Friday, October 23, 2009

James Ray Sweat Lodge Tragedy

I was saddened to hear about the sweat lodge tragedy that occured in Sedona, Arizona this week. This is such a tragedy, especially because it could have been so simply avoided. It shows what can happen when people hand over their personal power to someone else, in the name of spiritual growth. I can see how the participants wanted to believe they were going all-out in their inner transformation process. I can even see they wanted their inner healing so badly they were willing to go over the line and disregard their own inner warning signs that something was going terribly wrong. They didn't want to disappoint Mr. Ray, someone who they held in high regard.

It must have been awful in that sweat lodge. My heart goes out to all in this situation.

I can only wonder now about the healing that lies ahead for all the survivors. It won’t be easy for them. There are deep spiritual questions to sit with, that is for sure. How did they get to this point, of giving up all their personal power and almost losing their lives? Safety was on the other side of a thin tent door, and yet they were not able to find their way out until, for a few of them, it was too late.

And similarly, I wonder if Mr. Ray has any self-awareness whatsoever of how he contributed to this horrible tragedy. There is some serious healing that has to happen for that man too. It simply isn’t acceptable to shrug this off with an “It’s all good, man,” in some New Agey way that allows someone to totally shirk all personal responsibility. Especially if he fancies himself a leader.

It's this kind of attitude that really gets my goat, the idea that everything that happens is just fine, and we can all move on without any sort of learning or self responsibility. I've witnessed this sort of narcissistic attitude myself, among a few teachers I have met. It's the total denial of personal responsibility and accountability. There's the idea that everything that happened was naturally meant to happen, even if it means you directly harmed someone else. In such a mindset, it's not possible to have any meaningful learning or personal growth. It's not so much about blame as it is accountability and self responsibility. This kind of situation seems to crop up most noticeably in certain spiritual learning environments. In a few cases, I have personally witnessed some disastrous results from this kind of attitude among students and teachers. So I do understand how this sweatlodge disaster could have occurred.

I don’t know James Ray's work, "The Spiritual Warrior," but if he has any integrity at all, he should be doing some pretty serious self examination at how he created this situation. This tragedy didn't happen only because participants who were unable to take action for themselves. Teachers absolutely need to be held accountable for their actions too. Mr. Ray had a direct role in what occurred.

So far, I don’t hear anything that suggests the man has learned anything from this experience. I don't hear any sort of acknowledgement from him that maybe he was doing sweats in a dangerous manner. I only hear that he has declared that his sweats will continue. I can't help wondering if this means this man has learned absolutely nothing in this, and hence, this tragedy might well happen again.

Yes, I imagine he's sorry people died. But does he recognize how he might have had a direct role in what happened also, and what that might have been? Does he see how he actively encouraged people to disregard their own inner wisdom, to fit what he felt they should do? I wonder if he has any idea yet that he ran a lodge in a dangerous manner, and that he probably did not really know what he was doing. Sweat lodges are an ancient practice, and they can be a positive experience when run by properly. But you have know what you're doing. Apparently, Mr Ray disregarded all of the most basic safety guidelines. Then, on top of that, he encouraged people to disregard their own inner wisdom...

Will this spiritual teacher take responsibility for his share of what happened? I will be very interested to see if he does or not. And from my pov, if the only way to get the man to wake up and take responsibility for how he contributed to this situation is a lawsuit, so be it.

There's nothing wrong with sweat lodges in of themselves. But there is something wrong with narcissistic, spiritual arrogance that ends up costing other people their lives, especially when someone views himself as as spiritual teacher.

Just my .02. Let us pray for everyone involved.

What do you think? I welcome your comments!

Adele Wang
Certified energy healer and mentor, helping smart, intuitive, perfectionist women create happiness and success in an imperfect world

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