The Nesting Process (a.k.a “Russian Dolls”) is a self-help meditation tool used for shadow work — a shamanic practice that is based on the process of recapitulation popularized by Carlos Castaneda as well as the “3-2-1 Process,” found in the book Integral Life Practice by Ken Wilber and Terry Patten. It should not be confused with the “nesting instinct” found in new mothers.
The ideal time of day to run the Nesting Process is immediately after you wake, but before you get out of bed. However, it may be used anytime.
In metaphysical Christianity (most specifically, the New Thought movement), we are told that through meditation and prayer — and through the use of denials and affirmations — we are able to remove false obstacles in our psyche or soul. By clearing the falsely perceived thought or mental structure, we are removing the object that is casting the shadow, and we are, in effect, removing any real or perceived blockage. This method has been known to remove actual physiological blocks, returning blood flow and life force (prana) to arteries and arthritic (or otherwise afflicted) limbs. At the very least, the method allows for light and energy to flow into the unillumined corners of the soul and restore us to a more perfect and harmonious state.
Through centering prayer and shadow process (psychotherapy), we align our gross (physical), subtle (mental/psychic) and causal (non-dual) bodies — also known in Hinduism as the five “Koshas” — like the concentric rings of a tree. They can be visualized as the layers of an onion, or as a wetsuit inside a wetsuit. And as such, when the layers are perfectly nested and in line with each other — with no fabric caught in the zipper or proverbial peas hidden between the mattresses — we have increased mobility, we are flexible and reflexive, we are at ease.
We begin the Nesting Meditation by lying flat on our back, arms outstretched. Visualize the line across your chest (from fingertip to fingertip), as a symbol of all human limitation. Visualize the line from your feet to the top of your head as the poles of a battery. Imagine energy pouring out from the top of your skull, cascading back down toward your feet, and being reabsorbed in an endless cycle.
We initiate the process by saying, “I deny the limitations of this body.”
We declare, “I am not my one-year-old self” – We pause, we allow our birth medicine, our original form when we entered this world to arise in us, and we let it go.
“I am not my two-year-old self” – We pause, we allow any anxiety or separation from our mother to drift away.
“I am not my three-year-old self” – We allow the anger and frustration with our developing language and our environment to dissipate. We continue.
“I am not my four-year-old self” – We let go of any sense of selfishness, entitlement or betrayal. We forgive our parents, we continue.
We take our time, moving through each year of our life — picturing ourselves, loving ourselves, forgiving ourselves — but we don’t linger too long. A few “snapshots” or memories are all that is necessary. There are plenty of opportunities to revisit these memories in future sessions, so when the work is done at each stage, we relax, we exhale and move on.
“I am not my five-year-old self”
“I am not my six-year-old self”
A stronger sense of your own identity will emerge at each level. As you successively deny the power that each of these previous stages may have, take time to see and feel what arises. Remember the house you lived in, the games you played, the friends you had. Remember your school, your teachers. Your dreams.
As you move through the stages of adolescence and young adulthood, we may become distracted by more intense or complicated emotions or caught up in the “story” of what we remember. Simply take a breath, and move on.
“I am not my fifteen year old self.”
Allow yourself to enjoy the memories that come up around your transition into adulthood. Again, forgive yourself and release any sense of regret or loss or missed opportunities, knowing that the Universe unfolds according to divine timing. Again, forgive your family for any harsh words or sense of expectation. Their journey is their own. At each stage, imagine yourself looking your that-aged self in the eye, thanking them, loving them, and sending them on their way.
When you reach your current age, take a deep centering breath and visualize all of your former selves standing in front of you, surrounding you on all sides.
Tell them, “You are all perfect manifestations of God/Spirit. Thank you for being in the right place at the right time. But, I no longer need you, and I no longer give my energy to you.”
Then visualize yourself waving them away as they leave, in all directions.
Take your time coming out of the meditation by taking deep breaths, slowly wiggling your fingers and toes and gently stretching.
End the meditation with an “I Am” affirmation (i.e. “I am ready,” or “I am Spirit-in-Action”).