Thinking Outside the Box

Such an oft-used term, isn't it? Almost a cliche'.

'Thinking outside of the box' is a metaphor intended to be descriptive of the creative process... to discover new solutions for familiar problems by tossing out the 'same ol' same ol', and abandoning unproductive paradigms.

And what is a paradigm? A perspective and way of thinking so overarching as to be invisible and unquestioned. The idea of challenging paradigms can feel as scary as taking oneself off life-support.

Continuing with the box metaphor, paradigms can come in many sizes.

They may be giant freight containers.. encompassing entire cultures, or shoe boxes small enough to contain a family, a couple or an individual. What's most remarkable about these boxes is the flimsy material from which they're fabricated, but our experience of them is that of plexiglass. Invisible, yet unbreakable. They are stories (and often assumptions) about "the way things are". We may not even notice a paradigm until it is challenged.

What does this have to do with bodywork? (Always the question, isn't it? Where is she GOING with this?" Bear with me..)

I see a parallel between limited paradigms that don't serve us, and a limited range of physical expression. Paradigms are the stories about "the way things are". And our bodies are the storytellers. We come into this world with full range of motion and expression... and over time, the stories, with their accompanying limitations, pile onto us, like layers of clothing. Some asked-for, many not. Life goes on and there may come a time (if we're lucky) when we wonder, who am I? under this cumbersome wardrobe. Our bodies have taken the shape of what we've molded ourselves to be.. to find happiness, to maintain a relationship, to self-protect, to feel worthy, to care for others... and often, we start to buckle under all that weight.

Again, if we're lucky, the inkling of a suspicion comes forth about a potential key to our happiness. This inkling glows and grows, makes us giddy with joy.. begins to take on a life of its own, and then.. WHAM!...comes smack up against the constraints of the box. Paradigms of the Way Things Are, or Should Be, or Have Always Been (often labeled as 'reality') fill us with feelings of doubt and shame, and guilt... and 'what the hell was I thinking?'  -- and back into the cramped box goes that little spark of joy (otherwise known as 'who you really are').. to either die a sad and lonely death, or to continue to find a way to express itself, in ways that may not always be very healthy to self and others.

I've seen it, and I've felt it, in my clients and in myself.

Like I said, challenging paradigms can feel life-threatening. Challenging a limited range of motion can feel painful and destabilizing. We get very, very used to stuff. Even if we're miserable.

But here's the thing. What if, even for the briefest of moments, we were to stop ourselves in the process of stuffing our deepest desires underneath the layers of our beliefs about 'How We Should Be", and in that moment asked, "Whose story is this? Why do I believe what I believe about this? And is it really true? Whose clothes ARE these?" It is in that moment of questioning that utter miracles happen.  Even if we choose to keep those clothes on.. keep our beliefs and our paradigms (because we gotta have something to go on!).. even still, just the recognition of a CHOICE creates space, room to breathe...room to move and get unstuck from a very cramped and uncomfortable position. Energy, momentum, and possibility flow in. Being able to touch one's toes after years of experiencing pain in the attempt is motivating and encouraging.

So, what is it? What is that 'reality' that boxes you in, and keeps you from stepping into your joy? Here's another thing. Paradigms aren't real. They exist only in our perception. Does that make it a little easier?