Contemplative Photography & Reflections

Finding Beauty at Omega

I just returned from a truly nourishing and inspiring Mindfulness in Education conference at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York, thanks to a full scholarship funded by the 1440 Foundation. I will write about the conference itself in one or more separate posts. But for now, I want to share the beauty of the campus – for it, too, was inspiring.

Omega Institute for Holistic Studies is a non-profit educational retreat center located on 200 hilly acres in the Hudson Valley. Inspired by Sufi teacher, Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, it was founded in 1977 and is devoted to “awakening the best in the human spirit” through workshops, conferences, retreats, and online learning. A stream runs through the center of campus, and there are around 100 buildings, including a main hall, dining hall, cafe, bookstore, sanctuary, wellness center, yoga and movement spaces, cabin-like accommodations, and the Ram Dass Library (shaped like a lotus blossom). The use of cell phones is strongly discouraged in public areas, and I only noticed one person talking on a phone during my three days there.

The Sanctuary was my favorite area – my anchor – to which I returned repeatedly. Here is the entrance.

There is a tiny waterfall about halfway up the the winding stairs that lead to the Sanctuary. The waterfall is surrounded by space that invites creativity. Here are two arrangements that greeted me.

They set my own creative gears in motion.

There also was a basket of colorful, glittery word rocks – an invitation to play!

And play, I did! Although the mosquitoes made it very challenging to balance rocks, I did the best I could.

Here is one very simple balance that remained intact a full day later, despite a morning of torrential downpours. It’s the one that didn’t topple even though the acorn fell from its little perch (perhaps to be closer to the oak leaf?), and the “evolve” rock shifted off center.

Spirit-infused art is all over the place, including some tucked away surprises and others that are impossible to miss. Outside the Sanctuary is a large bell with a mandala composed of moss and other natural objects at the bottom of the stand.

It reminded me of the natural materials (“provocations”) teachers in Reggio Emilia schools put out for their students’ inquiry and exploration.

There are many calming Buddha statues around campus, including this lovely stone planter at the entrance to the garden (with a twin on the other side of the path).

One that’s easier to miss is located amidst pine trees in a small meditation garden at the center of the dorm area where I stayed. I love the interplay of spirit, art, and nature.

Here’s another one that’s tucked away near the heart of campus.

Arrangements such as these remind me to take a deep breath and return to my center. They invite peace and calm.

I was delighted to discover the classical style labyrinth located directly at the center of campus.

Perhaps my favorite image of all was what I found at the center of the labyrinth. It is customary to walk a labyrinth with some sort of purpose in mind. A person often will carry a small object to leave at the center, symbolic of letting go or some kind of intention. I found this collection of offerings fascinating.

Here’s a closer view (that doesn’t show the red lighter resting behind the coffee cup):

Looking at the offerings brought home the realization that nobody is ever alone in his or her suffering. We’re all in this game of life together.

Inspired by the spirit- and nature-infused art at Omega, I returned home enthusiastic about creating calming, centering spaces around our house. By the end of summer, I intend to transform our cluttered little home into a sanctuary. It is my August project. The truth is: We already have all the elements for creating such spaces. It’s a matter of utilizing them – and remembering to notice them in the first place! There’s nothing further to obtain. We just need to notice and enter into the space.

My husband and I have noted that our yard seems to read our minds and give us what we desire. This morning, I went outside to look at the morning glories that are popping up around the yard and found this:

It looked to me like a perfect frame for a mandala – so I ran with that idea!

Pausing for an art break, I realized that most of the items on my to-do list ultimately weren’t that important in the first place. I was putting too much pressure on myself to get things done! That’s part of the beauty of the creative process for me. It pushes a reset button and helps me to simplify my life.

I love being in places that inspire creativity!

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© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited.
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