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