Have you ever drooled over something so much that you could barely wait till you got it? Like the time I saw this very striking jacket with 3 quarter length sleeves, with a skirt that flowed out like a tutu at the waist, and was held together by a lavish belt. I know- irresistible. I literally couldn’t wait until it was delivered to my house. Everyday I would check my emails to see if any delivery notifications appeared on my inbox.
Well it did arrive and as I ran my fingers down the quilted fabric of this extravagant purchase I felt such excitement. I tried it on and twirled around in front of my mirror, watching the sides of the skirt flare open and ripple all around me. I couldn’t wait to wear it out – maybe my birthday dinner – who knows. Well it has been 2 years to be exact and I still haven’t worn it. It still stands on a hanger in my closet poking out from all the other dream outfits. The dream outfits will never cut it. The problem is the more we devour is the more we are devoured. The system we live in was intentionally created to keep us consuming without being satisfied. Realizing this I embarked on a journey to figure out how to live outside of this misaligned value system.
Dreaming at What Cost?
Since Covid came through and swept us up into a state of stillness, reflection and a bit of life assessment, I have come to realize that I had been sold a big, big, big lie. Not just one about fashion either – about everything. As a child of an immigrant single mother from the Caribbean I was expected to fulfil the dream dreamt by my mother and her parents. To go abroad, settle, and acquire all the things that show that we were worth the stamps on the visas, the seats on the plane, the desks in the schools, and the jobs that were so “graciously” handed to us. We wouldn’t waste this opportunity – this chance at happiness, and success – at dreaming in real time. One problem remained – the dreams stole our ability to experience living. Yet, we still continued with them. We devoured them even though we choked on them from time to time.
The truth is the dreams we were sold came at the cost of community, service, self-care, leisure and renewal. We had no time for rest, to linger long enough on a thought to invite a spark, to sit long enough with a pause to welcome the creative spirit that usually accompanies it. The dreams also told us the lives that we left behind were somehow substandard, backward, and lacked value. Moving at a slower pace meant we didn’t value work. Taking a break meant we were not valuable. The hard to swallow dreams raged on.
Back to Covid and how it made all of us sit, wander, and contemplate the value, the meaning, the necessity of living. Of living – for the living. I started looking closely at what I took joy in. I was ushered back to community. To people. To my mother who from 17 – 65 spent her life working for others – for their happiness, for the fulfillment of their dreams. All the while she endured oppression, racism, and stress induced illnesses. During the summer of Covid we spent many mornings out in the garden harvesting and planting – noticing all the small changes in nature with each sprout, with each offering. There I started experiencing dreaming in real time. I was also brought back to my children who forced me to accept that their value was not embedded in being a product of the education system, my parenting, or society’s offerings. They are evolving beings on their own journey. With their own right to explore their role in community. To my neighbours and friends who show me that pulling up a chair in the driveway, dropping by to say hello, witnessing voices on the phone are what sweet dreams are truly made of.
Community: The Center of the Universe
In The Courage to Be Disliked, Ichiro Kishimi explains that the community is the center of the universe and it is our service to community that brings fulfillment and happiness. Not the acquisition of wealth or approval from others – but service without need of praise or ego stroking. This is the heart center of the universe. So simple. So accessible. Considering all of this – why are we still chasing the capitalist dream? Why do our actions continue to stoke the flames of a system that cares little for the every in everybody? Why do our actions continually place product over people, and profit over impact? All those who have sold us the lie – the capitalist lie of accumulation and domination, are not happier, more fulfilled, or at peace. So why do we keep believing them? What is the root of this cognitive dissonance?
Three Questions for Creating A New Dream
Before Covid being busy was a sign of success. You gained a sense of worth and value from how in demand your time was from your employer. Now we have been gifted time. Time is the real killer of a capitalist regime. Capitalism tells us that too much time means we will grow weak, stupid, lazy – that our brains will shrivel. But for the first time many people had time to reflect on the tasteless mouthfuls they were consuming. Some of us took the time without guilt to really ask some questions. According to Deepak Chopra, yogis live by 3 questions: Who am I? What do I want? and How do I serve? I started writing these questions down at the top of my daily to do list. Everything that went on that list had to answer one of those questions. It was in the answers I found a way to address the cognitive dissonance that plagued my life. It was also the path to dreaming a new dream that aligned with my values.
Who am I? I am a being with worth just as I am. No degrees, awards, recognition, accomplishments, failures, breakdowns, or heartbreaks can add to or diminish my worth and value.
What do I want? Time to wander, wonder, create, connect and learn.
How do I serve? Inviting others into spaces that help them recognize their worth, explore their connection to community, and experience moments of joy.
So take some time today to explore these three questions and see if your dreams are aligned with who you are, what you seek, and how you serve and start dreaming in real time.