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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.

Join Us On the Bridge Saturday, March 5

7 months 6 days ago

Join us to celebrate women's achievements while also acknowledging the challenges that women still face at the 6th Annual International Women’s Day Walk at the Walkway Over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie, New York on Saturday, March 5th. 

Cosponsored by the Omega Women’s Leadership Center (OWLC) and organized by the Women's Leadership Alliance of the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce, the event will begin on the Poughkeepsie side of the bridge at 9:00 a.m. This year, the OWLC is one of five groups nominated for 2016 Nonprofit of the Year, which will be announced at the event by Krista Jones of Sparrow’s Nest.

The 2016 theme is “Fit Women Make Fit Leaders” and features Dr. Pamela Edington of Dutchess Community College. Also speaking is Pari Forood of Miles of Hope Breast Cancer Foundation. Entertainment will be provided by the Poughkeepsie High School Choir, Kyleigh Rothmand, and the Evergreen Chorus of the Sweet Adelines.

Register for the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce's event at Walkway Over the Hudson

Learn more about International Women's Day 

Omega Supports Change Makers

7 months 1 week ago

The Council on Addiction Prevention and Education of Dutchess County, Inc. (CAPE)'s work is well known in the Mid-Hudson Valley for providing both education and innovative efforts for prevention at a time when the issue of substance abuse is increasingly urgent, with many overdoses in recent years.

In October 2015, CAPE was part of a Policy and Prevention Summit hosted by the Mid-Hudson Regional Community of Practice at Omega's campus. The gathering included more than 60 leaders and policy makers from across the region to discuss how to build a foundation for health and wellness and prevent substance use disorders. Omega provided meeting space and lunch for the group.

“Omega continuously looks for ways to support and deepen our relationships with organizations and networks aligned with our mission of providing hope and healing to individuals and society and who are actively engaged in making changes,” said Susan Grove, community engagement manager at Omega.  

Founded in 1987, CAPE was established to meet the growing need for drug prevention and education services in Dutchess County. CAPE has valued time spent at Omega for professional trainings and Service Week, a program of self-led working retreats provided to nonprofits each year.

“Omega offers beauty and simplicity, and creates a space for learning that is unique and so necessary to thoughtful dialogue,” said CAPE executive director Elaine Trumpetto. “The time we spent at Omega provided us the opportunity to develop the foundation necessary to secure a federal grant, which is now funding efforts in Southern Dutchess County to reduce the onset of substance use disorder and increase the perception of harm, particularly for adolescents and young adults.” 

Rebuilding Roofs & More in Nepal

8 months 2 weeks ago

Thousands of people lost lives and experienced injuries, and about half a million people became displaced from their homes when a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Nepal's capital city Kathmandu and surrounding areas in April 2015. It was one of the worst natural disasters in a country, already known as one of the poorest in the world. The first quake was followed by a number of aftershocks, including one that measured 7.3-magnitude in May 2015.

Since the earthquakes, Omega meditation teacher Bhante Wimala has been bringing prayers, hope, and healing to many families in Nepal through the Triple Gem Society, a nonprofit Buddhist, humanitarian organization. In fact, Wimala, Triple Gem's founder and spiritual director, was at the top of a mountain about two hours from Kathmandu when the second big earthquake hit in May. That day, he helped deliver roofing supplies, food, and buckets to carry drinking water to a community of 45 families.

In the months since, he has spent much of his time traveling throughout Nepal working with local Buddhist monks to rebuild schools and distribute food, supplies, and building materials to those in need.

“Today was a happy day,” he wrote in an email update to Omega. “We handed over the first school we rebuilt after the earthquake. It was the first in the whole district to be rebuilt and reopened and it’s now an earthquake resistant building.”

So far, Triple Gem has helped build temporary housing for 132 families who lost their homes, contributed to six projects to bring water back to communities, donated food and clothing for about 600 families, helped construct buildings in six schools that were destroyed, coordinated medical assistance to those in need, delivered mosquito nets, and gave blankets to 100 families.

“I was fortunate to have spent time with the local families who continue the struggle to reconstruct their lives in the wake of this devastating natural disaster,” he wrote on his blog.

Wimala, author of Lessons of the Lotus: Practical Spiritual Teachings of a Traveling Buddhist Monk, has been one of Omega's resident meditation teachers for staff and participants for more than a decade. He continues to raise funds through the Triple Gem Society to provide continued humanitarian relief.
 
 

Omega Announces Annual Nonprofit Retreat Grant Opportunity Aimed at Strengthening Community

8 months 4 weeks ago

Omega Service Week: Nonprofit Working Retreat Grant Application Available Online, Deadline February 1, 2016 – Apply Now!

RHINEBECK, NY – Omega today announced it is accepting applications from nonprofits for its annual Service Week program. Omega Service Week provides fellow nonprofits working across the spectrum of social, economic, and environmental issues with 2-day, 2-night self-led working retreats on Omega’s campus in Rhinebeck, New York. The retreat grant application is now available on Omega’s website with a deadline of February 1, 2016.

“Omega started Service Week more than a decade ago as a way to help support our nonprofit peers and to strengthen the safety-net that so many people in our extended community depend on,” said Carla Goldstein, chief external affairs officer at Omega. “We are thrilled with the success of the program, which has directly touched more than 300 nonprofits and 4,000 dedicated people over the years and has an aggregate ripple effect in the millions.”

For 12 years, organizations—large and small—working in the region, across the country, and around the world have brought their teams of staff and board members to Omega to work and to rest so they can return to their efforts replenished and invigorated. Organizations use their retreat time in a variety of ways, from developing strategies, cultivating leadership, and deepening connections to discussing challenges, generating ideas, and identifying solutions.

The self-led working retreat grant includes simple accommodations, meals, meeting space, access to campus amenities, and the opportunity to participate in the Organizational Development Clinic, a free one-hour consultation with Omega’s Service Week partner, the New York Council of Nonprofits (NYCON). Organizations can meet with NYCON for support in any aspect of nonprofit health—from financial to managerial, motivational to administrative.

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. eOmega.org

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OWLC Celebrates 20th Anniversary of Feminist.com

9 months 6 days ago

On December 2, 2015, the Omega Women's Leadership Center (OWLC) cosponsored the 20th anniversary celebration of Feminist.com, the organization Gloria Steinem credits for putting "the dot-com in feminism." Marianne Schnall founded the nonprofit in 1995 "to offer people around the world access to information about human rights, women's issues, health, grassroots activism, and pretty much anything that could possibly support a world where men and women are allied, empowered and equal." 

The one-day anniversary conference, held at the Lower East Side Girls Club in New York City, reflected on the last two decades of feminism and envisioned where to go in the next 20 years. Panel topics included gender, politics, activism, identity, race, and media. 

Carla Goldstein, Omega’s chief external affairs officer and cofounder of the Omega Women's Leadership Center (OWLC), moderated the panel Our Inner Lives: A Multi-Faith Dialogue on Spirituality, Religion & Feminism featuring Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses, Maria Ebrahimji, Chung Hyun Kyung, Latham Thomas, and Adriene Thorne. Other featured speakers included Imani Brown, Soraya Chemaly, and Ashley Ford, and performances were given by the Arts Effect, BETTY, Kaylo (Kerri Lowe), and Sarah Jones. 

As a library and networking engine, Feminist.com has been and continues to be an Internet "home" for millions of women all over the world, offering news, original articles, exclusive interviews, anti-violence resources, columns, activism alerts, event listings, and women-owned business listings. 

View photographs from the celebration by Kiana MacClellan.

Update: Power Lines Plan Approved by Public Service Commission

9 months 2 weeks ago

Dear Friends,

I am sad to report that the New York Public Service Commission has announced that they approved moving forward with the transmission line development project. 

Omega is grateful to all those who called and wrote to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Public Service Commission. Your support helped shape the process along the way and has made the outcome less harmful than it would otherwise have been. 

While the decision does take into consideration some of our stated environmental concerns, it will still cause damage and saddle the rate payers of the region with a very large, unnecessary construction bill. The route of the transmission line development will thankfully not impact historic sites or Omega. There were two routes in question, one directly bordering Omega and one east of Omega, with the eastern route being chosen. 

Together we have built a strong coalition that will continue to work toward a 21st century energy plan for New York State. Thank you for your support over this long process. I will be in touch about ongoing work.

For more details and comments from other members of the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition, please read PSC Allows High-Voltage Power Lines to Proceed Despite Project’s Failure to Meet Tests of Need, Fairness and Emissions Reduction.

With appreciation,

Robert Backus's Signature

Robert "Skip" Backus 
Chief Executive Officer 
Omega Institute

Omega Needs Your Help! Call New York's Governor by December 17th

9 months 3 weeks ago

Dear Friends,

It’s been nearly two years since Omega, along with the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition, began speaking out to create a better energy future for New York State. But there is still work to be done.

On December 17th, the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) is expected to make its final decision on whether or not to approve an unnecessary new power line expansion project that would cut through the heart of the Hudson Valley.

If this project is approved new, taller, overhead electric transmission lines will be built through 25 communities in seven counties—including potentially bordering Omega's campus.

Please help us by contacting Governor Andrew Cuomo and letting him know there is no need for this project. See a summary of talking points here.

You can call the Governor’s office at (518) 474-8390 or contact them via email at www.governor.ny.gov/contact. You can also call the Public Service Commission hotline at (800) 335-2120, as well as contact the PSC.  

The most recent review of the state’s electricity needs now and over the coming decades shows that New York already has more than enough transmission capacity, with 90 percent of the project’s projected $1.2 billion cost being borne by tax payers.

Not only does this project directly threaten the Omega Institute campus, as the proposed route runs directly behind our property, it threatens the environmental and economic future of the entire region.

Instead of out-dated, massive long-distance power lines, what the region needs is a 21st century energy grid, based on clean, renewable energy, generated as closely as possible to where it is used.

To learn more, join us on December 13th from 10:00-11:00 a.m., at Upstate Films in downtown Rhinebeck, New York, for a series of short films including High Voltage, Dark Shadow, which portrays the threats the Hudson River faces from this transmission project, as well as from toxic PCBs, and from oil transportation by so-called "bomb trains.” The short film series will be followed by a panel discussion with filmmaker Jon BowermasterDr. Gidon Eshel from Bard College, Ned Sullivan and Hayley Carlock from Scenic Hudson, and Greg Quinn from Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition.

Can’t make it on December 13th? View and share the short film today. And don’t forget to call the Governor’s office by December 17th.

With appreciation,

Robert Backus's Signature

Robert "Skip" Backus 
Chief Executive Officer 
Omega Institute

Omega Teachers Receive Rockefeller Grant For Youth Mindfulness Program Expansion

10 months 3 days ago

In 2014 Holistic Life Foundation (HLF) founders and Omega faculty, brothers Ali Smith and Atman Smith and their good friend Andres Gonzalez, were busy expanding and strengthening their mindfulness programs for inner-city kids, which they’ve been developing since 2001. The expansion was thanks to a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, whose mission is to promote the well-being of humanity throughout the world.

HLF defines mindfulness as “the combination of awareness, centering, and being present… which leads to the development of empathy, compassion, love, balance, and harmony.” The grant is specifically for their Mindful Moment program now featured at two local Baltimore schools—an elementary and a high school.

“When we first started, there were not many yoga studios in Baltimore,” Ali Smith said. “Now ‘mindfulness’ is a term you see everywhere and yoga is all over pop culture. But we started based on our own practice even when it wasn’t as prominently featured. People thought we were kind of crazy but then they saw the changes in the kids and that turned them around and they realized we were on to something.”

Both schools pause for mindfulness moments in the day. The program also features an “alternative to suspension room” where Ali said, “Kids who are feeling angry, can't focus, are sad, or are under stress at home, can either self refer or be referred by a teacher.” They spend 20 minutes and practice mindfulness and stress management techniques with supportive teachers in a room filled with inspirational posters, calming aromatherapy, and tea.  

Since implementing these programs, suspension rates dropped to zero at the elementary school, Ali said. The high school rates have dropped significantly, too.

As teachers for Omega's Yoga Service initiative, Ali Smith, Atman Smith, and Andres Gonzalez share their work training others to teach yoga and mindfulness to young people.

“Omega is one of the things we mark on our calendar, and we count down like kids to Christmas,” Ali said. “The staff and energy there is amazing and you feel the energy when you are on that campus. Each summer we build more family and we learn a lot about ourselves, too.” 

Learn more about Omega's Yoga Service Initiative

Omega Shares Dining Hall Meals With Wider Community

10 months 2 weeks ago

Ever wonder how Omega FoodWorks balances the amount of food prepared with participants served?

Since 2002, saved and repurposed meals are shared with a local organization called the Lunch Box in Poughkeepsie, New York. Started in 1982 as a midday meal program, the Lunch Box now serves 200 residents at midday, after school, and dinner, and uses Omega’s donations to provide up to 5,000 meals each year in a city where more than one in four households experience food insecurity.

In response to the effects of impoverishment, unemployment, and underemployment, the Lunch Box and other programs of Dutchess Outreach say they “strive to meet the basic needs of low-income people when no other resources are available to them."

Margot Schulman, manager of the Lunch Box, says donations from Omega support the organization’s broader efforts to increase the quality of food they offer. The Lunch Box provides comfort foods with a focus on ingredients that are more nutritious than typical soup kitchen varieties, which often include highly processed or overcooked foods.

“I’m working hard to make connections with local farms and increase the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables that we serve,” she said.

Omega’s commitment to sustainability is illustrated through use of local and organic ingredients as often as possible in dining hall meals. Ingredients are sourced from farmers in the Hudson Valley. In addition to donating meals to the Lunch Box, food scraps also get composted at MacEnroe Organic Farm in Millerton, New York. 

Robert Turner, general manager and executive chef emphasized the high quality of the meals shared.

“When we donate a frozen chili, the beans that are in it are organic,” he said. The size of each donation depends on what was prepared and not served in Omega’s Dining Hall.

“During a menu rotation, we identify what we can save and repurpose,” Turner said. A section of the freezer is dedicated exclusively to donations.

Omega’s most recent donation of more than 100 gallons will be used to provide 1,600 prepared meals.

“We received a huge amount of frozen food, which is really nice for us because we can pull out what we need, when we need it. We probably got about eight full meals [for 200 people each], which is pretty incredible,” Schulman said.

The Yoga Service Council & Omega Institute Publish First White Book in New Series

10 months 3 weeks ago

Yoga Service White Book: Best Practices for Yoga in Schools Now Available on Amazon.com

RHINEBECK, NY – The Yoga Service Council (YSC) and Omega Institute for Holistic Studies today announced they will publish a series of white books to establish best practices in the field of yoga service. The first book in the series, Yoga Service White Book: Best Practices for Yoga in Schools, is the work of 27 of the nation’s leaders on yoga in schools and is now available on Amazon.com.

“We are tremendously excited for the opportunities that this series of white books holds for making progress on our shared goal of helping to mainstream the practices of yoga and mindfulness in school systems, veterans’ facilities, prisons, and other social institutions,” said Rob Schware, president of the Yoga Service Council.

The intention of each of these Best Practices Guides is to be a resource for those who wish to share yoga practices in a way that is safe, effective, and positioned in a broader social context; in touch with the relevant research; and respectful of the many intersecting realities found in any social setting, including the need for skillful relationship building within institutions.

“Yoga and service have always been core components of Omega’s offerings and continue to serve as transformative tools toward our personal and collective growth and well-being,” said Robert “Skip” Backus, chief executive officer at Omega. “Over the years, an ever-widening network of people and organizations that share our deep commitment to service have enriched our community. Through this experience we have learned that the power of working together is much stronger than walking the path alone,” concluded Backus.

“As leaders in the yoga service field, we have a responsibility to offer schools the most effective, sustainable, and inclusive programming possible,” said Jennifer Cohen Harper, board vice president of the Yoga Service Council and coeditor with Traci Childress of Best Practices for Yoga in Schools. “No matter how hard individuals work, when we work alone, we work with blind spots, and many of us are working alone. Coming together as a community, to share and learn from one another, allows us to serve all of our students from a stronger foundation and to hold one another accountable.”

This first publication, Best Practices for Yoga in Schools, considers practices from several perspectives, including individuals sharing yoga within their school; administrators of schools who are interested in incorporating yoga into the curriculum (or are being approached by those interested in doing so); and yoga teachers who teach (or want to teach) in schools.

“Ultimately, we hope this collective work benefits both the teachers and students, and we hope it is the beginning of more dialogue both within the yoga in schools field, and with other allied professionals,” concluded Harper.

Twenty-three contributors and four reviewers of Best Practices for Yoga in Schools committed to an 18-month process of reviewing existing research and responding to surveys, which culminated in a working meeting at Omega’s Rhinebeck campus in July 2014.

The partnership of the Yoga Service Council and Omega Institute began in 2009, when Omega offered space for a group of yoga teachers to come together and talk about ways to support those who worked with vulnerable and underserved populations. The YSC emerged from this initial gathering and offered the first annual Yoga Service Conference at Omega in 2011. As a result of the shared commitment to yoga and service, the YSC and Omega decided to formally partner in 2014 to bring yoga and mindfulness practices into the lives of more individuals and communities who have limited access to these vital teachings.

The second Yoga Service White Book will address yoga for veterans.

About Yoga Service Council (YSC)

The Yoga Service Council is a collaborative community that welcomes yoga and mindfulness teachers, therapists, social service providers, educators, health professionals, researchers, and all others who share our mission and vision. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Our mission is to maximize the effectiveness, sustainability, and impact of individuals and organizations working to make yoga and mindfulness practices equally accessible to all. YogaServiceCouncil.org

Yoga Service Council contact: Jennifer Cohen Harper, Jenn@YogaServiceCouncil.org 

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. eOmega.org

Omega contact: Chrissa Pullicino, ChrissaP@eOmega.org

 

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