I tried writing on Saturday, but cried every time I attempted to put into words how my one and only meeting with James Arthur Ray had affected me ::: still affects ::: me. To this day I still can't completely wrap my brain around the why part.
I just feel so damned stupid. I mean what kind of a person becomes rabidly suicidal at the words of a stranger?! They're ONLY words, but they still hurt ::: and that simple fact fills me with hopelessness and shame.
I can't write in a letter how much energy and effort it took for me to attend My Ray's free event. On days like today, I can barely walk ::: can't raise my arms above my head ::: can barely brush my hair up in a ponytail, let alone get dressed easily. On days like today ::: I talk to the cat, play with our greyhounds, cry, pray, watch old movies and pretend I don't hurt.
On days like today my closest friends are the reflections of Doris Day or Jack Lemon on my HD TV. I laugh at their antics and try to imagine what it would feel like to be back in a simpler time ::: in a world I understood much better than the world I now live in.
Allergies force me to live my separate from almost everyone else. I'm like a person locked inside a building with a big picture window ::: watching the world go on around me ::: seeing but never being seen or touched.
Lord how James Arthur Ray filled me with Hope ::: that's the thing I'm most ashamed by ::: that I could be so hungry for health ::: a hand up ::: a pat on the back ::: someone to help me find a better healthier life ::: that I became a total idiot sap and bought into his con.
In 2007, when James Arthur Ray looked at me with total disdain, it reminded me of all the people who've judged me by my outward appearance and found me wanting. When James Arthur Ray said I'd never be anything but a looser and a fat slob ::: it was as if he'd brought forward my worst fears and my shame at how illness had shaped my body.
I could write a thousand concertos, record countless songs, publish more stories, photos, win awards, etc. ::: but nothing, absolutely nothing I could accomplish in this world would ever change the view people like James Arthur Ray have of people who look like me.
It's been four years since I met James Ray. Four years later and I still have nightmares, and still cringe at the thought attending a pubic event. How stupid is that?
The thing is, I'm just one of who knows how many nameless faceless people who have crossed James Ray's path. How many other people has he pushed into despair with his words?
Which brings me to an other question that's been bothering me ::: what really happened to Colleen Conaway? What did he say (he was with her moments before she jumped / was pushed) to cause such a tragic end. Why did he lie about it afterward? Why the cover up? Why wasn't he charged?
Why is James Arthur Ray able to steal millions -- commit corporate fraud and grand theft -- and be allowed to use that money to fund one of the most despicable defenses I've ever seen?
Why is it legal for Munger Tolles and Olson (ANY LAW FIRM) to accept money from such a questionable source ::: without any legal ramifications?!!
Why is James Arthur Ray walking free after being found GUILTY? Where is the justice for the people he killed or permanently maimed?
I'm tired, don't feel well and I'm rambling ... sorry about that. This whole trial thing has really got me down.
I spent most of the 4th writing a letter to Polk. I spell checked it and then sent it before I could chicken out and delete it. I've had horrid nightmares every night since. I've pasted a copy of it below for anyone who's interested.
For the record I didn't write it for me ::: I intend to find my own salvation ::: grace ::: hope. I wrote it in the hopes it might help keep James Arthur Ray from ever having the power to hurt ANYONE again ::: EVER!
Sheila Polk, SBN 007514
255 East Gurley Street, 3rd Floor
Prescott , AZ 86301
phone: (928) 771-3344
You and I have never met.
I am part of a group of a hundred or so people who have been following the James Arthur Ray trial via the Internet (blogger, twitter, CNN Live, facebook, etc.). I received some twitters this morning from [NancyOgilvie] and [@La_Huesera La Vaughn] asking me to send my story to you.
I had hoped once the trial was over and Mr Ray was found guilty ... I could put my memories of him away and go on with my life, secure in the knowledge that Mr Ray's words or actions would never again cause anyone harm. Now I'm being told there's a real chance that Mr Ray may only get probation ... and he may eventually start over doing the same things he did in the past.
This is a difficult letter for me to write. Even now, four years after the event, I still have nightmares about what transpired. To this day I struggle to understand why a man I had never met or had any contact with would verbally assault me in front of a room full of strangers.
My husband and I met James Arthur Ray at the Anaheim Marriott on May 31, 2007, while attending one of his free seminars. (please see attached email invitation and link posted immediately below)
Orange County, CA:
May 31, 2007 at 7:00 PM
700 West Convention Way
Anaheim, CA 92802
I'm currently disabled and have been on SSDI since about 1990. I suffer from Tourette's, fibromyalgia, celiac disease, dysautonomia (causes labile blood pressure and cardiac arrhythmia) and degenerative bone disease, along with severe food and chemical sensitivities/allergies. I was confined to a wheelchair for a while, nowadays I walk with a cane or walker.
Prior to becoming disabled I had a successful career. I've been listed in "Who's Who of American Women since 1991, I'm also listed in "Who's Who in America" and "Who's Who in the World". My illustrations, graphics, photographs and stories have been published internationally and garnered me numerous awards. I'm also a published composer/musician.
I've learned people (like James Ray) often judge other's by how they look, how much money they have, what they do, who they know, etc.. Which is the main reason I mentioned who I used to be, awards I've won, and what I used to do before I became too ill to live a normal life.
When the Secret came out I was initially put off by it. That said, I'm ashamed to admit that after hearing Oprah rave about the Secret, I allowed myself to get caught up in all that baloney. I respected Oprah's opinion so I purchased the CD. By the time I purchased the book I was a woman on a quest.
I read eventually read Mr Ray's book "The Science of Success", and signed up for emails from James Ray International. I began walking more (a good thing), making affirmations (a silly thing), and in general making a fool of myself (a sad thing). When I received an invitation to one of his free events taking place a few blocks from my home, I signed up my husband and myself (a really stupid thing).
I had wanted to hear Mr Ray speak and thank him for reminding me I'm more than my body.
To understand what a big deal this was for me you need to understand how sick I'd been, how difficult it was (and is for me to get around) and how little I get out. This was the first time in years I attended a public event. The first time in years I gone someplace public without wearing a special mask (w/ activated carbon filters). The first time in years stood in line for hours (they started the event 2 hours late).
My husband and I sat close to the front, at the end of an isle, so I could keep my walker next to me. We watched and listened to Mr Ray speak about his life, how poor he'd been, how he made himself over. We heard stories of people who had healed completely or became rich after reading his books, listening to his CDs and attending his seminars.
Towards the end of the event, Mr Ray told everyone to pick up the packet of information we'd been given at the front door. He told us to fill out the contract for an upcoming seminar without thinking. "Say yes, do it now, before you change your mind. Don't worry about the money. The money will come once you sign up."
My husband was nudging me to fill it in. We were too broke, and I didn't feel right borrowing from his father. I already owed him money for special medications I'd been taking. I read the small print and saw Mr Ray's so called iron clad refund policy was meaningless. He kept talking and saying "if you sign up today, you can bring someone with you for free." So we asked a JRI employee if they carried their own paper, that I'd pay them off monthly. The answer was no. It was for our own good, so we could learn how to make money on our own.
The person I spoke with spent 30 minutes trying to talk me into signing for something I couldn't afford. Telling me not to worry and that the money would come to pay for it. I told them about my allergy problems, and they said I'd be fine. "No one ever got sick at a James Ray event. People get better."
In the end we decided not to sign up for the events they were selling that day. We didn't have the $10,000 they were ultimately asking for, not counting transportation, hotel rooms, food, books, CDs ,etc. I'm ashamed to admit, had they offered to carry their own paper, and given us the means to pay them back over time ... we'd have signed up without question. But they didn't ... and we were broke, and I wasn't willing to legally bind myself to something I knew I couldn't afford.
There must have been a couple of thousand people at this event. It seemed like they were all signing up for future seminars. We felt as if something really important and life altering had just passed us by. I reminded my husband that my main reason for attending this even was to thank Mr Ray for reminding me I'm more than my body, and to give him a small gift.
Mr Ray was at the end of the room talking with dozens of people, hundreds more waiting to speak with him. Every so often he would look away from the crowd, a bored expression on his face. Then he'd step forward to the next person and flash this on-demand smile of his.
As I made my way up the isle toward Mr Ray he flashed me an expression that bordered on disgust. I've seen that look before, from so called beautiful people who are offended by the sight of fat or disabled people. Semi bald (my hair occasionally falls out when I'm sick), pale and bloated from my allergies, overweight and walking with the aid of a walker, I was a natural target for mean spirited people.
One of the reasons I didn't get out much in those days was because I knew how bad I looked. At best people would stare at me or come up and ask me how long I'd been on chemo ... at worst people would point at me and snicker.
I asked my husband if he'd seen Mr Ray flash me a strange look. He shook his head and shrugged, then asked me if it was possible I was over thinking things. So I decided to stay in line and wait to speak with Mr Ray.
When I reached out to shake Mr Ray's hand he looked at me, reached for my husband's hand and then crossed his arms. When I started to thank Mr Ray, I spoke five words ... at which point he interrupted me to ask if we'd signed up for any of his seminars.
When I started telling him we had no money and were unable to attend, he again interrupted me.
"I'm going to do you a favor" he said, "Don't ever say that again, [that you don't have money] the universe is listening."
"But I don't have any money right ... (I was going to say right now)"
James Ray ... interrupting again ... now shouting
"I TOLD YOU NOT TO SAY THAT!"
"But it's true."
James Ray ... shouting even more loudly
"Then borrow it!"
"I have no one to borrow from."
James Ray ... speaking in a loud and angry tone
"You mean to say your life is so miserable that you have absolutely no friends who can loan you money?"
Me ... quietly
"No, my friends are struggling to."
James Ray ... shouting
"You'll never be anything but a fat slob and looser if you don't attend my retreat."
The brutality of his words, the sound of his voice, the anger in it's tone took my breath away. I think some of the people standing next to me were shocked by his words, but in reality I don't know.
If I live to be a 100, I'll never forget what Mr Ray did next. He looked at me and smiled, a hard cold angry smile that chilled me to the bone. Then Mr Ray walked away from me and motioned to the woman standing behind me. When she came forward, he put his arm around her and turned on a 200 watt smile as her friend took a picture of the two of them together.
Whispers from people around me
"Did he just call that woman with the walker a fat slob?" "What did she say?" "Look at that lard assed bitch, James is right, she's nothing ... a nobody."
All I wanted to do at that point is run. But I'm disabled and was lucky to get around with my walker. So I waddled out of the conference room in a slow shuffle, surrounded by strangers, struggling to hold back tears. While making my way to the parking structure all I could think about was finding the highest part and jumping off. Please know I've never reacted this strongly to anyone's words!
I doubt if I will ever understand why Mr Ray spoke to me the way he did, let alone why I reacted the way I did. I cried for weeks afterward. To this day I don't know why the words of a stranger filled me with so much hopeless despair, that for months afterward all I could think of was ending my life.
While I know autoimmune disease will eventually kill me, I'm going to struggle to stay alive for as long as physically possible. I've come to terms with my illness and the day to day pain that comes with it. I try to take each day as it comes, and strive to live my life as fully and completely as physically possible. Some days are better than others. I live for the good days.
I'm writing to you now for the others Mr Ray has harmed ... both by his words and his actions. I don't believe I'm the only person he has treated this badly ... because his words seemed too easy and too practiced. I can't help wondering how many other people gave up on life, or worse yet, committed suicide because of something he said or did. I only know I'm appalled at how close I came to ending my own life the day I met Mr Ray.
Please don't let Mr Ray hurt any more people. If he doesn't get jail time and there are no ramifications for his actions, I'm afraid he keep doing bad things.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
Jeanne Barkemeijer de Wit