Dec 29, 2009

Sweat Lodge Tragedy Part of a Pattern

The homicide investigation resulting from James Arthur Ray's disastrous sweat lodge has turned up evidence of a pattern of illness and injury. In addition to the previously discussed suicide, there have been broken bones, loss of consciousness, vomiting, and other adverse events at Ray seminars.

In documents released Monday, a man Ray hired to build the sweat lodge told investigators that he was hesitant to assist with the ceremony for a third year because participants previously had emerged in medical distress, and emergency help wasn't summoned. Theodore Mercer said the latest ceremony was hotter than in years past, but Ray repeatedly told participants, "You are not going to die. You might think you are, but you're not going to die."

Mercer's wife, Debra, told investigators that one man emerged from the sweat lodge halfway through the October ceremony believing he was having a heart attack and would die. She said that instead of summoning medical aid, Ray said "It's a good day to die," according to a search warrant affidavit.

Ray also seems to have confused a ritual cleanse with a test of endurance. I've done sweat lodge ceremony. It's a profound physical and psycho-spiritual cleanse. It's not meant to test the limits of physical resistance.

Our ceremonies are about life and healing. From the time this ancient ceremonial rite was given to our people, never has death been a part of our inikaga (life within) when conducted properly. Today, the rite is interpreted as a sweat lodge. It is much more than that. The term does not fit our real meaning of purification.

Inikaga is the oldest ceremony brought to us by Wakan Tanka (Great Spirit). Nineteen generations ago, the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota oyate (people) were given seven sacred rites of healing by a Spirit Woman, Pte San Win (White Buffalo Calf Woman). She brought these rites along with the sacred Canupa (pipe) to our people, when our ancestors were suffering from a difficult time. It was also brought for the future to help us for much more difficult times to come. They were brought to help us stay connected to who we are as a traditional cultural people.

The values of conduct are very strict in any of these ceremonies, because we work with spirit. The Creator, Wakan Tanka, told us that if we stay humble and sincere, we will keep that connection with the inyan oyate (the stone people), who we call the Grandfathers, to be able to heal ourselves and loved ones. We have a gift of prayer and healing and have to stay humble with our Unci Maka (Grandmother Earth) and with one another. The inikaga is used in all of the seven sacred rites to prepare and finish the ceremonies, along with the sacred eagle feather. The feather represents the sacred knowledge of our ancestors.

Not surprising, then, that a Sioux Nation treaty council is seeking legal remedy by demanding that the  fatal sweat lodge be prosecuted as a treaty violation.

This event brings to the surface the uneasy relationship between white eyes who embrace native spiritual traditions, as a path to wholeness,  and Native American tribes who seek to keep their practices from being cheapened and desecrated. James Arthur Ray, it's harder with you around.

In following news on this event, since its tragic occurrence in October, I'm inclined to think that the problem rests with a personality flaw, in the self-styled guru. As with so much of his brand of pop, new age ideology, there is confusion between focused determination and inner transformation. The two are not synonymous. Ray is clearly very driven and relentless force seems to be his answer to everything. Ignoring obstacles (or focusing on the positive, to put it in Secret parlance) is certainly a method. However, when those obstacles are pragmatic concerns like hyperthermia and dehydration, some attention to "the negative" is pretty crucial. But, consider that Rhonda Byrne, the primary writer of The Secret, thinks the key to weight loss is to "not observe" fat people. Perhaps Mr. Ray thought that not observing people fainting and throwing up on themselves would prevent the physical traumas around him from putting him in legal jeopardy. That could explain why he did not participate in attempts to provide aid to the sick and dying. Needless to say, in this case, that approach failed.

As followers around him staggered and collapsed inside a hot sweat lodge near Sedona, motivational guru James Arthur Ray seemed to ignore the unfolding medical crisis, according to statements given to investigators.

Ray repeatedly discussed death during the October ceremony, telling participants they would feel like they were dying, according to officials' reports released Monday. When a man tried to open the tent for air, Ray reportedly called him "sacrilegious."

In the end, three of the more than 50 participants in the sweat-lodge ceremony did die.

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Dec 23, 2009

Egyptian Alarm Clock

Giza Pyramids, Egypt

"When I'm in Egypt, and I look at the pyramids, I think, that's the real world." 
~ William Henry

Some years ago I recorded something in my journal that, like so many things I scribble in these notes, has taken me years to even begin to understand. An image emerged in my mind's eye of what looked like a mountain range, so I began to draw it. I drew the first peak. The second was a bit higher. Then my hand was forced down to draw a much lower, disproportionate looking third peak. The asymmetry of the drawing bothered me, somewhat, but it was a fair representation of what I saw in my head. Then I heard the following words, which I wrote under my funny looking mountain range. "Trapped in the wrong dimension." The asymmetrical mountain range looking thing became stunningly obvious one day, when I saw a photo of the pyramids at Giza, from that particular angle.  The phrase I heard I still don't really understand, but I have theories.

As I've mentioned previously, Graham Hancock's concept of us as "a species with amnesia" really resonates for me. I found an older interview with Graham Hancock on Coast to Coast with the legendary Art Bell. The whole interview is excellent, but the part that really struck me I've transcribed here:

I can tell you that many, many people, around the world today, have the sense of an awakening memory. There is a sense that the pyramids of Egypt are operating like a beacon drawing people towards them. And, imagine this: Imagine if you were the survivors, as I spoke before, of a lost civilization with a high wisdom and knowledge -- a knowledge that we do not have today -- and you believed in reincarnation. And not just believed; you knew that it happened, and you knew that you would be reborn 12,000 or more years, in the future. And, that you knew that part of the deal with reincarnation is that you do not remember past lives; that at the most you get these faint, haunting recollections that you do not clearly remember. Perhaps you would create an alarm clock for yourself. Perhaps you would create a beacon that would draw you towards it, and an alarm clock -- a symbolic alarm clock -- that would awaken those repressed memories of past lives.

William Henry has a similar take on Egypt's ability to wake us up to a reality that is more "real" than our current, transient experience on earth. In this Conscious Media Network interview, he explains his fascination with Egypt, and with its effect on the psyche.

Both Henry and Hancock express a certain urgency, and the need for those of us who hear this wake-up call to acquire the necessary knowledge. Hancock posits that there is a window of opportunity here, that we may miss. All I know is that the promptings to "remember" are getting louder, and that I also feel there is something (???) I'm supposed to do. Increasingly, I feel like the white rabbit, checking my fob watch.

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Dec 21, 2009

The Next Level

Graham Hancock had this video posted to his Facebook page, so I took a look at it. It's a neat little round-up of ideas on transformation and multi-dimensional awaremeness, from thinkers as diverse as Joseph Campbell and Joe Rogan.

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Dec 20, 2009

Mr. Deity and the Apology

The last episode of Mr. Deity introduced Eve. I posted it here. I thought it was cute, but I thought, at the time, it might tweak some people. Apparently, it did. In fact, it seems to have really pissed some viewers off enough that Brian Keith Dalton has come out with an apology. It's at the end of this most recent episode, "Mr. Deity and the Wrong Number." Like all things Mr. Deity, the apology is quite amusing, and straddles that fine line between the satirical and the offensive. Dalton makes the rather significant point that Mr. Deity lampoons a variety of stereotypes, and yet, it is only when a stereotype of a woman comes in to play, that all hell breaks loose. And, like so many stereotypes, there is some truth in Mr. Deity's Eve, and in the communication breakdown that ensues. I say this as a woman and a feminist. There are differences between men and women. There are differences in the way we communicate. Women can be indirect and, even, passive aggressive. Men can be obtuse and oblivious to metacommunication. John Gray built an entire cottage industry around these differences, and the trouble they can cause in male/female relationships. So, I thought Mr. Deity's depictions of an extremely yin Eve, and yang Adam, were clever. His conversation with Pat Robertson is also amusing, so enjoy!

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Dec 16, 2009

Time Monk Clif High on the Coming Context Shift

"A shift in awareness always causes transformation."
~ Virginia Sandlin

Clif High is making the media rounds again, in association with his latest report, and some changing time tables. Most notably, he says that we will be experiencing a "context shift," that was predicted for December 29, on or near December 19. That's this Saturday. A context shift, according to High, is when there is a rapid change in our mass awareness about an issue. (This would be a collective experience of what my former teacher and Cherokee Mystic Virginia Sandlin would call a "shift in awareness.") A previously predicted context shift had to do with the undocumented alien issue, the perception of which dramatically changed when massive demonstrations captured media and public attention. While he's not sure what issue is about to erupt into our conscious awareness, he suspects it will be economic and related to what he thinks is the inevitable "death of the dollar." Also of note, High's speculation on the real purpose the H1N1 vaccine (population reduction) and the weird, swirly thing that appeared over Norway.

High will be making other appearances. Notably, a prerecorded interview will air this Friday on Veritas.

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Dec 13, 2009

The Secret, a Sweat Lodge, and STILL MORE Tragedy

If you missed the Nightline coverage of James Arthur Ray's sweat lodge gone wrong (originally covered here), it is available for viewing on the ABC website. I didn't think I could be more shocked and horrified by this story than I already was. I was wrong. Now we learn that there is a pattern of gross negligence on the part of this self-styled guru -- whose appearance in The Secret catapulted him to fame -- and his company JRI. The death toll is even greater than the three who died as a result of that abomination of a sweat lodge. An earlier death at a James Arthur Ray seminar has now come to light.

Colleen Conaway plunged to her death, an apparent suicide, during a bizarre exercise, in which people who paid thousands of dollars to JRI, were dressed up as homeless people, stripped of their money and identification, and dumped in downtown San Diego. No one interviewed seems to know quite what they were supposed to learn from this experiment, in abject poverty, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it wasn't compassion. I say this, in part, because so little compassion was extended to Colleen Conaway or her family. Just as would later occur with Liz Neuman, the third sweat lodge participant to die, the family was not notified, by JRI. Both Liz Neuman and Colleen Conaway spent time listed as Jane Does; one critically ill in a hospital and the other on a slab in the county morgue.

Colleen Conaway's family has asked the San Diego police department to reopen the investigation into the death.

The family wants to know what role Ray's event may have played in her death. Conaway's sister, Lynn Graham said, "It could have been brainwashing. He's been known for heavy-handed tactics. She went from someone excited about life to someone who was completely alone in a span of two days. You can't put people in such an emotional state and then just dump them."

. . .

One detail the family is concerned about is that the event bus picked up everybody, but left without Conaway. It would be seven hours before Ray's group reported her missing.

So James Arthur Ray, and his staff, left a bunch of people in downtown San Diego with no money or identification, dressed in rags, like some of the most vulnerable people in the population, and did not bother to notice that one was missing, for seven hours.

The portrait of Ray that emerges from this story is very unappealing. He comes across as self-absorbed, egomaniacal, and completely lacking in empathy. In the Nightline piece, former employee Melinda Martin describes his behavior during the sweat lodge debacle, which was so horrible that paramedics, when they were finally called, assumed it was a "mass suicide."

Martin said she wanted to call for help, but Ray's staffers told her no.

"They told me that that wasn't something that would be done, because in the past, 911 had been called, and James got very, very angry at the person who called 911, so that had already been quashed. So I was in the mode of taking care of people," she said.

. . .

Martin said that while people were being dragged out from the tent in front of him, Ray made no mention of stopping the ceremony. She said she was on the side of the tent when Ray exited the sweat lodge and saw the pandemonium outside.

"He came out, and he stretched his arms up, and everybody hosed him off, and he's like, 'Hey, thanks,'" Martin recalled. "I just stopped and I said, 'How can you walk out of there with all of these people are down and they're -- they looked near death, and you guys can walk out there looking like you just spent the day in the spa?' It was incredible to me."

. . .

As Martin performed CPR on a dying woman, she said her boss simply stared.

So, what does this have to do with The Secret, other than James Arthur Ray's association with the popular book and film? Unfortunately, I think the mindset encouraged by The Secret sets the stage for such tragedy, for a number of reasons. The Secret encourages denial of negative experiences and focus on only "the positive." This can cause us to miss crucial, red flags like, say, people begging for water, and so delirious that they are wandering into red, hot coals.

More to the point, The Secret indulges the ego. Again, I want to be very clear that I'm talking about The Secret, not necessarily Science of Mind or similar disciplines, of which The Secret is derivative. In most of these disciplines we learn that when we are stating intention, we must caveat that it be "for the highest good of all." Shakti Gawain, for instance, teaches this phrase:

This, or something better, now manifests for me in totally satisfying and harmonious ways, for the highest good of all concerned.

If such a caveat was referenced in The Secret, I don't recall it. Any such concept, if even mentioned, was dwarfed by the relentlessly consumerist focus. It's all about what we want, want, want, and satisfying the impulses of the ego. In The Secret, we learn from Joe Vitale, that the universe is a great big catalog where we can order up the experiences, relationships, and "products" we desire.

In her November 25 broadcast, on the subject of gratitude, Christina Pratt discussed the Quechua concept of Ayni; a philosophy and practice in which we recognize the interconnectedness of all life. There is no way I can do justice to her entire explanation, and I highly recommend downloading the podcast, but I will attempt to transcribe her explanation of the contrast between pop new age techniques for manifestation, and a shamanic practice of manifesting in "right relationship" with the world.

One of the things I see, in a more, I don't know... new age, for lack of a better word, kind of practice today, where people are busily focusing their intention to manifest what they want... Well, the problem with that is there is no conversation with your soul and spirit in that, because most of us identify with ourselves from an ego/personality place. And that all we're doing is using spiritual principles of intention and focus and prayer and manifestation, to make manifest what we want. What if what you want would bring the downfall of mankind, in 10 generations? Would you maybe change what you want right now?... This is what I mean by using shamanic skills to make better quality decisions.... So that when we start to use these powers of manifestation and focus and prayer, that we're doing it in a way that has taken our place in the fabric of everything into consideration. So we're doing it from a place of all the spiritual principles; not just that one single spiritual principle that you can manifest your destiny -- that you can manifest whatever you want. I mean that by itself is grossly dangerous.

For all his use of native practices, I doubt highly that James Arthur Ray was very focused on how his work would reverberate, in the world, for future generations. He remained completely oblivious to how it was affecting participants, in the here and now, when their lives were imperiled. He did not consider how their families would be affected by being left in the dark as they died. That none of this demonstrated "right relationship" with the world, is fairly obvious.

Such tragedies occur when we are so invested in our egos that we think the universe is here to serve us, like a great big catalog of riches, rather than considering how we serve the universe, by bringing our light into the world.

In general, I think the idea of using the so called "law of attraction" to manifest, demonstrates a shallow understanding of the universe. I've explained fairly thoroughly why I think that. But, The Secret is the shallowest of the shallow. It requires no application of universal principles to manifest what you want if you're driven, ruthless, ego-centered, and are willing sacrifice people along the way. People have been manifesting their wants that way from time immemorial, and look at where it's gotten us. James Arthur Ray has amassed a lot of wealth, and according to numerous accounts, he has done so through the application of incredible arrogance. No one can avoid "attracting" that dark reflection, of our shadow nature. There are consequences to everything. James Arthur Ray may soon be coming face to face with exactly what he's manifested.

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Dec 9, 2009

Energy Allergies

Very interesting post on regarding "energy allergies."

As we raise our vibration we often can experience what is called an energy allergy. This happens as a natural growth process as we evolve, (especially for us empaths:-) But I have noticed many people even those who aren't light workers going through these shifts. These energy allergies can manifest in many ways and for many reasons. Most often the result is fatique. Sleepiness, headaches,anxiety, allergy symptoms, depression, and the list goes on. The often occur as a result after an event or realization that raises our consciencness. These realizations can be both postive or negative. We have all had it happen after a negative event when we find ourselves retreating to heal. After a positive event it happens as a result or being out of sync between our spirit and our soroundings. Often times they can be a result or a block in creative energies because of the limiting beleifs we are learing to let go of. When we raise our spiritual vibration the spirit longs to express itself in these new understandings. When we don't allow this energy to flow it results in the energy becoming stuck within us and these conditions result. It is extremely normal as we all take 3 steps forward then 2 back, so nothing to worry about or feel responsible for.

This one jumped out at me, because I am having a horrible allergy attack... for several days running, now. I have had these before, following major shifts. My sense of this has been that as we move to the next vibrational level, we can go out of sync with our environment. The result is a discomfort in our living (or work) space. For myself, I've always found that after I move up a vibrational level -- or a few of them at once, in some cases -- there can be a lag before my living space catches up to meet my new vibrational level. Until things catch up, we're out of sync. There a number of things you can do to reclaim your space. Cleaning is one. Dusting and vacuuming are fairly obvious, because even a very low level of dust can really set off allergies, when you're also in an "energy allergy" response. I've been dusting like mad, even though there is very little dust; much less than would normally bother me at all.

I've also found it helpful to use sage and other energy cleansing and renewing incenses; lavender, sweetgrass, cedar, frankincense, copal, sandalwood... That's if my sinuses can withstand the smoke. Right now, they can't. In that event, misting with water, or rosewater, is another good option. The goal is to clear out residual energy patterns that are longer appropriate to where you are. They will shift on their own, eventually. This just helps to speed things along.

I have, in some cases, had to consciously direct the energy. I remember one time in particular, some years ago. I was meditating and my guides drew my attention to my car. I was shown that while my apartment was back in sync, I had ignored the car, which I still had to be able to safely drive. So, I focused my attention on the car, and observed a spiral of light swirling up through it, for several moments, until it looked, energetically, bright and shiny.

The shifts since this summer have been fast, furious, and incredibly abrupt, in some cases. I keep finding myself reeling. This most recent shift has left me very out of sync. In addition to the allergies, I'm extremely sensitive to sounds and smells. As I have so many times throughout this ascension process, I feel like I have no skin; no defenses against even the most innocuous disruptions.

I know I'm not alone, on this one. I've talked to several clients who are having the allergy responses. So is my husband. December is not generally allergy season, so it's noteworthy. If you're having this problem, I hope these suggestions help; or feel free to suggest some of your own tips and tricks for moving through these shifts.

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Dec 7, 2009

Why the Tarot Works

Some years ago, I was perusing books in a Wiccan shop, when I overheard a conversation between the owner and a customer. She was looking at the many tarot decks in the glass case by the front counter. "Do these really work?" she asked.

The owner was deeply knowledgeable about western esoteric traditions, and had a fondness for tarot. I had heard him, on more than one occasion, give detailed explanations of the symbolism in complex decks like the Crowley-Thoth. Yet, he answered this woman very matter-of-factly. "A deck of tarot cards is just 78 pieces of paper with pictures printed on them." Not the answer she was expecting, I'm sure. Quite truthful, however.

Dec 3, 2009

The WM3: Good News & Bad News

First, the good news: The defamation case against Dixie Chick Natalie Maines was dismissed. Libel and slander are fairly hard to prove, in this country, because the litigant has to establish "malice." Terry Hobbs's legal team failed to do so.

The lawsuit, filed in November 2008, claimed Maines' comments were "malicious, libelous, slanderous and false" and sought damages.

But U.S. District Judge Brian Miller ruled Tuesday that Hobbs couldn't establish "actual malice" — that Maines knew the statements were false or that she made them with "reckless disregard" of the truth.

To me the larger point was that she said nothing untrue. She never accused Terry Hobbs of murder, as he'd claimed, and as was unfortunately reported by numerous sloppy reporters and bloggers. Every statement I read, from her, at the time, struck me as quite careful. Judge Miller found the same; that she'd based her statements on court documents, and did not embellish.

Miller noted Maines rejected changes to the letter she posted on the Web site because she didn't want to stray from information she'd received from the West Memphis Three's attorneys.

"All of the legal stuff is copied directly from the court filing and legal papers that were written by the defense team," Maines wrote to an e-mail to her manager, which was included in the court record. "I don't want to put any of that in my own words."

So, today we can appreciate a sensible court decision, with regards to a spurious law suit. The irony, though, is not lost on me. As hard as it is to sue a person for libel, in this country, it is apparently all too easy to convict children of murder, with absolutely no physical evidence, let alone logic, and leave them, to rot, in prison for years.

Now, the bad news: Compelling new witness testimony (previously discussed here) will not be considered by the Arkansas Supreme Court, in the appeal, from death row inmate Damien Echols.

Three women’s witness statements will not be considered by the Arkansas Supreme Court in deciding whether they’ll order a new trial for convicted murderer Damien Echols.

Justices denied a motion for staying Echols’ appeal and refused to consider new witness statements submitted for review earlier this month.

No written explanation accompanied the decision. Officials with the Arkansas Supreme Court in Little Rock said it is common for motion rulings not to have written explanations.

In November KTHV ran a three part series, on the case, asking, "Was Justice Served for the WM3 & the Victims?" It gives a pretty decent overview.

Also worth seeing is  a surprisingly thorough story on the appeals and the evidence.

Echols remains hopeful that once this goes to a federal court, he will be granted a new trial. I, like Natalie Maines, remain astonished that Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and  Jessie Misskelley, are still in prison over 15 years later.

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