Patty Levesque is OM Sanctuary’s Guest Services Supervisor and has been with us for over 1 year now. Over 3 years ago she fell in love with the healing environment of the sanctuary attending programs and volunteering. She stated she loved watching the organization grow. After traveling to the Omega Institute, Patty was happy to see a non-profit in the south east with similar offerings and decided to become a part of the team. Patty is a mother of three daughters and has a loving partner who she loves to hike, dance and garden with. In the following interview, she illustrates her love for OM Sanctuary and its mission.
What Initially Drew You to OM Sanctuary?
For years I had dreamed about Asheville having a holistic educational retreat center with offerings like yoga classes, wellness teachers, organic and healthy food, a growing community, life enhancing programs, and access to nature. I had attended a few events and volunteered at OM Sanctuary, and loved the feel of the place. As I watched the vision for OM Sanctuary grow, I felt like it had the potential to become this educational space for Asheville, and this was exciting to me.
Having worked as a bookkeeper/office manager for 20 years at Mountain Xpress, I was ready for a change. When the opening came up for a Guest Services Supervisor, I was interested and ready to join the team of this growing non-profit. Being in on the ground floor of this organization with so much potential ahead is part of what feeds me.
What is your favorite aspect of working at OM Sanctuary?
As Guest Services Supervisor, I am often the first person that people meet upon arriving at OM Sanctuary. As the first face and
voice to greet many retreatants, I appreciate being able to help retreatants learn about the programs we offer. It feels great to share with them my knowledge of Asheville and the surrounding areas – for instance: fun things to do in nature, health & wellness, nice restaurants to check out, and the beautiful, interesting areas to visit and enjoy.
Working with a good team of folks is another favorite aspect for me, which goes with a saying we have here at OM Sanctuary, “Teamwork makes the dream work.”
What is the most heartwarming Guest Services moment you have experienced?
Being able to assist with the Hindu Unity Ceremony (wedding) that took place here in August was a meaningful time for me. To see families of different nationalities come together from all around the world to share in a beautiful, traditional, cultural event full of love was really touching.
Which of the OM Sanctuary values resonates most closely with you?
Knowing that we serve our retreatants a healthy, wholesome, tasty breakfast is one area that resonates with me. Having cooks in the kitchen who know about purchasing local organic produce and care about what is being served to retreatants is very valuable.
Also the fact that OM Sanctuary offers daily holistic classes that encourage good breathing, moving, and awareness is something I value in my own life.
We recently sent out a guest feedback request and we were overwhelmed with amazing reviews. Thank you everyone that responded!
Published studies show that keeping a gratitude journal or openly expressing what you are grateful for can help improve your emotional and physical wellbeing!
During this season of giving thanks, please accept our sincere expression of immense gratitude to all of our retreatants, past and future. Below are some of your favorite things that we heard from you about your time spent at OM Sanctuary. May we continue to inspire healthy lifestyle practices through holistic education and a connection to nature.
“The OM Sanctuary provides a retreat environment to refresh and renew your mind, body and soul.”
-Christine Pearson, Kennesaw, GA.
“It’s a peaceful place to regain your sense.”
-Neil Caudle, Pittsboro, NC.
“The resort provided a quiet and private sanctuary.”
-Elizabeth Hooker, Charlotte, NC.
“When we visited your site, neither myself nor my husband Jacques had any idea this was to be our final trip together. He passed away June 18th. We both loved our visit and our quiet talks during breakfast with your executive director. We were already coping with illness but your beautiful accommodations created a final romantic memory for us. Thank you so much!”
-Denise Korn, Atlanta, GA.
“OM Sanctuary provided a delightful place for my friends and I to reconnect, re-energize, and recover from the school year.”
-Anna Discenzo, Cleveland, OH.
“The cabin I stayed in was so peaceful – no clocks and no tvs. Just a beautiful room surrounded by beautiful nature.”
-Paige Jordan, Kannapolis, NC.
“We had a wonderful four days staying, relaxing, and renewing at OM. We left with more energy, excitement, and wonderful memories than we could have hoped for.”
-Joe Green, Washington, D.C.
“When I entered my second floor room overlooking the garden, I felt a sense of calm begin to permeate my body. I came to OM Sanctuary tired and stressed. I loved the big windows, the fireplace in the room and the walking paths. I also enjoyed talking to the staff about life.”
-Brenda Hunter, Ph.D., Chapel Hill, NC.
“I loved the overall atmosphere at OM Sanctuary. Best part was being able to walk through the gardens and just get away from the hustle and bustle of city life!”
-Zachary Johnston, Cary, NC.
“Renewed through mind body practices.”
“Lovely peaceful setting.”
“Found you at the last minute and the gardens, trail, room, breakfast…all was an unexpected surprise. So peaceful and beautiful.”
-Jennifer Workinger, Maitland, FL.
“This place is one of the most peaceful plus beautiful places I have ever been to.”
-Olga Wuerz, Dallas, TX
“It was so relaxing and quiet during our stay. Haven’t been that relaxed in years.”
-Greg Melson, Pawley’s Island, SC.
“Calm surroundings, engaging staff, refreshing experience”
-Lynn Davis, Hopkins, SC.
“We had just completed the Burnsville Metric (cycling event) and were worn out and sore – ready for a massage! Our room was beautiful with a balcony overlooking the gardens, and we saw all kinds of wildlife on our walk from our room to the massage area. What a beautiful and peaceful place! We definitely will go back!”
-Joanna Ridge, Columbus, OH.
These are just a few of the numerous, wonderful things you all had to say about OM Sanctuary! The OM Sanctuary team is endlessly grateful to every single retreatant that steps foot on the OM Sanctuary campus. It it our mission to serve all that come through our doors. Thank you for this opportunity.
Introducing Christopher DeWilde, OM Sanctuary’s new Chef and Kitchen Coordinator!
Christopher brings a sense of balance to the kitchen and has begun working with local/organic food providers to ensure that OM Sanctuary will be able to offer the cleanest source of nourishment for the mind, body and soul. When Christopher was a child, his grandparents owned two restaurants along the Ohio River Valley in Evansville, Indiana where his mother and family all worked together. In his early 20’s, he began waiting tables and bartending for a variety restaurants throughout Northern Indiana where he directly learned about the importance of customer service. After working in the “front of the house” for seven years, Christopher enrolled at the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago (a Le Cordon Bleu program) in 2005 and graduated in the top 87% of his class in 2007 after finishing his externship at the House of Blues Hotel in Chicago. Christopher received his first job as Chef du Cuisine at Adesso in the north side of Chicago and worked there for nearly two years at which point the “big city life” began to wear on him. In the fall of 2008, Christopher moved to Green Mountain, North Carolina where he lived in an Organic Farming Community where he was introduced to the global Macrobiotic Family.
Devon and Ryan Johnson, the daughter of the farm’s owner and her husband, had been instructors at the Kushi Institute for Macrobiotic Learning for over 7 years before moving to North Carolina. Devon and Ryan began to instruct Christopher in the key principles and concepts of Macrobiotic Cooking. After a few months, an opportunity arose with a former director of the Kushi Institute to open a vegan/macrobiotic cafe/catering business in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. Christopher joined the Johnson Family in relocating to Pittsfield, Massachusetts and their business, Dancing Vegan, opened in the summer of 2009. While working and being a part of key staff at the Dancing Vegan, Christopher was well instructed in Macrobiotic principles, concepts, theories, cooking, and preparation techniques. He had many teachers from the Kushi Institute including Dan Esko, and Phiya Kushi (the son of Kushi Institute founder Michio Kushi).
After some life changing events in late 2013, Christopher moved back to the mountains of Western North Carolina and began coordinating kitchens at transformational festivals and Native American gatherings. With the encouragement of the spiritual community in Asheville, he began his own small holistic catering company in the summer of 2015. Christopher is the Owner/Executive Chef of Macro-Ninja Catering and Event Services, a small holistic catering company based out of Asheville. By combining his passion for local/organic foods, contemporary cooking style, and preparation of healing foods, Christopher has created a flavorful blend of ancient and future cuisine.
In March of 2016, Christopher was encouraged to apply for the Chef position by a close friend who works in Guest Services for OM Sanctuary. During the first weekend of October, another friend who had stayed a week at the beautiful OM Sanctuary also encouraged him to apply for the Chef position that had just opened up. A few weeks later Christopher stepped in as OM Sanctuary’s Chef, a position that will allow him to bring all his talents to the table.
In addition to serving nutritious meals, Christopher and OM Sanctuary are looking forward to offering Nutritional Education & Cooking Classes to the public in 2017. “This is the job I have been preparing for my whole life”, said Christopher DeWilde. “It is like I am stepping into something that my soul made an agreement with long ago to prepare for this role. I am looking forward to many, many years of working with OM Sanctuary.”
On the 4th Sunday of every month, Omileye (Osun Priestess and OMS artist-in-residence) and her husband Olu, lead sacred water ceremonies at OM Sanctuary’s French Broad River access.
Omi shares, “This past Sunday there were 12 of us at the river. Participants have said they have really enjoyed the blessings and the children love it too! The ceremonies involve learning, teaching, and doing; people even help with laying the offerings. These practices allow us to learn more about the water/elements, and how to invoke the energies through song and prayer. With every river blessing, people in turn receive healing blessing from the waters.”
Thank you, Omi, for your blessings.
OM Sanctuary is highlighting MountainTrue an organization that has helped strengthen the holistic management of invasives in our forest. This blog post is dedicated to our ongoing partnership with MountainTrue. MountainTrue is a local organization in Asheville that, “envisions Western North Carolina with thriving communities that are connected to and help sustain
a healthy natural environment.” Among the many amazing projects that MountainTrue
undertakes, one of them that has affected OM Sanctuary directly is their help to remove invasive species’ from the Richmond Hill Park, and from our very own campus. In fact, MountainTrue facilitated one of our volunteer days where many local Ashevillians came to help identify and remove invasives from our property.
Bob Gale, MountainTrue Ecologist and Public Land’s Director recently stated: “MountainTrue recognizes the value of the OM Sanctuary’s rich forest community, which occurs on its conservation easement within Asheville’s city limits. The fact that it is situated so closely to the City’s only forested tract, Richmond Hill Park, is significant. Portions of both tracts are threatened by infestations of non-native invasive plants, which can spread to each tract by wildlife movement and human activities.
MountainTrue has been performing invasive control treatments with volunteers at the Park for several years and we have helped the Sanctuary with training in similar treatments. This ongoing work at both locations will reduce the back and forth movement of these invasive species. We look forward to future partnership with OM in restoring the forest’s impacted portions, ultimately enriching the Sanctuary’s healing focus on “Body, Mind, Spirit, and Nature.” —Bob Gale – MountainTrue Ecologist & Public Lands Director.
Here are some photos of MountainTrue in action at OM Sanctuary!:
While the carbon footprint project continues to develop and expand in scope, this week’s blog post is aimed at highlighting some of the hospitality and extra-curricular activities Evan has been able to experience as an intern at OM Sanctuary.
This past week has been very productive in terms of project development and networking including a follow-up visit with some of the amazing staff at the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. As a land trust, their work continues to provides benefits both seen and unseen to the Appalachian region.
This week I wanted to touch on some of the additional aspects of my internship experience including the hospitality staples of guest-services, policy, planning, and management. In addition to this, I have been able to participate in many of the daily holistic classes offered right here at OM Sanctuary. Together, these experiences have a produced quite a unique internship experience.
While I am able to absorb a lot of guest services experience throughout the workweek, I tend to have my head buried in research and writing from Monday until Thursday. For this reason, Friday is my designated “hospitality day” where I focus on honing the skills necessary to be successful in the tourism industry. Working from the reception desk has afforded me the opportunity to interact with guests and facilitate communication between them and other staff members including housekeeping, kitchen staff, and management. There is a strong sense of satisfaction that comes with this type of work, for example: after referring an out-of-town guest to the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, they returned the following day to thank me for making their stay even more memorable. Helping people connect to nature is part of what sustainable tourism is all about..
As an intern, I couldn’t ask for a better workplace climate. The ambiance here at OM Sanctuary is highly conducive towards relaxation and rejuvenation, and this same feeling can be observed in the yoga classes offered here throughout the week. Beginning in October, I have had the pleasure of attending these classes instructed by Sue Ann, the programs coordinator here at OM Sanctuary (formerly of the renowned Salt Spring Centre of Yoga), as well as Elle Jai, a local instructor who has been teaching yoga for over 25 years. Being able to take part in these classes really allows me to get a full sense of what OM Sanctuary’s mission is and how the holistic component can benefit tourism as a whole. Cultivating sustainable habits on an individual level is a path towards securing a sustainable future and classes such as these make taking that first step a seamless, memorable and rewarding experience.
In addition to yoga, I have been able to attend a “Clearing the Path” class, lead by Yeye Osun Omileye M.Ed., NCC, that facilitates new beginnings. I have also had the pleasure of helping Sue Ann prepare the event space for several of the educational programs held here each week.
This weekend, in-between sightseeing, food sampling, and runs through historic Montford, I plan to attend the Qi Gong class offered on Sundays. There’s a first time for everything!
As always, please feel free to contact me with questions, comments and suggestions at [email protected]
Until next week,
Here is the second installment of our retreatant reflections blog posts! This is what Susan Marshall had to say about her experience at OM Sanctuary:
“The OM Sanctuary is a delightful gem that I was fortunate to discover during my first visit to Asheville! From the charming, beautifully appointed rooms — complete with fireplace and whirlpool tub — to the lush and peaceful grounds, the OM Sanctuary was the perfect space to relax at the end of my days exploring all that the area has to offer. It truly reflects the best of Asheville — serenity, balance, wellness, beauty and nature, and nurturing welcome. All the thoughtful touches made it an extraordinary and memorable experience, from the affirmation card on the bed to the thoughtful recommendations by staff to the artwork and calming atmosphere. I look forward to calling the OM Sanctuary “home” when I return to Asheville!”
-Susan Marshall, Arlington, VA.
Do you have an OM Sanctuary experience to share?
Contact Lia at [email protected]
This week Evan was able to meet some of OM Sanctuary’s community partners who are on the forefront of local sustainability and conservation initiatives. By establishing and maintaining a healthy partnership with the local community, OM Sanctuary is in a better position to achieve its sustainability goals. Please allow him to share some of these experiences with you…
This past week has been an incredible success thanks to the extensive network that OM Sanctuary has established and maintained with other local and like-minded organizations. These organizations, including the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy and Dogwood Alliance have a drive to create real and lasting positive change in the direction of sustainability. Let me introduce you to some of these wonderful and environmentally impactful people!
A stay at OM is complete once you’ve been able to enjoy the peaceful ambiance of the waterfall in the Serenity Labyrinth Garden. It was here that I had the pleasure of conversing with Carl Silverstein, the Executive Director of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC). Carl’s work involves establishing relationships with private landowners who wish to have their lands placed under the legal protection of conservation. THE SAHC’s expertise is invaluable when it comes to understanding the value of land in its natural condition rather than its potential for development and it can definitely be applied to the conservation easement SAHC holds here at OM Sanctuary.
Another individual with an equally impressive background is Danna Smith, Executive Director of Dogwood Alliance. Danna has been instrumental in bringing local and regional sustainability projects to life. Carbon Canopy is one of these projects and Danna provided some much needed clarity on how the process of carbon offset valuation works. I was also excited to see Danna express excitement at the possibility of doing a similar project but on a much smaller scale with OM Sanctuary, especially since the organization strives to be a model for others wanting to offset their own carbon footprint. This is an inspirational step to take as I move forward in my project and I am excited to see how it unfolds.
In pursuit of furthering my own education and sustainability experience, the next step for me is to reach out to MountainTrue, an organization that has helped OM Sanctuary make progress towards the complete removal of invasive species on the property. If volunteering to help remove some of these invasives is something you are interested in, please contact OM Sanctuary Volunteering. Based on my brief introduction with MountainTrue after their retreat here at the Sanctuary, it’s clear that they possess an energetic and contagious passion for the environment and sustainability; a most admirable trait.
Next week I’ll be covering some of the hospitality and sustainable tourism activities I’ve been able to experience during my stay here so don’t forget to check in!
Thanks for your continued interest in my project and, as always, please contact me at [email protected] with any questions or comments.
Find out more about these organizations here:
Dogwood Alliance: https://www.dogwoodalliance.org/
OM Sanctuary is happy to announce continued stewardship of 42 acres of local growth forest! Last year, with the help of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, we officially put the majority of the 54 acre OM Sanctuary property into conservation easement, which protects this area from development in perpetuity. Additionally, the conservation offsets the organization’s carbon footprint.
The easement, which overlooks the French Broad River, protects a healthy wooded area containing cove forest, oak forest and low mountain pine forest, with mixed hardwoods. The easement also contains pools in the river floodplain that provide habitat for wildlife and endangered species such as salamanders, other amphibians, and reptiles. This type of conservation of the natural growth forest at OM Sanctuary helps to protect the tributary streams of the French Broad River Watershed from pollution as well.
Here at OM Sanctuary, it is a part of our mission to offer education that reflects a connection to mind, body, and spirit, as well as to nature. In alignment with this ideal, we offer a 1 mile trail into this protected acreage so that retreatants can explore this area and see the beauty that nature has to offer. By hiking in our easement, retreatants can experience firsthand the different types of trees and wildlife that the conservation serves to protect. This kind of personal experience is step one on the path to becoming a personal environmental steward. This is just one of many ways in which OM Sanctuary offers holistic education, helping individuals bring these values into their own lives.
“Natural places are essential for human health,” says Shelli Stanback, OM Sanctuary Founder and President. “Once forested areas have been lost to development, they are gone forever. We must preserve them now for our sake, and for the sake of the future generations. With few urban open spaces remaining near Asheville, protecting the forest with a conservation easement was the clear, sustainable choice.” [Quote taken from Conservation Easement Press Release].
Sources and Citations:
1.To read the original OM Sanctuary press release about our Conservation Easement click here.
2. To learn more about the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, please click here.
3. To check out the article featuring our Conservation Easement in The Asheville Citizen Times, click here.
This week Evan discusses some of what he has discovered about the easement and the process of conservation. Effective environmental stewardship presents many challenges and overcoming these allows the benefits of natural ecosystem services to be felt far and wide.
The second week of my project is geared towards research and exploring some of the many routes available to me when it comes to valuing land and understanding the natural systems that add to that value. Aside from carbon sequestration, the 41 acres of urban forest located at OM Sanctuary offer aesthetic beauty, a habitat for a variety of species and a buffer against runoff and flooding. This becomes even more important when you consider the easement’s proximity to the French Broad, a river that has been flowing since the time of Pangea and whose watershed supplies drinking water to over 1 million people. Ensuring future generations are able to appreciate these same benefits requires diligence and planning.
One of the responsibilities of maintaining an easement is the removal of non-native invasive species (NNIS) and taking measures to ensure that native flora are able to flourish in their place. This is much easier said than done and one of the most effective methods involves arranging a controlled burn of the acreage with the local fire department. Provided by the North Carolina Forest Service in August of this year, The Forest Stewardship Plan advocates for two to three of these burns over the next decade. After speaking with Jonathan and Shelli, I am happy to say that the first of these burns is in the works and will be happening in the Spring of 2017!
Calculating how the removal of these NNIS will affect the carbon footprint of the OM Sanctuary is just one of the many questions I plan to take into account during the research phase of my project.
Stay tuned next week as I meet some fascinating individuals on the forefront of sustainability and conservation here in North Carolina!
Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments you may have concerning the project or my research at [email protected]