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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.

Van Jones Credits Omega As Inspiration For His Green Jobs Initiative

2 years 6 months ago

Van Jones, cohost of CNN's Crossfire and an award-winning pioneer in the clean energy economy, delivered a rousing Friday night keynote address at the 2014 OCSL Conference: Where We Go From Here. He covered everything from Ferguson to green jobs to his latest project YesWeCode, a movement to help train 100,000 low-opportunity youth to become world-class computer coders.

"I remember coming to Omega and having my eyes opened. There was a girl named Julia Butterfly Hill here. This girl was crazy. She climbed up in a tree and didn’t come down. We bonded over the myth of disposability. The whole green jobs thing was born on Omega’s stage with me and Julia Butterfly Hill trying to understand each other," he said.

Van Jones started the Oakland Green Jobs Corps with $125,000. He recalled thinking at the time, "Instead of having these kids standing outside of my house in Oakland, getting on my nerves, let’s have them get on the roof and put up a solar panel."

The Oakland Green Jobs Corps led to the Green Jobs Act of 2007, which infused the Oakland program with $125 million and spread it across the country. Based on this experience, Jones was inspired to write The Green Collar Economy in 2008. President Barack Obama read the book and asked Jones to be on his transition team. Another half billion dollars was put into the Green Jobs Act. It was a three year time elapse from the start. And according to Van Jones, it all began with a conversation at Omega. 

Ceremony Held for OCSL Leadership in Sustainable Education Award

2 years 6 months ago

A ceremony to present Omega’s 3rd Annual OCSL Leadership in Sustainable Education Award was held during Omega's Where We Go From Here conference. This year’s recipient is Groundwork Hudson Valley, an organization working to help distressed communities in the lower Hudson Valley build a sustainable future.

“I look forward to this every year,” said Omega chief executive officer Robert "Skip" Backus. "For this award, we seek out organizations who have ideals in common with the Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL). We reach out to lend support in the form of a cash prize and a retreat, but more than anything, to develop a future relationship. Groundwork Hudson Valley is working to educate children, address economic disparity, and reach into communities. We're proud to support their work, from the arts to community gardens to a science barge on the Hudson River. We look forward to a long relationship with them."

Accepting the award for Groundwork Hudson Valley, deputy director and youth program director Curt Collier said, “What we’re missing in environmental organizations is diversity. We’re looking to get diverse youth into these organizations. You just can’t send kids off in the forest once and expect them to get the lesson. You need to keep bringing them into more experiences."

Groundwork youth participants take part in transformative projects in Yonkers, New York, where Groundwork is based. They also intern at a variety of national parks, including Yellowstone, Shenandoah, and Bear Mountain.

Omega Creates New Community Engagement Manager Position

2 years 6 months ago

For nearly four decades, Omega has been providing lifelong learning opportunities that offer an integrated approach to personal and social change. Since our founding, Omega has forged many paths of support for a diverse range of communities, including peer nonprofit organizations, veterans, educators, women leaders, and sustainability change agents. Earlier this year, Omega created a new position that will primarily focus on helping to write the next chapter of community engagement at Omega.

In September, Susan Grove joined Omega as the new community engagement manager. Susan has more than 20 years of experience working in a variety of roles with a number of different nonprofit organizations in the United States and abroad. Since coming to the Hudson Valley seven years ago, she has served in leadership roles related to systems and social change, serving as the first executive director of the Poughkeepsie Farm Project, the founding coordinator of the Poughkeepsie Plenty Food Coalition, and a facilitation consultant for regional nonprofit organizations.

Asked about her thoughts on joining the Omega team, Susan said, “Serving as community engagement manager at Omega dovetails with a question that I reflect on regularly and that has motivated me to seek ways of being engaged in the world: How can we work together to create change so that we see our highest human values reflected in the world around us? I look forward to exploring this question in this context and in support of Omega’s commitment to giving back and supporting social change.”

Groundwork Hudson Valley Named as Recipient of Omega’s Annual $10,000 Leadership in Sustainable Education Award

2 years 6 months ago

Award Ceremony & Free Public Event With Van Jones Planned for Friday, October 24th at 8:00 p.m.

RHINEBECK, NY – Omega Institute, home of the award-winning Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL), today announced the third 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 Groundwork Hudson Valley, an organization working to help distressed communities in the lower Hudson Valley build a sustainable future. Groundwork Hudson Valley will be honored with the award on Friday, October 24th at 8:00 p.m., during Omega’s annual Where We Go From Here conference. The evening, which is free and open to the public, will include a special presentation on Social Justice & the New Economy by Van Jones, an internationally recognized environmental advocate and cohost of CNN’s Crossfire.

“Omega created the Leadership in Sustainable Education Award in 2012 to further our commitment to environmental stewardship and education. This year we are thrilled to recognize the exceptional achievements made by Groundwork Hudson Valley, a nonprofit dedicated to organizing environmental projects driven by local residents and youth to revitalize communities from the ground up,” said Robert “Skip” Backus, chief executive officer at Omega and visionary behind the Omega Center for Sustainable Living.

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

“Groundwork is truly honored to be this year’s award recipient from the Omega Institute, for our work in changing places, and changing lives in the Hudson Valley. Much like the Omega Institute, our work focuses on transforming people, from the thousands each year who learn and grow on Groundwork’s amazing Science Barge to the young people we have mentored from neighborhoods in Yonkers and Newburgh that are changing their own communities and experiencing inspirational places like Yellowstone National Park. We are truly thankful for this recognition,” said Rick Magder, executive director of Groundwork Hudson Valley.

Founded five years ago, the 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.

People are invited to join the conversation about where we go from here on Twitter @Omega_Institute (conference hashtag #OCSL), and on

To see the complete schedule for the Where We Go From Here conference which runs from 9 a.m. on Friday October 24th to 12:30 p.m. Sunday, October 26th, 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 200 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.

About Groundwork Hudson Valley
For more than a decade, Groundwork Hudson Valley has been a dynamic force for change in distressed communities in the lower Hudson Valley. Groundwork works to make neglected neighborhoods more livable and sustainable through an array of on-the-ground environmental projects that directly involve local residents, especially youth.

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Omega Offers Hope to Veterans Suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

2 years 7 months ago

Experts on Complementary Treatment Options Join Health-Care Professionals to Share Proven Mind-Body Practices Helping Veterans

RHINEBECK, NY – The life-altering effects of post-traumatic stress often find expression in homelessness, domestic violence, addiction, suicide, and other issues at great cost to individuals, families, and our society. The scale and depth of the crisis calls for new approaches to treatment, a fact recognized by the United States Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration, which now actively support many mind-body modalities ranging from yoga to mindfulness practice. For more than 20 years, Omega has provided programs to support the healing of veterans and affected family members, including its 3rd annual Veterans, Trauma & Treatment conference, taking place October 17–19, 2014 in Rhinebeck, New York.

“Post traumatic stress disorder has reached epidemic levels among veterans. The side effects can be devastating not only to our veterans, but also to their families. Our conference brings together some of the most forward thinking experts in the treatment of veterans’ trauma who use complementary and alternative medicine, and also includes leaders in resilience studies. We know there are a number of highly successful treatment options and we want to get them into the hands of health-care professionals working directly with veterans, so they have every resource available,” said Carla Goldstein, chief external affairs officer.

The 3rd annual Veterans, Trauma & Treatment conference begins on Friday, October 17 at 8:00 p.m. and runs through Sunday, October 19th at noon. The weekend will include both keynote talks and breakout sessions. Health-care professionals, psychologists, social workers, caregivers, and counselors working with veterans suffering with PTSD and their families are welcome. Continuing education credits are available.

The conference features more than a dozen of the nation’s top experts, such as trauma specialist Bessel van der Kolk, best-selling author and addiction specialist Gabor Maté, MD, and former US army general Loree K. Sutton, MD, a psychiatrist who founded the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, and who was recently appointed New York City Commissioner of Veterans Affairs. This conference builds upon previous years’ events and offers the most current professional perspectives—delving deeper into leading-edge information on the same mind-body modalities that the military is currently exploring as a complement to traditional drug and talk therapy.

Conference Presenters Include:

Capt. Paul Anthony Halladay
Col. (ret.) E.C. Hurley, PhD, LMFT
Bessel van der Kolk, MD
Maj. Susan Lynch, JD, E-RYT
Gabor Maté, MD
Capt (fmr.) Elizabeth A. Stanley, PhD
Brig. Gen. (ret.) Loree K. Sutton, MD
Rev. Claude AnShin Thomas
Laurie Leitch, PhD
Beryl Bender Birch, E-RYT
and more

More Veterans Programs at Omega (October 19-24, 2014):

EMDR Therapy for Veterans: A 5-Day Professional Training, with Col. (ret.) E.C. Hurley, PhD, LMFT. EMDR is an evidence-based treatment approach proven to help military, veterans, and their families cope with PTSD and other trauma.

Healing From Military Trauma: A Retreat for Military Women & Women Veterans, with Maj. Susan Lynch, JD, E-RYT, Karen Soltes, and Andrea Lucie, MA. This retreat for military women and women veterans builds a safe and healing environment to face and release traumatic stress and increasing resilience.

Teaching Yoga & Mindfulness in Military Communities, with Robin Carnes, MBA, E-RYT 500, Annie Okerlin, RYT, and Lynn Stoller, MS, OTR/L, RYT. Learn advanced teaching skills for addressing combat-related conditions.

For more details or to register, visit or call 800.944.1001. A limited number of media passes are available to the Veterans, Trauma & Treatment conference. Photography restrictions may apply. To apply for a media pass, visit

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 200 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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Omega Joins 400,000 for People's Climate March

2 years 7 months ago

This past Sunday, September 21, an estimated 400,000 people took to the streets of Manhattan to show their support for strong action on climate change. The Omega Center for Sustainable Living was proud to take part with fellow marchers.

As an organization we joined with well over a thousand other businesses, unions, faith groups, and environmental organizations, all sending a clear message to the governmental leaders assembled this week during the United Nations Climate Summit: We need strong, scientifically meaningful, and decisive action on climate change. Our future and the future of our children depends on it. 

The People’s Climate March was by far the largest environmental demonstration in history, exceeding organizers’ expectations many times over. As cofounder and Where We Go From Here speaker, Bill McKibbentweeted:

“Remind any politician you see: this was the largest political gathering about anything in the US in a very very long time. About anything!”

To everyone who joined in, either in New York City, or in any of the hundreds of solidarity demonstrations around the world, thank you. 

Join Us! People’s Climate March • 9/21 • NYC

2 years 7 months ago
The People’s Climate March well may be the largest mobilization of people in history to urge our political leaders to take strong and (hopefully) legally binding action on climate change.
In New York City, just prior to the annual United Nations Climate Summit, and coinciding with the events of Climate Week NYC, the streets of Manhattan will be flooded with committed people concerned about their future, their children’s future, and the future of humanity and all life on this planet. 
The Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL) will be there. We hope you’ll join us, either in person in New York City, or in spirit at an event near you.
In the words of the event organizers:
“With our future on the line and the whole world watching, we’ll take a stand to bend the course of history. We’ll take to the streets to demand the world we know is within our reach: A world with an economy that works for people and the planet; a world safe from the ravages of climate change; a world with good jobs, clean air and water, and healthy communities.”
In supporting this historic event, the OCSL is partnering with over 1,000 businesses, unions, faith groups, and environmental organizations to urge world leaders, in both government and business, to take decisive, scientifically meaningful action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There is no time to lose.
Read more about the logistical details of the People’s Climate March. If you can’t make it to New York City, there are solidarity events organized around the nation and around the world. Please consider taking part in one, or organize one of your own.
Our deepest thanks, and, again, please join us in supporting this historic event. 

From the Classroom: Bringing Mindfulness to Kids

2 years 7 months ago

Susan Meyer, scholarship recipient at this year’s Mindfulness and Education Conference, called it a powerful gathering with like-minded educators in a recent blog post about her experience.

“For the past few years, I have felt like a fish out of water in the current educational environment and have questioned how much longer I can continue in the profession,” Meyer wrote.

She now feels invigorated to start the school year with a more conscious approach.

“One of the biggest realizations I brought home from the conference is that if you can’t control anything else in your school environment, the most basic step you can take is to maintain a daily mindfulness practice,” she wrote. “Even if I’m teaching in an environment that doesn’t actively embrace the benefits of mindfulness, I can do it in my room, in whatever capacity I can manage.”

Research continues to show the benefits of bringing mindfulness into classrooms to help both teachers and students cope with the stresses and demands of the education system.

“Teachers cannot solve the whole problem of fixing what is wrong with public education,” she wrote. “But because we are the ones on the front line, we need to cultivate self-compassion—so we can stay in the job!”

In her own classroom, Meyer has a single-person “Quiet Tent” where children can go to retreat for some down time. She now feels inspired to use it as a breathing space, where she can teach them more mindfulness techniques.

A World Where Every Girl Is Valued

2 years 7 months ago

The Chattanoogan recently covered an inspirational local school visit made by Jin In, a 2013 Omega Women’s Leadership Center (OWLC) Intensive and 2014 Women Serving Women Summit participant. 

Jin encouraged the students to vision “a world where every girl is valued and supported to realize her full potential” and “to shift fundamental mindsets and ignite tomorrow’s women leaders.”

For Jin, this is not an abstract notion but a deep call to action rooted in her own childhood, when her widowed mother moved them from Korea to the United States. Through a mentor in her youth, Jin learned that destiny is not determined by gender, but by actions. Now Jin is a mentor, spurring young women to believe that the most powerful force for change in the world is themselves.

Jin In has spoken to organizations and at conferences across the world and worked with the UN Commission on the Status of Women to promote the leadership of young women. She hopes that by speaking to young women directly, she is “passing the baton” to future leaders and change agents.

“The best foreign policy is to develop future leaders, and education is the best platform to teach leadership,” she says. 

Read the full article


ACTION ALERT: Omega & the Hudson Valley Need Your Help

2 years 8 months ago

Please help preserve the environmental health, cultural heritage, and beauty of the Hudson Valley. Every voice counts—especially now!

The state Public Service Commission (PSC) has released a proposed outline for moving forward new transmission line projects. The proposal basically starts the whole process over—without addressing any concerns raised by the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition (HVSEC) and its member organizations.

We have until Tuesday, September 2 (extension deadline), to tell the PSC there are big problems with this proposal!

In a nutshell, here’s what it contains:

By January 15, developers may submit their original plan, a modified plan or, with no obligation or incentive, an alternative that stays within existing rights-of-way.

Assisted by the New York Independent Systems Operator (NYISO), PSC staff will rank each plan based on six criteria, including amount of increased transfer capability, cost to ratepayers, new rights-of-way needed, and assessment of environmental compatibility, including visual impacts. The proposal gives no indication of how these criteria will be applied or weighted. The rankings, along with recommendations for which projects should proceed, will be submitted to the PSC by March 2, 2015. The public will have only three weeks to respond and comment on the recommendations. 

Under this proposal, 90 percent of the cost of any projects will be passed to downstate customers (including Dutchess County residents) and 10 percent to upstate customers. Furthermore, developers will suffer only 20 percent of the risk of going over budget—with ratepayers picking up the remaining 80 percent of the tab.

Here are HVSEC’s main concerns:

  1. Need. The proposal leaves off the table the question of need. To date, there has been no independent study taking into account trends in electricity usage, technological innovation, parallel generation, and advances in demand-side management. Instead, the process starts from an assumption of need.
  2. Context. There are currently many electricity-related projects and applications proceeding simultaneously in New York, each within its own “silo,” none being considered in the context of others. To avoid duplicative, inefficient, or unnecessary development, there should be a comprehensive state energy policy taking into account all of these initiatives.
  3. Uncertainty to property owners. Hudson Valley property owners will continue suffering economic harm from decreased property value, diminished farmland, stifled tourism, and an uncertain real estate market. The PSC is offering reimbursement to developers for their costs in creating proposals, but offers nothing to businesses, landowners, or communities taking an economic hit during this lengthy process.
  4. NYISO. Although the NYISO has the word “Independent” in its name, there are legitimate concerns about the transparency of its methods. Some feel NYISO’s makeup of previous electricity industry professionals inclines it to favor projects beneficial to the industry. Because this perception exists, NYISO should display maximum transparency regarding its evaluation process and methodology.
  5. Ranking. Although it is encouraging to see right-of-way usage, visual impact, and innovative technologies among the six criteria by which projects would be ranked, there is no mention of how the criteria would be weighted in the selection process. What might be most important to the PSC or NYISO could negatively impact the Hudson Valley’s economic vitality.
  6. Cost allocation. Based on cost allocation proposed in the new document, ratepayers in the area to be economically hardest hit by a new transmission project—the Hudson Valley—also must pay the lion’s share of the costs of selected projects, as well as the vast majority of cost overruns and likely all the expenses of unsuccessful applicants. Having the public assume 80 percent of the financial burden of cost overruns incentivizes developers to come in over budget and discourages efforts on their part to cut costs.

Time is short. This Tuesday, September 2 is the deadline for commenting on this new proposal via the PSC’s website.

We’ve created a shortcut for you. Log onto and click on “Post Comments” near the top of the page. You’ll be directed to a form where you can state your concerns.'

To submit comments electronically: You can post your comments here, and see others' comments here

Please don’t delay. Let the PSC know today that their current proposal does not address the major concerns of Hudson Valley residents.

Our deepest thanks.


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