Thinking Outside the Box of Control (#771)

Some people think there are only two ways to live your life – in control or out of control. Those who feel like their lives are out of control are filled with fear, and their number one goal is to get it. Through control, they hope to gain a greater sense of security and well-being. They may seek that control in the outer world through money, status, and power, or in the inner world through practice, discipline, and endless repetition.

These are the “victims” in life, and they respond to adversity by either cowering or attacking in order to get or protect what they think they need. Though they may occasionally have the trappings of great success, they live in constant fear of never getting more or losing what they have.

Those people who feel in control are the “winners” in life. Even if they don’t yet have everything they think they need, they feel like given time, they can get what they want or get by without it. Their biggest fear is losing control, as they believe “control” to to be the “secret edge” they have over others.

Their secret longing is to experience more freedom and peace, because the more plates they have spinning (i.e. the more control they are exerting), the more time and energy they need to invest in keeping those plates from crashing to the floor around them and the less freedom and peace they actually experience.

Yet a whole world of possibility exists outside the box of control, if only we could see it. Here’s how theosopher J. Krishnamurti wrote about the box of control that the game of life often unfolds inside of:

Let us for a moment, imaginatively at least, look over the world from a point of view which will reveal the inner workings and the outer workings of man, his creations and his battles; and if you can do that imaginatively for a moment, what do you see spread before you?

You see man imprisoned by innumerable walls, walls of religion, of social, political and national limitations, walls created by his own ambitions, aspirations, fears, hopes, security, prejudices, hate and love. Within these barriers and prisons he is held, limited by the coloured maps of national boundaries, racial antagonisms, class struggles and cultural group distinctions. You see man throughout the world imprisoned, enclosed by the limitations, the walls of his own creation. Through these walls and through these enclosures he is trying to express what he feels and what he thinks, and within these he functions with joy and with sorrow.

So you see man throughout the world as a prisoner, imprisoned within the walls of his own creation, within the walls of his own making; and through these enclosures, through these walls of environment, through the limitation of his ideas, ambitions and aspirations – through these he is trying to function, sometimes successfully, and sometimes with hideous struggle.

And the man who succeeds in making himself comfortable in the prison we call successful, whereas the man who succumbs in the prison we call a failure. But both success and failure are within the walls of the prison.

So if success (finding comfort inside the prison) and failure (feeling frightened and alone inside the prison) both take place within the box of control, what could possibly exist outside the box?

Freedom. The freedom to think the world into being in a million ways and to live in that world ignorant or cognizant of the fact that you are its creator.

What people stuck in the box of control fail to notice is that freedom of thought is the ground of being in which the box of control exists. Without freedom of thought, we could no more create a world divided by separate ideas of right and wrong than we could create a sport divided by leagues and teams.

But to someone thinking inside the box of control, real freedom looks frighteningly like being out of control.

So what happens when we begin to explore freedom instead of pursue control? When our goal becomes to have less “rules to live by” instead of more?

Well, for a while, we may flounder as we start to discover how things actually work instead of making a study of other people’s ideas and theories for how they’re supposed to work.

Here’s how Richard Bach wrote about it in his wonderful novel “Illusions”:

Once there lived a village of creatures along the bottom of a great crystal river.

The current of the river swept silently over them all – young and old, rich and poor, good and evil, the current going its own way, knowing only its own crystal self.

Each creature in its own manner clung tightly to the twigs and rocks at the river bottom, for clinging was their way of life, and resisting the current what each had learned from birth.

But one creature said at last, ‘I am tired of clinging. Though I cannot see it with my eyes, I trust that the current knows where it is going. I shall let go, and let it take me where it will. Clinging, I shall die of boredom.’

The other creatures laughed and said, ‘Fool! Let go, and that current you worship will throw you tumbled and smashed across the rocks, and you shall die quicker than boredom!’

But the one heeded them not, and taking a breath did let go, and at once was tumbled and smashed by the current across the rocks.

Yet in time, as the creature refused to cling again, the current lifted him free from the bottom, and he was bruised and hurt no more.

And the creatures downstream, to whom he was a stranger, cried, ‘See a miracle! A creature like ourselves, yet he flies! See the Messiah, come to save us all!’

And the one carried in the current said, ‘I am no more Messiah than you. The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare let go. Our true work is this voyage, this adventure.’

As the free-flowing creature in the story discovers, when we venture outside of the box of control and into the world of freedom, it’s incredibly useful to have a deeper understanding of how things actually work.

While I make claim to no divine revelations, it seems to me that there are three undeniable, inarguable “facts of life” that serve as a useful guide – what theosopher Syd Banks called “the three principles”:

1. There is an energy and intelligence behind life. This energy and intelligence is ever present but is not “in control” – it has no inherent morality or apparent point of view.  It simply ensures that but for the interference of external circumstance, acorns become oak trees, cuts heal, and life begets life begets life.

2. The capacity to be aware and experience life is innate in human beings. Consciousness is a universal phenomenon. Our level of awareness in any given moment determines the quality of our experience.

3. People create their individual experience of reality via the vehicle of thought. Thought is the missing link between the formless world of pure potentiality and the created world of form.

The freedom that is available to all of us is not to make up the design of the universe – it’s to make up as few or as many rules on top of those 3 basic principles as allows us to truly thrive in our lives.

Have fun, learn heaps, and the next time you feel out of control, consider embracing it as a part of the freedom of life instead of treating it as a condition to be fixed or repaired!

With love,


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