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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.

Omega Announces 35 Nonprofits to Receive Organizational Retreat Grants

2 years 1 week 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

2 years 2 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

2 years 2 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

2 years 3 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

2 years 3 weeks 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

2 years 1 month 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

Yoga in the West Bank & Gaza

2 years 1 month ago

Yoga is mostly unknown among Palestinians, but over the past two years, more Palestinians have begun to embrace the discipline as a way of coping with the stresses of prolonged conflict.

This spring, the Give Back Yoga Foundation—cofounded by Omega teachers Beryl Bender Birch and Rob Schware—is collaborating with American yoga pioneer Rama Jyoti Vernon and 7 Centers Yoga Arts in Sedona, Arizona, to support Palestinians' exploration and use of yoga in everyday life as a tool for coping with daily stress and trauma.

In May, lead teachers from these partner organizations will travel to the Farashe Yoga Center in Ramallah to lead a two-week training for up to 30 Palestinian teachers. The newly trained teachers will then take yoga back to their communities, sharing the practice in urban refugee camps, schools, hospitals, and other venues. 

“We share a common belief that the therapeutic practice of yoga can empower those living with conflict and unrest by providing lasting tools to relieve symptoms of stress and trauma,” says Give Back Yoga executive director Rob Schware. “As a tool for inner transformation and growth, yoga can also plant seeds of peace that can blossom into positive change.”

Read the full article

Learn more about the Yoga in Palestine program

Shedding Light on Lyme Disease

2 years 2 months ago

On March 21, 2015 in the Poughkeepsie Journal, Dr. Richard Horowitz discussed his approach to the diagnosis of Lyme disease and other tick-borne disorders, as well as the upcoming Living Well With Lyme Disease conference at Omega.

“It is time to shift the chronic disease paradigm to a multifactorial model,” said Horowitz, medical director of the Hudson Valley Healing Arts Center and the first doctor to diagnose the tick-borne coinfection Babesia in 1999.

Dr. Horowitz will join Dr. Tom Francescott and Katina I. Makris in June to copresent the three-day Living Well With Lyme Disease conference, which is open to health-care providers, patients, and anyone who wants the most up-to-date information on Lyme disease and its numerous coinfections. The conference will explore in detail the symptoms of tick-borne diseases, differential diagnosis, and wellness practices that support a holistic approach to healing. Scholarships are available (deadline May 15).

Read more from the Poughkeepsie Journal's coverage of Lyme disease

Changing the World One Story at a Time

2 years 2 months ago

On March 11th, Omega Women's Leadership Center community engagement coordinator, Lys Swan, attended the event, "Changing the World One Story at a Time" at the permanent Mission of the Netherlands to the UN in New York City. The event was a collaboration between Gender at Work, the TMI Project, (both former Women Serving Women Summit attendees) and Hivos. The event, free of admission and open to the public, presented 12 women's rights advocates including Veronica Vera (Ecuador), Kalyani Menon-Sen (India), Henadi Riyad (Jordan), Douglas Mendoza Urrutia (Nicaragua), Momal Mushtaq (Pakistan), and Kwezilomso Mbandazayo (South Africa).

The speakers performed powerful stories about gender and institutional change that they crafted during the TMI Project/Gender at Work's Women's Rights Storytelling Collaboratory to bring a face to women's issues and struggles experienced at the intersections of culture, ethnicity, gender, and religion. Stories were interspersed with interactive discussions with the audience.

Lys commented, "Sharing our stories allows our voices to be heard by a wider audience, relieves us of the burden of silence, engenders greater understanding and compassion, and helps us easily identify our commonalities, bridging differences through shared experience."

This event was one in a series of offerings during the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), held March 9–20 at the UN headquarters in New York City. The CSW is the fifty-ninth annual session and includes representatives of Member States, UN entities, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from all over the world. The main focus of the session is "a review of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, including current challenges that affect its implementation and the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women." 

Omega Celebrates International Women's Day

2 years 2 months ago

On March 8th, the world again honored International Women’s Day, celebrating women's achievements while also acknowledging the challenges that women still face. 

Calling for solidarity as women continue to work for equal rights, on Saturday March 7th, the Omega Women’s Leadership Center cosponsored the 5th Annual International Women’s Day Walk at the Walkway Over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie, New York. Organized by the Women's Leadership Alliance of the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce, the event commenced on the Poughkeepsie side of the bridge at 9:00 a.m. 

Speakers included president of Vassar College Catherine Bond-Hill and Minister Lauder Smith of House of Hope, who rallied the crowd saying, "True leaders invest in people. The greatest act of a leader is mentoring. Who are you reaching back to pull up?"

View a photo album from the event

Learn more about International Women's Day 


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