Beware of Gurus – The Interview

Beware of Gurus - The Interview

Beware of Gurus – The Interview

The following is a transcript of an interview between Jim Peake of and Celebrity Life Coach and Human Behavior Expert, Patrick Wanis Ph.D. about the Sweat Lodge deaths of three people at James Arthur Ray’s “Spiritual Warrior” event in Sedona, Arizona. James Ray is a New Age guru, self-help expert and one of the teachers featured in the hit movie “The Secret”

You can also listen to this interview Beware of Gurus.

Jim: This is Jim Peake at and today I’ve got a fantastic podcast call with Mr. Patrick Wanis, Celebrity Life Coach and Human Behavior Expert, PhD. And you can find him at And it’s spelled Patrick W-A-N-I-S dot com. Welcome Patrick.

Patrick: Thanks Jim.

Jim: This is the call about the Sweat Lodge tragedy down in Sedona, AZ and James Ray had an event down there and apparently there were a few things that went wrong, terribly wrong, and it cost some people their lives.

Patrick: Well, there are so many points to this story, Jim. Let’s just give everyone listening to this call a sort of a synopsis of the story. James Arthur Ray is recognized as a self-help guru, a spiritual guru, a new-age guru, a self-help expert. He was one of the featured presenters in the movie The Secret and you’ll recall he’s also been on Oprah twice. She promoted The Secret and she promoted James Ray and a couple of other people. James Ray’s been around for a long time. He also is a published author. He holds some retreats. The retreat that he held was known as “Spiritual Warrior” Camp and it’s done over four or five days and people that attend this pay almost $10,000 to be part of this. If you read the actual publicity that he writes about this it’s like, “I’m going to reveal to you secrets that no one else knows. I’m the only one that has this. I’ve spent years trying to find this. I’ve traveled to Peru. I did this, etc, etc.”  So he builds himself up as having a very special message and he says, “Look, don’t worry about how much you’re investing because you’re going to make so much money so easily and so effortlessly.”  Okay. The spiritual retreat that he engages in, he calls it Spiritual Warrior, included fasting for 36 hours in the desert. Now the reports say that it also included not drinking water. Now, I’m not sure how that’s possible and remember not every detail that we’re discussing today has been verified. But, the people that did this fasted for 36 hours. Then on the morning of the Sweat lodge they go ahead and have a breakfast buffet. I have done sweat lodges Jim. I’ve done two of them. And I never saw anyone get sick and I never saw any injuries and I never saw any tragedies.

Jim: Yeah, I’ve done two of them as well so I’ve never seen that either.

Patrick: Now, here’s the point. Let’s explain what a Sweat Lodge is. Sweat lodge is an Indian tradition; a Native American Indian tradition. It’s been around for hundreds of years. I even had someone write to me saying he’s been doing it for 18 years; since he was a baby. The Native Americans do it a very special way. They prepare you for it. They don’t prepare you for it by fasting or by withholding water. They prepare it by making sure on the day after a certain time you’re only eating certain light foods. I mean very light foods. You know fruits and liquefied foods. Okay, the next thing is the Native Americans when they do this tradition; they do it with all cloth. You’re in this small tent and you’re sitting just on soil and they bring in volcanic rocks. The volcanic rocks give out heat. The person who’s leading the sweat lodge will toss water onto it to create more steam. The idea is that you’re physically going to purge as you sweat. Whenever your body sweats you detoxify. If you go into a sauna and you spend about 15 minutes in a sauna your body will detoxify to the same level that it would have detoxified in a period of 24 hours without being in the sauna. So in other words you’re going through extreme detoxification or extreme purging.

Now the Native American Indians will do this for hours and one of the ones I went to, the leader, the Native American Indian that led this said that they do it sometimes for 24 hours. I don’t know who they can do that but they obviously do it. Okay. What happened with James Ray’s sweat lodge is he crammed about 50 people in a very, very small tent and he used tarps. That means he used plastic for the covering. Now, just think about it logically. Heat and plastic creates toxic fumes. Let’s assume that’s not the case. It’s still not the way that the Native American Indians do it. So his first mistake is he makes people fast for three days. Mistake number two, he gets them to eat and they probably ate too much on the day of the sweat lodge. Mistake number three, he crams too many people in the sweat lodge. Mistake number four, the sweat lodge contains tarp. Mistake number five, which is probably the most tragic of all, is he is dissuading people from leaving even as they if they are being sick, even as they are throwing up and even as they are expressing to him that they want to leave. Now, I’m not saying that he tried to stop anyone, but I’m saying that based on the reports he dissuaded people from leaving the sweat lodge. Okay. The next thing is, one of the women that survived this states, and this is her report, that she told him while he was in the sweat lodge that so-and-so has collapsed, is unconscious. And his response allegedly is, “Don’t worry about it. Focus on yourself. I’ll get to it later.”

Now, the other aspect to all of this is that James Ray was promoting this as pushing yourself, to push your limits. Okay, we all need to do that at times but we need to be careful of a number of things. Not everyone is ready for the teacher. Not everyone is ready for the program regardless of how much money they have paid. Maybe they can afford it but maybe they’re not ready for it. Now, what I mean by that is, when clients come to me, I only work with them if they are willing and ready for it. You see, sometimes, Jim, we are actually not ready to deal with certain things or we’re not physically and medically ready to do this. Now, let me explain what I’m saying here. A sweat lodge puts a lot of stress on your Adrenal Glands. Most of these retreats that are four or five days long involve a lot of physical activities, a lot of long hours, little sleep, a lot of mental and emotional challenges and ultimately that puts a lot of stress on your Adrenal Glands. Incidentally, most of us are walking around with Adrenal Exhaustion because of the kind of stress we have and our Western lifestyle. So here he is getting people to fast, and incidentally, if you have Adrenal Exhaustion, if you have low thyroid, you should never be fasting without strict medical supervision. It is dangerous. It’s not good for your body. So there’s another mistake he makes. Without checking with each and every person, what is your medical condition?  Okay. When you’re in a sweat lodge for two hours, the intense heat also places all sorts of extreme stress on your body.

So here I am giving you a synopsis from the physical point of view, from the physical and medical point of view. And from the way that he did this, most of this was done wrong. You’ve done sweat lodges twice. I’ve done sweat lodges twice. I was in it, the first sweat lodge, for almost three hours and I can tell you, my face was burning and my ears were burning and I thought that my face was just going to melt. And yes, it purged me physically and it purged me emotionally. But the Native American Indians don’t just do it for physical detoxification. They sit there and they tell you stories or they sing to you stories that will bring up emotion in you so that you release the suppressed or repressed emotions. So, people like you and I who are masculine and we think we have to hold everything in; we can’t help but let it out. So you know, if we’ve been withholding anger or withholding sadness or pain, it naturally comes out in the sweat lodge because you can’t keep fighting the emotion. You can’t keep using the wall. So, the first thing I want to say here is, these tragedies, and we’re talking about three deaths and eighteen other people injured, this is not an indictment of the sweat lodge ceremony. It’s been around for hundreds of years. The problem is how it was done and how it was actually preformed.

Now, the next thing is: let’s look at what was James Ray promoting and what mistakes did he make?  And this is not, incidentally Jim, an attack on James Ray. As you know, I’m a Human Behavior Expert so I study psychology. I study the way people think, they way people behave. I study persuasion. I study influence. I study why people do the things they do and how to help them change the things that they do. So, I wanted to take a look at this from another perspective. Why do we create in our society gurus?  Why do we believe in gurus?  Now it’s not just our society because obviously around the world people like to place other people on pedestals. They like to create gurus. Jim, I get emails. I get letters. I get contacted from people who put me on a pedestal because of the things I teach, the things that I promote, the help that I’ve given them, the insights and the messages that I’ve shared. But that doesn’t make me a guru. I think we need to be careful of the dangers of creating gurus. Now here’s why I’m saying this Jim. When you create a guru you’re saying that this person is above me and it’s very easy then to become a worshiper of the person rather than a worshiper or studier or a student of the message. Do you recall the Jones Town Massacre?

Jim: I do.

Editor’s note: Thirty years ago, 909 Americans were led to their death by the Rev. Jim Jones in a mass murder-suicide pact in a South American jungle, shortly after Jones’ gunmen killed a visiting U.S. congressman and four others at a nearby airstrip. Of the nearly 1,000 church members who began the day in Jonestown, a cult commune, only 33 survived to see the next day. One-third of the victims were children. Many were killed by Jones’ aides, who squirted cyanide down their throats. Read more

Patrick: Right. Hundreds of people committed suicide there because they followed this guy; because they made him the guru. Now if you go deeper into the study of the mind and human behavior, we have certain emotional needs. We obviously have certain physical needs; food, shelter, water and sleep. Without those we die. But we also have certain other emotional needs. And I don’t know if you want me to list them at this point, but some of the emotional needs include attention. They include a safe, secure environment where you can mature and develop. They include an emotional connection to other people. We need acceptance from other people. We need a connection to the wider community. We need meaning and purpose, etc. If these needs are not met, we become vulnerable. And along comes someone and says, “I can help you. I can give you what you need.”  Whether it’s monetary wealth, whether it’s financial security, emotional security, being accepted, getting attention, giving attention, developing, finding meaning and purpose, etc, etc. When we don’t have these needs met we become emotionally vulnerable. It’s very easy to sell us; persuade us. The problem is we look for someone else to solve our problems. We don’t just look for hope; we look to a God-like kind of person. And based on the reports, James Ray was almost promoting himself as a God to the extent that he had an exercise in this retreat where he put on a white frock and played, did role-playing where he was God and the people were supposed to be doing some sort of exercise around suicide. Now, Jim, I don’t know all the details so I can’t give a full proper assessment of what was done. But it is symbolic or indicative that we make some of these self-help gurus to be Gurus. We make them out to be gurus and they’re not gurus.

You see, think of any, you name any guru and I can tell you right away qualities that make them imperfect. Mention Anthony Robbins. He’s been married twice. You know, it doesn’t matter who you mention all of us are human. I always remind my readers, via my newsletters, telling them here are my challenges. You know there was a time where I was on the phone, I don’t know if it was an airline company or a phone company and I’m arguing with them for 30 minutes, Jim. Then I’m saying to myself, “What am I doing here?”  I’ve lost my senses and I’m caught up in the emotion. “I’m trying to prove myself right. I want to get this matter solved but I’m arguing for 30 minutes. How important is this? And look how I got sucked into the drama and into my own ego.”  Now, I remember one of my readers who’s also a friend of mine says, “Wow. I can’t believe you said that in a newsletter.”  And I said, “Well, why not?”  And he said, “Well, it’s not what you typically expect from a Celebrity Life Coach, a Human Behavior Expert.”  I said, “Of course not because those sort of people want to promote themselves as being perfect. I don’t. I want to say we’re all on a journey and yes I deal with things every day. I have insecurities. I have fears. I have self-doubt and that’s why I can help you. Because I’ve been through it and I’m still going through it. And here’s what I’m experiencing and here’s how I can help you. Here are my insights.”  So I think, Jim, the concern is that we are creating these people that we think are Gods. They’re like Jesus. They’re holy. They’re spiritual. It doesn’t matter who you mention, every single one of these people has their own challenges. You know, one of the people that I do respect a lot is Dr. Wayne Dyer because he’ll tell you of the challenges he has, be it with his wife or with his kids. And he says “you know sometimes I just remind myself which do I want in this moment: Do I want to be right or do I want to choose peace?”  So he’s a person that basically reminds you “don’t make me a guru. Don’t make me that I know more than you. I just have insights and messages.”

You see, Jim, where we get confused is: we fall in love with the person, the image of the person rather than falling in love with the message but, still always questioning the message. There are two kinds of skeptics, Jim. There is the skeptic that says “Everything is BS. Everything is crap. Everything is false and fake and fraudulent.”  And then there’s the second skeptic that says “I’m a doubter because I’m seeking the truth which means, whatever you present to me I will question it but with an open mind.”  And do you understand what I mean by that?

Jim: Oh yeah. I probably fall into the second category.

Patrick: I’m a skeptic. I question even the things that I read or the things that I teach. I’m always looking at them and saying “Is this truthful?  Is this correct?”

Jim: Yeah, yeah. I am too.

Patrick: Now, the other challenge we have is the fact that, you know, one of my readers wrote to me and said to me how concerned she was because she said “two of the people that I admire is you and James Ray.”  And she said “James Ray is one of the people that got me onto my own personal spiritual path, my own personal journey of self discovery.”  And she said “now I’m questioning everything.” And she said “he also teaches law of attraction and so do you and now I’m questioning the law of attraction. Is it all just BS?” Well, at this point I want to say a couple of really important things, Jim. Number one, everyone and anyone can be a teacher for you. It doesn’t have to be someone that’s a millionaire. It doesn’t have to be someone that’s sold lots of books. It doesn’t have to be someone that’s famous. It doesn’t have to be someone that’s a rock star or a celebrity. Anyone can be your teacher and I’ll use an example. In my very early twenties I was traveling through Europe. I remember in Paris traveling to the palace, Versailles, sitting in the gardens. I was sitting next to someone and he turns around and starts talking to me in French. And fortunately, I can speak French. This was a much older guy maybe in his late sixties. And he says something to me and to this day I remember it. He says to me, “Vivre au jour le jour.” Which in literal translation means “live day to day” and I remember that because what he was saying to you was learn to enjoy the moment. He wasn’t promoting hedonism. He wasn’t promoting irresponsibility but he was reminding us to “enjoy the moment; don’t just live for tomorrow; don’t just keep saying well I’ll be happy when this happens but be happy right now.”  My point is: I don’t remember what this guy’s name is. I don’t remember what he looks like. I don’t remember where he lives. But I do remember the message. You see what I took from it was the message. I didn’t fall in love with him. I fell in love with the message. I embraced the message.

So anyone can be your teacher. Other teachers in my life have been people that others would label as enemies of mine; people that actually made me question “How much do I want this?”  I was once demoted by a program director when I was working on radio. It was almost the end of my life. You know I was like twenty-two, twenty-three. I was really young and I thought, “Is this the end of me?”  And I realized “don’t let this guy kill your dream.” So he was a teacher of mine. Do I remember his name?  No. Do I remember his face?  Vaguely. Do I remember much else about him?  No. But I remember the lesson. So we need to distinguish between the message and the person delivering the message. Sometimes the doctor has a great message and tells you “stop smoking, eat healthy, exercise more”, even though, the doctor sitting behind the desk isn’t taking his own medicine. He’s smoking a cigarette. He’s overweight and he’s not exercising. Are we going to still listen to his message?  Yes. The problem is we get sucked in. We find someone that has a perfect body or what we think is a perfect body and we say “Well, what did you do?”  And guess what?  Maybe that person just has great genetics and naturally has high metabolism. And maybe they’re still young so it hasn’t hit them yet that all that junk food they’re eating and the lack of sleep and maybe even the alcohol is eventually going to catch up with them and they’re going to become unhealthy and they’re going to have a pot belly.

Jim: Well, yeah. I looked at the movie the other night, The Godfather and Marlon Brando was pretty slim in that movie and he sort of went to pot.

Patrick: Yeah, exactly. And the point here is you’ve got to distinguish the message from the messenger. Distinguish one from the other. Now one of the other points this reader made to me was regarding the Law of Attraction. Well, the Law of Attraction is nothing new, Jim. The concept has been around for thousands of years. In the Bible, it was stated as ask, believe and you’ll receive. It was simply whatever you ask for in prayer believing you will receive, you shall receive. Okay. Then in hypnotherapy, in hypnosis, we say “You get more of what you focus on”; Like attracts like. So the principle isn’t new. The problem is some people have taken it to an extreme where they say, “You are creating 100% of your reality in every single moment and so therefore it’s your fault or you’re to blame.”  Yes, we do have control over a majority of our world. But if we get to the extreme where we say, “Law of Attraction; I’m creating every single moment of every single aspect of my life”, then we can easily get sucked into blaming ourselves and condemning ourselves. There are many things for which I don’t have answers for, Jim. And even other people who claim to be gurus do not have real answers. You know, for example we say, “Look. You can completely turn around your world.”  Well, if you’re a dwarf can you become a basketball player?

Jim: No, I don’t think that’s going to work.

Patrick: Right. Could a dwarf become an NFL player?  If he focused on it every day; if he created a vision board; if he put pictures of himself up as a football player or, as a basketball player and if he trained every day and if he exercised and if he meditated and if he did hypnosis, and if he did affirmations, and if he chanted, and if he did yoga and if he did everything else that all of these people teach, could he become a football player or a basketball player?  I think not; because he has physical challenges. So we have to be balanced in our approach. We have to say “These are the things in my life I can control; these are the things in my life I can’t control.”  Then we have to say “Well what about all the millions of people in Darfur where all this genocide occurred; did they create it with their own thoughts?” And I know that there are some spiritual philosophies that say “Well, they chose that life before they came here and it’s their lesson in life.”  And then I say, well let me ask you this because you know I’m a truth seeker:  What about the four-year-old or the three-year-old in Ethiopia who died of starvation?  How did he or she attract that to themselves?  What were their thoughts?  They’re just born…

Jim: Their circumstances, yeah.

Patrick: Right. Now if you say before they came into this world they made a choice to live this life and okay, so they came into this world and they chose to die at age two or age three or age four of starvation?  I don’t have the answers to this Jim. All I’m saying is: we need to be balanced in what we believe in. Yes, I do believe that our thoughts create our world. You know if you focus on something and you take the action, you can change your results. But, if you think that it’s just a matter of putting up some pictures on a board and then you’ll completely transform your world, you’re truly mistaken and you’re deceiving yourself. Now the next thing about Law of Attraction is: I read a blog of one of the survivors of this, of the retreat of James Ray saying, “Well I think that these people who died attracted it to themselves. It must have been in their subconscious belief that they wanted to die.”

Jim: Huh. He’s drinking the kool-aid.

Patrick: Well it’s more than drinking the kool-aid because here’ s my next question and I know a lot of people are going to be very mad at me especially the people that are devotees and worshipers of the Law of Attraction, but, these are the people that have gone to the extreme. If you believe in the Law of Attraction, if you believe you get more of what you focus on, that we create our reality 100%, then let me ask you the sixty-five million dollar question: “How did James Arthur Ray, a self-help guru, a new-age guru who’s been teaching this for twenty years, how did he attract to himself this incident?  What was it about his thoughts and his consciousness that attracted this incident?  Did he have a picture board or a vision board on his wall at home, saying ‘I want to have retreat where three people are going to die and where I’m facing potential homicide charges?’”  Who has the answer to that?  See, for example, again I don’t have all the details, but, Jim, I’m almost 100% sure that he’s going to facing homicide charges and he’s going to go to jail. Now I’m not saying he’s guilty but, I am saying there is a good chance he’s going to be paying a big price for what happened because ultimately he’s responsible. He was in that tent with those people. He created this retreat. He promoted it. He created it. And incidentally, when it was over, when the people died, he left the facility and left the state. He didn’t stay there to face the music as we say.

Jim: What did he have another meeting or something? Or another event?

Patrick: Let me ask you this: what meeting, what other meeting, can be more important than the deaths of three people and eighteen people rushed to emergency?

Jim: And I mean he knew that these people were already dead at his event and he just bails?

Patrick: That’s what the news reports were. He left before authorities could question him. He was gone. He left the facility. He left the state before authorities could question him.

Jim: Then we’ve got an accountability question here, Patrick.

Patrick: Accountability, responsibility, Jim. All of us are human beings. All of us make mistakes. It’s easy for fear to take over but when you are leading a Spiritual Warrior retreat and you’re saying that something in you must die for something new to be reborn, then you have to question why the teacher would leave so quickly. And this brings me to the next point regarding gurus. Jim, some people are just great teachers but they’re not great students. And I’m not talking about James Ray. I’m talking about a couple other big people that I personally have worked with who are not what they promote themselves to be. There are the people who are simply interested in marketing. They’re great marketers. They’re not warriors. They’re not living and breathing the principals that they preach and teach. They’re simply interested in the dollar. That leads me to the next point. A lot of these people who started out with great intentions of helping other people, of making a difference, of impacting people’s lives eventually get the money, get the fame, get the power then they become like every other celebrity and every other star and they become delusional and they fall into delusions of grandeur, of power, of self entitlement. Let’s use the example of Michael Vick, of OJ Simpson. These are people who think, “I can get away with anything.”  I mean, I report on this all the time. I give commentary and opinion all the time in the media; radio, print, television etc. talking about why celebrities engage in such stupid behavior, and it’s primarily because they start to believe that they are Gods: “I can do anything and I can get away with anything and the law doesn’t affect me.”

Jim: Well the parallels here, Patrick, are also in politics so as a society we’re seeing this in celebrities, politicians, you know, in gurus so we’re starting to see this in all aspects of society.

Patrick: True, but Jim, politicians actually do have power. They make decisions. That’s the difference. You know the celebrity doesn’t have the power to make political decisions that will then affect everyone. That’s what I’m saying.

Jim: Okay.

Patrick: The politician has the power to vote. He has literal power to change and affect your life. But when a celebrity starts to think, “You know what?  I can break the law. I can be involved in illegal gaming. I can actually torture animals and get away with it. I can do the following. I can do anything I want…”, then you’re going into self-entitlement, narcissism, delusions of grandeur, and delusions of power. Then you’re no longer a guru. You’re just like everyone else. The problem is that we have to, every day, regardless of who we are, question our motives, question our behaviors, analyze our behaviors, analyze our motives and say, “Am I getting carried away?  Am I starting to believe my own BS?  Am I starting to think that I’m a God because I have a message?  No, I’m not.”  Jim, you know, I’ve used examples of many people; John Travolta who lost his child, Hulk Hogan whose family fell apart. Various celebrities who regardless of their money, regardless of their power are humbled by life’s experience and that’s my way of saying it doesn’t matter what money you have, it doesn’t matter what power you have, you do not have 100% control over life. You can control your life but only to a certain extent. There is nothing you can do that will stop your child from dying. You can try and rescue a child when they are sick but you don’t have control over them. You’re not GOD. You don’t create. You have the power to destroy but you don’t have the power to create or the power to control life. We get humbled every day by life’s experiences. We need to question what are we teaching?  Do we really think we know more than everyone else?  You know, Jim, when people come to me and I like to say this to celebrities; celebrities say to me, “Patrick who are you that you know so much and you know more than me?”  And I say, “I don’t know more than you and I’m not saying I’m better than you. I’m simply saying that I have some insights, some knowledge and some messages that might be of help to you. Are you willing and are you open?”  I never pretend to know more than other people. You know, sometimes my ego will say that, but I remind myself that’s my ego speaking; that’s my arrogance; that’s my stupidity. So I guess it comes down to becoming aware of “Are we being enticed and seduced by the image of the person or by the message?”  You know there are religious cults; there are the cults like the Jonestown massacre. These cults are where we get swayed. Where we follow other people like blind sheep. Study after study shows that we will tend to give the same answers as other people; that we will tend to go with the crowd. There are certain aspects, certain psychologies of human behavior that we need to be aware of, otherwise, we get enticed.

Jim: Well, yeah. And Patrick it comes down to, I think, critical thinking, though, and I think that what’s been happening in our society is that we’ve been taught to be followers and were doing a darn good job of it and people are amorous of the leader for whatever cache they bring to the table, so…

Patrick: You’re right Jim but there are two things there. One, we do get caught up in emotion and we really make most of our decisions based on emotion. I’ve taught that before. The second thing is, you’re right; we do need to engage in more critical thinking which usually occurs when we’re calmer rather than responding immediately. Rather than responding immediately. The third thing is: you said we fall in love with these images or with these leaders or with these people because we’re looking for hope, Jim. We’re looking for someone else to resolve our problems because we’re refusing to take responsibility for our lives and we’re saying, “Well, this person can do it for me. This person can help me. This person can solve all my problems.”  No, no one else can do it for you. They can give you the message. They can lead you to the well. You have to drink the water. Don’t depend on someone else to solve all your problems in life. You have to take action.

Now, I want to use this as an example; some people did get up in that sweat lodge of James Ray and walk out which says you have the ability to do it. Now in the court, I can promise you, the defense for James Ray will say, “Well, see some people got up and they walked out. So, people were always free to walk out.”  But the problem is, very, very few people have that mental strength, that emotional strength, that physiological strength to stand up against the crowd and say, “No. No, I’m not going to do this.”  And those people who stand up and say “No”, just like Rosa Parks on the bus, just like the young student in Tiananmen Square in China, just like Nelson Mandela, those are the people who we look up to who said, “No, I’m not going to follow everyone else. No, I’m not going to just do what everyone else says. I’m going to actually think for myself and I know this to be wrong.”  And I want to give you another example, Jim, because, it’s true based on psychology that we tend to follow the crowd and we’re often afraid of being different. “What happens if I say no? Will they reject me?  Will they criticize me?  Will they condemn me?  Will they judge me?  I can’t do that so I’ll just do what everyone else is doing even though it might be dangerous or it might be illogical.”  And I know you know what I’m talking about because you’ve been through a similar experience but in one camp that I was in there was an exercise where we’re all sitting down, there’s about fifty of us, and the staff jump one girl. And they jump her deliberately.  And when they jump on her, she has to fight them back. Now the fifty people seated on the room turn around and watch the staff pummeling this girl. Now, I don’t know, I know you did the same program as me, so I don’t know what happened in your experience but me?  I heard the sounds. I heard the screams. I look around. I look behind me. I’m all the way in the front of the room. She’s all the way at the back and I look around. I think, “What the heck’s going on?  These people are jumping her!”  I don’t look around to see if anyone else is doing anything. I don’t go, “Oh, well no one else is doing anything so it’s okay.”  I don’t look and go, “Well, it’s the staff pummeling her so it must be okay.” No, I get up and I go, “This is wrong.”  And I go charging to protect the girl and I jump in, which at the time is pretty funny. Now they lift me up and they drag me away and now my issues come up because all of my anger is coming up, which related to my father because I’m actually trying to protect, subconsciously I’m trying to protect my mother, and that was my issue so that brought up my stuff.

Jim: Right.

Patrick: And whilst they’re holding me and I’m screaming out, “You don’t touch a woman, you MF. You don’t hurt a woman. You don’t blah, blah, blah…”  I look up there’s the woman at the front of the stage. She’s safe and she’s now got a smile on her face. Now it wasn’t that it was set up but that she’s okay. And the other people that are with me are saying, “Patrick, calm down. It’s okay, she’s safe.”  And I go, “Oh, okay. She is safe.”  But there are two points here. One was my personal stuff. I entered a state of rage. I wanted to hurt these people because in my mind they’d hurt the girl. Number two, I also wanted to protect the girl.

Jim: Right.

Patrick: The other point was none of the other people in the room got up to protect her. They all sat there like sheep because they were afraid to act. They were worried about saying, “No. This is wrong.”  So what I did was right. I used my anger to protect the girl but when I wanted to keep hurting these people I entered the dangerous state when anger becomes rage. You see you use your anger to protect someone but when you want to hurt the other person that was hitting this person you’re now engaging in rage and that’s wrong.

Jim: Right.

Patrick: My point, Jim, is to say no one else got up because they’re afraid of saying “No!”  How many of those people would sit in the Sweat Lodge even while they’re being sick or watching other people sick rather than get up and saying, “I’m getting out of here. This is not safe.”  Not because the sweat lodge is bad but because the way this sweat lodge is being done is bad. Now here’s the final point I want to make about new-age gurus and self-help experts, etc. For me, probably one of the greatest, most horrible aspects of this, maybe the most shameful aspect and I’m going to be judgmental here is that a lot of these self-help experts are creating corporations. They’re creating these big conglomerates. The whole concept of self-help is you’re supposed to be helping yourself and you find your own way. You find your own path and you believe this person is out to help you – this teacher, this leader – and then you find out, no. He’s just become a corporation. Now he’s charging you $10,000. Why?  He’s already got millions of dollars. Does he need more or does he really want to help people?  I believe in helping people. I also believe in being well compensated for helping people. But, if you really want to help people, wouldn’t you drop the price and bring more people there?  One of my colleges who’s a marketer says, “Well, Patrick you know, people give it greater value when they pay more.”  That’s true. But, do they need to pay $10,000?   They could have paid $3,000 or $5,000 for a four-day retreat and still given it great value because that’s a lot of money. So, Jim, my point here is that a lot of people who set out with good intentions or at least say “I want to help people, I want to make a difference”, end up becoming like the average corporation: “We just want to make a lot of money.”  And I watch that with myself all the time. I’m like, you know, “Let me look at what I’m doing here. Can I really give back more to people?  How can I?”  And you know recently I did a promotion. I gave $500 worth of product for $100. Now that doesn’t mean everyone should buy it but it’s there if you want to buy it; take advantage of it for awhile.

Beware of Gurus - The Interview. Photo: James Arthur Ray back teaching in 2016 after leading a retreat resulting in the deaths of 3 people. He was sentenced to 2 years in prison.

Beware of Gurus – The Interview. Photo: James Arthur Ray back teaching in 2016 after leading a retreat resulting in the deaths of 3 people. He was sentenced to 2 years in prison.

You know the other thing is we always have choices, Jim. We always have choices about “how do we want to be?”  How do we want to live?  And I’m always questioning my own motives. This call is not about me but I’m using this as an example. As a self-help expert, as a person who works with high profile clients and celebrities etc., I’m always questioning my own motives and saying to myself, “Patrick, why are you doing this?  Is it just for attention?  Is it just for ego?  Do you just want to make money?  Do you really want to help people?”  And that’s the only way. You have to be vigilant with yourself to make sure that you’re doing it for the right reasons. And if you’re doing it for the wrong reasons, at least acknowledge it and then you can take action to correct it. But you know too many of these self-help experts become narcissistic. One reader wrote to me and said you know, “James Ray has become narcissistic. He’s talking more about his own pain rather than the pain and the loss of the people that died.”  Well, I’m not going to pass judgment on that but I think, to summarize and maybe I’ve repeated his too many times, “Don’t put people up on pedestals because they’ll always take themselves down. Don’t worship people. Don’t expect people to be perfect. Embrace the message but always understand that every person teaching you is a human being. Every person teaching you will make mistakes.”  I remind that to myself all the time and I say to my clients please don’t put me on a pedestal. Yes, I’m excited that you, that my message has transformed your life. I’m grateful that my book has transformed your life and I’m truly grateful for the compliments you give me and the gratitude you express but please don’t think that I’m perfect because I still go through the same things that you go through. I still have moments of insecurity, moments of self-doubt. I still question myself sometimes. You know and that’s what we all experience because we’re all human but some of us want to create this image that “I know everything. I’m smarter than you because if I don’t tell you that, you won’t come to my seminars or you won’t buy my product.”  So again, what are the motives?  So I don’t know, Jim; what are your thoughts after this long dissertation by me?

Jim: Well, the biggest take-away for me personally on this is: listen to the message and not the messenger because the message itself is more powerful than the messenger. And you know that’s, like you said, you don’t remember that guy that taught you that lesson but you remember the lesson and I think that I could walk out to the local store right down the street, 7-11 or whatever, and I could learn something from somebody behind the counter there that would teach me a lot of value in probably several aspects of life. So, it doesn’t matter…

Patrick: Jim, sorry, I didn’t mean to cut you off. You’re a father. I’m sure you learn wonderful lessons from your kid.

Jim: Every day. Yeah, I mean, everyday.

Patrick: He’s no spiritual guru. You know the lessons can come from all sorts of different people. I have a friend of mine, and he and his wife’s daughter is about nine years of age. She reminds me, she brings me down to earth in moments when, you know, you’re feeling a little blah, but, here she is smiling and laughing and just that’s a lesson in itself. You can get a lesson from anyone if that’s what you’re looking for, if you’re looking for the lesson. And I know that we tend to worship people who already are the real deal as they say. You know I’ve had people come to me and say, “Wow Patrick you’re the real deal.”  And I say “You know, that depends on what you mean by that. Do you mean I’m perfect?  No I’m not. Do you mean that I’m the real deal that I do my utmost best to live and breathe everything I preach and teach?  Yes I do. That’s true.”  But you know we can learn from everyone. We can learn from people that we hate. We can learn how not to do things. Children put their parents on a pedestal until they get to around age twelve and then, they deliberately go out of their way to tear down their parents because they’re trying to form their own identity. This is particularly true more with boys than it is with girls.

Jim: I’ve got two years left.

Patrick: Yeah, you better enjoy it. But it is true, even children put their parents on pedestals. And you know I remember a very dear friend of mine and this is a girl who helped me get on my spiritual path in terms of, when I say spiritual path, in terms of healing my own insecurities, my own issues, and we met at a time when she was on vacation with her mother and sister because they found out that her father had been having an affair for about eleven years, a secret affair. How he’d been doing it for so long I don’t know but she was just twenty at the time and she was devastated because she said “He was always my idol. I always worshiped him and now I’m completely confused. I’m completely disoriented. I’m shattered. I don’t know what to believe anymore.”  And it’s natural, as a child, you know, as a son or as a daughter to look up at your mother or father and worship them and make them an idol and put them on a pedestal but we need to be careful of that. And again, this girl helped me get on my path by helping me to get in touch with how I was acting and behaving. And it was something that she said to me that I still remember to this day. And Jim, it was about fifteen years ago. She said to me, (and I will share with you my crap here), the poor girl broke down and cried when she said, “Patrick, I can’t come up to your standard.”  And I went, “What?  What are you talking about?”  I didn’t realize that the way I’d been guiding this relationship was that I had put such high expectations on her to come up to my standard. And then another female friend told me that a year later – a similar thing – and I hadn’t seen her in quite a few years. I was like, “Oh!”  Then I became aware. “This is what I’m doing.”  So again, the lesson didn’t come from a four day retreat where I spent $10,000. It didn’t come from some book by an author who spent twenty years in the Peruvian Mountains studying the Incans and the Mayans and the Huichol Indians. It can come from the person next to you. Just be open. There’s the lesson. Be open. But also, if something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. And I’m not saying give in to your mood or give in to your comfort zone, but, in your heart, you know sometimes when something is wrong. Listen to you inner voice when something is wrong, when it just doesn’t feel right. You know we look back on things and we say, “Well, in hindsight, in 20/20, yeah, I remember there were red flags. I just ignored those red flags.”  Well, don’t ignore the red flags. Listen to them. And the final point I want to make Jim, relates to this letter that I got from a reader who said that she lost hope and she said “I grew up in a poor family we were never business people and my dream has been to start my own business. Now I’m ready to give up based on what happened with James Ray. You know the Law of Attraction, I don’t believe in any of it anymore…”  And my point is: don’t give up on hope. Don’t ever give up on hope. Look at it and say, “Can I make this happen?”  Now maybe you aren’t going to run your own business but maybe you’ll go into business partnership with someone else. You can still find the solution. You can still find an answer. Maybe it’s not going to be the way you expected it to be. You know, maybe for her, she needs more action. Maybe you need to find yourself what we call a mastermind group. Go and start associating yourself with people that do run businesses and see if you can learn from them but don’t give up hope. The other point, particularly for this reader as well as everyone listening to the call, is that, sometimes the path to inner peace isn’t the path we expected. You know we think, “Hey, if I become rich, if I become famous or if I marry the right person, or if I have the right amount of children or if I get to own the right house I’ll have inner peace.; I’ll have joy.”  Well, be careful, because the pathway to inner peace isn’t always what you expected. For example, we think, “I won’t be happy unless I’m on television.”  Well what happens if you end up doing some completely different career and you’re suddenly happy?  Do you want to be right?  Do you want to be happy?  If you remain open minded you can find happiness. If you remain close minded you might be right but you won’t be happy.

Any closing thoughts, Jim Peake?

Jim: Well, I think that goes in line with you know, when you were coaching me, a few weeks ago, instead of being right, be happy.

Patrick: Yeah.

Jim: Because it’s a lot easier to be happy than to be right.

Patrick: I remind myself of that all the time. That example I gave you when I was arguing like a bozo on the phone with either a telephone company or an airline company for charges that I didn’t feel were justified I had to ask myself, “Do I want to be right or do I want to be happy?”

Jim: Right.

Patrick: Sometimes you have to fight for principals but do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?  You have to know “How significant is this in the grander scheme of things?”  Sometimes you might lose a couple of dollars but your peace you can’t buy. Your health you can’t buy back. So I might spend 30 minutes you know getting really tense and really angry and my blood is boiling…

Jim: To do what?  To save fifty bucks or seventy-five bucks or whatever it might be.

Patrick: Or thirty dollars!

Jim: Yeah, it’s not even worth it.

Patrick: And then you’re going to spend $120 going to the doctor saying I’m sick and I’ve got an ulcer and I can’t sleep and then you’ll be spending money on medicine.

Jim: Right.

Patrick: So just look at your life and just make decisions based on what I always preach and teach: Balance. And please be aware of giving people your power. Don’t give away your power to anyone. And what I mean by that is: I work with a lot of female clients and one of the things I like to teach is empowerment. And they say to me, “Well, what does it mean to be empowered?”  And I say, “Oh it’s very simple. It’s where you today, will decide how you’re going to feel. Not anyone else. Not Patrick Wanis. Not Jim Peake. Not James Ray. Not the husband. Not the wife. But you; you will decide how you’re going to feel today in every moment.”  Now I know that other people are going to affect you; if your child is sick, if you child has had an accident, if something’s gone wrong it’s going to affect you. But, the idea is you don’t give away all of your power to someone else; to a religion, to a cult, to a guru, to an expert, to a speaker. No one is that perfect person. You know, Jim, I even have a controversial opinion about the Dali Lama. I love his message. I love his books. And the beauty is he’s going around the world and trying to teach more people the art of joy, the art of happiness, the art of inner peace. But, be careful about putting him on a pedestal because he doesn’t live the same life that you and I do, Jim.

Jim: No, not at all.

Patrick: He doesn’t have a wife and children. He doesn’t have taxes to pay; not saying he doesn’t pay taxes, but he doesn’t have to get in a car everyday and have a Blackberry and have messages and emailing, or worry about sending his kids to college. He doesn’t have to go to the doctor and he doesn’t have to worry about health insurance.

Jim: He lives the life of a rock star.

Patrick: It’s a different kind of lifestyle. It’s a different kind of lifestyle. So be careful when you think, “I want to be 100% like that person. Why can’t I be like that person?”  Well the reason you can’t is because he’s not living the same life. He’s made a choice to live a life as a teacher not necessarily as the student. It’s much harder to have inner peace and harmony and be like the holy monk when you’re married with children and you’re living in the Western life and you have to pay off a mortgage and you have to pay the bills and you have to go to work and you just lost your job and you’ve just lost your car and your child is sick and your wife is arguing with you. Now, let’s test you: Do you still have inner peace?  Can you still smile?  That’s the person I look up to. That’s the person that’s living it. So, you know. Maybe I’m rambling a little bit here, but again, just take a balanced look at life and be a truth seeker. Always question. Doubt the doubts.

Jim: Yes, always have questions. I think that will clear all of us extremely well.

Patrick: And I say to people, “Look, listen to what I’m saying. Does it make sense to you?  Does it fit?  Maybe it does. If it does, use it. And if only 50% of it does, then use that 50%. But don’t think that I know everything. My goal is just to help you to unlearn the BS, unlearn the lies and the negative programming. And I don’t know that you have to go through all of these crazy processes to do it. Sometimes you do but not always.

Jim: Right, right. Well, Patrick, I think this has been a very enlightening conversation.

This is Jim Peake at I think this has been a very enlightening conversation and I’d like to thank Patrick Wanis for your time. You can find Patrick at Thanks very much, Patrick.

Patrick: Thank you, Jim.

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5 replies
  1. Avatar
    Patrick Wanis says:

    I would also like to add a little more information regarding the Sweat Lodge ceremony. This is an entry from Dean Leh:

    The “sweatlodge” ceremony should never be performed by anyone other than a Native American shaman, or authentic Medicine Man, Woman, or Healer who has been trained and commissioned to do so by their Indigenous cultural Tradition. The sweatlodge ceremony (Inipi Ceremony) is actually one of the Seven Sacred Rites of the Lakota People and has been passed down through many generations of Lakota. This ceremony is not taught to non-Native Americans nor should they be leading these ceremonies. Authentic Indigenous healers who have inherited and maintained these sacred traditions have issued formal statements about the standards to be observed in the celebration of the Inipi Ceremony. In the March 2003 Meeting of Elders, it was agreed among the spiritual leaders and Bundle-Keepers of the Lakota, Dakota, Nakota, Cheyenne and Arapahoe Nations that those who perform this sacred rite should be able to communicate with Tunkashilas (Grandfathers) in their Native Plains languages. They should also have earned this right by completing the Hanblecheyapi Ceremony (Vision Quest) and participated in the the four days and four years of the Wiwanyangwacipi Ceremony (the Sun Dance). At the Lakota Summit V, an international gathering of United States and Canadian Lakota, Dakota and Nakota Nations, 500 representatives from over 40 different tribes and bands of the Lakota unanimously passed a “Declaration of War Against Exploiters of Lakota Spirituality.” This Declaration was passed on June 10, 1993. This Declaration specifies that these sacred ceremonies are only to be performed by authentic medicine people and healers of the Lakota, Dakota, Nakota and other authentic Native American tribes. Non-Native Americans have no right whatsoever to perform these sacred rites any more than a non-priest has a right to celebrate the Mass or the Divine Liturgy. Everything has been stolen from the Native American peoples. Now, even their sacred ceremonies and rites are being stolen. What happened in this tragic situation is an example of what happens when New-Age charlatans “steal” sacred Indigenous rites which are not theirs and which they have no legitimate right to perform. Thank you for listening to my concerns.

    Dean Leh, M.A., M.S.Ed.

    May I humbly but firmly add that this is one example of how in the Western world we have chosen to take sacred rituals and turn them simply into commercial ventures. This also applies to the many yogas that are now being touted and the people who mix yoga and stretching and other sporting activtiies in an attempt to sell something. Research the original Yoga and you will learn it was not designed to be a stretching class but rather a spiritual experience and practice.

  2. Avatar
    Patrick Wanis says:

    This is such a tragic story, and as I predicted when it first happened, James Ray is now facing 3 counts of manslaughter and appeared in court yesterday February 3, 2010.

    As I mentioned in the above interview and to which I would like to add now, this entire saga raises the questions surrounding the movie and book, “The Secret.” James Arthur Ray is one of the featured speakers and “gurus” in the book and movie “The Secret” which teaches that based on the Law of Attraction we create our own reality and we do so by what we focus on i.e. we attract to us those things we focus on, and we can have anything we want simply by visualizing it. Based on that belief and argument, the very belief and teaching of James Ray, what was James Ray focusing on and visualizing to attract this event into his life?

    In other words, this is where the Law of Attraction fails and is quickly torn apart, there is much more involved in creating our reality and world than simply visualizing or fantasizing about something…otherwise we must conclude that James Ray was visualizing daily his appearance in court charged with 3 counts of manslaughter…

  3. Avatar
    Jennifer Rodriguez says:

    Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to address this issue. I read every word of the interview carefully and I came to see where I was wrong. Yes! Just as you said, there’s a lesson in everyone and everything we experience in life. I was putting James Ray on a pedestal.
    I realize now that what made me upset about Dave Lakhani’s criticism of him was the fact that he accused James Ray of being narcissistic and I couldn’t accept that James Ray could even have such a flaw. I didn’t want to believe that someone like James Ray could become narcissistic. I felt, “No way! He would be above such a thing because he’s a person who’s constantly working on himself, bettering himself. There’s no way that someone like him could fall prey to being narcissistic!”
    But after reading your interview and realizing how we are all human and that includes, James Ray, I can now see that ANYONE, absolutely ANYONE, can fall prey to their own ego. It is, as you pointed out, a question of being balanced.
    It’s funny but this reminds me of something my humble, unknowing “guru” Dad always says to me, “Life has a way of humbling you sometimes. Of bringing you down when you get too high on that pedestal of yours and think you can control it all.” Now I can see the wisdom of his words and maybe James Ray will too, in his own way.
    Thank you Patrick for imparting your insight on all this and helping us all see the light at the end of the tunnel and the hope waiting there for us. Thank you! Thank you!

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