Webs of Woven Words, Threads, Stitches and Enchantments

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Sweat Lodge Disaster

When I read about the deaths and injuries that took place at James Arthur Ray's Spiritual Warrior retreat in Arizona, I was terribly saddened. Sixty four people attended the retreat. I have read news stories that state all 64 were in the sweat lodge, others that state only 21 were crowded into the lodge. All of this to transform their lives - at almost $10,000 each.

I saw the following on AOL: Joseph Bruchac, author of "The Native American Sweat Lodge: History and Legends," called the number of participants in the lodge "appalling."
"If you put people in a restrictive, airtight structure, you are going to use up all oxygen," he said by phone Saturday from his home in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. "And if you're doing a sweat, you're going to use it up that much faster." American Indian sweat lodges typically hold about 12 people and are covered with blankets made of natural materials, such as cotton or wool, and the air flow isn't restricted, he said.

I also read that Ray had done this type of retreat before - for the last seven years without any issue. However, his retreats, and those like them encourage people to go beyond their limits to get to their epiphany, if you will.
Jason Pitzl-Waters, on his blog, The Wild Hunt, notes that this event certainly did change the lives of people, two of them permanently. (http://wildhunt.org/blog/)
At BeyondGrowth.net, they had this to say: "When something goes wrong in such a seminar due to it being overly intense and dangerous, usually the victims are blamed for “not taking 100% responsibility,” thus dodging the responsibility of the seminar leaders. Personally, I think we should hold James Arthur Ray 100% personally responsible for the death of these two seminar participants, up to and including going to jail."
I would think that Ray is devastated and beyond sad that these people died, likely frightened at what he may be facing too. However, I also read that he refused to speak with authorities and left Arizona. Now that disappoints me. Where's the warrior? Many wonderful teachers will suffer the consequences from this event, undeservingly. Many people who could have vital and beneficial spiritual experiences, will shy away now from any of this kind of work.
There is a very great lesson here. Many people call themselves shamans and are playing with spirits and realms they do not understand. Techniques are being used that can be dangerous - even with the direction of experienced and sincere practitioners. When a person chooses to charge great sums of money to do spiritual work for you - you should run the other way. We all have to be wary of whom we associate with and allow to "teach" us in the realms of metaphysics and the occult - in any area, in fact. Unfortunately, sometimes these lessons and experiences have results we were never anticipating.
We can hope that James Ray does everything he can to help the authorities find out what went wrong at this retreat, so he can learn, so we can all learn. Yes, we can hope.
Many people are going to have to deal with the results of this experience; to all of them, healing and prayers. To those who passed, safe journey.
Blessings nine!

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