THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX Feeling trapped again?

A ccording to JON KABAT-ZINN, PH.D., founder of the first U.S. stress clinic, when you open your heart and stay in the moment, you’ll see that anything is possible.

C an you connect the nine dots on this page with four straight lines..........

without lifting your pen (or pencil) or retracing any line. This simple test is given routinely to most of his patients and most of them are quite frustrated by it.

Outside the box thinking


 As I demonstrate the answer, patients usually gasp when I extend the line past the bottom dot (for solution, see bottom of page) To me, that is the real sound of the mind opening. That’s when patients realize, Oh yeah, no one said you had to stay within the dots; I’m the one who made the square the limit.

That revelation is key, because if we set boundaries unconsciously, we can also move beyond them by becoming more conscious of what our mind is up to. When confronted with a problem, we often think, I can’t do that or that just won’t work. But the fact is, in many situations you really don’t know what you’re capable of doing. You’ve lines. you’ve simply become so conditioned to a certain mind-set that you’re often blind to other possibilities. You need to do the mental equivalent of extending the line past the dots. You need to step out of the box.

In order to do that, begin to notice your thought patterns, especially those that have to do with “I” statements— ”I’m too this,” “I’m over the hill,” “I’m too that.” This particular way of paying attention is called mindfulness— staying in the present moment and responding non-judge-mentally to what’s going on. It’s a way of awakening to the full domain of the problem, without the limitations we usually impose.

You might find it very difficult to develop the intention to be present in your life as it’s unfolding. This is in part because many of us find it hard to be open-hearted toward ourselves. We also have an impulse — a very strong one — to fix things immediately. But if you can stay in the present moment with an open heart, you’ll realize you don’t have to solve most problems; many will dissolve once you see that you’re creating them—or exacerbating them—by your way of thinking.

For instance, when you’re frustrated or anxious and you respond by telling your-self that you’re dumb or depressed, you put yourself in a box with no place to go.. In that moment, you have a choice. If you’re willing to stay there quietly, other options will surface. You’ll see that if you believe thoughts like “I can’t” or “I am too this or too that,” you’ll be stuck. You’ll realize that this is an opportunity to say, I don’t actually know what’s going to happen next.” All of a sudden, you’re on a big adventure. Maybe you could relate to your husband, beautiful children, lover in a different way. Maybe you could just try fixing that broken clock.

You’ll still have opinions; you’ll still have thoughts about what you can or can’t do. And   that’s where the power of mindfulness comes in. With mindfulness, nothing changes but everything shifts in that moment. You have an awareness that, among other things, your life isn’t in a box anymore. . It felt that way only because you thought it was. Now, you think differently. God Bless You!

Box Test Solution



April 2001, Volume 2, Number 4

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