Thursday 18 January 2018

Isabel's life-changing road to paradise

Author Isabel Losada tells Andrea Byrne of the roles meditation and 'sacred medicine' played in her new book

Andrea Byrne

'I think I have a well-tuned bulls**t monitor," announces London-based author Isabel Losada. It's a character trait that she has certainly required in the writing of her latest and sixth book, The Battersea Park Road to Paradise, where she embarks on five unusual methods of "inner and outer" change.

"This is a life overhaul," Isabel explains over coffee and pastries on a recent trip to Dublin -- the first since the death of her favourite broadcaster Gerry Ryan. "This is about the moment when you wake up and think, how did my life end up here? This isn't what I wanted. This isn't what I was aiming for. I think that is an experience familiar to many people at the moment -- especially in a recession. I wanted to, in a sense, start again, right down to the basic elements."

For this particular life overhaul, which is documented with candid humour in the book, Isabel begins her journey with various feng shui consultations before enrolling in an Anthony Robbins seminar. Thirdly and perhaps most bizarrely, she did a vipassana meditation course, which involved sitting on the floor for 10 hours a day, legs crossed, not moving, not speaking, not making eye contact with anyone. "It's fantastically physically painful. At the time I was convinced that any other way of learning meditation would be better and that pain was not either a necessary teacher or the best teacher. But now, interestingly, a year later, I feel very attracted to the idea of going back and doing it again," she smiles.

Her fourth adventure involved meeting a "guru", which she was initially sceptical of. "I don't believe in gurus, but I saw a photograph of this man (Mooji), and he had the most extraordinary eyes, and I felt drawn to go to hear whatever it is he had to say."

Finally, she went to the Amazonian jungle to spend time with the Ashaninka people, which involved taking ayahuasca. "I don't think I would have taken it had I not have been living with the tribal people. It's either a 'sacred medicine' or a class A hallucinogenic drug, depending on your point of view."

Isabel is keen to point out that this is not a self-help book, and that while she may write about the mind, body and spirit world, she doesn't work in it. Apart from a book, what did the whole experience give her? "A more universal perspective," she eventually decides.

Isabel takes her time before answering almost every question I ask. Our interview is littered with long pauses. But they're not awkward ones. It's not that she doesn't like the questions, I think it's just that she prefers to work out what she wants to say in her head, before saying it.

Isabel is polite but not effusive. She is very confident and self-assured, which is most admirable given that she has endured her fair share of sadness.

This confidence, she explains, was instilled in her from an early age by her grandmother and mother. "My grandmother was a great traditionalist, she brought me up to believe that the world revolved around me. I wasn't brought up to believe you can't do this, you can't do that."

Isabel's mother died when she was only 18, followed a year later by her grandmother. Growing up, she had no relations with her father and when she eventually tried to track him down, she discovered he too had died.

Aged 19, while working as an actress, she met the father of her child and the man whom she would ultimately marry, albeit for a very short time. Was life as a single, working mother tough? "Yes and no. Having had a single mother myself, I used to think well yes, my daughter (Emily Lucienne who now works as an actress), has a mother who adores her. And there are so many people out there who don't have anyone who adores them."

Isabel's aforementioned self-confidence obviously also extends to her writing. "I am swimming against the tide all of the time, because I love non-fiction and I actually think my books are a lot more interesting than a lot of the fiction that is out there. I don't mean that to blow my own trumpet, I just think my subject matter is more interesting and it's real."

While, she is currently single, she assures me that past relationships haven't marred her opinion of men. "No, I like men. I don't like men who want to talk to me about football or cricket, but the rest of them I like."

'The Battersea Park Road to Paradise' by Isabel Losada, published by Watkins, €10.55

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