1440 Multiversity: A Body And Soul Retreat With Janet Stone
By Nikita Mehta
I left San Francisco in a mood. I was overworked, under rested and had been feeling disconnected for some time. I work in a people industry; I am around patients and clients all day. I teach yoga, I eat healthy, I have friends that I love, and yet I was lonely and bored and seeking that day.
I started the hour-long drive to Scott’s Valley in complete silence. The sun was shining, there was no traffic and yet I was dead set on clinging to my dark cloud. I have 24 hours tomorrow to be in a better mood, I thought. Twenty four hours, 1440 minutes, 86,400 seconds… tomorrow, not today.
As I put miles between me and the city the sunshine permeated the car windows and by the time I reached CA-17, the combination of the light streaming through the redwoods and the smell of fresh air had pulled at the darkness. Pulled at the darkness, but not broken the shell.
That changed when I pulled into the 1440 Multiversity campus. Located at the top of a small, winding hill, the first person I was greeted by was a kind-eyed bell boy. He opened the door and asked if he could take my bags up to my room for me. How could I not smile? After checking in and parking my car, I took my time walking to my room. This land had once been owned by Bethany College, a training school for an inner-city ministry in San Francisco. The university had opened almost 100 years ago, in 1919. The vibration of and intention that has permeated the land is palpable. Student’s came here to learn how to cultivate devotion to higher spirit. Their collective efforts are held in the soil, in the trees, in the warm air. Walking through that campus on the first day felt like taking off a heavy coat. I had arrived, all that was asked of me was to be open and present to the experiences.
I had ventured to 1440 that weekend to attend Janet Stone’s Body and Soul retreat. I had come to practice and chant with her powerful presence. It’s one thing to attend classes with our favorite teachers in the city; it is another to go away and immerse yourself in their sadhana for the weekend. I thought I knew what to expect from her asana classes; gentle, graceful flows that are deviously strenuous and nourishing. This weekend would prove that the depth of her repertoire in teaching style would open me up to a new side of my favorite yoga teacher.
But before I even was graced with her presence, there was food to eat. The meals at 1440 are served at Kitchen Table, a beautiful, dining hall where gourmet food is served in an upscale cafeteria style. All of the food is seasonal and locally sourced and there are options for every eater. That first night I took my tray, adorned with tofu and brown rice, beet salad, duck confit and a carrot cake cup, out onto the deck. The warm evening air was scented by the surrounding redwoods and I slowed down enough in that moment to sit and think about each bite of food that I placed in my mouth. It was an eating meditation. When had I last been so present while nourishing myself?
After dinner I roamed the campus, there are 75 acres of tranquil forest that surround the campus with endless hiking trails and places to relax. I strolled past the 1,440 sq. ft. fitness center, through the Healing Arts center, where massage, energy work and body treatments are offered, and down into the redwood amphitheater. Surrounded by trees and lined in the front with a babbling brook, this was the perfect place for me to set an intention for the weekend. Get out of your own way. That was my intention. My intention was to let 1440, to let Janet, to let my peers lead the experience. To get out of my own head and out of my own insecurities. This was a weekend of opening.
Janet’s classes were held in the Sanctuary, a renovated midcentury chapel with large windows that let in natural light and views. Janet was at the front of the room, surrounded by candles and idols, sitting in her natural state; behind a harmonium. I heard her voice before I even entered the room, and I listened as the call and response echoed off the tall wood ceilings. This was a space of devotion. This was a space of healing. Nat Kendall, accompanied Janet and together they sang songs from their, at the time, yet to be released album. That first class was sweet and gentle and I drifted back to my room in the warm night air humming her guru mantra.
I awoke the next morning at 6 am. I had left the doors to my balcony wide open to let in the breeze and the sound of chirping birds nudged me into consciousness. I was happy for the natural alarm. 1440 offers a variety of free supplemental activities and this morning I would be attending a meditation class. Throughout the weekend there were supplemental activities that included: Quigong, a guided nature walk, yoga and mat pilates, seminars on the secrets to great relationship and more.
Saturday, we had the full day immersed with Janet and Nat, all 1440 minutes of it. My M.O. is to stick to myself, to hide behind my writers notebook and smile politely when people make conversation. Perhaps this is many people’s mode of operation. Janet took care of this after her morning session. When us yogis arrived back in the Sanctuary after lunch, Janet put us in pairs and lead us through an afternoon of partner yoga. There was no hiding behind anything now, we were face to face with a stranger. My stranger was a tall, handsome man who had sat beside me for the past two sessions and to whom I had still yet to introduce myself. We carried each other on our backs and flew on the others feet, he trusted me when I told him that I wouldn’t drop him when he went into a handstand. We mingled with the other groups around us, talked about our lives back in San Francisco and our international travels. This was a true organic connection with another human being. The connection didn’t end there. At dinner my new friend introduced me to the group of souls that he had been eating and bonding with. We converged on a large wooden table and swapped stories as we got up over and over again to refill our trays and cups with nourishment. Janet’s retreat was not the only one at 1440 that weekend. There were 3 other retreats happening at the same time. The faces that dotted the table had not all been on the yoga adventure that we had just experienced. Some of them were at mindful eating retreats, relationship retreats and fit body retreats. They shared wisdoms that they learned in their seminars and we shared how much our thighs hurt after two back to back classes with Janet. We were an unlikely bunch of strangers. Different ages, races, backgrounds and talents, and yet here we were, mingling and sharing intimate pieces of our souls.
In the evening a smaller group of us ventured to a lecture on relationships, we giggled and made inside jokes like old friends, not people who had just encountered one another a mere 5 hours before. Afterwards, after the sun had set, we made our way down to the infinity hot tub. If the question was where do I make sincere connections as an adult, the answer is 1440.
It wasn’t painful to leave the next day because I knew I would be seeing my sangha again soon. We met the week after leaving 1440 in Janet’s class at Yoga Tree Castro and we have met every week since. These friendships were formed in the collective experience of our time at 1440. We met on retreat in a sacred space and it can be felt in the way we interact with each other. Now, when the shroud of darkness threatens to descend upon a sunny day, I pick up my phone and I text these friends instead of letting the dark clouds linger for 24 hours, 1440 minutes or even 86,400 seconds.
If you are looking to experience 1440 Multiversity for yourself, Mark Morford will be holding a Yoga For Writers weekend immersion June 29th-July 1st. For more information visit: 1440.org.