Genevieve Medow-Jenkins exists as a bit of an enigma on social media for me. In a world full of sameness and social posturing, she pleasantly stands out as a true artist above the fray and in her own space of high level creativity.
Born and raised at Esalen Institute, her world looks like a magical outpouring of all things California and when I learned about her ambient music centered experiences called Secular Sabbath, my curiosity had me looking into it more. A musical sound bath under the stars in Joshua Tree could only be amazing for the soul– even for those who might not normally seek out such experiences.
In short, she's intriguing and inspiring. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did.
Thank you Genevieve!
1- Your 3 word bio:
Child Mind Forever
2- Tell us briefly about your background and how you got to where you are now?
My parents are both bodyworkers who met in the front office at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA and raised me there, in that collective environment. I think they both came from academic backgrounds, and found Esalen to be a salve of healing the divided relationship between body and mind. From that space, I was born and thus created Secular Sabbath.
3- You're the founder of Secular Sabbath, an intentional community born out of the healing properties of ambient music. I don't feel that the potential of music gets much emphasis in the obsessive self-care/wellness world and yet I know it is one of the most transformative mediums. What do you feel is missing in our understanding of the power of music to heal and transform?
Music is a universal love language. It is, perhaps, the only one I know of. Music is made up of vibrations, and vibrations are what make up everything in the entire world. Matter breaks down to atoms which are vibrations. So you could say that the first thing that gives life is music - is vibration. Ambient music feels closest to this origin story for me, if that makes sense.
4- What does a Secular Sabbath experience look/feel like?
The most transformational experiences of my life have been inexplicable - and Secular Sabbath experiences stand in that category. The event experience is designed to be idiosyncratic, so mine may look different than yours. Just as we may do the same meditations, our visions inside our own minds will be divergent; they will be our own. Secular Sabbath is a choose-your-own-adventure in the music, wellness and sensory experience space. We pop up with certain recognizable elements: a see of beds and comfortable pillows, a transformed dome alit by fairy lights, an ambient music stage, nourishing colorful foods… it feels homespun - like maybe your eccentric aunt set it up. And lived in, so it’s welcoming to come in, take off your shoes, and sit down with us for a while.
5- How did you come about organizing these events, and how many have there been? When and where is the next one?
I’ve stopped counting but I started in May 2016 and have consistently done at least a few every year, growing exponentially in the last year to at least 6 events. We have one coming up late July in Topanga which I’m really excited about because it’s a daytime experience by the river so it should be really beautiful under the dappled light.
6- You were raised at Esalen, which I can imagine was remarkable in many ways and perhaps unusual in others. What were some of the pros and cons being raised in this community? (Maybe there were no cons!)
Esalen is a beautiful complicated amoeba. The land speaks for itself but the politics there are complex. It always felt political because it’s also always been a business. So I had this magical upbringing around so many people coming and going in the path of personal development, but also people who were looking to capitalize off of a movement that was genuinely born out of psychological and physical explorations of the mind, body and spirit connection. We need more places like what Esalen was founded on, not what Esalen has become.
7- Your style is something I personally find so refreshing. Fashion shouldn't be as boring as it is, and yet I find myself slipping into neutrals like there are no other options. What inspires your way of dressing? And do you believe there is power in personal fashion?
This is a funny question because it’s something my friends always ask me. I literally don’t think about what I put on in the morning at all. I wear what feels good that day. Ever since I can remember, I’ve always had a sense of my inner world being reflected in my outer appearance. And when I look back at pictures, I often see myself wearing the same kind of things I wear now, even wishing I could still have those overalls, or that toddler pajama set in my size now. And I have always wanted people to see my soul through my outer appearance rather than just my eyes or something like that.
I never buy new clothes, ever. As a rule, because I like the story of how pieces of clothes come into my life. My parents didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up so I grew up on hand-me-downs and clothes from the Esalen Free Box. The Free Box is an actual box that lives in the laundry room at Esalen where people deposit their old clothes, and others pick them up anew. One of our favorite activities as kids was dressing up in the clothes from the free box and jumping in the pond or the pool with all of them on. Clothes have stories, I like to carry on stories.
8- I've gathered that you are an avid reader. What are the top 3 books that have changed your life?
Changing my life is a tall order for a book. I like reading books because they make me more empathetic and perceive new ways of thinking about the world, and the ways that we live in it. Here are three that have achieved that:
Proust Was A Neuroscientist, Jonah Lehrer
Tender Buttons or Three Lives, Gertrude Stein
A Feeling of History, Peter Zumthor + Mari Lending
9- Because we're here, what is your self care philosophy?
I need a consistent morning practice to feel close to my sense of god/the universe/etc and feeling close to my connection with my particular form of spirituality is my highest form of self care. This includes some spectrum of waking up to turn on the kettle for tea, listening to ambient music, sitting for at least 30 minutes for tea and writing in my journal, taking my dog on a morning loop, watering my vegetable gardens, taking a hot bath and making my loose list for the things I’d like to achieve that day.
It’s simple but that’s what I need in self care. We all need different things to find peace.
10- Do you have any wellness tools that you can't live without ?
The OSHO zen tarot deck
And now your body stick! I took it with me on a 10 mile ascending hike to a glacial lake that my mom and I did for her 74th birthday a few weeks ago and it was a lifesaver. I also just brought it to London and Paris, and I really appreciate how easy it is to keep my skin hydrated.
11- What is the best way to stay in touch if someone wants to join one of your experiences?
Join Secular Sabbath! Our least expensive membership breaks down to $15/month and allows access to all of our events and 10% off everything on our site so it’s a low impact way to see what we’re up to and if our community aligns with how you’d like to spend time with yourself and with friends.