BeJay Watson. One minute she’s having a coffee at Yoons in White River, then you’ll see her “pretzeled up for Christmas” (in her words) at her Iyengar class in Nelspruit, five minutes later she’s hosting the most exquisite gong bath at a lodge on the Sand River. But she’s back at home in time for bed at 9pm so that she’s up and ready for morning prayers and gratitude at 430am.

This beautiful, funny, and adventurous soul – being an enneagram seven – doesn’t waste a moment as she writes the second half of her book of life and we had the privilege of sitting down with her and asking her about life in 2023.

Three years ago, you moved from your home in the bush to White River. Why did you choose White River and what makes you stay?

It just feels like home and has an energy that I love! The community has opened itself to me and there are the most amazing people here. Of course, I love that it’s close to the Bush. Also, I think a lot of people don’t know that the Wit Rivier is on a strong ley line, it’s called the Nilotic Meridian or “the underground river of gold” connecting the pyramids of Egypt to the Drakensberg of South African and many people believe this is what makes White River so special.

You have an interesting name; can you tell us more about it?

I was born at 3:25am on August 14 in 1960 and I am the fourth and youngest daughter of Brian James Watson and was christened Brenda Joy. Everyone said that I was always “a bundle of joy” – there’s the b and the j again [smiles]. Everyone called me “BJ” but when I was in my late thirties I went to the Buddhist Retreat Centre at Ixopo and for some reason they spelt my name “BeJay.” At the end of my year at the centre, one of the monks said to me: “Your shoulders have dropped and you have a new name.” And I loved it!

Did you grow up in a spiritual household?

My parents were Anglican, and I went to a Catholic school. I wouldn’t say it was very religious but there was a focus on love and kindness and a quiet acknowledgement of living according to the ten commandments. My maternal gran was very spiritual. There was always a special kind of gentleness there and I remember the knitting she did for us girls, the sandwiches cut in a certain way, and the jam tarts. I feel like jam tarts are quite spiritual [laughing].

Complete the sentence:

If I was the mayor of White River for a day, I would…

Give gratitude to the community. The other day there were people fixing potholes out of the back of their bakkie and how about all the people and entrepreneurs with small businesses who keep going?! Despite the challenges, our town still looks neat and tidy. So I would walk around and give gratitude!

If I could meet any person, it would be…

I’m so excited to be seeing Bruce Springsteen live this year, so I hope to meet him and have a dance! But, in addition to Bruce, I would love to meet the spiritual teacher, Byron Katie, again. I have met her before, but every time that I do, she explains things to me that I just get. For example, when someone says, “we’re living in an illusion” what do they mean? Byron Katie will tell you! I believe that she has “master” energy.

If I was an animal, I would be…

A lioness, my totem animal. I love how they work as a pride. They’re individuals, but they work together. They have the ability to give their energy when they need to and they have the ability to absolutely rest when they need to. I love that.

Our lives often have an important turning point. So far, what would you say yours has been?

When I moved out of busy Johannesburg and into the bush to work in hospitality when I was in my late twenties. My “social self” that lived in the city was so strong, so it was amazing to start connecting to nature… to have the time to be quiet and appreciate the stillness and the beauty of our world. Over time, you find yourself reflecting often on how nature connects into our human nature. And the jackalberry trees became some of my best teachers.

Also, hospitality is about service, and service can be such a beautiful thing. Again, showing up and genuinely wanting to help someone and be generous of time and spirit, in spite of whatever mood they may be in. You get to see your ego nicely and you’re invited to witness it.

When you’re at a lodge you also need to learn to be the best version of yourself because you’re part of a small tribe living in close quarters. You need to allow others to point out your strengths and weaknesses. That’s never easy. It’s a powerful initiation into self.

You are a certified life coach. If you were to give a person who is at a turning point in their own life some advice, what would it be?

While turning points can be painful, know that they are also exciting. You’re stepping into the unknown and – as you do that – notice if you are resisting the change or embracing it. Turning points are a real opportunity to come into awareness. Into the ability to “notice”. Trust yourself deeply: You have the wisdom to move through a turning point. At the same time, don’t do it alone. There is always someone who has done it before – seek those people out and ask for help.

What colour would you say you are, and why?

I love gold, but I would say that I am the colour of the sunrise. Yellow is open, warm, outgoing, and it touches your heart. I love all the golds, oranges, and reds as well. Yellow is the colour of understanding, and orange is active… dancing, chanting, creative and alive.

In your role as Gong-Master, you are often hosting sound baths at retreats and events in and around the Lowveld. What has been the gong’s most significant gift to you?

The gong has taught me about the power of frequency and vibration. In one of his most famous quotes, Albert Einstein said that “everything is vibration” referring to all the atoms moving and dancing all the time. If we can understand that everything is always vibrating at a certain frequency, then we can begin to see how our own state of mind affects our unique vibration and the power we have to change that vibration, for the good of ourselves and the community around us. After finding the gong – I finally get this Universal law. We are all energy and the gong helps us to access and feel that energy, in ourselves and around us. It brings us back to our basic atomic make-up, just as breath brings us back to one our basic autonomic nervous system functions. If we can acknowledge the vibration of our own atoms and the frequency that we are showing up at, then we can start to play with it.

And as a second part to that question, what is it about a sound bath that people find so emotive and healing?

It really helps to still the mind. It might even empty the mind. As the mind is quietened, the body’s intelligence, wisdom, and frequency starts to come back into harmony  and balance. The gong helps us find wordlessness, dropping out of thought and into no-thought. It helps us access our frequency and invites us to become witness to it.

You have spent many months in India developing your yoga practice. What advice would you give to someone considering a yoga or meditation retreat in India?

India. It’s chaos, like nothing you’ve ever seen. I find it mind-blowing. It’s a beautiful place to learn how to be a witness to life. If you get caught up with the rights and the wrongs of India, it becomes overwhelming. Just witness it all or become the witness. I would say you need at least ten days in India. Do the sight-seeing first. As well as whatever you want to see, go see the Ganges, higher up near Rishikesh. Feel the energy of that spiritual river. Then, once you’ve done some sight-seeing, seek out an ashram where you can spend a week. An ashram is a kind of monastery or hermitage, and the meaning is to “strive towards a goal in a disciplined manner.” It’s really important to go with the flow at the ashram. You need to sink into routine, which is so important because routine is lacking from so many modern lifestyles. One of my favorite parts of the routine is early morning gratitude as the sun comes up and again in the evening as the sun goes down. Some time at an ashram will likely change your life, so as you leave India, be mindful that you may need some time once you’re back home to integrate your experience – it can be overwhelming coming back into normal life after spending even just a few days in disciplined spiritual practice.

When you’re feeling out of alignment, what do you do to support your mindset and your spirit?

The first thing I do is get back into nature. For example, I’ll go for a solo drive in the Kruger, or I’ll find a quiet tree to sit under. Then I “up” my spiritual practice in the mornings with the sunrise. I think it’s Richard Rohr who says that whether you are rich or poor, healthy or sick, the sunrise is a gift for every person. 

In Kundalini yoga, you talk about meditating and doing yoga at the ambrosial hour, between 3 and 6am, when it is said that the electromagnetic energy of the earth is at its optimum level for these practices. I wake up at 04h30, cleanse myself with palo santos and then I meditate for about 45 minutes, including prayer or listening to my higher self. Then I get onto the mat for some yoga, or sometimes just some breathwork. There is gratitude or thanking the universe for what it has put in front of me, and then I ask for want I need or want for the day, for example, asking to be kind, gentle, or more open-hearted.

This whole practice is called a Sadhana, where we use a variety of mindfulness tools to surrender the ego, or at least try [laughs]. For me, the discipline of doing it is peaceful. It improves my self-esteem and self-discipline. Essentially you are setting up to support your mind, body, and soul for the day.

What specific places in South Africa nourish your soul the most?

Definitely White River and the Bush, from Londolozi, the Sabi Sand, the Kruger and all the way up to the Timbavati area. I also have a big place in my heart for Struisbaai. I love the ebb and flow of the ocean, the positive and negative ions, the 27kms of beach, and the simplicity that is there. I try to get there every year.

As well as a Life Coach, Yoga Instructor, and Gong Master, you are also an enneagram practitioner. What number are you and what have your learnt about yourself through the enneagram?

I am a 7. I’m a flamboyant, out-there extrovert. As 7’s we’re always making a plan. We’ve got big ideas and we’re generally running away from anything tedious, boring, or causing us pain. We have a great ability to reframe things. If something is not going to work, then within an instant we have a new plan. I think, for me, the enneagram helps me to understand that we are all different. I’ve never known that some other people can’t quickly reframe, and so I’ve been unsympathetic when they don’t. I’ve learnt how other types see the world and how they act in the world.

Even though I’m quick out the gates, I’ve learnt to slow down, breathe, and listen to others. What an important lesson!

What has surprised you the most about the seventh decade of life? Is there a lesson that stands out?

In my mind I’ve realised that the first half is getting to know yourself. The second half is a real spiritual phase for me, where I’m figuring out what makes my heart true. It’s questions like: What else do I still want to do, contribute to, or be part of? It’s almost like the first half is discovering the script and the second half is writing the script and owning it. I love this analogy. It’s about really knowing what book you’ve written, and editing, renaming the chapters and even renaming the book. For those interested in this topic, I would really recommend Richard Rohr’s book: Falling Upward.

Is there anything else that you would like to share about this phase of your life?

Yes, I think there are two things that have really sunk in for me recently: First, a deep honouring of “I belong”. I have felt a deepening of a faith that I’m being loved, held, and supported. Second, I’ve really sunk into a deep commitment to gratitude. Sometimes we’re so caught up in the dreaming and scheming of life that we forget to say “thank you” for what is. When you are truly in gratitude and you feel it, it vibrates off of you. If you’ve never had a gratitude practice before, I would say the best way is to find a buddy. Every day for 21 days, message each other sharing what you are grateful for and watch how your life changes.

BeJay regularly hosts Gong Baths in The Lowveld. At Hanya House, group Gong Baths are held monthly according to the new moon. The next one is one Sunday 18th June. You can also book a one-on-one sound treatment. If you’re interested in getting to know yourself better, BeJay’s enneagram process involves a comprehensive analysis as well as three 90-minute sessions with BeJay that allow you to dive deep into the opportunities of knowing your type. To find out more, contact BeJay direct: