It’s funny how sometimes things just jump up to make themselves obvious.

Yesterday I share my opinions on what to do when a commenter isn’t hearing your correctly. The conversation that arose was interesting and stimulating about how our commenters can sometimes take us out of context or comment on things we didn’t say. What I didn’t consider was that it extends beyond the comment box as well.

wooden-box.jpgA short time ago I wrote a post that I titled, Are You Thinking Outside The Box. The point of the post was to open the awareness that we really can’t live outside the box. Even if we believe we are, we’re not really. Why? Because there is no such thing as living outside ‘the box.’ It’s a made up idea; a buzz phrase to help us express that we’re thinking differently than everyone else. And that’s fine. But it’s not true.

You see, we live in constructs based in a combination of our experiences and the collective consciousness. Sure, we can challenge our beliefs on something. We can even change our approach to how we do things. But the truth is we can never escape the box. It’s not possible. The best we can do is expand the walls of the one we live in. In other words, build a bigger box.

And that was my point. Not that we should strive to live outside the box. But rather, we should think about how we can expand the one we have.

Controversial, I know. But it’s true. Just think about it for a minute. You may be able to overcome your history, you ideas, and your beliefs. You may even think of new ways to express your gifts and knowledge to the world. But that doesn’t mean you’re living outside a box. It simply means you’re expanding the walls of your box to live in a larger one that can contain more.

That’s what my dear friend Alex Shalman didn’t get when he asked can you handle yourself outside the box.

For me, this is really a moot point. Of course you can’t handle yourself outside the box because there is no outside the box. It’s just not possible to escape all the boundaries of living. If you could come up with a new idea – something revolutionary to the world – you’d still have all the baggage of your life. And if you could let go of all that baggage, you’d still have the collective consciousness for things like the effects of gravity and the solidity of walls. And if you could overcome that, you’d have to expand beyond the confines of the universe…of creation, really. Is this really possible?

It seems Alex chose to focus on my statements of what it feels like to live without boundaries – to live outside a box. That’s fine, and it may be on purpose to create interesting conversation. But I was still misunderstood. See my point?

So I’ve said a lot on this topic. And it is rather deep. But I want to know what you think. And there is no wrong answer – just answers from within a box.

Reader Interactions


  1. Quint says

    I understand what you are saying about thinking outside the box and building a bigger box. But, I think you are making too much of a metaphor. Outside the Box thinking is about pushing past boundaries, often self imposed, to get fresh, creative ideas. It isn’t a perfect metaphor, but it is valuable enough that it has become a social meme, and communicates the concept in a way anyone can grasp.

    Of course, after you think outside of your original box, you end up constructing a new box, but you have transcended the restrictions imposed by the original, smaller box.

    The ultimate box is reality, unless you are a hard-core subjectivist who believes you can fly if you just “think right”. By definition, you can’t exist outside of that box, but again, I am stretching the metaphor.

  2. Dawud Miracle says

    I know I’m stretching the metaphor – and I’m doing so on purpose. And I also know that what people say gives a clue to what they really believe.

    What I want to do is encourage people to look at their own reality and stretch themselves. Metaphors become such because they enter the social consciousness. But when we get comfortable with new ideas, we often become complacent. I’m just suggesting we look a little further.

  3. Liz Strauss says

    Often when we speak or answer with more than one point, people — myself included — launch their response from the spark they find most interesting or related to their own experience. That, of course, can be most tangential to what you or I were orginially speaking about.

    I find I do that most in the comment box. Someone will write me the most interesting comment and one sentence in particular will grab me. I’ll usually agree with the rest, but find myself flying off on that particular sentence . . . I’m wondering how often that makes the commenter think that I’ve misunderstood what he or she has said. hmmmm.

  4. Dawud Miracle says

    You’re right. We often do pickup on a piece of something and respond to that. Yet the person who wrote the post has the perspective of the entire post – not just part. I do it too. Maybe I try too much to lead the conversation sometimes. What’s a blogger to do?

  5. Jean Browman--Cheerful Monk says

    Today Alex has a post on showing respect. The first item was to listen harder. Being a true believer in communication, I wrote this comment:

    “Listen Harder.” How does that relate to Dawud not feeling heard when he’s talking about making our boxes bigger rather than being able to step out of them? I personally like the visual metaphor of stepping out of the box to get some perspective, but Dawud has a point, too. How much time are you willing to spend listening? Is it worth pursuing?

  6. Dawud Miracle says

    It’s not about not being heard at all. Everything we say and do is filtered through our experiences so I don’t ever expect to be heard in some objective manner.

    Everyone’s entitled to their perspectives on stepping out of the box. I merely taking a different approach to the notion. Can we step out of boxes – sure. And we’re stepping right back into another one.

  7. Jean Browman--Cheerful Monk says

    I’m really confused now. In your comment you say “It’s not about not being heard at all.” But in your post you say “But I was still misunderstood.” I thought the point was to try to understand one another. To me trying to understand how another person sees things is one of the best ways of expanding our box/stepping out of our box, whichever metaphor one likes best.

    Anyway, confusion can be great, I guess. 🙂 Even if I don’t understand what you’re trying to say, it’s helping to clarify my own thinking.

  8. Joann Loos says

    I’m not sure you can think outside your own box….. Usually when the phrase is used, it’s by someone who is commenting on your thinking style. It usually refers to you thinking differently than the consensus style.

    Unless we are completely non-curious and static, our personal boxes will always get bigger. We are always incorporating new experiences and ideas into our worldview.

    Changing the consensus box is a much harder task.

  9. Rob Singleton says

    Interesting. I’ve been doing a week long series on “Buzz Words” and ‘out of the box’ is one of the concepts that’s been beat to death but poorly understood by both clergy and lay people.

    I do believe there is such a thing as living outside the box, but agree that how you define it is key.

    For me, it refers to people thinking church can only be done a certain way. They are thinking in a small, confined and very limmitted way and until they break out of that mindset, they will not reach people.

  10. Dawud Miracle says

    I simply see a difference between not being heard and being misunderstood. That’s the interesting thing about communication – we all see things from our own perspective so everything is filtered. No objectivity.

    It is a much bigger task. I’ve found over the years that the only way to change the consensus box is to stretch my own. By me changing I experience the world differently – which makes my relationship to the consensus different, hence changing the consensus box – from my reality.

    Yeah. It’s so interesting to watch how we hang on to our beliefs – even if they’re not serving our better good. We eat poorly and watch our bodies deteriorate or we feel bad when we worship differently than what we ‘should’ be doing. Yet change is inevitable. We can’t stop it. All we can do is fight against it. But it’s still going to happen.

  11. Jean Browman--Cheerful Monk says

    Ah! Thanks. That clears things up. So what would have made you feel heard even if Alex disagreed with you? For me it would have been if he had acknowledged what I was trying to say before he expressed his way of looking at things. Then if he had my view wrong I could clarify it, assuming I cared enough to spend more time on it. At least I would have felt respected and not just used as a jumping off point. This may seem like nitpicking to some, but to me it’s at the heart of good communication. And the reason I keep visiting you is because of your honest effort to inspire good dialog. Thanks.

  12. Carma Dutra says

    I think the metaphor “think outside the box” is a good way to stimulate brain storming.

    But just so you know I did not misunderstand this post I will add that I like your analogy of us living in a box and the box just gets bigger or rather, redesigned. Yes I believe our life (box) has boundaries that we should not cross, like social ones, however what is more interesting is your comment about carrying our baggage with us no matter where we go.

    However, a time may come for some when it is time to dispose of damaged baggage.

    I once saw a box used as an analogy for life. There are two holes in a box. One at the top and one at the bottom. The only way into the box is through the bottom hole.

    Once inside the crowd of people is suffocating and as you travel upwards the crowds become thinner. (I bet you know where I am headed with this.)

    The purpose of entering the box is to get to the top successfully so you can pass on to a better box.

    Great post Dwaud.

  13. Dawud Miracle says

    Not so true for me. I wrote on a specific view on a topic and Alex chose to write about an aspect of my view. That doesn’t mean I don’t felt heard. Rather, I’m more curious what Alex – and others – think of the idea.

    You could say that’s the purpose of life – to successfully and continually build larger boxes for ourselves, don’t you think?

  14. Adam Kayce : Monk At Work says

    Ditto Quint — we’re really stretching the metaphor here. And, I totally agree with the point you’re making.

    There is no spoon.

    I still like the “box” metaphor, because simply invoking it reminds us that we’re thinking in ruts. Doing things in our “usual” way, instead of tapping into our creative potential to find solutions that maybe take us outside our comfort zones.

    It may limit our perceptions from time to time, but I’m okay with that. 😉

  15. Carma Dutra says

    Yes Dawud, building better and stronger boxes is one way to look at having a succesful life. However, boxes can be restrictive.

    Adam, too often our comfort zones deceive us because the word comfort is a good word so it can be difficult to think of a comfort zone as a negative position and a place to get out of.

    Does this mean that we have to be uncomfortable in order to succeed at anything? Should success bring comfort? Maybe the word comfort should not be used too positively.

  16. jane doe says

    My blog is such that I try not to make personal comments but to control the flow of information that is submitted to the blog in the form of posts and comments. I so get your point though. I just want to scream when I see the direction that some of the comments take. So often off tangent. A carelessly disposed of goldfish nearly became a debate against abortion. Arghh!

  17. Chino Yray says

    everyone thinks they live outside the box because they think different.. then they’ll find out, everyone is doing the same thing. Everyone is trying to live outside of the box. I get your point.

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  19. Fred Stopsky says

    It’s always great to see people who are realistic and aware of reality. Over the past year I’ve spent what felt like millions of hours on MySpace building a social network for my business, and during that time I noticed something that seemed to be not so apparent to the almost 200 million users. I realized that almost every profile page and picture was the same. The same camera pose, the same life situations, the same self-proclamation of being different and unique. What made me laugh the most was the people who would lay claim to being “special” and then post a widget about “What celebrity do you most resemble” or “Which character from x are you most like.” These people don’t seem to realize that in their effort to be “different” they are really in fact, the same.

    Thanks for showing me that I’m not alone in my thinking though.

  20. Dawud Miracle says

    Yet the point I’m making is that we can never really get “out of the box.” It’s not that we can’t change, it’s just that we’re never, truly free from boxes in general. But that’s not a bad thing.

    I hear you. And yet my point is that even when we ‘get our of our box’ we’re simply stepping into another one.

    I think the tangents can be interesting…and I support them. And yet, sometimes it’s nice to stay on the topic – especially when it’s juicy.

    Blogging TIps

    Yeah, and…I don’t just see it as everyone doing the same thing. Rather, I wanted to open a conversation around what this phrase really means. Can we really live outside a box? If we’re truly honest with ourselves, we’ll always live in boxes – the boxes of our beliefs, our ideas, our limitations, etc. Heck, just believing we can live outside the box is a box itself.

    Absolutely…the boxes are different. We each relate to things differently. And that changes with society, culture, financial status, etc. That’s one of the things, I think, that makes this such an interesting topic – the unlimited ways that we live in boxes.

    You’re welcome. I think you nail it. It seems everyone is trying to be different. But different from what? Personally, I’d rather be me…really truly be myself. Unfold my own inner truth and live it. Then it doesn’t matter whether I’m different or not. Nor do the boxes matter, because I’m being authentic to myself. That’s what I find important – far more important than being unique. I’m only unique if I am truly myself.

  21. Armannd says

    Want to know why no one ever gets out of the box? Because there is no box… The moment one is regarded by the society as “thinking outside of the box” is the moment in which one starts to THINK (without any boxes attached to it).

    The whole “box” concept is a nothing but completely wrong view of a basic problem.

    Also, I am almost certain that most people have forgotten (if they knew in the first place) the origins of “the box.”

    Nice article by the way. Wrong and with a rather useless message (from my point of view)), but nicely written.


  22. Dawud Miracle says

    I respect your opinion and can understand where you’re coming from. Yet the box I’m speaking of has to do with your own, internal, limiting perceptions.

    Now, I don’t know you…we’ve never met. Yet I would assume that you’re bound by the same beliefs as most of us…you can’t pass through walls, levitate, nor bend your bones like they’re rubber, for instance. Yet, the reason we can’t do these things, according to some spiritualist and quantum physicists is merely because we don’t believe we can. In other words, we’re limited in our perception.

    But from a quantum perspective, matter is mostly empty space. If this is true, why can’t we pass through ‘solid’ objects? Because of perception, right?

    And it’s the boxes of perception that I’m speaking about. Not just about ‘extraordinary’ feats like passing through matter, but much bigger and more complex. Our perceptions and beliefs limit us constantly in what we’re capable of. That’s why I say we can never escape the boxes.

    I have a feeling we’re saying something similar. My approach is just that we can’t move beyond our perceptions. And I’d love to hear more of what you think.

  23. Armannd says

    I agree with you! But why replace “beyond our perception” with “outside of the box”? To me, that seems to be a rather silly and confusing idea… giving a new (pet) name to a concept that already has one. Simple is better, less names are better.

    Even so, the existence of our limiting perceptions exists only relative to everything else, and so limiting perceptions don’t exist as such – so the “box” doesn’t exist either.

    There are some people who managed to get out of their “boxes” completely. They can be found in psychiatric hospitals, insane asylums and similar locations… Not all insane people are “out of the box,” but there are some who are. Yet they can’t fly, walk through walls, or do any “incredible” thing…

    PS: I’m very tired at this moment, sorry if this doesn’t make too much sense.

    PPS: Matter is nothing but the Wave Motion of Space. A Particle is a pointlike effect at the Wave Center. So from a quantum perspective, matter is all empty space – not just mostly.

  24. Laser Hair Removal says

    Thanks Dawud Miracle you have explained the term “live out of your box” so beautifully and so differently.
    I like the way you think different staying in the same box.

  25. Dawud Miracle says

    Great addition to the conversation, thanks.

    I’m as interested in chaos and quantum theory as I am consciousness. I see the intersection of the them as where science meets spirituality. Not religion, but spirituality.

    If you’re still around, I’d love to hear your thoughts?

    Truthfully, it’s all just names. I’ve just gotten tired of hearing people talk about getting out of their box, only to see them never really grow. Getting ‘out of the box’ isn’t just about thought or belief – it’s also about action. And while thoughts lead to action, action often displays our true thoughts.

    How do you do that?

  26. kiz oyunlari says

    Often when we speak or answer with more than one point, people — myself included — launch their response from the spark they find most interesting or related to their own experience. That, of course, can be most tangential to what you or I were orginially speaking about.

  27. Dawud Miracle says

    So true.

    I would normally edit such a comment that’s just promoting products and not adding to the conversation. But I really like what you guys are offering so I’ll leave this one.


  1. […] As if that weren’t enough, it became even more interesting when Dawud responded by re-framing the topic with this explanation of why you’ll never get out of the box. […]

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