A Moment With Jennifer Wallace of 1440 Multiversity

A Moment With Jennifer Wallace of 1440 Multiversity

Jennifer Wallace is a lifelong learner.

Having begun her career in anthropology, before spending seven years in administration at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, she believes that education is both a mental and physical pursuit. 

So when she joined the recently opened 1440 Multiversity as executive director, she was right at home. Tucked away in California’s redwoods, 1440 marries the concepts of a wellness center and a university, taking a mind-and-body approach to learning and offering courses on subjects from meditation to neuroscience.  

Named 1440 for the number of minutes in a day, the center—founded by husband-and-wife duo Scott and Joanie Kriens—runs weekend- and week-long immersive programs designed to help students add mindfulness and meaning to their everyday lives.

“We call ourselves a multiversity because we are a place to learn about and nurture all aspects of ourselves, unlike a typical educational setting,” says Wallace. “So whether you’re coming in with your spouse for a relationship workshop, deepening your yoga practice, exploring your creative side with a painting or writing class, or learning professional skills that will help you build trust and compassion in your work life, 1440 is intended to meet every person on their individual path.”

Here, Wallace gives us a look inside the 1440 universe and opens up about the unanticipated events that led her there.

Live The Process: What brought you to 1440? What sets it apart from other self-improvement destinations out there?

Jennifer Wallace: I definitely took a winding path to 1440.  My early career was working in higher education administration and teaching, and I got to a place where I realized that I had been in school my whole life. I was in my mid-late twenties, and I knew I needed to do something else and shake things up. I’d been studying yoga, so decided to do a three-month program at the Kripalu Center, a yoga retreat center in the Berkshire mountains. I went with the intention to volunteer and practice yoga. At the end of the three months I got a job—and stayed for seven years. I was promoted within that time to VP of operations. I loved every minute of it. I remember parking my car and running into work because I was so happy to be there.

Still, after seven years, I started to get the itch to try something new again, and my husband and I decided to take a year off. Two days after my last day at Kripalu, we were on our way to India for a month-long meditation retreat. After that we traveled around India for another five weeks, with an intention of spiritual connection and practice. After, I returned to the States and started consulting and coaching. I was traveling in California, and my dear friends Ila and Dinabandhu Sarley, who I knew from my time at Kripalu, reached out to invite me to come and discuss the possibilities related to what is now 1440 Multiversity. 

I initially didn’t imagine that I’d be interested in working at another educational center. Then I met with Scott and Joanie Kriens. It was an hour or two conversation and one of the most incredible experiences in my career. I felt like Scott and Joanie could hear my intentions, not just my words. I saw their powerful, clear vision, their business savvy, personal fortitude and commitment toward right livelihood. Scott and Joanie are not creating this to be superstars but because they want to learn and participate too. I knew I had to be a part of bringing this vision into the world.

LTP: Can you walk us through the 1440 experience? What can visitors expect upon arrival?

JW: The experience is really focused on giving you the space and freedom to fully relax and be at home within yourself. After check in at the Lodge, our main building, you’ll go to your room and unpack. Many of our accommodations are shared, so you may spend some time meeting your new roommate. (Single occupancy and accommodations for couples are, of course, also available). Programs usually begin in the evening, so you may be interested in having a healthy snack in one of the two cafes on campus, taking a supplementary class such as qi gong and enjoying dinner before joining your cohorts in our classrooms.

There is also plenty of down time in each schedule, whether you want to soak in the infinity-edge whirlpool, get a workout in, hike the miles of forest trails, or simply share a glass of wine in the Lodge with a friend. You will also find a host of supplementary classes throughout your stay—morning, afternoons, and evenings. Evening programs can vary from week to week. It may be a lecture by one of our renowned faculty, open to the entire campus, or a musical program in the Cathedral—the natural amphitheater in one of our ancient redwood groves and an incredibly special, sacred space. 

All meals are served in Kitchen Table, our communal dining hall, where our chef and his team prepare vibrant, primarily plant-based cuisine, with sustainably sourced animal proteins available as well.

LTP: Can you explain what holistic education means to you and when your interest in it began?

JW: Ever since my earliest memories, I’ve been deeply interested in learning. I used to teach my teddy bears and my older brother and sister, so both learning and teaching are part of my DNA. In college, I studied literature and language and then anthropology in graduate school. I’ve always had an interest in knowing more about what makes us human and how we relate consciously to one another.

I think of holistic education in two ways. First, it’s about teaching the whole person and educating in a way that lights up and informs not only our intellectual aspect but also the physical, spiritual, relational, and emotional aspects of ourselves—all with an aim at connecting us in meaningful ways to our purpose and to the world around us. I also think it’s important to focus on experiential education, meaning we’re not just learning the “what” but also the “how.” Experiential learning happens when you’re engaging deeply in what you’re learning and who you’re learning it with—the faculty, the other students and then outside of classroom encounters. This is very different from the didactic teacher-student model, where you show up in a room and are taught in a hierarchical, top-down model.

LTP:  You reference the notion of whole-person development. How does 1440 address that need? 

JW: Our faculty truly represent the best of their respective fields, and many of our programs are unique, from Harvard-trained neuroscientists like Richard Davidson to the creativity workshop with Elizabeth Gilbert and Cheryl Strayed—which currently has a wait list of over 400 people!

In terms of whole-person development, we really feel that the experiences that happen before, during, and after entering the classroom are all equally important. How do you prepare to be in an alive and relaxed mindset so you can focus and absorb the material? And how do you integrate the parts that are most important for you into the rest of your life? Whole-person development, to me, reignites our own connection to the knowledge that already lives within us.

In addition to program time, our healing arts center offers a full array of bodywork and energetic healing modalities. Daily meditation, yoga, qi gong and tai chi classes are also offered, which helps with the integration of this learning on a deeper level. 

We have hundreds of weekend and five-day programs scheduled throughout the year at 1440, but here is a taste of the menu:

LTP: What does happiness look like to you? 

JW: It’s pretty simple: It looks like when I get into that state where I’m connected to my deepest self, where I’m in alignment and feel alive. That place of internal calm, where I can take in all that’s around me and touch the vibrancy of all that surrounds me. That vibrancy is the energy of love, compassion and consciousness. 

LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we all do that more each day? 

JW: It’s about living in such a way that I’m conscious of consciousness. Being fully engaged in life, both the light and the struggle. What comes out of struggle is a beautiful thing. One thing I’ve learned as we’ve been working toward creating 1440 is when you’re birthing something, there’s a constant flux. Living the process is tapping into the consciousness that surrounds us all. It’s so much more powerful than any one of us—or even all of us together—so when you’re conscious of and relating to all that is surrounding and supporting you, that’s living the process.

 

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