The Native American perspective on the deaths of three participants in James Arthur Ray’s “Spiritual Warrior” retreats: [They] have criticized the reported construction and conduct of the lodge as not meeting traditional ways (the words “bastardized”, “mocked” and “desecrated” have been used). Native American leaders expressed concerns and prayers for the dead and injured. The leaders say the ceremony is their way of life and not a religion. It is Native American property, protected by US laws and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The ceremony should only be in the hands of sanctioned lodge carriers from legitimate nations. Objections included a lack of training (typically up to eight years’ of apprenticeship in the Native American traditions), unusual construction from non-breathable materials, charging for the ceremony (seen as extremely inappropriate), and too many participants. The ceremony was said to be too long… Courtesy of Wikipedia
Editorial Note: In June of 2011, we posted this introduction to Rob Rossel’s three-part feature on the unfortunate James Arthur Ray event and on the Native American healing/spiritual tradition of sweat lodge. It is a custom that many find culturally interesting and/or spiritually inspiring. If that is so for you, you will find links at the end this narrative to the Rob’s three-part series.
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Retreat leader, James Arthur Ray, was found guilty of three counts of negligent homicide in the deaths of three people who died in a sweat lodge ceremony held at a five-day ”Spiritual Warrior” retreat at the Angel Valley Resort near Sedona, Arizona, U.S.A. in October, 2009.
In the furor over these tragically deaths — and the questions about purpose, safety, and advisability of the uninitiated participating in these deeply spiritual Native American ceremonies — much of the rich history, power, and value of sweat lodge experience has been distorted and perhaps lost to those who are genuinely curious about Native American spiritual life and practices.
Also lost is an opportunity to explore a powerful traditional means of contact with a Nature-based form of consciousness. This hunger for a deep connection to Nature (and our “human nature” ) is something I believe is sorely lacking in the frenetic pace and fragmentation of contemporary urban life. It is something that is needed to bring us back “home” to ourselves and nature.
© 2011, Rob Rossel, essay, All rights reserved
The sweat lodge photo is in the United States public domain and is from the Library of Congress, Edward Curtis Collection
Robert D. Rossel, Ph.D. ~ is a life coach and grief counselor living and practicing in Portola Valley, California. He is a Buddhist and a long-time practitioner of self-relations psychotherapy and Ericksonian hypnotherapy. With an abiding interest in music, art, yoga, nature, shamanism and mind-body practices, Rob has sought for many years to find ways to apply meditation and mindfulness in his spiritual practice and his life. Rob is a grandfather. He plays violin and viola. He is one of the three original members of the Bardo team.