The deaths of two people at a sweat lodge outside of Sedona have raised many questions. Led by self-help guru James Arthur Ray who achieved fame after appearing in the film “The Secret” and on Oprah’s television show, between 55 and 65 people gathered in a sweat lodge at Angel Valley Spiritual Retreat. The sweat lodge itself was a temporary structure about 415 square feet and about 4-1/2 feet tall, made of poles and tarps and blankets. The participants had been in the sweat for more than two hours according to a New York Times article.
The sweat was part of a program called “Spiritual Warrior.” According to Ray’s website, this program is designed to push the boundaries and the self-imposed borders of the practitioners. A colleague of Ray’s, John Assaraf, says that these retreats are meant to push the limits of participants’ endurance and “transcend pain.”
I’ve been studying what I call “performance technology” for over 20 years and have used it in my own life and with my clients. The work I call “Visioncrafting” is derived from these philosophies. It’s extremely unfortunate that the tragedy of these deaths is being used to mock the “self-help movement” and undermine the whole idea of personal transformation.
On the other hand, this idea of pushing people beyond their limits is one that I have never found beneficial. My earliest experience with these ideas was with the program EST in the early 1970s. I never attended an EST program (with three planets in Libra and Venus opposite Jupiter, I have no need to challenge myself in this way), but friends who did told the tale of being humiliated in front of a roomful of people and not allowed to leave the room to take care of nature’s needs. […]