Rites of Passage to Belong

The More

Next year, in June, my niece is going to get married. I’ve been reading on her social media account about all of the stresses she’s been going through to plan the wedding in addition to holding down a full time job and studying for her master’s classes. By all accounts, she is doing a lot and has every right to be stressed. I know I would. Then I got to thinking about it a bit more from a larger perspective. What if the whole thing was super easy? What if the wedding planning was done by someone else? What if the going to school was effortless? What if money was no object and working was really unnecessary? Would it all mean the same to my niece in the end? Isn’t it the struggle that gives it all meaning and a deeper understanding of yourself and others who have done this same thing before you?

When you think about any event you have gone through in your life. Perhaps it was getting your first car, having your first kiss, graduating from school, having a baby or maybe even retiring from 30 years of working. These events or rites of passage give you an experience you can now use to not only have more wisdom, but also to be able to relate to others. It can also give you a sense of belonging. I think about this often when I observe my son and his wife struggling as they begin their married life and raising their young boys. I think, yep, been there done that (with a knowing look on my face). This knowledge and wisdom help me feel like I belong to a group of parents and grandparents that have gone before me. I can now have a perspective on life that they have and, I hope, that my son and daughter-in-law may someday have as well.

I think it’s been said that humans, by nature, are social beings and we thrive better in groups by feeling connected. Studies have even shown that if babies are not held our touched, they will get very sick and sometimes just give up on life. We want to belong in any way we can. Through our experiences we can not only belong, but we can also gauge how successful we are in our life. We can use the comparisons of our experiences to know how to feel about ourselves. Are we normal? Are we doing things correctly? Do we fit in or not? Even if we think we don’t fit it in, that in and of itself is a form of belonging. We then belong to a group of outliers or rebels. Belonging makes us feel safe in the midst of what can feel like a very chaotic world.

It’s also been said that life is a struggle. I’ve often thought of this statement as negative or not looking at the bright side. But now I’m not sure I agree with that perspective. I think that most of the “bright sides” that you can think of are really are born out of struggle. Sometimes the struggle is your own and sometimes the struggle has been done on the part others. I think it’s important to honor the process of the struggle and those that have gone through it. I also think it’s equally important that we move on from the struggle. It’s important to acknowledge that it has given us wisdom and to enjoy the of the fruits of our labor. Some people will forget this critical part of the process and get stuck in reliving the struggle and perhaps even feeling like a victim of it.

I challenge you to step back on your life for a moment and see all that you have accomplished. Take note of your struggles and your victories and then take a long, slow, deep breath and know you have made it. Now, when you see others struggling similarly, you can show sympathy for them. Better yet, have compassion for them and offer them your help. This is how we awaken to who we truly are as human beings. This is how we evolve and grown in this life together.

Dwight J. Raatz
10/14/2018
(a.k.a. Suffering to Belong)

Being, Human Being

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How are you choosing to experience being a Human Being in this life?

There are many ways to experience life as a human. You might decide to follow your own path and passions which may go against the grain of family or society. I’ll call these people Mavericks. Or, you may choose to observe and completely follow the queues of society, friends or family in hopes of being non-confrontational and pleasing. I’ll call these people Pleasers. I’ve met people at both ends of this spectrum, but for the most part, people are usually somewhere in between with a higher percentage trending toward being Pleasers. For the purposes of this essay, I’m going to look at the Pleasers and to a greater extent, the ones that not only look for the approval of other people, but also look for meaning or purpose outside the realm of humanity.

I would consider myself to be a “Transformational Pleaser”. This is someone who once was fully embedded in being an unconscious Pleaser (or someone who does not know they are a Pleaser); to someone who is consciously transforming the skills I’ve learned as a Pleaser to my own advantage. I am now leveraging these skills and adopting more Maverick attributes as I grow and mature as a human. I would like to dive deeper into this concept in order to more fully understand it for myself and hopefully to give you insights into your own life.

Being raised the youngest of five siblings I found myself observing my siblings, how they interacted with each other and my parents. I was much younger than my next oldest sibling which limited my interactions with them in having shared growing experiences. In my observations of them, I found it useful to figure out how I should behave based on what they did. I observed the conflicts they had and tried to make adjustments in how I behaved to avoid those same conflicts. Finding that this was a good strategy, I began using these same methods with my classmates and teachers in school. I became a master at blending in and being able to have good relationships with most anyone older or younger than myself. I honed an already natural ability to intuit the mood of a person, what actions they were taking and then morph my own actions to coincide or match theirs. I believe this ability allowed me to gain favor in many people’s eyes as I did everything I could to make their life easier and to please them. I continued to use this ability throughout my younger years and on into adulthood.

The major downside to being a Pleaser is that I didn’t fully connect to who I was as my own person. I had little self confidence in my own abilities, nor did I even realize the enormous amount of knowledge I was gaining through my experiences as a Pleaser. I did not realize that I had an innate sensitivity to almost everything that I encountered. It hasn’t been until the last five or ten years that I’m becoming shockingly aware of how sensitive I really am. Recently, I took an online test based on Dr. Elaine Aron’s book The Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). The HSP test asks a series of questions to determine your level of sensitivity to not only emotional attributes, but also physical ones as well. I scored a 27 out of 27 being the highest level of sensitivity possible. This test was a real eye opener and confirmed even more that I need to pay attention to the information I’m getting from all my senses and to trust it as being important to who I am. This test, along with the experiences I’ve had over my years, are allowing me to gain more and more confidence in who I am as a unique human being.

Nearly fifteen years ago, around 2003, I purchased the book Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch. This was the time of my life I would consider myself to be on a seeker’s journey. I’d never really felt connected to or comfortable with the dogma and teachings of the church and I was looking for something to make sense of how I felt. I consider this book the first solid connection to something that made sense to me and aligned with how I’d felt for years about religion. This got me very excited that I was not the only one who felt the way I did. The concepts and experiences that Neale was writing about seemed to be taken directly from my own thoughts and ideas. I was intrigued to think that if someone else could have these same thoughts, that maybe I wasn’t so weird after all.

I became more and more excited with feeling like the answers to my questions might be found in other sources. I began to experiment with other traditions and rituals including Wicca, Paganism, Modern Mystery School teachings, and even with the ancient traditions of the Shaman in the Peruvian Amazon jungle. Each of these experiences seem to open up an even deeper hunger for more answers. I became a regular at psychic events to get readings, learning about Numerology, Astrology and Tarot; participating in various events all aimed at folding back the reality I saw myself in. This was all in hopes of revealing a deeper meaning under it all and hopefully a better understanding of who, or better yet, what I really am. I became trained as a Reconnective Healing practitioner, Reiki Healer, and as a Breathwork practitioner. I found I had a natural ability for all of these modalities and experienced sessions with clients that I have no scientific explanation for what I witnessed.

In all of these experiences I discovered that I am much more than what I was lead to believe. I’ve discovered that I am more than human. I know and believe that I am a Being of energy and light that is so immense and powerful, that I cannot even wrap my own human mind around the concept. I believe that I am part of the All there is, and I have no fear of ever losing that. I believe that I am a spiritual being having a human experience, as the saying goes. Knowing this is amazing and thought provoking, but ultimately it has taken me to a dead end. I’m still a human being, so now what?

With all that I feel that I’ve learned and know, it became clear to me that the seeker’s journey is worthy and even necessary for those who feel lost or unsettled such as I did. I believe that each of us that feel disconnected from life need to find a way to connect to our purpose, who we are and even more importantly, what we really are. I believe that for some, until we have clarity around this, we may live a life unfulfilled and disjointed. Everyone’s seeker journey is as unique as they are, but it’s important to say that some of us get stuck in the process of being a seeker. For some, the seeker process can be like an addiction to discover more and more about the answers “out there”. Like I did for a time, some continue to rely on answers from external sources such as spirit guides, Angels, psychics, etc in order to understand their life, why things are happening and what the hidden meanings are behind things. There isn’t anything wrong with these sources but for some people, they cannot make any decision for themselves without first consulting these sources.

As my seeker journey progressed, one of the repeating themes that I discovered was to trust myself, my own wisdom and my natural gifts. Without having my journey, I recognize that I would have never known what my gifts are (or at least the ones I know of now) or what I really am in the grand scheme of existence. I never would have known how to trust myself or even known how to interpret the information I receive. I also, would have never known how to stay open to what will likely continue to be revealed to me in the future.

With all of this said and done, I now turn back to me as a human being and need to decide, what do I do now? What do I need to do to fully experience my human life on this planet, in this time in history, in this body, with this family, with these people around me, with the limitations, boundaries and abilities that I have? I get to decide how deep do I dive into each event and if it’s really worth the effort. Is it really necessary to attribute every mood or feeling to planetary movements or alignments? Do I need to look up the meaning behind the time on the clock when I woke up at 2:34 am? Do I need to confirm with a psychic if I should stay in a relationship or not? Maybe I just need to decide to get more sleep. Maybe I need to eat a better diet so I don’t wake up in the middle of the night. Maybe I should just trust myself and say yes to the relationship and find out where it takes me.

I now have the power to respond to life instead of react. I can choose to observe life from a perspective of trusting the process and doing what I can to be a responsible human. I can choose to be compassionate and loving to others. I can choose to honor the process that others have chosen for their life. I can choose to be a model and mentor when necessary. And, I can choose to encourage others to see their own power. Choosing to live my life fully in the human experience is really why I’m here, but sometimes it takes knowing more, before you can settle into that role.

Through my journey, I now know that nothing will change where I’ll end up, when all of this is done. I will go back to the All There Is once again. The question is, what experiences as a Human Being will I take back with me?

Dwight Jon Raatz
July 25th, 2018
Essay, Non-Fiction

I Am Not Important

The More

I was born in 1965 in a small town in southeastern North Dakota.  My family and I lived on a small farm where my father was a second generation farmer on the land my grandfather had homesteaded in the early 1900’s.  My father had taken over the family farm about the time I was born.  He diversified his efforts at making a living by milking cows, raising beef cattle, pigs and chickens.  We also farmed several sections of land where we raised a variety of grain crops.  For me, my childhood experiences were by many standards, unremarkable.  I am the youngest of 5 children. I can never remember feeling like we were poor or rich.  I always felt safe, cared for, and I really can’t think of a time that I needed anything.  I will admit that being the youngest child, with my next oldest sibling being about 5 years older than me, I did tend to get more things from my parents than my siblings.  I don’t really know if it was because my parents had more disposable income as I grew up, or if they somehow felt differently about buying things at that time.  I don’t remember being a needy or a complaining child in any way either.  Life just seemed to go on and on and I was mainly an observer of it.  I can’t really recall interacting with my siblings or my parents in any great depth, other than working on the farm or at the evening meals.  With the age difference from my four siblings (each of them being about a year apart in age), I tended to spend most of my time alone from what I remember.  I was often wrapped up in listening to music, reading the encyclopedia, or later on, playing with any sort of electronics I could get my hands on.  Other than the occasional teasing from my one brother, I didn’t experience any real trauma as a child.  Or at least that’s what I thought anyway.

 

In one way or another, I believe that we all are searching for some sort of peace for our lives.  From my observations, some of us have similar struggles, but at times, very different perspectives on our struggles or even how to resolve them.  When I think about the various ways people experience trauma, it really has a broad spectrum.  Depending on how you look at life or your belief systems, trauma can even begin pre-conception.  Most certainly it can be agreed that trauma can begin in the womb with exposure to various drugs, physical abuse, or even environmental factors. I believe that even the feelings and emotions of the mom and dad toward being pregnant can cause trauma to the child before they are born.  Then moving forward, you have the actual birth itself being the first standard trauma that everyone has (no matter how well the pregnancy and birth went).  If you can imagine spending 9 months being completely carefree and supported in every way, then suddenly forced into the world to deal with gravity, breathing, hunger, bowl movements, you name it.  Heck, that’s pretty traumatic right?

 

No matter what your traumatic experiences have been, they play a part in how your life is shaped, the person you become, and how you view the world.  Some of us have very good support systems and/or families that are highly aware and conscious of their bodies and emotions.  This can help you to grow up more balanced and you naturally have various ways to release the tensions of trauma through physical activity, deep conversations, and overall support from those you love.  This however is not so common from observations of my little corner of the world. So what do the rest of us need to do when we experience trauma?  Well, some will stuff the feelings, some will act out in various ways including anger, depression, anxiety, self mutilation, danger seeking, drugs, over-working and various other destructive methods.  Then there are others who have tried more “positive” avenues like therapy, psychics, energy healing, meditation, religion, athletics, etc.  It seems to me that most, but not all, methods tend to start with the mind when trying to find peace.  The mind is indeed an important place to focus the healing practice, but only when you approach that healing from a positive perspective, that is focused on releasing tension in both the mind and body.

 

It’s very interesting to think about all of the classes I’ve taken and methods of “connection” or rituals I was shown.  While many of them are important and relevant, I could never really understand why they had to be so complicated (e.g. having to speak a mantra in a particular way, moving your body in a particular manner, vocalizing in a particular tone, etc).  I believe that there is purpose to these methods and they can even be valid depending on where you are at in your journey.  I kept going back to my childhood, sitting in church and thinking, why does this all have to seem so complicated and wrought with possible ways to fail?  I just could not believe that an “all-knowing” being that created us from dust, would even have a need for us to do anything complicated let alone be worshipped.

 

Like many, I’ve done a lot of the abovenegative andpositive methods for finding peace for my mind.  As I look back at many of these methods, the focus seemed to be outside of my body and mind, as if the solution was “out there” somewhere.  I can remember going to several psychics searching for one of them that could just reach inside my mind and flip the proverbial switch to allow peace in and the rest to go.  I even got to the point where I saw so many different psychics, I would consider myself a junkie.  As I spent a lot of time and money, I realized I was getting more and more angry that “they” weren’t fixing me. I realized that I was looking for the solution outside of myself.  After about 10 years of trying many avenues, I finally began to see that the solutions have always been inside of me.  I know this is not news really, as I’ve heard that kind of thing for years, but I never really believed it.  This was until I was introduced to a method of healing that is based on a very basic human function, breathing.

 

When I was introduced to Rebirthing Breathwork, I initially thought it was just another fad that sounded interesting.  However, on the very first session, I experienced an unexpected shift and release out of a seeming nowhere. At this point I knew I was hooked and I needed to know more, so I signed up for a year long training course to become a certified breathwork practitioner.  It’s been about three years since first learning the technique and I’ve been through many sessions myself and I’ve coach many people in their own sessions.  As time went on and life happened, I got distracted and stopped for several months from doing any sort of healing practices on myself and others.  Then I got an invitation from my teacher to attend a workshop called “Loving Relationships” with Sondra and Markus Ray.   This workshop was focused on improving all of our relationships, but more specifically our intimate personal ones.

 

One of the first exercises we went through at the workshop was to do sentence completion related to the negative thoughts that run through my mind.  The idea was to determine our personal primary negative belief that we have underlying our thoughts.  I started out with, “I’m not enough”, then, “I overthink and worry”, then, “I am a fake”, then, “I’m not important to anyone”, then, “I’m not important enough to be loved.”.  As I looked at what I had written it struck me that my primary negative belief is, “I am not important”.  This really resonated with me as I could see it was at the very heart of many symptoms I’ve experienced over the years.

 

When I was very young, probably under the age of 20, I don’t know if I ever thought much about feeling important to anyone or not.  When I look back and try to remember how things were during that time, I recall being connected to a very small group of friends more so than being connected to my family.  My friends seemed to fulfill that part of my life that wanted to be acknowledged and valued.  They would seek me out to do things.  They went out of their way to listen to me, try to understand and to relate to me their own stories.  It wasn’t until I went to college and afterwards when got my first career job that I started to notice how very disconnected I felt from my family.  When they would ask me how my life was going, I would tell them about my job or what I’m learning and I felt that they would just stop listening.  Sometimes they would say something like, “I just don’t understand [insert whatever topic I was presenting].”  I found that the harder I tried to explain my life, my career, my spiritual growth, or my thoughts, they would become more and more disconnected.  Finally it got to the point that I just stopped trying.  I just gave them what they wanted to hear, which usually meant saying something like, “Oh yes, I’m very busy at my job.  Lot’s of projects to work on.”, and that was it.  This was very common in all my interactions.  I became very skilled at giving a short answer and then turning the conversation around to focus on them.

 

Things seemed to progress over the years where I would start to attribute people not acknowledging me in one way or another, as me not being important.  This belief infiltrated my relationships with my wife and kids, my employer, my social friends, you name it.  I got to the point that I felt numb to even wanting to feel connected to anyone, or to allow love to be given or received.  It was easier and safer to protect myself than to be hurt by allowing someone into my heart.  So it went on like this for over 30+ years.  I was living my life, but in a very closed way.  I was quick to have anger, which I directed inward.  I had cycles of good days followed by many fraught with anxiety and depression.  I worked hard at keeping all of this bottled up inside of me.  I tried desperately to “protect” my wife and kids from all of this, but they suffered from the side effects despite my best intentions.

 

All of my thoughts around not being acknowledged, respected, smart, good enough, you name it; all came down to feeling or thinking that I am not important; not to life, family, friends, employers, or neighbors. If I were to cease to exist in this very moment, the overall rhythm of life would only experience a very small, mostly unnoticeable bump in the road.  This feeling was pervasive in my life making me feel very lonely, depressed and angry.  After the weekend workshop I made a promise to myself that I would start again with my own healing practices and I made an appointment with my coach the following week for a breathwork session.

 

When I went into my Breathwork session with Deanna (my coach), I really didn’t know what I was going to focus on. We started out by talking for at least an hour about what I was dealing with lately, I talked about my desire to be heard by others, feelings of being disrespected, and having no path for the future. Since I didn’t feel at the time that I had anything specific to breathe on, I decided to choose my primary negative belief (or primary personal lie), as this seemed like as good as anything else.

 

The breathing was done the same way we had at the retreat I attended. My mouth was more open, and with a relaxed jaw and with a fuller breath.  I began to breath in the specific cyclical pattern for Rebirthing Breathwork, having no pause at the bottom or top of the breath.  This makes your breathing a bit faster than normal.  My breathing seemed unremarkable as my mind flitted from one topic to another. As I saw each thought come up in my mind, I would just release it using the rhythm of the breath. This process went on for some time until I could feel “the flip” happen.  The “flip” is that moment where you move from consciously breathing, to a more automatic rhythm and your body takes over breathing.  My breathing became faster yet and my body started to cramp a bit, and my jaw and hands got stiff, which is normal in this process. Deanna was there to keep me on track, telling me to relax my jaw and open my mouth more, and to breathe through the cramping. I’ve definitely been in worse shape for cramping when I first did this technique, but I’ve since learned to recognize and release that tension.

 

At some point I relaxed more and I could feel my whole body, or what felt like an energetic representation of my body, began to rise up off/out from my physical body.  The sensation was similar to a heavy vibration that encompassed my whole body.  As the vibration lifted, I could feel my physical body become more still and relaxed.  Somehow I knew I needed to release this “representation” of myself, so I really amped up my breathing even more.

 

At times I became distracted by visions or dreams and my breathing would slow down. When this happened, the energetic “self” started to descend back into me. Deanna would coach me to focus and get on track again which would push the energy further and further out. Finally I felt that the release or separation was far enough away that it could no longer come back unless I willed it to. In those final moments my breath pushed it far enough away and I could feel it disconnect and vanish!

 

As I came out of a sort of trance I was in, we began to talk about the experience I had where I described each detail as I’ve written here. Deanna shared with me how she also could sense the release I was describing. Now that I’m writing this and processing more, I now know that the release was a sort of shield or armor. I had no idea what it was at the time, I just knew it needed to go.

 

At this point I felt like I was done and the session felt complete as I was relaxing on the table. Deanna was telling me how I had done well. Then, what felt like words from another source or dimension , Deanna said, “You are so important Dwight.” At this moment time stopped, and I could feel this transfer or a gift of love energy enter into my body and spirit. I felt shocked and very surprised by the feeling. It was like something I’d never felt or experienced before. I can only describe it as being very thirsty and you take that first mouthful of cool water and you feel it wash over your throat, chest and finally your whole body. In that moment, my breath caught in my throat and I felt a sense of laughter or joy that came out of me. It was just a moment, because directly afterward came a huge cascading feeling of a perfect mix of pure joy and sorrow flooding my whole body.  In those few moments, I felt like for the first time I had allowed myself to feel love, to feel my amazing importance, and it was so powerful I didn’t know what to do with it.  I was sad that I’ve been without this miracle in my life. I could feel the pain and sorrow releasing and joy receiving. The sorrow was from knowing that I’d starved myself from feeling love. My body and spirit were, what I can only describe as, being released from a concentration camp, a starved, emaciated skeleton of a person walking out of the wire gates of the prison. This flood of emotions manifested in my body by letting loose with sobbing, short breaths and a sense of fear of the letting go. My voice came with the sobs in short bursts as I fought the release, but Deanna coached me to let go and breathe!  At that moment I had to decide.  Was I going to trust that I was safe by letting go?  Was Deanna safe to do this with?  What would happen to me if I let go? Would I be able to come back or would I be lost in the emotion of this?  In that split second of thought, I decided it no longer served me to keep holding on.  I needed desperately to grow and to release the pain, and this was the moment.  I trusted Deanna and I trusted this process.  The breathing allowed me to let go of the last blocks, and to even sob harder than I can ever remember before in my life. I had no idea that all of this wastrapped inside of me.

 

As the exchange of released emotion and the taking in of love happened, I simply surrendered to it all. Deanna coached me along and I remember having my left hand over my eyes and forehead. I could feel the tears and sweat all over my face. My right hand was on my heart and I could feel Deanna’s hands on me. I reached for her hand and held on, feeling the connection to Earth and to humanity through her. I could hear her repeating the phrase, “You are so important Dwight.”, over and over in low soft tones. I remember my breath flowing and all of the tightness in my chest releasing more and more. It’s so very hard to explain in words the release of the pain and emotions.  It’s hard to describe the thirst I felt for allowing myself to feel love.  It’s hard allow myself to feel this vulnerable with anyone.  What would they think of me now after seeing me completely lose it?  Would I appear to be weak, not a man, not more in control of my life?  I believe many of us feel this way when faced with letting go of emotions and the possibility of being embarrassed or even ridiculed for doing just that.

 

I began to calm and felt the wave ending. I relaxed and wiped my face and blew my nose. As I laid there, I felt an amazing peace in and around me. We talked a bit and about the experience and I tried to express what I felt, but mostly I was quiet. Then Deanna started to say the mantra again and again, “You are so important Dwight.”, in continued low and soft tones. Thinking that I was done with the session was silly because the whole thing just cut loose again! I could feel that there was more that needed to be released and my body knew it, and apparently so did Deanna. This cycle was shorter but even more intense than before. For the first time in my life, I can actually say that I not only sobbed, but I wailed with sorrow and joy. I used my voice to transmute that feeling and energy. This final wave subsided after a time andI was finally done. I lay there completely spent.

 

It’s very hard to describe my session in words. The big releases that I had were nothing like I’ve ever experienced before. I know that I’ve never in my life allowed myself to be so raw, to be so vulnerable to the feelings I was having in those moments.  I only know that this was a life changing moment for me.  I had made a big step toward my own personal freedom.  I’d allowed myself to feel love and know that I needed and wanted this to be more prevalent in my life.  This is a huge thing for me because I’ve found the concept of love to be somewhat of a mystery. It’s not a that I didn’t understand it at all, I just never really “felt” love to any huge degree from what I remember. I knew enough of love, to realize that I was missing something.

 

In the moments and minutes that followed, I did some more processing with Deanna, drank water and talked. I found it difficult to move my body.  I felt like I was trying to force my very essence back into my physical body.  It was hard to coordinate my muscles to even move me out of the room and the building out to my car. Since I’d had some experience with doing this in the past, I knew I needed to be extra careful as I drove home. Breathwork like other types of healing practices can cause you to be in an altered state and even feel as though you are “out of body” at times. It’s important to spend time re-integrating, and a good way to do this is by drinking water and eating a small amount of food. Dark chocolate is one of the recommended foods to eat, but anything that is organic and unprocessed.

 

I know this is not the end. I know there is more, but for now I’m in a really good place. I feel blessed and loved. I’m ready now to move forward into the days to come full of love!

 

– Dwight Jon Raatz, 10/11/2017

 

(Edited 11/21/2017)

A Change of Perspective: Your Assignment

The More

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?

 

American Beauty – Plastic Bag Scene

 

Peace,

 

Dwight Raatz

What I’ve Learned So Far

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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)

I learned…

  • . . . 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.

Gratitude,

Dwight Raatz

Pointless Protection

The More

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.

Dwight Raatz

The Goddess Shook

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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 Shook

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.

She Shook.

 

Dwight Raatz

Love is in the Relationship Dance

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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

I Gave at the Office

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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.

 

Dwight Raatz

The Sorcerer – art by Michel Pleau

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The Sorcerer
art by Michel Pleau

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”.

Dwight Raatz

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