As a kid, I loved going to summer camp –– the camaraderie, the sense of adventure, the trying on of new experiences to see how they “fit.” Maybe that’s why spending a few days at the Omega Institute –– a kind of New Age summer camp for grownups in New York’s Hudson Valley –– held such appeal.
But instead of archery or swimming lessons, Omega’s “campers” get to experience a plethora of classes and programs on wellness and spirituality.
Even if your idea of a retreat is to nap and read lots of books, Omega, with its 190 wooded-acres and many inviting hammocks, makes for a relaxing –– and unpretentious –– weekend getaway.
My friend and I, both wanting plenty of downtime, decided to steer clear of formal workshops. Instead, we opted for a two-day R&R Retreat, which includes accommodations, all meals and daily “open” classes in yoga, meditation, tai chi and movement. Rates, based on a basic dorm-style room, start at $278 for the two-night inclusive experience, but in September and October will be about 20 to 25 percent less, because Omega is waiving the daily program fee.
Omega’s summer camp vibe was apparent from the minute we were greeted by luggage taggers, who also provided our assignments to our basic, dormitory-style rooms. No coincidence: Omega is based on the grounds of a long-closed Rhinebeck, N.Y., summer camp, so many of the facilities date from the 1950s and earlier, while others are more recent additions.
The dorms are not air-conditioned and have shared bathrooms, but more deluxe private rooms with air-conditioning and private baths are available.
I found the classes to be worthwhile, especially a session on meditation chakras, and also enjoyed canoeing on the lake; browsing the 7,000-volume Ras Dam Library; visiting Omega’s Asian-inspired meditation sanctuary, and attending evening programs, such as a folk-pop concert and a screening of a documentary film.
As someone who’s not always so fond of her veggies, I was surprised by how much I liked the food. The meatless, dairy-free meals featured a tasty mix of traditional –– steel cut oatmeal and scrambled eggs each morning –– and creative items –– lentil meatloaf, and potato and pesto pizza.
Desserts are only offered on nights that have the letter “T” in them, but fresh fruit is plentiful at every meal. The dining hall, with its large circular tables inside and on the porch, also gave us a chance to mingle with the other guests.
For those looking to mix up their diet, a Wi-Fi-accessible café offers reasonably priced, non-vegetarian meals, snacks and ice cream.
While on campus, I also perused the offerings at the massive bookstore, which is seemingly stocked with every kind of self-help book, CDs and clothing and checked out the unisex sauna (included in the standard rate). There’s also a pay-as-you-go Wellness Center with facials, massages and other services.
For me, Omega offered a quick recharge that was as easy on the wallet as it was on the mind. It turned out to be a great way to unwind in a setting that’s visually beautiful and spiritually refreshing, without me once having to sing, “kumbaya.”