Australian-born Wendy Batchelor is a psychotherapist and yoga teacher living in France. She combines her twin passions of yoga and walking, leading 10-day spiritual walking tours through France and Spain. Wendy finds that walking opens the senses, so we are able to feel a deeper connection with ourselves and everything else, while yoga develops the consciousness for exploring this connection.
How did you find yoga?
I first discovered yoga at a time of crisis in my life. When I was 20, my mother committed suicide. I was married with a baby and I went to The Smith Family for help. In those days, the 1970s, suicide was a taboo subject. I was young and my family wasn’t coping, so there was no support there and it was starting to unhinge me. The Smith Family enrolled me in a relaxation program put on by the Department of Health in Sydney. That saved my life—the deep relaxation practices reminded me of another part of life other than the dramas that we can be living in, and that there was a part of me that could be eternally peaceful and relaxed. It was extraordinary, the effect on everyone. I soaked it up like a sponge—I wanted to know more and more. I trained to become a yoga teacher with the IYTA [International Yoga Teacher’s Association]. To this day, I still teach for the IYTA teacher training program when back in Australia.
What took you to France?
I went through a five-year period in Australia of doing deep spiritual work using Hakomi therapy. My kids, who I had brought up alone, were grown and having their own children. There was this space that felt really uncomfortable at first, because who am I if I’m not a mother and a grandmother? I realised I had fulfilled all my dreams, but something inside me got restless and I felt this pull in my heart. At first I thought it was to go and live somewhere else, and I was thinking Byron Bay, but one morning I woke up and I thought “I have to go to France!” In 2006 I ended up here in Languedoc.
You lead spiritual walks through France and Spain. Where do you walk?
The walks go for 10 days, seven days in Languedoc and three days in Spain, where we go down to the coast and stay in a bay next to an ancient Roman village. In Languedoc, my husband Hans has 17 hectares of pristine land high on a mountain. He has created what he calls “sitting spots” and we walk from spot to spot. Each place has a different energy: there’s a spot for letting go, another for deep listening, another for comfort if we are distressed, another for opening the heart and one right at the top of the mountain that gives you an expansive feeling. And then there are spots where we sit under big oak trees and it helps contemplation. In walking, all aspects of oneself are woken. The mountain is shaped like a great mother—this area is steeped in the feminine—so it’s a place for awakening that in us.
How do you help people on these walks?
I offer one-on-one time. We will sit down and discuss what is happening in the moment. Very often the sitting places bring up what blocks us from deeper connections. Often people will talk about their significant relationships, or it could be that someone has a health issue and we talk about the healing places on earth. We start to develop mutual trust. Sometimes people come because they have been widowed or retrenched or are going through a transition phase. Very often, to take a journey in a transition phase is to speed up what needs to happen. People realise that there’s a part of their life they haven’t lived and I ask them, if they were free, what would they do? We do a yoga class every morning and wherever we go, we meditate. I offer a meditation every evening. I teach an Aboriginal tradition called Dadirri, deep inner listening. Not everyone knows how to meditate but everybody knows how to listen. If anyone leaves with just one thing from my pilgrimages, it’s how to listen more deeply.