Deep in the heart of California’s ancient redwood forests lies a 75-acre (30-hectare) campus dedicated to holistic wellbeing where guests can stretch their minds as well as heal their bodies. 1440 Multiversity – named for the number of minutes in a day – hosts teachers and thinkers from author Elizabeth Gilbert, to singer Alanis Morissette, to Harvard-trained neuroscientist Richard Davidson and meditation experts like Sharon Salzberg.
Located midway between the high-tech capital of Silicon Valley and the hippie haven of Santa Cruz, 1440 Multiversity takes inspiration from both; its name is a recognition that each moment of the day is an opportunity to be present and connect, and yet that the busyness of life often makes that elusive. The goal of the resort-cum-learning campus is to help people live more integrated lives and to serve as a catalyst for improving relationships with ourselves and others.
Described as “part wellness resort, part Ted-talk auditorium, part conference centre”, the campus features classrooms, accommodations and meeting spaces. Guests come for weekend or five-day programmes with themes from mindfulness to fitness, creative expression and conscious leadership.
“We all want to live rich and meaningful lives, yet it’s often hard to carve out the time and space to figure out what that really looks like, let alone how to make it happen,” says Scott Kriens, co-founder of 1440 Multiversity. Kriens is also chair and former CEO of Juniper Networks, a US$10.6bn multinational corporation that develops and markets computer networking products, so he knows a thing or two about the squeeze for time.
Kriens and his wife Joanie first founded the 1440 Foundation in 2010, when they recognised that the fast-growing online world was helping people connect, but at the same time, making them feel more disconnected. The foundation originally focused on philanthropic grant-making, but the Kriens soon realised there was a need for more and the idea for 1440 Multiversity was born. The retreat opened last May.
The idea is to combine learning with downtime for things like meditation, yoga, quigong, tai chi, massage, 4 miles of forest hiking trails and a communal dining area serving nourishing meals. A typical day might begin with morning yoga or a hike through the woods, followed by a breakfast with fellow guests at the Kitchen Table, then a 1 ½ hour faculty-led programme session. There is a 2-hour window for a lunch – again at the communal table – followed by free time in which many guests utilise the Healing Arts Center for a spa treatment, before classes resume for 2 hours in the afternoon. In the evening, guests again gather at the Kitchen Table for locally sourced food and then afterwards can partake in organised events such as speaking engagements, poetry readings and musical performances. These evening events are also open to locals, who often combine them with dinner at the restaurant, mingling with the guests and adding to the community spirit.
“The creation of 1440 Multiversity stems from a desire to have a space where people can come together in a community with one another – a place to better serve both champions and fellow practitioners in learning for better living,” explains Jennifer Wallace, executive director. “Scott and Joanie wanted to establish a beautiful and nurturing physical location where people from all walks of life could come together in community – to explore, learn, reflect, connect and reenergise.”
Part of that reenergising comes in the form of a traditional on-site spa, The Healing Arts Center, which features 22 treatment rooms, steamrooms and a 250sq m (2,690sq ft) outdoor infinity tub overlooking the forest. Around 10 to 15 per cent of guests opt for treatments as part of their stay and a variety of treatments, such as customised massages, Thai yoga massage, craniosacral therapy, shiatsu and body scrubs are on offer, with product house Zents selected for its ethical ingredients and unscented products.
“We view ourselves as an immersive learning destination and offer a wide range of programmes that speak to the many aspects of the self, from more traditional ‘spa-like’ offerings, to workshops on personal relationships and professional development,” says Wallace.
The Healing Arts Center is one aspect of an holistic wellness model and is designed to fit seamlessly into the campus. Its design reflects the overall feel of the Multiversity, with craftsman touches and the use of organic and natural materials such as slate, copper and warm woods.
Created by architect Jerry Yates, the entire 75-acre campus is tucked away in a forest of 1,000-year-old California redwoods and blends natural and man-made environments. It’s designed around rest and relaxation and integrates natural materials, such as boulders from the nearby Sierra Nevada Mountains, which are used in the water features.
“The campus was purpose-built for immersion, integrated learning, connection, reflection and choice, with elements designed to create ‘happy accidents’ and encourage connection with ourselves and other guests,” says Wallace. “The setting is close to major airports – San Jose airport is only ½ hour away – but feels timeless and removed from the everyday bustle of life. There are 4 miles of hiking trails woven through the campus, allowing guests to really immerse themselves in nature during their stay.”
Living integrated lives
Guests come from around the world in a diversity of ages from early 20s to late 70s. The campus can host up to 375 guests and accommodate more than 750 visitors at a time, with all-inclusive accommodations ranging from modern Asian-style sleeping ‘pods’ to fireplace suites with patios nestled in the forest. Room pricing includes all meals and amenities and ranges from US$140-$340 (€110-280, £100-240) per person per night, plus programme costs, which start at US$80 (€65, £57).
Programmes are varied and diverse and change throughout the year, with guest teachers and lecturers cycled throughout to keep the content engaging. Titles range from Six Step Inner Bonding to A Deep Dive into Conscious Parenting to Cultivating Stress Resilience.
“Learning to be in strong, meaningful and authentic relationships – with ourselves, with each other and with the world around us – is the most important work we can do,” says Wallace. “The goal of 1440 Multiversity is to help each of us craft and live more integrated lives.”
Guests can also choose an R&R stay, which allows them to pick and choose from a range of bite-size workshops in a variety of health, wellness and personal growth topics throughout each day, as well as having full access to the amenities of the campus. Classes on self-healing, sound healing, traditional songs and chants, improvisation, guided nature walks, yoga and meditation are offered.
And Wallace says there’s a hunger for this kind of learning. Brave Magic – a three-day programme offered this September about creativity and embracing challenges and taught by bestselling authors Elizabeth Gilbert and Cheryl Strayed – is so popular that guests are asked to come with a friend to room with, or Multiversity will “mindfully” pair them with a guest of the same gender.
Whether they’re mindfully paired with roommates or come with friends or partners, connecting with other guests is part of the ethos at 1440 Multiversity and reflected in common areas like the Kitchen Table, where guests eat their meals family-style.
“Social connection plays a huge role in the 1440 philosophy,” explains Wallace. “The concept of the Kitchen Table is to provide a welcoming space for people of all walks of life to meet and share food and ideas. Whether you’re the CEO of a multi-million dollar company, an elementary school teacher or a stay-at-home parent, 1440 emphasizes the importance of creating a space where everyone can immerse in teachings that touch the multiple layers of the self.”
The result is something of a new model for hospitality – or a new model for education – in a world where people are overloaded with information and choices, and starved of face-to-face connections and a sense of community. The founders hope a stay there can help set a new direction for its guests.
“We built 1440 as a place for people to relax, reflect and spend time with incredible teachers in a beautiful setting,” says Kriens. “We hope the result is the best kind of vacation – one that sends you home not only recharged, but also with insights for living life a little more fully, one moment at a time.”