>The New Crime

>“…There is no sacrifice – only greater and more magnificent results, wealth, adventure and fulfillment. You owe it to the rest of your life to get to Spiritual Warrior as quickly as you can. The investment is ONLY $9695 per person.” ~From the James Arthur Ray Website

On October 8, 2009 three participants in James Arthur Ray’s Spiritual Warrior Experience died while participating in his sweat lodge experience. One of those who died, I knew. Her name is Liz Neuman, and she and I were members of Unity of the Valley in Savage, MN.

Liz was the greeter at Unity. Always smiling at the door on Sunday mornings, she welcomed, and handed us our program. I do not claim to know Liz all that well. We talked here and there, but I do remember her most when she began to promote James Arthur Ray. At the time I had not heard about him, but she seemed to be enthralled with him. Because of her giddiness, I purchased his CD series for my husband, and later got tickets from her for one of his free events.

Like most “spiritual teachers” in this “New Age,” I agree with most of what they say, but there was something about Ray, I couldn’t succumb to. For me, he was too smooth, too polished. And I guess I didn’t like the way he told me at this free event, that if I didn’t sign up for his Spiritual Warrior Retreat, I really didn’t want to change. Interesting, James was so smooth, and repeated this “mantra” so many times, I began to question my own spiritual growth, and wondered if maybe I wasn’t who I thought I was, and should hand him my credit card so I could prove I was “change worthy.” But I didn’t. I left, with his free little book, taking in only the words of the old spiritual teachers, like Plato, and Aristotle he quoted.

The old guys taught spiritual principles as old as dust, and older. The new guys teach them too. The new crime of which I speak involves manipulation and a kind of vampirism, and is also as old as dust. What’s new, however is some of the content from these new teachers, and the times we live in.

The new content is promising light, joy, purpose, abundance, especially of the financial kind, and to have all of this quickly. The times, are the millions of people searching for this, because of the overall dissatisfaction so many of us feel. The times are also about everything being fast. With a flip of a switch we get instant electricity. When we type a word in google, and click search we get instant information. When we want food, we drive up to the window, say “I want a #9,” and get an instant meal. So, when we want more money, and to feel good, why not take Dr. Enlightenment’s, 10-point program to financial success or “In One Weekend I Will Love My Life” spiritual retreat. And it doesn’t help we have “teachers” who show us how they are living this abundant life. Because of this, we expect spiritual enlightenment to be easy, and joy filled. I am sorry, but if enlightenment were so damn easy, wouldn’t we all be enlightened by now.

My father recently shared with me a truth coming from the “old guys” and some Buddhists. They say, in regard to the spiritual path, and crossing over to the other side spiritually, of 100,000 only 1,000 may reach the shore. Of that 1,000 only 2 0r 3 may successfully cross to the other shore. This truth suggests, it is not easy.

Also, I find interesting the content in James Ray’s quote above, “there is no sacrifice.” This is a lie. There is an enormous amount of sacrifice in crossing over to the other side. However, this is not something people like to hear in the “New Age.” Have we become so off from our center, as to think we have beat the basic, fundamental principles of our spiritual path? Do we think we can rush it, and buck the system? We can’t, and we never will. We are not that powerful. However, our power lies in surrendering to these basic, fundamental spiritual truths, for they are living and breathing inside of us. Because of this we do not need the spiritual teacher like we think we do. What we need is to hear the principles the teacher speaks, as reminders and signposts as we travel our paths.

If we choose to search for a spiritual teacher or healer to assist us on our journey, here are some signposts for you, the seeker:
  • First and foremost it is important to understand who you are as a seeker. The teachers who who wish to suck our power and money, we cannot control. However, if we are centered within our own self, we will not succumb to these kinds of people. Therefore, as a seeker, it is important to know what you are seeking for?

Let me give you a personal example. A few years back I was a stay-at-home mom. I was frustrated, and longing for some other kind of expression beyond motherhood. Before I became a mother, I was going to school to be a psychologist, however I decided to quit and stay home with my daughter. So, when I met a woman, who offered a life beyond motherhood, I was all for it. She promised life coaching certification, a chance to be a partner in her healing center, and a chance to write an article in a local magazine. She also told me how wise I was for my age, and invited me to important meetings about her center. I felt special (often my “weak” spot).

Overtime, though I noticed subtle behaviors of hers that made me uncomfortable. Like her sitting in a large chair in the middle of a room surrounded by her “followers.” And again, with a chair, when I went to her house for a “coaching” session, and she told me to get out of her big, comfy chair and told me to sit in the small, uncomfortable one. And when she didn’t respond to my holiday invite after I called many times, and noticing my co-dependent behaviors I knew I was giving away my power.

When we feel like something isn’t right, yet we also feel pulled to someone or something, this usually means there is a need in us which is strong, yet a “weakness” which opens us up to manipulation, and being sucked of our power. For me, I was vulnerable to this woman because I was looking for something more, and I wanted to be special to someone. At that time I forgot I held my own power and opportunity and not someone else. If someone is telling us we need their help to change or we won’t, or someone acts as though she is the queen on a throne, move on, but first pay attention to whatever is pulling at you to not move on, and understand it so you will not be pulled in again.

  • When you find a teacher, or someone who you resonate with, remember this adage- if you see the Buddha on the side of the road, kill him.

The way I intepret this to mean, is again it is about the principles, in this case, of the Buddha in which we treasure, and live by, not the Buddha himself. If we really think of the essence of Buddha or Jesus, do we think they want to be praised, followed and admired- or do they offer their wisdom and experience so that we too may join them in their “enlightenment?”

Jesus, said, “Even the least among you can do all that I have done, and greater things.” We hear in these words, it isn’t about him. It is about us and doing our work. We resonate with true spiritual principles, because they are living and breathing inside of us, but to give the teacher the energy you need for the work, is a great disservice and distraction to your spiritual journey and growth.

  • Be aware of teachers teaching anything as easy, and everything is a rush.

Notice James Ray’s request, or maybe command- “You owe it to the rest of your life to get to Spiritual Warrior as quickly as you can. Key word being quickly. If there is urgency, be very wary.

We are vulnerable to believing these kinds of requests because we often begin seeking when we are uncomfortable and in pain. Our culture doesn’t like pain, which is why millions of us are addicted to pain killers. We want instant relief. So when a “guru” promises quick and easy steps, and please hurry to make those steps NOW, keep in mind they are just that- steps, and there is no hurry.

Someone who came to see me for a coaching session, said something very powerful which subsided my ego who wants to be the savior. She thanked me for being one of many steps on her spiritual path. I don’t need to be the entire path/the way. To be a step is honor enough.

  • Be aware of how the teacher lives his or her life.

I remember meeting a feng shui and clutter clearing consultant at her home. On the outside, she was very put togther, and I couldn’t wait to meet her, and get to know her. When I walked into her house, the first thing I noticed were the closet doors completely off the hinges. I walked into her kitchen, and saw there were no cupboard doors, and kitchen items were hanging out of the drawers. When she asked me if I wanted tea, I hesitated noticing the filth in the kitchen. When I went into her bathroom, I could not even sit on the toilet for reasons I will not share. And to top it off, her home was in foreclosure. Now I am not saying teachers and healers can’t have issues, but for me, if my life is working better, I’d be better off keeping my own counsel.

  • Be aware of the focus on money.

My husband I participated in a sweat lodge a couple of years ago. The lodge was in the middle of the woods, clearly made from natural materials, and seated no more than 10 or 12. When we asked if there is a charge, the guy hosting, said if someone is charging you for this, you should walk away. Giving a donation is one thing, but being charged for a sacred ceremony is considered wrong.

  • Be aware of “New Age Propaganda” and all the Bells & Whistles.

Yes, the aura photos, retreats to Sedona, talking with angels and playing with The Secret is all interesting, but don’t fall into the trap that this is what it means to be spiritual. It is often just a distraction to going deeper within the Self, which is the work of getting to the other shore.

I cannot discount the value of the New Age literature and bells and whistles, for these offerings are often what get seekers to wake up to their spiritual path, but again it isn’t the path. Seeing auras, talking with the dead, and channeling “masters” does not make anyone more spiritual than those who cannot.

As I come to a conclusion with this post, I want to say loud and clear- keep your power at all times, but I know this is like telling your teenage daughter not to smoke, drink or have sex. In the beginning of our awakening journeys, we often need to pursue our ambitions and desires. The important thing here, is we learn and grow, and become stronger and wiser within our Sacred Center.

The most pertinent work at this time, as many of our human foundations are being shattered with job loss, relationship issues, global issues and the like, is as those shaky structures crumble we find the only true salvation and solid foundation there is- our Sacred Self. And it is a journey, and a relationship which is up to us to develop. And in this New Age journey, our best defense against manipulation and vampirism, is “knowing thyself.”

I wonder what Liz Neuman’s final thoughts were? Did she wonder about the man she so loyally followed as, according to reports, he fleas the scene as she and others lose consciousness. Did she even know? Did she stay inside, even though her Sacred Self whispered leave, because she wanted to prove to possibly herself, and her teacher, she too was a warrior? Was it too much to leave, like some did, and feel the shame of not enduring the heat?

It is true we must sacrifice on the spiritual path, but I do not think Liz was asked to sacrifice her life. She, like all of us are asked to sacrifice our pride, our desire for power, our thoughts that we are weak and insignificant, our greed, and so much more. It’s not easy, so let’s not expect it to be. But by no means does this mean we cannot be sweetly humbled by the magnificence of our very natures and of this tremendous undertaking we are all on. It is beautiful, significant, sweet and oh, so, so very, very real and true.

Thomas Merton said, “The spiritual life is first of all a life. Not something merely to talk about, or be studied. It is meant to be lived.” It may rarely be captivating and fun, and it may never be a trend, but it is the way of life, which is meant to be lived.

Stay true to you……


The Soul Reporter, sharing the Journey with you

5 thoughts on “>The New Crime

  1. >Hi Nikki. Good post.I came upon your blog after seeing your tweet about James Ray. I have been following developments in the self help industry for many years now and this incident was like the any-day-now movement of the tectonic plates off the west coast. It's expected but when it happens it's also all too surprising for words. Here's the problem: These New Age gooroos seem to want to up the ante just to stand out in the growing crowd of self-help carpet-baggers; it's a marketing ploy don't you know? It's intended to make "challenges" like Tony Robbins' fire walk seem wimpy by comparison. The fact that you didn't plunk down your credit card that day to attend Ray's sweatfest is akin to deciding to visit your aunt Martha in Sarnia the day that the "big one" hits Los AngelesI have to say that the "path of enlightenment" that you are on appears to me to be, for you and I suppose for many like you, a tad confused. You are a Christian yet you sign out your posts with a Hindi greeting. You are a seeker, and that's a good thing, but you're concerned that the function of being a seeker is a vulnerability and so you issue warnings. Does this come out of the fact that there are the James A. Rays out there waiting to eat you up? What about all the charlatans that have come before? David Corresh, Jones' Town, and the Crusades in the 11th century come to mind. There is a lot I could say here but that's best left to my own book writing. This is not the space for that.But just let me say that this whole ugly affair was not the first, and because humans are slow learners, it (sadly) probably won't be the last.Too bad that good people like your friend Liz Neuman had to be one of those that never got the message from inside as you did.

  2. >Thanks for your comment David. I am glad it sparked conversation. I am not sure I am concerned with the vulnerability of the "seeker," for we are all vulnerable, whether we cover it up or not. Our vulnerability is actually our strength. What does concern me is the lack of work toward developing a relationship with our spiritual selves, and also learning and growing from our human experience. When we aren't centered within our own work, and truths we fall prey to those who wish to manipulate for their own personal power. And I do realize this sort of manipulation has been done by many of various religions and traditions, and I know as you say, it won't be the last. My intention with this post was not to instill fear, and issue warning. I said to bewared, but to be aware. Mostly to be aware of what you, as a seeker are seeking- to "know thyself" as much as possible in each moment.Also, I would like to note, I am not a Christian. Or is my path confused. My spirituality is quite clear actually. What is confused, and difficult is my human experience here. I share thoughts from Buddhism, Christianity. I quote Rumi, and yes, I say Namaste after each post. I express what resonates with my center, and do not concern myself with following one religion. Thanks again, for commenting, and good luck with your writing.

  3. >Hello again Nikki.Ok, I promise never to label you a Christian again. In fact I'd be glad to. I suppose that it may be more accurate to say "new age" then would it? Personally, I'd rather not be associated with any religion of any stripe and, believe me, that simplifies things a lot.Your approach, it seems to me, is highly (perhaps overly) analytical. By trying to amalgamate so many eastern philosophies and mold them to fit your comfort level you will eventually drive yourself off the deep end. You must go on some terrific downers. God is much simpler than that I assure you.If your friend was into this stuff, as you seem to be, you should thank your lucky stars that you missed (by a hair's breath it seems)your chance to be with her and Mr. Ray in that sweaty stinky lodge out in the Arizona outback.

  4. >Nikki.My apologies if I gave you the impression of being judgmental of your path. Please don't take this personally it's just a conversation between intelligent minds here. My intention is not so focused on you particularly but on the entire population of those good souls who become so tied up in the mixed bag that is today's modern spiritualism. To do so I am forced to communicate about a subject that, (I am all too aware of) is tremendously controversial, IE: 'Spiritual searching'. Let me be crystal clear: I know what's going on and believe me the fact that confusion reigns so prevalently in the spiritual seekers' arena is what's feeding the risk-taking of the sort your friend gave her life to assuage. No one likes to be confused for very long. It's downright uncomfortable. So we willingly surrender ourselves to others who show promise of a quick resolution and that's what has now become a very very profitable industry indeed. (As history attests, for various religions turning the population's hope into hard cash, has been exceedingly profitable for many centuries.)Am I not right in seeing what is before me? Quote:["What is confused, and difficult is my human experience here"] For you, it seems, there is an obvious open vulnerability. I suppose by definition that's what makes you a seeker in the first place. But is is safe place? It seems not for some and perhaps many. My position is one of discernment. I can see clearly what's taking place today in the world.Many people seek to find some truth, ideally THE Truth. But IMHO for way too many the seeking itself becomes their whole focus and – to be brutally honest – these days that vulnerability can easily morph into some someone's eles's meal ticket.Sadly, that can include "teachers" like the embattled and formerly exploitative Mr.James A. Ray.

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