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The Magic of Naka-Ima
by Russ Reina

It was the first night of Naka-Ima at Lost Valley Educational Center, and my second time as an assistant. The group of eighteen assistants had spent most of that Friday preparing themselves, each other and the sacred space for the event. Each Naka-Ima I had been part of had been different: The mix of people, the ratio of assistants to "students," the flow of the workshop and general tone of the weekend ­ the depth of the personal work being done ­ each had a character all its own.

Students and assistants were in the meeting room. We were to welcome the students and help them feel comfortable until we paired off with one and talked about the questionnaire he or she had filled out. Our role for the three days was to help facilitate the students through their processes, take care of meals and breaks, and be fully present, including taking some personal risks. One of the wonderful things about Naka-Ima is that once you pay for and take the workshop at Lost Valley, you can come back and assist for only the cost of meals.

I noticed a student standing alone and looking more nervous than me. Taking in a breath and letting it out, I walked over to her and I read her name tag. "Hi, Mary, I'm Russ and probably just as nervous as you." She gave me a quizzical look, glanced at my name and sighed in anticipation. "I'm not sure I want to be here," she replied. I could accept that. My first Naka-Ima, I was convinced I had done just about all the deep emotional work and workshops and marathons that I needed in this lifetime. At forty-eight years old, I thought I was ready for a break from facing my stuff in an organized setting. Wanting to build tighter interpersonal relationships with members of my community, I figured what the hell, I could do one more.

Mary mentioned that she had been attracted to the workshop by no more than a one paragraph listing in Community Connexions. She felt "led" here. I chuckled. "Me, too." We began talking about being at the right place at the right time, of synchronicity and serendipity. I had once shied away from such topics, feeling they were too "New Age." But as we continued the discussion, I felt more at ease. I was comfortable that Naka-Ima is a workshop that is very grounded, yet within it lies all the stuff from which miracles spring.

I told her about my first exposure to Naka-Ima. How, somewhat arrogantly I told myself how wonderful it was that there were some "kids" in their twenties there. How, by working on their stuff now they'd save themselves all the years I had to spend disoriented because I was living my life under decisions that I had made as a six year old. I didn't start to look at such things until my mid-thirties.

Being thirty-eight, Mary could relate, for she had just come to some similar realizations. I admitted I held back my first day in the workshop, congratulating myself on how together I had become; how I had gone back to uncomfortable places and worked through them years ago. I declined participating in the first section, which was to make yourself "transparent" to the others and reveal the things you were there to work on. I thought I had it together. But then, I told her, I got into a randomly chosen triad with two twenty-somethings, and my life was considerably changed by a bit of Naka-Ima magic.

Larry and Karin, the workshop leaders with collectively over twenty years' experience in transformational work and both members of Lost Valley Community, a non-profit organization, had shared with us principles that helped us identify attachments that stand in the way of moving forward and being fully present in the moment. They also taught us ways to work with ourselves and others in order to release such attachments and become vital.

In my triad I laid back, letting one of my other partners go first. She started talking about experiences she had gone through that seemed eerily familiar to me. I found my heart opening with empathy and suddenly realized her problem was my problem. We worked with her with the help of a couple of assistants, using tools that we had been taught, and she experienced an emotional release and clearing that visibly affected her. Whereas she had been contracted and "dark" before, she was now expansive and glowing.

I was wobbly from the experience, but still not ready to jump in. Our other partner began, and to my astonishment, he had a similar theme running with very similar circumstances. And then it hit me: We had all been the loneliest kids on the block! I found that my heart opened and, without engaging my mind at all, I was feeding him with prompts that brought him deeper and deeper (and me, too, at the same time!), until he got to the place he needed to go, recognized his attachments and let them go. An assistant was present to help coach us.

Then it was my turn. These "kids" laid right into me, asking me questions and prompting me in ways I could never have anticipated. How could they know me so well? I asked myself. They and an assistant helped me revisit a place that I had avoided in all my years of processing. I realized, very quickly, that there were wounds and hurts that I held on to that were still limiting my life and making it difficult for me to fully invest myself in community. With their help, I purged, recognized it and let it go.

I smiled to Mary as I remembered folding into a group hug with my triad, overcome with tears of appreciation for the road we had just successfully traveled together, and how we had been brought together. She reiterated that she still wasn't sure if this was the place she was supposed to be. I felt guided to say, "Don't worry about it. You'll know."

Larry and Karin laid out each student's application face down on the floor. Larry asked that the assistants pick the one they were drawn to. That was the student with whom they'd go through the interview process. I waited until all the questionnaires were picked except one. I bent down, picked it up, and grinned. I went back to Mary and showed it to her. It was hers. I said, "See?" and another Naka-Ima began.

Naka-Ima will take place at Lost Valley Educational Center in Dexter, Oregon, from Friday evening, November, 19th through Monday afternoon November 22nd. Vegetarian meals and dormitory housing are included in the sliding scale price of from $200 to $350. For more information, call Larry or Karin at 541-937-3351, e-mail or check out our website at