thoughts on James Arthur Ray and self-help

The collapse of the old paradigm

Andrea Lee, referencing the deaths at the James Arthur Ray event in Sedona, asks if the self-help bubble is about to burst. I hope certain forms of it are, and I think this is a good thing. Just as we see the traditional models of business in music and publishing become decentralized and democratized, and as we watched the pyramid scheme of all pyramid schemes, unregulated Wall Street economics, crumble, so now are we watching this particular paradigm of self-help die. The James Arthur Ray incident is just another example of the masculine centered hierarchical model falling apart. James Arthur Ray is to the self-help movement as Bernie Madoff is to the investment world. It is time to say good bye to what I call the machismo model of personal growth. It is not serving us.  The machismo model can  be recognized by one or more of these characteristics:
1. A pyramid structure with the guru, priest or what have you at the top.

2. The belief that our spiritual experiences need to be mediated or channeled by someone who has some special power or a secret that we don’t have.

3. The selling of indulgences (give me money and your suffering will be relieved!)

4. The idea that personal growth comes through pushing ourselves through constructed extraordinary physical punishments or mortification of the flesh (fasting followed by hours in a sweat lodge or walking on hot coals or....)

The medium is the message. -Marshall McLuhan

What is trying to happen

We are moving away from the pyramid and into the circle. In May of this year, I was fortunate to hear Meg Wheatley, Riane Eisler and Jean Shinoda Bolen speak - all at one venue. The overarching theme of all their talks was the need to bring the feminine energies back into play, to restore the proper balance of masculine and feminine. As the machismo model cracks, there is room for the partnership paradigm to shine through the cracks and let in some light.  Let’s be clear, this is not about women coming into power in the existing paradigm - this is about nurturing and growing the neglected feminine qualities in our worlds and ourselves, male and female. This is about embracing vulnerability as the truest show of strength and this is about the importance of relationship to deep, lasting growth. This is about the return of the feminine to the collective world soul.

The partnership paradigm honours these beliefs:

1. We are all in relationship to one another and through those relationships we walk alongside each other. 

2. We are all spiritual beings with a direct connection to our own inner wisdom and the universal mystery.

3. The sharing of gifts - relationship relieves suffering.

4. The embrace of the little way.  The idea that personal growth comes not from some exceptional external act but from gentle, loving inner shifts.

Relationships are all there is. Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else. - Margaret Wheatley

For the same money that each of these participants paid for the Spiritual Warrior retreat they could have worked with a counsellor, a spiritual mentor or coach for a year or more and had the benefit of having a companion relationship that deeply and personally served their souls. Their lives would not have passed unnoticed in the dark.

Tell me where I'm wrong.

with love, Lianne