Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times | Terms of Service | Privacy Policy

From Canyon To Cove: Freeing the powerful woman inside

“If you have never been called a defiant, incorrigible, impossible woman … have faith … there is yet time.”

— “Women Who Run with the Wolves”


If you miss — or missed out on — the energetic women’s movement of the late 1960s and ‘70s and want to rejuvenate your women’s spirit, you might want to be part of the Imagine a Woman Dream Circle, a women-only event at gynecologist Jane Bening’s Newport Beach office Aug. 13 and 20.


Bening and co-organizer Kym Sawtelle-Castuera are both from Laguna Beach and have joined their very different energies to create an event for women that promises to be part spiritual quest, part physical exercise and part health seminar.

Bening said she sees in her practice many women who are not getting all they want and deserve out of life, and she wants to change that for women of all ages. And it’s all about health.

“In my practice, I talk to women about their sex lives and see these wonderful women being ignored by their husbands,” she said. “The ultimate goal [of the workshops] is to promote health and empower women to follow their dreams.

“In health, it is important not to be defeatist.”


That may be even more true in life.

While Bening will bring her medical expertise and knowledge, Sawtelle-Castuera will bring the kind of ebullient, raw energy that used to fuel the women’s movement in its early, heady days.

The former ballet dancer and actress has worked in theater, where she said she developed a knack for ritual. She also describes herself as a medium and gives workshops on dreams. A case of prescription drug-induced amnesia and a lengthy struggle with lupus led her to explore alternative forms of therapy, including yoga, meditation and spiritual work.

She is an endless fount of information about women’s history and culture, and said she was inspired to follow a women’s spiritual path by the seminal 1992 book “Women Who Run with the Wolves,” by Clarissa Pinkola Estés.

“It took me months to finish that book, because I would read a couple of pages and put it down and cry,” Sawtelle-Castuera said.

The two women met at a yoga class in Newport Beach and apparently it was a case of opposites attracting. Bening is soft-spoken, low-key and deliberate, the consummate medical professional, while Sawtelle-Castuera is colorful, flamboyant and theatrical.

But there are similarities. Each is a mother — Bening has two daughters, Sawtelle-Castuera, three — and each wants her children to avoid mistakes she made and have the most fulfilling lives possible.



Body image workshop for girls

To that end, a separate workshop for girls ages 12 to 18 will be Aug. 14, also at Bening’s office.

In that workshop, Body Image and the Media, Bening and Dr. Kay Ostensen will teach younger women not to succumb to the “demands and pressures of having the so-called perfect body, as well as how to resist bullying on the school grounds or in cyberspace, and other serious issues, such as eating disorders, substance abuse, sexual promiscuity, etc.”

Parents are also invited to attend.

“Optimizing is the key word,” Bening said. “Everyone is dealt a different deck of cards, but much of it is under our control. I want women to know that this [life] is not a dress rehearsal.”


A ‘circle of empowerment’

A key component of the adult workshop will be a belly dancing lesson from Lilla Varese, a belly dancing teacher in Irvine.


The dance — barefoot — will bring participants into a circle, and that is where the most important moment of the workshop will happen, according to both women.

“The women will come together in a circle of empowerment,” Bening said. “Women today are lacking face-to-face experiences, with all the texting and emailing and phoning. This is fragmented communication.

“I want to give women permission to remember, reflect and reinvent themselves, and the belly-dancing exercise will take them out of their level of comfort. It will push the envelope with a new body experience, a uniquely feminine exercise.”

Here, Sawtell-Castuera picks up the thread.

“We need to remember our dreams,” she said. “What if you were writing the script of your life? What would it be like?”

“To visualize and manifest it,” Bening continued. “Imagine that you cannot fail.”

CINDY FRAZIER is city editor of the Coastline Pilot. She can be contacted at (949) 302-1469 or

If You Go

Imagine a Woman Dream Circle, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 13 and 20, at Jane Bening’s office, 366 San Miguel Drive, Suite 210, Newport Beach. The cost for each session is $150.

Body Image and the Media, for girls 12 to 18 and their parents, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. Aug. 14 at Bening’s office. A second session will be scheduled. The cost is $165.

To sign up for either workshop, call Bening’s office at (949) 720-0206.