Mariel Hemingway, Oscar-nominated actress and granddaughter of the famed novelist Ernest Hemingway, has discovered the key to mental and physical health in a nature-based lifestyle. In her book, Running with Nature: Stepping into the Life You Were Meant to Live (Changing Lives Press, 2013), co-authored by Bobby Williams,
Mariel shares her lifestyle philosophy and strategies for conscious living. Running with Nature is an inspired guide for authentic living through conscious connection, bringing us back to the power of simple acts, such as walking barefoot and drinking pure water, to affect mood and wellbeing. Born into a dual legacy of creative genius and mental illness, Mariel long struggled to avoid the “Hemingway Curse” of depression and suicide.
In her search for authentic wellness, she explored numerous models for holistic health, authoring three books on cooking, yoga and healthy living, before locking into the integrative lifestyle of Running with Nature. Yogi Times editor Misha Bell speaks with Mariel about her journey into wellness, her philosophy of Running with Nature, and her passion for inspiring others to find and nurture their authentic Self.
Misha Bell: You have been invited to join the “I AM DOING IT” project, Yogi Times’ global outreach to communities worldwide to be “doing it” – that is, raising consciousness with skill and passion. Please tell us, how you are “doing it”?
Mariel Hemingway: I am “doing it” through my commitment to conscious living – waking up everyday feeling present and ready to live life to the fullest by living mindfully, acting with awareness, eating ethically, making time to be still, showing gratitude no matter what is going on, and finding joy and laughter in all that I do.
MB: What are the essential elements of your Running with Nature lifestyle?
Mariel Hemingway: The Running with Nature lifestyle is about slowing down, breathing, eating consciously and humanely, drinking pure water from glass rather than plastic. It’s about being a kid and finding your innate playfulness. It’s about looking for adventure and embracing it at every turn. The lifestyle is about being your own guru/teacher/nutritionist/trainer/guide and realizing that the key to your own health and happiness lies within you. Everyday you have the power to make healthy choices for your body, mind and spirit through simple acts. Turn to nature and ask yourself, what would nature do?
MB: How does Running with Nature inspire community involvement?
Mariel Hemingway: We are all interconnected. When we take care of ourselves by making choices in harmony with nature, we also take care of our communities. By eating locally grown foods that are produced sustainably and humanely, we support our community farmers as well as our farmers’ markets. The Running with Nature philosophy also encourages awareness of local environmental issues and an active stance against environmental degradation. We have a responsibility to speak up when we see the health of our environment threatened or destroyed.
MB: What does community-based living mean to you?
Mariel Hemingway: Community-based living is about the choices we make in our daily lives, from what we eat, to where we shop, to the cleaning products we use in our homes. It is about making mindful and ecologically sensitive choices and it is about how we affect and connect with the people around us. We need to think beyond the boundaries of our own yards and houses. What we do at home affects the environment of our immediate neighbors as well as the earth that sustains us. We are all active participants in the world around us. Community-based living is about conscious participation.
MB: One of your goals is to inspire people to find and nurture their authentic Self. How does Running with Nature facilitate this process?
Mariel Hemingway: Running with Nature invites people to reconnect with their environment and communities through mindfulness and conscious decision-making. When we live with more awareness and make slow, mindful choices we begin to activate our inner guide. This inner guide is an expression of our authentic Self and always steers us towards greater attunement and alignment.
MB: On your journey, you followed "every guru, woo-woo, chant and this and that," but ultimately found the answers you were looking for within. Was there a specific event or teaching that triggered this shift from searching externally to searching internally?
Mariel Hemingway: For me, there was no one catalyst that woke me up. My life has been a journey of slow and steady awakening. Every “following” came with its own treasures and has uniquely influenced my life. Many golden teachers and teachings collectively guided me to myself. I needed to first reach outside myself in order to build the courage to reach inside myself.
MB: Do you think that this awakening could have happened at an earlier point in your life, or was the summation of experiences up until that time necessary?
Mariel Hemingway: I sometimes wonder and wish that it could have been earlier in my life. That said, I trust in the natural order of events. Things happen exactly when they are meant to happen.
MB: At what point did you become involved in meditation?
Mariel Hemingway: I learned to meditate when I was pregnant with my first daughter, Dree. That was 26 years ago. I have been practicing ever since.
MB: You also practice yoga. In what ways have yoga and meditation influenced your journey?
Mariel Hemingway: Yoga taught me how to be present in my body and showed me the healing power of moving with intention and breath. And meditation – meditation has been one of the biggest keys to improving my life.
MB: What type of yoga practice do you have today?
Mariel Hemingway: I practice yoga every day outside on my porch, but my practice itself varies. One day I might practice the Tibetan Rights and another day I might do two hours of asana flow. I love all the different styles of modern yoga. Iyengar, Ashtanga, Anusara, Kundalini, Power Yoga, and Bikram all influence my practice. I love choosing the style of yoga that best suits the needs of my day.
MB: Who are the “Six Doctors” you encourage everyone to visit?
Mariel Hemingway: The six doctors are Doctor Sun, Doctor Air, Doctor Nutrition, Doctor Exercise, Doctor Rest, and Doctor Water! They are all available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. No appointment is necessary, and they are completely free! If you see them, you don’t need to see the guys in the white coats.
MB: Our culture has moved so far from natural conditions, do you think it is possible for everyone to Run with Nature? What advice would you give to someone facing tough life circumstances?
Mariel Hemingway: The great gift of Running with Nature is that you don’t have to do everything all at once to make a difference in your life. If you want to change the way you eat, change your breakfast. If you want to begin a practice of silence, do so for for five minutes a day. If you want to exercise, start with a mindful twenty minute walk in your neighborhood. If you want to eat healthier food, implement one new organic food into your diet every week. Start small and feel the difference in your life. See yourself wanting to make more healthy choices in everything you do, from thinking grateful thoughts in the morning to giving up soda. The personal choices we can make are endless. Let it be an adventure! At the same time, remember that YOU are already awesome. This is about becoming extraordinarily connected to yourself and nature, and experiencing the benefits.
MB: What challenges do you personally face in maintaining a Running with Nature lifestyle? How do you overcome these challenges?
Mariel Hemingway: My life is too busy! When my schedule overwhelms me, I sit down and I make a list of priorities. I cut back where I can, and I prioritize activities that give me energy and joy. I always make time for self-care, even if it is only thirty minutes a day. Everyone should have at least thirty minutes a day that is just for them. It can seem counter-intuitive, but I find that making time every day for fun and play helps me get more work done.
MB: You have said that “your family is your karma”. What do you mean by this?
Mariel Hemingway: I believe that I chose my family in order to learn certain life lessons. I had to understand my family and our history of mental illness in order to achieve personal freedom. Now that I am free, my life is fun and joyous.
MB: At what point did you begin seeking “alternative” answers to mental illness?
Mariel Hemingway: I have always gravitated towards natural healing and health. Looking back on my life, I can see that I did not always make healthy choices, but I was always seeking answers in the holistic field.
MB: Is it possible to say that the “Hemingway curse” has been turned into a “Hemingway blessing” through your dedication to wellness and outreach?
Mariel Hemingway: Yes! In my mind, there is no more curse. It has been transformed, as you say, into a blessing. I now have a joyous existence and all the tools I need to help manifest natural health and healing for others.
MB: Before learning to run with nature, was there ever a time when you couldn’t see the way – when the metaphorical light went out? If so, what kept you going?
Mariel Hemingway: Yes. There were many times that I experienced the “dark night of the soul”. I truly thought that I was destined for a life of sadness. I managed to pull myself out with the help of meditation. It also helped me to remember that change is the only constant, and that with darkness there is light.
My daughters were also a motivating force. I did not want to pass the legacy of sadness on to them. Some part of me knew that it was my job to break the pattern of depression in my family – it was my job to find balance.
MB: What advice would you give to someone who feels overwhelmed and imprisoned by his or her circumstances?
Mariel Hemingway: Remember that change is a constant: “This too shall pass”. Remember that there is light and love everywhere, even when you can’t see it and even when you don’t feel it. Wait, and watch for signs. Grab hold of opportunities to rise up and take charge of your life. Claim your health for yourself, for your family, for your community.
MB: Do you believe that we each have a purpose on this planet? If so, what do you understand your purpose to be?
Mariel Hemingway: I like to think so! I believe my purpose is to be honest about who I am so that others may feel permission to be honest about themselves. This kind of honesty is healing. I think I am here to show people how to find their place in life – a place of peace. My message may not speak to everyone, but I know that it speaks to many, and for that I am grateful.
MB: What is one powerful tool that everyone can use to find their purpose?
Mariel Hemingway: Silence! Although silence is elusive, it is key to fully experiencing and being present in life.
MB: Thank you, Mariel! May we all share in the brilliance of Running with Nature. NAMASTE