Thursday, July 16, 2015

Open Boxes: The Gifts of Living a Full and Connected Life – A Review

“Keeping boxes isn’t all that helpful in creating meaningful connection, fining spiritual fulfillment, or living a full – a busting-at-the-seams full – life.”

“We have an inherent, almost primal, need to feel connected in a meaningful way to ourselves, to others, to our communities, to God, and to something bigger and greater than the separate aspects of our day-to-day lives.  We have a deep yearning to feel a part of something more significant than the daily chaos and more meaningful than the monotony of our daily routines.”

–Christine Organ, author of Open Boxes

At first glance, Christine Organ’s collection of essays that intends to show how we can find the meaning in everyday activities, see the daily miracles that pepper our lives, and fling open the boxes that hold the various parts of our lives to combine them into one simplified whole, seems like a feel-good love-thyself book that normally I would not gravitate toward. 

Far from having it all together, I like my compartments.  I like being a wife and mother and daughter and friend, and I like leaving the unneeded parts back when they don’t apply in a situation, or using the well-honed skills that I’ve cultivated in another when they are.

However, I crave connections.  I want the boxes of my life to have definite boundaries, but I want them to work together, too.  So I opened my heart and my mind to what Open Boxes was all about.

While I read this book, I found myself nodding in agreement to a lot of what Organ says about the general human need to find meaning in daily life.  She divides the book into three sections and fills each with essays that illustrate each: Grace, Wonder, and Everyday Miracles, three things that I’ve read a lot about during my tenure as a mother, or maybe just an adult who craves inner peace.

Raising children forces you to slow down, and I related to Organ’s essays in one way or another.  I have spent time appreciating gifts: the everyday miracles, the little moments and blink-and-you-miss-them blessings that fall into my lap each day.  Practicing grace is a much more personal endeavor, as it encompasses individual behaviors like accepting and giving kindness, paying attention to immediate connections, showing love, being mindful and present, letting go, embracing humility, belonging, showing hospitality, being patient, among other subjects that Organ’s essays are about.

Inspiring us to find meaning in the little things, Organ’s idea that every aspect of our lives can be spiritually connected if we open the boxes and live authentically has merit.  When we live in the present and appreciate what we have, we take time to know ourselves and the different parts of our lives better, and notice what is happening around us.  In short, finding connections in our lives brings us more in tune to what life is all about.

That’s not to say that I agreed wholeheartedly with Organ’s assertions about spiritual connections.  She writes of a Spiritual Breakdown that led her to look for – and find – God in everyday life, but the God of Open Boxes is not really the God I have come to know as a Christian.  As a Unitarian Universalist, Organ uses the idea of God to be the spiritual connector for all of us, which I can get on board with, but she also maintains that God can be whatever we want him to be – nature, stillness, music – to be employed in finding connections, instead of acknowledging that God provides these things to connect to us.  Her beliefs are not entirely mine, but close; as I read about her interpretation of God I couldn’t help but feel like she was almost there.

I can’t say that I needed to read Open Boxes to gain insight to the meaning of life; at this point, I'm neither suffering a Spiritual Breakdown or needing to slow down to appreciate what I've been given.  I appreciated Organ’s open style and conversational tone of writing, and her ability to be honest with her experiences.  I related to Organ's views in general – I marked up the book with notes and underlined phrases that I agreed with, even wrote “this is how I see life” in one particular spot  – but her idea of spiritual connection as solely individually-led instead of God-centered and God-led felt off to me. 

If you need inspiration in finding the good in the everyday, I recommend Open Boxes.   While I do not subscribe to Organ’s spiritual beliefs, I feel like it is a worthwhile read for those who may be struggling with finding meaning in monotony, or looking for connection between the compartments in life that we all experience.

Open Boxes is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


Disclaimer: I was given a copy of Open Boxes: The Gifts of Living a Full and Connected Life to read and review.  I was not compensated for this review.  All opinions are my own.