Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Join Me for Some 'Full Power Living'

Please tune in this Thursday, October 2 at 12 pm Eastern, when I'll be a guest on the "Full Power Living" radio show with host Ilene Dillon. Tune in for a lively conversation about conscious creation in the movies and my writings about the subject. The broadcast is available by clicking here. And, for further information about the show, visit the program's home page by clicking here.

Friday, September 26, 2014

‘Skeleton Twins’ charts the path to personal happiness

“The Skeleton Twins” (2014). Cast: Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Joanna Gleason, Luke Wilson, Ty Burrell, Boyd Holbrook, Sydney Lucas, Eddie Schweighart. Director: Craig Johnson. Screenplay: Mark Heyman and Craig Johnson. Web site. Trailer.

When life doesn’t work out as hoped for, disappointment is sure to set in. But, when that disappointment gets to be more than we can bear, it can easily turn into despair. How we respond to those circumstances, however, is what ultimately matters most, as a pair of confused siblings discover for themselves in the quirky new comedy-drama, “The Skeleton Twins.”

What choices do we have when we believe our lives suck and we can’t fathom why? That’s a question a disillusioned brother and sister have been asking themselves for years. And, with no suitable answers readily forthcoming, they’re about to take drastic action to address their personal dissatisfaction.

For Milo Dean (Bill Hader), a single gay man living in Los Angeles who works as a waiter while struggling to build an acting career, life is tedious, boring and unfulfilling, and he’s sick of it. His sister Maggie (Kristen Wiig), a married dental hygienist living in New York’s Hudson Valley where she and her brother grew up, feels trapped by life’s stifling mediocrity and perpetually takes classes in various diversions, like scuba diving, in hopes that they’ll provide her with some kind of inspirational spark. Both of them clearly have trouble coping with their situations. But that’s all about to change.

When a medical emergency reunites Milo and Maggie after a protracted estrangement, they tentatively renew their connection. It’s not that they dislike one another; in fact, they had been quite close while growing up, as seen in several flashbacks to their younger selves (Sydney Lucas, Eddie Schweighart). They just drifted apart over time, especially when their growing discontent with life in general led each of them to let their most significant ties deteriorate. This was particularly true in the wake of their father’s unexplained suicide when they were teens, an event that left an indelible mark on both of them.

With their bond renewed, Milo and Maggie discover they still enjoy one another’s company, taking comfort in the mutual support their relationship affords. Milo even decides to avail himself of Maggie’s invitation to come stay with her and her husband, Lance (Luke Wilson), while he recuperates. And so, with a mixture of trepidation and hopefulness, Milo joins his sister in a return to their roots. But, once reunited, the siblings quickly find that they still must contend with their personal anguish. However, unlike before, at least they now have each other to lean on as they sort out their feelings and seek resolution.

So why are Milo and Maggie so distraught? That’s a good question, one that even they don’t seem entirely clear about. There are hints, to be sure, such as their father’s aforementioned suicide. Then there’s their conflicted feelings toward their inattentive mother, Judy (Joanna Gleason), a flighty free spirit who’s typically more interested in the latest New Age fad than in her children’s well-being. Milo also wrestles with unresolved feelings about a failed romance with an old flame, Rich (Ty Burrell), while Maggie seeks to understand her inexplicable restlessness toward Lance, a genuinely nice guy whose perpetually upbeat, always-considerate attitude quietly drives her crazy.

But, with the exception of their dad’s death, is there anything here that’s really so tragic? Most of us would probably say “No.” However, it’s unlikely that Milo and Maggie would concur with that assessment, primarily because that’s the nature of their prevailing outlook, one based on what they believe. And what they believe, of course, is what generates the reality they experience, a fundamental principle that governs the functioning of the conscious creation process. Moreover, the longer they buy into those beliefs, the more entrenched those notions – and their existence – become.

Thus, if Milo and Maggie wish to understand the nature of their circumstances, they should look to themselves first. If their beliefs create their reality, and their beliefs are based on the premise that life is awful, it doesn’t take much to figure out what kind of existence they’ll manifest for themselves.

Most of us would probably find that prospect depressing. However, given that we always have access to an infinite range of beliefs (and, by extension, an infinite range of possibilities capable of materializing from them), we’re not locked into the infinite perpetuation of those conditions. Change is indeed possible. But it begins with us and the beliefs we hold, and, as long as we’re willing to adjust our thinking, alterations to our circumstances are attainable. Failing that, though, we’re destined to stay stuck in place, and that’s a realization Milo and Maggie must come to if they ever hope to alleviate their anxiety – and make a fresh start.

In examining our beliefs (and, consequently, what we manifest from them), it’s imperative that we take responsibility for them. That can be challenging, especially if we discover we dislike what we believe (and, hence, what we create). It may be highly tempting to play the victim under those circumstances, to seek to lay blame elsewhere. But, if we buy into the concept of conscious creation, then we must also accept that we create our reality in its totality, for better or worse.

Coming to terms with that can be problematic, especially if we find out we’ve embraced troublesome (and potentially damaging) beliefs, such as those associated with things like self-sabotage. We might not want to acknowledge their existence, perhaps even going so far as to deny them outright. This is something the siblings would be wise to ponder.

For instance, Maggie has married someone who genuinely adores her, but she often sees him as an annoying, squeaky clean geek. Rather than reciprocate the commitment and devotion Lance shows her, she continually engages in behavior destined to undermine the loving relationship she’s created, such as ridiculing him behind his back and even pursuing dalliances with other men, like her scuba diving instructor, Billy (Boyd Holbrook). Likewise, as a single man, Milo has the freedom to look for love with anyone he wants. Yet, rather than exercise that option, he instead wallows in the overly idealized memories of his involvement with Rich, an unhealthy relationship that was assured to fail from the outset.

If the fallout from such circumstances upsets Maggie and Milo, then they must look to themselves to rectify matters, and the only way they’ll be able to change their lot is to determine why they hold the beliefs that materialized those conditions in the first place. This involves cutting through their personal belief clutter, taking themselves down to the bare bones level of their respective perspectives – like that of a skeleton – to see what thoughts and intents lurk in their consciousness, no matter what they may be. Such determinations are essential if we hope to rewrite the beliefs we put forth to create anew.

Given the overall state of Milo and Maggie’s lives, which many of us may see as reasonably pleasant, some viewers might look upon the siblings as a pair of whiny brats trapped in trumped-up dramas of their own making. And, logically speaking, that assessment would indeed have some merit. Nevertheless, as anyone who genuinely understands conscious creation knows, our beliefs don’t know logic; they simply exist and function to manifest the reality we experience (often persisting rather stubbornly in doing so, too). This is not to give Milo and Maggie an out for the nature of their creations; it’s simply meant to show how they arrived where they are in their lives – and why implementing changes can be challenging.

Still, if looking to ourselves is the key to rewriting our beliefs (especially those we dislike), why don’t we do this more readily when the need arises? While circumstances vary from individual to individual, the most likely culprit is fear. By being afraid (i.e., unwilling) to look further afield from what we already know, we stay locked in place, regardless of whether or not the creations that spring forth from those manifesting beliefs serve us. In many instances, we can alleviate this issue by working on developing the qualities that help us better understand our intents, such as our intuition. But, by failing to take responsibility for this (as Milo and Maggie do – and apparently have for quite a long time), we keep ourselves from finding the true happiness we’re each capable of realizing. We can only hope the siblings discover this for themselves – while they still have the chance.

“The Skeleton Twins” is a wonderful little gem of a movie, with great performances by Wiig, Hader and Gleason. Its well-written, award-winning screenplay is full of wit without ever sounding forced or contrived. At the same time, the script doesn’t hesitate to go for the jugular, either, unhesitatingly exposing the protagonists’ raw emotions at key junctures in the story. What’s more, the film doesn’t spoon-feed viewers, letting the narrative’s events and the picture’s character development speak volumes in making its points. All told, this is a terrific cinematic offering to help fill the void that typically comes between the blockbuster summer movie season and the run-up to the release of awards season contenders.

Working through life’s pains can be a daunting prospect, one in which we often feel alone. But having someone by our side to accompany us through the turmoil certainly helps, if in no other way than to make the journey a little easier and more comforting. In that regard, Milo and Maggie are truly fortunate to have one another. And, if they play their cards right, they just might find the happiness that has long alluded them, a lesson we can all learn from.

Copyright © 2014, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

It's All About Relationships

Please tune in this Thursday, September 25 at 8 pm Eastern, when I'll be a guest on the VividLife Internet radio show "It's All About Relationships." Join me and host Edie Weinstein for a lively conversation about conscious creation in the movies, especially as it relates to the relationships we have with ourselves. To hear the broadcast, click here.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Flow of Consciousness

Anyone who’s an artist—regardless of the medium in which one works—knows that getting into the flow of one’s consciousness is essential to successfully create finished works. Tapping into this rich resource of inspiration and knowledge provides access to the makings of all sorts of completed materializations. To find out more, read "The Flow of Consciousness," my latest Smart Women's Empowerment blog, available by clicking here.

Friday, September 12, 2014

‘Hundred-Foot Journey’ charts our personal creative odysseys

“The Hundred-Foot Journey” (2014). Cast: Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, Charlotte Le Bon, Amit Shah, Farzana Dua Elahe, Dillon Mitra, Aria Pandya, Michael Blanc, Clément Sibony, Juhi Chawla, Shuna Lemoine, Rohan Chand. Director: Lasse Halström. Screenplay: Steven Knight. Book: Richard C. Morais, The Hundred-Foot Journey. Web site. Trailer.

When we embark on the journeys of our lives, we seldom know what awaits us. Yet, if we leave ourselves open to the range of possible experiences available, we enable the potential for a wealth of rewarding and wondrous opportunities for creative fulfillment, many of which are unexpected yet ever so satisfying. Such are the sorts of personal odysseys profiled in the entertaining new comedy-drama, “The Hundred-Foot Journey.”

When an attacking mob destroys the Mumbai restaurant owned by the Kadam family, they lose everything they’ve worked for. But, if that weren’t tragic enough, their grief is magnified by the loss of the family matriarch (Juhi Chawla), who is killed during the incident. With their lives shattered, the Kadams emigrate from India to Europe in search of a fresh start. Leading the way is the family patriarch (Om Puri), who is accompanied by his five children and lovingly guided by the spirit of his departed wife.

The family journeys to the continent not only to search for a new home, but also a suitable location for a new restaurant, continuing the long-standing family tradition. Papa Kadam is eager to open an eatery that showcases the culinary skills of his son, Hassan (Manish Dayal), who has been an ardent devotee of cooking since he was a child (Rohan Chand). But, despite these noble ambitions, the family’s quest is initially fraught with pitfalls, and frustrations quickly mount. However, just as everything seems to be falling apart once again, synchronicity steps in to lend an unexpected hand.

While motoring through rural France, a nearly devastating traffic accident lands the family in the small town of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, a village that’s destined to become their new home. With the aid of a beautiful young Samaritan named Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), the Kadams are welcomed and cared for in their time of need. And, as they await completion of repairs on their vehicle, they stumble upon the ideal location for their new restaurant, a run-down but otherwise-beautiful country estate. Papa sees the potential of this location, despite the protests of his children, and decides to buy the property.

As the villa undergoes renovation, everything seems to proceed well – that is, until the family meets their neighbor, Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren). As the owner of Le Saule Pleurer, an elegant Michelin-rated bistro, Mme. Mallory condescendingly stares down her nose at the new arrivals, especially when she learns of their plans to open a restaurant of their own. Even though the Kadams’ cuisine does not compete with that of their upscale neighbor, Mme. Mallory is sufficiently appalled at the prospect of a noisy, “unrefined” establishment opening up a mere 100 feet away, fearing it will offend her patrons and jeopardize her acclaimed rating.

Once the Maison Mumbai opens, a gastronomic feud ensues, and the flames of this comical dispute are fanned in myriad ways. Tensions rise as circumstances grow progressively more complicated, too, such as when Mme. Mallory’s sous chef – Marguerite – begins fraternizing with the staff of her next-door nemesis. Or when the feuding restaurateurs try to undermine one another by monopolizing the supplies available from local food purveyors. Or when Mme. Mallory is unexpectedly shocked at the extent of Hassan’s kitchen talents. Matters spiral so out of control that even the mayor (Michel Blanc) is called upon to intervene in the culinary quarrel.

But, all roguish gamesmanship aside, the playfully spirited conflict eventually takes an ugly turn, and neither combatant is responsible for the resulting ruin. With the nature of the situation changed, the feuding parties need to adopt a new stance, one aimed at resolving the dispute and taking steps that benefit them both. And, in devising a workable solution, the warring factions ultimately steer the course of events in a surprising new direction, one that proves a winner for all involved.

The mere fact that this film’s title includes the word “journey” implies that its characters partake in an odyssey of sorts, one that inherently includes a rich and diverse array of experiences. As participants in this trek, they’re bound to be affected and changed by what they undergo. This, in turn, fosters their personal evolution, one of the cornerstone principles of conscious creation philosophy, the means by which we shape the reality we each experience. They thereby reflect the conscious creation notion that we’re far from static beings, that we’re each in a constant state of becoming.

Indeed, as the film’s characters make their way through the story, they transform, becoming different people from whom they were when they first embarked on their journeys. And the evolutionary changes they experience occur in many ways, both outwardly in the physical existence of which they’re a part and inwardly in the realm of their being. Their thoughts, beliefs and intents, the means by which they manifest the reality that surrounds them, take them down new, untried, unexplored avenues of possibility. In many respects, they truly embody these principles in their most basic expression. Metaphorically speaking, they clearly journey much farther than the 100 feet the picture’s title suggests.

In doing so, the characters immerse themselves in experiences involving other significant conscious creation concepts. For instance, they learn valuable lessons related to the intrinsic connectedness of all things. Despite the protagonists’ preconceived notions of everyone and everything being separate and apart from one another, they come to realize through the circumstances they materialize that “they’re all in this together.” When confronted with challenges that threaten their collective well-being, they quickly understand that everyone benefits from a spirit of cooperation rather than competition, a belief that speaks to the innate connectedness that binds them to one another. A change in attitude in this regard leads to creations – and solutions – not previously considered, remedies that ultimately advance everyone’s interests. They discover that drawing upon our intrinsic sense of connection and collaboration pays better dividends for everybody than thoughtlessly pursuing aims driven by conflict, ego, bragging rights or other self-serving considerations.

The parties also come to understand the role of synchronicity in the unfolding of their creative journeys. This fortuitous phenomenon often greases the wheels of our evolution, even if it doesn’t always seem that way. The family’s initial tragedy, their subsequent traffic accident and the unforeseen malice later inflicted upon them all may seem like cruel, capricious twists of fate destined to yield demoralizing setbacks. Yet, in each case, the devastation ends up taking circumstances in surprisingly favorable directions.

The trick in making effective use of synchronicity is being cognizant of its occurrence. Rather than curse the heavens, we’d be wise in such situations to ask ourselves, “Why did this happen?” In fact, to make even more effective use of it, we’d serve ourselves well to put it in a conscious creation context by asking ourselves, “So why did I create these conditions?” and “What beliefs are driving these circumstances?” Once we do this, we have an opportunity to uncover the pearl in the metaphysical oyster.

Of course, this also begs us to become awake and aware of how our reality comes into being and what we do specifically to make that happen. It compels us to draw upon all of our perceptive abilities and all of the elements that we employ in the manifestation process, especially our intuition. This is something Papa Kadam is acutely aware of, especially in his seemingly unconventional communications with his departed wife. But such exceptional contact always pays off, resulting in insights that lead to constructive outcomes. One would hope that his example rubs off on others, too – including us.

The biggest payoff that arises from all these realizations is a deeper understanding of the joy and power of creation. The fulfillment that comes from the simple act of manifesting our desires assumes an exalted position of prominence in the consciousness and sensibilities of those working their materialization magic. This is perhaps most obvious in the experience of Hassan, whose lifelong passion takes quantum leaps in advancement when he taps into the conditions that make such progress possible. His experience provides him with a tremendous sense of personal satisfaction – and an inspiring example for all of us to draw upon.

In driving home this point, the film aptly illustrates how unbridled joy can come from a comparatively simple act like cooking, something many of us may take for granted as an everyday mundane task. Yet “The Hundred-Foot Journey” elevates the commonplace to an art form, one to be savored in every respect, from its inception to its completion and eventual consumption. Indeed, the kitchen is an arena that has received considerable attention in this regard in recent years, both in the plethora of television shows celebrating the subject, as well as in a number of other theatrical film releases, including “Chef” (2014), “Le Chef” (2014) and “Haute Cuisine” (2013). But, then, all of these offerings applaud something that nourishes us, just as the conscious creation process itself does.

“The Hundred-Foot Journey” is fairly typical fare from director Lasse Halström, a mildly entertaining melodrama that satisfies nicely, like a good, home-cooked meal. The picture’s luscious cinematography and capable acting are sure to please, despite the film’s need for some judicious editing and its tendencies toward schmaltzy predictability. But these shortcomings are nonetheless compensated for by Mirren’s deliciously wicked performance and the movie’s many exquisite culinary and landscape shots. In short, if you go in without high expectations about this film, you won’t be disappointed.

Our personal creative odysseys often take us in directions we don’t see coming, but those experiences also open us up to parts of ourselves we know little about or never knew existed. That allows our true selves and untapped potential to emerge, making it possible to fulfill ourselves in ways we never dreamed of. And, under such tantalizing circumstances, who knows what we might cook up.

Copyright © 2014, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Catch Me on Writers' Voices!

Please tune in this Friday, September 12 at 2 pm Eastern, when I'll be a guest on the Writers' Voices radio show on KRUU FM in Fairfield, IA. Tune in locally at 100.1 FM or over the Internet by clicking here. Join me and host Monica Hadley for a lively conversation about conscious creation in the movies. And, for further information about the show, visit the Writers' Voices web site.