Posts tagged: spiritual warrior tragedy

Thoughts on James A Ray

I’m sure most of you have heard about the tragedy that occurred at last week’s Spiritual  Warrior with James Ray.  If you read my first post you will see that I have attended one of his events, Harmonic Wealth Weekend and it truly made a positive impact in my life.  My heart goes out to those who lost their lives, their families, loved ones and to those that are still ill.  I like many others are waiting for answers.  Unlike many others however, I am withholding  judgment until more information is released.

In reading around the Internet, I have been shocked at how many people are willing to crucify James, with so little information available.  It is one thing to say that it appears that the sweat lodge was improperly constructed (we still aren’t sure who built it) and that the James Ray organization could have been more prepared for any emergencies or had better monitoring of the sweat lodge or could have had fewer people in there at a time.  But I am reading headlines calling James a murderer and linking him to Jim Jones.  One article even demanded that Oprah apologize for introducing James on her show and somehow making Oprah partly responsible for all of this.

One of the biggest criticism I see is that the was a large fee (over $9,000.) for the retreat.  It’s almost like the critics are using this to say that all self help “guru’s” are only in it for the money and that greed is what killed the people.  People are saying that James charged the money for the sweat lodge and traditionally sweat lodges (a Native American tradition) are normally free.  What the money was paid for was the 5 day retreat and the sweat lodge was just a part of it. If James is guilty of negligence (which he may well be) – would he be less guilty had he not charged?

Many are saying that he is a cult leader.  I have never had that impression.  I have attended the seminar and read the book, but I don’t live my total existence based on him and I doubt few would do that. Besides, it’s not like he asks followers for their money (like many cult leaders do) without providing something in return.  He is considered (or at least was) a leader in his field.  How much would other leaders in their field charge for 5 days with them? Probably more than $9,000.  It’s all relative to what perceived value you receive.  Heck – some people pay more than that for play-off games and Super Bowl tickets.

I know that James is about pushing people to their limits and becoming a better person for it.  I do not believe he wanted harm to come to anyone.  It is unfortunate that he was not more cautious. I think sometimes we all think that we can encourage someone to do something that perhaps they really can’t or would not be safe.  I perhaps have been guilty of this myself as a former gymnastics and diving coach – luckily no one was ever hurt.  On vacation once in St. Croix we sat and watched an experienced swimmer get his friend out in very calm water and try and teach him how to swim.  The guy panicked and had heart failure and died right there before our eyes.  The teacher (the man’s brother-in-law) I’m sure meant no harm, but did not understand the fear the other man had of the water.  I’m sure he has suffered living with this, but I would not call him a murderer.

I do call into question how James has handled some of this.  Perhaps a part of him is in denial, perhaps fear, perhaps lawyers have cautioned him not to speak out now.  I hope he does the right thing.  Please understand – I am not defending him, simply not judging until we have more facts and perhaps looking at the reasons as to how something could get so out of hand, without having that intention when you set out.

On another note, some have criticized the victims saying they should have gotten out, or refused to go it, or not stayed in so long.  Sometimes the body and mind have a way of playing tricks on you.  I don’t know much about sweat lodges, but for example when you get hypothermia, you actually at some point start thinking you are warm and begin removing clothes and become very detached from your experience.  I know of a few cases where people have drowned by falling asleep in a hot tub.  So I don’t think we can put ourselves in their position and know what was happening.  I don’t feel the victims are to blame for anything.

Once again, we all have to be responsible for our actions whether we intended to harm or not.  James Ray will also have to be held accountable for what has happened under his watch.  My issue is with the immediate hateful things that are being circulated without much information.  My thoughts go out to all.

I welcome all comments, including those that disagree, just please leave the hate aside.  Thanks.


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