It’s been one year…

… since I’ve participated in the Sedona Sweat Lodge that got the headlines of many articles and TV news, especially in US, since it happened in October 2009. The media portrayed it in many ways, and lawsuits are on their way. Many people are still curious what happened in that “Spiritual Warrior” (five days workshop At Angel Valley, Sedona, Arizona), which ended abruptly after the two hours Sweat Lodge. The news about the death of three participants took the US by storm within a few days.

Since I was a participant in that workshop, I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned from that experience. I’m not qualified to interpret what happened there to the entire group or in the Angel Valley retreat that facilitated our experiences; not even the implications that this event might have on the history of humanity. We tend to see things from a narrow perspective (just by noticing the facts), forgetting or not being aware of the larger puzzle of life, where a fact or an experience is just a part of the whole system.

For me, that workshop was a very interesting experience, and I’ve learned so much out of it…  as in all of the James Ray workshops where I’ve participated.

It was a very intense workshop: a lot of meditation, release of negative emotions and limiting beliefs accumulated from different past experiences. It gave me the opportunity to reconnect with nature, to learn more about myself, about my limits… and to realize that’s much more than what we think we know about ourselves from our normal daily routines.

If I think only about the Sweat Lodge experience, here’s what I’ve learned out of it:

1. Personal responsibility: if you’re waiting for someone else to take care of you, you’re giving your power away. And you might not even realize when you arrive to that moment that I call a “choice point”. Until this moment, you’re still able to help yourself, if you don’t wait for others’ help. But if you don’t take the right decision during that “choice point”, you’ll not be able any longer to help yourself and you’ll depend on others actions from that moment on (that might not be in your favour). This lesson is even more important when you are in extreme situations.

2. Positive and negative trains of thoughts cannot be present simultaneously in your mind. Depending on which one you hold on, you’re “writing” your own history by deciding (maybe unconsciously!) the next steps in your own life!

3. Integrity: your life decisions that you’re not proud of come from lack of integrity with who you really are.

If you’d like to know the experiences from “Spiritual Warrior” 2009 that led me to these lessons, please read on.

The last day of the event, right after the breakfast, we were told that there’s one more experience. Most of participants thought that we’ll spend that day only to recover after the Vision Quest (36 hours in the dessert without food and water). Having participated in other James Ray events, I didn’t have that expectation. I didn’t know what we’re going to do either; I was not familiar with Sweat Lodges. Like all other participants, I’ve signed at the beginning of the workshop a very scary waiver, talking about experiences that might even lead to death. After breakfast, James prepared us for the experience to come, giving some instructions like: “Continue to drink water until we get there”, “Did you take the sea salt this morning?”, “Like all other experiences in my workshops, you’re free to choose not to participate… but if you will, I hold the intention for you that you’ll stay up to the end. If you feel you need to leave earlier, please wait until the door opens between the rounds”, “If you feel too much heat, put your hands on the ground, it’ll calm you down a little, or lay down”, etc.

When I got out of the Sweat Lodge, I didn’t realize how much time we stayed inside. All I knew was that I was inside up to the end. I found out lately it was around two hours. It was extremely dark, hot and humid inside. At the beginning we sat close to each other, since it wasn’t enough space. In time some people crawled out, others got help to get out, so I found more space and lay down. I focused so much on my own experience, monitoring my breath to lower to amount of heat taken inside with each breath, that I cannot say precisely what happened with others. Plus, the heat and darkness inside the tent altered my capacity to focus and understand what was happening around me at more than half-meter distance. At the end, I crawled out without any help. Standing up outside the door, they flushed water on me to cool down the temperature of my body. There wasn’t too much space available next to the tent, so I wambled to the other side… noticing how small was still my area of focus. I laid on an empty space and heard people around me asking for water. I wasn’t very well myself, but I stood up and wambled again toward the table with water bottles. I grabbed mine and said to a participant sitting on a chair: “Cineva de acolo are nevoie de ajutor!” (Someone over there needs help!) The lady looked to me in a strange way, and said: “I don’t understand what you say!”. I repeated the same phrase, not knowing why she doesn’t understand! 😉 “In what language are you talking?”, she asked me a little surprised. Only then, I realized that I was talking in Romanian – my first language. (“Very normal in a situation like that”, assured me a police officer later on). “Lay down!”, said the lady on the chair, “you too need help!”

I obeyed. Laying there with my wet cloths, I closed my eyes and started noticing what’s happening with me. I wasn’t worried that I talked Romanian, but the English words where really hard to grab at that moment. So I stopped talking. I felt a strange sensation of heat inside my body, while my skin was getting colder, making the cold spreading inside. “I’m cooold”, I said, and someone brought me a blanket. Thoughts start pouring into my head: “What am I gonna do if my body temperature doesn’t get to normal?”, “I’m not prepared to spend days in an US hospital and I don’t want either!”, “I don’t have anyone close to take care of me here”… More I was thinking, more thoughts like that were coming, drowning me on a downward spiral.  Realizing what’s happening, I stopped that train of thoughts! A moment later I realize that there is another option: to put myself together and get out of there! Guess what I chose?! 😉 I put myself together and stood up. Someone brought my flippers, and a golf cart took me to the cabin. I fell asleep right away, I felt tired but happy that I took that decision. Who knows what would be happening if I didn’t?! Following that train of negative thoughts was weakening me, and waiting more could lead to not enough energy to put myself together. But during that “choice moment” I took the right decision. Everything went well after, I recovered completely. I refused to go to hospital for a check up (as they suggested). Many people went, and they came back after a few hours or the next day… except those in more critical condition. I’m wondering if the latter where aware of their choice moment … or if they noticed it…

Going back to my choice point: right after I noticed that I have another option, and I chose it… all those negative thoughts that populated my mind vanished completely! It was like two thoughts leading to different directions cannot live in my head in the same time. It was amazing! All my attention went in the direction I chose, gathering all my force to put that thought in practice (to get up). This means… that what we choose to think of… leads to the next step in our life?! Focusing our attention on negative thoughts drives actions that confirm those thoughts, while focusing on positive… (I know you get my point!). Especially in critical moments, it’s very important to not engage yourself in the first thoughts that are coming. There might be other perspectives to ponder, before making a decision  – that otherwise couldn’t be noticed if you allow your mind to follow only the first train of thoughts.

Integrity! A word heard often, but are we really living our lives with integrity?! During that five days workshop I had the chance to revisit many experiences of my life. I noticed that my life experiences that didn’t have a positive outcome came from decisions that I took without being in integrity with myself, without standing up for myself. At the “choice moment” after the Sweat Lodge, I realized that I am not the type of person that relies on others when it’s tough. I try to put myself together, and I’ll ask for help only if I can’t. And… that’s what I did! I finally learned my lesson of integrity and I’m applying it since!

Where I am now, one year after that “Spiritual Warrior”? That was the last workshop of James Ray International, the most advanced available at that time. Until that October 2009, I was “hungry” for information, “eating” the knowledge and wisdom shared by James Ray in his workshops or found in the books he recommended (most of them written by scientists or other well known personalities).

I really appreciated the experiences I’ve been through in his workshops. Complementing the coaching, they provided me so many insights, and healing on a fast track of my previous emotional wounds. It took me time to completely recover after this last workshop, both physically and mentally. Since February 2010 though, my “hunger” for outside information shifted. I developed in time a path to my own inner guide and a new, wonderful world opened up for me. I’m no longer interested in such workshops or to follow a certain teacher. This doen’t mean that I’ll stop my evolution here, there’s always more…

I encourage you to revisit your life experiences that you consider negative, and notice if you were aware of any “choice moment”. Did you take the decision based on what others think or on what is really important to you, and who you really are?



About Gabriela Casineanu

Building a better world by tapping into introvert power. I'm a Thoughts Designer, Trailblazer and Artist, with a background in Engineering, IT, Quality Assurance, Business and Coaching. Yep, seems a lot ... but I came a full circle. :-) I enjoyed every phase I've been through, especially my last years when the pieces of my puzzle start coming together!
This entry was posted in Beliefs, career, Coaching, Happiness, spiritual, Success and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to It’s been one year…

  1. Patrick says:

    Great blog Gabriela. As always

  2. Hi Tom,

    Thanks for your comment. Kirby was a wonderful person and she’ll always be remembered like that.
    I agree to disagree.
    I just want to add that it was my conscious choice to stay inside up to the end, I could go out if I wanted to. Others did.
    I didn’t give all the details about my experience inside the Sweat Lodge, because I wanted to present in my post only the experience relevant to those three points – that are part of my learning. My mind was rational all the time during the Sweat Lodge and after – even when I spoke in Romanian.

  3. Tom says:

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. It is helpful to know as much about my cousin’s final days and moments.
    We’ll agree to disagree. Your leader, who spouts personal responsibility, put his followers in grave mental and physical danger. Despite your choice point, your mind was altered, and you were stripped of your ability to make rational choices.
    But thank you for sharing your perspective in a responsible way.

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