Two die in expensive, holistic, Sedona sweat lodge

They should have stuck with Richard Simmons

Yavapai County Sheriff’s deputies are combing the scene where two died and 19 fell ill during a simulated Native American sweat-lodge ceremony at a Sedona resort.

At least three people remain hospitalized in critical condition and one person in fair condition at Flagstaff and Sedona-area hospitals.

And although officials will not reveal what ailments they are suffering from, sweat-lodge dangers can include heat exhaustion, asphyxiation from carbon-monoxide poisoning and exploding rocks.

According to a Sheriff’s Office spokesman, 64 people were in a crudely constructed sweat dome at the resort Thursday evening when they were overcome…

The victims were attending a five-day program called “Spiritual Warrior,” hosted by self-help guru and inspirational speaker James Arthur Ray…

The Angel Valley Spiritual Resort Web site says that Ray has held the workshop there since 2003. And Ray’s Web site lists the cost for next year’s program at “only $9,695 per person…”

Participants in the Ray program also could practice Holotropic Breathwork, a trancelike state brought on by breath control, and Vision Quest, a multi-day stay in the outdoors without food or water.

I’ll try to refrain being too much of a smartass and just note in passing that some of these folks certainly have qualified for Darwin Awards. And paid a lot of money to do it.

UPDATED: The two who died have been identified.

16 thoughts on “Two die in expensive, holistic, Sedona sweat lodge

  1. Cinaedh says:

    I’m constantly amazed when I read about people, who are willing to teach other people how to become “a millionaire through spiritual study”, ending up in something like a sweat lodge with 64 other people — and then I find out they’ve been doing the same thing since 2003.

    If I knew how to become a millionaire through spiritual study, I wouldn’t be going into any sweat lodges with 64 smelly other people! I’d be going into my very own private sweat lodge with my very own private goldiggers.

    Hey! I know it’s ‘spiritual’ but I’m very flexible when it comes to my spirituality.

  2. jd says:

    We who live in Sedona know there are protocols for having a sweat lodge. These include small groups, frequent breaks and never charge for it. There are very few who follow this practice.
    This tragedy happened when an uninformed group came to our town and rented space.

    Remember that when you think of us, please.

  3. Samuraiartguy says:

    I’ve been involved with Lodge traditions for many years, and it’s always been stressed upon me that the water pourer is directly responsible for the safety of the people in the lodge. There are protocols, safety practices and just plain COMMON SENSE.

    I don’t know what this guy was thinking, but this is beyond sad, and a slap in the face of all ceremony leaders who have tried to follow what the’ve been taught.

    And a rather severe warning and lesson. Pray for the passed ones.

  4. Mr. Fusion says:

    Charging more for something usually implies a better quality.

    Not too many years ago when I was managing the Quality Department, one of the V-Ps came to me to discuss this new thing popping up. Six Sigma. He had been invited to a seminar held at a NM ranch @ $50,000 per head. Senior executives only.

    A quick explanation revealed that this was two former Motorola managers that set up shop to package and peddle “Quality” that would save companies millions. There was nothing new in their program.

    Everything taught in this seminar was already part of our Quality Program, except one item. The Six Sigma people broke it up into hierarchy of martial arts ranks. The top rank was a “black belt”, usually a top manager or V-P and he ran the program.

    The catch was to appeal to the executive’s pride and make him seem important. In this case it worked. He went. But what I could have done with that $50,000.

  5. susinn says:

    The Native american Peoples are grieving and upset by this tragedy. The sweat lodge ceremony is for healing and cleansing, not a place of suffering. This is why the ceremony is led by the qualified medicine people with years of training.

    Anyone can pour water on stones, but to work with energy and know the spiritual, physical and emotional condition of all people in a ceremony, with usually no more 15 people, it takes a very experienced person. Almost every tribe that uses a sweatlodge has such a person.

    There are a lot of different aspects to Native American cultures, one of which is the cardinal directions and keepers of the rites to those directions.

    The Chumash Indians are the keepers of the western gate for what is known by most as Turtle Island. One of their traditional practioners, Mahiwo, is now in the Sedona area to help with the transition of souls and heal the hearts and emotions in this great atrosophy and for the participants of catastrophy.

    Many of the people in the incident have now returned home.

    You can contact us at and we will pass a message on to Mahiwo.

  6. Cynthia says:

    Some pretty harsh words against a Traditional Elder who happens to live close to Sedona. He was asked to help out since he was close and nobody else seems to have been able to educate and stop non native people in the area from using indigenous ceremonies for finacial gains. If you all are in the area why did you allow this to happen in the first place. Its documented that it wasn’t the first time.

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