Two people died and 21 were hospitalized following a sweat lodge ceremony at Angel Valley Retreat Center in Sedona, AZ. ritual Thursday evening. For those of you who've called and emailed me for details and to share your sorrow, I'd like to encourage you to stay up-to-date on the news to avoid spreading rumors and adding to the darkness. More on this story at ABC News.
Native American leaders speak out here. And you can follow the latest news and discussion on Twitter.
To clear up some of the rumors: two--not three people have died. And tests for tests for carbon monoxide and other contaminants were negative--ruling out early theories that the improper use of plastic and tarps or herbs and items thrown in the fire may have released fumes and harmed participants.
People have died in sweat lodges before, always elderly and people with heart problems. Just as with a sauna or hot tub, people with high blood pressure or heart problems should avoid overheating and only stay in for a few minutes. Native American rituals are practiced with Medicine People as leaders and it is rare that anyone would stay in a sweat for as long as two hours, as was reportedly the case in this situation. Beginners are monitored closely and only stay in the lodge for a few minutes at a time.
My heart goes out to the participants, to the families of those who suffered, and to Michael, Amayra and James. May you truly be led by Spirit in your future actions.
Should people profit from selling cultural spiritual practices? Angel Valley Retreat Center is a nonprofit organization. But staff receive salaries and guests include self-help gurus who make millions promising wealth if you follow "The Secret" and other spiritual practices.