Traditional Russian nested dolls stack one inside another. The only distinguishing feature of each doll is its size. The beautiful thing about nested dolls it that the size of each doll is just what it needs to be to keep the whole doll intact. If one doll is missing, the whole thing will rattle around and if you put them in the wrong order the whole thing will topple over. The nested doll is a profound metaphor for the spiritual journey of growth and connections. Life has its own beautiful connectedness. The universe is a nested whole, and each individual is a nested whole within a universe of parts.
Body, mind and spirit work together like stacked dolls to create a healthy and whole person. They want to be in harmony. They are like triplets separated at birth, longing to be reunited. If you spend all your time building your body, you could be neglecting your spirit. If you spend all your time learning pieces of knowledge and don’t allow time for being, you could be neglecting your body and spirit. When you unite mind, body and spirit, your mind is clear, your body is strong and your spirit soars as every nerve and cell in your being orients and cooperates towards this end.
The dolls are also a beautiful analogy for the different parts of your “self”. A rotund Russian doll was lying on a therapist’s couch, saying to her counselor, “I get the feeling there are lots of little “mes” inside me just trying to bust out. Am I going crazy doc?” There are parts of each of us that we are still getting to know and appreciate. Maybe it’s the adventurous side of a cautious person or the creative side of a logical person. You’re not going crazy. You’re just learning to express the full genius of your humanity. Don’t resist.
All the parts of your humanity, even the seeming contradictions, are important. Just don’t imagine that any of them could ever fully define you. As you uncover the outer layers of the self with awareness, you get closer and closer to your essence as a seed of divine potential. The deeper into the nested selves you delve, the less striving and pretending there is. When you drop the need to measure up to society’s standards, a new layer is revealed. When you drop your assumptions about what you can and can’t do because of the past or your genetics or whatever excuse you come up with, a new layer is revealed. When you drop the attachment to your ideas of how the future will play out, a new layer is revealed.
There is a place beyond the surface noise that is peaceful and calm as it has nothing to prove and nothing to fear. You could say that this inner doll is God, or Ultimate Reality, or Ground of Being or Divine Abundance or pure awareness, or I am, or whatever language you use to describe stillness that has nothing to protect or defend. It just is, and is completely at one with all that arises. You know what I’m talking about, because you have experienced it, even if only for brief moments.
The analogy of the nested dolls offers an antidote to much of the drama that divides us, within and without. The great philosopher Carl Jung said, “Whatever is rejected from the self appears in the world as an event.” Jung’s last years of life where lived in the shadow of the Cold War. He spoke about unresolved inner drama playing out as conflict between the “West” and the “Communist Bloc”. Is the same shadow boxing taking place now between America and the Muslim world? Is there an inner restlessness that is disowned in the west and being projected out onto Islam? A small number of terrorists have provided an excuse to blame all Muslims for our global restlessness.
The question of whether an Islamic Center should be built near Ground Zero cuts to the heart of whether we truly accept our inner shadows and our connection to each other. Muslims didn’t attack America on 9/11, terrorists did. A small group of fanatics twisted Islam to fit their agenda the same way Hitler twisted Christianity to suit his agenda.
An Islamic center run in the true spirit of Islam would be an asset to downtown Manhattan. It would help to bring healing to a fragile neighborhood. It would increase understanding of a religion that seems obscure and foreign to many westerners. Hopefully there will be some self awareness about the resistance to the Islamic center that will heal the disowned shadow.
Then again, imagine a center on or near ground zero that crosses the boundaries that divide people along religious and political boundaries; a space that mimics the nested dolls. Imagine the healing that could take place with a space that combines a Muslim prayer room, a Christian gathering room, a Zen meditation space, a New Thought reading room and more. Each part of the space would build on the rest. The foundation of the whole thing would be a welcome entry space that includes and transcends all else that takes place. It would remind everyone that we are intimately related beyond the differences and ultimately working in the common cause of a more peaceful world.
You can now buy Democratic nested dolls. Obama is on the outside, then Clinton inside him, then Carter, Johnson and Kennedy in the centre. Not that Kennedy is God of course, but it is certainly true that each leader builds on their predecessors. In fact you could create a nested doll with each of the political leaders from all parties nested inside of each other. The evolution of party politics is interrelated. Parties are more related than we realize just as religions are more related than we admit.
Beyond all the shadows and fears, we are all one. Beyond the divisions and language barriers lies The One. It is the divine essence of all things. You know deep down in places you can barely remember that you are destined to live in divine essence. It is calling you to live in relationship to all people. Come back to it now. It will transform your life and it will begin to heal the world.
As the poet Rumi said, “Your task is not to seek love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”