We love to hear recommendations for places, events, and foods to try, so when a friend of Jersey Shore Style mentioned how much she loves the Omega Institute located in upstate New York, we were intrigued. Her once-a-year outing was a recharge for the heart and soul.
Omega Institute is a 40-year old non-profit that offers retreats, workshops, and events, covering topics such as body, mind and spirit, health and healing, relationships and family, creative expression, and more.
After a look at Omega’s website and events calendar, we booked a weekend getaway. We signed up for a meditation class, Insight into Meditation, led by Matthew Daniel of the Insight Meditation Center in Newburyport, Massachusetts
Tip #1 when visiting Omega Institute: Get there before dark.
Our weekend getaway started as we had hoped it wouldn’t: late. We resolved that next time we would finish packing at least the day before and load as much as possible in the car in advance to make the departure day just a little easier and smoother.
Omega is located in the sticks of Rhinebeck, New York, close to a 3-hour drive from exit 98. We arrived just as dark descended. We didn’t know we were going into the sticks, but soon realized this as the roads narrowed and the only light was emanating from our trusty Ford Escape.
The further north we ventured, the fewer cars we saw on the road.
Then there were none.
Navigation was guiding us, but there was a sense of fear as the sky got dark — very dark. What if navigation got it wrong? What if we were going into the boonies in the wrong direction?
We passed occasional homes and farmhouses. Then, the road narrowed even more as we curved around the mountainside. Driving speed was a slow 20 mph.
GPS said we were almost there. Almost where? We were in the middle of nowhere and stress was in the car. Then our headlights shined onto something.
A man walking.
A man walking?! What the wha?
We shrieked! But only on the inside, of course. We had to keep it together, after all. But how many more were there? Was he alone? He looked alone. But was he?
Head down, he didn’t pay attention to us — or to anything for that matter. He was there but somewhere else, it seemed.
We carried on, as slow as a snail — still to Lord-knows-where.
Then, in a matter of seconds, we saw the sign — we arrived at Omega.
Still spooked, we had yet to see what we arrived at. There’s no hotel-looking resort. There’s no massive building with lights all around.
The road to Omega, behind a forest of trees, led us to an oversized gravel parking lot, lit up just fine, with a platform of REI-clad helpers smiling to see our arrival.
White-knuckled, it was nice to see the smiling faces welcoming us in the cool fall night.
“Can we take your bags?” One of the happy campers asked.
No stranger danger here, but still, do we just hand our bags to anyone?
“Naw, we got it. Thanks!” — just like we do anywhere else. We had two little suitcases, on wheels. No biggie.
We parked our car 5 rows down, grabbed our bags, extended the handles, and quickly realized that wheels and gravel don’t mix.
No problem. We can hand-carry. And for the first few rows, no problem.
By the time we reached the platform, those suckers were getting heavier by the step. We opted to give them to the friendly folks for routing to our cabin — 6B. (An instant indicator of how intimate this place is. There are no 3- or 4-digit room numbers here. The onetime summer campground still maintains the campy look and feel.)
Grateful to be free from the baggage — always a nice thing — we headed over to check-in, which was brimming with staff at 7pm. Check-in was smooth. We were given a map of the grounds and directions for finding our cabin and the dining hall, since we had arrived in time for dinner, which is served a little later on Fridays.
We were so happy.
We headed out to the dining hall, staring at our map like tourists, and got lost within a matter of seconds. We weren’t the only ones, as we soon found out. Fortunately, there are worker-bees riding golf carts to help you get on your merry way.
Tip: Arrive early to get familiar with the grounds at Omega. Wear comfortable shoes because you’ll do a lot of walking. And when you walk the grounds, take your time. The area is beautiful and you just may see some miraculous things like conjoined plant life, as we discovered!
Hungry after the long car ride, we were ready to get a hot meal. Not just any hot meal though, a great one. Not just any great one, but one made with the type of ingredients that we like to buy and use at home — organic, locally sourced, non-GMO. You know… the good-for-you food. And not just good for you, but good-tasting, with flavors that make you want seconds.
Luckily. Gratefully. Thankfully, this was the food at Omega Institute.
The dining hall at Omega is a well-stocked buffet, staring with organic salad greens with all the toppings, followed by several main dishes to choose from, vegetarian and vegan, ending with desserts, teas, and coffee. The main entrees are different every day, and there’s ample selection depending on your diet and taste. The meal ticket that comes with accommodations includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A cafe is also available for in-between meals or for those visiting the grounds for the day.
R&R or Workshop
Omega offers a choice of R&R and workshop retreats. There’s a lot to do with an R&R (rest and relaxation) retreat: a whole lot of nothing, which can be everything.
We haven’t graduated to that level yet. When we go on a retreat, it’s jam-packed with activities.
Most workshops at Omega take place on Friday after mealtime. Our meditation class was about a dozen people, ranging from the experienced to newbies like us. Over the course of the weekend, we found that experience, or lack thereof, was irrelevant. Insight into Meditation is about using the time and space around you to allow yourself to settle into a meditation, without the Oms or the music to get you there. Just close your eyes and give yourself permission to meditate.
Our instructor taught us how to allow ourselves to meditate while sitting or walking. We used the sound of the birds, the reflection of the sun, the beauty of the trees to ease us into a state where thoughts could enter, but not disrupt. We learned that instead of shooing them away, we could find peace within them.
The meditation workshop filled our Friday evening, our Saturday, and our Sunday morning. In between the sessions, we ate well and took advantage of the activities available, including tai chi and dance movement classes. We also enjoyed the beautiful library on the grounds.
Saturday evenings are also filled with activities and we were treated to a special musical ensemble. On Sunday, we toured the grounds, walked the labyrinth — putting our walking meditation to use — and went on a brief hike. (Brief because the markers ended and we didn’t want to get lost, so we turned around halfway through.)
Birds of a Feather
The first day of this wonderful adventure, we knew no one. By day three, we saw familiar faces everywhere we went and felt an instant camaraderie. Birds of a feather are drawn together. It’s comforting to surround yourself with those of your own tribe — the people that do the things you love.
Finding what those things are is a labor of love. Sometimes it happens overnight, other times it takes nurturing and patience — patience to experiment and pursue the things that make you giggle and shine on the inside and out. When you find these things, go to the places and events where your tribes gather to share them.
Omega Institute is one of these places for us.
Some time has passed since our visit to Omega, and the feeling of the meditation and time at the grounds is still with us. The sound advice we received for starting our meditation practice at home has also stayed with us.
Has it helped? Absolutely! We’ve learned how to incorporate meditation into our daily activities, even chores: wax on, wax off.
Have we meditated as we did at Omega? Nope! But one day we will, and that for us, is ok.
Until next time, peace!