(Photo: Jack Kurtz, The Arizona Republic 2010 photo)
James Arthur Ray was released from prison after 3 people died in a sweat lodge during one of his programs.
I felt it was important to delve into the topic a bit more:
I was invited to a sweat lodge years ago by a dear friend. I truly didn’t “get” what I was about to experience. It was wild and extremely physically difficult. Later at a Stuart Wilde’s 8-day Warriors in the Mist event, I experienced another one. They were held at 4 a.m. and then you were taken up on a mountain for a vision quest. It was a powerful experience for me and the vision has shaped my life for a long time.
Then I married a shaman – at least people called him a shaman and came to see him if they felt they needed a shaman. I don’t think he ever called himself that. We had sweat lodges at our home and people from Europe and all over the world showed up on my doorstep to do Lodge with my husband, to connect with me, and the land in New Mexico.
I never did the lodges. I held space, facilitated sharing and conversation with participants after the lodge was over, even developed a product that helps people recover afterwards.
I wrote several articles talking about how to make the decision about participating or not participating. The shamanic path – with sweat lodges, vision quests, sun dances, etc. – are very physically intensive and demanding. It is a path, like all paths, that one is “called” to. Unless a person feels “called” to do a sweat lodge, they have no business being in one. It is not something to do because it seems interesting. It is something you know you are to do.
We had several Native Americans who came from various tribe and pueblo cultures. They all felt my former husband “poured a good lodge” and they each had a powerful personal experience while attending. We had a native guy that was very ill, practically on his death bed, who was brought down from Colorado who came specifically to “make his peace” before transitioning. He participated in the first 2 rounds of the lodge and sat in the house talking to me for the remaining 2. He felt very good for lifting his prayers in lodge that day.
I, being pisces, can leave my body and vision with no effort whatsoever. I don’t need drugs, or sweat lodges, or any of the other things people use to enter altered states – with the goal of receiving higher wisdom. I simply meditate, or listen to particular pieces of music, or sit by water. Heck, I can take a shower and be flooded with divine inspiration. But I am a long term meditator and I’ve been shown ways of doing things that are significantly more gentle, nurturing, and heart opening than what I consider to be the more masculine way – the harder, shamanic way.
That doesn’t mean its a bad path. Medicine wheels are amazing things. Being connected to nature, communing with guides or totems, honoring the ancestors and keepers of the land are all very important pieces of any spiritual path. The other, more difficult, aspects of the path are perfect for those who are called to them and should be left alone by those who are not.
Sweat lodges are not for the faint of heart, the physically unhealthy, or anyone that is not “called” to that path. For those who are, powerful things can happen.
As with all things, go in with eyes wide open, fully aware and prepared for what you are about to experience.
In my book, Peering Through the Veil, I talk more about numerous forms of prayer and meditation, including sweat lodge.
Have a deLightful day,
Debbie Takara Shelor
Bestselling author, speaker, engineer, mystic