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Learn Something New at the Omega Institute

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A few months back I was lucky enough to attend a two-day writing workshop in San Francisco with the author of one of my favorite books of all-time. The author’s name is Lynda Barry and the book is Cruddy. If you haven’t read it, then please go out and get it right now. And if you have read it, then you know why I was so excited she was teaching a writing workshop.

That first workshop went so well that when I found out Lynda was doing a five-day class this summer, I signed up immediately. The only hitch was that it was in New York and not even NYC, which would be easy to get to, but upstate NY at a place called The Omega Institute. This meant logistics and planning and, as it turns out, vegetarian meals for a week.

Omega is basically a summer camp for adults. The week I attended was Arts Week, so besides Lynda’s class, people could select workshops in West African Dance, Mask Making, Gospel Singing, Tap Dance, Trapeze Artistry, etc. And all of them (except my class luckily) performed at the week’s conclusion ala Waiting For Guffman. And although I didn’t expect to enjoy it, I did. I really did. Especially the trapeze performance. Ballsy (in more ways than one)!

The Institute itself consists of a few basic buildings for lodging where you have your choice of camping (I don’t think so!), sharing a big fat wide-open dorm room (nope), getting your own private room in a dorm with a shared bathroom (more my speed), or getting a cottage all to yourself (reasonably priced, but not necessary). No matter which option you choose, it doesn’t matter too much because you won’t be in your room very often anyways.

That’s because in addition to whichever workshop you sign up for, there are a million other things to do and most of them are included in the lodging fee. Tai chi, yoga, meditation, kayaking, swimming, tennis, even a “movement” class where you can pretend you’re a snake writhing around on the ground to music. Yes, if you haven’t already guessed, Omega is a crunchy granola type of place. In fact, it wouldn’t be a misnomer to refer to it as Hippie Village. I know I did.

But with the lushness of the property, the serenity of the lily pad covered lake and the twinkly, blinky fireflies, you’ll find yourself willing to overlook all that. Plus, hippies really know how to relax. To that end, I partook of two spa treatments at their Wellness Center while I was there. One craniosacral massage (I’ve been meaning to try this out for a while. Eh.) and one shiatsu massage (a little rushed, but decent).

The only real blemish was the food, which is also included in your fee. As you know, I’m a meat-eater and while I saw it as an interesting challenge to eat veggie for five days, after the second day I wanted to go find a cow in a nearby pasture and suck on its hide just to experience some flavor. I mean, c’mon veggies, is it so hard to add salt to a dish? Just shake your wrist like you’re playing the tambourine. The funny thing is, there was a “bland food” section where you could get greens or beans or whatever that weren’t cooked with any seasoning at all and I couldn’t imagine any of those options tasting much different than what I got.

Even so, I left Omega with a warm, cozy feeling that’s still with me even a few days later. If you’re on the East coast and trying to get away for even a weekend, I’d recommend taking a look at their schedule. They offer a wide variety of program options and if you don’t feel like doing a damn thing, they also offer a Rest and Relaxation Retreat so you can just do as you please for however long you feel pleased to do it.

And it should go without saying, if you want to learn a fantastic and simple writing method taught by one of the funniest, most self-deprecating genius authors/cartoonists of our time, then sign up for Lynda’s class next year. Or check out her site to see if she’ll be coming to your town soon. If she’s not (and even if she is), pick up a copy of her brand new book, What It Is, which explains her method and incorporates her signature drawing and collage-style artwork. Totally fun to read! And inspiring for the lil’ writer inside of you who is patiently waiting for that “someday” when you take your talent seriously.

Travel Betty Basics
Omega Institute: Rhinebeck, NY

Rhinebeck Taxi
You can rely on them to pick you up when they say they will and you’ll also have a pleasant time chatting with your driver.

I caught the Omega shuttle up from NYC, but on the way back I had to take a taxi, the train, the subway, the AirTrain, and then my flight. Shwew! But Amtrak was quite delightful.


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