The Insight Meditation Center is a community-based, urban refuge for the teachings and practice of insight (mindfulness, vipassana) meditation. We offer Buddhist teachings in clear, accessible and open-handed ways.
Guided by Gil Fronsdal and Andrea Fella, IMC offers a broad range of programs and community activities. These include a weekly schedule of meditation sessions, dharma talks (talks on Buddhist teachings and practice) and yoga classes. In addition, we offer introductory classes in mindfulness meditation, youth programs, affinity groups, year-long study programs and residential meditation retreats through our retreat center, Insight Retreat Center in Santa Cruz, CA.
IMC welcomes anyone and everyone who has an interest in the teachings and practices we offer. We aspire for our community to represent the wide range of diversity found in our society. IMC is intended to be a spiritual home for everyone who practices here.
IMC does not require payment for any of our teachings, programs or events. The support of our teachers and center expenses is done through voluntary donations from the community. All the work in running and maintaining IMC and its programs is done by volunteers. We are inspired by how effectively mindfulness practice unfolds when it does so in a field of goodwill, generosity and gratitude.
IMC began in 1986 as a gathering of individuals who met in order to learn, support and deepen their mindfulness practice. Under the guidance of Gil Fronsdal the group grew, becoming incorporated in 1997 and purchasing our current location in 2001. Currently, the guiding teachers are Gil Fronsdal and Andrea Fella. More information about our history can be found below. Information about our teachers can be found here.
We are located in Redwood City, California, on the edge of Silicon Valley, about 20 miles south of San Francisco. We are a non-residential center.
As a community-based meditation center, IMC aims to provide programs in mindfulness and Buddhist practice relevant to people in our community at different stages of life and different stages of practice. Through our programs we aspire for IMC to be a welcoming refuge for everyone who is interested in the teachings and practices we offer.
Information about programs at IMC can be found on the Programs Overview
The Insight Meditation Center (IMC) is dedicated to the study and practice of Buddhist ideals – mindfulness, ethics, compassion, loving-kindness, and liberation. At the heart of all IMC activities is the practice of Insight Meditation, sometimes called mindfulness or Vipassana meditation. Based on a 2500-year-old Buddhist teaching, this practice helps us to see more deeply and clearly into our lives. With insight, we develop ways of living more peacefully, compassionately, and wisely.
Daily practice forms the foundation of Insight Meditation practice: daily meditation practice, and the practice of mindfulness and compassion as we go about our daily lives. Buddhist tradition also emphasizes the value of intensive meditation retreats. IMC’s mission is to stay firmly rooted in the practices of meditation and retreats. From this foundation in meditation and mindfulness, we actively seek to find ways to support practitioners in integrating and applying the spiritual life in all areas of life.
Our vision for the Insight Meditation Center is to be a community-based meditation center where the practices and teachings of Insight Meditation are made available to those living urban lifestyles. IMC has six intertwining functions:
- To provide a simple and quiet environment where the contemplative life can be developed and protected amidst the complexities of city living.
- To offer teachings and practice opportunities that complement Insight Meditation in supporting a balanced spiritual life from a Buddhist perspective.
- To be a place where people can come together to cultivate and express their practice in and through their family, social, and community lives.
- To bring in a variety of visiting Buddhist teachers who offer a wide range of Buddhist practices and viewpoints to our IMC community and the interested public.
- To establish an urban retreat center offering a variety of residential retreat programs.
- To offer all activities, including residential retreats, free of charge.
Central to this vision, the IMC community offers programs which include meditation sessions, classes, group discussions, dharma talks (talks on Buddhist teachings and practice), and meetings with teachers. One and two-day meditation and study retreats are offered, as well as several residential retreats each year currently held at nearby centers.
Making a Difference: A Vision for the Role of Mindfulness in Society
As interest in mindfulness has exploded in recent years, the practice has been applied to many aspects of modern life. It has been shown to bring benefits in such areas as education, parenting, medicine, mental health, business, sports, prisons, and conflict resolution. Gil shares his vision for the important role mindfulness can have in our society and how it an help create a society that benefits and supports all its members. Video: Making a Difference.
A Broader Vision
Gil Fronsdal has written an inspiring document, A Broader Vision, about the relationship between the Insight Meditation Center (IMC), the Insight Retreat Center(IRC) and the Sati Center.
History of IMC
IMC began in 1986 as a small sitting group affiliated with Spirit Rock Meditation Center. It was organized by Howard and Ingrid Nudelman, and met in various locations in Palo Alto. During the first couple of years, Howard Cohen, a Spirit Rock teacher, came from San Francisco to lead the sittings.
In 1990, Howard Nudelman invited Gil Fronsdal to be the regular teacher for the Monday evening meetings. Gil was then in the teacher training program at Spirit Rock directed by Jack Kornfield. He was also working on his Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies at Stanford, so leading a sitting group in Palo Alto was a natural step in his path as a teacher at that time. In 1991, founder Howard Nudelman died of cancer.
By 1993, the group had grown to about 40 people, and as a larger meeting place was needed, in September 1993 the group moved to the Friends Meeting House on Colorado Street in Palo Alto.
In response to the growing attendance, we began to expand our programs. Daylong retreats, introductory classes on mindfulness meditation, loving-kindness and sutta study were offered in various locations. We added the Thursday evening meetings aimed primarily at newer practitioners in 1994, a monthly children’s program in 1996, and a Sunday morning program in Portola Valley in 1999. Terry Lesser began offering a yoga class before the Monday evening sitting at the Friend’s Meeting House in 1997.
In 1996, Gil and a group of Dharma students from around the Bay Area started the Sati Center for Buddhist Studies. This group supports the study of the Buddhist teachings through a balance of scholarly inquiry and meditation practice. They have sponsored seminars at IMC with many leading Buddhist scholars, teachers and monastics. In 2001, in part as a personal response to the events of 9/11, Gil established the Buddhist Chaplaincy Training program through the Sati Center. We have been fortunate to have this training taking place at IMC.
Although IMC was thriving throughout the nineties, it was limiting and awkward to accommodate all the people and programs in various rental locations. Students from that era may recall meeting Gil for interviews in city parks or over tea at the old Café Verona in Palo Alto.
In the Fall of 1995 we decided to incorporate and begin a search for a building of our own. IMC was incorporated as a non-profit religious organization in 1997. In 1998 we held an elegant fundraiser dinner party for the whole sangha at St. Mark’s. We found our first potential property, the old AME Zion Church in Palo Alto. Although this property did not work out, it served as a catalyst for IMC, and fundraising increased considerably. The Board established an organizational structure that would make it possible to both buy and run a center.
In early 2001, IMC was introduced to the ministers of a church in Redwood City belonging to the First Christian Assembly. A warm friendship ensued. The church, which they built in 1950, had its own tradition of silent meditation, and the ministers were delighted to find those shared values in IMC. On November 28, 2001 IMC bought their Church at 1205 Hopkins Avenue (now 108 Birch Street), on generous terms. With the enthusiasm and hard work of many volunteers, the church was converted into its current incarnation as a meditation center. Our opening ceremony on January 13, 2002 was celebrated with many guests from other Bay Area Dharma centers and the distribution of Gil’s book The Issue At Hand. Through the generosity of the sangha, the mortgage and renovation costs were paid off by 2005.
As we anticipated, having our own building has inspired a rapid expansion of our programs. In 2008, Gil asked Andrea Fella to be the co-guiding teacher of IMC and we now have regular sittings five times a week and offer some kind of meditation or study class nearly every day of the week including programs for children, a number of affinity groups, regular daylong retreats and year-long Dharma study programs. In addition, the Dharma Friends group sponsors social and practice events that help create a greater sense of community and friendship within IMC.
We began making our recorded Dharma talks available on the internet in 2000. Through our website AudioDharma.org. With the far-reaching effects of podcasting, our “cyber-sangha” now extends to over 80 countries with hundreds of thousands of downloads per year. For a number of years we have been offering an introduction to mindfulness course online. We are currently working toward offering more resources online to support people both local and not-local who wish to continue to develop their practice without needing to physically attend IMC in Redwood City.
Almost from its inception, retreats have been an important part of IMC’s program offerings. We have hosted monthly daylong retreats since 1991, first at the Palo Alto Unitarian Church and later at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Colorado in Palo Alto. IMC put on its first residential Memorial Day weekend retreat in 1994 at the Jikoji Zen Center in the Santa Cruz mountains. Over the years, we added other weekends at Jikoji and longer retreats at Hidden Villa in rural Los Altos. In 2003 we decided to take a leap of faith and generosity and offer all residential retreats on the same donation basis as all our other programs.
In 2004, Gil shared his vision for establishing an urban residential retreat center where IMC could offer a full range of retreat programs on a donation basis. We began fundraising for this possibility in 2006, inspired by a large donation from a sangha member. A devoted group of sangha members, including real estate and property management professionals, researched and visited hundreds of properties in the area. In November 2010, this search came to fruition when we purchased a nursing home in Santa Cruz, about one hour south from IMC. After two years of planning and renovation we had our inaugural retreat in October 2012. Currently, we offer freely, at no cost, about twenty residential retreats a year, ranging from 3-days to 14-days in length, each for about 40 participants. For more information about our retreat center see insightretreatcenter.org.
All the activities and growth of IMC over these last 30 years has been possible by innumerable volunteers, donors and practitioners. We are immensely grateful for all who have and are making these offerings possible.
IMC Organizational Structure
IMC has a Board of up to eleven members who provide primary oversight for our organization, including the five groups or areas our volunteers are organized into. The Board selects the directors for each of the five groups. Normally the five directors participate, but do not vote, at Board meetings. Board terms last up to four years.
IMC is run entirely by volunteers who are organized in a somewhat fluid structure. The following description is meant to facilitate volunteer efforts and communication. Naturally, as interests, needs and volunteer availability change the structure may be modified.
IMC BOARD (coordinated by Board President)
- Executive Committee
- Board Development Committee
- Finance Committee
- Insight Retreat Center Committee
A. Teaching Program Group (coordinated by a Guiding Teacher)
- Youth and Children’s Program (Family Program)
- Teen Program
- Young Adults Program
- Spanish Dharma Program
- Yoga Program
- Online Meditation Courses
B. Volunteer Group (coordinated by Volunteer Director)
- Volunteer Placement Committee
- Volunteer and IMC Community Events
- Volunteer Dharma Program (VDP)
C. Communications Group (coordinated by Communications Director)
- Communications Committee
- Communications Liaison
- E-mail Lists
- Tech Support
- Print Communications Committee
- Issue at Hand
- Mailing List
- E-mail & Voicemail Committee
- Resources Committee
- Literature and Bulletin Board
D. Facilities Group (coordinated by Facilities Director)
- Building Maintenance Committee
- Temple Cleaning Committee
- Landscape Maintenance Committee
- Supplies Committee
- Potluck Committee
E. Family Programs Group (coordinated by Family Programs Director)
- Dharma Sprouts
- Dharma Rocks
- Teen Program
- Family retreat
In addition, IMC has many other programs that support our sangha. These include:
- Buddhist Recovery Group
- Chaplaincy Council
- Dharma Friends
- EAR Council (Ethics and Reconciliation)
- LGBTQ Sangha
- Neighborhood Groups
- Welcome Committee
Dana is the Pali word for giving. It is in the spirit of generosity that IMC continues a 2500-year-old Buddhist tradition of providing the teachings freely to all who are interested. IMC does not require payment for any of our classes, events or website offerings.
IMC is entirely supported by donations. We are very grateful for all the support we receive. We are inspired by how beautifully Buddhist practice develops when it does so in a field of generosity and gratitude.
IMC has no paid staff; everything that happens here is done by volunteers. Our financial support comes from the generosity of those who value what we offer, and pays for all the day-to-day expenses of running the center and for all of our programs.
Our teachers are supported by the donations they receive when teaching at IMC. They do not receive any salary from us. We do, in addition, provide some benefits such as health insurance for Gil’s family and Andrea Fella and support for Gil’s retirement fund.
At IMC there is a donation box by the front door. It has two slots, one for the teacher of the event and the other for IMC’s operation expenses. Our recurring expenses are generally funded by the donations we receive at our programs and through online and mail-in-donations. Additional expenses, including renovation and major repairs of our building, upgrading our recording and computer technology, upgrading and maintaining our websites, supporting our Memorial Day Weekend residential family retreat and publishing Gil’s book, The Issue at Hand, for free distribution, are funded through our year-end fundraising.
We believe our dana system works best if we operate comfortably within our financial means. We have always been careful to maintain a financial cushion of savings as a way of avoiding any sudden financial challenges. We also strive to be quite mindful of how we spend the donations we receive. We are very grateful for the goodwill and generosity that is expressed by all our donors. It is our intention to honor this goodwill by wisely using the money we receive to support the mission and aim of our center.
Ethics & Reconciliation Policy
The Ethics and Reconciliation Council (EAR Council) assists in resolving conflicts that may arise within the IMC community. The document describing Council operations and our Teachers’ Code of Ethics may be viewed in either PDF or Word format.
Copyright (Terms & Conditions of Use)
We follow the long tradition of offering Dharma teachings freely to all. You may copy or distribute any material on this website, provided it is done free of charge, and this notice is included with all copies:
This material is licensed under the Creative Commons License. You may make and/or distribute copies, provided that you do so freely without cost, follow the guidelines of the license, and this notice is included with all copies.
Email guidelines for the IMC community .
IMC’s Green Policy: Respect and Care for the Community of Life.
When available and feasible, we will use cleaning and personal products, office supplies, paper products and building materials that are:
- dye and scent-free
- recycled (high post-consumer content)
- not tested on animals
- support sustainability and health
We would like to ask sangha members to support our efforts by not wearing scented product s at IMC.
IMC is to be thought of as other buildings that people frequently go to (stores, offices, banks, etc): As a “default,” dogs are not allowed inside. Of course, service dogs are always welcome at IMC.
As some people have difficulty negotiating the steps when a dog is present, we ask that people not leave unattended dogs near the front entrance.
During “non-public” times – when official activities are not scheduled and if it is necessary for a volunteer to come to IMC with their dog – non-service dogs may be brought into IMC under the following conditions:
- They are kept close to their owners at all times
- They are not taken into the meditation hall or conference room
- They are removed if someone with an allergy or discomfort with the dog requests this
Policy for Literature Table (Non-IMC Materials)
Please click here for the policy for displaying non-IMC materials on the Literature Table at IMC.