Political chaos calls for creative problem solving measures. Henry Ford is credited with observing, 'If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got.'
Corinne McLaughlin, co-author of Spiritual Politics says, "People today are yearning for a political discourse that speaks to their deepest values as human beings, that provides a greater sense of community and a transcendent purpose as a nation, that offers us a higher vision of public life and service to the common good--rather than appealing only to greed and lust for power."
Omega Institute for Holistic Studies in Rhinebeck, NY, has been dedicated to offering an integrated approach to personal growth and social change for forty years. It serves as a hub for spiritual teachers, artists and social visionaries to map out their dreams for a better society. Omega's workshops are taught by world class experts in their fields, including Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Pema Chodron, Bobby McFerrin, Alex and Allyson Grey, and many others who have been active in crafting new paths toward a more sustainable future.
I've enjoyed a number of outstanding workshops at Omega over the last few decades. In addition to the scheduled workshop events (or instead of them, if attending for personal R&R) many other stress-reducing activities are available, including: hiking, swimming and canoeing at the lake, tennis courts, basketball hoops, a sauna, a labyrinth, the Ram Dass library and optional classes in yoga, meditation, tai chi, and movement - one of my favorites was the laughter yoga class! The relaxed atmosphere at Omega inspired my connection to an on-campus tree spirit -- see the results in my drawing shown at the end of this article.
These are the kinds of activities which prepare one for out-of-the-box problem solving. An example of Omega's creative thinking is their Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL) their cutting edge water reclamation facility which embodies their deep commitment to ethical sustainability.
Founded in 1977 by Eastern scholar Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, holistic medical doctor Stephan Rechtschaffen, and educator Elizabeth Lesser, Omega was conceived as a "university for lifelong learning," and today over 23,000 people per year attend Omega's hundreds of programs. Onsite visitor accommodations are no-frills, summer camp-style, ranging from tent camping to rustic cabins. Rooms do not have phones or televisions, and WiFi can be spotty, but after a couple of days, those things are definitely a plus.
They've recently hired an award-winning chef as an advisor to their kitchen, and it shows. And it is a delight to dine under the beauty of several group quilts, designed by Helema Kadir, which are on display in the dining hall.
The mostly organic food buffet is a dream-come-true for a gluten-free vegan, and includes fresh produce and salads from local Hudson Valley farms. Still, some folks passed that up for a burger and fries at the lovely little onsite cafe' - which also offers tasty gluten-free brownies!
Omega Institute is celebrating 40 years with some exciting new developments, and Omega's Manager of External Communications, Chrissa Santoro, kindly offered to share some details with us.
Meryl Ann Butler: Thanks for joining us, Chrissa. I enjoyed my visit to the Omega campus last summer, and was glad to hear about some of your new developments, including that Omega will be live streaming an upcoming event: Being Fearless: Action In a Time of Disruption. That sounds like something we really need in today's political climate, and you have an amazing group of presenters, including Amy Goodman, Van Jones, Sarah van Gelder, Opal Tometi, Sister Joan Chittister and others. Can you tell us more about it?