Spiritual Rebel: Russell Brand

A Brand new way of being Spiritual by Teena Clipston

We all don’t start out awake… some of us grow up lost…. really lost.

I choose Russell Brand as the first Spiritual Rebel in this series as I believe his story can bring hope to others who are suffering with emptiness, addiction, and the feeling of confusion.

Russell Brand is known as a successful actor / comedian, but also known for his destructive past as a heroin addict and for his brief marriage to Katy Perry. He has had major roles in movies such as Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek, and in the 2011 remake of the romantic comedy Arthur. Brand has become known as an activist, launching a political-comedy web series called “The Trews,” and a book called Revolution. He has also authored two memoirs. Recently, Prospect magazine voted Brand the fourth-most influential thinker in the world.

If someone would have told Brand 10 or 15 years ago he would be considered the fourth-most influential thinker in the world, I am sure he would have had a smashing laugh.

Born Russell Edward Brand in Essex, England, Brand had a difficult childhood. His father left his mother when he was just a baby, and so he was raised an only child by a single mom. He was sexually abused by a tutor when he was seven, and at the age of eight, his mother contracted uterine cancer and then breast cancer leaving him with extended family while she was hospitalized. He then became bulimic in his early teens. Certainly not a glamorous Hollywood upbringing, and it gets worse.

His relationship with his father was sporadic, and strange, as Brand describes his father taking him on trips to Thailand to visit prostitutes when just a teen. All of this would later lead to a promiscuous lifestyle, with heavy drinking and drug use. Brand once set himself on fire while smoking crack cocaine, was arrested 11 times, and was fired from three different jobs, including jobs with XFM and MTV.

A rocky start that was far from anything spiritual. The tale of his addictions and hardships revealed in Brand’s best-selling memoir, My Booky Wooky.

“Ever since the first couple of times I’d smoked it in my early 20s, I had always maintained a great interest in heroin,” he says in the memoir. “I’d sort of fallen in love with the warmth of it—the way it felt like crawling back into the womb. Heroin delivered. LSD does a bit, especially when all the things that are familiar to you peel away and you suddenly realize the fragility of how you normally see the world. Marijuana doesn’t really, although it’s a laugh for a while (I say that having smoked it constantly for a decade). Alcohol makes you sick and gives you a headache. Crack is like inhaling plastic, but so brief and flimsy and brittle as a high. Normal cocaine just makes you nervous, amphetamines are even worse, and ecstasy never really agreed with me. But heroin gets the job done.

“All of us, I think, have a vague idea that we’re missing something. Some say that thing is God; that all the longing we feel – be it for a lover, or a football team, or a drug – is merely an inappropriate substitute for the longing we’re supposed to feel for God, for oneness, for truth. And what heroin does really successfully is objectify that need.”

Brand continues…

“Once I started hanging out with homeless people in the West End, scoring heroin with them, I realized that there’s this secret culture of people going up and down Oxford Street, whistling and yelping to each other in a kind of tropical slang—men on BMX bikes delivering £10 bags of heroin to be purchased with grubby fists full of 50p and 10p and 2p coins, West Indian housewife-type women perambulating past Topshop, cheeks wedged with packets of smack.

“You don’t see this bustling underworld until you need to. There have been occasions, thrilling to me, when I went off to score, cutting a purposeful stride down past Tottenham Court Road tube station in the company of three or four homeless people, their sleeping bags worn about their shoulders, like the cloaks of Roman legionaries. I must have cut a ridiculous figure, dressed in my MTV-presenter attire – skintight white jeans, graffitied tops, Ray-Ban sunglasses – jostling along with them, as they set off in search of a bag in Covent Garden.

“Until recently, when I gratefully gave up public transport, I would see people I’d scored drugs with begging in tube stations. There was one bloke – I don’t know if he’s still around – whose eyes were missing. First he lost his wife, then his house, then his shoes, then his eyes; heroin is a greedy drug, robbing you by increment first of your clothing, then of your skin; when it finally comes for your life it must be a relief.”

So how does Brand go from raging junky to the fourth-most influential thinker in the world?

“The elegant simplicity of Lao-Tzu, or the charming voluptuousness of the Vedas, the passion of Catholicism, the potency of Islam—everyone is saying one and the same thing: We are all one.” – Russell Brand

Brand entered rehab on December 13, 2002, and has been clean since. He has publicly shared his transformation from a place of self-destruction to spiritual awareness, lending importance to the practice of Transcendental Meditation as a contributing factor in his transformation.

“Every year’s a landmark for me,” says Brand. “Every December 13, I remember waking up in my flat having been up all night on crack and heroin, missing my train, and then fare-dodging and being picked up by the founder of drug and alcohol charity Focus 12, him giving me a cuddle, and then going into treatment.”

Brand is an ideal example of how anyone can change their life, no matter how far from oneself one is living. He gives hope for anyone living with addiction, and shows we all have the potential to get our lives on track and be loved.

Brand, a strong believer in Transcendental Meditation, claims it to have transformed his life and he believes this is the clear choice to healing addiction and finding oneself. He says drugs, fame celebrity, consumerism, wealth, and all of these types of things pledge happiness and deliver little substance, but through Transcendental Meditation he has found a deeper state of happiness—a happiness that is profound and absolute, that contains a tremendous sense of oneness, a beautiful serenity. “I felt loved. Love for myself and everybody else,” said Brand at the Operation Warrior Wellness launch. www.operationwarriorwellness.org/

Transcendental Meditation, considered one of the more general types of meditation, is practiced by millions of people around the world. The practice includes the individual sitting quietly with closed eyes repeating a mantra of one’s choice. The sound Om is a common mantra, as its sound vibration helps clear the mind.

The Dalai Lama tugs on Russell Brand's beard at the Buddhist leader's youth event of 2012. Photo credit: Ingur
The Dalai Lama tugs on Russell Brand’s beard at the Buddhist leader’s youth event of 2012. Photo credit: Ingur

Fast forward to 2012 when the Dalai Lama selected Brand to host the Buddhist leader’s youth event. Representatives explained his selection to host the event was based on the fact that he had proved that the power of spirituality effected change in his own life.

“The world is changing and we are awakening. These statistics give us a numerical glimpse at the visceral dissatisfaction that most of us feel. Now is the time to express it. These corrupt structures cannot be maintained without our compliance. You could vote against them, if there was anything to vote for, but there isn’t, or you could stop paying your mortgage, stop paying your taxes, stop buying stuff you don’t need. When we, the majority, unite and demonstrate our new intention, we will be invincible. If we, who are complicit by our silence, become active and disobedient.    This is a pivotal time in the history of our species. We are transitioning from an ideology that places power and responsibility in the hands of the few to one where we all collectively have power. It is important that we clarify, in a manner accessible to all, which institutions and systems are beneficial and which ones have to go. It is important that we propose ideas and systems that will be advantageous, like the handful in this book, and ensure that they are presented properly. When they are inevitably disparaged by the fearful enemies of change, we must remain unified and insistent. At this climactic time, we have no choice but change. This book, written by a twerp, with minimal interaction with brilliant thinkers and uncorrupted minds, demonstrates that. Now, what are you going to do about it?” – Russell Brand, 2014 Revolution

“We’re here on this planet for a temporary time, we should be spending our time—some of our time pursuing leisure and joy, all of our time in a spirit of love; we’ve ended up somehow in this mad planet where we work all the time, most of us doing jobs that we absolutely deplore, getting up to trudge through some meaningless ritual that doesn’t relate to the survival of the planet, that doesn’t benefit our community.” – Russell Brand, 2015, “The Trews”


Brand continues to share his story and spiritual teaching through speaking engagements, talk shows, interviews, and through his Youtube channel “The Trews.” Without missing a beat, this high energy spiritual rebel cannot be outwitted by the very best of reporters who look to squash his transformation.

It’s a Brand new way of being spiritual.

View “The Trews” here

Photo credit: http://johnnoel.com/

For more on this series on Spiritual Rebels read the 2015 October Moon issue.

written by Teena Clipston, Editor-in-Chief of All One Era magazine
Author, Journalist, Designer. www.teeenaclipston.com