I Am Not Important

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)

Love is in the Relationship Dance

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

Gods Among Us

Our Children Are Divine

As our children emerge into this life from the womb, they are the closest beings (aside from nature) that is connected to the Universal Divine Source. In spending time with my Grandson (pictured here eating cherry tomatoes), I am in awe of his presence and feel like I’m with someone who is not fully human, but more Divine.  As we grow and dis-connect more into our reality illusion, it is our children who are truly Gods among us.  Spend time to see your child’s simple perspective of life and know that you have much to learn from them.  Laugh, Smile, Enjoy the Succulent tastes of Nature, Love without condition, Show your emotions without shame – then Forgive and let go.  Sleep soundly in the arms of those you love, even if it just yourself.  Give love AND receive it graciously.  Help all children to stay connected and to not fall into the illusion we did.  This is how we will change the world.

 

Dwight Raatz

Meaning from the Meaningless

 

Where does the need to find meaning for my life come from?  Is this an innate force that comes from within, or is this a learned behavior that is so engrained I don’t even know the original source?  I think about all of the situations I’ve been in, the people I’ve met and how perfect the timing has been.  How is it possible that there is no purpose behind these events?  It seems impossible to me that everything that has happened and all that exists is a continuous result of pure random chance.  I’m not saying that I believe there is some all-knowing power out there that has a detailed plan for my life and I am simply acting out a predestine part.  What I’m coming to see is that there are natural states of being that attract or repel the like or unlike.  Could it be that there is no true intelligence out there that has an agenda for each aspect of my life, but rather that there is an ebb and flow of life energy?

I’ve spent the better part of my life seeking meaning in all things.  This fact has really been the core of virtually all my struggles with depression, the resulting anxieties and pent up anger that, at times, consumed me.  I would analyze and pick apart what a person said to me, or didn’t say; how a person would look at me, or not look at me, why I wasn’t happy at my job, what I was lacking as a husband and father, etc.  Each time I looked earnestly for the answers to my “why” questions, I come to a dead end or I find myself going in circles around “situations” that have no answer or meaning.  I see this search now as futile and my role as a Seeker of meaning to be pointless.  Seeking answers for things outside of me, for justification of what has happened, is happening, or is going to happen is really not only a waste of time, but also a huge drain on energy.

I can clearly see now why religion was and is such a perfect “solution” to the dilemma of wanting meaning to life. While it doesn’t necessarily answer all of the questions, I think it gives the person enough to satisfy and abate the bigger aspects of one’s questions. However, I see the destructive nature of religion being that it instills a deep unworthiness inside us.  If you were to ask someone with deep religious convictions about this unworthiness, they would deny that meaning and say that they are accepted by their God because they believe in some constructed rule-set that allows them to be accepted or saved.  When you look at the rules laid out by Christianity, you will see that each one is based in judgment, worthiness, and conditions in order to be saved.  I’ve always been confused at putting human emotions on God.  How He will be angry or upset or jealous if we do not follow a set of rules.  This picture of the Christian God has always reminded me of the stories of Zeus and other gods of Olympus.   I see Him looking down from above upon his subjects and seeing only their disrespect and misbehaviors and him getting mad, stomping around in “heaven” yelling and cursing at his disappointment in how he is being treated.  And if his “rules” are not followed, he brings upon the earth all sorts of disaster, pestilence and bad luck to all those who need to be taught a lesson.  And these “lessons” are what we conjure up to give meaning behind things.

Recently I was sharing with a friend my personal perspective on my beliefs.  One of them is that I believe that no matter what path I take in my life (good or bad) I will still end up going into the great energetic “collective” of the Universe (a.k.a Heaven).  I also shared with him that I don’t believe in Hell as it’s described in the bible.  I told him that I believe Hell is here on Earth – in that how we treat ourselves, how we treat others, how we deny ourselves or separate ourselves from our true Divine nature.  While I consider my friend to be a pretty calm, level-headed individual and very intelligent, he became visually and emotionally agitated in what I was saying.  His response was that he believes “Satan” has me wrapped around his finger and exactly where he wants me.  For me to believe that all is well and there are no concerns for my soul being saved seemed irresponsible to him and he said he would and is praying for me.  While I knew he was completely serious about this accusation, I couldn’t help finding it a bit humorous and very interesting.  It seems that his version (Lutheran Christian’s view) of God is very judgmental and God’s love and acceptance is conditional.  This makes no sense at all.

So when we seek meaning in our lives through religion, what we are taught is that we as humans are not completely worthy of love unless we follow a set of rules.  We are taught this from a very young age and so begins the illusion of unworthiness that inundates and infects us as we grow.  This idea of conditional love is rampant in everything from the stories we are told, books we are read, in school, and in social circles.  Unless we prescribe to acceptable rules, love and acceptance is withheld and given to only good girls and boys.  We continue this idea of unworthiness into our school years, college and then on into our work world.  We constantly are comparing ourselves to others, to people on TV shows, to advertising, etc.  We look for meaning in what we are doing and whether it is acceptable to others, whether we measure up and if we will be included and accepted.  Is this really what life is about?  I don’t believe this at all.

I don’t believe that God or any “higher source” has a master plan for my life, I believe I choose.  If you were to consider there to be any “plan” at all, it would be to give love, to experience love and to explore our own vast abilities in each day of our existence.   I see religion’s version of life to be about conditions, judgment, pain and suffering.  My view on life is to combine love with others, to grow and exponentially create and expand to become greater than the sum of the parts.  It is to enjoy our own selves and others for who we are and to support those who need help to recognize their true selves and abilities.  To find the meaning in my life is irrelevant in order to find love and enjoyment of myself and everyone else in my life.  It has been said that what life is, is just simply what it is and nothing more.  We choose how we will be and interact with all that is around us.  I say, choose wisely and with Love in your heart.

Dwight Raatz

All Reality is but a Stage

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
~ Shakespeare – As You Like It, Act 2, scene 7

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I believe with regard to religion and spirituality. I’ve come to realize that I need to be clear on my beliefs so I have a better understanding of how to explain them to others. With that, I’m going to spend some time here to give a more thorough examination of my current beliefs and I will utilize some real life experiences and analogies in order to explain them. It’s important to know that as I learn and grow, so do my beliefs. I take time to re-analyze my beliefs against any new awareness and decide if it needs to be updated, added or removed.

Recently I was invited for lunch with my friend Joshua because we had been dialoging via email on various topics surrounding religion and we thought that we could really make some ground on our conversation by meeting in person. Upon arrival at our meeting, I was surprised at how quickly he wanted to dig into the topic at hand and dispense with too much small talk, but in a way I was glad of it. (As a side-note, Joshua is Christian who is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and I’m not – even though it is the church of my birth) I decided to back up a bit and give an overview of my personal position on why I’m not a Christian. After doing so, Joshua continued into a line of questioning that was mainly asked in order to obtain a better understanding of my beliefs. While the conversation was quite lively and interesting, I became concerned about the kinds of questions he was asking as they did not seem to be in line with what I thought I had explained as my beliefs. Even in subsequent emails over the following day or two after our lunch, I was still confused on why the conversation went down the path of being more of an offense/defense around religion. He even recommended that I read the book “Letters from a Skeptic”, in order for me to have a resource to answer my objections to Christianity. This book is about a son (the Christian) who invites his father (the Agnostic) into a letter dialog to enable his father to pose all his objections and questions around Christianity and the son would answer these letters in hopes of “saving” his father.

I took Joshua’s advice and downloaded the unabridged audio version of the book and I listened to it over the next couple days. What I found in listening to this book is a range of emotions. First I was angry at what I felt were not only ludicrous and ignorant questions (from the father in the story), but also I was angry at the answers being given by the son as I felt they lacked any real motivation to “convert”. My emotions then moved into boredom as the book when on and on with questions like, “… well if God is love and he loves his creation, then why are their natural disasters and pestilence in the world?” to answers like, “… there are bad people in the world because of a great cosmic war between good and evil that we are caught in and cannot save ourselves.” I was tired of the story and seeing that I had about half the book left, I thought more than once to abandon it and move on. I decided that there must be some reason why this particular book was recommended to me so I trudged on and what I found is that once I gave up my emotions around listening to the book, I began to really hear the conversation. I also was able to see a different perspective on the stories of the Bible including those of Jesus. I also came to the realization (based on the questions Joshua was asking) that I’m doing a really bad job at being clear as to what my beliefs are. I realized that how I approached the reasons around no longer being a Christian (or any religion for that matter) not only challenged Joshua’s beliefs (which would naturally put him on the defensive), but it also clouded what I really wanted to share about me.

With the new awareness in place, I decided to outline my personal current beliefs in writing and here is how it came together (in no particular order):

  • I believe in an intelligent, universal energy that is All, it binds all and is pure love and pure creation (e.g. The Universe, The Divine, God, Yahweh, Ein Sof, Allah, etc).
  • I believe my Higher Self (HS) is but an extension of God and is not in any way separated. My HS is not my humanity. The HS knows all and is completely enlightened within its connection to The Divine.
  • I believe my Soul is my consciousness in and around my human body. It is my HS’s representation of itself as I am in human form, but the soul has chosen to “forget” who he really is as the HS.
  • I believe God can only truly know herself through experiencing all facets of creation through a virtual separation or dis-memberment from herself. The dis-memberment is a veil of “forgetting”.
  • I believe the dis-memberment I create from God is only an illusion that I agree to before becoming human.
  • I believe that everything returns to God because nothing is truly separated from Him.
  • I believe free will enables us to create a vast number of experiences and opportunities for The Divine to know Herself.
  • I believe that when we die from the human form, our Soul goes back to be part of All – Always
  • If we do bad or “evil” things during our lives, or we experience evil, this is an experience we have chosen.
  • I believe that if we put (create) enough negative or “evil” energy out, it will manifest into its own force with apparent intelligence. I believe this force can cause problems, death and destruction but has no power over The Universe. I believe this force can be transmuted by (not only God) but easily by a direct focused intention of any human commanding it with Love.
  • I believe hell is only a part of our human reality and is a deliberate denial of being connected to The Divinity within us. It only exists individually for a person’s lifetime as a human. Hell can also be conditions brought upon by an energetic imbalance from society. Hell is also a chosen experience.
  • Whether the bible or any religious text is real and/or actually happened is irrelevant to my beliefs.
  • I believe we can choose to be incarnate in human form multiple times.
  • I believe religion came about because of a natural evolution of Man discovering and remembering it’s truth. Religion is not right or wrong, it’s simply a tool used as we become more enlightened as humans.
  • I believe the human ego is a purposeful way to experience our humanity. Once we understand this, each experience can be reviewed, considered, and then released.
  • I believe our reactive emotions (anger, fear, depression, happiness, etc) are the domain of the ego – they are conditional. It’s when you can allow the emotion to pass through and out (release) and observe it for what it is, then you can truly be the master of your ego.
  • I believe that there are many roads Home and it’s our choice which path to take (free will). But no matter the path, we all go Home.
  • I am no religion. Nor do I claim to fit into any category of organized spirituality.
  • I am not a Christian because I do not need to be saved by having Christ die for my sins.
  • “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.” – John 14:12
    – Even if everything taught to me about the stories of Jesus are true, I believe the actions by Jesus were primarily a guide to living life and showing us that we just need to let go and believe in our connection to The All that Is. Jesus was another example given to us over human history (also like Horus and Osiris) .
    – I believe I am just as much a part of God as Jesus. I believe Jesus was just more naturally (by intention and design) aware and humanly conscious of this connection to The Universe than most. He was this way on purpose to help us evolve our awareness and our collective consciousness.
  • I believe we have had many Masters come to earth over time to teach us the same truths that was taught by our ascended Masters. I believe that over time we have become more enlightened as humans, that we now have access to more “connected” humans giving us more guidance and truths.
  • What I see is that the illusion of daily life as an experience that we can truly see and re-member the Divinity within ourselves.
  • I do not believe that God has the emotions of humans and that She is pure Love. Love is not an emotion, it is a way of being that is all accepting.

I have an analogy that helps me to explain our existence as it relates to our humanity, the ego, the soul, and our Higher Self (Godself). The example that I am giving is to compare these things to a stage play. The primary aspects of a play include; the set (or stage), the actors, the characters, the audience and the script. Each of these components I will relate to how I see myself as a spiritual being having a human experience.

  • The set or stage represents the earth as well as the visible known universe. This is where I “exist” in my reality.
  • The actor represents our soul which is veiled in its full knowledge of God and is more closely related to our physical human experience, but takes guidance from the Higher Self.
  • The character is our humanity or our day to day facade that we portray during our life including the effects of our ego
  • The script is our overall plan for our experience that we designed before coming to earth as a human
  • The audience is our Higher Self and God, witnessing and experiencing the interactions between all aspects of the play.

As we live our lives as characters in a play, we play out using our free will and some guidance from the script. The actor or soul is the connection to spirit or our Higher Self and it experiences the interplay among the self, other characters and the set. If we choose (using free will) to ignore our guidance and take a different path, this is acceptable and is honored, but we find our lives to be incomplete and we struggle.

Before we are born unto humans, we have already decided the main experiences we want in our lifetime. Some people refer to these as lessons, but that is not my view. I believe we already “know” everything conceptually, but not experientially. It is our wish to truly know via experience. The problem we face as humans is that we deny the truth of our existence as it has been shown to us many times (including by Jesus). We do not know how to manage our experiences of life as just that, an experience – then it should be released. Upon human physical death, the experiences of the life is re-membered All the consequence of the life are no longer relevant, but yet does create a Karmic resonance that can continue to be felt and can seek resolution within the next life. If we haven’t been able to release our experience, we will never really know it completely. Therefore, if we choose to re-incarnate, some of these experiences may be played again in the next life.

As I look back onto my lunch with Joshua, the book I listened to and the validation of my belief systems, things became clearer about life and my existence. I am slowly becoming even more aware of each interaction I have with everyone in my life, no matter how seemingly insignificant. I can step outside of the experience and see it for what it really is. I am more cognizant of what I’m being shown in the experience and how it is teaching me more about myself and re-membering who I really am. This awareness has brought me peace and fulfillment to my life. I believe it is in the awareness of the re-membering where I fulfill the script or “plan” of my life. It is the whole point of my existence.

What I Believe Changes as I grow and become more attuned to my true self.
 

Dwight Raatz

Eat, Pray, Love – Words to Guide

As I was mowing the lawn one day, I got to thinking about my son’s groom’s dinner. I knew that there was an expectation for me to say something, but what could I say that wouldn’t sound too corny? Then the words, “Eat – Pray – Love” came to mind. As many of you know there was a recent book and movie with this title, but I am not here to recount that story, but rather my own viewpoint on these three words and their significance to your life moving forward.

The first word is Eat. This word reminds me of your physical, mental and emotional needs as a human. It reminds me of how important it is to take care of our bodies, to give it proper nutrition, sleep, exercise and protection. Our mind and bodies enable us to interact with others around us, to show our actions outwardly. Without our bodies we would not be who we are on this earth and in this time.

The next word is Pray. To me, prayer is a type of bridge between your physical self and the Divine. Prayer enables you to be humble, to know that you are not here alone and that there is always help not only from God, but from everyone around you that loves you. Prayer is communication, and this is critical for not only your relationship with God, but also with each other. Communication is the basis for all lasting relationships. Each time you pray or talk, tell your whole story – hold nothing back. Give thanks and gratitude for the blessings you’ve been given. Pray and share everything, and you will know Divine grace in your life.

The last word is Love. Love is a Divine right – Love is God. You are born of love regardless of the circumstance. Love is the highest level of existence that is eternal and unconditional and a part of all of us. I think the most wonderful part of love is that you don’t have to learn how to do it. There are no books or schools and it is utterly simple. Love is beyond your physical being and does not require prayer to achieve it. Know that you are loved in all ways and forever.

Eat, Pray, Love – each of these words can act as a guide to your life together. Each are important and necessary but interdependent. You need each of these right here and right now. Do not focus so much on tomorrow – live now fully and in each moment.

Dwight Raatz

The Moments in Between

There are two significant events happening in my life this week. My youngest son’s birthday and I am celebrating my wedding anniversary. For my son’s birthday we joined him, his fiancé, their newborn son (hehe – yep I’m a grandpa) and his soon-to-be family-in-law out at a nice area restaurant. These celebrations gave me pause to step back and consider all that has happened in my life. I think it’s natural, as a parent, to review life a bit when one of your children celebrate a birthday or some other significant life milestone.

As I was pondering how fast things seem to have gone, I’m amazed to consider all the events and decisions that I’ve made in my life that have guided me to this very moment in time – right here, right now. I think about how all of the things I’ve done and all the things everyone else on the planet have done that created the perfect combination of events to make this current state I’m in. I mean it’s wild to consider that a decision I made years ago has resulted in the birth of my two sons, the meeting of my youngest son with his fiancé, and now with a the birth of my grandson. Not to mention all the relationships that were made along the way to bring us all to this moment in time that had a direct and necessary part in my grandson’s birth.

I feel, as most of you probably do, that life for the most part has seemed like a random bunch of events that are served up to you one-by-one for your consideration and decision. Should I get up (yes/no)? Should I wear the same clothes as yesterday (yes/no)? Should I eat cereal (yes/no)? Etc, etc, etc. On and on we go hour after hour, day after day, year after year with these Yes/No decisions with each one guiding us forward on a path that doesn’t exist until we make the decision Yes or No for each question presented. So from a current perspective “looking forward” it all seems so random. But when I look backward to the series of events, it is all perfection in its design. When I look to the future, I feel as if I’m only looking at but a few tiles on a larger mosaic; and when I look backward at what I have experienced, it’s like I’ve stepped farther back away from the mosaic to see the bigger picture of my existence.

As I live, there are many times in my life that I have regrets about something I’ve done or said. I have thought that if I had only made a different decision, I would be better off than I am now. This perspective is a very narrow view of life, not considering all of the wonderful things that have happened or that you have learned because of that “bad” decision. So when I look at my grandson now in all his wonder and splendor, I shiver to think that if I had made the “good” decisions every time in my life – he might not even exist today. And that is a scary thought indeed.

We are faced with challenges and decisions our whole life and we need to act upon them. It is in these actions that God’s creation happens. You might think this is a bit odd to consider that you and I have anything to do with God’s creation. After all, isn’t it all pre-designed and we are destine to the fate He has planned? In my perspective, no AND yes (perfect right?). No, it’s not ALL completely planned out as to what we do or how are lives will go moment by moment. After all, we do have Free Will and can mess with the plan all we want. The beautiful thing about this is that, that’s exactly what He wanted for us and Himself. The only way for Him to know who He is and how awesome He is, is through experience. So, he gave us all Free Will to do with life as we please and at every turn He has been with us, experiencing his Creation by having us create it for Him through Him. We were created in “His Image” as creator beings ourselves. We can choose how to live our lives and do whatever pleases us and He will ALWAYS be there no matter what we do. This is true because God is beside us, in us, around us and we are part of Him. There is a quote from the movie, Eat Pray Love that I really like and it is:

… “God dwells within you…as you.” God’s not interested in watching a performance of how a spiritual person looks and behaves. The quiet girl who glides silently through the place with a gentle, ethereal smile…who is that person? It’s Ingrid Bergman in “The Bells of St. Mary’s” – not me. God dwells within me…as me.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

I like to think about God’s creation as the, “moments in between” those decision points in our lives. The decision points are Free Will (us) and the moments in between is God’s grace unfolding that Will in ways that we could have never imagined and for the Divine to experience his creation. His Will is my will.

And the “yes” part of, “… isn’t it all pre-designed and we are destine to the fate He has planned?” means that the Divine’s “plan” is that we have the life experience that we want for ourselves. This life I have was MY plan all along – even before I was born I knew what I wanted to experience here. God’s blessing to us is that we fulfill this life plan and then we will return unto Him. Our experience of life is His experience. We are infinitely creative in how we want to experience life and this is “the plan”. We are born, we create life and then we die and the cycle starts again with a new plan of experience.

Remember the Moments in Between as the life you have created with the ones you love – all with Divine blessing.

Dwight Raatz

A Slow Moving Storm – Part II

Below is part II of my previous post. These are some of the views and beliefs that I found to be inherently true from my innate “knowing” of the divine. While some of my viewpoints have refined since I first wrote this on February 2, 2008; I still think they are valid. What do you think?

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God, Logic and the Universe
Can God be logical? The universe appears to follow natural laws, why are we so adamant to say that God doesn’t follow logical rules as well?

Opposing Truths – Which is it?
God has given humans free will. God has a plan for everyone and it is perfect. These two statements are often spoken of regarding our relationship with God, but they are really diametrically opposing statements. I believe in free will.

God is Perfect Love
God is perfect love, so what about the Old Testament? Vengeful God… God was re-invented… a kinder gentler God… now we have the New Testament and given a “savior”. Now we don’t have to worry about passing any tests, just believe and you will be saved. Why? Why do we need to be saved? God is perfect love, how can he punish how can he subject his creation to eternal torment? Is Jesus a marketing plan? Was Jesus sent to us because we were unable to understand the forgiveness of God? Are humans too simple to believe that no matter what, God will take us back unto him? There needed to be a way to convince us that it was going to happen and it was easy… just believe and “Thou shalt be saved!”

I Believe
I believe that religion as we need it has to be rethought. I believe that Christianity as it started was setup such that we couldn’t understand any other way. We were in fact to “stupid” to understand any other way of explaining how things were.

I heard once that in the beginning God was all there was and it was perfect. God wanted to know himself, but to do this, he need a point of reference, he need to see himself from outside himself. He created humans and put a piece of himself in us, then made us “forget”. This “forgetting” would enable God to experience himself by not knowing himself… it gave him a point of reference, us. I believe this.

I believe that hell is simply the absence of God. I believe I have been in hell in large portions of my life. I believe that this “forgetting” of God within us is hell. The feeling of loneliness and being lost is my hell.

I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe he came to earth to teach us the truth of God. I think this had to happen because the Profits that God spoke through left too much to interpretation as they are only human and did the best they could. I believe Jesus came to set the record straight. What I question about Jesus is that he had to really die for us; that the only way to God is through Jesus. The reason I question this, is because there are probably millions of people on the planet that have never heard of Jesus. That these people have been created by God as well and if the above is true, they will never go to heaven. This doesn’t make sense for a God who is Love and Perfect. Why would he exclude the innocent?

I believe that hell is on earth now. As I said before, hell is the absence of God. I believe that if we choose (free will) to exclude God and His truth from our lives, this is hell. Going against the truth is going against nature itself. This resistance of the truth causes all sorts of ramifications in ones life. It will affect your health, your mind, and everything brought into your life.

I believe that the soul is an innocent victim of free will. I believe the soul IS God. It is God with amnesia. Once the body is done and gone, the soul returns to God.

I am comparing a human with a computer and what makes up the whole of a computer. You have the computer hardware (your body). You have the computer software that comes with the body (your soul). You have the data you create using the computer and software (your conscience). I have thought that upon death, the body returns to the earth. The soul returns to God, and the conscience can either go to God or not. Hell keeps the conscience that refused the truth of God. God keeps the conscience that accepted the truth. I believe that this is true no matter what decisions and actions you made during your life.

Faith and Action Not Church or Religion
I believe that religion is of man not of God. Religion and the Church were created to control man, to teach him a flavor or version of God’s truth. This was done to not only control, but also to benefit those who believe that their version of the truth is right and what they believe in is paramount.

The Church is a very comfortable place for those that want to be spoon fed the truth and not take direct personal action for what God / Jesus teaches us. Church offers man a convenient way to believe what they are doing is “God’s Will”; that a building called “Church” is the only place that someone can follow God’s truth and take action on that truth. Jesus taught out among to people. He didn’t make them come to him in a building.

Why do we need to build multi-million dollar buildings to follow God’s truth? Why not act as a group, as a body of God to take action on his teachings? Take those millions that would be spent on material things and put it into the hands of those who need it. Do it directly and locally. I believe that if a new congregation is forming because they are searching for a better way to know the truth, they should focus on the teachings of Jesus, go to those who need it and take action directly. Don’t build an actual church building; take what money is necessary to facilitate helping others – maybe 10% (e.g. postage, office type supplies, business materials, etc), but leave the 90% for what truly matters. I think that if this tact was followed, there would be no deficit for the Church. You could help what you can for the economy of the area, and that would be it. No supporting of the “mother church”; No bureaucratic structure; No politics; just the truth in action.

Let’s utilize the facilities and structures we already have. Utilize homes, civic centers, schools, etc to take on those larger projects, to meet and have fellowship. There is no real need for a separate church facility.

If you want to make a difference on your own, then take up a cause that follows the truth of God and do that. Support something that makes a difference directly.

Take up personal responsibility of God’s truth and put that truth in action by what you do directly. This personal action will build on itself; it will connect you to your community; it will connect you to God.

Dwight Raatz

A Slow Moving Storm – Part I

A Slow Moving Storm of Change Looms on My Life’s Horizon ~ Dwight Raatz

The following text was written on February 2nd, 2008.  While my ideas and beliefs have evolved in the past two years, this will give you a glimpse of my thought process at the time around life, religion and how those things affected me on an emotional level. I have come to understand that the “awareness” that I write about is my intuitive nature, my sense of “knowing” without having to experience with my normal senses.

The title of this piece is really about the feeling of foreboding or anxiety about the possible outcomes and fear that was out there, barely visible, but looming and in a way I knew somehow to be inevitable.

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It might seem obvious to some what thoughts and concerns most men have of life.  I don’t feel that mine are earth shaking and I don’t feel that they are unique or revolutionary.  I do feel however that I seem to be aware of more than what is set in front of me.  I feel that my awareness has not only been my guide in life, it has also been my curse.  Seeing and feeling things that I don’t understand and have no point of reference has made my life’s journey painful, confusing, and depressing.  With the exception of this last year, I have felt very little joy or happiness.  Much of this distress has been due to the internal torment of my mind and the feeling of loneliness and of being lost.

While I have always had a connection with God in my life, I feel that as I get older, my understanding of God becomes clearer.  What I struggle with is reconciling my internal innate understanding of God with what has been taught to me my whole life.  There are parts of my teachings that have fallen in line with what I know to be true, but these parts are few and far between.  I think my first inclination that I was a part of a larger spiritual picture is when I was about 9 years old.  I remember laying out on the front step of my parent’s farm house looking up at the sunny sky that had a few high clouds.  I wasn’t thinking of anything in particular, just being in the moment, feeling the heat of the sun and the warm air around me and feeling a general sort of peacefulness.  I remember looking at a cloud, and then suddenly a face appeared there.  It wasn’t a cloud that looked like a face; it was a man’s face.  I saw it as clearly as if I was looking at a picture in my hand.  The face was smiling and looking at me directly.  As you can imagine I was startled and blinked my eyes.  As fast as it appeared there, it was gone.  It’s as if once my mind was “engaged” in reality, I lost my right to see this face or know it more.  Somehow I knew that this was God or Jesus or some angle peaking at me, giving me a glimpse.  I really don’t know what to make of it exactly, but it has always stayed with me.

I have many thoughts, questions, and feelings about religion in general and its relative nature to God and my faith in him.  This has left me wanting.  I want to find one or more people to talk to about these feelings.  I want someone to be strong enough in their own beliefs, but willing to have an open mind to discuss these things with me without trying to discount what I am saying, dismiss the topic, or preach to me what the bible states as if that is the black and white decision maker.  I would prefer to have someone that has a good solid knowledge of bible’s contents, but it isn’t an absolute necessity.  Having someone with this knowledge would at least be able to give me a perspective of the teachings as they relate to my questions.

If you feel that you willing to embark on a journey of discovery and consideration of alternate truths, then continue reading.  I don’t want to be “saved” by someone.  I want to have an ongoing open truthful relationship with a willing soul to not only be a guide, but to also be willing to be guided.

<continued in Part II>
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Just so you know, I did try engaging with this type of conversation with some people I considered to be highly faithful and educated in their Christian religion, but ultimately it became obvious that the topic was just too uncomfortable for them to give me good constructive feedback or perspectives.

Part II sets out some definitions, questions and opinions related to the above.  These will be things you can ponder and possibly respond to and give your own perspective.

Dwight Raatz