“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive, and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour and some style.”


About us

Jo Wagstaff

Jo Wagstaff

CEO, Founder & Teacher

I am a mother of a wonderful 15 year old teenager and have faced many of the struggles that come with juggling a successful career with that of a family and creating meaning, fun and authenticity in my life.

I love to dance, meditate, be in the ocean, travel, be in nature and spend time with friends and family.

I spent almost 20 years working in senior leadership roles in the Australian financial services industry, obtaining all the material things and achieving all I thought I needed to achieve to be ‘happy’, before realising that I wasn’t.

As a woman in my 40s I have spent much of my life ‘searching’. When I look back I am not even sure what I thought I was searching for – at different times money, control, validation, success, excitement, freedom, power, safety, family, love. But most of the time what I was really doing was running away – from myself, from my feelings, my fears, my hurts, my reality, my sense of unworthiness. And often denying my true self, including my values, dreams, purpose, femininity, strengths and talents.

Eventually I hit an emotional, mental and spiritual rock bottom and I stopped. I stopped running and searching.

As I began to take off my many masks and defences, unravel my past patterns and tap into an inner wisdom, I began the real journey – to meet my authentic self (as well as my not so authentic self!) and learn, very gradually, to show up in this world authentically. Perfectly imperfect. It is a daily practice.

I retrained, studied psychotherapy and coaching and became a Search Inside Yourself (Born at Google. Based on Brain Science) Accredited Teacher. I am now an Executive Coach, Facilitator and keynote speaker and work with many leading Australian and global companies to support them to develop mindful and authentic leaders and compassionate and engaged cultures.

What I am most passionate about is inspiring and supporting myself and all women to find their inner voice, to feel free to truly be themselves. To feel confident, calm and connected. To care for themselves as much as they do others. To live a truly authentic and meaningful life.

It has, and continues to be, an extraordinary journey, an incredibly challenging and fulfilling journey. A journey built on the foundation of ongoing Compassionate Self-Awareness.

Heather Albrecht

Heather Albrecht


When I reflect back on my life I see that two quests have shaped it – the quest for belonging and the quest for meaning.

These quests have taken me along two quite different paths. One path leading me into the corporate world. The other path taking me into the world of humanistic psychology and the wisdom traditions.

I worked in Marketing and Advertising for over 30 years in leadership roles in Toronto my hometown, New York, and Sydney, Australia – my beautiful adopted country for the last 24 years. I’m now a registered Mindfulness-Based Psychotherapist, and Mindfulness Teacher.

My corporate work has always ridden alongside a deep interest in what makes a life meaningful; I’ve traveled to ashrams in India, extended meditation retreats in Asia and spent time with teachers from many different wisdom traditions and schools of psychology.

I’ve often joked with friends that I feel ‘too hippie for the corporate world and too corporate for the hippie world’. Behind this I’ve felt a lot of confusion about where I fit and who I truly am.

My most powerful challenge in life has been how to be consciously and authentically visible. How to allow the real me to show up fully in all the different parts of my life and relationships?

For me the vulnerability of being authentically visible is that I can be seen. When who I truly am can be seen, I can be touched. And when I can be touched, I can be hurt.

For much of my life I’ve used elaborate ways of looking as if I’m showing up but not. I’ve done this to protect myself from being hurt or judged or humiliated, or misunderstood.

Like only allowing the so-called ‘professional’ parts of me to arrive at the office with all the parts I judged as ‘messy’ left at home.  Or by using my spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing
 with my uncomfortable emotions, my unresolved wounds, hiding from my emotional and psychological needs and inner work.

With the support of mentoring, therapy, my friendship circles of conscious women, my mindfulness practices and communities I’ve learnt that vulnerability isn’t a weakness or something I can arrange to do without; vulnerability is the underlying nature of my true self.

For me Compassionate Self-Awareness has been the most transformative path for living a deeply meaningful and authentic life. It hasn’t been easy yet it’s truly been the most real and rewarding path of my life.

My life’s work is now sharing this path and these practices with other women like you to inspire and support each other to find our inner voices, to find what truly makes our lives meaningful, and to feel confident, calm and connected while being fully ourselves.

Honours Bachelor Business WLU (Canada), Grad Dip Holistic Psychotherapy, Mindfulness Teacher (MBSR), Cert. Holistic Health Couns, Grad Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy, Cert. Yoga Teacher.

Ruby Blessing

Ruby Blessing

Digital Maven, UX & Design

I’ve worked in digital for over 23 years – literally from the early days of the internet. I’ve worked on hundreds of projects and it’s very rare that they have the heart and real passion that has been brought to creating Authentic Woman. There is a lot of hype in the online world, and it is so refreshing to be part of something that will have tangible, REAL and lasting value for everyone that uses it – and to do it with such a wonderful team.

I embarked on my own journey of self discovery in my early 20s, searching for that elusive ‘meaning’ and a real connection to my purpose, and ultimately myself. A few careers, travel, and four children later I’m closer to my purpose, and am constantly trying to learn and grow along the way.

As with any journey it was not straightforward and I understand now that it is never really at an end. And that’s the exciting part.

Designing and building an online platform that would present the inspiring content that has been created for the Compassionate Self-Awareness Program has been a fun and rewarding project – one I’m proud to be a part of, and hope to continue building on into the coming years.


Simone Wilson-Dowse

Director & Script Editor

Working with Authentic Woman has brought together my personal and professional passions.

Professionally I have a career in the television industry spanning 15 years as a Director, Producer, Editor, Writer and Presenter across documentaries, television commercials, music and lifestyle programs.

When I was asked to bring my editing and directing skills to the Compassionate Self-Awareness Program I was elated. It’s not only been a fulfilling work project, but also a privilege to work with such insightful and inspiring content.

I’ve been passionately engaging in my inner journey of waking up, growing up and showing up for over 21 years, yet working on this program I have found myself deeply transformed in ways I have not been before. The scientific grounding of the program, it’s foundation of Compassionate Self Awareness and the vulnerability and sharing of its creators Heather and Jo, is unique and powerful.

In my younger years I bought into the myth that the externals, material success was the answer. That this would bring me happiness, peace, joy and all that I wanted to feel within. I finally reached a point of such incongruence with myself, where how I presented and how I truly felt within were so mismatched that I was motivated to begin my inner journey. The focus on the externals was a way to run from myself and all I’ve explored, leant, practiced and faced has been a journey back to myself, to who I truly am.

For me the most important part of life is my relationships. With myself, my family, my friends, and with spirituality. I have a beautiful husband and two young children. Valuing and taking time for my inner work everyday, means I have more authentic and loving connections with those I love dearly, and it isn’t always easy or smooth or anything like perfect. AND it’s worth every moment.


Justine Kerrigan

Filmmaker & Photographer

I’ve enjoyed a diverse career in the photographic arts as a still photographer, cinematographer, director, and producer for over 20 years. I’ve had the great privilege to work on an array of documentaries, TV commercials, music videos, and numerous award winning films. These include Flying Over Mother, Lovely, Inja and The Girl Who Swallowed Bees. To date I’ve lensed three feature films including
The Trouble With E (2013), Monkey Puzzle (2007) and Lost Things (2003).

Working with the Authentic Woman team has brought together my love of the photographic arts and a truly meaningful project. I experienced first hand the embodiment of the compassionate self-awareness process in how we worked and learnt and created together. I’ve taken away a few very practical ways of being more compassionate with myself and have also loved sharing it all with my daughter.


Alex MacGregor

Production Assistant

I have always been fascinated by filmmaking and have always known it was my dream career. I am currently studying a Bachelor of Communications, majoring in Media Arts Production at the University of Technology Sydney.

Working with the Authentic Woman team has been an incredible experience that I will never forget. From day one of the shoot there was an amazing, positive energy and a room full of inspiring, motivated women. I learnt so much in my short time on the shoot and know that I have made some wonderful contacts as well as friends for the future.

A Heartfelt Thanks…

A heartfelt thank you and much gratitude for all our teachers who have shown up in so many different ways. You have provided inspiration, support, guidance, and most of all acceptance and compassion for our very human challenge in finding and walking the path of compassion self-awareness.

Rain Czupryna, Timothea Goddard, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Kristin Neff, Arnold and Amy Mindell, Monika Gaede, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Elissa Cobb, Karen Hasskarl, Fleur Nassery Bonnin, B. Alan Wallace, Paul Gilbert, Ken Wilber, Pema Chodron, Margaret Wheatley, A. H. Almaas, Robyn North-Zaman, Khandro Thrinlay Chodon, Tony Richardson, Maria Dolenc, Meg Levie, Marc Lesser, Tara Brach, Brene Brown, Pia Mellody, our sisters in Recovery.

We would also like to acknowledge and thank the wonderful Authentic men who have supported, encouraged and contributed to bringing the Compassionate Self-Awareness Program into the world. These include Bam, Nicholas, Dimi, Rob, Marco and Hugo.