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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.

Rejecting Keystone XL Pipeline: A Step in the Right Direction

1 year 7 months ago
Saying that now was the time to act to "protect the one planet we've got while we still can," President Obama rejected the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The decision is a genuine victory for the planet, both in its symbolism and for what it means practically for protecting our climate, air, and water.
"It's great news that there is a growing understanding of the real danger of transporting highly explosive tar sands oil, as well as the increasing negative impact that burning our remaining sources of hydrocarbons has on our environment," Omega CEO Robert "Skip" Backus said on hearing the President's decision.
Due its composition, oil spills involving tar sands are considerably more difficult to clean up than spills with conventional sources of petroleum. Tar sand oil extraction and processing also creates more greenhouse gas emissions than other crude oil sources.
TransCanada's Keystone XL has been a highly contentious fossil fuel infrastructure since it was first proposed, becoming a touchstone of civil disobedience for environmentalists throughout the United States, with dozens of arrests taking place outside the White House.
"While rejection of Keystone XL is important," Backus added, "there are other, more local, extreme energy projects that now deserve our renewed attention. To protect our water, air, and climate from pollution, we need to keep the spotlight on efforts to transport oil through our region via so-called bomb trains and on Hudson River barges."
The decision, coming as it does just weeks before the COP21 climate talks in Paris, is being hailed by environmentalists.
Bill McKibben, cofounder of and Omega teacher says, "This isn't just a victory for the climate movement—it's a victory for everyone who believes in the power of organized people, from the streets of Missouri, to the border crossings of Arizona, to the hills of South Dakota and Nebraska. Together, we're on the path to real, substantive change."
"If we want to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable future, we have to make the choice to expand our national and regional clean energy infrastructure, rather than continued investment in expanding polluting energy sources," Backus said. "Rejecting Keystone XL is a step in the right direction."

Kids Will Love Vegetables Once They Know Them

1 year 7 months ago

"What we know," Poughkeepsie Farm Project education director Jamie Levato told the Seeds of Change conference audience, "is if you get kids excited about vegetables, if you show them what they can prepare, if you provide a fun and interesting learning environment with caring loving adults, they will love vegetables. They won't love them just baked into a muffin, or with some cinnamon and sugar on top, they will love to eat slices of raw turnip; they will love to eat raw kale."

Poughkeepsie Farm Project, based in the city of Poughkeepsie, New York, is the recipient of the 2015 Omega Center for Sustainable Living Leadership in Sustainable Education Award. The award was presented at the Seeds of Change conference on October 10. 

“We are delighted to recognize Poughkeepsie Farm Project as a nonprofit that has made great strides with community partners to increase support for growing and serving local food in schools,” Omega CEO Robert “Skip” Backus said.

In the first half of 2015, Poughkeepsie Farm project served some 2,000 participants in farm visits, school nutrition programs, and a newly created high school intern program, nearly a 100 percent increase in reach from the year before.

Levato summed up the importance of teaching children about where food comes from, what it takes to grow it, and what foods to eat: “Kids in urban environments often have less access to fresh vegetables and the great outdoors. Without that exposure, familiarity, and access, they are not as likely to make the choice to eat vegetables.” 

As part of this award, Poughkeepsie Farm Project receives $10,000 and a strategic planning retreat at Omega, to help strengthen organizational development and further its mission.

Scholarship Recipients Talk About #DoPowerDifferently

1 year 8 months ago

The Omega Women's Leadership Center's (OWLC) annual Women & Power event has attracted wide audiences for more than a decade of conversation about creating a culture of equality and care. This year 86 women received scholarships to participate in the event and contribute to the dialogue. Below, three of them speak about their experiences and what the campaign #DoPowerDifferently means to them. 

Name: Gifty Blankson
Organization: CUNY
What was your biggest takeaway from the gathering?: "First of all, I would like to use this opportunity to thank you all for giving me this extraordinary life-changing experience. Miss Elizabeth Gilbert's message on how to go after our dreams even in fear, was an eye-opening moment for me. She made me realize that fear is always going to be a part of my creativity journey but that shouldn't stop me."
What does #DoPowerDifferently mean to you?: "Doing power differently to me means identifying my destiny and having the courage to pursue it."
View the CUNY photo album from the conference.
Name: Nirmala Singh (pictured above on right with OWLC manager Sarah Urech)
Organization: Go Beyond Greatness
What was your biggest takeaway from the gathering?: "My biggest takeaway was Bonnie St. John explaining how being underestimated and devalued in society did not bring her down but ignited the fire in her to go above and beyond for high achievement and life success. My experience being around amazing, talented, and strong women leaders has helped me to understand the true definition of what is means to be bold."
What does #DoPowerDifferently mean to you?: "As an aspiring international human rights attorney, I realized doing power differently means I must step out, be bold, and become an important contributor who balances the power structure within American society and the world." 
Name: Lila Montoya  
Organization: Be the Change
What was your biggest takeaway from the gathering?: "The biggest way to change the world is to follow one's passion and not let fear dictate our decisions, or lack thereof."
What does #DoPowerDifferently mean to you?: "At times, we are put in unfavorable positions that we cannot control. What we can control is our reaction and what we are willing to do to better the situation, for ourselves, and perhaps for other women."
View the Be the Change photo album from the conference.

Women Veterans Build Supportive Community at Omega

1 year 8 months ago

More than 50 women veterans and service members, who were serving or had served in the military, attended retreats at Omega in the fall of 2014, and for many it was the first time they were exclusively among other women warriors. A year later, participants have shared the impact of their time at Omega.

The first program, Stronger Together: A Retreat for Women Serving or Who Have Served in the Military, was held in September 2014, and the second program, Healing From Military Trauma: A Retreat for Military Women & Women Veterans, was held in October 2014.

Judy, a Stronger Together participant, served in the Army for 21 years. With two children and a soldier husband, her family experienced 10 moves and multiple deployments. Early in her military training, she says she learned a "suck it up and drive on" mentality that stayed with her until she retired in 2012. Throughout her career she dealt with multiple health issues related to stress but never got support for them through military channels because she believed it could tarnish her reputation as a leader.  

"This was the first retreat I have ever attended, and it was life changing," she said. "I learned that there were other women who had experienced many of the same challenges and stressors that I had. We all spoke the same language and understood each other’s perspectives. I learned many new skills for healing that I can pass along to my family and other military veterans I come in contact with. I had not realized until the end of the workshop just how much I had shut down emotionally, always needing to put on a strong face as a soldier and leader. [The retreat] allowed me to finally feel safe and relaxed enough to feel my emotions openly with the group the last day. That was a huge breakthrough for me. The healing I experienced through this workshop will never be forgotten.”

Many participants also reported a new sense of community built with other women during their time at Omega, along with the opportunity to relax in a safe, peaceful environment on campus.

“This retreat has changed my life in so many positive ways,” said one Healing From Military Trauma participant. “Finding out I was not alone in my experiences and being able to be with women who understood the military aspect was something I could not have found anywhere but here.”

“I can only describe my time at Omega as paradise on earth,” said another Stronger Together participant. “The entire time was relaxing and I look forward to the next meeting and learning segment.”

Participants in both programs tried a variety of healing modalities such as large-group and small-group discussion, work in pairs, art and music activities, movement, and self-regulation skills, which are practices that focus on safety, adaption, and integrative functioning.

Surveys six months following the Stronger Together program revealed 75 percent of the participants continued to practice movement activities once a month or more, and more than half continued to use Social Resilience Model skills (SRM). Healing from Military Trauma participants reported similar takeaways with more than 80 percent continuing to use movement and more than 70 percent using SRM skills after the retreat. 

“A safe space was created allowing these women to bond and trust one another to share at a deep level,” said Susan Lynch, primary faculty member for Healing From Military Trauma. “Through the mind-body movement and relaxation practices, the discussions and the connection with one another, they found tears, laughter, release, and connection to one another, which helped them feel like they are not alone.”

Omega's Veterans Initiative began offering retreats for former members of the armed services in 2007. In 2012, the initiative began hosting programs to create safe and healing spaces for women serving or who have served in the military. Laurie Leitch is leading the Stronger Together retreat again at Omega October 18-23, 2015, and additional retreats are being planned for 2016. 

Lyme Scholarship Recipients Give Back

1 year 8 months ago

The second annual Living Well With Lyme Disease conference at Omega in June 2015 brought together people with Lyme along with health-care practitioners, caregivers, and others impacted by the condition.

The response from the community was one of both resounding support and empowerment. Almost 200 people attended the weekend with 119 people receiving full and partial scholarships.

Participants of all ages and genders came to seek answers and find solutions, including Noelle, Elizabeth, and Rebecca, three scholarship recipients.


“Someone once told me that getting a chronic illness is like getting a PhD in being alive,” said Noelle, a scholarship recipient from Massachusetts who is getting certified as a life coach to help others dealing with Lyme. “There were so many PhDs at the conference, people that have learned so much.”

“I’ve been sick for 14 years, off and on,” she said. “I’ve been to a lot of support groups and done a lot of communing with other folks with Lyme but doing it in this environment was extra special. I was filled with more joy and energy than I’ve ever felt.”

To help reach Lyme sufferers who don’t have access to in-person coaching, Noelle is working on a virtual support group that will offer tips on how to heal yourself from the inside out. 


Elizabeth, a family nurse practitioner for almost 35 years from New York, also suffered with Lyme. She says she attended the conference to learn more about treatment not just for tick illnesses but also for environmental pollutants and coexisting conditions.

“The conference is going to allow me to be a more comprehensive practitioner in my work," she said. "With this scholarship I am able to use the information I have received at Omega to help my patients. As a licensed family nurse practitioner, I can write prescriptions and order appropriate tests. I’m very excited to get back to work, and be even more helpful to people dealing with Lyme and tick borne illnesses.”


Rebecca, from Vermont, has a 12 year old son who is now eight years into his healing journey. She shared that once his symptoms improved and the family was out of crisis mode, she realized all they had been through.

“It didn’t have to be as bad as it was,” she said. “The social isolation piece. The financial disaster. So many different aspects of our lives were affected. There’s an intense focus on the ‘who done it’ of the politics and what’s causing the disease, but my take is that the experience of the disease is not being fully addressed.”

Rebecca is now completing a master's degree to become a mental health clinician.

“Before this conference, I had been on the fence about whether or not I wanted to focus exclusively on Lyme in my practice,” Rebecca said. “It was said several times here and it was really affirming: the root for everything is compassion. I now feel I can invest in this community because the conference reminded me that there’s more than just the darkness.”

Omega Recognizes Poughkeepsie Farm Project With the 4th Annual $10,000 Leadership in Sustainable Education Award

1 year 9 months ago

Award Ceremony & FREE PUBLIC EVENT With Vandana Shiva, Ralph Nader, Winona LaDuke, Maude Barlow, and

Omega CEO Robert “Skip” Backus Planned for Saturday, October 10th at 8:00 p.m.

RHINEBECK, NY – Omega Institute, home of the award-winning Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL), today announced the fourth recipient of their Annual Leadership in Sustainable Education Award. The award recognizes nonprofit peers who exemplify leadership in sustainable education and who share Omega’s commitment to building a more just and sustainable world. This year, Omega recognizes Poughkeepsie Farm Project, an organization working to provide hands-on education about where food comes from and why it matters.

Poughkeepsie Farm Project will be honored with the award on Saturday, October 10th at 8:00 p.m., during Omega’s Seeds of Change Conference. The evening, which is free and open to the public, will include the special presentation Living in a Time of Transition, featuring environmental activist Vandana Shiva, political activist Ralph Nader, Ojibwe activist and economist Winona LaDuke, author and human rights activist Maude Barlow, and Omega CEO Robert “Skip” Backus.

“We are delighted to recognize Poughkeepsie Farm Project as a nonprofit that has made great strides with community partners to increase support for growing and serving local food in schools,” said Robert “Skip” Backus, chief executive officer at Omega and visionary behind the Omega Center for Sustainable Living. “Poughkeepsie Farm Project has involved thousands of urban youth in powerful learning experiences, leading to excitement about farm-fresh food and understanding of the systemic causes of hunger and food insecurity.”

In addition to the $10,000 award, Poughkeepsie Farm Project will also receive a strategic planning retreat at Omega, to help strengthen organizational development and further its mission.

"We are truly excited to receive this recognition from Omega for our work in the sustainable food systems movement through education and outreach over the last 16 years,” said Lee Anne Albritton, executive director of Poughkeepsie Farm Project. “It is an honor to be in the company of other great organizations in the Hudson Valley who've received this award in the past. These partnerships and collaborations are what strengthen and expand awareness of the need to protect our most precious resources through progressive social change," concluded Albritton.

Omega created the Leadership in Sustainable Education Award in 2012 to further its commitment to environmental stewardship and education. Past recipients include Hudson River Sloop Clearwater (2012), Scenic Hudson (2013), and Groundwork Hudson Valley (2014).

Founded in 2009, the Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL) originated as the first green building in America to achieve both LEED® Platinum and Living Building Challenge™ certification—the highest standards currently available in sustainable architecture. The OCSL has since evolved into an environmental leader, offering programs that teach the regenerative environmental practices modeled by the building.

Join the conversation on and on Twitter @omega_institute #OCSL.

To see the complete schedule for the Seeds of Change Conference taking place Friday October 9–11th, visit or call 800.944.1001.

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.

Omega Contact:

Chrissa Pullicino

845.266.4444 ext. 404

About Poughkeepsie Farm Project

Founded in 1999, Poughkeepsie Farm Project (PFP) is a nonprofit organization that works toward a just and sustainable food system in the Mid-Hudson Valley. It operates a member-supported farm on land owned by Vassar College in the Town of Poughkeepsie. PFP had 70 CSA members in its first season. That number has grown to more than 500. In addition to providing organically grown food for its members, PFP donates about 20 percent of its annual harvest available to low-income families and emergency food relief organizations. PFP also provides over 50 college internship and field work positions, and close to 4,000 visitors with educational programs on nutrition, seed production, and other agriculture-related topics for at-risk teens and youth throughout the region.

Poughkeepsie Farm Project Contact:

Lee Anne Albritton


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Local Teens Can't Stop Talking About Omega

1 year 9 months ago

Omega recently hosted tweens and teens from two Hudson Valley organizations, Mill Street Loft and the North East Community Center (NECC), to explore campus and some quintessential Omega offerings. 

Tweens who visited from Mill Street Loft, based in the City of Poughkeepsie, were part of an outreach program that addresses issues for at-risk girls, providing learning and life skills and fostering self-esteem and personal empowerment.

The tweens took a tour of the Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL), enjoyed lunch at the dining hall, took a movement class, and interviewed Robert Turner, executive chef at Omega FoodWorks about the food served at Omega. 

“It's hard to explain what Omega is to 10- and 11-year-olds, but at Omega they felt so at ease,” said Michelle De la Cruz, director of Latino Programming at Mill Street Loft. “Just the experience of getting out of their environment, out in the country, and walking around was fantastic for them. They loved the self-sustainability project [OCSL]. They had a million and one questions about how the plants clean the water, and on the van ride home, they were explaining it to each other. One of the girls asked why they're not doing this in every city. They wanted to know how the water is cleaned in the city. They had never thought about it before.” 

Teens from the NECC's Teen Team Youth Leadership Program also enjoyed lunch at Omega and time with chef Bob, explored campus and the lake, and took an introductory yoga and meditation class.

“We all really enjoyed our trip to Omega, it was amazing,” said Sara Campbell NECC Teen Program Coordinator. “The teens couldn't stop talking about it all the way home.”

Food Justice From Seed to Market: Live Online Event

1 year 9 months ago

In light of the important national conversation on GMO labeling and access to quality food for all, the Omega Center for Sustainable Living is pleased to offer online access to Food Justice From Seed to Market, part of the Seeds of Change Conference.

Renowned environmental activist Vandana Shiva will be joined by Hudson Valley Seed Library cofounder Ken Greene, cofounder of Freedom Food Alliance Jalal Sabur, author of The Color of Food Natasha Bowens, CEO of Growing Power Will Allen, and many regional leaders and organizations advocating for GMO labeling and equal food access.

Join us in person for the whole weekend, or watch Sunday morning, October 11, 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time (Time Zone Converterlive from anywhere.

Learn more about the conference

Register for the online event

Seed Freedom Leaders Return to Omega This October

1 year 10 months ago

During the Omega Center for Sustainable Living's 2014 Where We Go From Here conference, internationally renowned seed activist Vandana Shiva met a group of Hudson Valley farmers, gardeners, and seed activists working to establish seed sovereignty in the region. Ken Greene, cofounder of the Hudson Valley Seed Library, said meeting Vandana Shiva was "a seed saver's dream come true.”

When she spoke, Dr. Shiva urged everyone present to "get involved in the [Hudson Valley] Seed Library and challenged us all with the idea of creating a Hudson Valley Seed Freedom Zone," said Greene. "After a decade of working on seed issues for our region, I felt reinvigorated to continue our work preserving, developing, and celebrating seed diversity.”

This year's OCSL conference, Seeds of Change: Cultivating the Commons, October 9–11, will bring Shiva and Greene back together to the Omega campus, along with Winona LaDuke, Maude Barlow, Ralph Nader, John Todd, and others.

As we explore the interconnected nature of the many challenges ahead, how to bring about change, and questions of equity and social justice, we will delve deeply into issues relating to seeds, food justice, GMOs, transparency in food labeling, protecting and stewarding water resources, and the political and social context within which we live and work.

Omega CEO Robert “Skip” Backus says by focusing on seeds as an important theme, we’re addressing “something fundamental to human rights and the preservation of the Commons: The ability to renew life. That is held in the quality of the seed. That cannot be owned.”

Whether you are already working closely with these issues, or are interested in learning more, we invite you to be part of a growing global community coming together to protect the Commons, including the pivotal right to share and save seeds.

Jill Taylor's Health Transformed With Dr. Tom

1 year 10 months ago

In October of 2010, Jill Taylor turned 50 and decided it was time to do a cleanse. She had suffered for years with chronic health issues, and a friend suggested a trip from Rochester to Omega Institute.

Taylor had never been to Omega or met Dr. Tom Francescott, a naturopathic and intuitive doctor who specializes in Transformational Cleansing™. She was excited to treat herself with one of his workshops for the week.

Taylor says it was one of the best decisions she has made for herself. She learned how to juice and how to meditate—two things she had never done before.

“It was the first time ever that I got energy from food,” she said. “I didn’t need coffee or soda to feel energetic.”

When she returned home, she bought a juicer. She also learned that eating gluten free and dairy free made a huge difference with her weight. Since her visit, she has lost and kept off more than 60 pounds.

“The cleanse jump-started my metabolism,” Taylor said. “I didn’t think I had one before. And it’s not about how I look, it’s that I feel comfortable in my pants now. I owe Dr. Tom so much.”

She also met new friends in the cleanse workshop that she continues to stay in touch with.

“I went home from Omega so filled with hope that I could have a future more than just feeling blah and overweight,” Taylor said, “You can grow.”

Taylor continues to eat organic, meditate, enjoy fresh juice, and maintain her healthy lifestyle.

“Even though my health is not 100 percent yet, the cleanse provided a life change for me,” she said.

Learn more about Dr. Tom Francescott.

Learn more about cleanses. 


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