Lindsay Wagner, 60, shares her story, from shy child to Hollywood actress and spiritual teacher
My childhood was full of violence and upset. My parents divorced when I was seven and after my mother remarried, our family struggled with domestic abuse.
This meant that my life growing up in Los Angeles and then Portland, Oregon, in the late 1950’s and 1960’s was tumultuous.
I lived in fear of the next outburst. The more I hurt, the more I bottled up my emotions and the more jokes I told to hide the pain. When I was 12, fate intervened. After babysitting for the children of an acting coach, he invited me to join his class. Initially my levels of shyness and fear skyrocketed, but once the coach showed me how to release my emotions through the characters I portrayed, it was like lancing a wound. Little did I realise he was covertly offering me a safe environment in which to express my emotions. I took to acting straight away and loved every minute.
Because of the violence in my youth, I had initially dreamt of becoming a psychologist or counsellor, so I could help others in a similar situation as me. Unfortunately dyslexia made it hard for me at school. Inside, I felt bright, but I was branded lazy and told to try harder. It was such a confusing time, and my emotional baggage grew.
But again, luck was on my side. At a friend’s wedding in 1961, I was spotted by the owner of a modelling agency. Although I was still only 12, my mother agreed to let me model, which I did until I was 18, because it could earn me as much as $100 an hour.
It wasn’t long after being spotted that I was offered a part in a TV show, aged 13. But my acting teacher sensibly advised me to wait a few years, until I had become more emotionally stable.
In the meantime, I modelled for mail order catalogues, magazines and fashion shows. In the beginning it was great fun because I had to learn all the techniques involved and got to travel around the country. But after a couple of years, I couldn’t help feeling disillusioned by the constant focus on external appearances. I began to see that we’re all far more than this, and my thoughts turned to acting once more.
At around 18, I finally accepted that I would not get through any formal college course, and I began reading about Buddhism, Eastern religions, psychology, homeopathy and all manner of mind, body, spirit concepts, which fascinated me. Yet in spite of all this spiritual learning, I still felt ashamed to express my feelings, which resulted in serious stomach ulcers by the time I was 20.
My doctor wanted to operate, but my boyfriend’s mother brought two of her friends to see me – a doctor and a minister. They advised me that it was possible to heal myself by changing my diet, using visualisations and meditation. Intuitively I felt they could help me. They taught me to meditate, how to pray, plus visualisations, which all helped me feel calmer. With their guidance I learned which of my negative thoughts and emotional patterns were contributing to my health problems.
Within six weeks their alternative approaches worked. This ignited my interest in accessing our amazing healing potential and led to enduring friendships with naturopaths, doctors, healers and psychologists.
Meanwhile, I had returned to acting and at 22 I was given a small part in a medical drama series called Marcus Welby MD, made at Universal Studios in Hollywood. It was incredibly exciting to land my first proper role. Within weeks, the studio offered me a full-time contract, and in 1975 I was offered the lead in a new show, The Bionic Woman.
One minute I was an ordinary anonymous person, the next I was catapulted to stardom. I couldn’t go anywhere without being asked for my autograph. But at times it was shocking and intrusive, and it took a while to get used to everything that came with fame.
The huge success of The Bionic Woman give me the power within the TV industry to make movies about previously taboo subjects, such as child abuse and domestic violence, which I felt needed to come out of the closet. This was a great achievement for me.
By 1999, after working for 28 years on more than 35 TV movies, seven feature films and a host of mini-series, I needed a break. My two sons – with my third husband Henry Kingi, a stuntman from The Bionic Woman – had grown up on TV sets, and they were at the point in their schooling when it wasn’t so easy for them to travel with me. I wanted to be at home for them, so I gave up work and we settled in LA.
After a couple of years at home, I took my sons travelling for a few months. We visited various ashrams in north-west India and spent some time at a Tibetan monastery, and I began focusing more on my spiritual self. In India a friend introduced me to an extraordinary healing technique called Energy Psychology, which is similar to Emotional Freedom Techniques taught in the UK. When I first experienced this simple yet profound healing method, which helps release physical and emotional blockages by tapping on specific acupressure points, I was amazed at how quickly it shifted any negative thought patterns I was harbouring.
A year or so later, in my mid-fifties and back in LA, I was meditating one day and I asked myself, ‘Do I really want to continue making movies?’ The answer came back, very clearly, as a resounding ‘No’.
And so it was that in 2001 I helped form a non-profit organisation to support offenders, along with James Beard, a friend of mine who had experience working with violent offenders and substance abusers. I became a counsellor and discreetly helped these people reconnect with those they had hurt. It was incredibly rewarding, I had come full circle and was able to help families in a way I wish our family could have been helped. Looking back, I can see divine guidance throughout my journey. These days I see it all the time – I expect it.
Becoming a Teacher
It took one further event to finally trigger my transition into teaching. Five years ago, I heard about a specific blessing, known as Deeksha, which was being taught at the Oneness University in Chennai (formerly Madras), southern India. A huge campus with students from all over the world, the university was founded by Sri Bhagavan and his wife Sri Amma. It teaches how to channel a profound energy that helps enhance our sense of connectedness to each other and the universe.
My stay at this university lasted a month, and I became a facilitator. The blessing had accelerated my spiritual growth, and upon returning to LA, I started inviting friends to receive it in my home. The Oneness Blessing gave me the final piece of my personal jigsaw, and together with other techniques, I developed my workshop to tell others how a change in perspective brings change in life experience.
Every part of my life has brought me to this moment. It feels great that I’m encouraging people to help themselves and others. If anyone had predicted in my twenties that one day I might become a spiritual teacher and healer, I would have laughed. Not because of the spiritual aspect, which has long been a part of my life – more because I was incredibly self-conscious about speaking in public.
Even today, at 60, I still don’t see myself as a teacher, but experience has motivated me to share the things that have enhanced my life. These days, after facing my fears, I have finally found peace and enjoy sharing my journey with others.