Excerpt From Mariel Hemingway's Memoir

Her famous grandfather, Ernest Hemingway committed suicide before she was born. Later, her sister Margaux Hemingway, a top model in the 1970s, died and Mariel Hemingway was left behind to deal with feelings of loss, pain and confusion.

The 41-year-old shares her life as an actress, as a yoga instructor and as a Hemingway in her autobiography, Finding My Balance. Read the first chapter of her book below.

Chapter One: Mountain Pose, or Tadasana

I want to begin this story about my life by simply standing still. Standing on our own two feet with stability and awareness is hugely important in all our lives, and it seems easy enough. I stand here, supposedly straight and stable, balanced and awake. But am I really? I rock my weight back and forth on my feet, trying to find my true center. The funny thing is that I am sure that what's center for me today was imbalance yesterday, or will be tomorrow. But forget that. I make a commitment to nothing except my willingness to be present on my own feet, inside my body, today — right now.

The premise of Mountain pose, like all standing yoga postures, is to stimulate the body and the mind. I tense my thigh muscles and release them, and after that release I seek a comfortable holding position that feels invigorating without tension. Concentrating on the sensation, I try to bring all the muscles in my body into this pleasant state, while standing in this apparently simple posture. I find that it is not at all a simple thing to do. There are complexities to my body even while I am standing still. Am I making a line of my crown, ears, and ankles? Are my sides extended evenly, with the same length, depth, and intensity? I pull my spine up out of my waist, feeling lightness in the intention of a straight body. My neck is long and an extension of my long spine. I spread my toes to find my solid ground. Ah yes! That reminds me of the importance of my feet. Solid contact with the earth is the root of this posture.

As I reflect on Mountain pose and understand the implications of its name, I can begin to understand my great need for stability and groundedness. Something about stability is so appealing to me in a world where I find it very difficult to feel solid on my feet, or even to feel that I'm inside my body! I think this goes way back for me. Probably, like a lot of people, my sense of instability came from a childhood where too many things were turned upside down. Caring for a sick mother in a ravaged family, I became the parent at a time when I needed reassurance and mothering.

My childhood home in Ketchum was across Idaho's Big Wood River and a few miles upstream from the cabin where my grandfather Ernest had lived. He killed himself with a shotgun just four months before I was born — the fourth suicide in his immediate family. Was it a genetic predisposition to depression and alcoholism, or an unhealthy family environment that produced disastrous emotional habits? Whatever the cause, it's the kind of family album that gets you thinking. Continued tragedies in succeeding generations of our family have left me coping with a full slate of problems and fears every day in my life. Finding my own answers has come to seem like a matter of survival. That struggle has shaped me. It is the story I want to tell.

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