Over the next several weeks we will be introducing you to the faces behind the words and art here on Being Human! Our goal with these interviews is to offer you a small glimpse into their heart, hear some snippets of their story, and build connection with one another through our shared humanity. Rob Bell likes to say, “The real art is: Can I look far enough inside of you to find me?”
May you discover surprising commonalities, seek to understand, and practice empathy as you read their responses.
With that said, we’d like you to meet Romay Nichols. Romay has been defined by many roles- daughter, friend, wife, mother, homeschooler, pastor- but she’s come to realize that none of those actually define her because “she is” is enough. It’s been a long and messy journey, and she’s still grappling her way into being her truest self. She escaped modern church leadership by being too much of a rebel to fit into the mold that required her to sit down and be quiet about issues that matter deeply. It’s her dream to inspire others into a path of ‘unbecoming’, where life is owned and fully embodied. She is the co-founder of All People Free, a non-profit dedicated to ending slavery in the brickyards of the Middle East and Asia.
Now onto the questions!
The first question is always this: What emotions, images, thoughts, or ideas come to you when you hear the phrase “being human”?
“Being human” makes me take a deep breath down into my belly. To feel the ground beneath my feet and the air moving in and out of my lungs. It’s beauty and ecstasy, pain and suffering, boredom and delight.
Learning to navigate the vast and ever-changing experience of being human feels like holy work after a lifetime of avoiding it. I want to live in this body in this moment fully for the rest of my life!
In your evolution and growth as a human – what are 1 or 2 moments that stand out to you as transformative in your perspective on life and/or your relationship with the Divine/God?
I grew up with a distant and authoritarian view of God, “He” was far off and angry. When I was in my early 20s I had a mystical experience in which I “saw” God laughing in delight over me, knee-slapping delight. The experience marks the beginning of my lifelong quest to discover more of this version of God, one that is over the moon happy with me.
Also, not long after that, a friend, who was a true spiritual seeker, asked me if he could find Jesus without going to the church. It broke my heart and it was then I realized that the message of the church wasn’t lining up with the message of Jesus and it needed a complete overhaul.
Fifteen years later, when I was an associate pastor at a small community church, I walked into the little library in Lynden, Washington, and saw a book across the room. It was like it had a spotlight on it. I walked straight to it, knowing I was being asked by the Divine to read it, without having a clue what it was. Turned out to be Does Jesus Really Love Me? by Jeff Chu (A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America)…
I walked around the library with it for an hour with holy anxiety, knowing it was going to stir ‘good trouble’, and it did!
It changed my entire perspective and led me to confront the oppressive patriarchal system that controls most of the western christian church. My challenge of authority got us booted out of the religious machine and I’m still not sorry!
What are some of the unique and/or basic contemplative practices that you have in your life?
I do breathwork and meditation.
I love the Insight Timer app and often use a guided meditation based on the time I have or the mental break I need. My mind wanders THE WHOLE time. I give myself an “A” for effort but not much of a pro (if there is such a thing). Even so, I find the practice of bringing my mind back to the present and into my body is an effective way to build those pathways in my brain so I can find that space when I need it throughout my days.
For breathwork, I normally use Wim Hof’s breath and hold technique, or slow nasal breathing and holds (I learned a bunch in the book Breath by James Nestor which I highly recommend). My favorite addition to my practice is cold water exposure! I LOVE calming my nervous system using my breath while sitting in an ice bath! I was the freezing skinny kid huddled next to pool heaters, so this is a very powerful practice for me – plus has some pretty fantastic health benefits too.
Why do you think it is so difficult for us as humans to accept our innate wholeness and dignity? What (moments, books, experiences, etc) or who has helped you along in this journey?
Well, for me, my christian faith taught me explicitly that my nature was corrupted when Eve ate the forbidden fruit.
I learned from a young age that my core was evil…and that kind of message from childhood goes deep!
So it’s a whole situation undoing that. Easy to undo cognitively by believing differently, but the way it has lodged into my body is a process to process. Brene Brown’s teaching and books on shame and vulnerability have been a huge help to me in this area.
What new discoveries have you made about yourself recently that you didn’t know before?
Thanks to enneagram wisdom, I’ve discoverd that my way of loving everyone else and forgetting myself is actually a backhanded way to ensure that they love me. And here I thought I was so Christlike 😉
What are some things you do to nurture your soul and practice self-compassion?
I see a somatic therapist who helps me connect with my body with compassion and awareness. I also practice mindful breathing, and I’m learning to be a safe friend to myself.
What are you currently reading and/or listening to that we need to know about?!
My current read is Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach, PhD and it’s SO good. Accepting what is may be the hardest lesson to practice but the only way to true peace.
Also super helpful and informative was The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller – oh man, a peek into the way our psyches work to protect us as children and how the only way to true healing is not by healing past wounds in the present, but by acknowledging and grieving what was lost then. Heavy, but so helpful.
And then, The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk M.D. – another deep dive into the way our brains and nervous systems work in trauma and how they can rewire. It’s incredibly fascinating and hopeful.
Thank you for being so vulnerable with us Romay! Your responses speak to the incredible beauty and depth of being human.
We know there’s was something in here for you- a small practice you’d like to incorporate into your life, a book to check out at your next library visit, or a particularly insightful phrase you need to jot down. Let Romay know by leaving her a comment or a question below! She’d love to hear from you.