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Posted: 10/27/2009 | Leadership Comments
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October 2009, three lives were lost due to organ failure and at least nineteen people were injured while participating in a sweat lodge ceremony during the James Ray Spiritual Warrior retreat. According to The Huffington Post, Ray addressed the public’s concern at a seminar he held near Los Angeles: “This is the most difficult time I’ve ever faced.” Ray said. “I don’t know how to deal with it really.” He continued by saying that he looked at the incident as a test for himself.


I don’t know James Ray personally, but I’m sure this has been a difficult time for him. Many people who have taken his workshop have said that he has helped them achieve more in their lives, which is what leaders in personal development or the self-help field want to accomplish. Yet, what does it really mean to help others reach their potentials?


This reminds me of something that I said years ago on a television talk show, in which I was a guest therapist. As leaders in the field of personal development and spiritual growth, we must first challenge ourselves to continue along our path of growth, both professional and personally. We also must hold ourselves accountable for giving and teaching from authenticity, integrity and humility. This means not falling prey to our own unhealed wounded egos that can be seduced to believe the projections of the students’ or feel pressure to teach what the consumer “wants.” Our job, instead, is to teach the subjects that we are deeply trained and seated in, as well as what is most healing for all in the long run. 


As a culture, many of us appear to be focused on pushing ourselves to be part of something bigger while wanting more, and then more, which can have an addictive quality. Funny enough, this behavior tends to push us further from our true selves, keeping us from embracing life as it is in the moment. It’s important to see that this inner longing drives our wounded ego toward the outer authority in order for us to be a part of something bigger than just ourselves. What is important to understand is that we can fulfill this human need and, at the same time, keep our own sense of boundaries without hurting ourselves.


Looking at this from the student’s point of view, it is important to explore the issue of dependency. It seems that they are not looking for guides or teachers that point to what might need to be looked at, but to have the answers handed to them. This would come from a younger place inside that longs not to struggle to be saved or fixed, but to get a definitive easy answer from someone else. This doesn’t help the student learn from their own inner knowing.



       Posted: 10/31/2009 3:42:50 PM

I appreciate your comments about the Guru Syndrome. As you said, while it''s easy to judge someone else''s situation, one thing that appears to be the case in the tragedy was that people did not retain enough self-authority in the moment to act on what their own inner direction might have otherwise told them(it''s too hot, too crowded, the air has become toxic, etc.)

As one who coaches, facilitates, and leads workshops, one of my primary goals is that people stay safe, centered, grounded, and fully in charge of their own experience. Thanks for the reminder of how critical these elements are for any of us who find ourselves in front of a group.

       Posted: 11/2/2009 12:18:41 PM

Excellent post Jennifer. I think you''re so right when you say: "As a culture many of us appear to focused on pushing ourselves to be part of something bigger while wanting more, and then more which can have an addictive quality" In this case, with James Arthur Ray, my hunch is he''s probably in that category. It''s interesting how you describe it as an addiction.

Ray       Posted: 10/17/2010 10:42:33 PM

It is sometimes all too easy to just give answers to questions. One thing I try to do in my live courses and workshops is to try to get the answers from the people asking the questions.
Using things like ''what do you think?'' or ''How would you handle it?'' often bring out some excellent answers and empower the people.
I have on occasion felt that I was being put on a pedestal, guru status and I do not like it. I want other people to realize that they have their own wisdom, learn to exercise it.

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