An Interview with NTP, wellness educator, and a published author,
At one of those low moments in life, Pooja Chilukuri found herself questioning God while sitting in her closet. Jesus’ peace was overwhelming and from that point on, Pooja’s outlook took a shift toward the real God and His unending love. Transformations don’t happen overnight, but the shift is real and that is where the change begins. Let’s get into it.
Pooja Chilukuri is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP), Health Coach, Wellness Educator, and a published author.
Pooja is committed to helping individuals balance their nutritional deficiencies and help them cultivate healthy habits with ease to help prevent or reduce the damaging effects of unresolved, chronic health challenges. Pooja has been a wellness educator since 2014, teaching wellness workshops for individuals, communities, and corporations.
Pooja’s mission is to empower individuals to take charge of their health without being confused or overwhelmed as they navigate the constantly shifting health and wellness trends and conflicting information on the internet.
In 2015, Pooja published her memoir, And Then There Was Jesus where she shares her journey of recovering from religion, healing spiritual wounds, and discovering herself. Her other books include faith-based poems and reflections and a Beginner’s Guide to Using Supplements.
5 Great Takeaways from our Chat…
God speaks to us, not always in an audible voice…
…but his voice is powerful. It is in a way that moves us to action. And when He speaks, listen.
2. We often bring our past of works-based salvation with us into Christianity…
…but that is not the real Jesus. This thought process can transform God into a diety that is hungry for us to please him through works. That is not grace. That is not the God of the Bible.
3. It takes a Reframe of our mind to go through a true transformation from the inside out.
It’s like He gives us a new pair of glasses, the Holy Spirit, after we get past the self-judgment to see things from a different perspective and give it all to Him.
4. God really loves us…
We do not need a resume to come to God. His love is real and He will be there no matter what.
“And so just want to encourage everybody that God really loves us. It doesn’t matter where we’ve been, what we’ve done, what we think. This love is very unconditional, and it’s very real…”~ Pooja Chilukuri
Where to find more about Pooja Chilukuri~
All right. Hi, Pooja. I’m so happy you could join me today. I can’t wait to get into this conversation. Of all the guests I have had, you have one of the most eclectic journeys, I think. And I am so excited for our guests to be able to hear more about that and about your life and just how you came to Jesus, I think it just sounds so fascinating. So thank you so much for being here. Thank you so much for having me on your show. Shelby, I’ve been looking forward to our conversation. Thank you so much. Yes. First, before we get into all the nitty gritty of it, which I am so excited to hear about, I do want to know a little bit about what you do as a nutritional therapy practitioner, because that just sounds so fascinating and how it all works with the health and your whole life and that holistic side of it. I love that. So I just like to know a little bit more about what you do, of course. So I live in North Carolina, and before I was a nutritional therapy practitioner, I worked in research and technology. So that was a big shift going from research and technology into holistic health and nutrition and things like that nutritional therapy. That’s just a new and coming field where we are trained to look for nutritional deficiencies because sometimes we’re walking around with all these chronic symptoms. And then when you go to the doctor and they say, Well, there’s nothing wrong with you because they can’t find anything wrong medically. But you still feel bad because your body is deficient in certain things. So that’s what I do. I love to help people with chronic symptoms to figure out if the root cause may be something that they’re lacking in their diet. So it’s fun. That’s awesome. I love that whole field and just looking at life from a little bit different approach and helping people. I think that it is so needed and such a cool profession. So I love that you do that. But you have also done some awesome, amazing things as well as an author, being an author. And your story is just so cool. And the women at finding faith above the women that we are talking to in this Ministry, they come from religious wounds, just like what you talk about in your book, things that make it hard for us to sometimes find Jesus. There are blocks that happen that really prevent us from being able to move forward often. And I have found in this Ministry that people’s stories mean more than almost anything else with helping people to break down those barriers. So I’d love to just open the floor up to you and have you just tell us a little bit more about your story? Thank you, Shelby, for saying that about the stories, helping break down some of those barriers because that’s what happened. I don’t consider myself to be a writer. I’m more of a scientist by profession and training. But all of my wounds, they were just sitting inside me growing. And I really felt pressed in my heart that I need to start pouring it out on paper just to make sense out of it. Right. And that was the time when I was tuning into podcasts and blogs and things and listening to other people’s stories. And it was those stories that kind of nurtured my own healing. And so I felt that it would be very selfish of me to hide my story. And even though I was very nervous, I went ahead and published my memoir. And that does have my story. And I’m happy to share some of that with you. Yes. Absolutely. So why don’t we just start at the beginning? Because I know your family and your past. I mean, it starts there, like from being very young and growing up in a very different culture. So why don’t you go ahead and share that with us? Absolutely. I grew up in India. I was born and raised in India. I moved to the United States when I was 19 years old. So for the first 19 years of my life, I was predominantly Hindu. So my family, we practice all of our culture, and all my roots are tied to Hinduism. They were very open minded, so they did not care if we explored other religions. We were free to do that as children growing up. And I did that. I had read stories, even about Jesus as a child. And Christmas was something I would always get fascinated. And I always wanted that little Nativity scene and a Christmas tree. And we never had snow where I grew up. And I would always put, like, these cotton pretend snow on that tree. So I never imagined that I would ever go in that journey, become a Christian and then move to a place where I actually see snow all the way across the globe. So growing up, I just like children. I wasn’t very religious. I just followed whatever my family did. I loved all the festivals. I still do. We just had Diwali. And I celebrated that with my family. So growing up, I thought as a child that talking to God was very natural for me. I would just sit on my window and talk to God for hours. But then what I noticed, Shelby, is that the grownups, the adults around me were fearful, like all these rituals have to be done in a very particular manner, and the priest would come home and perform them, and we couldn’t mess up anything because then something bad could happen. So there was all this fear and a child, even though I felt that that wasn’t normal or logical. But I still absorbed it. And before long, I became a very religious person, wanting to do everything perfectly with the whole Karma. You want to make sure that all your works are perfect so that you can get God’s favor. And I lived like that for a while. But then this whole thing with talking to God that took like, a backseat because the relationship aspect just died down and the religion took over. And I got really sick in high school. I was about 17 and nobody could diagnose what I was sick with. And I don’t want to take up all the airtime talking about it because it was really gross because I would be throwing up for hours. I lost a lot of weight. The doctors couldn’t figure out what was going on, and I had access to a lot of doctors in medicine and things like that so fast forward, two years, and I’m dying like, literally, that’s what my parents were told. There is no hope and there’s no cure. So my dad took to a spiritual path, and we went to all kinds of spiritual healers. We went to different temples, we went to a mosque, I spent the night in a graveyard. I was part of a ritual to help deliver me from what was ailing me. So really crazy stuff, just wanting to live. I didn’t want to die. I was barely, like, 1819. And so we really knocked on a lot of doors. And then one of my father’s cousins was in New York, and he suggested I come to North Carolina. There’s a University here, Dutch University, very famous for the research. And he thought maybe something was wrong with me that nobody had figured out yet. And so he was instrumental in helping me arrive in the US. And I came as a student in a long story short again, the person that was supposed to help me at two, he never showed up. And my roommate saw how much I was suffering because I was in College here freshman year, and they took me to a small Church where the pastor prayed over me. And it was him and a couple of other people. And I healed like, instant, like, no, not even I have to take a pause and just take a breath when I say this, because till today, I don’t know what happened. It was just instant. And I came back and I said, wow, I’ve been praying for a long time and nothing happened. And he prayed in the name of Jesus, and it worked. And so I called home and I told my parents that I’m not coming back, that I want to continue my studies. And I want to explore what Christianity is about. And so that’s what I did chalky, I guess that was my first. But, you know, while I was doing that, I also had my other things that I was doing. I had other prayer books and other gods that I was praying to. And while I was still exploring Christianity, I heard a voice. This is like in my dorm room, my freshman year, and I was reading a prayer book that my dad had given me. I can’t explain it to anybody because it was not a voice, like your voice or my voice. But it felt like a voice. That’s weird. I know, but it just felt like a voice. And I felt like I was doing something not wrong, but something that wasn’t right either, because I felt in my heart. This voice was saying that I was grieving someone and why? Because this person healed me. But I’m going after somebody else for further healing or further comfort. And so I wondered who is talking to me, right. And I thought, oh, Jesus healed me. And here I am chasing another guy trying to get healing or protection or whatever. And so instinctively, I picked up the Bible, and I said, Well, maybe if I read the Bible, he’ll be happy. That’s how I taught as a 19 year old. So I picked it up. And the first thing that I saw on their Shelby, the very first thing that caught my eyes is my sheep hear my voice. And I thought, oh, my God, he is talking to me. And something snapped. And I called him. And I told my parents, mum, dad, I’m officially declaring that I want to be a Christian. They were completely OK with it because they saw that I got my life back and they never expected me to live. So becoming a Christian was not as bad as dying, even though my mom was very worried about it, because back home, changing your religion is a horribly big deal. She was worried about it for the longest time that nobody would marry my sisters because of the home. I know, but she was very worried about that. And that was the first point of conversion. But like, I’m going on and on, but I did lose my faith. I did go on to almost becoming an atheist from there. So that was a very crazy journey also. Yeah. Well, I know you started that’s a big change already. That’s huge. And I’ve had so many experiences where women say the exact same thing that you hear this voice. And I’ve had that I had that in my life, too. And I can’t explain. It’s not like he says, like, Shelby, this is what you need to do. But you do hear him, which is wild to explain that to somebody. I know it sounds somewhat crazy, but it’s true, though. So I completely understand what you’re saying. But from there, your journey continued to evolve. Right? So what happened next? Yes, it did continue to evolve. I think what happened, Shelby, I had heard this voice, and I really wanted to be a Christian, but my religious self, I brought my religious self into it, right? So hearing a voice is one thing, but being transformed on the inside that hadn’t happened yet. So I was still bringing my mindset, my world view, the way to relate to God through works into already a faith. But unfortunately, and I say, unfortunately, because this group that I was in was very work driven. And so that only reinforced what I already was right. There’s a lot of validation for being religious and very devout and very biased. And every time the Church doors were open, I was there. If we were ten minutes late to Church, we were reprimanded from behind the pulpit like, you’re betraying Jesus just by being late. Just saying that as an example, to give you an example of the kind of environment that I was in. And I honestly coming from into a new religion, I had no idea what Christianity was supposed to be like. So I accepted word for word, what I was told. And so very soon, Jesus became not that sweet voice that I had heard, not the person who healed me, but a deity that was very hungry to be pleased all the time, very strict. I was like walking on eggshells all the time. My mind had become so riddled with worries about what was right, what was wrong. Very judgmental, kind of a thinking, such judgment more than anything else, and always evaluating everything I was doing. It’s a horrible way to live. You’re going to lose your mind. I did. But what happened was also in this particular environment, you have to obey the pastor. Like, if you had a spiritual experience, that was your personal, you couldn’t really share it unless it was approved by the pastor because of this fear that you’re going to be a stumbling block to the sheep in some way. And honestly, I did not know. I thought that’s what Christianity was. And one day I was done. We were in the Ministry, my husband and I 17 years. So we were very deep into this. I feel like my mental health really suffered. Do you know how one day I woke up and I was done and I said, Well, that would be so great if there was no God, because if there is no God, then I don’t have to suffer like this. I felt it. I really felt this emotion where there is no God. And that was a very liberating thought. And I was like, oh, I want to be an atheist. I like that. But what happened was, you know, how you’ve had an experience. You can’t shake it off. I really wanted to be an atheist. And I think I was almost there. But for that voice that I had heard years ago, right. That kept haunting me. But I didn’t want Jesus to be real, because if he was real, then he was scary. And I was so confused. I think there’s a word cognitive dissonance, right in psychology. Like, my brain is all over the place. The kids were very young. My husband was very sick with an autoimmune disease. I was breaking out in hives and asthma life felt like it was falling apart. I also walked out of a job. And that’s when I had a nervous breakdown and I was in my closet and I couldn’t stop crying. Like when you just lose control. And I kept calling out to Jesus, even though I didn’t really want him to be real. But I was so used to doing that. And all of a sudden shall be when I was doing that, there was a something went through my body until day. This was twelve years ago. This was in 2010, but I still remember it. It went through my body. It went through my back, went through my leg. It was a very gentle kind of like a current, but not an electric shock or anything like that. Just a wave. And I felt so loved, so loved. There was somebody in that closet where I was sitting there crying. I closed the doors and no one could see me. And whoever this person, this entity, right in my mind. I’m thinking as this Jesus. And I just said, this is Jesus. Then it should happen again. And it did. And then a few days after that experience, I kept wondering, what this is. Is this Jesus? And I said, Is this you Jesus? And it will happen again. And so I really believe it was him coming to love on me in that moment. Shelby, I just had this big wake up call. But the religion I was in was unhealthy, and it wasn’t representing Jesus at all. And so long story short pass forward. Another year, me and my husband, we just walked away from that Ministry of that situation. But that’s what helped me to get my faith back. It’s so fascinating, because coming from the religion that I did, which was more work based, and it wasn’t rooted in Jesus love, really, or understanding Grace. It was all work based. It’s crazy how that can affect all different aspects of your life. So you have come from more of works based even as a kid bringing that into than a Christian faith, applying the works to it. It’s wild how it does affect everything. And even now I realize certain things that I encounter in my life. I’m like, I’m approaching this very much for work based right now. I need to just give it to God again. It’s hard to get out of that. So for you, you found God. You went then through a workspace. But then in a Christian faith. But then now you’ve transformed again. And do you feel like now you truly did transform from the inside? Like we talked about at the beginning. You said you hadn’t gone through that transformation. When did that happen? I think it wasn’t instant. I’m going to be very honest with you shall be taken twelve years. And now I finally feel it. The transformation. But it wasn’t overnight because there was so much junk. I can’t think of any of the word for it. There’s so much junk sitting in my brain that really needed a scrubbing. That really because the mind always gets in the way, right? My heart was open to him. I had experienced him in my body. I don’t know how else to describe it. The thing that the heat and the warmth going through my body. I guess that’s the Holy Spirit. But to get rid of that mindset, the world view that I had the constant self-judgment, it didn’t go away easily. But I think that meeting Jesus in my closet was the pivot point and the catalyst for that because it motivated me to seek the different ways by which I could help myself to let go of those things. And I can tell you today with a very clean conscience that I feel very transformed and very at peace because His love, it won’t settle for anything less than that. Right. Once he starts working on us and healing us, it’s going to go all the way. Yes. I have found that most women who have gone to this other side where they really do feel like they’re transformed. They’re not just living as a Christian, but they really are transformed. They had that moment that come to Jesus moment in your closet, wherever it was. It was 230 in the morning talking to God like, I can’t do this alone. I need your help. And he was like, okay, I’m here and then, just like you, though, it didn’t all change overnight. But it was like I was given the ability to see things from a different perspective. And so educating myself and working on myself to transform myself through that different perspective is what to me brought me there. But it didn’t happen overnight for me either. But my perspective was overnight. I guess you could say I appreciate you saying that. I really thank you for saying that, because that was so powerful for me, one of the tools because I’m also a health coach. And so I was very blessed to be surrounded by coaches. I always tell God you put pillars of fire around me. These were people that were bringing in very healthy mindsets. One of the things I was told to do very early on is reframe. You just described it like, you have to change your perspective, right. And so in an attempt, because a lot of things that I was carrying was negative interpretations of Bible verses. So for me, the first thing I needed to reframe was my understanding of these different verses. And then the second thing I needed to reframe was my understanding of Jesus. And I think, Shelby, that’s what’s driven me to write so many books. Because in all my books, I have reframed every single thing that I heard in Church. I’ve had to do it for myself. So when people ask me, who are you writing to, who’s your reader and nobody, it’s for me. No. And you know what? That’s the reason for this Ministry is that exact same thing as trying to help people who have come from all that baggage and helping them to reframe exactly what you’re saying. And first, God does work within us to give us the ability, the Holy Spirit, to give us the ability to see things in a different way. And when you read with the Holy Spirit, it’s different when you read the Bible than it is before when you’re just reading words. And I always say the Bible is kind of like an ocean. We can paddle around on the surface. But there’s so much more. And once we are able to change that perspective through the Holy Spirit, we can see everything that’s underneath in such a different way. Thank you for describing it like that, because to me, the Holy Spirit is like, that’s awesome that you say that because just this morning, I was thinking that he just gave me a new pair of glasses. It’s like, you know how to me that’s the Holy Spirit, that’s the lens through which I filter what I read now. Yeah. And it just touches you in a very different way. It’s very real. It’s very different. And it’s hard to explain to someone who is walking through the fire, still going through a lot of that hard stuff. It’s hard to explain to them that really, if you just let God in, everything else will change. But when you’re going through that, it’s not easy. We all have to have our moment in the closet or 230 in the morning. I know, Shelby, and I found that the hardest time I have had letting God in is because of judgment, self-judgment and then the fear of judgment. Right. I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve had to deal with and work through. But once you get past that and he comes in with all that love, it’s so beautiful. It really is when you realize that all the judgment of the world doesn’t really matter, that all that really matters is him and to know him and to make him know and then everything else just kind of softens. Yeah. So for our readers, if you were to our listeners, for your readers, but for our listeners today and anybody also who’s reading on the blog, too. But what would be the thing that you would say made the biggest change for you if they’re walking through the fire, what would be your words of encouragement for them? Absolutely. So one of the things that helped me personally. And again, this was one of my closet moments also because I would go back to that closet frequently because I was very like this little kid that I found something and I kept believing it was in that closet. I’ve had to outgrow that. But one of those moments in the closet, I felt like again, another voice, again, very similar. It came from within a lot of us. When we’re walking through that fire, it’s very hard to trust God because the very reason that fire is there is because something happened in that relationship with God that distorted the image of God for us. Right? Like it’s that fire, like a fiery trial of your spirit or something. One of the things I heard, Shabby, is this is when I was asking God when I was reframing, how should I write? And I really felt in my heart that is that people don’t feel safe with me. And so in order to trust someone to help you walk through a trial or walk through that person has to be your safe haven, right. And so just want to encourage everybody that God really loves us. It doesn’t matter where we’ve been, what we’ve done, what we think. This love is very unconditional, and it’s very real. And just like it says in John first, John, perfect love casts out fear. So letting go of that fear, we don’t need a resume to come to God if we’re going through a hard time. He is our brother. He’s our friend. There were four in that fire with shattered niche and Abed Nicole, right. There was a fourth person, and this person is really invested in you. And I who really wants to help us. And I think it’s very simple. We just have to believe that. And with our hearts, not what our religion says, not what you believe. You’ve been told or anything like that. And to me, I think going through the fire, there was a moment of transition where Jesus went from being a deity that I had to please to being my brother. And I really want to encourage everybody to have that relationship. He is your brother. It says so in the Book of Hebrews, it says that he’s not ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters. So when you have someone in the game with you, it’s easier to go through something. I don’t know if that’s how I do it. Yes, ma’am. I love it. I think that is the perfect place to end your story. I think that those words of encouragement are going to help so many people. So thank you. From here, though, I wanted to know, how is God working in your life now and where can people find you? Thank you for asking that. Yeah, I am all over the place, but I tried to consolidate everything on my website, so it’s Pooja Chilukuri.com, just my first name, last name.com. I am on Instagram, but I forgot my own Instagram handle. I can’t believe it. I’ll have to send it to you. I’ll put all these in the show notes too, so I’ll leave links for everyone. I think how God is working in my life right now shall be the scriptures in Isaiah. And they’re also found in Luke, the Spirit of the Lord. He wants to set the captives free. He wants to heal the wounds of the brokenhearted. And I think it’s very clear to me that he wants me to keep writing and writing and writing. I don’t know how he plans to use it, but I just get this one word in my heart. Healing. We need healing. All of us need it. If we could just be healed of our wounds, we would all shine our lights so bright. This world would be dazzled. Yes. Well, thank you so much for coming on today and sharing everything with us. It’s just amazing. I’m going to put all the links in the show notes so people can find you and read your books and work with you through healing. And thank you. I appreciate. Thank you, Shelby. Thank you so much.