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Mariel Hemingway: 3 Reasons To Heal From A Dysfunctional Family

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"My life is about survival," shares actress and HuffPost blogger Mariel Hemingway. "I come from a family of tremendous mental illness - great creativity and passion, but also great addiction, mental problems and physical illness: heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. I knew I had to change if I was going to survive."

We were talking with Mariel about her passion in life and what gives her greatest happiness. But to get there she needed to share where she had come from. So many of us grew up with the words of her grandfather Ernest Hemingway, through his books, such as The Old Man of the Sea. But creativity can also have its downside, as in dysfunctional relationships.

For Mariel, as for many of us, came from what we call spiritual bootcamp - an early life that, by teaching us what love is not, shows us what love can be.

We both come from dysfunctional family backgrounds where neither of us had a father who played much of a caring role in our early lives. Ed's mother died five days after he was born and his father married his mother's sister, but it was a marriage based on convenience and not love. After years of anger Deb's parents divorced when she was six and she was in boarding school by the time she was eight years old. Yet, each of us found a way to turn that experience around -- not to close our hearts but to stay open and loving.

When we grow up in with emotional dysfunction, we have one of three choices:

1. Do nothing. By being resistant and reluctant to change, there is the probability we will carry on the dysfunction into our own life and family.

2. Ignore the situation.
This is like an ostrich that puts their head in the sand. We think that by ignoring or denying the dysfunction it will all just go away, but of course it doesn't.

3. Change ourselves. We can never change anyone else, so the only resource we have is to change the patterns of dysfunction within ourselves.

An emotionally dysfunctional family may or may not be physically damaging, but living with anger, neglect, shame, addiction, to name but a few, leaves deep emotional scars. However, like a lotus flower that grows out of the mud and emerges pristine and beautiful, we can use the pain in order to find our healing, which enables us to accept our past as it is and to make friends with ourselves.

Mariel found this path of change through meditation. "I spent a lot of years not being happy, being depressed, through relationships I didn't know how to get right, through all the things life throws at us. I found what works, which is a middle ground. This is what meditation does for me - when I am still then my body, mind and spirit can speak to me. Unless we find stillness we cannot really listen, there is too much outside stimulation, toxicity and interference."

She continued, "I used to meditate rigorously for two hours every day, but now it feels more gentle and fluid. Everyday is a new journey. I believe that this journey is for everyone - it's not mine or the Dalai Lama's journey - we can all find in the silence a voice that guides us. I really believe this is true."

Meditation not only allows us to listen, but also to know ourselves in a deeper way. We find we are not just the result of dysfunction, but are more than that - we are also free to be whoever we choose. In the stillness we can release the pain of the past and become who we really are. In our new book BE THE CHANGE - How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, that will be published Nov 3rd, you can read more about meditation and how it can change both you and the world.

Anytime you feel stress rising, heart closing, mind going into overwhelm, try the following practice for just 5-10 minutes each day:

Find a place to be quiet, settle your body, and then bring your focus to the natural flow of your breath as it enters and leaves. As you do this, you can practice one of the following:
*Repeat: "Soft belly, open heart" with each in- and out-breath
*Repeat: "Breathing in, I calm the body and mind; breathing out, I smile."
*Breathing in, repeat: "I am easeful and peaceful," breathing out, repeat: "I am love."

How has meditation affected you? Do let us know, as we would love to hear from you! You can receive notice of our blogs every Thursday by checking Become a Fan at the top.

Ed and Deb Shapiro's new book, BE THE CHANGE, How Meditation Can Transform You And The World, forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman, with contributors such as Marianne Williamson, astronaut Edgar Mitchell, Byron Katie, Michael Beckwith, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jane Fonda, Jack Kornfield, Gangaji, Ellen Burstyn, Ed Begley, Dean Ornish, Russell Bishop, and others, will be published November 3rd 2009 by Sterling Ethos.

Deb is the author of the award-winning book YOUR BODY SPEAKS YOUR MIND. Ed and Deb are the authors of over 15 books, and lead meditation retreats and workshops. They are corporate consultants, and the creators of Chillout daily inspirational text messages on Sprint cell phones. See:

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