RENEE LINNELL is a former surf model, a professional Argentine Tango dancer, and a serial entrepreneur with an Executive Masters in Business Administration from New York University. She made her publishing debut in 2018 with The Burn Zone, a memoir of her experience as a cult survivor. She divides her time between Colorado and South Florida.
Energizing, empowering, and reassuring, Still on Fire will resonate with many and all kinds of people who feel tired and need a push to ignore the voice of self-doubt in their head and keep walking forward.
This is her interview
1. Why is it so difficult for people to “take the leap into a life that (they) love”?
Most people are afraid of the unknown. When we are children we are used to being uncomfortable because the whole world is unknown. But as we grow older we learn how to create “safe” environments and then we get stuck. The familiar feels “safe,” and we get so used to doing the same job and being with the same person in the same house that we begin to believe we don’t have the skill set to start a new career or think we don’t know how to be in the world alone. What we don’t realize is that the deep soul pain that comes with “being stuck” is much more painful than whatever we would experience if we jumped into the unknown.
2. You’re very candid about the hard lessons you learned from years of bad choices, bad breaks, and crushing blows. What’s your definition of living happily ever after? Why were these experiences necessary to becoming the best you possible?
Tribal cultures have rights of passage into adulthood. These rites of passage show adolescents they have what they need inside of them to survive in this world on their own. Cultures without them are overrun with “kiddults” (entitled adults expecting others to do things for them, to save them, and to make them happy.) I consider what I went through my rites of passage. These experiences were necessary because they taught me that I can survive anything life throws at me—which is an incredibly powerful realization. My definition of living happily ever after is: being present, grateful, kind, and loving. When we are present in the moment we are able to notice the gifts in each moment; when we are always focused on the future we live in anxiety and fear wondering if what we want to happen will happen—telling ourselves we will be happy when some arbitrary event happens. The empowering realization that I can survive whatever life throws my way helps me relax into the present more often—and the present is where all the power and magic lies.
3. We live in highly polarized times on so many fronts. Why do you say it’s pointless to continually try to get others to see the world from one’s point of view?
Other people can’t see from our point of view because they are not us. Quantum physics is finally confirming what saints and shamans have been saying for thousands of years: our thoughts create our reality. If there are 8 billion of us, each with our own unique thoughts, there are 8 billion different realities. When we try to shift someone’s point of view we are trying to alter their reality (which is how they make sense of this world)—and that really scares people—which is why they so vehemently cling to their perspective. Only people who are open to having their reality shifted are open to seeing from other points of view; most people are too afraid and are only able to see through a new point of view afterlife has come along and smashed them around a little. Words don’t teach, only life experience teaches. I love the quote by Ziad K Abdrinour, “For those who understand, no explanation is needed. For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible.” It is so much easier, kinder, and more efficient to allow people their point of view and to use our energy instead to be a living example of the ways we wish to teach.
4. Why do so many of us attract people who treat us badly?
Too many of us were treated badly as children by overworked, overstressed, unhappy parents. We were loved and showered with attention when they felt good and had time, but neglected and verbally or emotionally abused when they did not. We were told we were too loud or in the way, or too energetic, or not enough and so we believed this about ourselves. As adults we gravitate toward love patterns that are similar. Don Miguel Ruiz says in The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom that we learn to judge and abuse ourselves the way our parents did, and that we put up with people who treat us as badly as we treat ourselves—if they treat us just a little bit worse, we won’t tolerate it and will remove that person from our life, but if they treat us as badly or a little less, we will stay in the relationship.
5. What’s the best way to get the “good love” that we deserve?
Self-love. The more we love and nurture ourselves, the less we will allow others to treat us badly. Self-love is so subtle: it’s making healthy, self-loving, self-nurturing choices in every moment. It’s as subtle as leaving 15 minutes early so we’re not stressed and angry in traffic, or checking in with our body when it’s time to choose food to see what our body really wants as nourishment. It’s not criticizing inside our mind: when we look in the mirror, when we make a mistake. Self-love takes constant vigilance and practice. It’s treating the child inside of us the way we wish a parent, friend, co-worker, the world, or a lover would treat her/him. Once we are this loving to ourselves all the time, we will notice we effortlessly attract loving people.
6. Are we supposed to be happy all the time? How should we handle the lows or painful moments in our lives?
No, we are not supposed to be happy all the time. (1) It’s impossible. (2) It would make life less enjoyable if we didn’t experience the opposites. In order to know pleasure we must know pain. And those of us who have experienced the most pain are often those of us who experience the most pleasure. As above, so below. When we can learn to be in awe of the human experience, we can learn to be in awe of our pain—to notice our mind state changing radically even when life circumstances have not shifted. Or, when life circumstances shift radically we can notice we have moments of joy and peace during the despair. If we could see the lows and painful moments of our lives as necessary parts of our Divine Plan, we could surrender into them and allow the pain to cut through us, hollowing out more space to eventually hold more light. Remembering that this too shall pass.
7. You say it’s healthy and makes sense to believe in magic, miracles, and divine intervention, yet so many people live with doubt and disbelief. How can we open ourselves to the belief of something larger than ourselves?
It starts with being present. When we pay attention to what is unfolding in front of us in each moment, we don’t miss the rainbow or the butterfly or the string of green traffic lights just when we need them most. We notice the lyrics that we most need to hear in the song playing in the store we just entered. We notice the stranger arriving just in time to give us directions when we are lost or to open a door when we are loaded down with packages. And then we have to stop explaining away the “coincidences.” The more we notice, they more they will appear—the same way when we decide to buy a certain car or pair of shoes we start to see them everywhere.
8. Sex can be wonderful, yet our culture often labels it as taboo if experienced outside of certain rigid conditions. Why is it important to reclaim our autonomy regarding sex? How does sex work wonders for the body and soul?
Sexual energy is a very powerful, creative energy—so powerful that it creates new life. Our second chakra is our generative chakra (genitalia), so when we unite with another sexually, we create more of what is. When we unite sexually in love, joy, fun, play, and romance, we create more love, joy, fun, play, and romance—we send that vibration out into the world. In orgasm, our mind quiets, even if just for a second, and we become fully present. This is mediation. And it is union with the Divine. Organized religions labeled sex taboo because if we can unite with the Divine on our own, we don’t need them as much and they hold less power. Properly flowing energy in the body flows from the root chakra at the base of the spine upwards through all the other chakras and out the crown of the head. When we shut down our sexual energy, we block this flow—and blocked energy in the body creates stagnation, pain, illness, and disease.
9. Western medicine and Big Pharma have fueled our national epidemic of body issues. What can we do in order to allow our thoughts and emotions to have the power to heal and protect us from disease?
Conventional Agriculture sprays and injects our food with chemicals, creating disease in our bodies when we ingest these chemicals. Mass Media bombards us with messages to eat processed non-foods, which also creates disease in the body. Big Pharma then makes a fortune “treating” these diseases. And Western Medicine leans too heavily on treating the symptoms rather than the cause, and convincing us we cannot be healthy without it. So, the first thing we have to do is pay attention to what we are putting in our bodies. The more we love ourselves, the less we will be able to tolerate ingesting poisons and the less we will be able to make excuses for not getting proper sleep and exercise or living lives that don’t bring us joy. Our bodies are miraculous self-healing machines when treated properly and they constantly give us feedback when something is out of balance. When we make the conscious choice to fill our body with food and drink that is full of life-force energy, and to not ingest poisons, we will notice it return to the well-being that is its natural resting state. And we will notice when we start to feel run down that our body is warning us we are getting out of balance in some way. If we rebalance immediately, we won’t get sick—and the rare times we do get sick we will honor that our body needs to purge toxins and rebalance through rest and we will allow it to, rather than taking drugs to mask the symptoms and continuing on with our bad habits.
10. Rather than dwelling on victimhood, you encourage others to “triumph after tragedy and…turn pain to purpose.” How were you able to do it? What did you have to realize in order to accomplish this mindset?
I had to get to suicidal depression. Once I was ready to give up I had the thought if I am going to leave, what would I miss? And the answers came quickly: I would miss calling my brother on the phone, strong coffee in my favorite mug, sunrise, sunset, clean sheets, babies, puppies, surfing, snowboarding, etc. I decided the next day to luxuriate in all the little things I would miss. That morning cup of coffee, thinking it may be my last, was the best cup of coffee I had ever had. The sunrise was so beautiful I couldn’t stop crying. Babies and puppies that day brought joy beyond imagining. Two hours into my day I never wanted to leave. I wanted to stay. And I had changed completely. From this joyful, grateful mindset I suddenly saw that I had been missing all of it—all of life. I had been so focused on crap that didn’t matter. And I suddenly saw how it took being so completely broken to arrive here—in this fresh new infant-like state of wonder. I saw how everything that happened to me happened for me, in order to break me apart so I could grow. And I realized how much of a badass I am to have walked through hellfire and come out laughing and loving and grateful on the other side.
You can learn more about and connect with Renee by visiting her website