Google "think outside the box" and you'll find the Wikipedia entry at #1 and a number of less significant explanations following. But the Wiki entry pretty much summarizes what we think we know about the phrase – that it grew out of a management consultant's application of a one hundred year old puzzle involving a pictorial box – connect the dots using just four straight lines. See exhibit "A". This drawing is considered your "box".
But I had never meant to refer to this box at all. When I appropriated the idiom for iThinkOutsideMyBox™, the box was metaphorical – a box full of education, religion, citizenship, morality, spirituality and subsequent beliefs – a magical box – your box of thoughts. Or as one young painter gamely stated, "The box is your brain".
But there would present itself a conundrum: How can one think outside one's box when that box has been prescribed and constructed by all the people we know in real life – primarily the people we respect? Teachers, preachers, parents, et al. Doesn't that present a conflict? Doesn't it mean going against all we know?
That way, whenever anyone sits down with us in a park, or a subway concourse to paint, they've already started thinking outside their box. Voilà. I don't have to teach them a thing because they've already made a conscious decision to do it anyway – just by joining us. After that, the actual paintings are a lot less important than the activity itself. Inside of a little 3"X3" square of cardboard, I've seen people paint the thumbnails of their futures, the promises of their love, the optimism in their work that was impossible to communicate in memo form, or just the feeling of the moment unsung.
And we will all be bringing a box – a box with a gift inside. The gift to think outside of our own disciplines and see what the others have brought to the party:)