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“The Watchers” is a film adaptation of the 2022 book of the same name by A.M. Shine.
Review: “The Watchers”
Published June 13, 2024

Speaking self-care at the ‘Wellbeing Experience’

Self-care isn’t as easy as a hammock and a sweet potato for dinner — but those things are nice too.
The Wellbeing Experience Indoor Festival happens on Friday, Nov. 16 at Northrop.
Image by Jerusa Nyakundi
The Wellbeing Experience Indoor Festival happens on Friday, Nov. 16 at Northrop.

The first of its kind at the University of Minnesota, Friday night’s “Wellbeing Experience” filled Northrop’s four floors with bodies — minds and spirits, too.

Presented by the Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality and Healing, the event began with a two-hour “self-care festival.” Acupuncture needles pricked chilled out guests and probiotic juice shots were slung.

“My grandfather would cry if he was here,” said a Timotheée Chalamet-type, looking at a plant display. Happy tears, of course.

While the therapy animals — yes, chickens included — were housed on the fourth floor, a raccoon and rabbit roamed the lobby. Performed by In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater, guests could engage with the costumed creatures in a more reciprocal way.

A woman bowed to the raccoon, who dipped its masked head in response. Other guests milled about in tunics and graphic tops, Stussy and Planned Parenthood both repped.

Every year, the center brings in a speaker. It’s hosted Brené Brown, the Dalai Lama and Michael Pollan.

This year, a post-festival ticketed event in the auditorium hosted international well-being expert and University professor Mary Jo Kreitzer as well as rapper, writer and do-it-all Dessa. 

Both of the talks were recorded, which is lucky — we can’t possibly recount the messages in the same way as their original deliverers.

Kreitzer has been part of the well-being focused center since the beginning — 23 years! Being constantly surrounded by people with a similar investment in wellness has served her well.

Dessa’s talk also drew from life experience: University philosophy classes, 15-year-old emotions and the tour-van lifestyle.

When the speakers paired for a post-talk question and answer with American Public Media’s Kate Moos, it was obvious their knowledge complimented each other. “[Some are] reluctantly involved in revelations,” Dessa joked.

The artist’s talk centered on the appraisal of happiness.

“A lot of us are at least tempted to consider the authentic, even if we have to trade in some happiness points to get it,” she said in a pre-event interview. “None of our lives are convenient enough to align all of our interests.”

Kreitzer’s TED-style talk, on the other hand, focused on the connection between personal and global well-being. The center director’s breadth of knowledge is so full and so sweet. When she says she remains whole by “staying in the moment,” you know she means it.

“The ‘Wellbeing Experience’ is an example of public education,” Kreitzer said. “People have a deep yearning for well-being throughout their lives – whether you’re a well-being professional or a senior in college. … More and more people are recognizing that self-care isn’t just a nicety — it’s critical.”

Throughout both talks, wisdom was met with a resounding “hmm.” A “hmm, this is something important to remember.” A “hmm, will I though?”

Both scary and comforting, the truth is you can’t tell someone exactly how to find balance. Meditating sounds easy, but is it? Not everyone can afford a naturopathic doctor or even vegetables sometimes.

A big takeaway from the evening: the first step toward wholeness may just be thinking — really, truly thinking — about what does and doesn’t work for you. In the “mind-body-spirit” approach, the mind has some leverage over both its counterparts. You can think about purpose, how your body feels, your spirit.

Reading from her book, “My Own Devices,” Dessa recounted a conversation with a therapist. The “it’s all in your head” excuse had been brought up.

“Of course it’s all in your head,” the therapist said. “Where else would it be?”

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