PART I — DREAMING
For all of my life, I’ve been a dreamer. The self-directed "doing" part has always been a bit of a struggle.
I have memories of playing rec soccer in New York as a child. The son of an Argentine and the younger brother of an already promising athlete, I imagine my parents figured I’d jump right in and enjoy myself.
And enjoy myself I did as the ball would roll in my direction, a hoard of gleaming smiles chasing not far behind. But I didn’t register any of that. With the coach yelling, frustrated yet bemused, “Marcelo, honey ... the BALL!” I would watch the way my shadow played against the field, read between the blades of grass in search of four-leaf clovers (I'm still looking). Breathe in and smell air that was the envy of anyone who lived just 60 miles away in the chaos of Manhattan.
The ball would skip right past me and I was none the wiser. My coach would shrug and move on to shouting across the field about the next play. I was only 5 years old, so the stakes weren’t all that high. I was simply happy to stare up at the shifting clouds during the game, and to make funny faces with my teammates with triangles of chopped oranges between our teeth after the game.
Naturally, my parents didn’t sign me up for the following season.
In the years since, I’ve had to find ways to keep my mind engaged on the physical plane: the here and now.
Conversation can be difficult, as one word can send me spiraling deep into a rush of associated memories and ideas. It can take minutes for me to realize that I’ve ceased to be present with the person before me, and I have no clue what they've been saying. (For this, I apologize to my wife without end.)
Sometimes — by myself or while I should be paying attention to a conversation — I travel to an always out-of-reach future, where my ego wrongly stores my hopes and desires. I think about what my life will be like when things are "better." Or, I travel to the past, where I can further feed that ego's strength with bygone accomplishments and perceived failures.
I have not been aware of the debilitating strength of all that egoic noise, though, until this past year. Matt and I started officially working together as Foster & Asher in February 2014. Since that time, we’ve filled numerous hard drives with original photo and video content that makes us happy make and share (much of which we still have yet to share). All the while, however, I’ve been spending my daytime hours holding down a full-time job and daydreaming about all that I hoped F&A could become. What I could become.
Essentially, my life was one of continually resisting the reality before me in preference for the mental projections that had yet to be. I ceased being present. I grew more and more anxious and depressed. My self-efficacy wavered, which made me more anxious, depressed and focused elsewhere. The incongruence between my daydreams and my reality invited in a persistent voice telling me thatreason why I’m not where I want to be is because I’m not smart enough, not talented enough, not skilled enough, not creative enough, not interesting enough.
I endured, somewhat. Eating healthy foods (and abstaining from processed ones) helps. When I can be so disciplined, getting a good night’s sleep helps, too. I tried medicine years ago, but it only made me aware that I wasn't doing it on my own, and I prefer to not have to rely on some external, artificial aid to get through my day.
Daily practice of yoga and meditation, I've found, are the only things that have really worked for me, to the point that even when I skipped only a couple of days, my mind was left prone to time traveling and self-doubt.
To cope, I would again whisper to myself about the future could hold — once I was fully self-employed, things would be better. As of August 10, 2015, however, I’ve no longer had the luxury and torment of daydreams. My once sought-after future became my present. The funny thing, though, was that the depression, anxiety and negative self-talk didn’t exactly evaporate at the moment I put in my two weeks. Instead of experiencing a rush of relief, a new stress set in: “Oh shit — the rest of my life is up to me and only me, and how I decide to use my time."
I had grown accustomed to dreaming about joy as something to find in the future, instead of cultivating it in my daily habits. Life depends on what I do — in there here and now — and not on what I dream could be. For many people this may be obvious, but it's a truth I wrestle with moment-to-moment. And it’s not that dreams are bad, but that they sometimes can supplant the necessary processes that we must engage with (on a daily basis) in order to push on.
My goal in all of this is to work with to tell stories through words, photos and films (through personal and client work) that encourage others to be more present, more mindful, more intentional about their daily living and the way they do business, and less encumbered by the lies we are continually telling ourselves about ourselves and the world we live in (which to me is the only chance we as a species have for long-term survival).
That's all rather nebulous, though. How does one do that? How does one achieve that? What are the processes? What is the end game? Well, for me, I'd like to test the theory that the process and the end game are one in the same.
Right, now, that process involves:
- Morning ashtanga yoga flows
- Meditation throughout the day
- Reading and analyzing fiction and screenplays
- Studying, capturing and editing photos. Writing fiction, poetry, music and screenplays
- Shooting films
- Making time to put everything aside to spend time with my life partner and our daughters
- Getting better with money
- Pouring into mutually-beneficial relationships
- Quick yoga poses between tasks to loosen the body, clear the mind and find my way back to the present moment
- Keeping my work and living space tidy
- Doing a better job of scheduling my time
- Replacing harmful (albeit pleasurable) food and beverage products for ones that heal and energize
- Saying "no" to tasks and projects that don't allow me to pour my heart and ideas into, so I can create room for those that do
- Taking risks
- Being vulnerable
- Practicing self-compassion as a means to cultivating empathy
- Taking time to not work — allowing myself to decompress so I'm not stressed or anxious for the next day, when I will take yet another step (or two) forward.
In this life, there's no such thing as stagnation. Our only choices are progress or atrophy. Dreaming or doing. Living in the present or not living at all.
So, stop for a moment. (Seriously, give it a try — none of this makes sense when decontextualized from praxis.)
Close your eyes. Focus on matching the length of your inhales with that of your exhales. Recognize the percolating thoughts as thoughts, and let them pass. Return your attention to your breath and your internal space. Be aware of your physical self. Quiet the ego and give your true self the opportunity to simply "be," free of internal judgment.
Now open your eyes. You are here. You are now. You are free of daydreams and negative mental chatter.
What do you want to do? Say it out loud. Write it down. Now go do it.