As I drive up a narrow winding road to the 1440 Multiversity in Scotts Valley, California, signs of construction are still visible, from a lodge being built from whole timbers, to the edible landscaping being planted near the teaching kitchen. There is a rock-lined creek with a small bridge, a redwood amphitheater, a health center/spa, a temple/church, and several soaring shingle, glass, stone and redwood dormitories, meeting rooms and huge dining hall.
When Scott Kriens retired as CEO of Silicon Valley’s Juniper Network in 2009, he wanted to create something that did what the internet had failed to do; connect with one’s self. He and his wife Joanie bought a 75-acre campus of the former Bethany Bible College and are turning it into a world-class learning and retreat center where people from Silicon Valley and elsewhere can “get away from the grind” and connect with themselves and others. 1440 is the number of minutes in a day.
I arrive on a week-long service gathering for nonprofit leaders to learn from fundraising masters and organizational gurus. Sitting out on a tile patio, participants are eating and chatting about the morning’s seminars. Scott Kriens is busy visiting with guests and talking with his staff. He is a slight figure who radiates calm and friendly, and is frequently getting hugs from participants and colleagues. In a quiet moment, I catch up with him to talk about how wellbeing fits into his vision for this new center.
R: How is 1440 different from other centers like Esalen and Omega Institute?
SR: We stand on the shoulders of lots of great places. We don’t focus on what’s been done, but we focus on what needs to be done.
R: Why is it called Multiversity?
SK: One of the reasons is that there are multiple doors leading to the same room if you will. One way to ask the question is, what matters most to you? And how do you get more connected to that? And that might manifest in a personal growth area, a relationship with a partner or child, or relationship with one’s own self, and it might manifest between a doctor or patient, teacher and student, employer and employee, in a pursuit of your own health and wellness, but really it’s all the same thing. It’s getting more connected to what matters most to you. That could be the outcome people take away from spending time at 1440.
R: How is well being tied into what you’re doing?
SK: The word wellbeing gets used a lot. I think that it means leading a more integrated life, and to dispel the notion that there is such a thing as work/life balance. It’s not like you work instead of being alive. There is only one life, with all the activities within it. The healthiest way to live that life is to be the same person in all of the settings, because you are only one person after all. To be well I think is most easily accomplished when we can show up the same way as the same person for our employer,our children, our spouse, ourselves, and our family, and not bite the apple in thinking it’s a balancing act. Because that only lasts so long and nobody can balance forever. That’s a really an unfortunate aspiration to begin with. To me wellbeing means integration that allows you to stand with both feet on the ground in one place and be one person.
RG: I am reading Daniel Pink’s “Drive” about intrinsic motivation, coming from your noble goal. This sounds like the same call to authenticity. The Six Seconds model is all about that integration of living and goals.
SK:. Life is not meant to be lived in a bunch of compartments tucked away from each other. That’s not well being.
RG: Who did you envision bringing here and why?
SK: Teachers that inspire us are from the scientific community like Richie Davidson. Daniel Goleman was just here, people like Sharon Salzburg and Jack Cornfield, Jon Kabat-Zin, Bill George, Jerry Hunter, Peter Senge. Science, contemplation, and workplace. The real juice is what gets squeezed out of the combination of all of that. That is the most inspiring aspiration we have.
It’s an invitation to explore the world behind our eyes. We’re consumed by and sometimes convinced the world is in front of our eyes. There is an important inquiry living behind our eyes. The hope of Multiversity is to formalize the inquiry into that space, not just that space in my life, but for others interested in community, to find out what they are finding, and compare notes, and ask questions, and inquire about each of our journeys. That is what my hope is for 1440.
RG: How does that cross-pollination work?
SK: Some of it’s organic. Sometimes it is in the fabric of the energy of the place. Literally there are three or four different teachers, and in the community of sharing meals or time together, someone who came for Dan Siegel’s workshop on adolescent children sits down next to someone here for a contemplative workshop and how they bring calm into their own selves. Meanwhile Dan is talking about bringing calm into an adolescent relationship. And they find common ground. A lot of it happens outside the classroom, around the fire pit, or sitting on the patio or sharing a meal. Things work best when you don’t over plan it. It just happens because it should.
RG: How much of what happens is because of the design of the place?
SK: The land and the setting invite you to collaborate, or contemplate, or share. Most teachers would be the first people to say this: It’s not about what I say, it’s about what you hear. It’s not about what it means to me, it’s about what it means to you. We don’t know that just because someone said it. We know it because how it lands with us, because we find out how it works in our own lives. That is the juice. It’s very personal. The world behind our eyes is particular to each one of us because we all have our own eyes. We may or may not ingest what is being said.
RG: What was the moment you decided this was what you wanted to do next?
SK: The turning point was in 2004 when I lost my father. It became a confrontation with mortality and it left this unavoidable question for me which is; what matters? And none of us have that much time to spend, and we ought to spend it on what matters. I don’t claim to know the answer to that, but I believe the place to look is behind our eyes. That is what I’ve tried to do as much as I could understand it since that day.
RG: Has that urgency gone away now that it’s built?
SK: No, because it’s just beginning. What we’ve created so far is a very lovely destination in a redwood forest, with hopefully a lot of a community within it, and places for it to flourish. The thing that brings it to life though is the energy that flows through it. And that’s a life long quest. We’re at the very beginning. As much fun as it has been to create a space, being a curator and cultivator of the energy is infinitely more fun.
RG: It is really young, and it will be fun to check back with you in a year to see where things are.
SK: On one condition…that you don’t wait a year to visit.