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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.

Changing Lives in Newark, New Jersey

1 year 6 days ago

Mahatma Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Norma Bowe created a group focused on community service and activism in Newark, New Jersey, called Be the Change, that is working to do just that.

Newark’s crime rate is five times above the national average. It’s also the second-to-last in the nation for green spaces and parks compared to other U.S. cities of the same size.

The group began their work in 2010 with students from Kean University and other local volunteers who were dedicated to community service projects in their hometown and across the country. They helped to address issues of social justice, food justice, and human rights, including taking abandoned lots and turning them into pocket parks and gardens.

The Omega Women’s Leadership Center (OWLC) has been a support to Be the Change along the way. In addition to the organization's participation in the Women Serving Women Summit nonprofit retreats during Omega Service Week, the OWLC has provided scholarships to young women (and some young men) from Be the Change to attend a number of programs, including multiple Women and Power conferences and the Taking a Leadership Leap workshop. Since 2011, 75 people from Be the Change have participated in these retreats, conferences, and workshops. 

"I have never realized how much I can inspire other people with the things I do and the things I've gone through until this weekend, being able to share with complete strangers and…to connect with the other women on a level I didn't think was possible. I learned a lot about myself and that I can do anything I put my mind to. I have learned not to let fear hold me back," said one Be the Change participant in the Taking a Leadership Leap workshop.  

Be the Change attendance at Omega events has had a major impact on the organization. Since Omega Service Week 2014, they have completed 501(c)(3) status, created a board and an executive committee, and have been selected to present their plans at the Clinton Global Initiative in 2016 to research the therapeutic effects of gardening on PTSD, among many other accomplishments.

“None of this would have been possible without all of the opportunities OWLC has provided for us," Bowe said. "You have grown and supported us, and we are ever so thankful.”

To see what working for change in Newark looks like, watch Be the Change’s thank you video.


Feeding Each Other: ELIP & the Long Spoon Collective

1 year 2 weeks ago
Monica Albizu completed the Ecological Literacy Immersion Program (ELIP) in 2013. She has since joined the Long Spoon Collective, named for a well-known parable that illustrates the difference between hell and heaven. In hell, the people are starving because they can't lift food to their own mouths using the long spoons. In heaven, the people are well-fed because they use the long spoons to feed each other across the table.
Omega: Tell us about the Long Spoon Collective that you're involved with.
Monica: The Long Spoon Collective is a group of individuals in Saugerties, New York, that started working together a year and a half ago. We have a two-fold mission: We’re looking to help people meet basic needs, like food and housing, and we’re trying to help people be less dependent on money. The main focus is to create an abundance economy—whether that’s having materials stored for building projects for whoever might need them, or growing as much food as possible so that we can share it. 
We have a network of 12 people who have seven gardens at different sites. Certain sites might be more conducive to growing potatoes, whereas others might be better suited for growing berries, or plants that need more water or more sunshine. It’s all done under the lens of land restoration, trying to rebuild soil, to plant things that are long-term investments.
At the beginning of August 2015, we had our first food share event. We set up big tables and tents to give food away. We went around the neighborhood and invited people. It was a word of mouth, organic thing. We had open house hours. People brought food to exchange. Other people just came to get fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s a free farmer’s market, but we wanted to get away from both the word "free" and the word "market," to begin to really change the language, to get people to begin to think of things in a different way.
Omega: Is it true the collective has been deconstructing houses and putting the reclaimed materials to new use?
Monica: Two of our guys started this movement when they were having breakfast one day at a local cafe. They heard a contractor talking about a neighbor who wanted a house taken down, but he didn’t want to take the project. They approached the property owner and said, "If you want this house taken down, we can take it down for free in exchange for keeping the materials." The landowner thought it was a great idea, so a group of us got together and deconstructed the house in about 15 days. We reused as much material as we possibly could. The only things we had to throw out were fiberglass insulation and some of the sheetrock. 
We stored all the materials and used them on many different projects, two of which were full houses for individuals. We used everything from nails and screws that were taken out carefully, to siding and windows, sinks, and copper pipes. In doing this we began to build a relationship with the landowner. He was so impressed that he offered us the land the house had been on to build a garden. This season that property has been our main focus. We’ve been really focusing on turning it into a community space. 
Omega: How was it coming back to Omega for the ELIP reunion?
Monica: It was a wonderful opportunity to link back up with people whom I had spent so much time with, had shared a lot and grown a lot with. It allowed us all to connect with one another, to give advice to each other. It was very productive because you could go right into talking about deep issues. 

The ELIP program is creating a language we all share. It really begins to highlight how humans and nature are connected. A lot of the classes I took were demonstrating systems thinking, how we’re all interconnected. ELIP gives you the tools to think about society and the environment in new ways.
Omega: What was your biggest take away from ELIP?
Monica: It left me feeling called to rise to the challenge. The most important thing I took away from the program is how to live a life where actions reflect values in order to lead by example. Alone, consciously making the decision to change can be a daunting task, but when you join forces with others and build community, you become part of something larger and more meaningful. Community is a support network that allows you to share, teach, learn, and inspire others. 

Art & Activism: Omega Scholarship Opportunity

1 year 2 weeks ago

Calling All Artists, Educators, Counselors & Activists for an Exciting New Workshop! Application Deadline: April 29, 2016

RHINEBECK, NY – Art holds up a mirror to hypocrisy, injustice, and abuse, and mobilizes people in ways that nothing else can. In the spirit of creative expression, Omega is offering an exciting new workshop, Art & Activism: Agent-Provocateurs, May 27-30, 2016. Tiered pricing and scholarships are being offered, with a scholarship application deadline of April 29, 2016.

“Art is a vehicle that can help us reflect, heal, and connect. It has the power to help us think outside the box, revealing truths that provoke critical dialog and help us transform through a shared experience that can cut across culture, class, and other divides. We are thrilled to be offering our new Art & Activism workshop, which will explore changes we wish to see in the world and celebrate a vision of what can be,” said Carla Goldstein, chief external affairs officer at Omega.

Participants will spend the weekend making and experiencing activist art—including visual art, music, performance, and improv. Together the group will share their passions for change, push creative boundaries, and connect creativity to action.

The workshop is being led by Joe Raiola and Patty Goodwin:

Joe Raiola is artistic director of Theatre Within, creator/producer of The Annual John Lennon Tribute, and senior editor a MAD magazine. He tours extensively in his acclaimed solo show, The Joy of Censorship, which has been performed in 44 states. He is a master teacher of the transformative and illuminative Theatre Within process, and a student of Zen for many years.

Patty Goodwin is a creative director in the Hudson Valley. Through the New York City creative services firm she cofounded, she has worked with artists across a spectrum of disciplines to design immersive experiences for global audiences. She is now mainly focused on creative strategy work for pro-social organizations, including Omega.

To learn more, visit, or call 800.944.1001. 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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Cultivating Hank's Beans & a Seed Center

1 year 2 weeks ago

“Part of what is missing in the seed industry is the spirit of seed,” says Ken Greene, cofounder of the Hudson Valley Seed Library, and the Center of Seed Stewardship.

If you took a close look at Omega’s main garden in the summer of 2015, you might have noticed something growing that’s truly unique. Something that embodies the "spirit of seed." It may have looked like any old bean, but it’s a bean with a special story. It’s 'Hank's Xtra Special Baking Bean.'

Rediscovering Hank's Beans

“Hank’s bean was the first seed that was donated to the Hudson Valley Seed Library.” Greene says. “I was still working at the Gardiner Library, and the library director, Peg Lotvin, had gone home to help her mom clean up her basement. Her father, Hank, had passed away maybe four or five years before. Hank had grown beans every year because he loved baked beans. He had a very specific idea of what made a good bean for making baked beans. He was selecting the plants over time to express the characteristics that he thought were ideal. There’s no other bean like it, because one person was guiding the changes in evolution of that particular variety.”

“When we found these beans, we weren’t sure if they would germinate or not,” Greene said. “But enough did that we were able to grow them, save seeds from them, and bring them back from near extinction.”

Planting & Sharing 

Omega planted Hank’s beans alongside a collaborative project headed up by the Glynwood Center in Cold Spring, New York. Several farms in the Hudson Valley grew the beans. Each was paired with a local New York restaurant that created and shared the beans in sold-out events across the Hudson Valley. In addition to sharing the beans with restaurants, 10 percent of the harvest was sent back to the Hudson Valley Seed Library to preserve the seed stock for future generations, echoing the way small-scale agriculture was conducted prior to the industrialization and consolidation that's taken place over the last half century.

Greene explains, “For generations, farmers and small gardeners alike were active participants in a practice older than civilization—the stewardship of seeds—but this skill set has been now relegated to scientists and corporations.”

A Seed Saving Challenge

Saving seed isn’t without it’s trials and tribulations, though. Omega’s 2015 crop was largely eaten by our resident woodchucks, despite best efforts to protect the plants. From the seeds we were able to save, we tested their viability, and it looks promising (see photo). We will plant the remaining seeds and hope for a larger yield in 2016 so we can give a portion back to the Hudson Valley Seed Library in the fall.

Growing the Center for Seed Stewardship

Greene's latest effort is the Center for Seed Stewardship (CSS), which he says was inspired by connections made at the 2014 and 2015 Omega Center for Sustainable Living conferences. "This nonprofit would not be happening if it wasn't for the ability to connect and build community around the concept of the commons at Omega." 

CSS aims to spread the knowledge and practice of seed saving by creating a network of seed libraries and seed sanctuaries. Greene looks to “rekindle participatory seed stewardship on a regional level, decentralize seed production and access nationally, and create a culture in which seed stewardship is revered.”

CSS plans to form individual seed sanctuaries through the Northeast, beginning in the Hudson Valley. Each of these sites will be centers for discovering and trialing regionally adapted plant varieties, educating the public on seed stewardship, producing organic seed for the region, and training farmers on how to produce seed in our region.

The organization is in its early stages of germination and will continue to plan its growth in a retreat at Omega during our annual Service Week in 2016.

Omega to Strengthen Community of Nonprofits Working Toward Meaningful Change in the World

1 year 1 month ago

Omega’s 2016 Service Week Awards More Than 25 Nonprofits With Working Retreat Grants

RHINEBECK, NY–In an ongoing effort to support nonprofit peers in the Mid-Hudson Valley region and beyond, Omega is hosting its 12th annual Service Week, May 30-June 3, 2016. Today Omega announced the names of more than 25 nonprofits being awarded a working retreat on Omega’s 250+ acre campus. The grants provide 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.

“Omega’s Service Week program allows nonprofits that are on the front lines to step away from day-to-day pressures and regroup,” said Carla Goldstein, chief external affairs officer at Omega. “We offer space, support, and tools for deep strategy in a setting that also emphasizes practicing self-care. While on our campus, organizations have the opportunity to connect with each other and build community with other change agents. This is one of the most fundamental ways Service Week reinforces the nonprofit safety net that so many rely upon,” concluded Goldstein.

Participating organizations structure their retreat time to focus on strategic planning, mission-building, and strengthening internal staff relationships. The context of Service Week also allows for networking among participating organizations, creating the possibility for learning, exchange, and future collaboration.

“Service Week offers this year’s nonprofit recipients a most unique and enriched experience that will improve their ability to pursue mission in an empowering and thoughtful manner,” said Doug Sauer, chief executive officer of NYCON.

Omega’s annual Service Week is comprised of two sessions: the Strengthening Communities Summit (May 30-June 1), and the Women Serving Women Summit (June 1-3). 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, is focused on supporting organizations that serve women. The participation of Mid-Hudson region nonprofits in Service Week is funded in part by a significant grant from the Dyson Foundation.

Omega is pleased to award 2016 Service Week retreats to the following organizations, which are actively engaged in creating a more compassionate and sustainable world:

Strengthening Communities Summit Recipients:

Astor Services for Children and Families (Mid-Hudson Valley)

Center for Seed Stewardship (Mid-Hudson Valley)

Engaging People in Change (EPIC) (Mid-Hudson Valley)

Friends of Karen (Mid-Hudson Valley)

Kite's Nest (Mid-Hudson Valley)

Lineage Project

Literacy Connections (Mid-Hudson Valley)

The Maya Gold Foundation (Mid-Hudson Valley)

ReEntry Columbia (Mid-Hudson Valley)

Regional Economic Community Action Program (Mid-Hudson Valley)

The Restorative Center (Mid-Hudson Valley)

Sustainable Hudson Valley (Mid-Hudson Valley)

Westchester Institute for Human Development Children's Advocacy Center (Mid-Hudson Valley)

Wild Earth Wilderness School (Mid-Hudson Valley)

108 Monkeys

Women Serving Women Summit Recipients:

Auburn Theological Seminary

Chicken & Egg Pictures

Committee for Hispanic Children and Families

Correctional Association of New York

Gender at Work

Global Grassroots

Grace Smith House (Mid-Hudson Valley)

Harlem Wellness Center

National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA)

Pleiades Network

TMI Project (Mid-Hudson Valley)

Women, Action and the Media

Women's Studio Workshop (Mid-Hudson Valley)

For more information, contact Marta Szabo, Strengthening Communities Summit, 845.266.4444, ext. 403,, or 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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Women Serving Women Summit Participants Take Flight

1 year 1 month ago

Omega recently caught up with Women Serving Women Summit 2015 attendee Youth Media Project, whose members teach digital storytelling. We wondered, "What story do they have to tell about their experience?"

We Have Everything We Need

"One of the favorite lines that I kept saying and repeating to the group with the most resonance was 'we have everything we need,'" noted Mi'Jan Celie Tho-Biaz, then-director of the organization. "With such a mighty group of profoundly talented cultural workers, this is true. They are very gifted creative leaders and visionaries, and every obstacle they faced could be collectively solved." 

Direct Effects: A Grant & An Installation

Beyond that realization, there were direct ripple effects of the group's summit experience. Youth Media Project Advisory member Yolanda Wisher was honored with a Pew Center grant and member Karina Puente had her temporary mural installed at the Javits Convention Center. 

"Those are only two of the beautifully rich individual and community-based seeds that got tended to during our summit time," said Tho-Biaz.

Those seeds also positively impacted the day-to-day business of being an artist.

"Attending the summit gave me the practical tools to not only survive as a full time artist; my group taught me how to thrive. I met two mentors who continue to empower my business and creative trajectory to this day. I learned how to write client contracts, bill for my art services, and I landed a New York City job that turned into another opportunity in Minneapolis," said Puente.

More Success

Tho-Biaz, Wisher, and Puente were inspired at the summit to submit a workshop panel that was accepted for the fall 2015 feminist writer and media conference BinderCon. And, Tho-Biaz credits her time at summit for the momentum that led her to become the Visiting Research Scholar at Columbia University's Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theory and Empirics.

"Our summit time was phenomenal. It was my first time leading a residential retreat and we are all still flying high! I'm hooked, for sure. Everyone's creative practice is positively expanding, and the Youth Media Project community is far better for it," said Tho-Biaz.

Learn More About the Summit

The Women Serving Women Summit, part of Omega Service Week hosted by the Omega Women's Leadership Center, is a grant retreat program for organizations that support women and girls. They are invited to bring their teams of staff and board members to Omega to work and rest so they can return to their efforts replenished and invigorated. Organizations use their retreat time to develop strategies, cultivate leadership, and deepen connections to discuss challenges, ideas, and solutions.

Join Us On the Bridge Saturday, March 5

1 year 2 months 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

1 year 2 months 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

1 year 3 months 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

1 year 3 months 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.

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