Recently on a trip to AZ, some friends and I visited Sedona. Sedona is a funny place. Outside of town, it’s a natural wonderland of red rock cliffs, pine filled canyons, and rolling streams. Driving into town though, it’s quickly obvious that you are entering a land of spiritualism, mysticism, and new age nonsense. It’s also obvious that there is a LOT of money being spent (I would say wasted) here. There are miles of shops hawking all types of spiritual crap. There are signs for psychics, aura photography, vortex tours, crystals, and more. The list goes on and on. The visitor center is filled with pamphlets providing endless ways for visitors to spend their money and the map they hand out even includes locations of some type of mystical “vortexes“.
All in all it seems harmless. After all, why should I care that people spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on readings, aura reports, crystals, magnets, or spiritual guidance. For the most part, I find it humorous. I’m sure some of the shop owners believe their own nonsense. I’m also sure that others know full well what they are selling. Sure, some could be considered crooks, but who cares as long as no one gets hurt, right?
Well, just a few weeks ago, two people died and over 20 were hospitalized after spending 2 hours in a sweat lodge “Spa”. Apparently, these folks were participating in some type of spiritual cleansing ritual which is not uncommon here. According to police reports, some people paid up to $9000 for the retreat. Yep. That’s right $9000 to be stuffed with 63 other people in a 3 foot high room made of branches and covered with blankets for 2 hours. Oh and lets not forget the steam produced from pouring water over hot rocks. Doesn’t that sound like fun? The fact that there is no established medical benefit to do this isn’t even considered relevant by the participants or organizers. The spiritual teacher, James Arthur Ray, is being investigated and if justice is served, he’ll spend the rest of his life in jail.
So what’s the lesson here? Will anything be learned from this tragedy? In short, no. Life goes on in Sedona. In a few days or weeks, this will no longer be news to anyone besides the families and friends of the sick and dead. People will question Ray’s motives rather than the practice itself. Scammers will thrive on the gullible. People will engage in potentially harmful behavior and continue to line the pockets of the purveyors of woo. Nothing will change. It never ever does.
Two dead (so far) is one tragedy. Another is that lessons that should be learned, won’t be.
On a lighter note, Sedona was beautiful. I can see why people think that there is something special about this place. There is. It’s a beautiful landscape with endless natural wonders to see and explore. One doesn’t have to look for mystical power sources or spend money on magic jewelery to appreciate the beauty that nature has provided.