Holistic Centers Gather From Around the World | Omega

How do holistic educational centers cultivate more diversity? Over 60 attendees from 32 centers addressed this question and more at the 2018 International Holistic Centers Gathering hosted by Omega. 

The International Holistic Centers Gathering works to strengthen collaboration among holistic centers that support personal and spiritual growth and serve the evolution of a conscious and sustainable world. It began informally in 1985 with a handful of centers from the United States and has grown to represent centers from nine countries.

This year's gathering explored the value of diversity and inclusion at holistic centers throughout the world and arose from conversations at last year's gathering and webinars throughout the year. Encouraging diversity is a challenge many centers are grappling with.

“At Omega we hold the belief that we all benefit when everyone is invited to the table. Having diverse perspectives enriches us all,” said Carol Donahoe, Director of Rhinebeck Programs.

Omega teacher Reverend angel Kyodo williams Sensei's presentation and film screening was a highlight of the week. Reverend angel's first visit to Omega was made possible by a scholarship.

"My initial visit to Omega shifted my sense of what I’m entitled to access—yoga, space, who I might sit and eat with, experiencing kirtan (led by a Jewish guy)," she said. "I wouldn’t be who I am without that initial visit to Omega. It opened up a world of possibility. Things were not as fixed as I thought. Centers change lives. Centers have the opportunity and responsibility to bring in as many different types of people as you can."

Omega staff leaders shared presentations about the ways we're working to advance equity and inclusion on campus and among staff, including our aspirations and work toward undoing harmful patterns and celebrating human diversity. They posed this final question to the group: How much more whole might the holistic centers become?

A Look at Day-to-Day Operations

During the 5-day gathering, attendees also shared best practices and successful strategies, like how to transition founders to new leadership, while also considering challenges and looking at the larger picture of what’s happening throughout the industry, like addressing the #MeToo movement. 

The group discussed emerging centers opening in China and Africa, as well as in the United States, and some attendees were visioning new centers. Talks also focused on programming, marketing, analytics, the history of holistic culture, and communication. 

Cultivating Community

From a walking tour of the Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OSCL) with Omega CEO Robert "Skip" Backus, to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum, to the New York Open Center and dinner family style at Carmines Italian Restaurant, attendees bonded while taking in the sites and experiences of New York's Hudson Valley and New York City. During the week, friendships formed and collaborations sparked. And, conversations are continuing long after attendees leave campus. 

In fact, many—including Omega—are looking forward to next year's gathering at Hollyhock, in British Columbia, Canada.

© 2018 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies

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