Our recent webinar focused on programming this month and was hosted by Carol Donahoe, Director of Rhinebeck Programs, Omega Institute, and Leslie Hoffman, Director of Programs & Marketing, New York Open Center.
Peers from Hollyhock, BC, Le Monastere des Augustines, Quebec, Breitenbush Hot Springs, Oregon, Kashi Ashram, Florida, Institute of Noetic Sciences, California and Findhorn Foundation, Scotland joined the conversation. It became clear that the mission of each center informs our programming and we all have a unique niche in the world. Exploring the topics and themes that each organization values and is interested in offering helps create a framework that shapes the direction.
Established in 1985 in midtown Manhattan, the Open Center offers holistically-based educational programs to create positive transformation in individuals and the world. Leslie has a team of three full time programmers and with years of experience between them and a blend of intuition they create 450+ programs each year.
‘We look a year ahead in service to our community and the world’, she says. ‘We research who’s coming, review trends, follow popular culture and listen to guest feedback.’ Ranging in format and duration, 16,000 participants fill the six different classroom spaces in the unique position of being the largest and oldest urban center in the world.
- Workshops: Day-long, weekend and week-long
- Ongoing classes – multi-session programs:
Usually 4 – 6 weeks in length
- Professional Certifications and Trainings:
Timeframe ranging from 6 months to 2 years
- Public Events: usually around a book publication
Evening events often engaging 500+ at outside venues
In a population of 9 million people, Leslie asks, ‘Are we reaching others, beyond people attracted to spiritual and transformational workshops? There is a need to offer more pragmatic programming including leadership, communication and parenting.’
The Open Center faces strong competition, not just with other centers, but with the thousands of others activities that take place around the clock in ‘the city that never sleeps.’ Omega, in contrast, is a residential center nestled in 295 acres in the Hudson Valley. It was founded in 1977 with the vision to create a dynamic “university of life” designed to foster personal growth and social change.
‘There are other established centers around us,’ explains Carol. ‘When I began in this role over ten years ago, we went on scouting days as a team, asking can we take a tour, creating exchanges between us, and sharing our priorities as an organisation.’ As peers from Omega, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, the Garrison Institute and Open Center they became clear on how they’re different. ‘We’re not in competition, we’re working together. By knowing who we are, everyone else can do their own thing.’
Carol’s team starts to plan the program schedule 12-18 months in advance and they ask each other, ‘What are the trends? What do we need to be addressing? ‘We chose to respond to the current political climate by exploring how to show up in these challenging times and the path of ‘Being Fearless – Action in a Time of Disruption’.
Omega has 400 beds and 10 classrooms to fill during their May – October season. They offer 330+ programs in six different learning paths to 23,000 guests each year, in a range of formats.
- Workshops: Weekend, 5-day, 7-day, month long
- Professional Certifications and Trainings:
Timeframe ranging from 1 month to 9 months
- City events: Evenings or 1 day events
- Costa Rica 5 week winter program
- Live stream events from Rhinebeck campus
- Online/In-person programs
During the call we each shared the essence of our center. Hollyhock exists to ‘Inspire and nourish and support those who are making a change in the world.’ Kashi Ashram is an interfaith spiritual community ‘an oasis of the heart’. Le Monastere des Augustines, although a new center that opened only two years ago, rests on the 400 year lineage of the Augustinian sisters caring for body and soul and blends an interest in culture and heritage with health and wellness.
Breitenbush Hot Springs, a community of 100 people serving over 27,000 guests each year deep in the wilderness, is completely off the grid and generates their own electricity and heat. Their mission is ‘To provide a safe and potent environment where people can renew and evolve in ways they never imagined.’ Half the guests attend workshops, the other half come for personal retreats, sharing a deep immersion in nature. Workshops fall into the themes of wisdom practices, yoga and meditation, creativity and there’s a desire to attract business people through holistic leadership and ways of being too.
Earthrise, the retreat center of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, is a semi rural retreat center just 30 miles north of San Francisco. 120 people can stay on site and connection with the land is fostered through hiking trails on 194 acres of rolling hills and multiple sitting areas for quiet contemplation. Earthrise holds space for transformation, hosting 180 groups each year, approx 5000 people, and seeks to blend science and education together, using guests as the subject for research as they develop their own programming.
The Findhorn Foundation is a center of holistic learning, within a spiritual community and ecovillage setting on the Findhorn peninsula in the far north of Scotland. Established over 50 years ago, 100 core programmes are offered each year focusing on the founding principles and community living, approx 55 workshops and one or two conferences a year, and 25 bespoke programmes tailored to a range of groups. The focus is on personal and spiritual growth, health and wellbeing, nature and sustainability and approx 2000 people participate in workshops each year with thousands more day visitors to the community. The majority of programmes are held by by co-workers and faculty, with workshops offered by external focalisers as well.
The location, mission and values create a unique canvas for each center to develop it’s programming. We range in size and offerings and yet each one exists to serve the transformation of people and the planet, and offer a sense of meaning to all those involved in running these centers day by day.
The spirit of collaboration runs through our calls, we learnt more about each others centers, met other team members, beyond those who are able to attend the annual Centers Gathering each year, expanding our collective wisdom and experience.
- Breitenbush: 27,000 guests in workshops and retreats, remote
- Omega: 330+ programs, 23,000 participants, May – October, rural
- Open Center: 450+ programs, 16,000 participants, urban
- Earthrise: 180 groups, 5,000 guests, semi-rural
- Findhorn Foundation: 180+ programs, 2,000 participants, peninsula
- Hollyhock: 100+ social learning programs and conferences, remote
With each webinar we work together and develop an integrative approach to our work in the world, strengthening the holistic movement and exploring our hopes and challenges in practical ways. Follow up calls and connections unfold as we reach out to our peers on the journey of mutual learning and support.