Gratitude and Reflections on a Tragedy

First, we are so grateful for the Earth Dance this year.  What an experience!  What an honoring of the joy of living as a specie among species on this planet.  Already, we have had 7 people step forward to lead teams of dancers for 2010.  The only direction remaining is one of the most fun: Relations.

Now, we want to spend a few moments talking about the tragedy in Sedona.  If you don't know: three people died in a ceremony that included fasting in the desert without food or water culminating in a fire and rock "sweat lodge" that included 64 people in one hutlike structure.

We send our prayers and compassion to all those involved, especially to the families and loved ones who died. We send love to the Sedona village, a fine community with glorious natural resources.

As most of you know, we have been conducting ceremonial lodges for over 25 years.  Will's roots go back further than that.  There are many different forms of this type of ceremony among Native Americans, and different tribes call it by different names. In Scandinavian culture these ceremonies are used on a continuum from social gatherings to spiritual depth.  The purification ceremony does not belong to any one culture but to the planet.

That said, we trained with Bear Heart for 8 years in a particular form of the purification lodge known as a "healing lodge."  Those who lead in Earthtribe lodges go through an 8 year training period.  Using this base we have developed our integral version of a purification ceremony.  This ceremony is very powerful.  Turning it over to someone not trained in the traditional ways is like turning a powerful auto over to a small child.

The key is respect for the process. We have always shared any knowledge we have freely.  The planet is in too much of a crisis for different groups to be possessive of any ceremony.

That said, respect begins with careful training.  A decade or so ago representatives of a self-help group asked to come and visit one of our gatherings.  We readily agreed.  They soaked up information on that day.  One month later they were conducting their lodges with fire and rocks as part of their weekend events.  After that, they used it throughout their self-help programs nation wide.  We never heard any complaints from people who participated. Still, we wondered how they could proceed so quickly.

 We inquired and found that the only training they had was to attend our lodge and a couple of others. Surprised, we encouraged them  to get supervision and training from elders.  We told them that respect for what they learned in one day with us would mean getting extensive training.  If not from our process, then from some elders steeped in experience.  They did not respond to our communications.

As you know, all of our ceremonies are integral.  That is, we integrate many traditions. Of particular note is our psychologically/scientifically oriented integration with Earth-based traditions.  For these decades we have paid close attention to spiritual respect and scientific truth.  For example, it is very good to know what kind of steam comes from what kind of rock. In certain conditions some rocks can be toxic. It is good to know what kind of herbs assist and what might create a dangerous situation when placed on heated rocks.  It is good to know about hypothermia and dehydration.  It is good to know about medical conditions and what to look for in an emergency.  Above all it is good to stay in close touch with our vulnerability and to be sensitive to that aspect of life.  Finally, a major protection for all is the free flow of the Sacred Mystery through the process.

We will continue to emphasize a safe container that also offers challenge to the operating ego so that the soul can come forth.

We hope you will use questions asked by your friends about this incident to mentor others  in the possibilities inherent with connection with the wild heart of Nature.

We are grateful for all of you and your willingness to challenge yourself and at the same time work with us to create a safe container for Spirit to unfold our awareness and compassion.

Love and Puha,
Will and Judith