Practices From the Inside Out: Spiritual Life Outside the Box

Practices From the Inside Out: Spiritual Life Outside the Box April 20, 2021

Practices From the Inside Out: Spiritual Life Outside the Box

Spiritual Life Outside the Box

Many of us seem focused on making sure spiritual life never escapes, never gets outside the box.

We see spiritual life as separate and distinct from the rest of our lives. There is apparently a particular time and a specific place for spiritual life. Our work life, family life, and all the other parts of our lives are distinct from spiritual life. We experience our political life, including how we treat other people, as different from spiritual life.

Some of us seem to believe we need to protect spiritual life from the other parts of our lives. It is as if we need to put spiritual life in its own box and seal it shut from how we live at work or at home.

The past year has taught us significant lessons about spiritual life outside the box. Many of us have experienced worshiping and fellowship at home without changing boxes. We have begun to recognize how spiritual life can connect the various categories into which we sort our lives.

Many of us are beginning to appreciate we cannot keep spiritual life in its own box. Our lives run together and the boxes we see separating them melt away.

Spiritual life does not want to be isolated in its own separate box, even if it is an ornate one. It wants to mix and mingle with all the parts of our lives and bring us into wholeness. Spiritual life is not interested in being packed away and stored on its own.

Like spiritual life, we begin to feel boxed in and closed off and we start to feel we are missing something. We have sorted our lives into beautiful boxes, boxes we have crafted with our own hands.

What happens when we clear away all the boxes?

Life Outside the Box

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

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

Some of us believe the boxes we build hold sacred space. For some reason we 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 do not experience other boxes.

Our own boxes may have some serious weaknesses we cannot appreciate on 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 outside our boxes which we cannot share. Our boxes limit us and hold us in, keeping us from exploring and discovering and experiencing.

When we open our boxes 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 we build for ourselves become confining. Sometimes we outgrew the boxes we have built and other times the walls of the boxes fall down.

Stepping outside we find new friends who help us see the limitations of living in our boxes. We begin to experience 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.

Our First Steps Outside the Box

Some of us have started taking our first steps outside our boxes during the past year. While we were staying in our own boxes we began to realize our lives cannot be sorted into separate compartments.

Our work box and our home box and our spiritual life box all blended together. Many of us came to appreciate how technological windows in our boxes allow us to connect what we had separated.

Some of us believe spiritual life is about sorting people into categories and boxes, which can cause serious injuries. It takes many of us a lot of work to step outside those boxes and begin living into spiritual life.

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 boxes we have built for ourselves.

Stepping outside the box is often our next step into spiritual life. We begin stepping over obstacles and past restrictions into 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. There are no boxes to hold us.

Living Outside the Box

It can be a challenge for us to live outside the box.

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 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.

Our lives are not an ongoing contest to see who will have the largest or the best boxes.

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 our journey.

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.

Spiritual life waits for us outside the box and we open ourselves to it.

What will stepping outside the box help us explore today?

Where will we find spiritual life outside the box this week?

[Image by Creativity103]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual director in Southern California. He is a recovering assistant district attorney and associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is and his email address is

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