In the United States, ADHD is so common that some psychologists define it as a cultural norm. Many of us lack confidence in our ability to focus or simply don't notice how it impacts our lives. As something so integral to personal connection and well-being, how do we navigate living in a society that thrives on stealing our attention? FOCUSED LIFE explores the concept of focus and distraction through a series of interwoven vignettes in which a variety of skill-practitioners give voice to the challenges of mental discipline. Filmed and edited with meditative fluidity, the result is an experiential essay on one of our most underestimated and endangered cognitive abilities.
In 2011, after an intensive period of regular devotion of time and effort to the study of Yoga - both physical and philosophical - I began to see attention as divine. Inspiration to create a film about diverse forms of focusing, including its healing / spiritual dimension, hit like lightning from within. A blurry jigsaw puzzle formed in my mind, and I could see a few pieces with vibrant clarity. The kind that makes an artist need to manifest what is seen from inside. I started to look for ways to express concentration visually, starting with superficial examples - just everyday things that involve our attention. The fact of attention, its primacy, was enough of a revelation to want to understand it better. Why do we focus? Is there connection between attention and well-being? I wanted to dig deep into these questions. As the idea grew into research and development, my assumptions were that if attention does have healing / spiritual implications (thinking of the self-regulatory benefits of secular mindfulness training), than attention itself should be given a lot more priority by society than it currently is. At the very least, we might question our lifestyles and habits to see how they may be fitting into a larger scheme of systemic individual / collective attention fragmentation, as a way to manipulate for political / economic gain. I wanted to make something that would raise critical consciousness and at the same time celebrate the beauty of our innate psychic capacity for awareness, inside and "outside."
After a while I began to notice patterns in my photography, that it consisted mostly of white men looking at something. I felt uncomfortable photographing strangers who didn't look like me, and began to wonder why. I think it had to do with the colonizer mindset of taking without permission, a subject of ethical debate within street-photography. And there's obviously something weird about taking photos of women, regardless of their race, without permission. This became another question for me to consider when looking for images of focus. Who will be interviewed in the actual film? Will it be inclusive? I also tried to photograph people more from the front and ask for permission if it felt awkward. And of course, I took photographs of those beautiful people in my circle of friends.