By Karina Taylee
Healthy Living Program (HLP), offers students free massages, acupuncture, and aromatherapy blends throughout the year but the department’s main annual event, Zen Fest, is a vibrant student gathering that takes place in the fall.
Students look forward to a daylong event filled with holistic wellness sessions ranging from education on crystals to hypnotherapy accompanied by a Zen Market of local vendors selling everything from houseplants to organic candles. With the current pandemic in full swing, organizers wondered: How can Zen Fest go virtual?
Like everything else in 2020, the festival’s lineup went through a series of changes to adapt into a new virtual form. It was easy to imagine wellness consultations happening through Zoom, but Zen Fest posed a unique set of challenges: how to provide a fun and interactive shopping experience and handout giveaways.
Omitting the market was not an option. Fortunately, the department found a way to bring people together via Zoom with videos shot by the entrepreneurs featuring their goods in a segment called “Spotlight” and even provided exclusive discounts from vendors and giveaways from HLP to attendants.
As soon as the event started, it was clear that something special was happening. What was once a bustling room full of life and energy, was now a digital promenade of similar proportions. Students participated in sessions ranging from sound therapy, meditation, hypnosis, crystals, yoga and tarot card reading. Students weren’t just listening to lectures though, they were able to do a deep breathing practice, a 30-minute yoga flow, get a group tarot card reading, and mindfully eat a snack of their choice with a Registered Dietitian.
“What I enjoyed about the Zen Fest the most was the energy that the presenters provided to us,” said Silvina DiPietro, a student attendant. “[It was] a great opportunity to feel relaxed and learn new things that’s usually not spoken or mentioned in everyday life or even in school.”
Thanks to the department’s dedication, students were introduced to vendors providing crystals, nutrition supplements, organic skincare, hypnotherapy, their tarot cards read, and even the campus chiropractor.
“It was nice being able to still go through the sessions,” said Madison Blumengarten, an FIU student who regularly attends HLP’s events, “I enjoyed learning more about services I didn’t know about [and discovering] places off campus that offer holistic services too.”
This year’s Zen Fest was a place where students and Miami residents from all over could come together to learn what it means to be a community. They didn’t just watch, but they participated, they laughed, they explored, they connected. While on the surface it looked like just an event about self-care, from the inside it was a celebration of the magic that happens when people come together and delight in each other.