My 1440 Multiversity Experience
Nestled in the ancient redwoods, my long weekend at 1440 was a study in serendipity. I signed up more than a year ago for a Hello Soul retreat slated to be held in Napa for the promise of wine as much as the yoga. As a new mama to a now-15-month-old, I figured by the time next November rolled around, I’d be more than ready for some quality “me” time.
Little did I know that I'd be just one month in to my new gig here at Oliver Russell—not the best time to be asking for a couple of days off! In a testament to the values of our company, my boss didn't bat an eye and encouraged me to go, support our client 1440, and invest some time and energy in myself as a leader and a human being.
Another motivating factor for me was supporting my good friend and former colleague, Sara Close, who founded Hello Soul a year ago to facilitate soul-igniting yoga retreats for world-changing women. But, on the eve of her inaugural retreat, the California wildfires broke out, raging through Sonoma County in late October. I was among the first calls Sara made, explaining that the original site of the retreat, Mayacamas Ranch, had burned down. Not only was Mayacamas personally special to her, she had deep relationships with the staff and owners, many of whom lost everything. On top of this, our retreat was supposed to be the inaugural event for Hello Soul. Sara dreaded making calls asking for favors and leads on alternative venues because it seemed superficial when so many residents were reeling from devastating loss.
Meanwhile, I was settling into my new job as PR director here, and we just so happened to have 1440 as a client. The organization's converted college campus happened to be close enough to Napa to not radically alter travel plans, but far enough to be untouched by the fires.
“You’re kidding me? 1440 is amazing!” Sara exclaimed when I suggested maybe the immersive learning center and resort could serve as a new venue.
It turned out that Sara knew more than I did about 1440’s luminary faculty like Cheryl Strayed and Martha Beck who teach at the campus. In fact, she said her dream was to someday lead a course there. Hello Soul secured a rental agreement for the third weekend in November, and with less than three weeks until show time, Sara’s retreat was back on track.
When I drove my rented cherry red Kia Soul (serendipity!) to the 1440 campus, the smell overtook me. Trees. Water. Life. As someone who spends a lot of time in the woods of Idaho and Montana, I’m always surprised when I find myself in a coastal forest because they are so different. Ancient, damp, full of secret wisdom. A perfect setting for giving my soul some love, I thought.
A friendly bellhop transported my suitcase and me to the lodge so that I could check in and quickly change into yoga clothes for our first session. Part of me wanted to head straight to the “Cathedral,” a thousand-year-old redwood located a short walk from lower campus. I’d also heard all about the infinity tub adjacent to the spa…but there would be plenty of time.
The 18 women who came together at 1440 traveled from all over the country, as is typical of the organization’s clientele. From top political operatives to corporate executives to entrepreneurs, what we all had in common was being in a state of transition. For some, it was leaving a high-powered career to spend more time with a baby, or trying to juggle both. Others assessed radical career shifts or leaving romantic partnerships that had turned toxic.
For me, I hoped the retreat would mark the end the nearly two years of transitions in my life, even though almost all of them were positive: a fulfilling new job with a company that shares my values, getting married, becoming a mother, losing my grandmother, and saying goodbye to the Montana community I’d built over the past 11 years as we returned to our hometown of Boise to raise our child.
Eating fresh, delicious, clean food and soaking in the infinity tub with a tribe of new girlfriends under stars bright enough to illuminate the Milky Way, I felt the stress of the past two years melt away. In a setting like that, with people like that, what’s important starts to stick. Values. Intention. Breath. Family. Community.
For me, yoga is cathartic, when I actually do it, that is. I ruminate while I move, whether hiking or biking, but in yoga, I confront my “monkey mind” and then come back to the breath. During the retreat, Sara focused us on the transitions between the poses, rather than trying to get from one to the next without passing out. Each day, we practiced yoga at Crest, a deck-like platform up the hill from campus. Sara noticed we all kept our eyes open during savasana so we could see the canopy of trees above us, warm sunlight streaming down through the branches.
I believe in magic. It happens when groups of kickass women get together with intention. It happens in ancient forests. It happens through healing touch and the physical practice of yoga. It happens through Hello Soul. It happens at 1440. I'm thankful to have landed with a company that believes in magic, and in me.