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.

Regional Coalition Files Document with PSC: New Analysis Reinforces Lack of Need for Proposed Power Lines

2 months 2 days ago

Coalition of community groups, farmers, businesses and municipalities says evidence points to no need for project—not for reliability, consumer rates, economics or public policy

HUDSON VALLEY—The Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition (HVSEC), a broad-based collaboration of community groups and officials partnered with Scenic Hudson, has filed official comments with the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) in its review of proposed high-voltage power lines. Those lines could reach a height of 120 feet and cut through 25 communities in seven Hudson Valley counties. In the technical comments, the 16 members of the HVSEC highlighted that developers still have failed to demonstrate a need for the project and that new information and analysis shows that there is no basis for the project in terms of electric system reliability, consumer rates, economics or public policy. Not only is the project unnecessary, it is likely to increase electricity costs, not decrease them.

Proposed towering power lines not a good deal if they are not needed

Citing recently released information, the HVSEC pointed out that the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) in its new draft Comprehensive Reliability Plan, issued March 30, determined by its own analysis that new electricity transmission capacity is not necessary for the reliability of New York’s electric system. This is significant because NYISO is the independent entity that operates New York’s bulk electricity grid, administers the state’s electricity markets and provides comprehensive and objective reliability planning for the state’s electric grid. In the report, NYISO considered new electricity resources as well as those returning to operation and reduced its projections for future electricity demand, even at peak loads.

Additionally, new research by Bard College Professor of Environmental Science and Physics Dr. Gidon Eshel has bolstered the findings of his late-2014 report on this subject. The earlier study demonstrated that New York has sufficient transmission and generation capacity to handle future peak demand, even if only half the projects NYISO lists as under development ever get built, and even if the Indian Point Energy Center is taken off line.

Cost for projects would fall unfairly on valley ratepayers

HVSEC again asserted concerns about the project costs, which could exceed $1 billion. The coalition continued its objection to the PSC’s plan that ratepayers would pay all project costs (90 percent paid by Hudson Valley, New York City and Long Island ratepayers and 10 percent by upstate ratepayers) as well as 80 percent of cost overruns—while there is no evidence ratepayers statewide would benefit from reduced electricity bills. In fact, it is more likely New Yorkers’ rates would increase.

If need is proven, criteria for making project as minimally damaging as possible

The HVSEC comments further stated that if the PSC should rule that one or more of the project proposals should go forward, the coalition has criteria it believes must be met. Projects that require acquisition of additional rights-of-way should not be selected to move forward, the coalition argued. The coalition believes consideration only should be given to projects that have no new visual impacts, or that would improve views, and that have the least impact on environmental resources. Each of the 20 different proposals submitted by the four developers has potential impacts to unique and sensitive Hudson Valley resources.

HVSEC Tells PSC New Power Lines are Not Needed

“There is no need to pursue this hugely expensive project, which threatens the beauty and farmland of the Hudson Valley,” said Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan. “Governor Cuomo has launched another initiative, Reforming the Energy Vision, which would upgrade the state’s power grid through innovation and ongoing energy conservation. We should be pursuing that more enlightened path to providing New York with a 21st-century energy system. This approach would put our state in the national vanguard while building on, rather than degrading, the beauty and economy of the Hudson Valley.”

“The ratepayers of New York State cannot be asked to put up more than a billion dollars when neither the state nor utilities can demonstrate that these new projects would lead to better service or cheaper rates,” said Town of Livingston Deputy Supervisor Will Yandik. “New York families and small businesses are already struggling with some of the highest rates in the country.”

Omega Institute for Holistic Studies CEO Skip Backus stated, “As CEO of Omega Institute I often find myself in conversation with other business owners in the Hudson Valley. Without exception the conversation goes to the cost of electricity in the valley and the fact that the proposed plan will do nothing to lower our rates and in fact will actually increase them and compromise the environment. The proposed project makes no sense given there has been no proven need. My hope is we can come together and find a way to better serve the citizens and businesses of the Hudson Valley.”

Dan Duthie, an attorney representing four towns, two citizens groups and one farm in the HVSEC, observed, “According to analysis by the New York Independent System Operator, the cost for this transmission project would likely exceed any savings ratepayers would get from the project. Simply put, this means that the ‘solution’ is more expensive than the problem.”

Coalition seeks modern solutions and a forward-looking state energy plan

The HVSEC is interested in innovative energy systems and supports creation of a modern, comprehensive energy plan for New York State. The HVSEC is concerned about major negative impacts the proposed towering, high-voltage power lines could have and is working to protect communities from these impacts. The proposed project could stretch for 150 miles, and the coalition is focused on portions of the power lines that would pass through a large swath of the Hudson Valley, ultimately reaching their destination in Dutchess County. The coalition asserts that the proposed power lines threaten prime agricultural lands, critical environmental areas and the Hudson River, economic health, scenic beauty, public parks, and cultural and historic sites. The project is not needed and will likely cause electricity rates to go up.

The HVSEC—which includes municipal officials; environmental, cultural, historic and land preservation organizations; businesses; and residents—calls on the PSC to either provide a robust review on the issue of need now or suspend the process until need can be conclusively demonstrated using the most up-to-date and comprehensive information. Additionally, the coalition believes no project that has a negative benefit-to-cost ratio should move forward.

About the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition

The Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition includes municipal officials; environmental, cultural, historic and land preservation organizations; businesses; and residents who support creation of a modern, comprehensive energy plan for the Hudson Valley and New York State. More information available at www.hvsec.org.

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Nazareth College Leads a Yoga Revolution

2 months 2 days ago

Leading members of the Rochester Yoga Service Network (RYSN) were overjoyed to receive news of being awarded housing for six students to attend the 2015 Yoga Service Conference. When Lynne Boucher, director of the Center for Spirituality at Nazareth College in Rochester, New York, and her colleagues heard about the award, they sent back this quick email: “We leaders of Rochester Yoga Service Network are meeting right now and we just got your message! We're so happy and excited!”

Boucher and a group of other administrators and students from Nazareth College attended their first Yoga Service Conference in May 2014. Inspired by the event, they returned home to create the RYSN, a nonprofit organization that aims to increase yoga access in the Rochester community. Since its inception, RYSN has promoted yoga service programs on the Nazareth College campus and throughout their region, including immersions, workshops, and classes.

In 2015, this same group of yoga service enthusiasts received an Excellence Award from NASPA (National Association of Student Personnel Administrators) for their “Yoga Revolution on Campus” programs at Nazareth College.

Jennifer Cohen Harper, a founding member of the Yoga Service Council, which organizes the conference at Omega, commented, “We could not be more inspired by the way this group of colleagues and their students have taken the inspiration from previous Yoga Service Conferences into their community and organized for meaningful action.”

Read about Lynne Boucher’s personal experience at the Omega Yoga Service Conference

Learn more about Yoga Service

Undoing Racism

2 months 1 week ago

“We are socialized to think we aren’t part of the solution to racism, but we begin to gain power to make change when we decide to take responsibility,” said Berwick Mahdi, one of three trainers for the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, a nonprofit collective of multicultural, antiracist community organizers and educators.

Mahdi, Annie Rodriguez, and David Billings recently spent three days in the Hudson Valley leading a group of 30 people through the People’s Institute's renowned Undoing Racism training. The training centers on a process of critically analyzing systemic racial oppression, rooted in an historical understanding of the role of race in constructing U.S. society and based on the premise that it is one of the root causes of poverty. David Billings, who has been facilitating Undoing Racism for more than 30 years, said that a foundational question for the People’s Institute is, why are people poor?

“This training led us through experiential exercises to explore issues in ways we normally don’t and led many of us to gain new understandings of what racism is and how it functions,” said Susan Grove, Omega’s community engagement manager, who participated in Undoing Racism. “We began by thinking deeply about poverty, and came to see we often believe that individuals or even whole communities are solely responsible for their conditions. Looking at the systems that shape poor communities and communities of color gave us a new lens to see how decisions made outside of these communities powerfully shape people’s daily experiences within them. Recognizing that racism is more about these oppressive systems than individual acts of ignorance or meanness empowers us to organize a more effective response.”

The 50 community organizers and educators who form the People’s Institute collective have reached more than 500,000 individuals and groups across the U.S. and abroad.

Learn more about the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond 

Reliance House Brings Mindfulness to Veterans

2 months 1 week ago

Vietnam War veteran and Zen Buddhist monk Claude AnShin Thomas often speaks of the traumatic impact of war on veterans. Reliance House, a nonprofit providing community based, person-centered mental health services, was so moved by the mindfulness practice and healing message that Thomas offered at Omega's 2014 Veterans, Trauma & Treatment Conference that they wanted to bring those benefits directly to veterans in their own community.

Reliance House has been serving southeastern Connecticut for three decades. They served 44 veterans in 2014 and their Supportive Housing program currently serves 15 homeless veterans. 

“It was an amazing experience,” Alisa Herget, Reliance House's Supportive Housing director said of the conference. "The information I brought back to Connecticut has been incredibly helpful in providing support to our veterans. The veterans conference at Omega also inspired me to arrange a Yoga for Veterans class at the Supportive Housing program. Several veterans have taken advantage of this and felt improvement in their wellness after completing the class.”

“The Omega conference also allowed me time to speak with Claude about the veterans program at Reliance House and ask him if it would be possible for him to visit someday,” she said.

Shortly after her return to Connecticut, Herget arranged a four-day visit with Thomas at Reliance House. In May 2015, he will lead workshops at Reliance House and in the Norwich community, and will give several talks throughout eastern Connecticut. During his visit, Thomas will provide teachings on mindfulness, healing, and transformation, and plans to work directly with veterans living in homeless veterans housing facilities.  

Learn more about Omega's Veterans Initiative

Yoga in the West Bank & Gaza

2 months 3 weeks ago

Yoga is mostly unknown among Palestinians, but over the past two years, more Palestinians have begun to embrace the discipline as a way of coping with the stresses of prolonged conflict.

This spring, the Give Back Yoga Foundation—cofounded by Omega teachers Beryl Bender Birch and Rob Schware—is collaborating with American yoga pioneer Rama Jyoti Vernon and 7 Centers Yoga Arts in Sedona, Arizona, to support Palestinians' exploration and use of yoga in everyday life as a tool for coping with daily stress and trauma.

In May, lead teachers from these partner organizations will travel to the Farashe Yoga Center in Ramallah to lead a two-week training for up to 30 Palestinian teachers. The newly trained teachers will then take yoga back to their communities, sharing the practice in urban refugee camps, schools, hospitals, and other venues. 

“We share a common belief that the therapeutic practice of yoga can empower those living with conflict and unrest by providing lasting tools to relieve symptoms of stress and trauma,” says Give Back Yoga executive director Rob Schware. “As a tool for inner transformation and growth, yoga can also plant seeds of peace that can blossom into positive change.”

Read the full article

Learn more about the Yoga in Palestine program

Shedding Light on Lyme Disease

3 months 1 week ago

On March 21, 2015 in the Poughkeepsie Journal, Dr. Richard Horowitz discussed his approach to the diagnosis of Lyme disease and other tick-borne disorders, as well as the upcoming Living Well With Lyme Disease conference at Omega.

“It is time to shift the chronic disease paradigm to a multifactorial model,” said Horowitz, medical director of the Hudson Valley Healing Arts Center and the first doctor to diagnose the tick-borne coinfection Babesia in 1999.

Dr. Horowitz will join Dr. Tom Francescott and Katina I. Makris in June to copresent the three-day Living Well With Lyme Disease conference, which is open to health-care providers, patients, and anyone who wants the most up-to-date information on Lyme disease and its numerous coinfections. The conference will explore in detail the symptoms of tick-borne diseases, differential diagnosis, and wellness practices that support a holistic approach to healing. Scholarships are available (deadline May 15).

Read more from the Poughkeepsie Journal's coverage of Lyme disease

Changing the World One Story at a Time

3 months 2 weeks ago

On March 11th, Omega Women's Leadership Center community engagement coordinator, Lys Swan, attended the event, "Changing the World One Story at a Time" at the permanent Mission of the Netherlands to the UN in New York City. The event was a collaboration between Gender at Work, the TMI Project, (both former Women Serving Women Summit attendees) and Hivos. The event, free of admission and open to the public, presented 12 women's rights advocates including Veronica Vera (Ecuador), Kalyani Menon-Sen (India), Henadi Riyad (Jordan), Douglas Mendoza Urrutia (Nicaragua), Momal Mushtaq (Pakistan), and Kwezilomso Mbandazayo (South Africa).

The speakers performed powerful stories about gender and institutional change that they crafted during the TMI Project/Gender at Work's Women's Rights Storytelling Collaboratory to bring a face to women's issues and struggles experienced at the intersections of culture, ethnicity, gender, and religion. Stories were interspersed with interactive discussions with the audience.

Lys commented, "Sharing our stories allows our voices to be heard by a wider audience, relieves us of the burden of silence, engenders greater understanding and compassion, and helps us easily identify our commonalities, bridging differences through shared experience."

This event was one in a series of offerings during the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), held March 9–20 at the UN headquarters in New York City. The CSW is the fifty-ninth annual session and includes representatives of Member States, UN entities, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from all over the world. The main focus of the session is "a review of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, including current challenges that affect its implementation and the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women." 

Omega Celebrates International Women's Day

3 months 3 weeks ago

On March 8th, the world again honored International Women’s Day, celebrating women's achievements while also acknowledging the challenges that women still face. 

Calling for solidarity as women continue to work for equal rights, on Saturday March 7th, the Omega Women’s Leadership Center cosponsored the 5th Annual International Women’s Day Walk at the Walkway Over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie, New York. Organized by the Women's Leadership Alliance of the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce, the event commenced on the Poughkeepsie side of the bridge at 9:00 a.m. 

Speakers included president of Vassar College Catherine Bond-Hill and Minister Lauder Smith of House of Hope, who rallied the crowd saying, "True leaders invest in people. The greatest act of a leader is mentoring. Who are you reaching back to pull up?"

View a photo album from the event

Learn more about International Women's Day 

Yoga & Mindfulness for ChangeMakers

4 months 2 days ago

Grounded. Soft. Noticing. At Vassar's All-College Day program, Buddhist activist and yogi Leslie Booker explained that these states can support our sustainability and effectiveness, whether holding a yoga pose, walking mindfully, or speaking up in response to oppression.

Booker shared her own story of change, from being an activist who became exhausted by anger to learning how to get in touch with a sense of stillness and clarity. Embodied practices became, for her, skills that allowed sustained involvement with grassroots activism. She continues to share the skills she has learned widely, with incarcerated youth, people working for change on the frontlines, LGBTQI teens, and women in recovery.

“Vassar’s All-College Day program was on the theme of self and community care in a moment of renewed student activism nationally and on our campus," said Revered Samuel Speers, who serves as the director of Vassar's office of religious and spiritual life and assistant dean for campus life and diversity. "The theme provided an opportunity to try a new approach—so I turned to Omega for help in identifying a teacher who could introduce students to the generative ways a new generation of practitioners are uncovering the spiritual roots of activism."

Booker's workshop, Yoga and Mindfulness for ChangeMakers, combined yoga, meditation, and dialogue. Vassar College students and staff were invited to bring their attention to their bodies, quiet down, and come to understand their thoughts and feelings. Stories of identity, socialization, and exclusion were exchanged, interspersed with encouragement to notice how it felt in the body to share vulnerably and listen mindfully. Dialogue allowed the group to examine their own experiences to see how injustices enter our lives and how we can unknowingly perpetuate these injustices. During a guided meditation, participants visualized widening their circle of compassion.

"I was quite impressed at the range of students who were drawn to this approach,” Reverend Speers commented. "Activists, community members, and student leaders in our religious communities made clear to me how much they appreciated Booker’s approach, spirit, and teaching."

Learn more about All-College Day at Vassar

Omega Expands Access by Awarding More Than $300,000 in 2015 Scholarship Opportunities

4 months 1 week ago

Veterans, Those Living With Lyme Disease & Women Leaders Among Eligible Candidates

 

Rhinebeck, NY - Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, a nonprofit organization dedicated to lifelong learning, today announced plans to award more than $300,000 in full and partial scholarships this year, to eligible applicants.

“We strive to bring many voices, perspectives, and life experiences to Omega,” said Robert “Skip” Backus, chief executive officer at Omega. “The Omega Scholarship Program is one of the key ways we are committed to building a holistic learning community, increasing our responsiveness to the barriers that exist, and creating greater access to the educational opportunities offered by Omega.”

Each year, Omega opens its doors to more than 23,000 visitors for programs that span six learning paths: Body, Mind & Spirit; Health & Healing; Leadership & Work; Relationships & Family; Creative Expression; and Sustainable Living. Full and partial scholarships are offered for a number of programs, including, but not limited to, the following highlights:

THE COSTS OF WAR, VIOLENCE & DENIAL VETERANS RETREAT 
Course Date: April 15–19, 2015 
Application Deadline: March 27, 2015 
Omega offers a special 5-day veterans retreat, open to people of all religious and spiritual traditions, that focuses on different forms of meditation as a path to healing from the effects of post-traumatic stress. The retreat is led by Claude AnShin Thomas, who shares his own inspiring spiritual odyssey from combat veteran to mindfulness practitioner. Scholarships are available for veterans, their families, and friends. For more information call 845.266.4444, ext.180.

LIVING WELL WITH LYME DISEASE 
Course Date: June 26–28, 2015 
Application Deadline: May 15, 2015 
This empowering workshop is guided by a medical doctor, a naturopath, and an expert in natural care. It offers needed answers for those afflicted with Lyme disease, health-care providers who want to improve their diagnostic and treatment skills, and anyone else who wants the most up-to-date information on living well with Lyme disease. Partial and full scholarships are available to qualified applicants who would benefit from this program. Applications are assessed on a rolling basis in the order received.

WOMEN & POWER RETREAT: BEING BOLD 
Course Date: September 18–20, 2015 
Application Deadline: July 10, 2015 
Omega’s Women & Power Retreat brings together women leaders, artists, authors, and visionaries to share ideas and insights. Join Elizabeth Gilbert, Bonnie St. John, and Elizabeth Lesser for keynote presentations, conversations, and breakout workshops in movement, contemplation, and creativity. Participants are offered new tools for practicing everyday boldness.

The Omega Women’s Leadership Center (OWLC) also invites women to apply for scholarships for their 2015 workshops, which offer a range of leadership skill-building opportunities, including conflict resolution, financial literacy, public speaking, and “flying” on the trapeze.

For a full list of all available scholarships, criteria, eligibility, and applications, please visit eOmega.org/scholarships.

Omega also offers Tiered Pricing on additional programs, allowing guests to choose one of four prices based on financial circumstance.

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 200 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. eOmega.org

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