“Because you are alive, everything is possible.” - Thich Nhat Hanh
Your life is filled with unlimited possibilities. Or is it? You can’t be an Olympic Gymnast, so does that push the “unlimited” idea right into the category of platitude? After all, reality imposes limits. That’s the harsh truth we all face.
Yet, authors, spiritualists and even scientists repeatedly talk in terms of “infinite possibility.” Thomas Edison famously said, “When you’ve exhausted all possibilities, remember this. You haven’t.”
He may have just meant to reflect a useful mindset to help scientists think tangentially and get beyond that cliched box. Or perhaps he meant it more literally, as in... every moment in life, every action, holds within it an infinity of outcomes and possibilities.
Science likes to play in this realm, with concepts like The Butterfly Effect (a butterfly can set a hurricane into motion) and the theory of the Multiverse, which both illustrate the unfathomable, infinite possibilities that exist in all of space, time and beyond.
Bestselling Author, Chine Miéville, puts it this way: “For every action, there's an infinity of outcomes. Countless trillions are possible, many milliards are likely, millions might be considered probable, several occur as possibilities to us as observers - and one comes true.”
In fact, Miéville’s insight reminds us that the gymnast thing is still technically possible in one or two wacky scenarios that are in no way probable. Before you dismiss this notion out of hand, consider that your existence falls into a similarly improbable category. Dr. Ali Binazir says here on his Harvard.edu blog that, “The odds that you exist at all are basically zero.”
You are a miracle, born from and into, a limitless universe. Circumstance and probability runs up again this potential -- giving actions a boost or a smack down -- but that doesn’t alter the reservoir of potentiality within you.
Seeing this limitless realm in moments of mindfulness is a Zen calling often referred to as embracing the Beginner’s Mind. As Zen master, Shunryu Suzuki, says, "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few."
This is a call to shift our perspective away from the result, the failures and the dichotomies; to rest in a singular and limitless place. A call to begin at the beginning and see the universe as a blank canvas.
It is also a call to get beyond our often too-small concept of self and suspend limiting beliefs that do not serve us. It is both inspiring and useful to believe that you have unlimited potential to experience life to its fullest and make a difference in the wider world.
Our belief about self, our personal narratives, are incredibly powerful and we cannot allow our insecurities to script our life stories and diminish our power. And while we could bemoan any supposed faults or circumstance, we could also acknowledge that our abilities are so vast that we could never develop all our potential in one lifetime. Our range of available choices, right this moment, is limitless.
So why think of what cannot be when what can be is unlimited? If you are alive, your possibilities are endless.