I have been looking at death again, and trying to make sense of life. In the past few months, there have been a string of friends and associates in my circles who have left this mortal coil. Each one of them had an important part to play in their community and left a deep gaping chasm of loss behind them. Yet, it has felt like part of a wider cycle, a timeous thing beyond our human understanding, that so many great souls decided to leave at this time.
Studying “Dying to be me” a book by Anita Moorjani, has helped find hope and meaning. In her book, Anita Moorjani describes her Near Death Experience. She describes the state she found herself when she was in a coma, (her organs were shutting down due to a lymphoma cancer, which was destroying her body). In this heightened state of pure bliss, she realized the nature of her soul was in fact pure source energy and not separate. This realization allowed her to return to her true “magnificence” and was able to survive her cancer. “My healing came when I realized that there was no duality. I was the source of all things and the source became me. The healing came from the knowing that I am not separate from Source. ” She says.
“During my near death experience, I was pure energy- perhaps this could be interpreted as the soul or spirit. It was much bigger than the body and I like to use the word magnificent, because that’s how I felt in that state. (It was almost like having a physical self was an after thought.)” Says Moorjani.
Claudia Rauber left her physical form on the 11th of August. Her life was an inspiration to so many people in her community, that I felt the need to put together the pieces of information I could gather about who she had become. Claudia was not a close friend, but we shared the experience of a fairly strict Anglican girls boarding school in Grahamanstown. Yet her life has touched mine in the process of her passing away. We had a brief text conversation in which I connected her with the DSG Class of 88 WhatsApp group soon after our 30 year reunion in May, which she had missed due to her illness. The girls were texting their wave excitement and delight at reconnecting with their teenage past and she enjoyed the banter, but was very quiet on the group. I told her that I had not informed the old school friends of her cancer and she thanked me for this. I explained that I understood how the stigma and the projected fear of death one experiences when you tell people that you have cancer, is worse than the disease itself. I experienced Melanoma over a decade ago and witnessed this for myself. She was so relieved that I understood this. It is something few people realize about having cancer unless you have been a survivor. The fear projected by people that you are on your way out is so blatant. It hurts. I joined her group of carers, but never had the opportunity to attend to her. To make up for not getting to know her better and to help others understand who she was, I set out to find out more by speaking people around her and putting together the puzzle of who she was and what motivated her as a way of learning more from her. I felt close to her spirit in this process.
Born on the 22ndof November, 1970, third born child of Bernhard and Angelika Rauber, a proud German family. Claudia Rauber, grew up in East London. As a young girl, she built a strong bond with Flora Minikiso, her Xhosa nanny. She enjoyed holidays to the beautiful mountain indigenous forests, of Hogsback, where the nature spirits are very strong. It may be concluded, that these powerful childhood influences possibly contributed to her calling as an adult to follow the path of becoming a healer in the African Traditional Medicine discipline as a Sangoma and to find peace in nature.
Claudia Rauber matriculated in 1988 from DSG, Grahamstown. She was a top achiever, academically and in sport and was head prefect of Merriman house. She decided not to take the obvious next step of university after school but opted for “beauty school” as a first step to learn a sellable trade. It set her on the path of becoming a healer. She started with reflexology. Aesthetic Beauty became an avenue to Inner beauty. Bodywork became healing work. In balance with this she focused her time on learning to do spirit work, while studying and striving for optimal health, through nutrition. Her greatest purpose seemed to be embodying the meaning of the concept of self –love and by modeling this, liberating others to love themselves too.
In 1995, Claudia turned up on the doorstep of a Fishoek based Sangoma named Colin Campbell. She was dressed in traditional German Lederhosen, and had shaven her head, perhaps as a release of a past self identity or baggage, while honoring her German ancestors. She told him that she was on a shamanic path. He became a friend and adviser. In 2000 it was suggested that she undergo her initiation as a Sangoma.
“I think that is a good idea.” She said, and before anyone could catch up, she was off to Swaziland for training with medicine man PHMchali and Sangoma Mazia.
“It was typical of Claudia to throw herself in boots and all and fearlessly,” explained her ex-partner Mano at her memorial. He went on to say that:
“ The Sangoma tradition and rituals were very much part of her ongoing transformational process. She had this unerring desire to challenge and overcome the limitations and blockages that may have stood in her way of being her full authentic self. A question she was always willing to face was: “Is there anything else I need to do to stand in my own truth?” He told us at her memorial.
“Show up for yourself”, was the lesson she taught. Allow yourself to do the things you really want to do and do them whole -heartedly, strive for excellence.
Claudia had the calling to be a healer, it was not something she questioned, and she just followed the call she felt from spirit. Her calling lead her to choose the shamanic path. She understood that her life purpose was to heal her life. So that is what she focused on. It was the path to finding her true magnificence.
Anita Moorjani points out in her book that when people seem to have a high vibration or a strong presence, it is usually because they are allowing more of their authentic magnificence through. This means their positive energy and physical presence are strong. Nobody is stronger or weaker than anyone else. Everyone is magnificent.” She says.
Claudia’s mother Angel helped her to buy a property on the mountain in Houtbay in order for Claudia to realize a lifelong dream she had had of starting a healing centre. Claudia and her partner Mano and friends transformed the buildings and garden of the property, into a sanctuary. “A centre for living ritual,” she called it. The place was a venue for healing courses of a wide variety of disciplines and styles, and through them, she built up a community of friends.
Nolitha, an African Sangoma who trained with Claudia told me at the memorial that she was in awe of Claudia’s physical strength as she witnessed her helping build the structures on the property. She would haul the heavy stones herself. Claudia also competed as a tri-athlete in marathons and placed very well. She rode a tandem bike with her brother in the Argus a few times. She climbed the mountain almost every day, some say. It seems Claudia celebrated the magnificence of her physical form as much as she could.
The gardens at Phakalani, were like an Eden filled with indigenous plants, orchids and lilies, the pools with their Lotus lilies were a delight for the bathers immersing themselves in the moonlight after the hot herbal steaming rituals. The meditation room with its circular vaulted ceiling allowing space for vastness and divinity, amplifying prayers and chants into the skylights above. Everything was done beautifully with excellent taste. Always, there were beautiful arrangements of fresh flowers and an abundance of fresh fruit. The windows framed the Silver trees, inviting them in. Claudia had the courage to create her own reality, as she worked to make this sanctuary a piece of heaven.
Once a month Claudia held steaming and cleansing rituals for women, which became a space for empowerment and liberation for women of all walks of life. It became a very important sanctuary in the lives of the women who attended regularly and many of these women deeply mourned Claudia’s passing.
The people who came to Phakalane saw how she kept it and how she lived and they learned the way of “allowing” that she was modeling. By allowing beauty and allowing self-care and encouraging self-love, one gives oneself permission to be in a place of bliss and happiness, and by being this, one gives others permission to do the same. This is what touched people while they were there and it inspired them to take this way of being home with them.
“She held a beautiful centre point of stillness.” Explained Animal Communicator Anna Breytenbach, who regularly stayed there and held workshops there teaching interspecies communication among other things. “Claudia was always in integrity from a business point of view. ”Everything was always shipshape. And the participants who would come here for whatever kind of workshop were always amazed by the food, and the gentleness with which the workshop or whatever the particular learnings, were held. She had very good spiritual housekeeping.”
“Eating the food she provided for the workshops was like a spiritual experience.” One participant commented.
Claudia also ran cleansing and detox retreats a couple of times a year at Phakalane. People would come on a residential basis and do juicing fasts and cleansing rituals and be given time and space for prayer and contemplation. “Phakalane in general was a place for people to build community around the Sacred, rather than having something secular in common.” Said Anna “So there were a string of sacred offerings or workshops and events held there that people could come and participate in. They were more non-verbal, more about the practice than the process. It didn’t require the participants to have anything in common in their ordinary lives. And this allowed then for a great diversity of people to benefit from each other. It never became an exclusive group, however, it was always changing as people moved in and out, so it was a very dynamic one.’
Soon after the passing of Claudia’s mothers partner, Claudia was diagnosed with Mestastic melanoma under her sternum and given a grave prognosis. She called together what became her family and “Circle of Love”- and went into ritualistic prayer. In this time deep healing happened.
A caring team of volunteers came forward and took turns preparing meals, and sitting in with Claudia to attend to her daily needs and administering medication. Claudia told one of her carers in this time: “If you are going to care for me, will you promise me one thing that you will care for yourself in every way too?“
“Claudia made it clear that she chose life and to live and yet, she was not in denial of what was happening to her body. This final journey had been her ultimate initiation into life.” Mano, Claudia’s ex-husband explained.
Her illness was very testing yet she held strong and never complained. She remained in a state of conscious ritual she did, both in living and in dying. She tried to stay present and centred in what she was experiencing, despite the pain and and discomfort of her illness or the side effects of the medicine she was given.
She embraced her deep wish to live and she did fully right up until that last impeccable breath, she lived with passion and integrity. In a letter she wrote to her friends and community to be read at her memorial she said: “There is no question in my being that self–care and self-love allows us to truly be in community and love each other. Thank you. Thank you for taking your time today to be here, to actually honour yourself through me, or through this moment.”
“Claudia’s life was aligned with beauty.” Said Mano. “We can stand in awe of her capacity to have lived a full life without shame or holding back, one focused on a vision aligned with soul and touched by spirit.”
Claudia asked that at her memorial, flowers would be set out and that all who came would leave with a beautiful fresh flower. There were enough red roses for over 200 of us at the memorial set out by and her mother Angel, aged 80. There was also the most unforgettable feast of the most nutritious and delicious food I have ever tasted in keeping with the standard of Claudia’s food alchemy in the kitchen.
It seems that finding or making the most of life is about striving to create heaven on earth by seeking ones own magnificence at the source. The first step to that is by removing the blockages imposed on us from the critical voices. These may be the super-ego structures and influences of authorities in your upbringing, the voices in our heads that come from our past. They may be the belief that we won’t be loved unless we play by their rules, dogma and beliefs that limit the expression of our true magnificence. These are our fears and limitations. When one gets above all this through a state of awareness that is aligned with the source energy of true magnificence, then one is able to see the blockages for what they are and remove them. “When one allows ones own light to shine, one gives others permission to do the same.” This message was in Nelson Mandela’s inaugural speech. It comes from a poem written by Marion Williamson.
Claudia understood this, as she describes her process on the Phakalane website: “When I was 7 years old, I said to my Papa….”one day I will open a special centre”….. Phakalane (meaning Hawk in Tswana) is a centre for living ritual…and it took a life in ritual to birth her. The more I purified, the more I kept listening and holding the finger on my own life’s pulse, the more I healed… the more she (Phakalane) came into being. If things did not flow, I had to look into my own heart, to see what I was blocking and sitting with. As soon as it cleared, sometimes through shear hard work, there was flow again, and the process moved forward… If we honour our lineage, giving thanks, we create a foundation in our lives for it to flow and grow. ... I had a dream, now it is reality manifest, spirit in physical matter.” Wrote Claudia.
“Our life is our prayer.” Says Anita Moorjani. “It’s a gift to the universe and the memories we leave behind when we someday exit this world will be our legacy to our loved ones. We owe it to ourselves and to everyone around us to be happy and spread the joy.” Says Anita Moorjani.
Photo’s by CL Thomas and others.