Participant Reflections

Michelle Vesser, a long time participant, assistant and Naka-Ima producer, writes…

“I hope that what I have written below can help give you some insight into Naka-Ima. Each time I am involved the work infuses more deeply into my daily life.  Naka-Ima, which is Japanese for “Inside of Now”, is based on Buddhist philosophy.   The weekend is rooted in a practice of honesty, however, instead sitting on a cushion and being with yourself in the moment with your thoughts, feelings, attachments, and body sensations, we do this practice in an interactive way with the group.   Many people’s first reaction is a slight feeling of fear about being exposed or feeling discomfort about showing emotions in groups.  It is true, that edge is there, although however great the edge is, your breakthrough is 10 fold.   By the end of the first day, this discomfort most often turns into an incredible amount of love, respect, and admiration for everyone participating.  I have never experienced the ability to build community and deep lasting friendships in such a short amount of time.  The whole weekend is focused on the practice of honesty with yourself and others; a caring, heart-felt honesty.

One of the main experiences of the week-end, is that each participant stands on “The Platform.”  This is an exercise where you stand in front of the group, witnessed by everyone and unveil yourself through a conversation with Deborah.  Deborah Riverbend, Naka-Ima’s amazing, experienced facilitator, guides everyone with great skill and unconditional love.  She assists you to experience in your body what you are feeling in that moment, what you are wanting or not wanting, that is, what you are attached to.  I have witnessed so many people have profound experiences of letting go.  Letting go is primarily done through the aid of a very simple breath in which one focuses on the exhale.  When you let go, you genuinely feel the shifts in your body in your own unique way.  When you experience this, what emerges is your true essential self.  That is what I feel the weekend is about, the birthing and re-emerging of your essential self, free from the attachments that hold you back.

During the weekend we work in triads with other participants using the tools we are learning in Naka-Ima and any other tools one brings from their life experience.  We help support one another to see the attachments and the stories we have woven around these attachments that are holding us back.  We see that we have a choice at any moment to let go and allow our essential selves to come forth.  We also share meals together, take time for movement, and sharing of our experiences.

This practice of honesty with myself and looking at my attachments has been a tremendous gift.  Having the tools to look at what I am wanting or not wanting has allowed me to truly let go of some deep rooted issues in my life; being terrified of being in front of groups (my initial work in Naka-Ima) and an ancestral belief in persecution and being discounted.  I have found that I can do this work on my own (going onto the platform in my mind) or by calling on someone who has participated in a Naka-Ima week-end.  When I came to Naka Ima I was afraid of being in front of groups, I now have been teaching workshops since 2005 and have officiated
three weddings.

Naka-Ima has also been a profound gift in my relationship.  Barry, my partner, and I had been married for 14 years when we participated in Naka-Ima.  He was reluctant because his idea had always been “I am not in touch with my emotions” and that “you are more comfortable with emotion processing- I am not good at it.”   He also did not like the idea of being seen.  Being a Zen practitioner for over 20 years, he did connect with Naka-Ima’s Buddhist origins.  So, in spite of his apprehensions, he went with an open heart and mind that week-end.  His platform was filled with incredible breakthroughs. He laughed, cried, and deeply experienced his feelings. He felt this old fear in his gut, but also the larger power of love emanating from him, which helped him push through the fear of intimacy that he had been experiencing. On the second day after participating in a triad, and being amazed by what he felt he was contributing to others, he went up to Deborah and told her how much fun he was having.  He was able to see that spiritual practice and emotional process were one and the same.  Our lives have never been more honest, open and loving.  All the stories that we carried for so long, simply went away.  We now both assist, whenever possible, because Naka-Ima continues to bring so much into our lives.”

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