A Center to Find Your Center

Hilary Oak at Cheerful Strength (Photo by A. Rooney)

Couple opens space for consciousness, community

Hilary Oak wants Cheerful Strength, the center she’s opened at Philipstown Square on Route 9, to become a place where people get to know each other.

“Our mission is to provide opportunities for growth in consciousness and community through artistic, educational, social and spiritual interactions, in whatever forms they take,” she explains. “I wanted to create a space where lots of things could happen and not have it be your traditional yoga studio.”

Cheerful Strength opened its doors in September with a drum-and-dance party, and about 60 people showed up to check it out, Oak says. Newly renovated, the space, which formerly housed Living Yoga, has drum sets, meditation cushions and the sound equipment needed for events like open mics and other communal presentations. Its schedule includes dance workshops, drum circles and meditation sessions led by Oak and her husband and business partner, Tem Noon. (The couple moved to Philipstown four years ago from the Potsdam area, where Oak ran the St. Lawrence County Arts Council, to be closer to family.)

“I know some yoga teachers who will be offering classes, also alternative therapy people, people who do astrology and tarot readings, a music therapist,” she says. “We’re working out the details and seeing how it develops.”

The large main room at Cheerful Strength. (Photo by A. Rooney)

Anyone can submit a proposal through an online form and, if the class is approved, proceeds are split 50/50 with Cheerful Strength, she says. The space is also available for private rentals, including parties or staff retreats.

In addition to classes, the couple intends to host vegan potlucks. “You don’t have to be vegan to come, but we’ll have recipe shares, cooking demos and information about a plant-based diet,” she says. She’s also planning “readers’ night” gatherings. “It’s different from a book club, where everyone reads the same book,” she explains. “This is about getting together and sharing what you’ve been reading, offering recommendations, and also sharing written work of your own.”

Oak has considered after-school activities for home-schooled children and “sing-outs” for sharing songs. The open mics will consist of 10-minute performances of any kind, comedy or written pieces, movement and music.

Oak says she is “interested in getting seniors involved, and people with different abilities, even people who use walkers and wheelchairs, are welcome to come to simple stretching. I see what happens in society is people get isolated. I want to create a space where elders and youngers can learn from each other. Music can be a real breakthrough for anyone with any challenge.”

Cheerful Strength has a pay-what-you-can policy, with suggested fees. “I don’t want anyone to feel that if they don’t have that amount, they can’t come,” Oak says. “If times are good and you can afford to pay a little extra, that helps us keep the studio going. If times are hard, we understand.”

Cheerful Strength is located at 3182 Route 9 in Philipstown. Call 845-723-1314 or visit cheerfulstrength.net.

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