God Outside the Box:
A Story of Breaking Free
by Patricia Panahi
(AuthorHouse / 1-434-36775-4 / 978-1-434-36775-4 / April 2008 / 292 pages / $15.95)
Reviewed by Dianne Salerni for PODBRAM
For many people, a diagnosis of cancer at the age of 28 would be a devastating blow. For Patricia Panahi, who was as shocked and frightened as anyone would be by such news, it turned out to be a crisis point which set her on a path of spiritual development which she continues to follow today.
God Outside the Box: A Story of Breaking Free is Panahi’s narrative describing her spiritual journey towards understanding herself and breaking through negative and self-deprecating beliefs that limited her potential for growth. Born of a Catholic mother and a Moslem father, Panahi spent her younger years "trying on" various religions, including not only Catholicism and Islam, but also Hinduism and Shamanism and a host of others. Each exploration left her feeling confused and unsatisfied. She eventually concluded that most religions confined God in a box and presented him to believers as a "package deal." Not liking any of the packages, Panahi avoided religion altogether, until a close brush with cancer in 1979 caused her to reconsider her purpose and role in life.
What begins as a tentative search for spirituality leads the author into a lifelong quest for "the path to God within." Panahi starts out as a skeptic, who rolls her eyes over such things as "rebirthing sessions" and "Spiritual Mind Treatments," but gradually becomes aware that these inner explorations provide her with relief from spiritual pain. Her quest for a better understanding of her Higher Self leads her to open a metaphysical book store, develop her own quiescent leadership talents, bring an end to a marriage that had ceased to function, relocate herself to a faraway state, find her soulmate, and eventually to write this book.
There were many parts of God Outside the Box that were personally significant and meaningful to me. There were also times when I thought Panahi’s spiritual adventures sounded a little too "out there" for my tastes, but I think the author would sympathize with my perspective, because she, too, began as a skeptic and only by degrees came to change her beliefs. Patricia Panahi clearly states that everyone’s spiritual evolution is different and each person must find her own path to God. The beginning of the book was a little disjointed, with several slips of verb tense and some of Panahi’s important life experiences presented in a non-chronological order, but these small problems disappeared by the end of the second chapter and did not diminish my overall appreciation for her message. God Outside the Box is a book that I will remember for a long time and may turn to the next time I need a little spiritual guidance.