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The Omega Institute

(The third in a series of catch-up blogs inspired by a weekend at the Omega Yoga Service Conference.  Check out the first blog on Nikki Myers, Addiction and Authenticity or the second blog on Jnana Yogis, Kelly McGonigal and Bessel Van Der Kolk.)

Atmosphere informs much of our experience.  Being stressed out at a busy train station is a world away from feeling stressed in the middle of a field.  The physical spaciousness does wonders for our mental landscape, and suddenly those stress reactions seem to dissipate into the woods.

I’m uber grateful for the surroundings of The Omega Institute last weekend, which comes fully equipped with a world-renowned sustainable living center, sauna, forest, volleyball net, garden, library, meditation hall, delicious food, a lake, easy parking, and a whole lotta history of hosting brilliant events.

More on Omega

Omega is a place to explore the extraordinary potential that exists in all of us as individuals and together as a human family.

Omega was founded on the holistic worldview that the well-being of each of us is deeply connected to the well-being of all living things. Since 1977, we have offered diverse and innovative educational experiences that inspire an integrated approach to personal and social change. Omega, a nonprofit organization, continues to be at the forefront of human development. We nurture dialogues on the integration of modern medicine and natural healing; design programs that connect science, spirituality, and creativity; and lay the groundwork for new traditions and lifestyles.

Each year, more than 23,000 people attend workshops and educational programs delivered by hundreds of teachers, artists, healers, and thinkers on the leading edge of their disciplines. With special attention to our key initiatives in sustainability, women’s leadership, veterans care, and service, we bring awareness to issues that must be addressed in order for our society to heal and flourish.

Whether it’s a creativity workshop at our 200-acre Rhinebeck, New York campus, a yoga retreat in Costa Rica, or a conference in New York City, our lifelong learning programs provide tools for the art of living, and motivation to cultivate greater health, joy, and peace at home and in the world.




(The first in a series of catch-up blogs inspired by a weekend at the Omega Yoga Service Conference.)

There’s something thoroughly disarming about authenticity.

With no ulterior motives, no painting of facades, all you’re left with is pure, unadulterated self-ness.  Children have it down pat (a point not unrelated to the linguistic origins of the word ‘unadulterated!’) – they show up sans filters, developing brains and personalities blossoming right before our eyes.

Finding authenticity in an adult may come easy to some; if you’re in a position of service, medical, social or otherwise, you may find authentic people cross your path on a relatively regular basis.  Needing help is another distinctly disarming state of being.  Thinking back on my days working in the music and film industry – before I knew the first thing about satya (the yogic concept of truth in thought, word and action) – I found authenticity hard to come by.  It was one of the reasons I decided to focus on meatier endeavours.

Authenticity is pretty simple, as a concept.  The Oxford Dictionary defines authenticity as “of undisputed origin; genuine.”

The real deal, no fakers need apply.  Knowing where you came from and who you are.  Authenticity is all about walking your talk, your thoughts, words and actions in alignment.  It might sound easy, but so much wisdom sounds simpler than its application in real life, especially if you’ve spent years building protective walls, creating self-serving narratives, or trying to be someone you are not – in other words, being human.

As an adult, to be authentic requires a distinct knowledge of self, as in whole self, all those layers of thought, emotion, impulse, memory, physicality and vibe we’ve formulated over the years.  It takes mindful observation to become aware of how our “many selves” interact with one another and the external world, and then keen viveka (discernment) to determine what is “true” and what is not truly “self,” and where the contradictions in self might lie.  And even after all that work’s been done (well, it’s never really done!), then there’s the sometimes painful next step: transparency.  The process ebs and flows in a cyclical way, a never-ending life project of sorts – thank Jah for sangha!

DSC06601This weekend I had the joy of meeting Nikki Myers, a former addict who, despite her professional and academic achievements, experienced struggle after struggle keeping clean.  Nikki opened by making her “failures” just as known as her successes, because at the end of the day, everything we’ve done up until now has helped to bring us to where we are.

And where Nikki is now sounds pretty amazing.  She tours the country educating people about addiction and yoga, and is the director of a renowned yoga-inspired relapse prevention program for addicts in Indiana based on the 12 step program.  The workshop with her this weekend was full of heartfelt story-sharing, some of the science behind addiction, and an in-depth presentation of how yoga philosophy relates to addiction, its causes, symptoms and treatments.  The Y12SR program she created with her now ex-boyfriend is multi-substance, open to both addicts and their immediate circle, and references Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras specifically in both intention (“Future suffering can be avoided.” 2:16) and diagnosis (1:30).  Although we only got a trailer to the epic that is Nikki’s offering, I left the room feeling comforted in the depth and scope of her service .

That very same day was the birthday of my Aunty Gail, a former addict herself, who saved me from drowning when I was five years old, right on the beach in front of my grandmother’s house.  Aunty Gail passed away in her sleep due to complications with her prescribed psychiatric drugs.  I couldn’t help but wonder what might have been if I had known about yoga as a treatment for addiction 15 years ago.

But the past is the past, and the present is exactly that: a present.  Similarly, authenticity can be seen as a gift, an offering to your true self, and to whomever you cross paths with.  Allowing your unique light to shine isn’t always easy, until you’re willing to let go of ego’s firm grasp on pride or self-pity, or whatever else might be filtering your flow.    Through yoga we get there . . .

Shine on, sister, and thank you for the reminder.