How the Seasonal Staff Experience Transforms Lives

How the Seasonal Staff Experience Transforms Lives
February 13, 2014

 

Each year, from April through October, approximately 350 Seasonal Staff join Omega to be part of something larger than themselves, practice compassionate service within their work, and live in community.

From 18-year-olds to retirees, seasonal staff come from all walks of life. There may be teachers on break from school working in the garden, lawyers serving in the Dining Hall, and college students eager to gain team-building skills welcoming participants and helping with luggage. Many staff in midlife find that a season at Omega is an ideal experience during a life transition or career change. It is also perfect for young graduates and active retirees who want to participate in community living.

Hear what former and current staff members have to say as they share their experiences and express how their time as Omega Seasonal Staff has changed their lives.

Eliyahu Sills, musician and mentor

“When I first went to work at Omega, I was 20 years old and had just completed my second year of music school at the New School of Jazz in New York City. I needed to get out of the city and experience new perspectives, as I was not happy and needed to learn to become a healthier person. While at Omega, working in the kitchen, my horizons expanded dramatically. I started to eat a healthier diet, practice yoga, meditate, and develop better communications skills.    

“I became a much happier and a more well-rounded person. When I arrived, I was attached to my identity as a musician and more specifically as a bassist. I was able to let go of that attachment, and experience myself as a complete person, and explore many interests. It was during that summer that I started playing flutes. This led me to travel and study music in Egypt, Turkey, Israel, and Morocco. Since then, I have become a successful musician playing flutes from the Middle East and India, as well as the bass. My CD, Eastern Wind, reached #7 on Billboard's World Music Charts. I continue to study, record, and perform music throughout the country.

“Recently, I went back to school and got a master's degree in counseling psychology to support the mentoring work I do with teenagers and young adults—in part, passing on some of what I learned at Omega years ago to a new generation. I am thankful for the opportunities that working at Omega offered me.”

Krista Vernoff, Emmy Award-nominated screenwriter and former executive producer of Grey’s Anatomy

"When I was 19, I came to Omega for the first time and fell in love with the place. I returned every summer from 1990 through 1995, working in almost every department at some point. Honestly, I never cared much about where I was working. I came back every year for the community, and for the classes, and for the feeling of safety and kindness—the warm energetic embrace that I felt every moment I spent on campus. I grew up there in so many ways.

“In the staff classes, I studied many subjects that still serve me today, but perhaps the single most pivotal thing I did at Omega was to discover myself as a writer. I took my very first creative writing class on campus. The writing circles at Omega were supportive and nurturing, and the lessons I learned in those classes—honesty, specificity, and vulnerability on the page—are lessons I teach and use in my work as a writer today.

“Moreover, the lessons I learned about living and working in community are lessons I apply in every aspect of my life today, from my work in television production to how I raise my daughter. I found lifelong friends at Omega—confidantes, bandmates, traveling partners, and kindred spirits. I can't imagine myself without Omega, because the lessons of my time there are woven so deeply into the fabric of who I've become, and for that I am deeply grateful."

Brett Bevell, poet, author, performance artist, energy healer, and Omega's staff programs manager

“When I first came to Omega, I had an attachment to seeing myself as a performance poet. It was the basis of who I thought I was, and my outer world revolved around when I was getting published or at what venue was I being asked to perform. But being seasonal staff at Omega took my consciousness to new places, mostly through shamanic work and energy healing. I was opened up in tremendous ways of reimagining the universe and my place in it.

“Also, I began to be influenced by being in an environment where various types of healing were accepted and taught, and began to ask how do these methods overlap, how one modality can benefit the other. This alchemical blending of wisdom traditions, at least from an energy healing point of view, allowed my knowledge as an energy healer to grow exponentially, which translated into a deep level of healing for me personally.

“Although I still write poetry and have two poetry books published, my personal reality is less at the whim or the approval of an audience. My world has blossomed into feeling more like my life itself is a poem. And I now also write books on Reiki and other forms of energy healing. I'm quite successful in my field with two of my books translated into Russian, one into Greek, and another into Brazilian Portuguese.”

Katie Winterbourne, internationally renowned intuitive, modern-day visionary, and inspirational speaker

“Omega was the perfect place to integrate my travels through South East Asia and helped me to understand some of the spiritual breakthroughs I was experiencing. It gave me a great foundation for the work I do now and allowed me to experience an alternative way of living and experiencing life.

“I not only learned how to live in community, I also experienced so many different healing modalities, trainings, and teachings from world-class thought leaders. Omega was a place that supported, encouraged, and expanded my consciousness. It became a place to heal and understand myself and my own original medicine and magic.

“My time spent at Omega is cherished and I feel blessed to have made it part of my travels. I left with so much experience, so many memories, and most of all, lasting friendships.”

Shivanter Singh, Healthy Lifestyle Coach and former general manager of Omega FoodWorks

“I first came to Omega in 1993. I had just sold my businesses in south Florida and moved back to Chicago. I got a phone call in March 1993 from Omega’s People & Culture department offering me a summer job in the food service department. I had never heard of Omega, had no idea how they got my contact info, and after the initial phone interview, I was convinced it was a practical joke that one of my friends was pulling on me.

“For whatever divinely orchestrated reasons, I took the position, and for that I will be forever grateful. My life was already changing before I came to Omega and Omega catapulted me into a whole new consciousness, awareness of myself, and deeper understandings of how to write my own story.

“I ended up working at Omega for 15 years, many of those years in a senior management role, managing the kitchen, dining hall, and café. I also had the great opportunity of spending several seasons as manager of the campus, which truly gave me a greater understanding of the dynamics of the campus from a seasonal staff and participant perspective.

“Today I enjoy having the opportunity to be a faculty member at Omega, sharing all of the teachings I have learned over the past 20 years, many of which are a direct result of the years I spent at Omega.”

Jeanny Tsai, photographer, filmmaker, storyteller, and a lover of life

“I was fortunate to have worked with Omega as a seasonal staff photographer for six seasons. I remember that, for years prior to working there, I would flip through the Omega catalog and think about taking a workshop there ‘someday.’ The first time I went to Omega, I had no idea what to expect. At that time, I needed to take an extended break from my hectic life in New York City and hoped Omega would be a place where I could work doing what I love and keep exploring my holistic pursuits.

“I felt at home almost immediately, as soon as I arrived for my first season. It was easy to make friends who were on a similar path. There were so many wonderful programs for staff that it was hard to choose what to do in my free time.

“Over the years, I made kindred spirit friends who are still a part of my life today—the type of people who dare to live out-of-the-box and care about changing the world. I found that the people I interacted with, from staff to faculty, were exceptionally kind and thoughtful. I remember thinking that if only the ‘real’ world were like Omega, everyone would be so much happier.

“I think what I took away from my time at Omega was a way of being. Working at Omega directly influenced me to want to cultivate kindness and harmony in my work in the ‘outside’ world at all times. I still believe cultivating these qualities when I am working with others is the most important aspect of my work as a photographer and filmmaker.”

Chrissa Pullicino, external communications manager at Omega Institute

“I joined Omega's seasonal staff program in 2005, during a transition in my life. I had gone from living in Manhattan and working in corporate America, to living in the Costa Rican rainforest post 9/11 and teaching yoga at a hotel where Omega had formerly operated its winter programs.

“After a couple years in Costa Rica, I knew I was ready to come back to the States, but couldn't fathom going back to my previous routine. I was looking for a place to land, where I could make a contribution, and also foster my own personal development while I figured out what was next. My exposure to some of Omega's programs, through my work, inspired me to join its learning community.

“That first summer at Omega changed my life. I found nourishment in amazing conversations with new friends, in the healthy food, and by participating in many staff classes. I found parts of myself that had been lost, and my creativity and vision of what was possible expanded exponentially. Through my experience as seasonal staff, I saw not only my own life change for the better, but also the countless lives that were transformed by their time here—even in weekend workshops.

“I came to Omega thinking it would just be for a summer season, and it turned into a career when I realized I wanted to dedicate my time and energy to helping Omega expand its mission. Since 2007, I have been a member of Omega's core staff, helping to spread the word and broaden our reach through my work in the external affairs department.”

Karen Berelowitz, artist and owner of Karmabee, a store in Kingston, New York

“In 2007, I took what was intended to be a few months' break from my international development career in Washington, D.C., to spend a summer as a seasonal staff at Omega. I was attracted by the opportunity to work on my meditation practice and learn from the wide variety of classes offered through the staff education program.

“What I found was an enormously supportive community that embraced everyone's uniqueness, including things that aren't always appreciated elsewhere, and an incredible environment for learning about humanity, spirituality, and creativity. With so many classes to attend, I had ample time to doodle, and was surprised when people asked where I sell my drawings. So just for the heck of it, I set up a table at the next Omega Staff arts and crafts fair (held in the Omega Café)— and, sure enough, people bought things!

“That inspired me to start an art business, and when I came back the following season, my work schedule allowed me to do crafts fairs and grow my business during the day, and to learn skills like silk screening from classes in the Omega Art Hut. Five years later, having never quite made it back to D.C., I ‘retired’ from seasonal staff to open the studio and store Karmabee, just across the river from Omega.

“I'm thankful to be close enough to maintain the wonderful friendships I've formed and to teach other staff what I've learned about owning a small business. My meditation practice is still a work in progress.”

 Explore more about the Omega Seasonal Staff Experience.

 

 

 

 

 

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