Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Anything is Possible

The best thing you can give yourselves...
is the gift of possibility.
And the best thing you can give each other
is the pledge to go on protecting that gift in each other
as long as you live.
~Paul Newman

The Garden of Possibility by MJ; © 2008
I had a professor in law school who would show up, on occasion, to teach class dressed in a polyester Elvis costume—complete with a cape, pompadour wig and jet-black sideburns. He would swivel his hips and strut across the room, lower his chin and say in his best Elvis voice, “Anything is possible.” The class roared with laughter.
But it wasn’t all fun and games. The Elvis Anything-Is-Possible-Gig was his clever way of teaching an important principle of tort law: When bringing or defending a personal injury case, you must open your mind to every possibility in the chain of causation. He would throw out questions like, “What if, just before hitting the plaintiff in the crosswalk, a dog ran in front of the defendant’s car and he swerved to miss the dog, losing control of the car? Who’s responsible… the dog?” We all yelled out our answers.
“What if we can show that just before the incident the defendant had his tires rotated, and the mechanic didn’t tighten the bolts properly and the wheels were loose, which caused him to lose control of his car? Who’s responsible now?” The crowd went wild.
“Take it one step further. What if we could show that the local distributor, The Bolt King, delivered a box of defective bolts to the mechanic? Now who’s the defendant? Can we still sue the dog?” On and on it went, our excitement rising with each new possibility. And just when he was about to lose control of the class, he would swivel his hips once again and say, “Now what if Elvis showed up to teach this class? Could that happen?” We cried out in unison, “Anything is possible!
Elvis taught us an important lesson about opening our minds to the unlimited possibilities that surround us. As lawyers, our clients and careers depend on it. Justice demands it. In fact, I think our failure to keep an open mind is, perhaps, the greatest obstacle to reaching a fair and just conclusion in any given situation.
But we’re human and, sometimes, in spite of our best efforts, our life experience and conditioning will lead us to draw sketchy, narrow-minded conclusions that are riddled with judgments and expectations about how things should be. And then when our expectations of how things should be clash with our reality, we become the source of our own suffering—frustrated, stressed out and disappointed with what we see.
Just so, we must find a healthy balance between the ambivalence of having no expectations at all and being so consumed with how we believe things should be that we spin out in dodgy assumptions. We must do our part to move things forward while leaving room for the magic and miracles of Life. And we must bring our awareness to the inescapable truth that our deepest held beliefs—for good or ill—will form the cornerstones of our expectations, which, in many ways, will influence not only what we see, but also the choices we make, which, in turn, will create our experiences.
"If it happens, it is possible."
~An unnamed law of the universe
Consider, for instance, our views of life and death and the extraordinary findings of survivors of near death experiences (NDEs), recounted by Depak Chopra in his book “Life After Death.”
“There are many specifics that change from person to person. Not all NDEs ‘go into the light.’ Some patients report traveling to various planets in space or to other worlds according to their religious beliefs. Some experience a judgment scene that can be quite harsh, or even hellish; it can also be full of satisfaction, however. . . The nature of the person plays a large part. A child can come back from heaven and report that it was full of baby animals at play, a cardiac patient can report sitting on God’s lap and being told by the Almighty that he must return to Earth, and [others] can see every detail of Tibetan theology. These images clearly depend on the culture they reflect. . . If different cultures see such different things after death, we must face the possibility that we create our own afterlife.”
Okay, S-T-O-P right here. What was your immediate reaction to what you just read? Did you think, “Oh that’s a bunch of crap!” Or did you relax into a thought you hadn’t considered before?  No matter your reaction, assuming the reports of the NDE survivors are true, think about the implications of this important research: What we experience in the afterlife—who and what awaits us, and where—will be a direct reflection of our beliefs, expectations and current level of awareness.
With these findings, we are given a brilliant opportunity to actively shape our experience of the afterlife by working with our thoughts and expectations right here and now. And, too, might this enable us to cut each other some slack for our different religious or theosophical perspectives? It’s certainly something to consider . . .
Consider, too, our general beliefs about the meaning of time. Our entire lives are structured around a one-way notion of time—it marches forward, never back. And everything in our physical world confirms this understanding.
From the moment of our birth, we age according to a system of days, weeks, months and years, marked on the physical body by wrinkles, tired old bones and mysterious ailments that come with the advancement of time. Insurance companies hope that time is on their side as they collect premiums from the young and healthy that will surely be paid out in healthcare for the sick and elderly. Our banking institutions and investment systems all borrow from time, hedging our bets and interest payments against a notion of time that only works with forward movement.
The criminal justice system, too, is completely based on a linear version of time, with the severity of the crime measured by time served, and the most heinous of offenders—in a properly functioning legal system—receiving the longest sentences.
We wake and sleep, we plan vacations into the future, we celebrate the arrival of each New Year and the passage of each birthday, anniversary and special occasion, and we commemorate it all by scratching off days on the calendar and capturing select moments on film. Its evidence—the ultimate proof—that our notion of time is right. Or is it?
But then what about premonitions? What about the scores of people who reported seeing the events of September 11th in dreams or visions, or those who simply had an uneasy feeling that something bad was going to happen that day so they changed their previously scheduled flights, BEFORE the planes flew into the Twin Towers? What of the numerous premonitory experiences reported every year to research centers around the world set up for the purpose of receiving and analyzing the visions of those who “see?” If we cling tightly to our treasured belief of time then, when faced with the notion of premonitions— the ability of one to see, intuit or sense the happening of an event before it actually happens —our beliefs are shattered into a million little pieces. Poof!

In his pioneering work, The Power of Premonitions, Larry Dossey, M.D. explains:
“If premonitions are valid, our commonsense beliefs about time—that it flows inexorably in one direction and that we’re locked into knowing only the past and the present—can’t be correct, because this view prohibits premonitions... Perhaps we might revision time by changing our perceptions. Time flowing one way, most physicists say, is a psychological illusion. Can we give up the illusion? Can we ‘change time’ by changing the way we think? The answer appears to be yes."
Can you change your thoughts about time?  Do you become one of the skeptics who scramble to debunk, discredit or explain away those who have “seen” ahead of linear time? Or is there room in your belief system for a bit of possibility and course correction?  After all, things are not always as they seem.
Expand this principle to every aspect of your belief system. Explore what lies beneath. Dig deep. Make sure that what you’re carrying is truly yours, and not some unexamined relic of the past or a fragment of popular opinion that you dare not question. With courage and truth, be willing to leave behind those thoughts, beliefs and expectations that no longer serve you. And then open the door for the wonders of life because...
Anything is possible!

By Melissa Johnson


Sarah M said...

Hey girl! Did I talk to you about “time” recently? I love your article & can’t get over how much “time” has been on my mind. We’ll have to talk . . . .

Anonymous said...

I have really enjoyed reading your Journey! I so agree with anything is possible. Although here in the Bible belt people will shun some of it. I think God will meet you where ever you are ( Christian, Buddhist etc) I would love to
hear more of your belief. I have read several books that have helped open my mind. We do tend to believe and never question such things. Thanks for sharing your writings. Happy New Year! ~MHB