Practices From the Inside Out: We Practice Living Outside the Box

Practices From the Inside Out: We Practice Living Outside the Box November 20, 2019

We Practice Living Outside the Box

I talk with quite a few different people.

Men and women who come from various places and backgrounds and who are at widely varied  points in their lives. We talk about many different questions and subjects.

One thing almost all of these people share is a sense about their lives.

Many of the people I talk to are thoughtful and intentional. They have considered what they want from life and set out on a course of action. Most of them have accomplished their goals and done what they intended to do. Often, they work with me because they sense their plans have not taken them where they wanted to go.

We get to a point where we realize we are missing something. When we have achieved what we set out to do but feel our experience is not what we expected it would be. Some of us are not living the life we believed our plan would give us.

People feel boxed in and talk to me to try to find a way out.

I appreciate how they feel.

Many of us have been in boxes we built ourselves. We try to sort out why our lives are not what we expected, where we went wrong, whether there is a way out.

My experience is there is a way out. I have found it helpful to pull apart the boxes I have worked hard to build and understand how and why I built them. My experience is there is hope. It is not complicated, but it can be challenging. My experience is it takes time and effort, and it is worth it.

Many of us find it intimidating and confusing to live outside the box.

Who will protect us when we practice living outside the box?

When We Live Outside the Box

We often feel safe and secure when we live inside a box we have built for ourselves.

Our boxes seem sturdy and strong from the inside. We trust our box to keep people out and protect us.

Some of us believe the boxes we build contain sacred space. For some reason it is popular to try to hold spiritual life in a box. We like to think we can box ourselves in with spiritual life and let the rest of the world take care of itself.

It is a challenge for us to get the whole picture when we live inside our own boxes. We cannot see what our box looks like from outside and we cannot experience other boxes.

Our own box may have some serious weaknesses we cannot appreciate from the inside. The seams could be splitting and the walls might not be as stable as we think they are.

There may be amazing experiences we cannot share outside the box. Our boxes limit us and hold us in, keeping us from exploring and discovering.

When we open our box and step outside we often find people and things which change us.

We need to live outside the box if we want to continue growing.

Each of the boxes I have built for myself has become confining. Sometimes I outgrew the boxes I had built and other times the walls of the boxes fell down.

Stepping outside I found friends who helped me see living in a box was not for me. I experienced the freedom and responsibility which come from living outside the box.

When we step outside we can stretch our legs and our arms, feeling the freedom.

We experience spiritual life in the world around us as well as within us.

Taking a Step Outside the Box

We are not meant to spend our lives hiding inside boxes. Our lives are gifts which are designed to be taken out of the boxes we build and put to use.

I believe when people describe their spiritual quest or their spiritual journey they are talking about getting outside their boxes.

Some people believe spiritual life is about putting people into categories and boxes. I have seen that cause serious damage and injuries. It takes people a lot of work to step outside those boxes and begin living into spiritual life.

We have become accustomed to wrapping ourselves in boxes. It requires strength and courage for us to take our first step outside the box.

I believe our curiosity and our questions are significant tools for opening our boxes. Our wondering and asking questions are often our first steps outside the particular boxes we have built for ourselves.

Stepping outside the box is often the next step we take into spiritual life. We step over obstacles and past restrictions into the new life which is waiting for us.

It is not easy to anticipate or predict where we will go once we step outside our boxes.

Leaving Our Box Behind

It can be a challenge for us to leave our boxes behind.

Our minds take comfort in the structure and apparent protection of boxes. Many of us begin building a new box almost as soon as we leave the old one behind.

Spiritual life is about living without boxes. When we step outside the confining walls of our boxes we find the world is filled with sacred space.

Leaving our boxes behind is an ongoing part of our practice of living outside the box. We learn to pay attention to what we are doing and stop building boxes in the middle of the project.

When we take time to stop, listen, and take a deep breath we relax into living outside the box.

It is only when we step outside and explore life outside the box we can see our boxes clearly. They are not the sturdy, strong protection we thought they were from inside. From outside we can appreciate where they are most flimsy.

Real life waits for us outside the box.

Where will stepping outside our box lead us to go today?

What box will we leave behind this week?

[Image by tew]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is and his email address is

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