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Transcending Norman Vincent Peale in persuading and living with positive energy

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For decades, I eschewed overly cheerful advice that "the sun will come up tomorrow", "don’t worry, be happy" and the like, in favor of taking a realistic and critical view of the world. I was more concerned about not getting complacent than to living an entirely carefree day. I favored depressing yet excellently written books and excellently produced films and art over those geared towards high sales. I fought on human rights campaigns before becoming a lawyer even though it took an emotional toll to constantly be reminded of the depth of rottenness that so many humans inflict on others. In high school, one of my best friends and I favored biting jokes over seeing any sunshine in life. I preferred the rants of Gil-Scott Heron and Frank Zappa to the sunny advice of Norman Vincent Peale. I later learned that Zappa and Peale can be somewhat reconciled.

By now, I know that positive energy is critical to serving my clients, having a fulfilling life, and being there for my family. I am not talking about saccharine nor superficial positive energy, nor about pretending that life is exclusively fun and games, particularly not when life is tough for so many that we still have daily deaths from malnutrition and disease, high unemployment rates, war, severe government oppression, and the list goes on.

My role models for living with positive energy needed to include those who have suffered deeply, not ignored that suffering, and still found the path of positive energy. It has taken a long time to find many of them. One of the standouts is the Dalai Lama, who escaped the Chinese government’s brutality over fifty years ago, and is genuinely cheerful and without anger, despite knowing the misery that Tibetans still suffer within Tibet today. Another is Claude AnShin Thomas, who transcended his pain from witnessing and inflicting so much death during the Vietnam war followed by pickling himself in drugs, alcohol and sex, to accepting his ongoing painful memories as he tries to help others heal from their psychological wounds.

Ram Dass is a living example of transcending our deepest problems, with his latest challenge being his years of living with the "fierce grace" of his debilitating stroke from many years ago.

My role models for positive energy who have faced less pain along the path include Jun Yasuda, who deeply understands the suffering of others, and helps alleviate that suffering by spreading the message of peace through peace walks, bowing, and chanting the Odaimoku. Wayne Dyer is another vital role model, who emphasizes that we all arise from abundance, so an abundant life is ours for the taking; that might at first sound superficial, but actually is vital for not getting sidetracked by all the naysayers along the path, including my relative who questioned my interest in trial law (before I entered law school), asserting that one needs to be a good actor to be a good trial lawyer.

The late great jazz pianist Bill Evans emphasized being true to the music (or to anything else you set out to do). Trial master Steve Rench shows that one need not be born with charisma to be a great trial lawyer. The late great John Johnson urged us to know and embrace our pain before we send it on its way.

Taijiquan teaches to find and achieve balance in everything we do. Mindfulness teaches to seize, cherish and always be in the present moment. Thanks to my mindfulness teachers, including Thich Nhat Hanh, John Kabat-Zinn, Tara Brach, Chade Meng Tan, and Sharon Salzberg,

Ihaleakala Hew Len teaches not to blame anyone or anything else for our troubles, because he believes there is no "out there". That approach is particularly beneficial to me in catching myself when I am about to verbally pillory a judge, prosecutor or cop. With Dr. Hew Len’s approach, my path is not about letting myself be pulled down by the actions of others, but to find the balance and positive energy in handling any problem.

In the trial law practice, judges and jurors do not wish to be hostage to hearing incessant negative-speak. They much prefer to hear the lawyer take a problem and show how that problem has been, can be, and will be transcended.

Thanking and bowing in deep gratitude to my foregoing teachers.