The Embodiment Of Wellness 

The Embodiment Of Wellness 

Cover Photo By Melissa Gayle & Ryan Neddeu of Wanderlust Festival

“Well*ness. (noun) the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal.” 

By Nikita Mehta

What does wellness mean to you? Does it mean taking care of your body, having a daily practice, drinking green juice, or taking vitamins? Does it mean caring for your neighbors, volunteering in your community, or participating in social events? Or, does wellness mean taking care of our environment with proper recycling, water conservation, or using refillable water bottles? 

According to Wellspring, Wanderlust’s new festival, wellness is all of these things and so much more. The symbol of Wellspring, three lines, is indicative of personal, social and global wellness, which “connects us to a common goal: fostering healthy individuals, a healthy society and a healthy planet.” Set against the majestic San Jacinto mountain range, Wellspring had its inaugural festival this year from October 26th-28th at the Renaissance Palm Springs Hotel. This three-day, one-of-a-kind festival included hands-on treatments, inspiring workshops, workouts, meditations and night time festivities. Speakers and teachers included: Russell Brand, Marianne Williamson, Dan Nevins, angel Kyodo williams, Seane Corn, Elena Brower, Glennon Doyle, Dr Mark Hyman, Dave Asprey, Chelsey Korus, Dr. Chelsea Jackson Roberts, Millana Snow, Marc Holzman, Ambi Sithham, Paul Hawken, Ebony Smith, Sally Kohn, Schulyer Grant, Briohny Smyth, Kerri Kelly, Ryland Engelhart, Emily Fletcher, Jason Wrobel, Gina Caputo, Jeff Krasno, Scott Schwenk, and many others. 

We had the honor of sitting down, once again with one of Wanderlust’s founders, Sean Hoess, to debrief after an amazing three days in the desert. To watch the original interview that we did with Sean and his wife, Karina Mackenzie Hoess, who is the programming manager at Wanderlust, click HERE.

From planning, to preparing, to execution; what has been your experience of watching this all come together and what has been the most exciting thing about watching your idea come to fruition? 

There is a sense of relief when you produce a large new event, and there were a crazy amount of moving parts that we as an organization had never tried to do before, we’ve never had this many speaker venues or this level of talent. It’s been a real learning process but I am really happy with the way that it all turned out. We had hoped that the audience would be receptive to a conversation that looked at wellness in a broader way. We are well known for personal wellness and for helping people find their true north through yoga practice and meditation practice and diet and a million other things related to living a healthy life. But what we aren’t as well known for as a conference is ideas on how do we make our community well, how do we have relationships that are well, how do we make the planet well? So that expansion of scope was the goal of this and I wasn’t quite sure how people were going to react. But people were really ready and were ready to have that expanded conversation that maybe they weren’t 5 years ago. 

What are the three branches of wellness that you wanted to focus on at Wellspring? 

We spent a lot of time asking ourselves why? Why are we doing this different thing and what is it that we didn’t cover at Wanderlust that we want to cover at Wellspring? So, the planks of wellness as we see them are personal wellness, the focus on the individual and how you make yourself healthy both mentally and physically. But then there is social wellness, including interpersonal relationships, love, sex, workplace relationships that kind of fit from person to person. And then expanding outwards from there, there is global wellness, so that’s going to be everything from your city to your state or your community. Planetary issues like global warming or mass migration, some of the larger challenges facing humanity right now. We live in a very interconnected world, a time when we might be completely fit sane and healthy ourselves, but if you look out, we are sitting in the unbelievably tragic aftermath of the shooting in Pittsburgh at the synagogue, and these things are happening to us daily and any right minded person knows that these things are wrong. I feel personally motivated and I know that the attendees and the talent feel motivated to go out and change. Making changes around the idea of wellness is a great thing because it’s non-partisan, it’s not political, it’s something we can all agree upon. I think that’s what I am most excited about. 

The three lines of Wellspring represent these three pillars of wellness, but also they are the three lines of Shiva and represent destruction, and are we destroying our own personal addictions which draws directly into the fact that many of the classes and lectures, Russell Brand’s keynote address was all about addiction. It doesn’t only have to be substantive addictions, we have addictions to men and to relationships and to so many different things. Can you talk about why this was the underlying theme and how Russell talked about community as being the real missing piece of breaking those addictive cycles? 

I thought his talk was fascinating.  First of all he might be one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, even his linguistic skills, the way that he uses words and language is stunning. His message, whether about substance abuse or whatever is really about freedom from a form of personal enslavement in some ways, where your own brain holds you captive, whether you’re taking a narcotic, which he said was obviously the most obvious way. But we all do this, it’s a mental loop and there are a million different mental loops. I think even politics today, there are so many crazy things going on and it’s just another form of mental loop. The practices of yoga and meditation are well known as being something that can help you break the cycles of addiction, but another thing that I think is critical is, and he pointed this out in his talk is community. It is extremely difficult to recognize your own destructive behavior by yourself, and that sometimes, and this comes from AA, but it’s well represented in other traditions, this idea that you need something outside of yourself to show you the way. That’s what all these experts are here to do, but that is also what your community and your support group is there to do. One of our big goals is to expand that community and allow people to feel supported in whatever personal challenge they may be trying to overcome. 

You really could feel that sense of sangha, people really came together, in different panels, in different talks, the classes were a little bit smaller, we really had time to get onto that personal level. If recovery was the intention for this year, will that also be the intention for Wellspring next year? Or will there be a new intention that you set for the upcoming festivals?

I think there are years of material to mine from the three pillars of Wellspring. We chose that logo and that brand very consciously because I think that this could go one forever. As long as humanity has problems, there will be something to talk about. I’m not expecting to solve humanities problems very quickly. This is wonderfully rich terrain to mine and of course we will bring in new talent and look at relatively less developed parts of wellness. And something we touched on this year is how the socially conscious business community can contribute to this dialogue and advance wellness through capitalism, which is an interesting concept. But its conscious capitalism, not rapacious capitalism. That plank we can do a lot more to build on, so I am excited about that. There’s a lot more to do, but I think the fundamental framework of what we are trying to do worked well here. 

Russell Brand was obviously amazing, and Alicia Silverstone gave a talk in which she was so poised and eloquent in her message. Who were some of the other presenters that you were really enjoyed seeing this weekend?

Russell was really my number one but, Paul Hawken, who really is a hero of mine, he is doing work on fighting climate change, but is doing it in a way that is so clear headed and practical, and really what is missing. You know, if you listen to his lecture, he says, no one really wants to talk about climate change because it just makes you feel powerless and bad. Which is how I felt about it, but you emerge from his lecture and you think, well that’s just not true, there are concrete steps that we all can be taking and that we all can be doing now and we just are not doing it because we are caught up in the erroneous belief that there is nothing we can do. And so that was a game changer for me, and also just having that kind spirit. We did a panel on “Whiteness and Wellness”, really a conversation about race relations and economic disparity and wellness, which is an incredibly important conversation to be having. And then of course, Marianne Williamson, who is perhaps the embodiment of the Wellspring ethos, and all that she has achieved in spirituality and her conversation about spirituality and how it is not separate from engagement in society and in change. 

Marianne Williamson closed her speech with, “the work starts when you leave the festival.” Those of us who attended this year really internalized that message, but what can you share with those who didn’t get to attend this year on how they can be just 10% better? How can they be 10% better in their communities, to be 10% better socially, to be 10% better globally? 

Volunteer. In one of the panels they were talking about going in and sitting with elders. And the comment that the speaker made was, ‘I went in thinking I was doing something for them and I came out having made friends and realizing that I had done something for myself. That, to me, is really the ethos of volunteerism and what we really find. The very act of giving your time, giving yourself, basically taking yourself out of your individual self and your focus off your own self and on to others; you may find that it was great for you as an individual but the point is that that is what we need to see more of across the whole spectrum of different things. 

What’s next? 

After I take a much-needed vacation there are many things that we have coming up. But we will immediately be going into planning mode.  2019 is right around the corner. We have a new type of event that is related to Wanderlust Festival that is going to get launched, we have a new thing called Wanderlust Passport that is coming out which is one passport that you can purchase and go to any Wanderlust event for the entire year anywhere in the world. 

Looking for the perfect last-minute Christmas gift for the yogi in your life? Wanderlust Passport grants entry to all the 2019 Wanderlust events- over 50 events in 20 countries on 5 continents- for one price. Passport prices are $595, but will rise incrementally throughout the year. Visit  for more information. 

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