The Insight Meditation Center (IMC) is a community-based urban meditation center for the practice of Vipassana or Insight meditation. We are a non-residential center in Redwood City, California, dedicated to the study and practice of Buddhist teachings.
IMC offers a broad range of practice and community activities. This includes a weekly schedule of meditation sessions, dharma talks (talks on Buddhist teaching and practice), classes, group discussions, yoga practice and a variety of meditation and study retreats.
IMC began in 1986 as a gathering of individuals who meet in order to learn, support and deepen their mindfulness practice. It is an informal group, and those interested in mindfulness meditation are heartily welcome to participate whenever they wish.
IMC does not require payment for any of our teachings or meetings. The support of our teachers and all our center expenses is done through the voluntary donations of our community. The group is guided by Gil Fronsdal.
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 was incorporated as 501(c)3 religious corporation in 1997. It 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. As interests and needs change we will change this structure.
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. We have regular sittings four times a week, offer some kind of meditation or study class nearly every night of the week, many daytime programs, regular daylong retreats, a year-long Dharma study program, regular guest teachers, including visiting monastics, and many special events. 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 AudioDharma, with the far-reaching effects of podcasting, our “cyber-sangha” now extends to over 80 countries with hundreds of thousands of downloads per year.
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. 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 have 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 entered a contract to purchase a nursing home in Scotts Valley that will become the Insight Retreat Center – see http://www.insightretreatcenter.org/. Our fundraising efforts are now directed toward renovating this property to make it even more suitable for residential retreats, which will continue to be offered with no registration fee. We are delighted with the ongoing healthy growth of the IMC community and are grateful to all the volunteers.
IMC Organizational Structure
IMC BOARD (coordinated by Board President)
- Executive Committee (including Bylaws)
- Board Development Committee
- Finance Committee
- Fundraising Committee
- Insight Retreat Center Committee
A. Teaching Program Group (co-coordinated by Teacher and Programs Director, assisted byTeacher’s Assistant if necessary)
- Programs (led by Teacher and Programs Director)
- Residential Retreat Committee
- Volunteer Dharma Program (VDP)
- Sati Center
- Teen Program
- Yoga Program
- Youth and Children’s Program Committee (Family Program)
- Insight Retreat Center Implementation Committee
- Online Meditation Courses
B. Volunteer Group (coordinated by Volunteer Director)
- Volunteer Placement Committee
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
- Dharma Sprouts
- Dharma Rocks
- Coming of Age
- Teen Program
- Garden/Family Days at IRC
- Family retreat
In addition, IMC has many other programs that support our sangha. These include:
- Chaplaincy Council
- End of Life Campanion program
- Dharma Friends
- Welcome Committee
- Neighborhood Groups
- EAR Council (Ethics and Reconciliation)
- BPF, LGBTQ Groups
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 for Andrea, and support for Gil’s retirement fund.
There is a donation box by the IMC door. It has two slots, one for the teacher of the event and the other for IMC’s Expenses. Our recurring expenses are normally funded by the donations we receive at our programs and through online and mail-in-donations. Other, extra-ordinary expenses, are paid for through our year-end fundraising. Examples of such expenses are renovation of our building, offering residential retreats, publishing Gil’s book, The Issue at Hand, and saving for the purchase of a retreat center of our own.
We believe that 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.