September 11, 2010

MCS Travel Review: The Omega Institute from an MCS Perspective

This post is a departure from my usual style of sharing MCS improvements and victories
If you are not considering to visit the Omega Institute and you are using a healing tools such as Shifting Focus, Amygdala Retraining or Dynamic Neural Retraining, I suggest that you either skip this post entirely or read only the 'Pros' list.

In August, I visited the Rhinebeck campus of the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies.
It was a wonderful trip and a true celebration of how much I have healed.

MCS has improved for me to the point that I had few issues on this trip, however, I am still sensitive enough that I was able to take note of the things that would have been issues when I was worse.
So instead of focusing on my own improvements, like I usually do, in this post I will share lists of Pros, Cons, Tips and list of Possible Issues by Building.
I hope that it will be helpful for others with MCS who may be considering attending the Rhinebeck campus of the Omega Institute.


  •  Other than the parking lot, the entire campus and lake are free from motorised vehicles.  For internal staff transport, bicycles or battery powered carts are used.  On big arrival and departure dates, a minivan was used a few times to transport items from the parking lot to accommodation - but only when they were too large to take on the carts.  The small country road that runs through the middle of the campus is extremely low traffic.  I saw about one vehicle an hour at most.
  • I was pleasantly surprised at how fragrance-free most of the staff and many of the guests were.  On over 90% of the staff, I didn't smell a single scented product.  Overall, the guests were far less scented than most people I encounter.
  • Linens, towels etc as well as staff clothing are cleaned with fragrance-free detergent and no fabric softener.  This was awesome because it meant that none of the staff smelled 'like laundry'.  Due to the brilliant way that wastewater is treated at this location, the laundry products used need to be as free from chemicals as possible.  As of August, 2010, there was no fabric softener used and the detergent was Seventh Generation Free and Clear.  I would check that this is still the case if it is an important factor for you.
  • There is only one smoking area on the entire campus.  Other than that, the entire campus, including camping areas and trails, is smoke-free.  I only smelled smoke once, distantly, the whole time I was there.
  • There are no fires or camp stoves allowed in the camping areas.  Also not allowed is the burning of mosquito coils, torches or similar.
  • The Dining Hall had so many different food options available that many food sensitivities could be accommodated.  Gluten free bread was always available (but not a dedicated GF toaster).
  • The food was delicious, plentiful and healthy, with many organic options.  The herbal teas are Numi brand that does not have 'flavour' as an ingredient.  Available sweeteners include stevia, agave, honey and raw sugar.  There are herbal tea, tea, milk, coffee, water and unsweetened juice available at every meal.
  • There are many different drinks and snacks available at the cafe.  many of them cater to different food sensitivities with gluten free and sugar free options.
  • For those who need meat due to health issues, there are meat options available at the cafe.
  • You do not need to make a purchase to sit in the cafe.
  • Free internet access in cafe with 3 computers available for guests.


  • The most important issue for many will be that, in early spring, the grounds are treated with pesticides to kill ticks.  I know myself well enough to know that, by August, I would be totally fine with this so I didn't bother asking what was used.  If this is an issue for you, I would suggest doing more research into what pesticides are used, how long it takes them to degrade etc.
  • There is not an enforced fragrance-free policy.  Some staff and guests did wear perfume or essential oils.  Other guests will smell of whatever laundry products they normally use.  This could be effected by what workshops are happening that week.
  • Some people use bug spray and sunblock.
  • Hilliness.  If fatigue or exercise are issues for you, this could be a big challenge.  If you are camping, the 'lake camping' involves less hill climbing to get around than the appropriately named 'hill camping'.
  • The bookstore, which is full of wonderful things, smells very strongly of incense, which is sold there.  I didn't ask if they also burn it there but it definitely smelled as though they do.
  • Water is chlorinated. Even the drinking water, which is well water, tasted chlorinated to me.
  • Flourescent lights are used in various buildings.
  • Once a week, the grounds are cut with lawnmowers and weedwackers that have exhaust fumes.  You can ask what day this happens and plan your visit around it if needed.  It's also an option to spend time in one of the safe-for-you buildings or on the trails while it is happening.
  • For those with extensive food limitations, protein options are mainly soy, legumes, beans, dairy, nuts or eggs.  You can get meat dishes at the cafe if that is your only tolerated protein source.

  • You can request to be matched with an intake staff who is not scented.  You can also call ahead of time and request that there be a fragrance-free intake person on the day of your arrival and can then ask for them by name.  If they try to tell you that all of their staff are unscented, I can tell you it's not true. 
  • You can request that your intake be done outside of the Main Office building (ask for the side further from the parking lot).
  • If you encounter someone smoking, burning mosquito coils or torches or using a campstove, you can ask them to stop, informing them that those activities are not allowed.  If this doesn't work or you aren't comfortable doing it, you can let a staff person know it is happening and request that they put an end to it.
  • They do have some degree of awareness about chemical sensitivities so if someone in your workshop is wearing something that bothers you, you can likely have it addressed.
  •  If you have food sensitivities, don't forget to check the counter along the wall at the top of the room.  It often had special things like plain grains (rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth) ad unseasoned vegetables and legumes as well as fruit.
  • To avoid being stuck in line near possibly scented people at meals, you can come early.  The doors never opened early for breakfast but they did for all of the other meals.
  • There is a fridge for guests in the staff lunchroom.  You can ask for containers to fill with food from the buffet and then come back later to eat what you set aside.  Or you can bring small amounts of your own safe food.  Labels are with tape and permanent marker (smelly) so you may want to write your own labels ahead of time to avoid having to use the marker.
  • You can use the Virtual Tool option on their website to see 3D views of the inside of many of the buildings. (click on the orange triangles)
  • If you are on an R&R Retreat, you may like to plan your visits to buildings or the lake to coincide with the times that the main workshops are happening.  That way, there will be far less people there.

Possible Issues by Building (I will put 'unknown' if I didn't test it out)

Main Office/Registration: bathroom has either air freshener or fragrance oil sticks, staff may be scented.
Lake Theater: excellent 
Stillwater Yoga Pavilion: unknown
Omega Center For Sustainable Living: unknown
Bookstore: very bad incense fumes - most things bought there would be permeated with the smell.
Cafe: Wi-fi internet access, fumes from roasting coffee at times, cooking odors.  Once I smelled incense or sage (if it happens, you can ask them to stop). At other times, I found it quite good.  Hardwood floors.
Guest Services (below Cafe):  quite good
Ram Dass Library: mostly carpeted but I can't judge how bad it was because I didn't react to it.  Could not smell 'carpet' smell.  Bathroom awful - had fragrance oil sticks.  I complained so this may have been changed.  Some fumes from bathroom do travel upstairs but there are a few little balconies up there you could take books out onto.
Main Hall: carpet, padded gym mats stacked at sides of room (or spread out depending on workshop).  I was fine with both of these so am not able to judge how bad they would be for others.  I could not smell 'carpet' smell.
Dining Hall: excellent.  hardwood floor, open windows, option to take your food outside to eat either on the deck, at picnic tables or anywhere you want! 
Movement Studio: unknown
Sanctuary: unknown (but from the pictures it is carpeted).
Wellness Center: unknown but I suspect essential oils and possibly incense and/or moxibustion.  Spa and facial chemicals.
Sauna: unknown (you could ask what kind of wood was used, what is used to disinfect)
Children's Center: unknown
Dorms and Cabins: unknown
Tent 'Cabins': unknown (but there definitely could be mold)
Hill Camping: leaf mold, sites on a slant
Lake Camping: few or no places to attach a tarp
Lake: other people's sunblock (but I found much less sunblock smells than a regular beach)
Outdoors in General: mostly excellent but avoid woody areas if you react to leaf mold.

Bathrooms: at times, many of them had a smell that I later found out was fragrance oil sticks even though I didn't see any in evidence.  I didn't test the soap because I think it was scented.
Lake bath house: I think it had fragrance oil sticks in a closet.  Smells from guests' shower products, personal care products, hair products etc.  Glass doors on showers (so this may be a better shower option if you react to the vinyl curtains at the Hill bath house).
Hill bath house: Smells from guests' shower products, personal care products, hair products etc.  Heavy vinyl shower curtains (they were old and I didn't notice VOCs but could be an issue for some).  This bath house may be a better option for you if you react to fragrance in the Lake bath house.  *note* this bath house has many more open windows than the Lake bath house.  I found it much better.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comment Policy

By posting a comment, you are agreeing that you have read this policy.

Comments are moderated and it may take a few days for them to appear - your patience is appreciated :-)

Please keep comments respectful.
I reserve the right to delete offensive comments.

I am a big believer in the mind-body connection and it's powerful effect on healing. Please keep in mind that some very ill people may be coming to this blog for a positive boost - your comments can have either a negative or a positive effect on them!

Let's aim for positive ☺