October 9th, 2009…my birthday. It started like any other day, but it will always be a birthday I will never forget. That morning, I woke up, headed toward the coffee pot and then began checking the morning news. To my shock and horror, I was watching stories coming out of Sedona, AZ about a sweat lodge ceremony that had gone bad the night before…a ceremony led by self help “guru” James Ray…a ceremony that resulted in three deaths…a ceremony that I had almost participated in.
I will never forget how I felt that day. It was a mixture of shock, horror, disbelief, grief, rage and, yes, relief mixed with gratitude. The previous spring, I had signed up to participate in that retreat in Sedona. After receiving the papers and not even reading them, I cancelled due to a bad feeling. Thank goodness I trusted myself and my intuition enough to cancel despite the financial loss.
Today, James Ray received a two year sentence for each of the victims that died that night. Each sentence is to be served concurrently. Only two years, for the pain he caused everyone involved in that incident. Only two years for being a teacher who I’m sure disappointed hundreds if not thousands of the people who thought he had all the answers. Only two years to serve. A sentence which he intends to appeal.
It is sorely disappointing.
This is a time in our history where people are looking for answers in a world that no longer makes sense. They look toward spiritual leaders, teachers and self-help gurus for guidance and support. James Ray is an example of the shadow side of human nature that does not discriminate and can be a part of the most well intentioned teacher and a part of us all.
It is irresponsible for someone to teach a “one size fits all” answer to challenges which are unique to that person’s life path. This puts a huge responsibility upon those who are out there sharing the “laws of the universe” and other spiritual/self help lessons. These teachers need to understand the effect that they have on a person’s psyche. It goes much deeper than making people happier and increasing their bank account. These teachers touch deep into people’s souls, a place that no amount of rational thinking or brain science can navigate.
Spirituality and self help is a $14 Billion industry which is attracting new teachers and gurus as demand increases for answers. The public is, many times, not always, being led to believe that solutions are simple and require positive thinking and brain manipulation. The thinking mind can be limited in it’s ability to control personal outcome. The public is being taught to believe that the thinking/rational mind is the be-all-end-all as to why things happen the way they do. Positive thinking and conscious learning has it’s place, but, sometimes, life as it happens is beyond our understanding and we need to respect that fact.
If you are looking for answers to challenges that you may be facing my advice is this…be VERY discerning. Many teachers are going to tell you things to make you feel better. Some will give you false hope. Many don’t have the countenance to tell you the brutal truth that you may need to hear at the moment. If you hear only positive, happy solutions which glean over the root of your problem, think very seriously as to whether that teacher really has your best interest at heart. They may tell you what you want to hear. Be aware that, sometimes, finding answers may require deep, uncomfortable work. It can also be inspiring and revolutionary, too! Just listen to your deepest inner self when choosing someone to consult or learn from. Trust yourself and your feelings. If something doesn’t feel right don’t question it and try to rationalize it away. I’m glad I trusted myself enough to listen that moment despite the consequences. It probably saved my life.