step in progression and going forward and growing into a better me.
Soul Stories is a safe place and you can practice those feelings without fearing judgement and non-acceptance of others. It took something extreme for me to realize that I wanted to help myself. You have to recognize what is important around you, even if you don’t care about yourself. I didn’t care about myself but I cared a lot about others. So at least if you do something good for someone else, then you’ll start to feel better. It’s hard.
I think it’s healing to connect with people
There’s been several times that I went to Soul Stories and didn’t participate. I just listened. And it’s amazing to just not think about what you’re going to say before someone’s done talking and to just listen and embrace what they have to say and to just hear that naturally connect with someone else. You’re just getting a room full of perspectives, different people from all walks of life, and you can really change your perspective from it. And it’s really eye-opening – like open hearts, open minds – it’s really an amazing experience just to listen. I felt like I was tripping one time cause I was just listening and just so many different things just coming at my brain and like analyzing it.
Also, on the other side of things, everyone appreciates when you listen because that’s what everyone kind of needs – that person to just give them an ear. They don’t necessarily even need a response; just to listen, shake your head and understand. That is super important for deeper connection. That’s vital. Like, you definitely need to listen, not just talk – speak, speak, speak what’s on your mind – because then you might just find something in what they say. Like, “Wow. I never thought of that.” And you connect with it and you might not necessarily have a response, but it’ll, like, stay with you if you listen.
I wish Soul Stories could connect with and touch everyone; just the concept. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a group label like Soul Stories, just the bare bones of it. Just that connecting on a deeper level and understanding. If that could be spread throughout this whole world, imagine where we would be. You know, that song Imagine really comes to play there. Everyone at peace.
And it’s not like everyone is gonna be the same. Like, everyone still is celebrated for their differences – which is amazing – instead of looked down on for their differences. And it’s embracing it and loving it, and going with it and progression. It’s amazing. It’s amazing.