I’ve heard this put simply and succinctly: “It is impossible to think outside the box, because thinking itself is the box.” That’s one crucial thing to understand on a journey of transformation. I define transformation as going beyond (trans-) the form… aka the box of who we think we are.
We can’t really think our way of this predicament, because no matter how “positively” we think, we are still inside that box, which causes us a lot of suffering. Tempests in the thinkbox wreck much havoc.
But we can learn to:
1) appreciate that we are not our thoughts;
2) understand that our thoughts are not facts;
3) invite different perspectives and points of view, so that our box becomes more spacious and we don’t get stuck in a little corner, feeling lousy.
I am not my thoughts.
Say it to yourself, out loud or in your mind. Following a Native American tradition, say it 3 times—once for each ear, and once for the heart.
How does that land? What reactions does that elicit? (share in the Comments!)
Now, let’s do the same with the following statement:
Thoughts are not facts.
How does this resonate with you? (Again, I welcome your comments).
Inviting different perspectives.
In a Native American tradition, the person brining a grievance to the Council had to come up with 6 alternative views, or explanations, of the situation. Six alternative views. As you can imagine, there was no backlog of grievances to settle. Most were settled through powerful inner work.
Give this a go in your life. Of course, coming up with 6 alternative explanations when you feel hurt in the moment is an onerous task. But here’s a shortcut I once learned, and it has changed my life. Are you ready?
When you find yourself upset, wrapped up tightly in the thoughts that are perpetuating your suffering…
(The flavor of the thoughts depends more on your interpretive propensities than on the situation. Your propensity may be to go the self-righteous route, along the lines of you are right and they (he/she) are wrong, or the route of self-blame, about how you are a loser and will never succeed, or take a fatalistic angle—the deck is stacked against me, this is just my luck…)
So, when you find yourself upset, wrapped up tightly in the thoughts that are perpetuating your suffering, ask yourself one question: “Are you sure?” Are you sure that your explanation of the situation, filtered through your interpretive propensities, is 100% true? The answer is always “NO.”
And this is where your perspective expands. You’ve not out of the box, but your box becomes more spacious and you’re no longer stuck in a little corner, feeling lousy.
(A helpful hint: If your answer to the question “Are you sure?” is “YES,” call 911, you are having a psychotic episode.)
Thank you for visiting and practicing with me. I hope you found these liberating strategies useful.