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)

The Truth of Senses

Do we make ourselves blind so we don’t see the color of skin?

But we could still hear and know the dialect, the language. We would still judge.

Do we also make ourselves deaf?

But we could still taste, touch and smell and categories would be established to segregate us.

Do we remove all the senses and become living vegetables with only our minds to interact within ourselves?

Our own thoughts would betray us and leave us utterly trapped thinking of what we did, what others have done, what we are missing and all manner of thoughts that mean nothing.

Do we stop living, abandon our corporeal self and free the spirit, the very essence of who we are? Is that what it will take to know that you and I are really the same? It will happen eventually and you will know the truth regardless.

But why wait?! Why not know the truth of how we are but reflections of each other in the shards of life. The truth is here in seeing the beauty of our skin, the rhythm of our voices, the tender kiss as we taste our lovers, the touch of our hands as we walk together, and the sweet smell of our bodies we are together in work and sex.

These all satisfy my senses, but it is my heart that knows you; that knows we are the same

Dwight Raatz – 07/19/2013

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

A Person’s Worth

There are so many places that we are subjected to judgment and taught that we need to earn acceptance from others.  We first hear it as children in things like:

•    Santa – if you’re good you will get a toy
•    Being ignored by parents or family because of various circumstances
•    Not being the right size or shape to have friends
•    Not being the right sexual orientation
•    Not “cool” if you don’t have the latest gadget or clothing
•    In church where you hear that you have to follow a set of rules to be saved or worthy of heaven.

This condition of acceptance is prevalent in our workplaces, in the media and especially in society as a whole.  We are accepted or not based on some set of rules or made up standards that have no bases in a true loving and accepting relationship.  The frustrating part for me is how it’s all couched in words that are “believed” to be inspirational and supportive.  I’m seeing this over and over how brainwashed people completely believe what they are saying, but they have no idea of the true meaning behind their own words.  Blissful ignorance is a good phrase for all of it.

Each of us seeks love and acceptance from others.  I believe this is genetic and “primal” to us as we are truly pack animals.  If we don’t have the touch and connection to others, we tend to go a bit crazy.  This is even true for new born babies, if they don’t get touched and held, their health and chances of living diminish drastically.  Even as adults, if we are not touched, our minds take over to try and fill in the reasons for why it is this way.  We tend to blame ourselves and create shortcomings or faults in us to explain why we are unacceptable.  This state of being tends to send us into a state of survival where we start making odd decisions about how we run our lives.  We do what can seem to others at the time or in hind-sight to you, as unacceptable.  We might decide to ignore our kids in order to go out and find a mate or someone who will pay attention to us.  We might even drink or take drugs to soothe the pain of loneliness.  We might even become a workaholic just to feel like we matter to at least someone – even if it is an employer.

While these actions are self centered, they are rooted in the fact that we want to survive and to be loved and accepted.  Moreover, when this happens, we are not specifically intending on hurting anyone but it can and often does happen.  Oftentimes the ones who are hurt most deeply are children.  They don’t have the maturity or understanding to “reason out” what is happening.  The child just knows that the people they love are not loving us back unconditionally.  The pain of this becomes anchored deep within the psyche and their ego kicks in to try and protect them.  It starts to manufacture all of the reasons why this is happening based on the “facts” as a child would understand.  An usually the created story is not supportive in any way.  Then as the child grows and brings forth all of these fears into their adult life, they continue to search for acceptance and love anywhere they can.  As these adults have their own children, this cycle can continue forward if the adult hasn’t taken their life back into their own hands.  This dis-ease of nonacceptance, unworthiness and conditional love spreads out to all generation after generation if gone unchecked.

For us looking for love and acceptance we are sometimes called seekers.  We go out to our communities, bars, churches and other various locations seeking this connection.  This got me to thinking about my Christian Lutheran birth religion and that one of its purposes was to provide this connectedness for people.  In my years of going to church the only part of the whole thing that felt “real” to me was when we got together as a group for fund raisers or even the after church for cookies and coffee.  In my opinion, where all of it goes wrong is when the church tries to make you believe that the only way for you to be accepted by this group (long term) is to abide by their belief system which is rooted in conditional acceptance.

I just watched the movie “Mouth to Mouth” with Ellen Page and the overall story is about street kyds getting recruited to follow this “new path” or way of living with this person’s vision.  Initially it is a very attractive ideal and feels very open and accepting.  It does draw in many kyds and adults alike, but as the story goes along, it becomes more and more apparent that the leader has different motives and is ultimately applying the same conditions of acceptance that the kyds were “rebelling” against in the first place.  This MO is so common in many aspects of our society.  We are so incredibly starved for touch, love, acceptance that we are easily convinced to believe the ideals of a “profit”.  This also reminds me of a new documentary called Kumaré about a man who impersonates a wise Indian Guru and builds a following in Arizona.  His group was amazed at how we are all looking for this connectedness and will so easily believe in someone simply because the “Guru” is paying attention and listening to them.  Truly spending time to connect with others is really a huge part of healing.

The good news is that the cycle can stop at any time and it is completely in your control.  The process to reclaim your life starts with loving yourself  completely.  This doesn’t mean you have rose-colored glasses on and believe you are not capable of mistakes.  It means you accept and love yourself just as you are.  And when you mess up, you don’t berate yourself or find reasons to think you are less than any particular standard.  You just simply acknowledge what happened and make a plan or decision on what to do to fix, remedy or mitigate the issue.  Then move forward.

It is important to understand that the dis-ease of unworthiness has been very infectious and has been growing in the world society for thousands of years.  The basis for curing all of it is for us to stop right now, in our tracks and spend a few minutes each day just loving and acknowledging  ourselves.  Take time to just sit with yourself or go for a walk in nature and just breath.  Clear your mind of the chatter of the day and just listen to your footsteps or maybe the sounds of nature around you.  This can be achieved in various ways and you will find it.

Stop the dis-ease of thinking you are unworthy from spreading. BE STILL and know that you are love. You do not need to earn love. It all starts with you – loving yourself.

Dwight Raatz

Author’s Note: This post was edited on 06/23/2012

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

Greater Than The Sum

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of being “in love” with someone and how it differs from being personally or intimately connected to them. I’ve also been thinking about loving other people that are part of my life. Can this love thing be applied equally across all these people? Was it really the same thing no matter what? I tried to apply this concept for awhile, but it didn’t hold water. So what does it mean to be “in love” with someone and how does that differ than loving them? That is the question.

I found that in religion when they talk about love, it seems to be just one concept. A global concept that is equal all around. This was reflected in the lyrics of John Lennon, “All we need is Love”. There really isn’t a descriptor, definition or guide to understanding love. We are just left to our own experience to decide what this means to us. Is this question of love part of the experience we are looking for when we incarnate into this world? I’m starting to think so because of many reasons. You can look around you to see how people are connected. Some seem to be flawless and smooth and others – well, not so much. For example, look at the relationship between a person and their abusive spouse. More than likely, both of these people witnessed or were exposed to an abusive relationship as children. As children we are sponges soaking up what and how to BE human. We do this through observation and experience of our surroundings. If we see those closest to us (like our parents) verbally or physically abusing each other or us, we perceive and understand this as love because this is our experience of being connected so we look for that in our future relationships. Likewise if you see your parents touching, hugging, kissing, respecting each other; then this is your touchstone or basis of what is love to you.

For me, I had my own experience of knowing love from my parents and family. Being the youngest of 5 children (me being 5 years younger than my next oldest sibling) and growing up on a family farm from the mid 60’s to the early 80’s, my family was busy. My parents were constantly working on the farm and part time jobs and my siblings had their own direction with friends and each other, and then there was me. In many ways I really grew up as an only child with working parents who had little time for anything extra. This was “normal” to me and while I was provided for with food, clothing, shelter – the personal time with my parents and siblings was not as prevalent. I don’t mean to say this as a way of blaming my parents or siblings for how I am today; it just was what it was. This way of growing up afforded me the ability to discover how to take care of myself, entertain myself, become a very keen listener to those around me and to be creative with what I had. In the opposite aspect it also made me question and doubt myself constantly because I had no reference or support in knowing if I was doing anything right. I don’t “blame” my parents because I now understand that they were doing the best they could with the time and resources that they had available to them. This concept has also allowed me to forgive myself for all the dumb things I know I’ve done with my own children during their younger years.

The more I think about this as I write, I am becoming more convinced that love has as many degrees and forms as there are individuals to experience them. I can’t even think of an underlying common attribute for all forms of love – like you would think that all forms have some common ground or defining attribute. Maybe by the end of this article I might discover what that is – at least for me anyway.

As of writing this article, I’ve been married for 24 years and I’d have to say that my definition of love in this marriage has changed and transformed dozens of times over the years. For me, I started out looking for a mate because I was lonely and needed to find any connection I could with someone. This was my primary objective in re-connecting with an old girlfriend and subsequently dating, proposing and marrying her within two years. While I wouldn’t say that this is a perfect reason for getting married, but my level of self-confidence was very low so I was looking for another to bolster me, to fill that void. Luckily for me, the Universe allowed me to connect with someone who not only did this, but also allowed me to fumble, make mistakes and grow all while loving me in her own way. I knew she loved me and it was obvious considering the amount of turbulence I caused in my own life with job changes, moving where we lived and bouts with depression. I never felt that she was putting up with me, but rather that she had a good solid foundation of understanding what love is and that she loved me no matter what I did or didn’t do. I still to this day don’t understand that place of love she knows or what it takes to get there.

It seems to me that love is fluid and gives people what they need at any moment in time during the relationship. With this fluidity, comes change and allows the person to either re-establish a new connection to each other or to opt-out along the way. Love can take the form of letting go, of allowing someone to move beyond what you can give them that maybe something or someone else can. It’s important to see how love is working in your relationships and to ask if it is something that is aiding you to grow, or is it holding you in place stifling you.

For me, love at the beginning of my marriage was selfish and I’m guessing that for my spouse, she was also looking to be connected because she wanted/needed to have that connection for herself. This “co-dependence” really lasted throughout the majority of our marriage, but with lesser and lesser degrees as we grew as individuals with our careers, confidence levels and spiritually (not related to religion). As I became more self-confident in mastering my depression, outlook on direction, path and goals; this has changed how I rely on my spouse. I’ve become more independent which has changed the definition or reason why I’m married. My original need is eroding before me and there hasn’t been something to replace this space being created. At the same time, the expectations or needs of my spouse (from her perspective I’m guessing), hasn’t changed much from the beginning. What I’ve come to understand however, is that her love co-dependence of me is now being challenged and that she is being forced to look at her own self – to understand who she is as an independent person and daring to know how to love herself without the support of anyone else. You might think that I owe it to her to stay in a relationship that she has “put up with” for so many years. I’ve thought of that, but I think the reality is that we both received exactly what we needed from each other for the time we were together. Now, we’ve come to a place that the definition of our relationship needs to be re-defined, altered and the established again in whatever form suits us best for our highest and greatest good.

I think it’s important that anyone in a relationship allow the fluid nature of love to ebb and flow and not to hold on too tight to its original state. If the fluidity takes form in a new bond that allow the two people to remain intimately close, then great. If the form changes so the two are apart but still honor one another, then that’s great too. Spending too much time holding onto an outmoded relationship will ultimately cause damage to it and cause issues with anyone connected to that relationship (especially if there are children). I believe that the more we love ourselves completely, the less we have a dependence on others to love us. We no longer need another to complete us or make us feel whole. We as people need to honor the fluid nature of love in order to be truly free and loving to all people.

As the relationship evolves and grows in a positive manner, the need and reason for love then moves beyond the selfish and, I believe, moves into the realm of being complementary. I see complementary love to be where the two people are becoming or creating something that is more than the sum of its parts. I believe this state of complementary love can be achieved and that it can take on different forms. I think that it can come along and establish itself within an existing relationship or that it can be created within a new relationship. Also, within each of these (new or existing) relationships, the people can choose whether they stay (live) together or if they move apart and establish themselves on new paths. Of the two forms (together or apart) the most challenging to me would be being apart.

If you decide to stay together in a living arrangement, the complementary love will intertwine and really be indecipherable as a unit (from the outside observer), yet each individual will be established in their own power center and path for themselves. If you decide to live apart, I believe the complementary love will only be observable by the most keen and closest individuals to the relationship. A distance complementary love while it appearing to be a good friendship, it will provide each person with a touchstone base to continue to grow from. While there is no “need” for this base, it is a gathering point of energy produced by the complementary love that then returns and amplifies the energy back to those individuals as well as other connected with them. Both the intimate and distance complementary love provide this base amplification, it’s just in the perception of those feeling that love, that it will be different. The intimate complementary love will likely feel focused and directed from the two, while distance will feel surrounding or like it’s coming from all around and without direct intent.

Next, I would like to touch on the feelings of sexual desire for another. This too has various purposes and degrees just as much as love (or any other emotion). I think too often people think of sexual desire as being in love. While I’d agree that there are complementary feelings that can occur between these, I think they are for the most part mutually exclusive. I believe that the hang-ups that society has about sex is directly related to distinguishing sex from loving or being in love with a person. I can see how wanting a sexual relationship with more than one person can cause any one of those involved to feel jealous and insecure. But I’d argue that this jealousy and insecurity is related more to a lack of self-confidence and self-love. If you are truly loving and confident in your love for another and yourself, seeing that person enjoying themselves with another would really have no bearing on you. I think this concept (referred to as poly-amorous) is easy to understand logically, but rather very difficult to implement in any long term fashion with success. I believe it will take a much more evolved society to support this, but it can be done now if you have the right kind of support system in place.

Finally, I believe there is another segment of love worth mentioning and that is the kind you would have for close friends, colleagues and family. If you could imagine love as being a sphere with the inner most center of it being the deepest most profound love possible and going out to the outer layers which is where you see and recognize the person as… well… a person – a fellow human being which may ignite some kind of compassion and caring in you. As you traverse further in toward the center you can in a way categorize groups of people that fall into the various “love levels”. For example an outer layer could be related to work colleagues, then moving in to the friends level, then to family and so on. Depending how your relationships are with each of these groups of people, their position in the “layers” may change. For example, you might have more affection or love for one of your friends than you do a sibling, aunt or uncle. I think the outer rings of love are still fluid and in flux as relationships change, grow or disappear. The important part here it to allow this flux to happen and to recognize it as a change that doesn’t have to have a meaning or reason behind it. It’s just how it is at that moment in time. This flexibility will cause a feedback loop that will amplify and provide a harmonic resonance within the relationship giving it space to grow and give the individuals involved a sense of peace and fulfillment within themselves.

So you might be asking where I am at with my marriage in the great grand scheme of love? My answer is that it has most certainly moved into the realm of complementary love in the distance form. This form is perfect for both my spouse and I and the eventuality of its form is yet unknown. As this is really one of the newest forms of love that I can imagine, it has a lot of unknown territory to discover and define. I find myself to be both excited and intrigued with its possibilities and hopeful as to being able to show this as a possibility for others who know there is another way of being together – yet apart.

Is there a common ground or thread among all these forms of love? My answer is yes and I think it’s called “fluidity”. So as the old saying goes, “Go with the flow”.

Dwight Raatz

Journey to the Island of Creation

Recently I experienced a shamanic journey that I will share with you here. A group of friends and I got together to do some energy work and we started out the evening with one of my friends doing a one card tarot reading for each of us. I don’t recall the card I drew, but I do remember him telling me that part of the card’s meaning was being able to step outside my ego and looking at those aspects of myself in a way that is giving me control over the ego. This resonated with me because this is exactly what I’ve been experiencing over the past few months and it hit home how far I have come.

We then continued the night with my friend asking about how we wanted to journey; did we want to sit in silence, use a drum or a signing bowl. I was immediately drawn to the drum and spoke my wish. It was agreed to have the drum be the “regulator” of our journey. My friend has the ability to not only drum, but also to journey at the same time. Quite impressive I thought!

All was silent and we prepared ourselves. The drum call began with slow regular beats vibrating our beings and setting the tone. There was a shift and the drumming gathered speed and strength. Immediately I found myself flying above the ground, speeding toward some unknown location. The ground below me was a blur and I could see the curve of the earth as I moved faster and higher. I sensed a presence with me so I looked around to see that behind me flew several small “beings”. I thought it was interesting, but did not pay too much attention.

Ahead in the distance I could see a large object floating above the earth. It had irregular features and as I grew closer, I could see that it appeared to be an island. The island had mountain tops with streams flowing down, trees with many varieties and a dense growth, a large beach with water surrounding it.

I landed on the beach next to a large pyre of wood that was set aflame. The journey drum beat became strong in me and I began to dance around the fire. I looked behind me to see seven little beings dancing behind me – interesting. I looked at my body to see myself dressed in native American ceremonial garb – feathers on my headdress, along my arms – intricate beads sewn in in colorful and dazzling patterns on my leather garment. The drum’s rhythm urged me on to feel and let go of my human connection and to be part of the earth. I danced with love and creation flowing.

As I danced, I could see the skin from my body shedding off like dirt and becoming part of the ground. I could see the sweat running down my sides and flowing toward the streams. I could see my breath extending out and creating breeze. I could see the energy of my dance act as a fuel for the fire and I could feel it expanding. I saw all of these elements expanding and falling to the earth to replenish and renew. With all of this, I saw that I was the creator – that I Am. I saw that I was bringing life and am master of my own.

My curiosity became aroused with regard to the little beings following behind. I turned to look behind only to see that they no longer followed. I looked around to find them on the outer ring beyond where I danced with no connection to my creation process. They did not struggle, but rather appeared to be waiting and holding space for my work. What were these beings I asked. Immediately the answer came to me explaining that these were what made me human and were outside my Truth, Love and Creation. Then I knew they represented the ego in what could be referred to as the “seven deadly sins” (Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy & Pride) – all of which are born of fear. They cannot exist where love creates and all was right and I danced with Joy and Abundance!

My journey ended here as the drumbeat changed and called me back. I returned to my reality in the midst of friends and we shared our stories. I felt very blessed to be there and humbled to know my connection to All That Is.

Namaste,

Dwight Raatz

The Darkness

I’ve been to that place of darkness. I’ve been lost there many times and felt the despair and utter feeling of hopelessness. I wandered the darkness with nothing to hold on to. No sense of direction or purpose. The only thing that kept me moving was not wanting to add more to the pain by hurting you.

The only thing that saved me from being lost to this life forever was the love beacon that stood by me and followed me everywhere. Why did it care so much, why couldn’t it just leave me alone to disappear. I am tired of fighting, weary of the struggle to breath and listening to my heart laboring. I wanted the pain to stop. I know that it’s selfish, but it is about the survival of my soul from hell.

This physical body of mine, this imbalance in my mind causing the living hell I was in. It was about survival and freedom from the torture. My soul yearned for the light. The darkness of my mind was the shackles of hell that bound me, torturing my soul. The only freedom seemed to be death of this physical form.

It’s not about you. There is nothing you’ve done and there is nothing you can do but wait and be patient. Send love to me, send energy, send me a detour route showing me away to the light without leaving you. If I find a way out and death is the answer, it’s not about you. It’s not about your failure or what you should have seen or done. I only wish I could have spared you the pain of my actions. But I know you are stronger than I. I know you will go on and live even in sorrow. I know you will find love and support to move on with your life. If I find a way out, it’s to be free of the hell of my mind. It’s to give life back to my soul. It is who I truly belong to and we will be together again.

I’ve been to that place of darkness, but I have found a way out in this lifetime, for now. I know I need to share my journey, but I dare not peer back into that place too long. I fear it will swallow me back up and I will be lost again. I dare not, even though I must. I must for you. You are why I’m still here.

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