They came in search of spiritual enlightenment, using the sweat lodge as a way to break through whatever was holding them back in life. James Arthur Ray told his seminar participants that it would be "hellacious" and that they would feel like they were dying, but would do so only metaphorically.
But three people did die following the October 2009 ceremony, and on Wednesday, Ray was found guilty of three counts of negligent homicide. He could have been convicted on an option of manslaughter, but the jury of eight men and four women decided on the lesser charge instead.
The conviction came quickly - after less than 10 hours of deliberations - following four months of testimony and hundreds of exhibits. Prosecutors asked that Ray be taken into custody immediately, but the judge denied their request.
The self-help guru faces a sentence ranging from probation to nearly 12 years in prison. But wherever he is headed, it will be a marked change for a man whose multimillion-dollar self-help empire landed him in the 2006 Rhonda Byrne documentary "The Secret," on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and "Larry King Live."
Ray used free talks to recruit people to expensive seminars like the Sedona retreat that led to the sweat lodge tragedy. Participants paid up to $10,000 for the five-day program intended to push their physical and emotional limits.