Many of you know about the infamous Sweat Lodge incident that occurred at Angel Valley on October 8, 2009, during which Kirby Brown and James Shore died on the spot of hyperthermia, whereas Liz Neuman died a week later of organ failure caused by the same issue.
The ceremony, that was meant to be the highlight of the Spiritual Warrior Retreat, was led by James Arthur Ray.
Eventually, James Ray was sentenced to two years in jail for three counts of negligent homicide.
The occurrence, including the trial, received a lot of publicity for a variety of reasons. It has impacted many person's lives severely, including ours.
October 8, 2009, by far the most dramatic and chaotic evening in Angel Valley's existence.
In April, 2016, a documentary came out, presented at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. The movie was broadcast on CNN TV on December 3rd.
The title is
'Enlighten Us - The Rise and Fall of James Arthur Ray'.
The film makers were fascinated by a person who makes an astronomical rise in popularity and wealth, then falls so deep while ending up in jail, and then tries to get back in the circuit he used to work in.
When they first started their project, they also interviewed us.
We were invited to the Premier at the Tribeca Festival, but we could not make it. When I saw flashes and interviews, I was not sure whether I would have felt comfortable.
One thing that hit me: hearing James Ray in an interview talk about 'his movie'.... I beg your pardon?
Enlighten Us at the Tribeca film Festival
Finally, last month, we did see the movie.
It brought up mixed feelings, to say the least.
People who know us, have experienced that we have always been willing to address the incident. Not only it can't be denied that it happened, but for us it is paramount that lessons are learned from a disaster like this.
The lessons are not just for the people directly impacted, but also for mankind. One of the most outstanding lessons is to never ever give our power to anybody else, and to always deliberately increase our discernment and our awareness, in situations where our judgments might get impaired.
On the facilitating end: do not ever take anybody's power, or think you know what is best for somebody else. Be in your heart while working with people, and not in your ego.
To make these perspectives more public, we wrote our book 'Transformation at Angel Valley', as we shared what actually happened, how we had to make it fit into our lives, what we learned, and what others can learn once they are willing to set aside their judgments. It could have been you in that sweat lodge...
Have the film makers succeeded in their goal?
Well, they do give the audience a look at James Arthur Ray from many different angles: before the incident, flashes from the incident, the trial, his release from prison, and they film him afterwards during events and in interviews at his home.
I read reviews that range from saying it is well done and it is up to the audience to make up their mind, to critical comments about James Ray, to responses that emphasize how dangerous this man is.
What strikes me more than anything about this movie is the following:
Too much is left out of the movie, because the film makers did not think it was relevant. Really?
When you make a documentary about a person who had three of his followers die under his nose, which could have been prevented, it is not relevant to talk about the people who died or with their families?
Of course, the dead don't speak into a camera and the family would be partial and emotional.
But how can you make it believable that James Ray says in front of the camera that he is sorry, if he has never had the courage to say this directly to those whose lives were the most affected?
When he says he has served his duty in jail and his insurance paid them money, doesn't he realize that his responsibility starts with those who suffered the most?
When during the movie he tries to downplay things as an accident, and the unique situation that he was judged criminally in a situation where people did things out of their own free will, what does that tell us?
And now, he is asking the court to clean his records, so he can move on as if nothing ever happened.
That is beyond me...
Kirby Brown, James Shore and Liz Neuman
Do we wish for James Ray to have a life after this episode? Of course, we do!
Is there such a thing as forgiveness? Absolutely, there is!
Am I condemning James Ray for what happened in 2009 for the rest of his life? No, I'm not!
However, hearing him speak today about 'taking responsibility for his actions', and even his intentions to go back into teaching this very topic, that sounds untrue to me. It makes me wonder what he has learned.
Yet, we have to accept that he will probably find people who are attracted to him and his methods, and who will have an opportunity to learn new aspects of discernment.