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Omega Institute
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Reviewed August 6, 2013

THE OMEGA CLASS:

Signed on for Lynda Barry's Writing the Unthinkable class (late July 2013), which was ten-force excellent. (See her book "What It Is" and her Near-Sighted Monkey tumblr feed for more.) I can't say enough good things about Barry, her teaching methods or this particular class, comprised of 70 bright lights, eager minds and outgoing personalities, some of whom have become my friends and who made the experience even more joyful than I expected. If you go--and no matter what Omega class you take---expect that you'll connect with similar minds and that you'll come home refreshed and boosted and ready to tackle life's next chapter.


OMEGA OVERALL:

What I didn't expect was Omega itself. While the campus grounds are kept nicely enough, room and board are overpriced and disappointing. Actually, they're pretty bad.

The campus sprawls over several hillside acres that give onto a lake, the acreage kept up well enough with gardens and wide, paved paths which makes walking easy. The lake is lovely, though the lakeshore itself is shaggy and is in need of some serious grooming, and furniture and equipment replacement. The buildings in which classes are held are, for the most part, newly constructed and well maintained and air-conditioned. But air-conditioning is more a concept than a reality. It's quite humid in this area of the country and it can get beastly hot in summer. The cooling capacity of the compressors and the air exchange systems seem inadequate to meet demand, which means classroom air quickly becomes stale and oppressive. Whenever possible, take a seat near a door through which you can make a quick escape or a window you can open. You'll be just fine, if you can open a window!

THE ROOM:

As for my cabin room, the one I slept in, it was pitiful. Pitiful. I booked the most expensive accommodations, a single room with a private bath, since I was new to Omega and traveling alone, but this was a waste of money. I found no bedbugs in my room, thankfully---nor, by the way, did I hear reports of any bedbug problem when I was there---but all the fixtures in my cabin room were worn and dirty, the sheets and towels questionable (I'd brought my own and would advise you do likewise), the toilet seat split and peeling, the venetian blinds in need of replacing, the shower stall dank and moldy and there was quite a collection of dead bugs on the cabin's little porch that evidently hadn't met with a broom all season.

I had the chance to take a peek at some of the other "dorm" accommodations and those were newer and seemed a bit better and were cheaper and thus likely a better value. But picture a railroad boxcar divvied up into half a dozen rooms the size of monks' cells with only curtain walls between. The bath, while new and more or less clean, is still communal. Pretty spartan--and you can indeed hear everthing between those curtain walls! These dorm rooms consist of a single bed, a night table, a chair and a hanging rack, plus a light fixture and a window. Well, that's finally all you need, but a litle more privacy would have been a plus!


THE FOOD:

Now to the dining hall. An abomination. It's a big old worn hall in serious, serious need of an upgrade to say nothing of a cleaning! This is a cafeteria-style feed but there are no trays, oddly, which means a balancing act of plates as you try to assemble a meal from the offerings, such as they are. Skip the glasses and the mugs---they either still have lip smudges along the rims or are stained with coffe or tea---and go right to the paper cups. Thankfully, eco-sensitive that it is, Omega still offers paper cups! As for the plates, the bowls and the utensils, I took my chances, though I found myself scrubbing my forks often enough with the paper napkins before eating. The meals consist mainly of tofu in one form or another, greens that have had the daylights boiled out of them, unadorned beans, or salty miso thick with mushrooms. Breakfast was the easy meal--cereal, toast and various additions, boiled eggs, plus some sort of mixture called "tofu scramble" I hope I never see the likes of again.

Lunch and dinner were interchangably tasteless. One meal involved what they called "gumbo" but which had evidently not been made with a roux and contained no seafood and which would have had my New Orleans relations howling had they had a taste of it.

All of this was really inexcusable given that the kitchen had started out with some pretty fine ingredients. Omega likes to boast that it's supplied by the local farmers, and while that may be true enough---there were, thankfully, fresh salad greens for most meals---I'd like to know what the heck happened to all that good stuff between delivery from the farm and delivery to the table. The kitchen is what happened, and what happened in there only God knows! Strangely enough, the Culinary Institute of America operates its campus not far from Omega's. Oh, if only the two could get together, if only some CIA cook-in-training could lend a hand in Omega's kitchen!

My room and board at Omega cost, roughly, $250 a day. Which was ridiculous. Had I gone the "dorm" route, it would have been considerably less, but I still would have been stuck with the inedible meals. Next time, if I do indeed go back to Omega, I'd stay at a local b&b--and there are several good ones in the area--and just commute to the campus. That would be money better spent.


PACKING FOR OMEGA:

Given all of this, let me make you a quick list of what you should pack for Omega:

--Along with the regular toiletries, don't forget SOAP! They don't supply bar soap, so bring your own. And TOILET PAPER.

--BUG SPRAY. Necessary in any outdoor setting, of course, though there were fewer bugs at Omega than I expected & I never actually had to use the spray. If you stay on the paved paths, which really are wide and nicely maintained, you should be okay, but this is still a woodland setting so check yourself often for ticks.

--SHEETS AND TOWELS

--WALKING SHOES The campus is hilly and spread over many acres, so pack some comfy footwear.

--FLASHLIGHT

--PERSONAL FAN My cabin room was not air-conditioned but it did, blessedly, have a ceiling fan. As far as I know, no accommodations have AC & I'm not entirely sure that every room has a fan, so pack your own. Expect to be hot, and if you have a problem with the heat, be sure to carry plenty of water!!

--WATER BOTTLE There's a spigot in the cafe (separate from that awful dining hall) where you can fill up with fresh spring water for free---tastes quite good & is a nice extra. You can buy a water bottle in the cafe, but cheaper & easier to bring your own container.

Good luck!

Room Tip: Choose an Omega class & just go! You probably won't be disappointed & in fact may come home inspired! But as far as Omega accommodations go, hmmmm, oh, boy, think twice. Book a local b&b or hotel instead.
  • Stayed: July 2013, traveled solo
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27  Thank Caroline005
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 5, 2013

Campus beautiful, rooms nice, clean, but hot in summer in the no AC rooms! Beds comfortable.. brought egg crates, and didnt use them. Food delicious.. Its like holistic sleep away camp for adults! LOVED!

  • Stayed: July 2013, traveled solo
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4  Thank jo8468
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 31, 2013

I had attended a workshop at Omega in July 2011 and stayed on campus. It was quite hot and the fan at night didn't really cool things off. This year I stayed at the Pampered Bed and Breakfast less than 2 miles from campus and enjoyed having air conditioning at night and a bathroom that was shared with only one other room.
My 5 day workshop "Awakening your Authentic Soul Signature" with Panache Desai was very inspiring and relaxing. Between classes, I spent time in the library, which is a restful and beautiful space that also offers air conditioning. I enjoyed the vegetarian meals in the dining hall and found plenty of good things to eat. It was fun sharing meals with people from many different places who were attending a variety of workshops from Brian Weiss to Iyanla Vanzant.
I tried the Tai Chi class several mornings and also enjoyed the meditation class in the beautiful sanctuary. I came home feeling refreshed.

  • Stayed: July 2013, traveled with friends
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8  Thank Peggy K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 16, 2013 via mobile

This was my 1st visit to Omega and I will try to come back. I did a yoga weekend retreat and it was great. The campus is very nice and not having electronics around or good cell service made it better in my opinion. I was able to touch base with home briefly and that was good enough. The food is very good and the staff was nice. The only negative was the bathrooms in my dorm were dirty (mildew on the shower) and too small. It is summer camp for adults!

  • Stayed: July 2013
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3  Thank JBrenn232
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 8, 2013

I went to Omega after many years absent. I only live 17 miles away, but that's life. Anyway my experience was excellent. I did a week long writers workshop that was awesome. I love the open, airy aspect of campus. Lots of space to walk about, nothing is more than a short walk away. The dining hall was good - food veggie/vegan with some animal protein choices. Some of the entrées offered were real winners, others ok. The chef could kick it up a notch, but all in all I had good meals. The lake was nice to swim, clean with lots of amenities on shore to help you enjoy (lounge chairs, kayaks). The Stillwater Pavilion nearby was the location of my workshop and my morning intermediate yoga class. Lovely venue. They do not have as extensive a yoga program as Kripalu, the two often being compared in reviews. Aside from a similarity in program offerings, they are two different animals in my opinion. My morning class was more than adequate, as I was participating in a workshop. The evening activities were fun - a film, a concert, a workshop sampler evening. Cell service I am told is spotty. I wasn't troubled by it as I shut off my phone the 5 days I was there. There is wifi at the café. I liked the café. It was the lively, loud spot with some fine goodies to eat and drink and opportunities for striking up conversations. I feel constrained to point out to those of you reading reviews about Omega that this is NOT a resort. It's a summer camp for the alternate crowd, the seekers, the creators, you know - earthy folks. If cell service and A/C are things of import to you or if you need to be entertained and stimulated constantly, I would seek other venues, not Omega. Time alone entertaining yourself is easy to find here. The employees and volunteers were very kind and they work hard. By the way I'm a birdwatcher and the birds on campus are awesome. Happy trails.

Room Tip: The double cabin rooms with private bath are very spacious and clean. I was expecting to be assigned a room mate, but none materialized. Bonus.
  • Stayed: July 2013, traveled solo
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6  Thank Ewelch2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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