Ernest Hemingway was known as a man of passion, yet he also had the wisdom to know that to follow one’s passions requires a healthy life. As he said, My health is the main capital I have, and I want to administer it intelligently. His granddaughter has taken that wisdom and provided each of us with the tools and means to apply her grandfather’s wisdom to our own lives.
Mariel Hemingway is well-known as a Golden Globe winner and Oscar-nominated actress. From her first part in Lipstick to Woody Allen’s Manhattan to her roles in more than 30 other feature films, Mariel has demonstrated a willingness to engage life fully.
Now, at the age of 47, Mariel is the mother of two daughters: Dree, 21, and Langley, 19, and a caretaker of anywhere from two to six delightful dogs at a time. For over 20 years she’s been pursuing her passion for yoga and health, and is now seen as a voice of holistic and balanced health and well-being. As part of that role, she leads wellness retreats all over America, sharing her insights about movement, silence, nutrition, and home.
In 2003 she published her powerful bestselling memoir, Finding My Balance. Her second book, Mariel Hemingway’s Healthy Living from the Inside Out is a how-to guide to finding one’s balance and health through self-empowering lifestyle techniques. Her latest and most exciting project is Mariel’s Kitchen, a company that will produce real-food products with a real-life message. Mariel believes that the health of the body, mind and spirit is the first step in becoming conscious of the health and well-being of the environment that surrounds us.
Mariel’s Kitchen will help you eat real food, grown organically and locally, and get more in touch with who you are and how you interact with your community. Look for her May 2009 book release called Mariel’s Kitchen: Simple Ingredients for a Delicious and Satisfying Life.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: Mariel, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
MARIEL HEMINGWAY: It’s my pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: We’d like to begin at the beginning. Because this series does focus on passion, will you share with us how your passions, the things that matter most to you, have led you to the life you live today?
MARIEL HEMINGWAY: Indeed, I’m very, very passionate about what I’m doing currently in my life, which is really just about helping others to understand that they’re the most fabulous, wonderful people they can be already. It’s just a matter of uncovering that person within them. I wrote Healthy Living from the Inside Out because I wanted people to know that there’s not a one-size-fits-all way to eat, move, or have a home.
We’re individuals and we’re unique expressions of the Divine. In order to uncover that, there are tools, there are ways of finding out who you are and expressing your authenticity through the choices you make in your life, whether they be the choices you make in food, the choices you make in how you move your body, the silence you take, or how your home is.
These are all elements of becoming the you you already are, but may not know about. I’m all about helping empower people to become themselves and to love themselves. There is too much self-judgment, too much comparison and competition. It’s not that that’s a bad thing in the appropriate areas, but where it’s not appropriate is with yourself. My passion is to really help people understand who they are.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: I know you’ve been through a lot in your life, and I wonder if you’d tell us a bit of the story of how you came to this place of discovering the keys to living a life in balance, which, from reading some of the things you’ve written on your blog and elsewhere, also seems to be filled today with a great deal of gratitude. How did you get to that place?
MARIEL HEMINGWAY: Our path, our life, our journey, our ups and down and our tragedies lead us to our spirituality, lead us to our connection with spirit and to God, if I can speak about that. I think gratitude is a huge piece of what we need to embrace. However, more than needing to do it, it’s something that naturally happens when you start to live your life from a place of awareness and consciousness. Thus, gratitude is a natural extension of becoming conscious.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: Were there any defining moments in your own life that helped you to see that it was, in fact, a view that was useful to you, that it didn’t serve you so much to focus on the things that were difficult?
MARIEL HEMINGWAY: It’s not that I made a conscious decision, like, I’m not going to focus on things that are difficult. What became very important to me is that I be truthful about where I actually am. I used to do a lot of workshops on being present, and the journey of being present is constant. There’s no stopping; there’s no end to the journey. It’s just like yoga. I do a lot of yoga, and there’s no end to yoga.
There’s no end to the journey. It’s always in motion. Gratitude and finding yourself is a constant process; finding presence is a constant self-inquiry, a constant self-awareness. It’s a constant ability to say, Who am I right now? How do I feel right now? What is the truth of what I am? Part of that is embracing, also, the dark things we think about. One of the things about New Age spirituality, health and well-being is that we want to always have positive thoughts, but that’s not realistic.
The truth is we’re made up of dark and light, up and down, and all these different things. It’s not about focusing on negative things, but it’s about embracing what the negative things that come up in your mind mean to you, why they’re there, and acknowledging that they’re there. When you deny any kinds of feelings, you push away the truth of yourself. If you acknowledge them, they have less of a hold on you anyway.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: That makes complete sense. We’ve had the good fortune to interview Debbie Ford, the author of The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, on our series.
MARIEL HEMINGWAY: Yes, she’s marvelous.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: She is. That, of course, was Debbie’s message in that book, that we all face challenges; we all have dark aspects to life. I wonder if you can give us any personal experiences of how you have dealt with challenges that have arisen in your life, how you’ve been able to embrace them, and how that has moved you forward.
MARIEL HEMINGWAY: I’ve certainly had a tremendous number of experiences that were dark, difficult and challenging. My mother had cancer when I was a child. It wasn’t that it wasn’t extremely challenging then, but it was also a journey to sort of embrace what that meant to me in life. Years and years later, my husband also got cancer, twice. What that did for our lives, what that brought up in me was the past desire to fix and control and take over.
I really had to address my own co-dependent need to find love through taking care of somebody, instead of allowing my husband to have the journey of his cancer be his own journey. At the same time, it was also my journey to deal with it differently. There was that challenge. There are the challenges of raising daughters who come up against things in a world that’s about the way you look and is very external.
The idea of how you occur in the world is very difficult at their age. I remember when I was their age and was a young up-and-coming actress, and it was about the way you looked and the way you came across in the outside world. It wasn’t how you felt. It’s a challenge to allow them to have their experience while giving them some of the knowledge you have without looking like you’re pushing it down their throats, because they don’t take it anyway.
It’s those kinds of things. Even in the very simple things, like eating every single way that there’s been to eat on the plant. I’ve been vegan, I’ve been macrobiotic, I’ve been vegetarian, I did Fit-For-Life, I did no-fat, I did too-much-fat, I did too much protein. I’ve tried it all to find what worked. They were challenging to me because in trying these extreme things I wasn’t really being true to who I am.
The only reason I share it, and why it’s a passion for me, is because I’ve been through it. I share from the experience of being so in the dark and not knowing how to take the next step and not knowing how I should eat. My journeys are sometimes dramatic-like with cancer, my sister committing suicide, and one of my sisters being mentally ill-and dealing with the fact that that brings up fears in me.
It no longer does, but it used to bring up a tremendous amount of fear. I’d think, That’s so much in my life. There’s been so much suicide and mental illness. Does that mean I’m next? Does that make me a part of that? What about that fear do I need to address in me? Where does it really come from? Is it really about me? What can I do for myself to bring some peace to my own sense of well-being? It’s just constant inquiry into who I am.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: It really comes through in reading your writing. In preparing for this interview, I was reading through your blog posts. One yesterday, which I recommend to everyone, is at www.MarielHemingway.com, where you’ll find a link to Mariel’s blog. She posts, it looks like, about once a month. You do a fairly extensive posting.
There’s a beautiful description of what it means to live with environmental awareness in the context of ecology these days. I really appreciated how you brought it back to our own internal environment, internal ecology, and that that’s the starting place.
MARIEL HEMINGWAY: Yes. I talk about the green movement and ecology-minded people, or people who want to be but don’t really understand how to. They think, Oh, my gosh! Is it overwhelming? Is it about recycling? Am I supposed to get solar panels? What am I supposed to do? Do I go buy a Prius? What does it mean to be green? I jokingly say that for Kermit the Frog it just means be green.
For us, though, what does it mean? We want to do well in the world. We want to do things that help our planet to be a healthier, better place for our children. How do you do that? My belief is that the only way that anybody can truly do that with authenticity is by finding it in themselves. That doesn’t mean, like me, that you have to eat a lot of green food, which I do.
It means that you slow your life down enough and start asking yourself questions like, How do I occur in this world? How do I show up? What am I doing for me? That sounds selfish; but the truth is we need to care for ourselves, find love and compassion for who we are, and find those ways of eating, moving and having silence that define us. By doing that, there’s a natural progression into wanting your world to be a healthier environment.
Once your internal environment becomes important to you and becomes healthy, it’s just natural you want the entire world your beautiful being is held in to be a healthy and special place. It just comes naturally. It’s not a ‘doing’; it comes naturally. It’s like breathing. You just say, Of course I’m going to make different choices because I care now, because I feel differently on a personal level.
Frankly, it’s not selfish. People think about themselves. How you feel is very, very important. If you’re feeling at peace, you resonate and you put peace out in the world. However, you can only feel peaceful if you’re really addressing those things in every aspect of yourself, whether it be in the food you eat, the home you live in, how you can be slower and more conscious and aware of how you do things.
Again, it comes back to that self-inquiry: How do I feel? How do I occur? What does it look like for me to be in the world I live in? Naturally, then, you move into, I care about the environment because it’s the world I live in.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: It makes complete sense. As I said, I really appreciated your focus. To create the kind of world we all choose to live in clearly begins with us creating our own lives to be those healthy, vibrant lives we would choose to live. Many of our listeners these days, many people in the world are facing in this current economic climate, challenges and stresses that are both unusual and common, I suppose, but difficult and challenging.
I hope in our discussion to help them see some of the things they can do to deal with things like the loss of jobs these days, the stress that’s putting on people’s families and relationships, and the challenges related to feeling like there’s not enough money. You used the word ‘authenticity’ earlier. I was struck in your December blog post of how authentically you described your relationship with your husband of 24 years and your decision to end that relationship.
I wonder if, using that as an example, you can share with our listeners some of the things you found to be effective in dealing with very difficult choices such as that, and also in moving through those and being able to create a new kind of life even when things seem very dark at the present moment.
MARIEL HEMINGWAY: My heart goes out to the many, many people who have lost jobs and homes. It’s a really challenging time on so many levels. During that time, yes indeed, I separated from my husband of 24 years, whom I love, in May. It was something that needed to happen for both of our lives. We were extremely close as friends, but something was lost in going through cancer and in the years of life together.
Something was lost in our relationship, and it wasn’t that it was bad. Some people say, You should continue to work on it, or whatever, but there was a knowing that what we had learned from each other we’d completed as a couple. It’s not that we’re not going to be friends and that we don’t have other experiences; we do have children we share and love, and what have you. However, there was a knowing that it was done.
At the same time, in that knowing there is tremendous pain because it’s scary. I was with him since I was 22 years old. I didn’t know how to be in the world by myself. I thought I was really independent, but I was not independent. It was challenging for me to find a sense of security within myself, and it was probably the biggest reason it needed to happen, at least on my side, because I needed to find the love of self within me in order to be in the world and be truly strong and truly authentic for me.
Although I fell in love, I’m still living my life. There’s something about the independence that I needed to really step into. It took a tremendous amount of courage, and I was scared. I still run up against wanting the comfort of just knowing that life is a certain way. My life is all about the unknown now. It’s all about uncertainty. I have a book coming out in May and different things happening, but I still don’t really know what’s going to happen with my life.
That’s a daunting, kind of frightening thing, and yet very exhilarating and very empowering. I’m not saying everybody needs to get divorced, by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I truly believe in relationships and I think they’re really profound and powerful. Yet, there comes a time when you say, What’s right for me to be the best I can be in this world, to be better than I’ve been before? It’s not that I’ve been bad, but how can I grow more? I just knew that I needed some sort of change.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: There are many people who are thinking about making the decision to follow their passions. Having written a book called The Passion Test, we talk to people a lot about taking the step to choose in favor of the things they’re most passionate about. Yet, the word that comes up more than any is that word you used, ‘courage’. It takes courage to make a shift or change away from what appears to be secure to the things that may bring greater joy to your life, but also don’t seem to be as certain.
You mentioned earlier that you have done a lot of yoga; yoga has been an important part of your life. Have there been other techniques, tools or methods you’ve used to deal with the kinds of fear or issues that have come up since you had to make such a major decision in your life?
MARIEL HEMINGWAY: Yes. Initially, I think yoga was a catalyst and it pushed me into having a spiritual life. Initially, yoga was exercise. Then it became, This is shifting the way I think. This is shifting my consciousness. Then it led me to meditation, My gosh! That’s shifting my consciousness. I’m starting to look at my life differently. These were tools, and I still have those tools I use quite frequently.
Now there’s a bigger thing I’ve really reached out and into, and I think it’s very key in this society we live in with the economy the way it is. It’s almost as though it happened so we could all come together. I know that sounds really corny in some ways.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: We like corny.
MARIEL HEMINGWAY: We like corny! I find Obama becoming president feels like it’s about community. He does talk about the fact that, I’m going to get it wrong. You’re going to get mad at me, but I’ll be that person you can have a discussion with. I’m willing to step out of the box and say, ‘This is about us finding our way together.’ That’s, at least, how I interpret it.
I think that’s really what needs to be embraced during the time we’re living in right now. We need to embrace community. I think the ’80s and ’90s, up until now, have been about doing it ourselves. We’re in rooms; we’re meditating, we’re empowering, we’re becoming heads of companies, we’re making ourselves successful, and we’re doing it on our own. The time of doing things on our own is dropping away.
I feel as though the community is becoming more and more imperative. That’s why I talk a lot about ritual and family. How can we create more community, more ritual, more things that bring us together feeling like family, even if it’s not blood family? That coming together is a tool. We need to realize we need help. Some people don’t want to admit it. They find it very difficult to do their journey on their own.
I have so many people in my life who help me. They’re my friends, they’re my family, they’re my teachers. I listen to them because I know they have something to say and vice versa. That community, that webbing of all of us together is really one of the greatest tools I’ve found of late. I still do yoga. I still hike; nature is an incredibly important tool for me because I actually use nature as a way to get present.
Krishnamurti was asked, What do you think about when you’re walking? He said, Walking. There is something about the purity of going into nature, breathing in the air, taking in the flowers and the sensation of the wind on your skin, the sun and all these different sensations. They make you present. That’s another wonderful tool. Energy always shifts; it doesn’t matter how bad it gets; it will shift.
It has to because energy moves. It’s in circular motion. It’s like the sign of the infinity. It goes in a figure eight. You know how DNA just swirls; it spins. That’s the way life is. Eventually, that energy has to shift. It’s having the faith to know. You live on faith, which is about knowing that everything will change, even the good. You’re on a high and you’re feeling fantastic, and that shifts.
It doesn’t mean it shifts to bad, but it shifts to a different place. My reminder to myself is to always say, Don’t hold onto anything. There is nothing to hold onto. Allow for constant change. That doesn’t mean you go out and travel all the time. Change is going to happen in your same home. If you allow for that shift and that change, your life becomes a miracle of divine guidance.
You become so receptive to what’s occurring all the time. It doesn’t mean you do everything that comes up, but you have this elasticity and awareness and this openness to want to be more truthful about yourself. Those are the kinds of questions I ask myself constantly: How do I feel? Who am I being? How am I sharing? Am I giving something to the world that’s of some sort of meaning?
What does that mean, that I want to do that? Is that arrogance? Is that a need for attention? I ask myself these questions because I want to be really truthful about where I am every single moment, and that’s about presence. That comes from moving your body. My body has taught me more about my life than anything else. In my first book, Finding My Balance, I describe a yoga posture and I let it lead into a story about my life.
I always learn through how my body moves and how I breathe. That’s been my way of learning. I share those tools. Food has been an incredible teacher for me, an incredible tool about how to be in the world. My tools don’t sound very tool-like, but they are.
CHRIS ATTWOOD: They actually sound quite profound. What I’ve heard you say is that it’s through a combination of things, first presence in everything you do, and then incorporating yoga and meditation. Your thought, this idea, of community reminds me of the acronym I heard some years ago, TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves Miracles. You were talking about creating miracles.
In a time when things are difficult, as they are for many people in the world today, we need miracles. I think you’ve given some very practical tools, frankly. I want to ask you something from your book, Healthy Living from the Inside Out. You identified four key elements for healthy living: food, exercise, silence, and home. Would you, Mariel, tell us why you chose those four as the most critical elements of healthy living?
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For more information about Mariel Hemingway and her work, please go to www.MarielHemingway.com.