Empowering Women in the Art of Wayfinding

Menopause & Aging Well


This week I spoke with Ann Hoffman-Ruffner, founder of Wayfinding Women, a connecting, coaching and travel company for women. Ann shared her own post-50 transformation journey with me and discussed how she is empowering women worldwide to realize their dreams, live joyfully, and positively transform their world.

I think you'll enjoy learning about Ann, her company and her upcoming retreats for women.

Q: Tell me a little about your background?  

Ann: I am considered a connector, a change facilitator, a creator, so to speak, of an experiential sisterhood of empowered and joyful women.

In addition to my 30 years as a therapist, I have 20-plus years of extensive leadership experience as an educator and administrator in mental health. In 2007, I cofounded a nonprofit organization, the Partnership for Mental Health, Inc. For the past eight years, I have served as president of this organization, leading the collaborative of 30-plus organizations from the southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky region in educating our communities and reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness, as well as increasing awareness and understanding of suicide prevention.

I have been a lifelong advocate for women's safety and well-being.


Ann Hoffman-Ruffner is founder of Wayfinding Women

Q: What is Wayfinding Women and why did you create your company?

Ann: Wayfinding Women is the connecting-coaching-travel company I created after deciding to leave my work as a therapist and administrator in 2014. I decided I wanted to create joyful experiences of connectedness where women are inspired and supported to discover and celebrate their gifts and purposes to better serve themselves and the world.

Throughout my adult life, Shari Biesboer—my BFF since we were both 4-years-old—and I have gone on what we call WWs (women's weekends/weeks). These getaways helped us manage the demands of our hectic lives by allowing us to recharge, connect with one another and reconnect with the truest version of ourselves. We always came back stronger and better women.

During one of these getaways in 2011, we began talking about how we wished to share this experience with other women, to create trips that would allow them to feel all the joy we do from friendship, travel and time to reflect.


Women participate in cooking classes as part of Wayfinding Women self-care retreats.

The year we both turned 50, we went to Europe. While there, Shari and I talked more about the idea. We were reading Finding Your Way in a Wild New World by Martha Beck, a Harvard professor turned life coach (and made famous by Oprah). We related to her holistic approach and concepts of "wordlessness" and "oneness." It spoke of the ancient art of "wayfinding" and seemed to call me to a new purpose.

After losing both my parents within a four-month period and finding myself increasingly disheartened in my job as an administrator over acute-care psychiatric programs, I resigned my position of 29 years and decided to build my company.

I wanted to learn from the best, so I signed up with Martha Beck's Life Coach certification program. While in the middle of that, Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly and researcher on vulnerability and shame, offered a certification in her methodology. So I headed to San Antonio to begin that process. I use all these tools now when providing coaching and when creating workshops and retreats.

Q: Based on your work with women, what have you learned about post-50 and midlife women?  

Ann: My practice is comprised of women of all ages. What my clients have in common is that they are all intelligent, passionate women who have found themselves in transition of some sort, feeling off kilter, stuck, lacking confidence or clarity and wanting to learn to stand firmly in their power.

What I've found unique about women over 50 is they are wanting to make their next years really count. If there is something missing or not satisfying, they want to figure it out. They also want more authenticity in their relationships with other women. They are tired of trying to impress. Women this age are also realizing that they don't "have to do it myself" or that it's not only OK to ask for help and support, but that is the fastest way to getting on track.


Women of all ages connect at Wayfinding Women self-care retreats.

Q: How have you changed during your life after 50?

Ann: When I turned 50, I began upheaving my life. I had always been one to push myself to expand and take risks, but this was nothing like anything I'd experienced before. Through the Martha Beck program, I dove into aspects of myself that had been too scary to confront despite having gone through therapy in my early 20s and again in my 40s when my daughter was diagnosed with a rare autonomic nervous system syndrome.

I experienced deep and profound grief over the loss of my parents and both of my beloved dogs, all within a 9-month period, and learned that being with others during their transition from this world is part of my journey on this earth.

Q: What advice do you have for post-50 women who want to make a change personally or professionally?

Ann: Don't be afraid of change. We only get one chance to live this lifetime. One of my favorite sayings is, "Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, 'Wow! What a Ride!'" If there is something you want to do, do it. Don't put it off or wait until "the time is right" because next year, you will find yourself in the same place, wishing you had taken those steps 12 months ago.

Q: Tell me about your 2015 women's retreat to Italy.

Ann: The women's retreat to Italy was better than we could have imagined. We had such a great time that we're going back for another retreat in October 2016. We stayed in an amazing family villa in Tuscany. There were eight women from all over the USA spanning ages 28 to 65. Each had different transitions they were going through. The women didn't know each other and by the end of the first day, they were feeling a lightness and joy. Many experienced emotions that they hadn't allowed themselves before and beautiful relationships developed.


The 2015 Wayfinding Women self-care retreat was held in Italy.

Q: Tell me about the women's retreat you're planning this April in France.

Ann: In April, we're planning an extreme self-care retreat in France. We're staying at a chateau near Monet's garden in Giverny. We'll be taking two day-trips to Paris. The wonderful part about our programs is that women can step away from their busy lives, and they don't have to worry about anything. We provide a very balanced schedule with time for day-trips and time to relax.

(OMG, go right now and check out the link—it sounds fantastic!)
 
For more information about Wayfinding Women and their women's retreats go to www.wayfindingwomen.com. Also check out the mindful musings on Ann's blog.

Thanks, Ann, for sharing your story. I hope I can go on one of your women's retreats during my life after 50.

This post originally appeared on aboomerslifeafter50.com.

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