In 2011, best selling author and motivational guru, James Arthur Ray, was convicted of felony negligent homicide after conducting a sweat lodge where three people died. Every year pilgrims to South America die in pursuit of healing. Unfortunately, with the rising demand for rituals, spirituality, and transformative experiences, this may become more common. These types of tragedies don’t have to happen to you. Here is what you need to know before engaging in group rituals.
Go With Someone You Know
In indigenous societies, healers serve their communities. Community members know their healers. There is a relationship. There is accountability. I hope you check out your doctor, therapist, massage therapist or other health care provider’s credentials and reviews before you ask them to help you. Engaging in spirit medicine is just as important. Know who is facilitating. Is this person stable, reliable, skilled, and compassionate? Does he or she have a balanced ego? Is he or she motivated by service or money? What access do you have to this person before and after the ceremony?
Is the Facilitator Properly Trained?
Most community rituals can be done by anyone with a pure intention and very little training. For example, moon circles, weddings, and baptisms are really simple and safe rituals that just about anyone can do. However, there are some ceremonies that require specialized training. Sometimes this training takes many years to acquire and is not available to those outside a particularly culture. Generally speaking, the more intense the experience, the more training that is involved. Consider this when choosing your facilitator.
Know Who Is in Ceremony With You
When you do group rituals, the energy of the entire group impacts the outcome. It’s not just your experience. It’s our experience. If the group knows the process and is comfortable with what’s happening, they can carry one or two new people along. If no one knows what is going on, it can be chaotic. Does someone needs special attention? If so, that can take away from the impact for everyone else. Is everyone healthy enough for this process? What’s the overall vibe from the people who are with you? Are they dark, negative, self absorbed, and egotistical, or light, supportive, communal, and respectful? Have you met them beforehand? What sort of screening process is there? Can anyone participate? What instruction is given for the group ritual? The more the ceremony requires from you, the more screening there should be for appropriateness.
Practice Healthy Boundaries
Healthy boundaries always apply. Continue to use discernment. If you feel unsafe, do what you have to do to be safe- including leaving. Don’t worry about appearing rude, hurting someone’s feelings, or being talked about or judged. If you’re being pressured to do something you don’t want to do, say no. No one has the right to touch you, intimidate you, or pressure you to go against your values or desires. Don’t leave your safety in the hands of someone else.
What’s the Group Size?
A facilitator can only take care of so many people. How many people are in this group ritual? Is it small enough that everyone can be adequately attended to?
What’s the Emergency Plan?
Most rituals and ceremonies have no to low risk. That said, if something should go wrong, what’s the emergency plan? Are you in the middle of nowhere where no one can reach you? Is there cell phone coverage? Is there medical personnel on site? How about a first aid kit or someone on site who knows CPR? Do you speak the local language? Are you in a place where the local authorities would help you?
Are YOU Ready?
What preparation is required beforehand? Are you ready for group ritual? Do you have the appropriate education? Do you understand the process? Have you had a chance to have your questions answered? Is this the right thing for you? What’s the overall vibe? Trust your gut.
Life is risky. There is no way to prepare for everything that can possibly happen; however, when engaging in healing group rituals, there are ways to stay safer. Indigenous societies have protocols for a reason. When ritual is done within your community, risk is very low. If you are a visitor to these cultures, perhaps it is worthwhile to learn the traditional protocols and respect them. …or forego it altogether.