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Lifelong Learning Opportunities 



As we start to get older, there are two roads we can take: the “this-is-it” road, where we more or less give up on personal growth, or the “try-new-things” path, where we and our (current and as yet unrealized) interests blossom. It’s difficult to have the motivation to push yourself on the more adventurous path. But just because high school and college are over, it doesn’t mean your education has to be. There are endless exciting ways to keep your mind and body fresh, and you can continuously shop in the learning marketplace. Luckily, the Hudson Valley area has some of the best places to take on new experiences.

How to Bee a Honey Lover
Enjoy the sweet taste of honey? Become a beekeeper! Get to the root of your love and see how honeybees do their busy work at HoneybeeLives. Organic beekeeper and bee doctor Chris Harp cares for bees in a nonconventional way, showing how you can help make the bees’ lives healthier. With a 90 percent decrease of feral colonies in the past 20 years, honeybees are more fragile than ever. Through a series of classes, beekeeping amateurs can learn how to interact with the bees and recognize any problems early on. In Intro to Organic Beekeeping, students learn the basic requirements and responsibilities as first-time beekeepers. Harp and co-founder Grai Rice also teach informational sessions for children and the general public. Don’t worry—protective veils and gloves are available, but Harp says you can take them off when you feel comfortable.
HoneybeeLives will offer a beekeeping lecture on August 21, as well as classes throughout the year in New Paltz. (845) 255-6113;  www.honeybeelives.org.

Reading the Right Cards
Grab your deck of tarot cards and head on down to Tarot on the Hudson with Rachel Pollack. Although you can always make an appointment to get your cards read, why not try to master it yourself? Pollack hosts various classes throughout the year, taking innovative approaches to reading tarot cards, including tarot poker. In the past, Pollack has hosted a Tarot for Writers class, inspiring stories for authors by looking at the cards. Mixed-level students are welcome for all classes: Tarot card newcomers can learn from the more experienced readers. Pollack teaches the art of reading but students also read the cards to each other, creating a community-based atmosphere.
Tarot on the Hudson will have a class looking at Pollack’s collection of rare and unusual decks and how to read them on August 13 from 1 to 5pm at Starr Library in Rhinebeck. Pollack and tarot reader Mary Greer will teach a five-day class, August 1-5, at the Omega Institute.
(845) 876-5797; www.rachelpollack.com.

Planting the Seed
A farmer’s life can be the life for you, even if just for the day. The Learning Center at the 400-acre Hawthorne Valley Farm can help fulfill your farm-loving dreams. Strap on your overalls and try out the number of sustainable agriculture workshops and activities offered throughout the year. Enjoy cheese? A cheese appreciation workshop on September 17 will let you devour and learn about cheeses from around the world. Try your hands at a fiber arts class, learning to spin, weave, dye, and felt. Follow the seasonal rhythms of the farm—in the fall, see how farmers plant and sow grain for the next year’s harvest, and in the winter, learn how to keep the farm nourished. Or, simply spend the day on the farm with the kids, connecting with the land and animals. Hawthorne Valley lets you choose your agenda for the day: brush and milk a cow, feed the goats and pigs, harvest food, make a traditional craft using materials from the farm, cook a meal, or even watch the Cow Parade. If you’re feeling hungry, try A Taste of the Farm, a full farm tour with sampling of the farm’s vegetables, yogurts, baked goods, and cheeses.
Hawthorne Valley Farm has year-round classes, workshops, and tours. (518) 672-7500; www.hawthornevalleyfarm.org.

Stretch Your Body and Mind
Slip into a meditative state at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Running over 800 multilevel programs a year, Kripalu offers that refreshing relaxation you’ve been searching for in your monotonous schedule. Try Retreat and Renewal, a two-night minimum stay that lets you pick a schedule from a variety of outdoor activities, workshops, and yoga and movement classes. Or go just for the day for an experiential, educational class, or even to take a kayak out for a calming ride. Health and nutritional talks and programs are also available for positive lifestyle changes in your day-to-day lives. If you’re feeling extra-flexible, Kripalu also has comprehensive yoga teacher training with 200- and 500-hour certifications.
Kripalu has year-round programs, workshops, and classes. (866) 200-5203; www.kripalu.org.

Hold on Tight
Fulfill your circus dreams with the Flying Trapeze Club in New Paltz. During two-hour beginner-friendly courses, students, ages four and up, can learn about aerial awareness from experienced trapeze artists. Students are strapped in with a safety harness and are guided 20 feet through the air. It’s all about trust and control, and swinging through the air might be the best emotional, mental, and physical workout of your life. Classes range from four to 10 people, so don’t worry, you’ll get plenty of air time. And, although there’s no official program yet, Flying Trapeze Club is willing to train any instructor-hopefuls.
Flying Trapeze Club in New Paltz offers classes five days a week. A trapeze performance is planned for late August; check the website for details. (845) 255-4375; www.trapezeclub.org.

Choosing the Best Option
Feeling anxious or depressed? Recently experience a loss? Want to sharpen your parenting skills?  The Option Institute in Sheffield, Massachusetts, has helped thousands overcome issues through support and experiential workshops. The institute offers weekend, weekly, and monthly options to better your mind and health. Try the Happiness Option Weekend, where you can learn positive ways to react in any situation, improve self-esteem and confidence, stop self-criticism, and more. You won’t ever sit in your seat to hear a lecture; the classes are all about participation and group dynamic. During your stay, you can also hike on the Appalachian Trail next door, or see who’s playing at Tanglewood.
The Option Institue has year-long programs on a number of levels and specific criteria. (800) 714-2779; www.option.org.

Classy Meat
Tie up your apron and head on down to Fleisher’s Grass-Fed & Organic Meats in Kingston for two separate butchery courses. Butchery 101 is an introductory five-day master class with hands-on butchering where you’ll learn basic knife skills and safety techniques. Pig and lamb carving workshops as well as cooking demos and taste tests will keep you occupied. You’ll even take a field trip to a farm for a chicken slaughter with optional hands-on participation. Fleisher’s also teaches important sustainability methods so you can be the best butcher you can be. After you’ve learned the methods, Fleisher’s provides a set of knives for you to take home. Pig to Pork is a one-day master class in slaughter and butchery techniques, including three meals and materials. Begin the day by observing a slaughter at a family-owned farm and then enjoy a locally sourced meal made by the Fleisher’s staff. Owner Joshua Applestone and another instructor will lead a butchery demonstration, and then students will try their hands at sausage making.
Butchery 101 will be August 28 to September 1 from 9am to 5pm. (845) 338-6666; www.fleishers.com.

University of Life
In 1977, Dr. Stephen Rechtschaffen and Elizabeth Lesser founded a “university of life” in Rhinebeck to focus on the importance of health, wellness, and personal growth. Over 23,000 guests flock every year to the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies for workshops, retreats, and conferences. Guests can choose from six categories of learning, such as health and healing and sustainable living. There are daily open classes of yoga, tai chi, and meditation. Need to de-stress? From April to October, sign up for Omega Rest & Rejuvenation Retreats to reconnect with nature and yourself on the 195-acre campus. Guests can also enjoy kayaking, canoeing, boating, tennis, and more along the Omega campus.
The Omega Institute for Holistic Studies has over 350 classes a year. August events include: A Celebration of Poetry, August 14-19, with poets Billy Collins, Patricia Smith, Mark Doty, and Marie Howe; and Design By Nature: Preserving Life’s Essentials, August 19-21, with speakers Erin Brockovitch and Josh Fox, director of the documentary Gasland. (800) 944-1001; www.eomega.org.

Serenity and Tranquility
The Catskill Mountains is the home to many spiritual centers, including Blue Deer Center, Ananda Ashram, and Menla Mountain Retreat, perfect for a refreshing escape from the fast-moving world. Breathe in the mountain air and hide away in the sanctuary of the calming trees. Blue Deer Center in Margaretville focuses on how its guests can live in harmony and reconnect with the natural world.  The center offers experiential classes, but guests can call to come to the land for their own healing experience. Monroe’s Ananda Ashram offers yoga retreats with vegetarian meals, classical Indian music and dance, and Sanskrit classes. Menla Mountain Retreat is in a 320-acre valley in Phoenicia and brings healing, health, and happiness into one setting. Menla has hiking, yoga, and cleansing practices.
Blue Deer Center classes include Introduction to Plant Spirit Medicine, August 19-21, and Replenish Your Heart, August 26-28. (845) 586-3225; www.bluedeer.org. Ananda Ashram has weekly events and weekend classes. (845) 782-5575; www.anandaashram.org. Menla Mountain House programs include Challenge Your Body, Mind, & Spirit, September 8-11, and The How of Sustainable Health & Happiness, November 11-13. (845) 688-6897; www.menlamountain.org.
click to enlarge Beekeeper Chris Harp teaching a workshop at The Pfeiffer Center for Biodynamic Agriculture in Chestnut Ridge.
  • Beekeeper Chris Harp teaching a workshop at The Pfeiffer Center for Biodynamic Agriculture in Chestnut Ridge.

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