Omega Institute for Holistic Studies Is a “University of Life”

Health and Wellness Mind
Published July 30, 2012 at 7:50 am No Comments

Furthering your education, whether it be through attending college, taking online classes or participating in workshops, can help you gain important career skills. Where do people turn to gain the skills necessary for living a happy, meaningful life? Stephan Rechtschaffen, the co-founder of Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, a non-profit center for lifelong learning located in Rhinebeck, NY, pondered this question in the 1970’s after noticing that there were few opportunities for people to gain the skills to live well. He, along with co-founder Elizabeth Lesser, began planning a “university of life.” The center opened in 1977, and today, the Omega Institute welcomes over 23,000 people a year to classes, trainings and retreats designed to provide lifelong insight into living well.

When the idea for Omega took hold, the center was located in rented facilities. Soon the opportunity opened up for the co-founders of Omega to establish the Institute on the site of Camp Boiberik, a former Yiddish summer camp. Since acquiring the property, Elizabeth and Stephen have devoted themselves to creating a lasting and welcoming space for guests. They carefully restored the old facilities and added new buildings, including the Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL). The importance of operating the entire Institute as a sustainable facility, and teaching others how to live sustainably, has been an integral part of Omega.

While Omega has long offered programs taught by leaders in the environmental community, it is the addition of the OCSL and the daily sustainable practices carried out by Omega that show a true commitment to environmental stewardship. Through the OCSL, Omega operates a water reclamation facility together with a center that offers education on environmental concerns such as clean energy and green building. The facility itself earned both LEED Platinum certification and Living Building Challenge Certification, the first American building to do so. It houses a greenhouse-based water filtration system called the Eco-Machine, which recycles wastewater with the use of natural elements such as plants, bacteria and fungi. In addition, the building supplies all its own energy, uses geothermal heating and cooling, and is a carbon neutral operation. It also houses a classroom and a constructed wetland.

While the OCSL is a shining example of sustainability, Omega doesn’t stop there. The daily operations of the entire Omega campus offer the chance for the owners and staff to demonstrate how a large facility can be eco-friendly and have a reduced carbon footprint. On site recycling, composting and conservation help reduce waste, while all of the facility’s power needs are generated through wind and solar power. Vendors and purchased materials are considered carefully to ensure that the environmental impact is low. Omega attendees also have numerous opportunities to attend trainings and lectures focused on environmental issues and sustainable living.

Guests of the Omega Institute can expect to be treated to a wealth of classes and trainings on the body, mind, spirit, health and healing, creativity, fulfilling relationships, being part of a community and sustainability. In addition, guests may choose to come for the Omega Wellness Center, where they can relax and rejuvenate. Anyone interested in participating in the personal growth opportunities offered at Omega should be prepared for an experience far beyond just taking a class or attending a workshop. The goal of every program offered by Omega is first and foremost to teach and inspire with information about living well in all areas of life, but also for participants to feel encouraged, safe and authentic in everything they do. People who attend Omega leave with the sense that they can create a positive change within themselves, within their communities and within the world.

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