Soul food: Deeper nourishment fuels Lead with Love 2018 |

Soul food: Deeper nourishment fuels Lead with Love 2018

Amanda Rae

Lead with Love, Aspen’s four-day leadership summit highlighting holistic wellness, spiritual psychology, yoga, meditation, and conscious business, returns for the third consecutive year to the Aspen Meadows Resort on Thursday, Oct. 25, and nourishment of mind, body, and spirit may be heartier than ever.

Chief strategist and former executive director Jess Ewart likens Lead With Love’s 2018 immersive focus to that of eating a meal: Without fully operational systems, the body will not be able to absorb all nutrients necessary for optimal wellness.

“ACTION is a big theme this year,” Ewart says. “People are going to get all of this great information from these amazingly smart presenters who have a lot to share, but they’ll be able to do more with it—it’s more of an experience.”

For instance, while a nutrient-dense breakfast and lunch buffet is included again for all conference passholders, mealtimes will include an optional accompaniment: four or five “hosted” roundtables at which guest moderators will share insight on specific topics with participants.

“It’s a kind of ‘lunch and learn,’” says Ewart, who will host “Wall Street Yogi” alongside Alison Tomlinson, a Denver-based director and ultra-high net worth banker at Citi Private Bank. “Ours is about how to align your spiritual and financial abundance. A lot of times people get so focused on career and making money that they let spirituality go. Others are spiritually seeking and working on themselves, but they struggle financially. This is an open forum for conversation.”

Ewart expects that some of these chats may delve into the ritual of food, including tools for eating with intention. Popular last year, tea ceremonies will return.

“According to Ayurveda, which is my background, you want to eat with intention,” Ewart explains. “You bless your food before you begin a meal, whether saying grace or ‘thank you’ or just acknowledging that you have something nourishing to eat. It’s a mindful eating practice—not about shoving food in your face.”

Rituals in general are a theme, too, beginning when a visitor first checks in to Lead With Love and is adorned with a Malinese beaded bracelet along with a blessing. An altar or shrine on site will welcome offerings and prayers from attendees, too.

Lead With Love organizers aim to increase community engagement through breakout sessions and audience Q&As during lectures in a sort of enhanced workshop format, Ewart says. Some speakers will explore issues directly related to food, beginning with a talk on Thursday evening by Harvard neurology professor, internationally acclaimed scientist, and bestselling New York Times author Dr. Rudy Tanzi, who focuses on brain health.

“Rudi will be talking about an action plan for changing your life,” says Ewart, referencing specific dietary suggestions Dr. Tanzi may suggest for implementation immediately.

Ksenia Avdulova, a social media strategist, founder of wellness brand Breakfast Criminals, and host of the “Woke & Wired Podcast,” will share insight from her experience in building an influential online presence and creating experiences offline that merge healthful superfoods with mindfulness to create positive impact.

LWL headline presenter John Mackey, CEO and cofounder of Whole Foods Markets, now a $13 billion Fortune 500 company, will expound on his “Conscious Capitalism” movement, which encourages ethical business practices and aims to conquer obstacles to “how we can bring love out of the corporate closet and into the workplace.”

(Conscious Capitalism, it turns out, is a model sought by a number of 2018 LWL food sponsors, including Ethan’s, Alter Eco, Basalt-based Dragonfly Jun, and Dr. Brew Kombucha, all of which will showcase treats during the convocation.) Gina Cucina Healthy Organic Soups returns, as does mind-body psychotherapist and yogi Ashley Turner.

Perhaps most intriguing for folks fascinated by food: the opportunity to participate in a four-day case study of “embodiment sessions” led by Stacy Tucker, founder of Almēda Labs in Kansas City. Available to a limited number of passholders, the twice-daily meetings offer personalized nutrition analysis paired with edible supplements developed by Almēda Labs, the result of Tucker’s clinical work as a trauma nurse and research conducted by a Harvard scientist.

“There are a lot of healthcare issues today that are related to malnourishment; that’s when our body starts being vulnerable to disease, inflammation, oxidative stress, hormone imbalances…insulin resistance, congestion in general,” Tucker explains. “If we can get nutrition in balance, life circumstances and stresses don’t necessarily seem so overwhelming. We’re looking for common-sense healing, and we can back it up with science, which is really cool.”

Tucker’s holistic approach includes private sessions of acupuncture, acupressure, and bodywork, as well as client follow-up after the long weekend has wrapped. All of it circles back to Lead with Love founder Gina Murdock’s original vision: “trying to make sure that people are nourished on the physical level; intellectual level with workshops and presentations; and on the spiritual level with meditation and yoga classes,” Ewart says.

Back to those wholesome breakfast and lunch buffets, crafted by the Aspen Meadows culinary team led by executive chef Jason Thompson: contrary to outsider expectations, each menu is designed for omnivores. So, yes, clean meat does find a place at the table alongside locally grown and organic produce.

“We got feedback from some of the yogis who said, ‘I couldn’t believe you had chicken on your buffet!’” Ewart says of Lead With Love last year. And yet: “We’re all about not judging each other. We try to have well-rounded, nourishing food so people can eat to their individual constitution. A vegan or vegetarian will be very well fed.”