Living In A Box?

Things are changing. One of the big changes in the works is the breaking down of labels, categories, pigeon holes, and boxes for human beings and the things we create. Even assumptions about boxes as basic as gender and race no longer hold true, as the lines between them blur and fade.

These boxes come from cultural beliefs we’ve assumed to be valid, and have based our lives around. Here’s one example of a cultural belief: “I’ll be happy if I get good grades, go to college, get a good job, get married, and have 2.5 children”.

Perhaps labels are not as important as they used to be.

For a time that belief that had some basis in truth. It helped shape a way of life that our culture needed to explore, in order to learn certain things about creativity, freedom, and other facets of human nature. Life is a learning experience, both individually and collectively, and we try on different beliefs to learn what works and what doesn’t. But the belief that you should live your life according to a pre-determined formula has served its purpose, and we’ve moved on.

Remember the film, Harold and Maude? It was a story about a sad young man who didn’t fit into the prevailing box of cultural beliefs. One of the songs in the sound track was written by a recording artist named Cat Stevens:

Well, if you want to sing out, sing out
And if you want to be free, be free
cause there’s a million things to be
You know that there are

And if you want to live high, live high
And if you want to live low, live low
cause there’s a million ways to go
You know that there are

— Cat Stevens, from the song You Can Do What You Want

By the way, that’s one musician who lives by his words, and isn’t confined by cultural boxes. At the height of his career, when conventional wisdom suggested he keep making records to capitalize on his success, he converted to Islam, changed his name to Yusuf Islam, and devoted his life to service! Now he’s making music again, going simply by the name, “Yusuf”.

But back to the belief box. What happens when one of your beliefs is exposed as invalid? At first it’s disconcerting. You’ve relied upon that belief, taken it for granted, built other beliefs upon it, based your decisions on it, even invested your money in it. You’ve been leaning on that belief, so when it falls, you’re apt to go off balance temporarily. But once you realize you can stand without it, you begin to discover a lot more freedom. As the song says, “You can do what you want”!

But what do you want to do, really? Perhaps if you’ve been living in a box, you’re not used to knowing how to find out what’s possible, or take “risky” new steps. Fortunately, you already have the ideal equipment within you to solve that problem. It’s your heart. Learning to listen to your heart is part of the transition from relying on fixed beliefs to living in greater freedom. The transition process does take time, patience, and practice. But the good news is, we’re all moving in that direction together anyhow, and support is all around us. To help remind myself of that concept I wrote my own song about it:

I’m living in a box with a hole in the top
My soul at the bottom and oh!
I forgot about the hole in the top
Can’t forget to stop stopping up the hole

— Max Highstein, from the song Living In A Box

In one way or another, everyone is living in the box of their current set of beliefs and limitations. And everyone is in the process of discovering greater freedom, a higher path — a bigger box, if you will. By taking an active role in opening to inspiration, insight, and higher guidance (listening to your heart), we can speed up the process.

Asking for help and listening is important, and so is letting go. The more willing we are to let go of the past, including our limiting beliefs, boxes, and patterns, the more help and support is available from within, above, and all around us. However you go about asking for help is fine. Just let go, ask, and listen. Pretty soon you’ll be living out of the box!

Sample of “Living in A Box” song by Max Highstein.