Angel Valley: 8 Lessons

Angel Valley: 8 Lessons

“Individuals are important because we carry all the knowledge inside ourselves.  We don’t need somebody else.”

Angel Valley, Sedona Arizona

It was a warm, spring day when publisher Holly Luky and I ventured out to Angel

Valley to talk with co-owner Amayra Hamilton about the tragedy that happened there,

how she had fared through it all and what her journey of healing has been like: both for

her and the land she tends.

Amayra Hamilton is tall and statuesque, with clear blue eyes brought out by the

clothing she’s wearing. Her speech has the lilting quality of a native Dutch speaker.

“What better place to connect with Spirit than in nature?” asks Amayra. “That is

what we have here, in abundance. We help people to connect with nature. What we feel

is the advantage here is that it’s so pristine. The power of the earth is that it cannot be

wiped out.”

Amayra feels people are drawn to Angel Valley by nature and the healing energy of

Sedona. “We attract a lot of aware people. I think a lot of aware people come to Sedona

for good reason because this is a powerful place. They come to utilize that power, and

that’s great. They can ride the wave, use it, and take advantage of it in their spiritual


The mission of Angel Valley has always been to provide a place for people to find

their true selves — to go within and find the God there, in an empowered way.

Amayra and her husband Michael Hamilton have been stewards of Angel Valley

since 2002. But it was only recently, in October, 2009 that Angel Valley was suddenly

swept into the national spotlight by the deaths of three people who were participating in

a sweat lodge that was part of week-long retreat put on by self-help seminar leader James

Ray. The tragic deaths brought unprecedented attention to Ray and other New Age

seminar leaders and their practices—and to Angel Valley itself.

Ray had been leading retreats at Angel Valley since 2002, and had done sweat lodges

in the past. With and without incident. Over the years, Amayra’s personal connection

with James Ray decreased as their interactions became purely business. “Through the

years we got less and less excited because that’s not why we’re here, just to do business

deals. Yes, we have to run this place as a business, but is that a satisfying connection? No,

it is not.”

In contrast, interactions with other facilitators had actually increased as time passed.

“Our connection with facilitators has grown over the years and it has become clearer and

clearer that it is absolutely neccesary for us, otherwise we don’t want to be here. The

incident has made it even clearer that that’s the trail we go. If it doesn’t resonate, we

don’t do it at all. Even if it’s a good business deal, if it doesn’t feel right, we don’t do it.”

Looking back Amayra says she did have misgivings about James Ray’s retreat. The

Hamiltons knew 2009 it would be the last year Ray would hold his retreat there. He

wanted to work with larger groups and the retreat center was already at its maximum


“We knew that 2009 would be the last year, not knowing it would end this way. So our intuition was not strong enough, or not listened to strongly enough at that moment, that we didn’t say, ‘okay, then we can’t do the contract we have now.’ No, we did not do that. In hindsight, how many times do we all look back in our life and might have made different decisions had we known at the time what we know today?”

Amayra feels many causes combined to create the tragedy. “Okay, here some boundaries were crossed. But we all do that at times. If you have a large combination of factors, then when all that is amplified by the land, and if the person who is in charge of what’s going on is not realizing that’s a factor to reckon with too, then, you may be asking for trouble.”

Amayra stops the golf cart at the memorial site. The energy here is particularly tranquil and serene. And I am struck by how full of grace Amayra is – to have traveled down this path with conscious awareness, taking responsibility for her role in it. Here are some of the insights she shared with us about her healing and the healing of Angel Valley.

Listen to Your Inner Voice

“What happened here had an impact on so many people,” says Amayra. “For me the number one thing we can learn from it is: What is right for you? What’s inside you?  Listen to your inner voice. When you are in a situation that you have influence from outside, always check with yourself whether it feels right for you. When you are in a group, does what is happening in the group feel right for you? You should be able to trust in the teacher, when at the same time, discerning what suits you and what doesn’t.”

She continues, “In this particular situation, people had, through a combination of different factors, crossed boundaries where their level of discernment was not as strong as it normally is. That is a lesson we can all learn: How do we allow ourselves to go into areas where our level of discernment diminishes? We have to be alert for that.”

Find the Truth Inside Yourself

Recently, Amayra told us, an influx of individuals (versus groups) has been coming to Angel Valley. “Individuals are important because we carry all the knowledge inside ourselves. We don’t need somebody else. Yes, we can benefit from teachings and a teacher, but the time of the guru is past. It’s really about finding the truth inside yourself.  So, for the individual that comes here it’s about what they find in themselves.”

The facilitator’s job according to Amayra is always and only to bring out what the individual already has inside. “We try to find facilitators that resonate with us because this is a co-creation. We are dedicated to making the retreat the most profound experience people can have.”

Keep Your Power

Leaders have a responsibility to the group trusting them. “In my eyes, one of your responsibilities is to always confront people with ‘You are responsible for yourself, don’t give your power away to me as the leader or the teacher, or the preacher.’ Or in any relationship, whether it’s a partner relationship, do not give your power away. Keep your power. If you find yourself giving your power away, step back. I think that is something that every person in the whole world can learn from this:  what can happen if you don’t.”

Listen to Your Heart

Amayra was determined to figure out what her lesson was in all this. She found it to be, “The path that we were on: listening to our heart, listening to our intuition, more and more strongly, more and more consistently, that is the path we choose to walk.”

She had made a decision long ago not to be driven by fear. When a fear comes up, Amayra goes inward and deals with it, understanding that her heart and fear don’t go together since fear is a construct of the mind.  “So when the fear is strong, it means that the mind is very active, so I take that to a deeper level where I can just observe the fear, and not have my steps guided by that.”

Shift Your Perspective

Amayra told us that her biggest lifetime challenge happened in 1999 when she lost her son.  It was a very intense process that has served to make her much stronger by seeing things from a different perspective.

“When I’m in a situation and I think, ‘So what? What’s the worst that can happen?’ Well, in a sense, that has already happened to me. It helps me to deal with situations, including a situation like what happened because yes, it was a difficult situation, absolutely. Was it emotional? I bet you! Being part of that and being on the scene, everything that happened with it and all the repercussions.”

Accept the Power of Community

Despite all that happened, Amayra reports tremendous support from the community. “We have felt like Angel Valley has never had so much light being sent to it. So many people were touched; so many people were moved. So many people were just sending prayer and sharing that they did. It’s been wonderful and we’re really, really grateful for that and all the tokens and cards they sent. We feel that also has been part of bringing the place back into balance. It’s been really fantastic.

The community came forward to help heal the land, too. First the community that was there at the time, and then the community at large.

Seize the Opportunity to Look Within

I asked Amayra what does Angel Valley and all that it brings, including an incident like this do to her process? “It brings it right in your face. I feel this situation the Universe gave me, or I created, which for me is kind of the same – I attracted the situation where I had a truly great exercise in, ‘Do I respond to this with fear, with emotions, with anger, with frustration, or do I take myself into a place where I observe it and see that this is a process?’ Yes, it’s not easy, but how I can get something good out of that?”

And, yes, of course, there were people who also were upset. The way I see it, when something gets you upset, something inside of you is being touched so it touches a sore spot. For every person who got upset, it’s an opportunity to look within. Whether they do that or not that’s not up to me.”

Step by Step Healing

The very first step of healing began the day after the incident. The police investigated all day, taking samples as they went. In the evening, they gave the place back to Amayra and Michael.

“We felt, now it’s our turn, we start. In ceremony, we took the sweat lodge down. There were 18 people from the group who were still here and wanted to participate. It was really beautiful. That was our first gesture of starting to clear the energy and starting to clear the chaos of the space.”

After they removed the sweat lodge, they cleaned it up and made a memorial. “When we pulled the stones out of the pit, they kind of formed a heart, so we made a heart. We had a pile of rocks that had been used and we placed those in a big circle around the heart. We sat in and around this during the memorial service. It was really, really nice.”

On November first, a memorial service was held at Angel Valley. The local press were notified, but did not show. “We had plenty of press before that,” notes Amayra.

She and Michael received an outpouring of support, including e-mails from abroad saying, ‘Sorry I can’t be there, but I’m there with you in Spirit.’  Sixty-five people attended the service with celebrants from all kinds of traditions leading prayer and ceremony.

“Several groups that were here have done ceremonies also. One facilitator, took the theme into her retreat and play-roled, ‘What would you do’? with her participants. They acted it out. Several groups have really taken the theme and worked with it. All those things are contributing to the healing of the land. I think the power of transformation that people can go through here is more alive, more awake, now.”

What does Amayra feel is the legacy of this incident?

“I think if we all take this beyond our human emotions as a transformational experience and use it as the paradigm that we are all talking about, the new world of the 2012 transition, it can be used as transformation. We feel that what has happened here, that every person who has felt some resonance with it, whether that resonance was in bringing frustration, or feelings of compassion, we all have an opportunity to use this to dispatch worldwide transformation. It’s happening anyway. This can cause acceleration in that process. The more conscious we do things, the more power we have to change. The changes do not come from outside, the changes come from inside, so when something happens and it touches you, that’s the moment to do work. If all of us are contributing to finding good out of this, then the people who transitioned into other dimensions is not a waste.”

Of course, in any tragedy on the human level, there is emotion, but what happens to the energy of the land in the face of such an event? Amayra believes the land comes back to a natural order. She and Michael had ceremonies performed for the healing and balancing of the land, and they feel it’s worked. People who’ve visited the site after the incident have said it’s more tranquil and inward than ever before.

There is no doubt the energy of Angel Valley is intense. If you’ve spent any length of time at all in Sedona, you know that whatever is going on for you is magnified here. “When things intensify, I feel this is the optimal condition for transformation. I feel this place is more transformative and more transforming than ever before. In the moment there was chaos, yes. But out of chaos, comes beauty. After an event like this the energy of the land recycles and comes back to a new balance. We feel that the place has come to a new balance.”

And so, the spring sunshine brings warmth and illumination to Angel Valley. The incident has truly been a journey for Amayra and Michael Hamilton and the land they steward – one of healing and transformation.

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