Omega in Action

Omega in Action highlights inspiring people and organizations making meaningful change. From protecting the environment to empowering women, healing veterans, and serving nonprofits, you'll find fresh perspectives, trending news, and the latest information on noteworthy events here at Omega and around the world.

Seasonal Staff Success Story: Marc Williams

3 months 2 weeks ago

On a typical day you can find Marc Williams outside—identifying plants and talking with students. As an ethnobotantist, he works with almost 60 organizations throughout the year teaching students and working with colleagues to further the relationship between people and plants, and looking at how plants can be employed for food, medicine, and more.

He got his start at Omega. As a seasonal staffer in 1998-1999, he worked in the kitchen as part of the FoodWorks Team, and says he was excited by the idea of high-quality food service for large groups of people.

And he was very influenced by the natural surroundings on campus.

“I went on my first official plant walk while on staff and have now led plant walks for thousands of people all over the United States and the world,” Williams said. “My time at Omega inspired me to learn more about plants and nutrition, to sing from my heart, and teach what I know.”

Williams is also the executive director of Plants and Healers International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to continuing the vision of his late friend and colleague Frank Cook, who aimed to advance human culture in harmony with the natural world.

He hosts an annual online class that helps students understand the characteristics and classifications of plant families so they can better identify the plants around them and their uses.

He says his time at Omega “was one of the most transformational experiences in my entire life.”

“Many people I met there continue to be friends,” he said. “Many lessons I picked up there inform my life's work and philosophy.”

He also offers some advice to current seasonal staffers.

“Get to know your coworkers as well as you can,” Williams said. “They are bound to be some incredible people. The bonds made at Omega can be very special and sacred and may continue to bear fruit in various ways long after your work there is done.”

Can Spiritual Practice Heal Racism?

3 months 3 weeks ago

In a recent interview for the Huffington Post, Omega asked meditation teacher and author Tara Brach, "What is the path to healing for a society with such deeply rooted racism, fear, and anger?" 

Speaking about how a spiritual practice, specifically in her Buddhist sangha, can help to build unity, Tara explained, "For those of us in the dominant culture, it's challenging yet essential that we respond to the hurt and anger that has built up through generations of violence against people of color....If we can be present and kind toward our inner states, we will start seeing how we create separation from others."

Tara shared in a detailed and personal way the work that her community is doing to open communication and take action in responding to white privilege and racism. The need for connection and vulnerability is one she highlighted, noting, "Honest dialogue creates the groundwork for healing and awakening from the painful trance of separation. It can reconnect us to our sense of interconnectedness and caring." She recommended educating ourselves about history and experience as a key practice in growing our understanding. 

Ultimately, Brach feels the intersection of spirituality and social justice lay in practicing an intention of awareness and solidarity in our actions and responses as individuals, communities, and as a society. "There will be no healing until those of us in the dominant culture join in solidarity with people of color to end institutionalized racism," she said. 

For details about how her sangha is working on inclusion and self-awareness, and recommended resources, read the full Huffington Post interview 

Omega Helps Families Harvest & Cook Seasonal Lunch

3 months 3 weeks ago

On Saturday, May 16th, Omega FoodWorks executive chef Robert Turner supported Spring Planting Day at the Sylvia Center in Kinderhook, New York. The Sylvia Center at Katchkie Farm in Columbia County inspires young people and their families to eat well through hands-on learning experiences on the farm and in the kitchen. At the event, families did just that—planting in the Children's Learning Garden, harvesting early spring vegetables, and working with Chef Bob to create a delicious farm-fresh seasonal lunch that they all shared. 

Jenn So, writing about the event for The Dish, explained, “Everyone learned how to roll out dough properly for flatbreads that were fired off in the wood-burning oven. People lined up for their turn to cook a flatbread in the oven and watched as vegetables crisped up and cheese bubbled right before their eyes. The results were spectacular!—beautiful, charred flatbreads topped with foraged ramps, spinach from our greenhouse, our own garlic and fresh local mozzarella.”

OWLC Visits the Baskin Feminist Archives

4 months 2 days ago

The Omega Women's Leadership Center (OWLC) team, including cofounder Carla Goldstein, recently visited the home of respected feminist activist, bibliophile, and collector Lisa Baskin, to view her life's work: a feminist library that spans five centuries of women's history.

The collection represents an unprecedented gathering of mainstream women’s history and literature along with lesser-known works produced by female scholars, publishers, scientists, and activists. Most items were created between the mid-15th and mid-20th centuries, such as correspondence by legendary suffragists and abolitionists Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s handwritten publicity blurb for Narrative of Sojourner Truth. Highlights included the standing writing desk of Virginia Woolf—painted by her nephew Quentin Bell—and a needlework sampler by Charlotte Brontë.

The OWLC team was filled with wonder and gratitude. "Words will never be enough to honor the experience," said Lys Swan, the community outreach coordinator. "I am awash and aglow and agape—full and satiated and inspired," was how Sarah Urech described feeling in the space. Carla noted, "On our way home we each expressed the feeling that this was a Once In A Lifetime experience of great magnitude."

The team coordinated their visit in the final days before the collection was acquired by The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University, where it will live as the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection as part of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture within the Rubenstein Library.

The collection will become available to the public at the end of August 2015.

View a slide show of the OWLC's visit to the archives.

Read Duke's press release.

A Groundwork Hudson Valley Retreat at Omega

4 months 1 week ago

On May 19th–21st Omega Institute welcomed Groundwork Hudson Valley (GWHV) to our Rhinebeck campus for a board and staff retreat, as part of Omega in Service, which supports nonprofit organizations committed to improving the well-being of others and the life of the planet we share.

In 2014, GWHV was given the Omega Center for Sustainable Living Leadership in Sustainable Education Award for their decade-long work helping to transform underserved communities throughout the region into more livable and environmentally sustainable places. They do this through a variety of programs, such as their Science Barge, a prototype floating sustainable urban farm, and their Get Fresh Yonkers initiative, an umbrella program covering a farmers market, community supported agriculture, and an environmental food team.

Over the three day retreat, Groundwork Hudson Valley developed a greater understanding of their current programs and brainstormed ways to further the impact of their already impressive work in the region.

Of their time spent on campus, Rick Magder, executive director of Groundwork Hudson Valley, said, “It was a wonderful few days for us. It will improve our work in the community going forward for sure.” 

Omega in Service was established in 2005 to support fellow nonprofit organizations by providing the use of Omega’s facilities, access to campus amenities, and room and board for meetings and retreats. As part of Omega in Service, a large number of nonprofits apply to participate in a Service Week working retreat each May, to engage in planning and dialog that requires greater time and space, build and strengthen relationships, and become part of a community of change leaders that Omega supports through other programs and initiatives. 

Past Service Week participants include well over 300 organizations, such as Anderson Center for Autism, Center for the Contemplative Mind Society, Human Rights Watch, New Harlem Renaissance Work Group, Sakhi for South Asian Women, Sustainable South Bronx, the United Nations Development Program, and more.

Omega Receives 2015 Beacon Peace Award

4 months 2 weeks ago

Omega was one of 11 organizations to receive the 2015 Beacon Peace Award from the Center for Bringing About Peace. The Beacon Peace Award is granted annually to celebrate organizations that bring about harmony and peace through their work.

On May 24 in the City of Beacon, New York, chief executive officer Robert "Skip" Backus accepted the Beacon Peace Award on behalf of Omega Institute. Along with Omega, other organizations honored by the Center for Bringing About Peace included Spirit of Beacon Day, Clearwater, Fareground Community Cafe, Beacon Free Press, Menla Mountain Retreat, Zero-to-Go, Chapel of Sacred Mirrors, The World Peace Prayer Society, Friends of Peace Pilgrim, and Vigil for International Peace & Ecology.

Chelsea Roff Uses Yoga Service to Help People with Eating Disorders

4 months 3 weeks ago

Since speaking at the first Yoga Service Conference (in 2012), Chelsea Roff has raised more than $100,000 to start her own nonprofit Eat Breathe Thrive™. Her organization works to help individuals prevent and fully recover from disordered eating and negative body image through evidence-based programs that integrate yoga, community, and service.

Before the conference, Roff was in transition—working as a managing editor for an online magazine and taking a break from her research in neuroscience. She was teaching yoga on a volunteer basis at a juvenile detention center and an eating disorder treatment center.

“My passion was serving people with eating disorders, but I figured it could never be a full-time job,” she said. “Apparently I was wrong.”

Roff attended the conference, and was asked to speak about her own experiences healing her eating disorder through yoga.

“I had never done a public speaking engagement prior to that,” Roff said. “I remember standing behind the podium, reading my talk off a piece of paper, knees shaking, voice quivering. But the reception and support from attendees was so encouraging. Now I do speaking engagements at universities and conferences frequently, and I look back on that first conference as my start.”

About a year later, she left her job and decided to raise $50,000 to start her yoga nonprofit.

“I reached out to Rob Schware, whon I'd met at the conference and I knew ran the Give Back Yoga Foundation,” she said. “I asked if he would partner with me. I wanted to start the nonprofit under the umbrella of an established organization that knew what they were doing. I'm a big fan of collaboration over competition, and I knew Give Back had helped a number of other exceptional yoga service organizations get their start.”

“Rob told me he'd make me a deal. If I could raise the $50,000, Give Back would take on my nonprofit. I don't think he thought I would actually do it. He tells me now that it was then he learned I was 'the good kind of crazy.'”

Raising the money wasn’t easy, Roff admits. She started with an Indiegogo campaign, and 44 days into it she had only raised $19,000.

“I knew something drastic had to be done and that I needed to reach a bigger audience and create a sense of urgency in the final days of the campaign,” she said.

So she climbed onto a roof on Main Street in Santa Monica, laid down a yoga mat, and pledged not to get off the mat until the funds were raised.

“I quickly pulled together a website, promotional video, banner, shade structure, team of volunteers, and high-tech set up so I could live stream it online 24/7,” she said. “I invited a number of visitors—from yoga teachers to authors to eating disorder professionals—to come up and talk on the live stream about the work they were doing. I ate on that mat, slept on that mat, and even set up a privacy curtain so I could go to the bathroom without getting off the mat.”

Word spread quickly and even CBS News covered her story. The press helped her surpass her goal, raising $51,000. Two years later, her organization now has four staffers and more than 50 facilitators, and the program is in more than 20 yoga studios, treatment centers, universities, and community centers throughout the country.

She credits much of her success to that first conference at Omega and continues to get support from the growing community.

“The conference brings together an incredible community of professionals working to make yoga-based practices available to individuals in all sectors of society,” Roff said. “The people I've met at the conference have become more than colleagues—they've become friends, mentors, and a network of support.”

Module 1 of her Eat Breathe Thrive™ Facilitator Training will be taught at Omega, June 21-26.

Omega Has Reached the GuideStar Exchange Gold Participation Level

4 months 3 weeks ago

Premiere Source of Nonprofit Information Honors Omega’s Commitment to Transparency

RHINEBECK, NY – Omega Institute for Holistic Studies today received the GuideStar Exchange Gold participation level, a leading symbol of transparency and accountability provided by GuideStar USA, Inc., the premier source of nonprofit information. This level demonstrates Omega’s deep commitment to nonprofit transparency and accountability.

“We are thrilled to have been recognized by GuideStar as an organization that has achieved a high standard of transparency as we work toward fulfilling our mission,” said Carla Goldstein, chief external affairs officer at Omega.

For more information about Omega, visit and follow Omega on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Google+.

About the GuideStar Exchange

The GuideStar Exchange is an initiative designed to connect nonprofits with current and potential supporters. With millions of people coming to GuideStar to learn more about nonprofit organizations, the GuideStar Exchange allows nonprofits to share a wealth of up-to-date information with GuideStar's many audiences. Becoming a GuideStar Exchange participant is free of charge. To join, organizations need to update their report pages, completing all required fields for participation. The GuideStar Exchange level logos, acknowledged as symbols of transparency in the nonprofit sector, are displayed on all Exchange participants' nonprofit reports.

About Omega Institute for Holistic Studies

Founded in 1977, Omega Institute for Holistic Studies is the nation's most trusted source for wellness and personal growth. As a nonprofit organization, Omega offers diverse and innovative educational experiences that inspire an integrated approach to personal and social change. Located on more than 250 acres in the beautiful Hudson Valley, Omega welcomes more than 23,000 people to its workshops, conferences, and retreats in Rhinebeck, New York, and at exceptional locations around the world.

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Omega Announces 35 Nonprofits to Receive Organizational Retreat Grants

5 months 1 day ago

“Connecting a Community of Change Leaders” is the Focus for Omega’s 2015 Service Week, May 25–29

RHINEBECK, NY–In an ongoing effort to support nonprofits in the Mid-Hudson Valley region and beyond, Omega is hosting its 11th annual Service Week, May 25–29. Omega today announced the names of 35 nonprofits being awarded a working retreat on Omega’s 250+ acre campus, including room and board, a meeting space, use of campus amenities, and a private consultation with the New York Council of Nonprofits (NYCON), a partner in the program. Participating organizations lead their own working retreats that build and strengthen relationships, and give time and space for strategic planning and networking.

“Nonprofits play a critical role in our society, yet constrained budgets often don’t allow for the critical time needed for reflection and planning,” said Carla Goldstein, chief external affairs officer at Omega. “For more than a decade Omega has opened our campus free of charge to our nonprofit peers, so they can be revitalized and better serve their communities and constituents.”

Omega’s annual Service Week is comprised of two sessions: the Strengthening Communities Summit (May 25–27), and the Women Serving Women Summit (May 27–29). The Strengthening Communities Summit prioritizes organizations that address a range of social, economic, or environmental issues in the Mid-Hudson Valley region. The Women Serving Women Summit, hosted by the Omega Women’s Leadership Center, supports organizations working to positively impact the lives of women. The participation of Mid-Hudson region nonprofits in Service Week is funded in part by a significant grant from the Dyson Foundation.

“Omega’s Service Week provides a unique environment for those who work in the nonprofit community to reflect on the meaning and importance of their work, strengthen their bonds with one another, and develop strategies for organizational success,” said Doug Sauer, chief executive officer of NYCON. “To add value to the experience, NYCON’s expert staff will be available to offer supportive guidance and assistance.”

This year’s focus, “Connecting a Community of Change Leaders,” is aimed at deepening collaboration and leadership by offering organizations the opportunity to meet, connect, discuss, and identify possibilities for the future.

Omega is pleased to award 2015 Service Week retreats to the following organizations, which are actively engaged in creating a more compassionate and sustainable world:

Strengthening Communities Summit (Session 1) Recipients:

Mid-Hudson Valley Region Organizations:

Basilica Hudson
Beacon Arts Community Association
Chefs’ Consortium
Citizens for Local Power
Community Voices Heard
Family of Woodstock
HeARTs Speak
Hudson Valley Seed
People’s Place
Re>Think Local
Spark Media Project (formerly Children's Media Project)

Additional Organizations:

Arts and Resistance Through Education (ARTE)
Conference of Churches @ The 224 EcoSpace
Global Potential
Youth Communication

“Using the discussions we had and the plans we made at Omega, we were able to come back and address long-standing distrust and acrimony in a new way. Six months later, there is a marked, positive difference in our work,” said 2014 recipient Richard Heyl de Ortiz, former executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA), Ulster County. “Service Week helped us realize and build on our organizational strengths, which in turn allows CASA to manage and embrace change.”

Women Serving Women Summit (Session 2) Recipients:

Mid-Hudson Valley Region Organizations:

Grace Smith House
In My Mother's House Resource Center for Women
Project MORE (Model Offender Reintegration Experience)
Putnam/Northern Westchester Women's Resources Center
TMI Project
The Washbourne House

Additional Organizations:

Ancient Song Doula Services
Caring Across Generations
Center for Survivor Agency and Justice
Gender at Work
Harlem Wellness Center
PINE (Permaculture Institute of the Northeast) - Women in Permaculture
Planned Parenthood of the North Country
Pleiades Network
Sheltered Yoga
Take the Lead
Women Make Movies
Youth Media Project

“The effects of the Summit continue tangibly through our annual operating plan goals developed at the retreat and more intangibly through our improved relationships with each other as a direct result of being able to spend that time together, especially because our team is spread throughout the country and we have limited travel budgets,” said 2014 recipient Kavita Bali, senior director of strategic partnerships and alliances at Care USA.

For more information about Omega Service Week, contact:

Marta Szabo, Strengthening Communities Summit, 845.266.4444, ext. 403,

Elysabeth Swan, Women Serving Women Summit, 845.266.4444, ext. 414,

For more information about Omega, visit and follow Omega on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Google+.

About Omega Institute for Holistic Studies
Founded in 1977, Omega Institute for Holistic Studies is the nation’s most trusted source for wellness and personal growth. As a nonprofit organization, Omega offers diverse and innovative educational experiences that inspire an integrated approach to personal and social change. Located on 250 acres in the beautiful Hudson Valley, Omega welcomes more than 23,000 people to its workshops, conferences, and retreats in Rhinebeck, New York, and at exceptional locations around the world.

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Scholarships Available for Living Well With Lyme Disease

5 months 1 week ago

For the second year, Omega is offering Living Well With Lyme, a program that shares the most current information on Lyme disease for those dealing with chronic symptoms and health-care providers who would like to become more Lyme literate.

Full and partial scholarships are available for this program to help cover tuition and accommodations and meals (or the commuter fee). People from throughout the U.S. are already signed up.

Many scholarship applicants have been dealing with chronic Lyme for a decade or more.

“I am looking forward to learning more coping mechanisms so that I can live as full a life as is possible for me," said Emily of Maryland, a 2015 scholarship recipient. "Over the years I've experienced changes that are worsening as time goes on—loss of memory, cognition, and just recently sudden dyslexia.”

When it comes to Lyme disease, many people like Emily go from doctor to doctor searching for relief from their symptoms. Unfortunately, Lyme and associated tick-borne coinfections are often overlooked because the disease mimics many other diseases and can be difficult to diagnose.

Living Well With Lyme features a medical doctor, naturopathic doctor, and Lyme survivor who will discuss health-care options based on the latest clinical research. They will help connect the dots between conventional treatments and complementary therapies, exploring strategies beyond antibiotics that patients can investigate with their physicians.

Scholarship applications are being accepted now through May 15th. 

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month. Learn more.


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