Written by Samille Mitchell of Inspired Magazine. For more feature stories to uplift, engage and inspire visit inspired.org.au
In Wendy’s words …
Who inspires me: The brave, everyday woman who takes the risk to show up, let down her guard, to be real and allow herself to be seen for who she really is.
Best advice: Everyday, breathe deeper, drop into your body – your knowing self – as an invitation to dive beneath the skin to discover your own funky magic and innate wisdom
A group of women – strangers just two days before – stand in a circle with incense, candles and a bunch of sage burning from the circle centre. In the dimmed light they begin to move, one woman in front of another. They stand close and stare at each other in the eyes. It’s horribly uncomfortable at first. They squirm at this intense gaze, fidget, shuffle. But they resist the urge to look away. And soon they begin to see, really see, each other. This simple act of looking deeply into another person’s soul brings tears of emotion to some, radiant smiles to others.
What is it about looking deeply into another’s eyes that evokes such a powerful response? The answer, according to life coach and women’s circle facilitator Wendy Watters, is easy – connection.
It’s a state Wendy promotes through ‘modern-day-goddess camps’ in which she conducts the ancient practice of women’s circles. Wendy is gobsmacked at the transformations she witnesses. “It blows my mind,” she says. “It just works. This is what women need – a return to trusting ourselves and not seeking answers from the outside. Women do head-brain thinking so well these days but we deny ourselves the rest of our intellect – that heart-feeling, the connection, the emotion, the real goodness of life, the wisdom, the intuition, the trust that we have the right answers inside our body.”
But how is it that this practical, no-nonsense farm girl has become such an advocate of a practice shrouded by myth and mystery? And how did she drag herself from her own depression to lead herself and others to happiness?
Wendy remembers her fast decline. She’d been tired – for what seemed like years. First it was pregnancy, then breastfeeding, then raising two young kids. Then her Dad was killed in a traffic accident. Wendy held herself together to look after her mum who’d been injured in the crash. About a year after the crash Wendy’s mum seemed better. And this was when Wendy crumbled. All the grief she’d suppressed over her father erupted. The perfect façade she’d created – with a loving husband, gorgeous kids, a successful business – began to shatter.
Friends began to realise perhaps Wendy wasn’t ok. “I knew I had to do grief well – to not hide from it, I wanted to be in it and feel it and some people didn’t like that,” Wendy says. “They don’t know what to do with that – they want to fix you or hurry it up. In Western society people want you to do grief in three months – but it’s not like that. I think we need to resist the need to have to do it quickly – it’s a messy drawn-out thing.”
About a year or so after her dad had died Wendy found herself sitting on the veranda of her rural property, her head in her hands, an ache bruising her soul. “I was in a really dark place, an alone place, at rock bottom,” she says. “On the outside everything looked fine – but [my husband] Geoff and my intimate friends knew it wasn’t. I thought this is absolute shit and I can’t feel any worse. But at the same time I felt excited that I was going to rebuild my life and make everything real, and how I wanted it to be from now on.”
Deep personal inquiry
The decision to consciously design her life sparked a deep personal inquiry. Wendy had always been interested in growth and self-help but now she launched herself into a deep study of human behaviour. And it fascinated her.
She came to realise how the chronic restlessness and busyness that had been part of her farming upbringing was destroying her soul. “In my family of high achievers being busy was really valued,” Wendy says. “There was no time to sit around reading books, and we certainly didn’t do anything frivolous.” Wendy’s personal inquiry taught her the value of slowing down – of picking up a feather and putting it in her hair, of adorning the kitchen table with wildflowers, of admiring the beauty in simple everyday things.
It’s a learning Wendy teaches in her modern-day goddess retreats today. She encourages women to take the time to reflect, to indulge in arts or craft (no matter what their talent), to revel in the beauty of flowers, candles and music, to chat with other women, to indulge in whatever simple things remind them of nature’s beauty, of the magic in everyday life.
Rebuilding family life
Around this time Wendy also began to turn her attention to her own family life, including her marriage. “We’d had a lot of trouble having kids, so there was a lot of strain around that, then having the kids, being pregnant, breastfeeding, having kids that didn’t sleep, dad dying. It was five years of trudging through the mud. I felt shit, Geoff felt shit and I was parenting through yelling. I always felt Geoff was the person I wanted to be with so we both made a conscious decision to reconnect at a deeper level. We made the decision to put ourselves first again – as a woman you tend to shift all your focus to the children and the husband just flops around in the background. But going forward we decided to make each other important again.”
They continue to work at this – dedicating every Wednesday to be together, a day in which they go out of their way to put each other first and spend quality time together. Their marriage has never been stronger.
Empowered with education
Fascinated by what she was learning on her personal development journey, Wendy began to study Neuro Linguistic Programming, which opened up another world of understanding. Here was a science that backed her spiritual enquiry. Wendy was hooked. “I was just discovering this really amazing powerful stuff and thought ‘why doesn’t everyone know this’? It should be taught at unis, at schools – it’s just gold.”
Diving deep into expanding her knowledge, Wendy also studied multi brain intelligences, emotional coaching, virtuous living, the use of language, time line therapy, vibrational healing and other various human behaviour and leadership programs.
Wendy was so buoyed by the results she was personally experiencing that she wanted to share it with others. She believed the area she could have the most positive influence was with parents. “Growing up, I always questioned how I fit into the world and where I belonged,” she says. “It is the kind of shit we all deal with growing up. I also had young children myself and knew from my study that the most important formative years are from 0 to 7. Since becoming a parent 13 years ago I now realise the depth and thought that’s required daily to raise happy healthy kids who thrive.” Wendy believes no matter how we are raised, we all end up with our own ‘stuff’ to work through. “That’s our life journey,” she says.
So Wendy launched a parent training and life coaching business that has become renowned for its practical guidance and no-nonsense advice. “We work on things like powerful changes to language – how to go from a ranting, raving, crazy mother to retrain yourself in the way you speak to your children. The changes are simply massive,” she says.
While life was back on track now, Wendy still felt a lingering restlessness – like something was missing. It wasn’t there all the time, but still, she kept searching for answers on her personal quest for knowledge. Always keen to try something new, Wendy was quick to accept an invite to a women’s circle. She didn’t really know what she was in for. She’d heard rumours of dancing naked around a campfire and howling at the moon. But to hell with it. It sounded exciting. She was up for it.
She remembers sitting in her first circle five years ago, candles aglow in the circle centre, surrounded by welcoming women. Yet she felt uneasy at the way they shared, open and unguarded, a little taken aback at the circle rules that forbid you from wanting to ‘solve’ others’ problems. “All the women were quite loving and nice, and really welcoming but at first I felt really different, really like an outsider. I felt awkward and a bit weird,” she recalls.
Still, there was something about the circle that captured her interest. So month after month, she returned. Each month they’d discuss a new topic - feelings, families, relationships, marriages, sex, the moon. But these weren’t ordinary conversations. Women simply shared what they wish to share. No one responded to others’ comments, no-one tried to solve others’ problems. It was a practice at revealing the real you, of coming up with your own answers.
It wasn’t until Wendy recently explained to circle newcomers how women’s circles had helped her that she realised how much she’d changed. “I just realised that the big empty hole inside of me was gone,” she says. “Like magic, it was gone. I realised I’d felt that way for a while now – all those fucking years of searching and it’s gone.”
The realisation was a revelation. So keen was she for other women to experience such a transformation that Wendy launched her modern-day goddess camps to introduce other women to the power of women’s circles. “Connecting to women on a deep level has changed my life. I have learnt to really accept myself,” she says.
Finding answers within
So what is it about the act of sitting in a circle of women that is so life changing? Wendy believes much of its power is in encouraging women to embrace their feminine sides – and by feminine she doesn’t mean weak, but sensual, luscious, vulnerable, fierce, courageous, connected.
She says modern-day women have taken on many masculine traits to survive in today’s world. But it has left them feeling empty, and disconnected from their partners, their friends, even themselves. Women have become too busy to reflect, too stressed to connect with others. They’re tired all the time, they have forgotten to enjoy life, to marvel at life’s simple beauty, to create, to listen, to share.
Wendy says people are set free by the realisation that they can look within themselves for answers, instead of scrambling to grasp answers from elsewhere.
“I believe circle works as a model of profound personal change because it is an embodiment practice,” Wendy says. “We take a journey beneath our own skin to access our authentic wisdom and answers. We already are the masters of using our head brain. So it’s time to drop back into the body, blow out those dusty corners to bring your whole self to life again. I am inspired by the everyday woman who is brave enough to allow themselves to show up and be seen and declare as a celebration ‘here I am, this is me!’ No more hiding, being real.”
Coming full circle
Wendy says she is honoured to help bring about the changes she sees women experience. “I am so moved when I read the testimonials people write about how much it has helped them,” she says. “It’s such a beautiful thing to be able to give back to women.”
Wendy is determined to introduce this ancient practice to as many modern women as possible. She wants other women to have the opportunity to feel as she does. “I feel like I’ve come full circle,” Wendy says. “I went off seeking answers and have come back to a place where I realise I have everything I need inside of myself. That’s what growing up is. Every day now I wake up and think how much I love being older. Life is so much easier.”
Find out more: You can find out more about Wendy’s work at her website www.mycoachwendy.com.au