Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sweat Lodge Tragedy 2009

This blog is being created for several reasons. I will share information that I hope will lead to greater clarity and understanding (for me and anyone else). I would like this blog to represent a platform for healing to take place, to present opportunities to relinquish judgment, and to explore the concept of forgiveness. This by no means dismisses the need for accountability and responsibility to those involved, including myself as I venture into creating this blog. My wish is that I maintain an open heart to allow inspiration to guide what I share here, and to be willing to surf the “flow” (tread the unknown) offering a public processing of my personal growth in the here-and-now. Topics will include being involved in the Journey of Power, with James Arthur Ray as my teacher, my experience at Spiritual Warrior 2008, and anything that I believe will be helpful to one or more, or many persons regarding “what’s going on” in regards to the sweat lodge tragedy.

I would like to express my deepest sympathy to the families of Kirby Brown, James Shore and Liz Neuman, who suffered a great loss due to the tragedy on October 8, 2009 during the Spiritual Warrior retreat sweat lodge at Angel Valley, Sedona, Arizona.
There are numerous sources disclosing information about the Journey of Power (JOP), which is the curriculum that James Arthur Ray set up as his product offering a series of seminars for the purpose of spiritual transformation, personal development or spiritual growth. All of the seminars were offered by James Ray International (JRI). There are other blogs online offering information from different points of view, there are YouTube videos of James Ray, the sweat lodge trial where James Arthur Ray is charged with three counts of reckless manslaughter by the state of Arizona, is aired by In Session on truTV, and the JRI website is still up and running as well. I also want to mention that there are two books that were written by participants available on, The Tragedy in Sedona and The Labyrinth. I haven't read them yet, but I hope to, so I can integrate anything helpful from the readings later on down the line. 
That said, I’m not filling in every detail assuming anyone that finds this blog will have enough background to follow me. I will share more about my actual experience at Spiritual Warrior 2008 later on. The link to the interview with Dan Harris, ABC News reporter, is available below under the picture of me at the event. I saw this picture that was taken in 2008 for the first time when it aired in March 2011. I had wondered what I looked like, what anyone looks like when their consciousness has left their body. It was scary to see myself in that state knowing "somewhat," what I had been through. I’ll explain more when I tell my story.
March 1, 2011    Good Morning America

ABC New, Dan Harris:
Sweat lodge participant Mary Latallade says she left her body for six hours and that when she came back, she was violently ill.
"I definitely, you know… I feel angry. You know James Ray is ultimately responsible when he runs these seminars," she said. "You do as he says. He plays that paternal role. And he let us know. He's dad and we're his kids and you just follow his lead."
When I attended a seminar called Quantum Leap in September 2006, James Arthur Ray commented that he wasn’t married; he had no children and possibly may not become a father in this lifetime. He explained that he was okay with this because he had us, his participants, and he stated something like, that was enough for him.
When I went to the free two hour seminar in Washington DC in January 2006 there were twenty five or thirty potential participants that went to see him introduce his program. I had already signed up for the first seminar online, then called the Power to Win, later known as Harmonic Wealth Weekend (HWW), after receiving an email in December 2005 describing an opportunity to learn about the Science of Success, a new paradigm. This new paradigm would outline how to change your thought patterns and to eradicate any beliefs and values that worked against becoming successful or reaching the highest potential in human functioning. As I read the email, I thought about signing up. It sounded so perfect for me. I ended up purchasing the event less than thirty minutes after I received the email. I will go further into why this email was so perfectly timed for me and why I instantly felt that the answer to my current personal issues at the time were synchronistically being presented to me. Needless to say, I wanted to meet James Arthur Ray. I wanted to check him out, so I drove round trip from North Carolina to DC for the two hour event. I was pleased. James Ray was impressive in his presentation. His energy was dynamic, he was entertaining and he was also quite convincing. He had a unique product and he was teaching something, it seemed, no one else was in the specific way he chose to teach it. It was exciting. I told him I had started the Science of Success course online and I was looking forward to seeing him in a few months.
James Arthur Ray was the motivational speaker, the teacher, the leader center stage throughout each and every seminar for the entire time I studied with him. He was a one man show. He set his seminars up to push people beyond their comfort zone and it started right when the doors opened at the beginning of every event hosted in conference rooms at beautiful hotels throughout the country. The doors were kept closed until everyone was gathered. When it was time to begin, the doors opened, everyone spilled into a room blaring with music and as each person chose their seats they were asked by dream team members (volunteers that help to run the seminar) to put their things down and start dancing!
I was instantly annoyed at the noise. I had been listening to soft new age music and Classical music for many years. I long ago stopped listening to anything else that rocked my world. I wanted quiet, relaxing, soothing sounds to live by. My buttons got pushed the minute I entered the room. I was to learn that everything during James Ray seminars is calculated and controlled for a reason, and more so than not, procedures and rules were going to test your tolerance and patience. Room temperatures were kept chilly, seminar hours were long so you got little sleep during the events, you had assignments you were asked to complete, and meal breaks were announced at any time of the day when it was convenient and fit perfectly into the day’s schedule. Your first lesson in the JOP program with James was, if you choose to stick around you either go-with-the-flow or you’ll soon discover that throwing tantrums about anything going on would not change a thing. You could stay and participate, accept what he offers in the program, check out what he’s all about or you could leave. It was your choice but he was the boss and that was pretty clear right away.
In March 2006, there were roughly 250 participants that attended the weekend event. The very first person I met, that came out to speak and give us instructions about how to enter the conference room, how the seminar would begin and what we were expected to do was, Liz Neuman, one of the dream team members that died at the 2009 Spiritual Warrior retreat. She was either a dream team member at an event I was attending or we worked side-by-side in many events as dream team members for the next three years. We weren’t close friends but we connected many times and we shared a strong mutual interest in James' teachings. She had already been on the Journey for a number of years when I met her and would continue to her death. In April 2009 I went to my last JOP seminar and decided to move on to explore other areas of study. She was an amazing, wonderful woman and I know she is missed by everyone that knew her. I learned from her and sought her help whenever I needed guidance. She was always available to help anyone that asked and I am grateful to have met her and worked with her.
Like many participants that attended HWW events, if you ended up feeling that the program was something that excited you, it was hard not to figure out a way to stay on the journey. I felt motivated to continue participating but it was not within my financial means to do the top level events. At Quantum Leap in 2006 I decided to sponsor a free two hour event in my area, called The Secrets of Attracting True Wealth. If it were not for the synchronistic events that followed, I would not have attended Spiritual Warrior and a few other upper level seminars in the JOP curriculum.
If James Ray was going to take the time to come to your home town to introduce his program, the deal was it would cost me nothing, except if I chose to advertise, but I had to get at least 250 people to register to attend the event. I put out a few flyers. I was guided by a JRI employee on how to promote the event and they worked with me as I searched for venues until they booked the event and the date was set. In the meantime James had already appeared in the movie The Secret and it wasn’t long before he was booked to appear on Oprah and Larry King Live. Through a link set up by JRI I was able to go online to check on the number of people registered for my event. After a few busy weeks I went online to see where the numbers were at and discovered 1500 people were registered to attend! It was pretty effortless. I took this as a sign, an opportunity presented to me to continue studying with James. That’s exactly what I decided to do. I made enough commission from attendees that bought products and signed up for events that I was able to purchase four upper level events for $10,000, including Spiritual Warrior. Now that was sweet! I was excited. I was having fun, unlike any other time in my life, for the first time in my adult life I was truly happy during the events, despite what was going on in my life. There was no question that I wanted to sign up for these additional events and finish the JOP program. I was exhilarated!
There are many questions that people may have about those of us that were drawn to James Arthur Ray’s, Journey of Power. Why? Each person that studied with James Ray had their own reason for being there. Some people were there to fit in somewhere, some people were there hoping to someday make their dreams come true, many people were there to learn how to reach their highest human potential in every area of their lives and some people were there because it was fun! Those of us, most of us, that studied with James would likely agree that the program was beneficial in many ways. I really did have a lot of fun. The people that attended the events were wonderful, intelligent, successful, caring, friendly ambitious people. Generally, I enjoyed just about everyone I met because we all had at least one common interest if nothing else, which was to learn and grow. I was grateful for the support I felt I had during a challenging time in my life. I was raising and homeschooling two boys diagnosed with Autism, and I was going through a divorce. I needed to find strength and power within myself and the confidence and conviction to do whatever needed to be done in my daily life. I prefer not to even give any thought to how things would have turned out for me and my boys if I wasn’t on the JOP during those very difficult years. I will share more about the results of being in the program, about discovering in myself a whole new person, the person I always wanted to be.