New website overhaul posted this week! Thanks TQ! http://www.MarkEdgarStephens.com
I recently wrote a thank you letter to the contributors of the project I’ve been working on for the past 6 years. I thought that with Thanksgiving fast approaching, it would be appropriate to post that letter here as a November “Letter of Thanks!”
It’s been less than two months since we wrapped principal photography on WELCOME TO OUR MANSION. It was an amazing experience to be back in Central Florida filming a project so close to my heart and reflective of my roots. What was unexpected was the amount of emotion felt during the two weeks we were filming.
There were moments of extreme laughter and also moments of being emotionally overwhelmed by what we were actively watching unfold before us. Our actors brought these characters we’ve been living with for over six years to life. The location was perfect for the action taking place. Even the weather (a major concern) seemed to be moved by some divine force.
We always imagined our opening scene (the funeral) being shot in the rain, but when we somewhat unexpectedly got what we imagined, it necessitated a 6:30 am visit to the 24-hour Wal-Mart SuperCenter to buy an additional canopy and several umbrellas. Repeatedly, there were moments when what we had planned both from a writing and filming perspective had to be drastically adjusted. In each and every case, the change made the project BETTER. It was truly a testament of trust to allow the work to show us what it needed to be. It was during these epiphanies that we realized how much bigger than us the project is. So, we are doing our best to listen to what it is telling us as we move forward.
We are now editing a rough cut of the project and the project continues to tell us, inform us, what it is going to be. It takes faith beyond the expected to allow these transformations to happen, to NOT get in the way of the evolution of the work. On a daily basis, I am being joyously surprised by how powerful this process is. I am excited to share it with all when the timing is right.
The underlying intention in writing this is simply to say, “thank you.” Your care, your contributions, your support have made it possible to get to this point. You kept our production dry in the rain. You fed us as we dashed madly about making room for the magic to happen. You gave us a comfortable home not far from the location (and the Wal-Mart) to house two producers, a director of photography, a second assistant director, and one of our actors. It was an experience, a wonderful experience.
On a personal note, there was a familial healing that took place, a change in perspective, that caught me unaware. It was truly a blessing that goes far beyond what the final product becomes.
There is MUCH work still to be done in the editing process. We have already started meetings with friends who work in television development at studios and independently. As the project gets fine-tuned, we are also fine-tuning our pitching/marketing campaign to do what is best for the project. I am certain, just like our experience in filming, that we will be shown the way beyond what our logical minds think may be the “right” way. Even as I write this, I smile at the unknowns that will certainly be coming our way with the next step and the step after that … and the step after that.
Thank you for helping us on this beautiful walk.
I’ve been doing something, quietly at first, and now much more loudly. It is called WELCOME TO OUR MANSION! It is a comedy pilot that I co-created and co-wrote with a dear friend of many years. Like me, she is a writer and creative artist who found herself drawn to and working in the world of behavior modification. For me, it is working with humans, for her, dogs.
Several years ago, we played with the idea of writing a script about a Behavior Therapist who, after years away, would return to his Southern roots. We spoke of featuring characters loosely based on the people that influenced our lives growing up. That idea became a fully written script that went on to receive positive recognition in screenplay competitions and from one major studio.
Then, the project sat in our computers and our minds for an incubation period, until we decided it was time for it be shared with the public. That brings me to this moment.
We have been in pre-production for the past year and we just began our fundraising campaign on IndieGoGo. Yes. With the help of a lot of family, friends, and supporters we are bringing our project to life and we will be filming in Polk County, Florida (my birthplace) in Fall of 2014.
It is exciting!
However, something unexpected has happened in the process of pre-production, casting, and fundraising. I’ve found myself falling in love with my roots … the stories of my past, the people in those stories, and the places I grew up and visited with relatives (Central Florida, North Alabama, and The Smokey Mountains of North Carolina). More than that, I’ve found myself hungering for biscuits, cornbread, fried okra, collard greens (with too much vinegar), and grits. Interestingly, it was not my conscious intention at the outset for this to happen. Still, it has happened all the same and I am better for it. It turns out that after all of my years traveling the world and spending the majority of my adult life in New York City and Los Angeles, I am spending a lot of time and energy celebrating the country roots that have shaped who I am. And, I’m doing it through the creative medium that inspired me to roam when I was only five-years old — filmed entertainment. It is so very, very interesting how life comes around full circle.
So, in the coming months, you will see me posting on Facebook, Tweeting, and writing about my experience with this beloved project that is bringing me closer together with the family, friends, and environment by which it is inspired. The old saying goes, “You can’t go home again.” However, it a real joy to visit it and celebrate it for a while.
I invite you to help us in bringing this project to life by contributing to our fundraising campaign on IndieGoGo: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/welcome-to-our-mansion
LIKE our page on Facebook at WELCOME TO OUR MANSION. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Welcome-to-Our-Mansion/
Follow us on Twitter @WTOMansion.
It is a fun journey … and a homecoming. Thanks for joining the family!
As I begin my second year living in Manhattan Beach, I’ve already grown attached to the annual festivals and community activities that are so abundant during this time of the year. We’ve had the hometown fair, the pumpkin races, and just this week the whole town turned out for the festive Pier Lighting and Open House. The merchant’s opened their doors and gave out freebies and food as carolers roamed the streets. The store windows were fully decorated and in some cases were filled with live performers. Up and down the pier the holiday lights were lit for the first time this season as over fifty Christmas trees were brought in to mark the occasion. And, of course, there were real reindeer on hand to make the eyes of children light up with an extra special holiday magic.
So, Christmas comes a little early here in The South Bay. I enjoy it and it seems the rest of the town does too. And, even with all of the festivities of this week and next, there is still the annual Skechers Fireworks Show just around the corner.
I enjoy this small, hometown feel that is Manhattan Beach. I revel in its celebrations and the families and businesses that continue to make it the jewel of Los Angeles County. I hope to give back to it as much as it continues to give to me.
Wherever we may be during this holiday season, I hope that we all find a way to give back even a small piece of the simple joys that life gives so abundantly.
A photo of last year’s Holiday Celebration of 100 Years of Manhattan Beach!
I’ve been away from my blog for a while now. There were no personal dramas or major catastrophes taking me away from my inspirational writing. In fact, it is just the opposite. I’ve found myself focused on some very simple, but wonderful things in life. As I get more present with the “little things in life,” I find myself more content, more satisfied, and less distracted with getting somewhere, accomplishing some thing, or showing up in some way. I feel relaxed and thankful. One of my intentions in writing this particular blog entry is to remind myself of this simple truth and the simple joy that comes with it. I stopped looking at my social media stats for months on end and started looking more at sunsets, the turning color of leaves, and the hummingbird that visits the ever-blooming flowers on the deck outside of my kitchen window. The thought of these things brings a smile to my face, even as I sit and write this.
Interestingly, my world of business did not stop. If anything, it got busier. My coaching career did not falter. It prospered. How is that possible? Aren’t I supposed to be visiting my social media sites numerous times a day and offering new content at every turn? Shouldn’t I be posting my every inspirational moment for the world to follow? Evidently, like everything, it is a choice. Don’t get me wrong. I’m about to start posting a lot about my next upcoming projects any day now. Yes, I have some things to share. Things that excite, inspire, and motivate me. Yes, I want to share them. And, I will. However, this little break away from what I am “supposed” to do as a dedicated, motivated, inspired coaching entrepreneur has been an amazing lesson for me. When the worries came up that I “should” be more active in the online world, I had to breathe deeply into those fears and trust that life knows better than I do. It always does. I followed my gut instinct rather than my rational mind. The world did not come crashing down. I did not slink away into obscurity. I carved out more time to appreciate the life that is going on around me at every moment. I gave more of my attention to the simple things and life got a bit more simple. I am refreshed. I am grateful. I am inspired.
Now, let the postings begin anew …
Recently, I took an extended weekend camping trip to The Grand Canyon. Deciding to hike down six miles (and back UP six miles — whew!) was both exhausting and inspiring. My friends went down into the Canyon with me for the first three miles and then decided to go back up from there. I wanted to continue the hike. That left me with a half-day trip on my own going another three miles down (and back UP again — did I already say, “whew”?).
Admiring the beauty and the power of nature to create such a marvel, I asked to continue to be inspired by what The Grand Canyon had to teach. I did not know what would come back to me, but I have learned that when you ask, it is given.
Previously, I had read how The Grand Canyon had been formed over millions of years through erosion, most specifically, by the Colorado River that runs along the Canyon floor. As I got out to the six mile point, I looked down at the rushing Colorado River continuing to cut patterns into the ground. A thought occurred to me that water has the power to move and shape earth. The element of water is more flexible, more malleable, than the earth. Our thoughts are like water. Our thoughts have the ability to change direction and change course, and in doing so, they affect the shape of our physical lives — our bodies, our careers, and our finances.
Then, I thought, “if water can alter the physical solidity of earth, what alters water?” Immediately, I had an image of molten lava, of liquid fire spitting and spurting and of water being transformed to steam. At it’s most dense, water (our thinking) is like ice, frozen and unmoving. When the heat of fire is added to ice, it changes to fluid and, eventually, to steam. As steam, the water molecules can actually take flight, rising into the air. Our hearts, the area associated with our love center, are like the fire. Powerful love is the necessary element to alter thinking. Add the heat of fire, an element even more ethereal than water, and transformation happens. Earth is changed by water as water is changed by fire. Our physical lives are changed by our thinking. Our thinking is transformed by love.
I breathed deeply. The hike back up The Grand Canyon awaited me. Looking up and around, the Canyon looked differently on the way back up than it had on the way down. I had a new perspective. I also had a deeper breathing due to the increased effort of the uphill climb (did I mention it was six miles WAY UP?). As I breathed, the element of air came into my consciousness. I was inspiring. One of the definitions of inspire is “to breathe, to inhale.” So, panting and perspiring (my physical body turning to liquid), I knew the lesson was not yet done.
Fire burns brightly and rapidly when oxygen (air) is in abundance. Indeed, fire cannot burn without air. Using bellows or blowing on a fire makes it rise up into its full, roaring glory. Air is hard to see (except sometimes in Los Angeles) and is the least dense of the four basic elements. Yet, it is found almost everywhere. The air is spirit, inspiration, that which is the invisible everything. It fans the flame with new life. The flame transforms the thoughts. The thoughts affect the shape and formation of our physical lives.
The puzzle was revealed, the inspiration received, and my human mind was satiated. I understood the relationship of the four basic elements and their teachings in a way that I never had previously. I’ve studied physical anatomy, behavior, psychology, and various forms of spiritualism. I’ve known little bits and pieces of “how things work” on physical, mental, emotional, and quantum physics levels. However, never had this cycle of how things are created seemed so clear and plain to see and understand. Now I understood why attempting to make change on the physical level first is so challenging. I understood how changes in thinking were powerful, but still limited when directed by the mind that created those thoughts in the first place. I understood how transformation at a deep level was possible, going above the physical and mental self. Mostly, I understood that the most profound and perfect change happens at the spiritual level first. It is above and beyond our rational thinking. It is invisible and unknown, yet ever present.
I was inspired. I was also physically exhausted. That night, sitting around the fire with my friends, I experienced the fire a bit differently. I also felt my body a bit differently. I did mention that I hiked six miles down and BACK UP again, didn’t I?
Thank you Grand Canyon for the amazing education and inspiration,
The adage goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” So, look at this picture. The human hand you see in the photo is a volunteer from The Center For Great Apes located in Central Florida. The hand she is holding belongs to an ape named, “Knuckles.” This female volunteer happens to be one of my clients, so I have the great, good fortune of hearing a lot about her work and about her hairy friend, Knuckles. Mostly, what I’ve learned is that Apes are not so different from us. Indeed, their DNA is so similar to human DNA that, on a genetic level, there is barely any distinction at all. However, what makes Knuckles and his fellow inhabitants at The Center For Great Apes so special is that at one time they had been “owned” by humans, but returned to a more natural environment due to the efforts of those at The Center.
Knuckles has one other distinction that makes him special to my client. He is living with physical and neurological conditions that impede his ability to be fully accepted into the social circles of his peers. Much as a human with an obvious disability is set apart from the crowd, the same is true for apes. Like a child without the appropriate social skills or a physical impairment such as epilepsy, Knuckles’ differences are noted and sometimes penalized within his social structure. As a result of his conditions, Knuckles experiences one of the most debilitating circumstances present in the human and primate existence, that of being ostracized; set apart or exiled from the group. However, it is possible for Knuckles’ condition to change. Bringing together a veterinarian and a doctor for humans that specializes in similar conditions from which Knuckles suffers, there is very real hope that things could greatly improve for Knuckles. Imagine how great it would be for Knuckles to receive such great care and once again feel a sense of belonging with his family of primates.
Due to much hard work and unconditional love, Knuckles may soon experience a significant change in his life’s story. Staff and volunteers at The Center, including my client who shares this special bond with Knuckles, have reached out and are finding Knuckles the help that he needs. I am inspired by her story, by the story of Knuckles, and by the great good that is being done on this planet. I thought it worth sharing this story with others who also enjoy being inspired.
To find out more about The Center For Great Apes, including how to donate or help Knuckles, log onto http://www.CenterForGreatApes.org
We are all in this together!
I guess the title says it all. And, I believe it to be true. There is always a choice we have about how we feel about our external world. That choice can be of a world that is less than beautiful, less than giving. That choice can also be that the world is truly beautiful, loving, giving, compassionate, and divinely perfect in all of its form and content. I enjoy my experience of the world when I choose the latter.
Here in Southern California (especially in Manhattan Beach), the Spring came in early January and continues to bloom. The brave are already wearing tank tops and shorts, while the snow-capped mountains in the distance remind us that winter is still dominant in many places. Daily, surfers are riding waves and the dogwood trees have already hit their blossoming zenith. So, is it easy to see beauty in my environment? Yes. However, I stand by the fact that experiencing beauty is a choice.
I make the decision on a daily, moment-by-moment basis. I decide that what I see, hear, touch, and experience in the world is already an opportunity to feel my world to its fullest. The experience of the occasional cold snap, drizzle of rain, delay of traffic, or bad dream is merely an opportunity to reframe my thinking about everything in my world. I know that my feelings follow my thoughts. If my thoughts focus on what is less than good, less than right, less than fair, or less than beautiful, then that is how I will experience my world. I know this. I teach this to others. And, yet, invariably there are moments when I do forget and my world does not feel quite so inspiring. And … these moments are opportunities to clarify my thinking. Through contrast, I experience that I have a choice where to focus my thinking and, thus, my feeling. This contrast, of course, stops being anything other than a beautiful opportunity to raise my own awareness and use my consciousness to shift to thoughts of gratitude, love, and forgiveness for whatever is and everything that is right in front of me. Life is beautiful or it is not.
My choice, right now, in this moment — This IS a beautiful world!
Smiling into it,
Recently, I received a message from a former client who has been making some big changes in his life, but who, like most of us, is still encountering some stumbling blocks. The message read as follows: “I am still in my own way, Mark. What is the secret to just letting go?!?”
I stopped and took a deep breath, trusting inspiration, and responded with the following: “There is no secret that I know. If you find a secret, please let me in on it. However, there are some proactive things that you can do.
1) Breathe deeply for as long and as often as you can.
2) Remind yourself constantly that the way you feel is a direct result of what you are thinking. If you wish to feel more inspired, motivated, and clear than you are feeling right now, think about things that lift you up and make you feel your best. No excuses on this one. You simply have to do it.
3) Take a baby step in some new direction without any expectation other than enjoying the simple step.
4) All along be aware of your thoughts, and the statements and questions you are entertaining. The subconscious mind is constantly listening for what you are telling it. Make sure it only hears positive, uplifting, powerful statements about you and what you can do.
5) Look for and identify all that is good in your life and say out loud that you are grateful for it.
6) Go back to step number one and repeat the process over and over again for the rest of your life!
That is my answer and I’m sticking to it!!!”
I thought it worth posting this written step-by-step process for letting go and I am grateful to my client for inspiring this action in me. I intend to practice this process over and over again throughout 2013 and beyond. I hope you will join me.
There are two days of the year that, for me, stand out more than most because of the seasonal significance they hold. Those days are the Summer Solstice (usually June 21 or 22) and the Winter Solstice (usually December 21 or 22). If you’ve read many of my previous blog postings, you know that I am a true nature guy who loves sunshine and craves warmth. Both Solstices are important because they mark the days of the year when the sun shines on the Northern hemisphere the most and the least, respectively. They also herald in the nights of the year that have the least amount of darkness (more minutes of sun shining time) and the most amount of darkness (aka, the longest night). During the Summer and Autumn months, The Earth literally shifts on its axis until the Northern Hemisphere is tilting away from The Sun. In the Winter and Spring months, it tilts back again.
As the Winter Solstice approaches, I find myself wanting to snuggle into my home in front of a fire and sleep long slumbers in the darkness of the ever-lengthening nights. With these feelings also comes the enthusiasm for all of the days that are to follow the Winter Solstice. As surely as we experience the days between June 22 and December 21 dwindling in sunlight time, the days between December 22 and June 21 lengthen the duration that the sun shines upon us. I beam at the thought of the moment when the Earth ends its tilting away from our greatest source of warmth and light, and starts moving back toward The Sun like two magnets being drawn together. In pagan times, it was considered the yearly birthday of the Sun, a gradual return to brighter, sunnier days. I feel that is where we are moving at this moment. We are shifting, just like the Earth, into brighter, sunnier times. The thought makes me smile my big, goofy grin.
Wherever you may be and whatever you may be doing this Winter Solstice, take a few moments to marvel at the wondrous beauty and power of nature and the cosmos. I’ll be standing out on the beach with arms stretched wide, welcoming the changes that have arrived, and saying, “Thank you! Shine light on my thoughts and actions in this New Year and always.”
Have a Wondrous Winter Solstice,
In my last blog post, I gave the definition of the word I created, “Inspirationator,” along with a brief description of the meaning I assigned to it. If you missed that posting, go back to the blog post just before this one. Otherwise, for more information about this word and its meaning, here is more of the excerpt from my book, “Who Are You Choosing To Be?” Read on:
“INSPIRATIONATORS ASSIST YOU IN EXPERIENCING LIFE AT AN OPTIMAL LEVEL OF JOY, INSPIRATION, AND MOTIVATION!!!
Everyone has Inspirationators in their lives. They are important tools that energetically buoy you up when you feel you may be sinking. A buoy in the depths of the ocean holds the head and shoulders above the surface of the water until help arrives. It helps you to keep breathing deeply and calmly in the middle of a wave-filled ocean due to the support and buoyancy it provides. If you ever find that you are drowning in the middle of an ocean, you’re definitely going to be thankful for one of these (there is a reason it is called a “lifesaver”). Until you can place your feet firmly on land, a buoy is what keeps you from drowning. Inspirationators are buoys that keep you from drowning in the low-vibration energy of emotional duress.
I am fortunate to say I have a multitude of people that are Inspirationators in my life. Some of my Inspirationators are teachers, some are family, some are friends, some are celebrities, and a huge amount of them are children.
Your Inspirationators may not know that they are, in fact, Inspirationators at all. They inspire and incite you the most when they simply stand in their passion with a sincere intent to give the best that they have to offer expecting nothing in return. To an Inspirationator inspiring is not a job, a task, or a duty. Inspiring is simply who they are.” — Excerpt from “Who Are You Choosing To Be?”
I hope your holiday season is filled with a multitude of Inspirationators!
I was recently asked by a good friend to post a blog about one of my favorite subjects, “INSPIRATIONATORS!” He, his wife, and several friends keep referring to “Inspirationators” in their own lives and requested I write something so that people who are interested in the subject can be directed to this link. Before reading further, you must know … I made this word up and for very good reason. Discover more in this excerpt from Chapter 3 of my book, “Who Are You Choosing To Be?”
noun – anything that motivates you into active experience with abundant feelings of inspiration and passion. — From the “Inner World Dictionary” by Mark Edgar Stephens
“Feelings are transitional. Sometimes you feel good and sometimes you don’t. The more that you feel good, the more you practice the vibration of feeling good. When you don’t feel good, an Inspirationator is a tool that can help bring you back to that ever so slightly better-feeling, higher vibration. With enough conscious practice even feelings become repeated patterns of behavior. You literally practice feeling good so that it becomes a habit. The key is to always have something nearby in your environment that inspires and motivates you to feel good.
Something that inspires you is not always enough to motivate you to continue to stay focused on feelings of inspiration and passion. Conversely, many things may motivate you, but they may not always make you feel good inside. In fact, two of the greatest motivators for many people are anxiety and fear. When you place your attention on anxiety and fear, you vibrate with and attract more anxiety and fear, which most assuredly does not lead you to a state of feeling good. Aligning yourself with an Inspirationator lifts you back up to the higher vibration of feeling good, so that you continually enhance the emotional, mental, physical, energetic, and spiritual quality of your life.
An Inspirationator can be a person. An Inspirationator can be an event, a place, a thought, and even an object of deep affection. An Inspirationator can be a quiet moment, a realization, or a smell that brings a smile to your face. An Inspirationator can be a memory and a mindset.”
If you want to know even more about Inspirationators, take a look at my next blog posting!
I cannot say that November has arrived gently. The frenzied lead-up to Election Day and the wildly wicked weather that was Hurricane Sandy have been at the forefront of our collective attention. Yet, I can’t help but notice the subtle beauty that has accompanied this time of the year.
The maple trees of Southern California change color much later than in other parts of the United States. The first hint of color in the maples appears near the end of October and hits its slow-baked zenith sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, only dropping its final leaves in early January as new growth begins. Essentially, we seem to skip the winter here and move right into spring. For this, I am very grateful.
Walking the dog this past week, the leaves reflected color in the late afternoon sun, catching my attention and compelling me to look up into the maples for a prolonged period of time. This being the month that we celebrate gratitude, the time of Thanksgiving, my mind flooded with so much appreciation for life.
I thought of my wonderful clients who challenge me daily to walk my talk and who bring new awareness to my work, my new home and community in Manhattan Beach, my incredibly loving family and friends, and the unknown. It seems to be the unknown that excites me the most. It is in the unknown that so many possibilities surprisingly find manifestation. It is my challenge to be thankful for all that arises, no matter what form the unknown may take. Experience has taught me that when I am in a state of gratitude, consciously identifying a multitude of things for which I am thankful, I have little room in my thoughts for anything else. Additionally, gratitude just so happens to engender an emotional state of feeling my optimal best. Even as I write this, I am focused on appreciation, and I am smiling one of my big, goofy grins.
During this month of Thanksgiving, I’m grateful to be able to write, to feel, and to communicate with so many people through the worldwide web. Thanks for the opportunity to express my appreciation. I hope this month brings you many unexpected moments of peace and joy. After all, December, the month of peace and joy, is right around the corner … and it’s never too early to start practicing the possibilities of unexpected happiness.
With great appreciation,
This year has seen so many changes. The biggest change was my relocation to Manhattan Beach and with it has come a time for new traditions. This year for the October/Halloween holidays I went to the Old Time Fair, The Glass Pumpkin Display, The Pumpkin Races (hysterical), and, for the first time ever, carved pumpkins down by the beach with three of my five Godchildren.
For the first time in years, I am forgoing the annual WeHo Halloween Carnival (one of the biggest of its kind in the world) for trick-or-treaters in my new neighborhood. This change in tradition is something I would have said was unthinkable only one year ago. Something is certainly changing within me as it has changed in my external world and I welcome it.
I welcome the unknown and new experiences and new traditions. What’s new with you?
Social #connection is one of the greatest indicators of happiness! http://ow.ly/ePCj7
If you want to feel and look your best … #SMILE! It never fails. #BodyLanguage http://ow.ly/ePBMx
Do you want to #sleep better? Think about things you enjoy and for which you are grateful from the time you are getting ready for bed until you fall asleep. http://ow.ly/ePCbR
#Emotions are directly affected by your #bodylanguage and your #thoughts. Change your #bodylanguage and your #thoughts and change the way you feel. http://ow.ly/ePC6s
How do you feel? Stand up straight, chest out, chin up, and #smile! Breathe deeply for two minutes in this pose. Now how do you feel? Try it! http://ow.ly/ePCmt