Take a break from what you think is your reality.
Just for a few minutes I want you to come along with me on a journey of release and imagination. To do this, I need you to go outside somewhere and find a comfortable place to sit or stand. It’s best if you are in Nature somewhere, but this is not a requirement. Please take your time to find a place where you will not be interrupted but you can most certainly be with others around you.
Now, for this to work I need you to suspend some of your knowledge of the world around you. I need you to forget that wind exists. Yes, that’s right. Just for a bit, pretend that you don’t know what wind is or what effect it can have on things around you. Got it?
Next I want you to start looking at things around you. Look at the trees. Look at the leaves on the ground. Look at the flags on the poles. Look at the clouds in the sky. Do you see that they are moving? Now, I want you to shift your perspective a bit and forget that wind is moving them, and that they are moving themselves. What if the trees are moving on their own, stretching, waving, alive! What if the clouds are on an adventure moving across the sky and taking in the scenes of the Earth below them? What if the flag is waving because it’s excited to represent the hope and dreams of a country? What if the leaves are racing around, playing, finding mischief in getting stuck to your window, in your hair or car grill? Notice how the world is alive around you and notice how you have been oblivious to these wonders.
Indeed, we all spend way too much time in our heads or stuck to a portable screen to notice the life around us. Take a break now and then to notice how much life is all around you. Notice that by doing this, you become more connected to life, you appreciate life more and feel joy in being part of it.
Let me know how you did with your assignment. What did you experience? How did you see life around you differently? What can you add to this assignment that might help others?
Lately I’ve struggled with what I perceive to be reality. This struggle has, at times, given me pause to even question my own sanity (which can be quite frightening). As I dove into the feeling of this, it put me on a path of thinking about how I perceive reality in my own life as well as the lives of others.
There seems to be a couple ways to learn about what is real in your life, and one of them is through experience. For most people, we think the things we can perceive with our senses (sight, sound, touch, etc) makes them real. The other way to learn is by being taught what is real. If there are things we can’t verify with our senses, then there must be accepted scientific or mathematical ways to test and verify something is real as proof. Another seemingly acceptable way to view something as real is to hear someone else tell us that it is (friends, family, media, etc). But what if you have experiences that cannot easily be verified in any way, nonetheless you had the experience and it was very “real” to you?
Have you ever had the experience of driving in your car and you come to a stop light in the midst of several other cars and you are stopped for a length of time? While sitting there, you kind of lose focus on things as you look at the cars beside you, and suddenly you get the sensation that somehow your car is moving backward, like you are rolling back for some reason? Then in a short panic you press on the break harder to stop, but you don’t and then you snap out of it only to realize that you are not moving, but the car(s) next you are moving forward? In that moment you thought you were rolling backward, you thought that was really happening right?
Another example of a perceived reality happened several months ago where I was driving home after a long day on a very familiar road. As I was driving, I had a sense of where I was and the direction I was going and what I was expecting to see next, but all of the sudden I came upon a stop light that should not have existed. For a second I was completely disoriented and I could feel the world around me spin slightly when I realized that I was on a completely different road and hadn’t driven as far as I thought I had. In the moments leading up to my realization, I thought where I was, what I was doing, seeing and experiencing to be very real. These kinds of “re-orientating to reality” moments have happened to me several times over the years and each time it was quite disturbing. It usually takes me several minutes to come back into alignment with the reality I’m perceiving in that moment. Was what I experienced real or not?
About eight years ago, I was driving to work in my 1996 Geo Prism on a very cold and snowy winter morning. I was heading for downtown Minneapolis at the intersection of Hwy 55 and Hwy 100 going east. The roads that morning were snowy and a bit icy. As I was stopped at the light with no other cars around me, I looked in my rear view mirror to see a large black pickup truck driving straight toward the back of my car. What I perceived was that this truck was going way too fast for the road conditions and was invariably going to crash into me. Well, if you know anything about a Geo Prism, it does not have any getup and go, but instinctively, I stepped on the gas and floored it (even though I was a a stoplight) and I braced for impact. What happened next, was nothing at all! No impact. As a matter of fact, when I looked in my mirrors, there was no truck at all, nothing! I even slowed so much I physically looked out all my windows and there was no truck or any other vehicle around me at all in any direction. In those few seconds there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to be rear-ended by that black pickup truck. So, was what I saw and experienced real or not?
In the Summer of 2010 I was taking a nap in the front room (we called it the parlor) of my home in Buffalo, MN. I was in that kind of pre-awake state where I could sense that I was awake, but my eyes were not open yet. As I laid there on the couch, I felt very relaxed as I could feel the summer sun coming through the windows warming me. I was enjoying that feeling and sense of peace when quite faintly I could hear a kind of buzzing or fluttering sound in the room. Initially I was thinking it was a fly in the window, but the sound didn’t quite match with my memory because the sound was much deeper and fuller. I continued to keep myself in the space of “not awake” with my eyes closed and I could hear the fluttering sound circling the room getting near as it circled. Then it came very close to my face and I could hear the deep fluttering sound of wings and even a slight movement in the air around me. In my mind’s eye, I started to get a sense for what the being or creature looked like. I then opened my eyes only to have the sound and feeling of what I thought was there with me to instantly dissipate. What did I experience? Was it real or not?
I think perhaps the most significant experience I’ve had around perceiving what is real is my own thoughts around how I believe something will turn out or how someone will react or respond to my actions. There have been many times that I’ve held back from sharing myself with others (especially family). When I’ve thought about sharing something important or possibly controversial with them, I would often think I knew how they would respond and usually the thought was not favorable. I would often spend weeks, months or even years with anxiety, afraid that if I did tell them, they would reject me or they might possibly stop loving me or talking to me. This fear would infect my life and relationships with others and get to a point where I knew I needed to come clean. The interesting thing is that in every instance when I finally confessed, they never responded the way I had predicted. It was a total lie. Every time, they were thoughtful about my issue and very accepting of me. Each time this happened to me, I would not only be relieved but I would reprimand myself for having spent so much time believing this spell of fear. What I assumed to be so very real was not real at all.
Most recently I’ve been going through what feels like a large shift or transformation in my life. This shift is a culmination of many factors including career, marriage, aging, and the ever present ebb and flow of the Universe. I find myself having a powerful drive to seek more fulfillment in my life, in how I spend my time and who I spend that time with. I feel as if I am in an in-between place moving from the role of raising kids, building a career (which was created from necessity and not from my heart), divorce and re-marriage, and an ever evolving change in physical health. I’m now moving toward a deep calling from the bowels of the Universe within me to finally allow myself to bring forth the full possibility of what I have to offer this world. This in-between place feels like my own primordial soup of possibilities. What I can create for myself in the next phase of my life? It has been so intense at times I find myself having out of body experiences with my “Self” being the observer of my body and the interactions of it and the world around. It has been at times very frightening because I feel if I were to just let go a bit more, I would never be able to reconnect myself with this world and physical reality I am in. I also have the dual experience of being intrigued with the experience because there is a great sense of peace, wonder and interest from the Observer’s perspective. The Observer is not invested or involved with the interactions of the body, ego or even the physical reality of the experience, it just sees or senses. So is what I’m experiencing real or not?
As I think about what I’ve written, I feel a common theme has appeared. Reality is based on whatever I chose to focus my attention on at any point in time. This “attention” is really perspective on any given situation. I find this fascinating. I’ve often thought about how each of us perceive things and if someone else sees the same things or not. For example, when I look at the color red, is what I perceive as red the same for you as it is for me? This perspective is also described in a story I wrote in my blog the-more.com a few years ago called “The Reality of Fog”. I was on a trip to Peru with a friend, when we found ourselves slightly lost in the airport as we tried to figure out where to go for our next flight. We each had a perspective on what we thought were the right direction through an airport, only to find out we each were looking at the same signs in a slightly different way. Another good example is found in a TEDx Talk titled “Dying to be me” where a woman named Anita Moorjani describes her experience with cancer, her death and coming back to life. Her message on her awareness of the world was strikingly similar to what I described above in my “Observer” story. I highly recommend you watch!
I’ve experienced many profound things during my journey from within, and from the world around me. Each of these experiences has allowed me to grow more and more into who I truly am as a person. This tangible and palpable experience of the Observer has been challenging, but I truly believe it is all a part of another transformation the Universe is providing for me to grow. The challenging part of all of this is the intensity of the feeling and how overwhelming transformation can be. The one thing that allows the process to flow, is in the sharing of the moments, and connecting with others in their own similar experiences. How are you perceiving the world around you, and allowing the experiences to change your life?
– Dwight Raatz
A dear friend asked me some time ago what I think I’ve learned in my life. This seemed to be an ominous task to recount all of it until I realized that learning can boil down to some over-arching concepts. Yes of course I’ve learned to speak, write, walk, etc and I won’t go into these more mundane aspects of my training. The purpose of this writing is to share the deeper concepts of my own learning and to hopefully spur some of your own thoughts around what you have learned in your life.
What have I learned so far? – (in no particular order)
- . . . how much others allowed me to behave as I chose (the good, the bad and the ugly).
- . . . how badly I behaved at times without regard to other’s feelings or needs.
- . . . how much those close to me, love me and want me to be happy.
- . . . that allowing me to behave badly does not serve you or me. I now realize that calling others on their behavior can be a very loving thing to do.
- . . . how much I considered myself a victim of my environment (parents, society, etc)
- . . . that I have a lot more anger in me than I previously thought… about many things…
- . . . that awareness of perspective (mine and others) is critical to enlightenment
- . . . that truth is the conjoined twin of perspective
- . . . that my own need for control is at the deepest part of my fear (as so succinctly and directly shown to me by Mother Ayahuasca)
- . . . that no matter how much I want someone to see my perspective (my truth), that they may not have a way to understand it and that I cannot take it personally if they don’t understand it.
- . . . that no matter how much I try to show someone how their behavior and method of communication is poisonous (in my perspective), if they believe they are doing the right thing, I will likely never convince them otherwise.
- . . . that my perspective of someone else’s behavior can be flawed and full of righteous judgment
- . . . that no matter how I was treated as a child, my parents, siblings, friends and neighbors were all doing the best they could.
- . . . that a person’s best changes and that I have no way of knowing what they’ve been through in their life that causes their best to be what it is.
- . . . that sometimes a person’s best is horrid and unspeakable and likely a result of them trying to survive their own demons.
- . . . that fully giving myself to someone can be the most terrifying and beautiful experience I’ve ever known
- . . . that I never fully gave myself to anyone, because I don’t know how.
- . . . that being angry is not a bad thing but is simply is an indicator of a needed change.
- . . . that my anger can be used as fuel to propel me forward into the unknown territory of change.
- . . . that sharing my perspective is best when another asks for it.
- . . . that my obsession with sex, women, the female form, is all normal and I no longer need to feel bad about it
- . . . that I am in love with my body and the more I honor it, the more it loves me back.
- . . . that I don’t need to figure it all out, and that I need to trust more.
- . . . that another person’s emotions are not my responsibility.
- . . . how wide spread shame is used as a method of control, and this makes me very sad.
- . . . that growing up on a farm was an amazing way of learning about life and death, building a solid work ethic, developing my intuition, connecting with nature and respecting it, knowing how to work with others, developing problem solving skills and creativity, enjoying solitude, and many other things that I’m appreciating more the older I get.
- . . . that the only true and powerful way for me to vote for change is where I choose to spend my money.
- . . . that the only way for me to truly be free is to take responsibility for how I respond to life.
- . . . that through awareness and diligence, I can train my mind to do my bidding instead of the other way around.
- . . . that peace comes from having an open mind and taking the time to truly understand someone else.
- . . . that traveling (near or far) is a great way to know your planet, to build empathy for others, and for others to better know you.
- . . . that I will continue to learn and experience every day of my life and that is really the whole point.
Do we make ourselves blind so we don’t see the color of skin?
But we could still hear and know the dialect, the language. We would still judge.
Do we also make ourselves deaf?
But we could still taste, touch and smell and categories would be established to segregate us.
Do we remove all the senses and become living vegetables with only our minds to interact within ourselves?
Our own thoughts would betray us and leave us utterly trapped thinking of what we did, what others have done, what we are missing and all manner of thoughts that mean nothing.
Do we stop living, abandon our corporeal self and free the spirit, the very essence of who we are? Is that what it will take to know that you and I are really the same? It will happen eventually and you will know the truth regardless.
But why wait?! Why not know the truth of how we are but reflections of each other in the shards of life. The truth is here in seeing the beauty of our skin, the rhythm of our voices, the tender kiss as we taste our lovers, the touch of our hands as we walk together, and the sweet smell of our bodies we are together in work and sex.
These all satisfy my senses, but it is my heart that knows you; that knows we are the same
Dwight Raatz – 07/19/2013
We each have our struggles in life. Many of these struggles are emotional pains that we have experienced at some point and we continue to carry with us each day. These experiences at times have been things that have been done to use from others and some are things that we have done and we feel shame from them. As we live our lives with these pains they not only have a direct effect on how we enjoy and perceive ourselves, but they also have a profound effect on those that love us. Many times we think that the best thing for us to do is keep this pain away from others, that somehow by carrying it all on our own we will protect those around us. The truth is that those who love us, who want to be close, see and feel the pain anyway.
The worst part for them is not that they are affected by it or that they are witnessing the pain even though you may deny it is there; the worst part is that you are denying them the connection with you that they so desperately want. Even if you are going through the shit, it is better that you share your doubts and fears with your loved ones, allow them to comfort you and allow your vulnerability to show them what’s going on. This will help them to at least partially understand and maybe enable them to help. It’s in the sharing, that connects and binds you together. If you continue to shut them out, their own pain will grow unanswered and their desire to be with you lost to time.
The key to relationships has been touted as communication. I’d suggest that it is this, but much more. I believe the key is being completely vulnerable to another and through this vulnerability an open place of communication can form which will create a space for you and others to grow and Know Thyself more fully.
It is time for change and the layers built years upon years ache to be set free.
She takes stock and prepares, there are signs and she heeds them.
She spends time to reflect on the years, the good times and the dark. This brings wisdom and the urge grows stronger.
She gathers her resources and plans the new course to be manifest. This is the new her, the one of her choice and making.
The elements are prepared and nothing will stand in her way as there can be no other way.
The time has come and all is ready. Now, this Goddess, this Mother, this Divine Being will erupt and bring forth new life. Her new life.
I recently read the book, “The Shack” by William P. Young a couple of the concepts presented in this book were Relationships and Expectancy. The first talks about how God is a verb that she is constantly showing love through action and in the service of others through relationships. The later is about how expectancy is dynamic and undefined as opposed to expectation which is a fixed “law” or absolute. Both of these concepts have a theme around movement and not static rules. It is in this concept of movement that I am currently pondering.
I’ve thought a lot about my relationship with God over the years and in the beginning (mine not hers), I was just trying to understand what the Church was trying to teach me about what my relationship with God was supposed to be like. While I thought I understood that love was supposed to be unconditional and forgiving, I was confused as to why God wouldn’t accept me if I messed up. The idea that a set of rules He gave us were absolute and unforgivable didn’t coincide with what my belief of what love was. Even if you added in that Jesus basically dismissed having to follow these rules, you still needed to accept Jesus as your “lord and savior” to be saved and allowed to spend eternity with God. This is still an absolute non-dynamic rule and not much of a true loving relationship.
I was always afraid of screwing up and making God mad. Now as I’m older and nearly 40 years later, I understand my confusion as a child was completely misleading. I now know that I am acceptable to God or The Universe no matter what. As a matter of my belief, I don’t even believe that The Universe needs to accept me at all or even needs this as a requirement. I don’t believe there are any requirements. I am part of It and It is part of me. The Universe, as I see it, is completely neutral toward me because it equally an fully Loves ALL parts of itself completely and fully. If I were to apply the “rules” of the bible toward my belief then that would mean that The Universe would have to find some part of its own self unacceptable, which is just not possible.
What I see now as I expand forth into my days, is that my true impact and legacy will be in the relationships that I form with any and all people in my life. It’s not about worship or supplication to a god, but rather in how I treat my neighbors, my friends, family and equally as important – in how I treat strangers. It’s the time I take to slow down and be present with them that will ultimately change the world around me. I know now that it matters not if I claim any flavor of religion or spirituality . It is in the relationships I build and care for that I truly show my immense capacity for love.
This Great Flow of Life in all its infinite variations continues to persist with the ultimate goal and outcomes of growth and experience. Tragedy happens and sometimes it’s all so unbearable, but the trend and effect always moves toward learning growth. As I look back at my life and events up to now, I see the difficult times and the joy together and not as opposites. I see the Great Dance of my life as it manifests toward grace and love. I cannot deny this no matter what happens.
I was watching the beginning of the Presidential Inauguration today and was listening to the invocation and the above concepts again came to mind. The speaker was recounting some of the struggles and trials we’ve been through as a nation and world. This reminded me of the persistence of life even though in the moment things can seem so dire and out of control. If you know anything about history, each period has been full of these same sorts of feelings and events from the beginning. Death, destruction, war, poverty, inequality, natural disasters, world calamities, etc. These things feel this way right here and now, but the real truth is that even though they are present, they are really a small part of all of the massive amount of good that is happening in the world. Really, if you think about it for a moment, there are approximately 7 billion people on the planet and how many of those people are really fighting in actual combat or killing one another in cities and towns around the world? The number is but a tiny fraction of the total yet we perceive that at any moment we will all die or be affected by a great global or local calamity. The perception is what controls us and is totally false. This perception is what “those in power” want us to believe such that a form a control can be established. The spread of fear is by far the most effective means to control a massive amount of people with very little effort.
I’m reminded of a story I read about how they train elephants and control them. They start out by chaining their leg with a manacle and have it staked to the ground so they can’t escape. Slowly over time the size of the chain and manacle is reduced until finally the elephant has only a simple flimsy rope tied to its leg. Even though the elephant could easily break the rope and walk away, they don’t because the perceive they are still chained by the same force as it was before. This same kind of concept is being done to us each and every day through how things are reported to us by the mass media. Any event that happens in the world whether it be a bombing in a far away country or a shooting at an elementary school, it brought directly to us live and constantly for hours. The individual tragedy is the manacle and chain and the constant repeating of the event is the small rope that binds us with fear to live life.
We are so constantly afraid of what might happen or who will be offended that we stop living a joyful life. We are “trained” by advertising, reality shows and the news to be afraid of other countries, our neighbors and most of all ourselves. We are trained to rely on others for approval and to be told what is acceptable. We judge ourselves and others against this false ideal that can be broken and walked away from at any time.
What I challenge yourself to do is to see the truth of life around you. See how much of life really flows and creates with little or no effort by you. Look around and see how people in your community and in the places you travel treat each other. I think if you started keeping score of all the “good” things you see and the creation that happens, you will find that a vast majority of life is positive and full of grace. You will see that with tragedy comes understanding, outreach, cooperation, growth and rebuilding. Sometimes the time between these things is very long, but ultimately they end with us growing as human beings, even if the growth is perceptibly small at times.
I believe that this ebb and flow of life is a grand dance in an ever changing relationship of people and the planet. I believe that the persistence and inclination of life is Love itself and this relationship is the Grand Design of The Universe that requires nothing from us.
– Dwight Raatz
Recently a I read and article that attempted to answer the following question, “What are some of the things in this world you have a hard time accepting?”. The author went on to talk about vast difference of wealth in the world, how we as Americans spend more on our daily coffee than others make in a whole day and how we have become apathetic to the violence happening locally and in the world around us. Below is some thoughts on these topics.
My thoughts on the “inequalities of the world” may not be so acceptable to some. Mainly, I think it’s been this way forever and it is the nature of being human. The issue here isn’t inequalities, it’s in how we treat each other and our “opinions” of how others should live that are different than “us”. I look back at the times where I’ve had judgement of others who were different than me, and there are two events that stand out with regard to someone I felt was “needing more” or had less than I and I considered them “wanting”. The first I remember, is a story about a lady who came to me for Reconnective Healing session, she was on my table and stank of urine and alcohol and was by all appearances a “crazy cat lady” with an alcohol problem. I felt sorry for her as she looked like a tortured soul laying there. Then I witnessed her soul rise up from her body and greet me with love and happiness. This was a happy soul with a chosen life and did not need pity or for someone to feel sorry for her. The other experience is when I went to Peru and spent 8 days with a family in the Amazon Rainforest. These people had “nothing” by our standards, but they were the happiest people I’ve ever met. These were humbling experiences and made a profound affect on my perspective of others, and how I was being judgmental.
I think the real issue is when people want to “help” but the cost for the help is telling these people how they should live and what to believe. These people have chosen to be on this planet and they have chosen to procreate. Sometimes they want us to feel sorry for them, yet they don’t take responsibility to stop their own population growth. This isn’t a judgment on morals or religion, but rather economics and what makes sense from the standpoint of food, shelter, clothing and the supply of them all. It’s fine to help, but it’s not okay to place expectations on how others will receive that help or what they will do with the resources they receive. I also understand that some people of the world have oppressive governments, who try to live within their means and work hard. For these people, I think the world owes them some kind of respite or chance for growth and freedom.
I have no issues wanting to help others, but I do have a strong suspicion of “organizations” out there asking for money to help the poor. First, I really don’t know who to trust and who really has the moral fortitude to be an organization I want to stand behind. What is the money really going to provide? What kind of overhead do they have? Who’s salary will I be paying when I send my check in? I’ve heard so many stories about organizations like the Salvation Army who have been around for decades that really don’t reflect my own personal beliefs on relationships, religion and helping ALL people regardless of their sexual orientation, religion, creed, etc. Yet they stand at the entrances of local shops and groceries ringing their bells and asking to support these viewpoints while not really spelling out their own prejudices. I prefer to associate with organizations like Feed My Starving Children who have low overhead and I can put time into helping their cause. The other preference I have is to help people locally. I’ve never understood why we send money elsewhere when we have homeless, freezing people right here in our own neighborhoods. I think helping those abroad is important for sure, but let’s not forget our own. This is really the future in sustainable populations – each area supporting its own first, then the extra can go to other areas who may be struggling because of natural or otherwise disasters. It is up to each person and each society to be responsible for its own actions first and to figure out how to adjust to make themselves thrive.
As for the topic of apathy and violence, this is something I was just talking with my son about this past holiday. Everything we are inundated with in the media and to an extent society, numbs us to think what we are seeing is acceptable. We as “the people” tend to be outraged for a few minutes and then find something shiny off in the distance and promptly forget the tragedies of only moments before. I believe this sort of “memory loss” is directly related to what we see happening on TV and the movies. We really don’t worry about how it ends because doesn’t everything end up nice and neat within the 60 or 120 minute time allotment? No one seems to really feel the effects of tragedy unless it happens to them directly. I even see things that happen within a family be forgotten within a short amount of time and people go right on living life. They see the same injustices happening right out their own front door without raising much of any kind of emotion in them. The only way we are going to change apathy is to teach our children by examples of loving each other. The children will see how we accept things and what we don’t. We need to show them how connecting to that person at the bus stop or the lone child at the play ground or the elderly man who is shuffling down the sidewalk is an important action to take. We need to show them how to stop, listen with intent, rapture and respect. Show them how to slow down and take the time that each of us deserve to be recognized and respected. These acts will then spread and grow with the generation and eventually take over the “culture” of the world.
I just posted something to the effect that the news media doesn’t want you to know that there is much more good in the world than bad. That the isolated “events” of tragedy should be dealt with for what they are, but the response to these events should be from a place of active love and responsibility and not reactive fear. Each event of violence, natural disasters, etc are horrible, but we lose connection with them because we don’t allow them to affect us directly in any way. This is what the media, video games, movies have taught us, that we see what’s happening around us as it’s in a virtual world and isn’t real. So when we see it on the news or in newspapers, it isn’t real there either.
The story about this art piece titled, “The Sorcerer” by Michel Pleau is very interesting. Michel was approached by Nancy who commissioned the piece in honor of her father who used to tell Nancy stories as a child. She tells the story of how since she can remember, her dad would tell her stories at bedtime. These stories weren’t from a book or bought from a store, but rather he told her an ongoing story of a young girl named Mathilda and the harsh but magical lands in which she lived. The stories chronicled the adventures of Mathilda as she grew and navigated this realm. It was a time were everything about life seemed to be in an unstable and in transitional upheaval. Even the earth itself was undecided about its destiny and it was a time were all beings were in this state of flux and there was a great need for direction and leadership. Nancy tells how her father would describe how Mathilda would connect with nature as a way to become grounded and to see the clear truth of the world and herself. Mathilda would then show others this truth and provide leadership by example for others. Nancy spoke at length about how these stories made such an amazing impact on her life as she grew up. They helped Nancy see how she could make a positive impact on the world around her and how to have many deep and fulfilling relationships. Nancy tells of how Mathilda didn’t see herself as anyone special, but rather as an ambassador of life’s truth. This truth she saw as her greatest power and this power eventually enabled her to become a very wise and gracious sorcerer. As Nancy spoke about her father’s stories I could sense the deep impact they had on her. She commissioned this piece in honor of her father, but it was being given to her own daughter as a gift. You see, Nancy continues her dad’s stories with her own daughter and these stories really are a guide of the truth and self empowerment for her as well. I have been so very blessed to have a second edition of this piece of art and I will always think of Mathilda, “The Sorcerer of Truth”.
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What does it mean to be contented? Merriam-Webster defines it as:
: the quality or state of being contented
: feeling or showing satisfaction with one’s possessions, status, or situation
Sometimes I think that being content is like giving up. For example, if you have a relationship that isn’t fulfilling, but you’ve decided that it’s good enough. Or, perhaps you’re being told that you should “count your blessings” and be content with what you have. I really think this is bullshit and that a person thinking these things has given up a part of themselves. Especially when it comes to relationships, I think we’ve all been programmed to think that once we’ve indicated that we are connected to another person in an intimate way, we need to find all our fulfillment in them. The reality of this is that no one can be everything to another person. We each have our own interests and passions that can certainly overlap with another’s, but why give up on the rest? What happens when you meet that other person who is a perfect fit for some or all of the rest of what you are passionate about? Why does anyone need to give up “the rest” out of some ideal that it would be wrong or immoral to connect with another person who can fulfill that for us?
It’s important to indicate that just because you are not finding complete fulfillment in another, doesn’t mean that there is anything “wrong” with that person or that they are “bad” in some way. I’ve personally been married for almost 25 years to someone I consider to be my best friend in this lifetime. However, for many years I have had a driving force telling me that I needed to expand on my experiences with relationships with others. This doesn’t mean that my wife is “not enough” or that there is something wrong with her in any way. I just simply means that I want to experience more things with other people. You might be thinking that this is just a “mid-life crisis”, but it isn’t because I’ve always known this about myself, I was just not brave enough to express it until this past year. Once you are married you are fit into a specific role that has specific expectations by society. I thought there was something wrong with me and that I was somehow faulty or not good enough. It has been through my process of increasing my awareness that I’ve discovered that I don’t have to be stuck in a role that I had nothing to do with creating. I also discovered that by communicating my desires and intent to her, that we can and are, creating a new way of being together. This is not just being content, but what I call “Active Contentment”. Active Contentment requires a person to take responsibility for all aspects of their life and to Actively work on being Content! This is a process of evaluating my life repeatedly in who I am and what I desire to experience, then make a decision and a plan of Action that will adjust things so it moves me toward that goal. This process is ongoing and has no end. After all, it’s actually pretty awesome to take control of my life in an active and pro-active way! The other benefit of what we are doing with our relationship, is that we are both growing more independent, grounded in who we are, and focused on what really matters in our relationship. This concept has been very confusing for some that have been witnessing our changes, and I think the most confusing part for them is that we aren’t acting in the way they would “expect” two married people who no longer live together should act. Society most definitely wants to neatly categorize our actions and to set expectations on the outcomes, but at every turn we are causing the expectations to collapse and forcing people to re-evaluate their perception of how a relationship can be.
Another area to consider is what you do for work, whether it is a job or maybe a business you are running. You’ve made a contract or arrangement with the employer or your employees to the work or service you provide, but if you aren’t happy with what you are doing, why not change? I can certainly understand this from both perspectives as I’ve been an employer and an employee. I have experienced stepping into an agreement that I will do something and then perhaps after a time I’ve find that it just isn’t working. Then what I’ve done in the past is to start to feel guilty about changing, that I will somehow be letting “them” down if I leave my job or have to close the business. In my last business I wasn’t getting enough cash flow to support the overhead expenses of rent and payroll so instead of shutting it down at that point, I cashed out one of my retirement accounts (at a penalty of course plus taxes) in order to fund the business and pay my employees. The only thing this did was postpone the inevitable and drain me of a savings I’d been building up for over 20 years. Out of a perceived “responsibility” to others, I’m the one who ultimately suffered. I suffered the guilt, the anxiety and the loss of money for nothing. I also see this all the time with people who have jobs that they really don’t like at all. Rather than doing something about it, they stay, feel miserable and sometimes complain to everyone who will listen about the job and the employer. In the end, nothing usually gets solved from the situation, the person is unfulfilled and everyone around them is robbed of having a positive relationship with that person.
For me, I’ve been doing the same kind of work for over 20 years, but never fulfilled with what I’m doing. This has caused me to move around in my jobs hoping the next place will be the one to fulfill that need and during this time I would “suffer” this discontentment by having anxieties and depression about feeling lost in my life and career. I would always have a reason to seek the greener grass to motivate me to find a new job or start a business. I never spent the time to really understand what was at the core of my discontent and therefore kept re-creating the same situation over and over hoping for a different result (therefore insanity was a reality for me). Through Active Contentment I was able to discover that the root of my issues around my jobs was in my own lack of self esteem and self love. I never felt that I ever measured up to my expectations nor the perceived expectations of others. My “assumptions” said that others found me lacking and that I wasn’t really capable of performing at the level which is really needed for this position or as this kind of employer. However, the overwhelming responses I’ve always received from reviews and customers, was that I am an exceptional person.
I had a recent experience where I was talking with a former customer of mine about the business I had closed. I was indicating to them that I had found someone locally to take on my customer’s needs and that they were very competent and capable of handling the same services I had provided. The customer looked at me and said that I didn’t get it; that it was Me that people wanted to have as a service provider, not just someone that would provide them with a “service”. I was stunned by this as I had never considered what I was doing or who I was as exceptional or irreplaceable. This gave me a whole new perspective on myself that was at the beginnings of my discovery of a positive self worth.
Active Contentment means that you have responsibility, but it also means that you have the freedom to choose how you are going to feel content. For me in my job, I’ve shifted into an active contentment about what I do. This doesn’t mean that I’ve given up on changing what I do for a living at some point, but it does mean that I’m a lot happier in the meantime. I am choosing to love myself, to see the great things that I do and am able to do, to admit freely of things I don’t understand and to seek help without embarrassment or self deprecation. I am choosing to leverage my employment to prepare my life in a way that will enable to me step away from what I’m doing now, to a new career or business. I am choosing to be excited and methodical without being unrealistic. I am choosing to discover what it is about another person that intrigues me or attracts me to them without feeling like I’m betraying someone else or myself. I am choosing to be content but not to give up or settle.
What can you do in your life to be content without giving up or settling?