A few years ago a friend of mine, Jay, and I were putting together a talk about some ‘spiritual laws of life’. In order to do the talk well, we decided we should experience at least one of the laws we would talk about very consciously by working with them inwardly. Both of us chose two laws and began doing the work. My two spiritual laws were the ‘law of imperfection’, and the ‘law of progressive continuation’. Both of these principles were in harmony with one another because both imply there is always another step to take—which can be frustrating in one way, but so freeing in another.
Of course we all want a rest, but that rest is always up to us. Let’s say I’ve climbed this mountain, and I’m sitting on the peak to enjoy the accomplishment and the view—literally and metaphorically. Though I’ve never climbed mountains, my brother does, and I’ve read his stories. The reality is, one can’t sit on the peak for too long—the lack of oxygen, weather moving in, or the need to get off that peak to move on to the next one propels your journey onward.
My grandmother used to say to me that she’d never been bored a day in her life, and she said that almost to the day she passed away. The first time I heard her say that, I decided I would never be bored either. However, I’ve always felt that a constant striving for something better also becomes boring. It can become a sense of restlessness without contentment, without loving the moment of accomplishment. If I’m always looking outward, then I’m not developing inwardly, and that’s where the real relationship with life begins.
With this workshop, Jay and I wanted to each share a personal statement that came from our deep understanding of the spiritual laws we had been working with. My friend’s statement was that, “Each doorway brings me into a higher state of consciousness.” I, on the other hand, wasn’t getting anything that excited me, though I could hear the excitement in Jay’s voice over his phrase. It made life sing for him.
How the image of a box came to mind I really don’t remember. I thought about the phrase ‘thinking outside of the box’ as being relevant to the laws of imperfection and progressive continuation, but that phrase bothered me. Somehow it was still a form of containment. Then I realized that what I was aiming for had nothing to do with thinking. It had everything to do with being, which can only be experienced inwardly by the individual, so that even writing about it takes away from the sensation.
Jay and I talked about my dilemma over the phone, and he said he knew without a doubt that I would find the right phrase. I hung up with huge doubts, and walked into another room. In that moment I said, “There is no box,” and with those words my world changed. I actually felt everything line up for me inwardly and suddenly I was standing at the edge of a new world filled with brilliant light and a sound current that I cannot describe. I knew I had found the right phrase. Where else this phrase would take me I didn’t know, but I was ready for the adventure.
I did a great deal of work with that phrase, “There is no box”. I created workshop exercises around it, and I took it into a daily contemplation. Where it took me initially was turning a talk into a workshop, and with my personal experience and Jay’s we were able to work with other people, helping them to develop their own personal phrase that came from deeply contemplating upon spiritual laws they chose to work with. After doing the workshop three times in Colorado, we were invited to Australia to share it there too, and we received many compliments on how this workshop helped people to move forward in their own quest to take another step.
What I love most about this story is that ever so often someone will come up to me now and say, “There is no box!” Usually it’s when I’ve boxed myself in with fear, and doubt, or an image of what I think something should be rather than what it can be. Having no box takes away limitations and brings nothing but possibilities.
Denise Naughton is an author, a public speaker, and an ABD Ph.D. Candidate at Union College. She is completing her dissertation on Jungian archetypes related to stock characters in Australian film.