Renee Linnell on “The Burn Zone” and Being in a Cult

Renee Linnell on “The Burn Zone” and Being in a Cult (Episode 177)

Renee Linnell is the author of The Burn Zone, and a serial entrepreneur. At age 33 she woke up one morning and realized that she had very unintentionally joined a Buddhist cult. What had started as a quest for spiritual learning, and finding a place that felt like home to her turned out to be an intense group well versed in brainwashing, and converting others to bring in money to help support the larger cause.

Renee Linnell on “The Burn Zone” and Being in a Cult

I’m thrilled to have Renee on the show to talk about her journey. In so many ways I can deeply relate to the wanderlust she has felt, and the quest to find a place that feels like home. As a child, Renee grew up on a boat in the Bahamas with her family and twin brother. By the time she was 15, her father, and many of the other people she’d been close to in her family passed away. In her searching for a place that felt like home, Renee went to a meditation seminar and was riveted by the guru there, and she walked out a changed person.

What resonated deeply with me, in Renee’s story, is that search for belonging. While our stories are different (mine has far less loss, and no time living on a boat in the Bahamas), I know that I came into this world insatiably curious about the spiritual realm. Perhaps it was my Dad’s interest in “The Search for the Historical Jesus,” perhaps it was my unique mix of an Episcopal and Mormon background. But, I can relate to the drive and the curiosity of a person looking for a spiritual home.

My question, and the inspiration for personal reflection on this topic is this: in the search of getting in touch with your own spirituality, you explore many things. You trust many people, including yourself. What’s the fine line of trusting groups and people whose intentions are pure and well guided (they truly want the best for anyone in their midst), and those who have more egoic or personal gain in mind? When does praise for your gifts and your presence cross the line from true hospitality to something more like grooming?
Renee says in this episode that the difference is intent, and trusting your own intuition.
I find the question a bit harrowing, still.

The other truly remarkable part of the interview, for me, is Renee’s decision to leave the cult and choose herself. It took great courage, great resolve, to stand up for herself. And it’s a great example that when you truly trust your intuition, and yourself, you can do very hard things.
And, it’s a great example of it never being too late to double back on your path and rework a decision that didn’t serve you well.

In this episode Renee Linnell and I talk about:

  • Her early love of solitude, dancing, being near the ocean, and reading
  • Recognizing she is and was a HSP (highly sensitive person) and an introvert from an early age
  • That all the people closest to her died by the time she was 15, leaving her with just her brother and alcoholic mother
  • How she found herself drawn to a Buddhist teacher, after being a spiritual seeker for many years
  • The moment of walking in to a meditation retreat and feeling like she was home
  • The fine line of being deeply inspired, and aligned with a spiritual group AND being involved with a cult
  • What’s brainwashing?
  • How to get out of a “bad” situation like a cult and learn to trust yourself again
  • The reincarnation of animals
  • Getting in touch with your inner three year old (and what your inner child can teach you about self love)
  • That we all have unique, beautiful gifts to share: be that an accountant or an artist
  • Jumpstarting your joy by turning up the volume on what makes you weird or different, taking time to do the things you love, and giving back based on what you’re really good at

Renee Linnell’s website
The Burn Zone by Renee Linnell on Amazon


Being in a cult is not something that author Renee Linnell ever set out to do. She joins podcast host Paula Jenkins to share what she learned from the experience. #podcast #theburnzone #inspiration