Monday 4/15, 7 p.m.
By the age of fifteen, Renee had lost almost everyone she loved; seeking answers, she set out on a quest for spiritual enlightenment and understanding—only to find herself entrenched in a Buddhist cult.
After seven years of faithfully following her spiritual teacher, Renee Linnell finally realized she was in a cult and had been severely brainwashed. But how did that happen to someone like her? She had graduated magna cum laude with a double degree. She had traveled to nearly fifty countries alone before she turned thirty-five. She was a surf model and a professional Argentine tango dancer. She had started five different companies and had an MBA from NYU. How could someone like her end up brainwashed and in a cult?
The Burn Zone is an exploration of how we give up our power, how what started out as a need to heal from the loss of her parents and to understand the big questions in life could leave a young woman fighting for her sanity and her sense of self. In the years following her departure from the cult, Linnell struggled to reclaim herself, to stand in her truth, and to rebuild her life. And eventually, after battling depression and isolation, she found a way to come out the other side stronger than ever. Part inspirational story, part cautionary tale, this is a memoir for spiritual seekers and those who feel lost in a world that makes them feel less than perfect.
Renee Linnell is the author of The Burn Zone. She is a serial entrepreneur and has founded or co-founded five companies. Currently she serves on the board of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation and is also working on starting a publishing company to give people from diverse walks of life an opportunity to tell their stories. Visit her website here.
Renee grew up in Florida and on a boat in the Bahamas with her parents and twin brother. Renee developed a love for watersports and a craving for Freedom, which was strengthened at age fifteen when she went hitchhiking through Costa Rica with a friend. Compelled by her mother to attend college, Renee chose Jacksonville University, in order to stay by the water, and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a double degree in dance and psychology.
One week after graduation she took off: intent on pursuing her wanderlust. From there she continued her travels, visiting close to fifty countries, many of them on her own. At age 26 Renee had a sudden knowing that her next step in life was to become a professional latin-ballroom dancer. She flew immediately to Los Angeles and within a week landed a job teaching at a dance studio owned by a world champion latin-ballroom dancer. While dancing and performing tango, Renee was invited to join a burlesque company founded by two US Champion latin-ballroom dancers.
In 2006, Renee started an e-commerce apparel company called Bald Guys Rock in order to support a bald boyfriend and all other men (and women, with Bald Babes Rock) that had lost or were losing their hair. By age 33 her wanderlust had been quenched, but she still yearned for Freedom. One day she wandered into a meditation seminar and walked out completely changed. Choosing to jump in completely, Renee studied intensely with the spiritual teacher and got ordained as a Buddhist monk, in Bhutan, four years later.
Following the advice of her guru, she quit dancing and became a computer programmer. She co-founded an iPhone app company in 2009, and then, under further direction of her guru, moved to New York to attend NYU's Executive MBA program, graduating in January 2015. She also began a business in New York, had an earth shattering falling out with her business partner (which was well documented in the NY Tabloids), and after way too long, finally realized that maybe her guru did not have her best interest at heart. Upon reflection and introspection, she realized that she had been in a cult for close to seven years. Devastated by the realization that she had betrayed herself so completely and wondered so far away from her true Inner Knowing, Renee moved to Colorado to heal, to reset her life, and to write.
Stronger, wiser, and happier than ever, she now currently divides her time between Colorado and Southern California. "Embrace your skeletons in the closet. Pull them out and paint them pink. Celebrate them. Your skeletons are probably the most interesting part about you. Your difference is your destiny.”
Praise for Renee Linnell
"Sometimes the events that change us are momentous, but other times they are so small and insidious we barely notice. Only upon reflection can we see those small choices and moments that change us irrevocably. This memoir is as beautifully written as it is incredibly poignant. Inch by inch, the author loses a sense of herself, and then, brick by lovely brick, builds her life back up again. It is a story about triumph; a story about all women who languish and ultimately relinquish their power; a story about love and the perplexing, elusive power of seeking your spiritual self.”
—Fauzia Burke, president of FSB Associates and author of Online Marketing for Busy Authors
“So honest and real . . . Linnell’s ability to embrace her whole self, imperfections and all, is a great teacher for all of us. THAT is true self-love, a beautiful permission slip to embrace our own imperfections.”
—Meredith Rom, author of Just Be: A Search for Self-Love in India
“In my thirty years as a world-renowned champion dancer and fitness coach, I've never run across a book that is so eye-opening on how vulnerable the human mind can be. I help millions of people learn how to move and what to eat to feel better physically; Renee Linnell reminds us that in order to be healthy and happy, we need to be just as careful with what goes into our minds. Everyone is looking for happiness and peacefulness; some find it drinking in a bar, some people dance, and some are singing in a church. Linnell reminds us that happiness is inside each of us and that we all are in this world with a different purpose and interests; live fully with your desires and embrace them fully!”
—Jaana Kunitz, champion ballroom dancer and cofounder of Figure 8 Fitness
"Renee bravely shows up to share her journey of the human spirit with us. I found myself utterly spellbound by her story weaving us courageously through her experience with the ugly side of spiritual leaders gone bad. A must read for anybody who puts their heart in the hands of another for spiritual growth."
—Madisyn Taylor, bestselling author of Unmedicated: The Four Pillars of Natural Wellness
“Buckle up. You’re in for an exhilarating ride. This book is compulsively readable. Writing about joining a cool chic cult, and being a pole-dancing monk, this is a redemption story-—not only for Renee Linnell but for all of us who are finally ready to love who we really are.”
—Tama Kieves, USA Today featured visionary career catalyst and bestselling author of Inspired & Unstoppable: Wildly Succeeding in Your Life’s Work! and A Year Without Fear