“The hummingbird spirit animal appears out of nowhere bearing gifts of joy and happiness, bringing with an air of magic in your life. It’s a symbol of good things!”

- Imelda from trustedpsychicmediums.com

Five of us sat in a circle, closed our eyes, and left our bodies together. Our souls formed a tunnel of energy that extended into the sky. By this time I’d been haunted by several ghosts, I could see energy, read minds, feel people’s pain, have prophetic dreams, and hear the music rocks made. I could talk to the dead or channel them. I believed that the universe was in a battle between dark and light and that my job as a healer was to be a wielder of light to save humanity. I’d had visions of my past life on Earth, and the life I had previously lived in another dimension for many millennia. I could lucid dream, but not without the risk of being possessed by a ghost as I left my body and walked in the astral realm. I read tarot cards and channeled God’s answers.
I had a higher knowing. A higher self. I was more evolved and aware than most of the world’s population. They were all sleeping. But I had to validate their existence somehow, so I conceded that everyone experiences the world differently and their experiences were just as valid as mine.

A few months ago, all of these beliefs cracked open. My identity crumbled as I questioned what I’d been believing all these years. My whole life, I’d been consuming some form of spirituality, the fervency changing with the seasons, but always there to some degree. Recovering from alcoholism and abuse both brought on a “Dark Night of the Soul” as well as a deepened spiritual practice, depending on what I needed at the time. In such Dark Nights, I never questioned the validity of the beliefs I held, rather I believed I was just in a dry spell. As if, because I couldn’t feel God, I was at fault. I’d left my higher self and my Path.

The hummingbird appeared the morning after I was raped.

I sat by the window of my perpetrator’s bedroom and drank the last of the vodka with a cigarette between my fingers. Something was terribly off that morning. I didn’t usually go straight for a drink. But I didn’t yet remember what had happened. As I stood by the window a hummingbird flew up, looked at me, and fled the scene. This hummingbird, I thought, must be God. I jumped so quickly to the grandiose and clung to God as my rapist pulled me back into bed.

The gravity of the situation I was in compelled me to believe one of two things: I was either in serious danger, or I was having a mystical experience. The latter was easier to believe. The strange man behind me must have been my Soulmate. God had come to tell me I am safe and that life is oh-so-beautiful… How many times did I explain away abuse with Spirit as my sidekick?

Spiritual bypass is defined as the “tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks.” I was warned about this on more than one occasion, and I tried not to partake, but ultimately having any sort of spiritual belief seems indivisible from this particular proclivity. You can use God and his plan to cope with or ignore the pain of the horrific things you endure, as well as turn mundane things into resplendent events with deep importance. When I was raped, I would have done anything to circumvent the grieving and suffering I went through with some sort of spiritual answer. I couldn’t, though. Before the series of assaults I bore, I was able to package all of my trauma in boxes labeled Spiritual Growth, giving meaning to my bad experiences, understanding that I had to endure these hardships to become the person I would later need to be. Some “everything happens for a reason” bullshit. But the rapes wouldn’t do that. I couldn’t box them up and put them away as I’d done in the past. It was horrific. No good reason. No good lesson.

Once I understood that the morning with my rapist was not, in fact, mystical, the hummingbird became an object of confusion for years. After doing a writing exercise where I wrote as the hummingbird, I thought I channeled God or an angel and they told me they’d visited to support me through this difficult time. I looked several times at the symbolism of the hummingbird as a Spirit Guide. It never matched up even remotely with the context of the situation, but I believed in its significance regardless.
The hummingbird was just a bird who happened to fly up to a window I was standing beside, and it had no message save for, perhaps, “hello.” I no longer believe that God gave me those experiences for a reason, as I’m no longer certain that God exists. Bad shit happens. It’s nature. There are predators and there are prey. There are sociopaths, addicts, saints, and martyrs. There is no spiritual meaning behind that.
New Age spirituality is paraded around the world in a secular disguise, snatching up the vulnerable and the traumatized. Being spiritual is no different than being a part of organized religion. Spiritual people just pick and choose from different religions, never diving deep enough into the practices and beliefs to really grasp what they are attaching themselves to. Yoga, meditation, reincarnation, shamanism, crystal healing, energy work, numerology, even veganism. All of these things can and will be mish-mashed together to create someone’s worldview.

A common belief in New Age is that you choose the life you live on earth before you are born to contribute to the greater good of the universe. By this mode of thinking I was meant to be raped. Should I just lay down and take it as if it were my duty to do so?

New Age spirituality also often blames people for things that are out of their control. There’s the insidious idea that your illnesses or any physical ailment are essentially your faults. If you have a heart attack, you are told that you weren’t taking care of your emotions well enough. You need to do some heart-centered work. An ovarian cyst? More like a blocked root chakra and a problematic relationship to your sexuality. What about a child who gets cancer? I would like to know what they’ve done wrong. Every time I got the common cold I took it as a sign that I wasn’t resting or taking care of myself well enough. I never felt like I was enough.

Those in the spiritual community often remind themselves and everyone on social media that you are enough as you are. It seems that they tell each other this because feeling like you are enough is rare when you subscribe to any New Age doctrine. You can’t be enough when you have to save humanity, but you have to heal yourself and your ancestral trauma all at the same time. Oh, and go to work from nine-to-five like a normal human being. Or you can try to live off-grid and be your own boss, but damn you for buying single-use plastic.

There is a hummingbird photograph hanging directly in front of me as I finish up this piece. I chose a random coffee shop to work in. I sat in a random seat. When I looked up and I saw the hummingbird, I thought, “Wow, another sign from God!” until I remembered that God most likely doesn’t exist, and it’s just a stock photo of a hummingbird hanging on a wall. But that’s the way it is now. My brain is still breaking the habit of God-ing everything. It takes a while to unlearn a complete worldview. A complete universe-view. Sometimes I still find myself entrenched in the bizarre old fairytale. A tale of always expecting more, looking for the mystical, and aching for the euphoria. One of never being enough and lying to myself to ease the pain. Spirituality promised so much and never delivered.

I wonder how I would have processed the assault if I didn’t see the hummingbird that morning. I wonder if the man who raped me would have looked like God… or just a fucking rapist.

In a partnership with the English language; on a mission to dispel myths, bridge gaps, and draw boundaries.

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