Omega in Action | Omega

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.

A Groundwork Hudson Valley Retreat at Omega

5 months 3 weeks 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

6 months 4 days 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

6 months 1 week 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

6 months 2 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

6 months 2 weeks 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

6 months 3 weeks 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.

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

6 months 4 weeks 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



Nazareth College Leads a Yoga Revolution

6 months 4 weeks 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

7 months 3 days 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

7 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


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