What happens when a coffee-drinking, cigarette-smoking, steak-eating twenty-five-year-old atheist decides it is time to get in touch with her spiritual side? Not what you’d expect…
When Suzanne Morrison decides to travel to Bali for a two-month yoga retreat, she wants nothing more than to be transformed from a twenty-five-year-old with a crippling fear of death into her enchanting yoga teacher, Indra—a woman who seems to have found it all: love, self, and God.
But things don’t go quite as expected. Once in Bali, she finds that her beloved yoga teacher and all of her yogamates wake up every morning to drink a large, steaming mug…of their own urine. Sugar is a mortal sin. Spirits inhabit kitchen appliances. And the more she tries to find her higher self, the more she faces her cynical, egomaniacal, cigarette-, wine-, and chocolate-craving lower self.
Yoga Bitch chronicles Suzanne’s hilarious adventures and misadventures as an aspiring yogi who might be just a bit too skeptical to drink the Kool-Aid. But along the way she discovers that no spiritual effort is wasted; even if her yoga retreat doesn’t turn her into the gorgeously calm, wise believer she hopes it will, it does plant seeds that continue to blossom in surprising ways over the next decade of her life.
CommitmentNow.com: Yoga Bitch: One Woman’s Quest to Conquer Skepticism, Cynicism and Cigarettes on the Path to Enlightenment is a memoir of a time in your life, ten years ago, when in a quest for fulfillment, you followed your yoga instructor to Bali for a two month intense yoga teacher training program. What inspired you to tell this story at this point in your life?
Suzanne Morrison: I’ve actually been telling this story for almost a decade-- Yoga Bitch started as a one-woman show in New York back in 2003! Then I wrote a novel called Yoga Bitch, in which I greatly improved the main character (her name was Suzanne Morrison) so that she would be much cooler than me, much more biting and sarcastic than me, and she had a much sexier body. The novel never worked, and after giving up on it to focus on the stage show, I found myself awake one night thinking about how it would be very interesting to explore how I felt about the yoga retreat while I was on retreat, as compared to how I felt about it now, many years later, when I could see the ways the retreat had continued to affect my life—when I could see the way that retreat planted seeds that blossomed over the next decade.
CommitmentNow.com: Yoga Bitch is a lot of fun to read! Without being disrespectful of the other yoga students, you are able to describe them and your experiences in ways that are hysterical! Have you heard from any of them, or your instructors, since your book was published?
Suzanne: Thank you! I’ve lost touch with most of the characters in the book—it has been a decade since we were all in Bali together, so we all naturally drifted away over time. But Jessica and I are still friends, and I brought her a copy of the book a few weeks before it was published. To me, Jessica is an ideal yoga teacher. She was born to teach. Anyway, she had such a great response to the book she went out and bought 23 copies of it!
CommitmentNow.com: Some of the funniest parts of Yoga Bitch involve your fellow yogis drinking their own pee! Can you discuss that experience?
Suzanne: Well, it’s a pretty shocking thing to discover that everyone around you is partaking of their own pee. I didn’t really know how to take that information at the time, so the only way to respond to it was to make fun of it. I mean—drinking your own urine might be the very definition of one who is overly self-involved, right?
CommitmentNow.com: One of the things that makes Yoga Bitch so special is that while you write about a life-altering experience and how that changed you, as readers, we are pleased to find that you were able to maintain a sense of who you are, including your skepticism and cynicism – and love of chocolate! In other words, while you dipped into New Age practices and diligently practiced your asanas, it seemed that you were the only one of your group who thought it was funny (and gross!) that your fellow yogis felt comfortable farting in class or drinking their pee! Was that a difficult balance to strike?
Suzanne: Well, it was for a time. I felt pretty self-conscious and like I was a bad yogini for not taking this stuff so seriously. But at the same time, my yogamates all had a sense of humor just waiting to come out. We can get very, very earnest about healing our bodies and traversing a spiritual path. All it takes is one or two people not taking it quite so seriously to get everybody to loosen up. There was a German grandmother, Baerbel, on retreat with us and she was very bold about laughing when she thought something was just too out there—like the time we performed an exorcism on my teachers’ blender, for instance! Eventually the whole crew of yogamates found that sort of thing funny.
CommitmentNow.com: Most of the events of Yoga Bitch take place a decade ago. Your story begins when you turn twenty-five. In the aftermath of 9/11, you began to have panic attacks about dying, and then decided you need to gain some spiritual perspective. Looking back, how do you think your Bali experience has influenced your life and who you are now?
Suzanne: Well, like I mentioned earlier, it planted a lot of seeds that took time to blossom. I think the experience of loving a yoga teacher and then watching her sort of fall from her pedestal was huge for me. It taught me about compassion. It’s very easy to have compassion for people who we consider less blessed than ourselves; people who deserve our pity because they have fewer gifts than we have. That’s pretty simple stuff. Much harder to have compassion for those we consider to be our equals or above us. I thought Indra had figured everything out in her life, so when she turned out to be a human being, it was a grave disappointment, and I judged her harshly. Getting older and experiencing more of life helped me to see Indra differently, and to have compassion for her. Of all the things I learned in Bali, that’s the one that I keep close. It’s the most important one.
Visit Suzanne at www.suzanne-morrison.com.