I had an idea.
I was about twenty years old. It was the late nineties and I was trying to find myself. I was reading the Beat writers, watching Citizen Kane on acid, and playing full court Nerf basketball in my living room. It was a good life. I was living in a house full of dudes and dogs in Seattle since graduating (questionable) from Roosevelt High school.
If I am painting the picture of a teenage slacker I am not doing a very good job. I was serious. I loved acting and it was always my plan to be an actor. So when my roommate, Dave, told me that his Grandmother had a house in Laguna Beach, California and we could move and live there for free it was a no brainer. This was pre-Internet so we found an atlas and looked up this “Laguna Beach”. It looked close enough to LA to begin our presumptive Affleck/Damon-esque adventure. I told Dave I was excited and that I was glad we took a year off after high school to get our heads straight. Dave agreed, thought about it for a second and then explained to me that it had been two years since high school. It was time to go.
Laguna was amazing and perhaps a story for another time. It was a stepping stone. One day, I drove my 82 Toyota Corolla to Pasadena and auditioned for The American Academy of Dramatic Arts. I got in. It was time.
Nothing in my life has ever compared to acting. On stage, I lived moment to moment. I listened and reacted. I moved when the movement called and paused when I knew the audience didn’t expect it. It was that back and forth of being there, fully present in a part but still giving the audience a moment to remember that I loved. When I was having an off rehearsal I would do everything wrong just to see how it felt. I had no fear of failure. I probably should have but I didn’t. Usually, by opening night, I could walk on stage with full confidence that whatever I did on stage was truth.
When I arrived at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts I had a chip on my shoulder. Most of my friends had gone off to four-year Universities and I was resentful. I was pretty philosophical for my age. I had been studying Bruce Lee’s methods of Jeet Kun Do, his own personal self-discovery through his art form, Kung Fu. I wanted to do the same thing with acting. I wanted to educate myself about the world as well as myself through playing different characters. I would cultivate a discipline, a methodology that would continue to evolve. I was going to find my truth, spirituality, and God through my art. I was intent and I grabbed on. I was also young and eager and when I grabbed on I grabbed too tight until it crumbled in my hands.
I stopped acting. Fifteen years passed in a dream. I stopped searching inside and outside of myself. I would look back on young Mark occasionally though and thought that perhaps that boy had been on to something. I wouldn’t think too long about it. I found ways to dull my brain and life got in the way of life. Until, I was granted a second chance. I was given a bit of a do-over. I began to look within again. I still haven’t found it. It’s complicated but that’s okay with me.
A lot has happened to me in the last three years and I love all of my friends and family who have been around to support me. I am a different man today and I am definitely still a work in progress. But I think I am back to those twenty-year-old ideas. That boy was on to something. The honest connection that I uncovered on stage was real. Truly listening, taking and giving back, is truth. Breathing in and out and being fully aware of the present moment was and is possible. It took me fifteen years to realize that acting was not the only way for me to achieve this higher consciousness it was only one method. Before going on stage I had prepared, rehearsed, warmed up, thought for hours and hours until I was so on point I was as sharp as a razor blade. I was present. I was Bruce Lee.
It’s ironic that when I was playing a character, someone else, I was my most real self. It didn’t matter if I was a soldier in the Civil War or a sexual deviant from the 1960s. I was fully there. So with that, I do believe in the power of mindfulness to bring forth the capacity to experience life at a deeper level. I also believe in the power of creativity to unlock personal truths that may be so deep within that we are unaware of their existence. Creativity. Mindfulness. MOSTWEST.
I don’t want to be an artist. I don’t want to live the life of a Monk. I just want to live each day to its fullest by breathing in and out. I want to love my children and not take a moment for granted. I want to listen when my soon to be wife speaks and give back to her all that I have as if I have been cast in the part of a lifetime. I want to wake up and start each morning by stretching my eyes wide open and see how much I am capable of taking in at once. And when I do, I can smile, just a little, because the audience gets it.