How To Survive The Box

We do not live to think, but, on the contrary, we think in order that we may succeed in surviving.
-Jose Ortega y Gasset


Boxes come in many shapes and sizes.

Your closet is probably filled with an overabundance of boxes that need to be trashed.

People love their boxes: televisions sets, cubicles, computer monitors, tiny box-shaped iPod nanos, shoe-box sized beliefs, their Honda Elements, cramped condos on top of cramped condos, the never-ending bookshelf, and the treadmill.

In some form or another, these are all varieties of the “box.”

What is the box?

The box is a small, cramped, crowded, and confined space.

The box is routine.

It makes us feel secure and safe. We believe the box protects us, it doesn’t.

The box can be a room, an office, a desk, or even the car you sit in, every day, stuck in 5 o’clock traffic.

At first you might love this box, but in the end you will come to hate it.

The box is a guarantee, a warranty, a set of guidelines for how to live our life.

How did I get in the box?

Putting ourselves in boxes is natural, an old survival technique. In the beginning, our ancestors had to create boxes in order to protect themselves from the elements: harsh weather, ferocious animals, disease, and rogue tribes.

The box was created to protect us. The “box” is an ancient survival technique, a tool we have outgrown.

We need a new approach to living well that doesn’t revolve around the box. Before we can understand the limitations of our boxes, we need to learn how we got into our little boxes in the first place.

Of course, we have always been fascinated by other people’s boxes, especially if they are bigger and better than our own.

It’s easy for a fancy box to catch our eye.

From an early age, boxes have convinced us that we need them. Our parents teach us about the glories of living in a box, working in a boxing, and thinking inside the box. Television advertises bigger and better boxes, our friends get cooler boxes, our neighbors brag about their boxes, and the whole while we are still trying to figure out what the hell a box is. Eventually, we start believing all the whispers in our head that say the box is good and then, we create our own.

Did anything else influence me?

Sure. You listened to other people’s ideas. You copied them.

You do what they do, you think what they think.

We have become mimics. If this part is bothering you, then it’s true. You are living in the box.

But, there is a way out of your little box.

Is it possible to survive in a box?

Of course, people do it every day.

Boxes make us miserable.

The fear of leaving it keeps us in.

The jealousy of another’s box makes our cardboard walls seem smaller.

We are the fully-grown German Shepard that is still scared of the nasty cat that clawed it when it was a puppy. Even though we can devour that same cat in one bite, we still believe we can’t.

Anything else I should keep in mind?

The box always comes, again and again, in some form or another.

The box restricts, restrains, and restructures our life. It limits us from our true potential. Churches, books, gyms, schools, and jobs can all represent different types of boxes that we put ourselves in if we are not careful.

When dealing with boxes, we must remember that:

We do not need to be limited to our views, but rather we should develop broader approaches to problem-solving.

We do not need others to give us all the answers to that which we seek, but instead we should start listening and creating our own solutions.

We do not need to feel insecure, insignificant, and indifferent anymore. Life should make us feel exactly the opposite.

We cannot do everything on our own, we must learn to admit that we need help. Others can help us out of our boxes, if we allow them.

In 2010, I was trapped in one of my own boxes. I was working myself to a short death of unhappiness and paid slavery. Believe it or not, I was not sitting at a desk all day hating my life or surfing the web. I was running a $4 million restaurant, working 60 hours/week and it was killing me slowly. The first year and a half was filled with great joy and challenges, but like all boxes, I soon became bored with my role and wanted a new one, a bigger one, something more challenging. I wanted to live. To do this, I had to find the courage to quit my job, start anew with a fresh pair of eyes, ears, and heart, and find a better box.

Even better boxes have their challenges.

For the past10 months, I have been living in a tiny apartment with another person. This is the smallest place I have ever lived and confined myself to. Towards the end, it became an almost unbearable challenge, one that taught me a lot in the process. In such a small space, the walls of the box become extremely visible and can feel threatening to our aliveness. The pains of progress are natural and teach us plenty about the wisdom of life if we pay attention to them.

Sometimes, we can afford to find new boxes. Other times we are given new ones. During my recent transition from southern Thailand to northern Thailand, I was lucky enough to find two new boxes, two new solutions to my problems: a new job and a new apartment. I used the processes below to help guide me along my journey. So far, they have never let me down.

Breaking down our boxes requires strict self-discipline, hard work, and a realistic dream.

Until you are ready to break out of your box, whatever it may be, here’s how to survive.

How To Survive The Box

In order to survive in the box you are in, it is essential to re-condition yourself with some new habits.

Here are a few:


Calm down, breathe, relax, and let it (your stresses, problems, and worries) go.

Patience is a weakness of mine, a rather significant one at that. Each day, I try to be aware of my actions meaning I try to be present in what I am doing. I have a tendency to rush through one thing in order to reach the next. Patience helps me focus only on the task at hand. When I complete it, I can focus on the next item on my list of things to do. Nowhere is this more prevalent and challenging than in my writing. I am constantly bombarded with new ideas that I want to research and write about. There is so much I want to share with the world, but it must wait until I finish whatever I am working on. Being patient keeps me sane. Being patient helps me accept the box I am in.

Nobody was lying when they said patience is a virtue. We all must understand that before we can break out of boxes, we must learn to be comfortable with the discomforts of where we are. It is important to understand that we put ourselves here and we must deal with the consequences.

2. Long-term mentality

Boxes create limits that confine us. Inside of these boxes, we define ourselves and who we are. We look around at others and their marvelous boxes. It is easy to envy another’s Audi R8, their mansion on the beach, or 60” organic LED. When we compare ourselves to others fame and fortune we miss the essence of their true achievement: these people that we compare ourselves to have worked extremely hard to build their wealth and upgrade to better boxes. It is lazy and foolish to judge their wealth and say, “That is what I want. When I have THAT I will be happy.” This couldn’t be farther from the truth. If we want to survive our boxes, we must learn to accept the comfortable and uncomfortable challenges ahead of us. When we focus of the rewards of work, we fail to recognize the actual work involved in the process, the pains of progress, the effort that must be put in, turned and twisted, grunting as it is pulled out of the depths of us. Only then, when we have given our all, can we reap the rewards of our labor. It is essential for us to develop a long-term mentality. This is a mentality that understands and accepts the work, effort, and resistance that comes prior to receiving reward. The short-term mentality settles with shortcuts. Long-term doesn’t believe in cutting life short.

3. Balance

Balance is crucial to survive in a box.

Space and time are limited in your box. It is only after you escape it that you will see their true reality, your own potential: limitless and free.

Balance can help us recognize this strange paradox that lies before us. We will have good days and bad ones.

Balance brings us to the middle path, a walk of peace that lies between the oscillations of each day. Maintaining a balanced perspective can help us see both sides of any situation. By making a commitment to being balanced, we can break the routines of our boxes. Then, only then, can we break out of our boxes and build better ones.

4. Meditation

After realizing the confines of our boxes (our limited-boxed beliefs, our debts, and our judgments), meditation will further our cause. If you have yet to realize the restrictions you have confined yourself to, meditation will help bring you the awareness you need.

Even in a complex box, meditation is simple.

Even in a complicated marriage or a dysfunctional family, meditation is easy and works wonders.

It is free assurance instead of paid insurance.

Meditation tells us that our boxes are okay. It teaches us to accept where we are, realize we are okay, and learn that right now is perfect (even in our tiny, confined boxes and any form they take.)

Meditation will lead us to the final stage of this process: self-realization.

5. Determination

Don’t give up, ever.

Determination is a key attribute we must develop to complete each of the habits above.

Our patience demands persistence. Committing to a long-term mentality requires courage, guts, and faith. Balance and consistency go hand in hand, together they create each other. Meditation requires significant will-power, a power of will that will help you survive and eventually escape the confines of any box.

Determination is a commitment, a marriage of patience, the strength of balance, the seal of long-term mentality, and the poise of meditation.

When are determined to beat the box, we will.

All of these attributes will leads us to victory.

Victory? Over what?

Do you really understand what the “box” represents?

6. Realization

Self-realization is recognizing there is no box. There never was. Stop trying to define it.

You are your worst enemy.

The box is and always has been merely a symbol, a replacement, an excuse, an out.

It’s time to take responsibility for your actions.

Our determination and the development of each of the habits above will lead us to realization.

Eventually, if the aforementioned habits are polished with enough vigor, enthusiasm, and belief, we will realize the true limits of our supposed box.

The true realization is that there is no box, no boundaries restrict you. Everything you have been looking for has been there the entire time: waiting patiently for you to recognize it. By realizing that there is no box, our limitations, the walls we built in front of ourselves, crumble before our eyes. When the final mental brick falls, we realize our true potential: an untapped well that is far from being crowded, tiny, or cramped. In truth, it flows like an endless fountain that overflows any box trying to contain it.

Stop trying to contain your life and embrace it.

To really survive, we must escape ourselves.

About Stephan Stansfield

Stephan is the owner, creator, and editor of Peregrine Poise.
He is currently traveling and teaching around the world. When he is not helping others discover their true potential, he finds time to surf, read, and reflect on the important issues of living a good life.


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