When IMS first opened its doors, we aspired to create a meditation space where all those seeking freedom of mind and heart felt welcomed. Over time, however, it became clear and obvious that our community was not in balance. With people of color largely absent, and LGBTIQ people and other marginalized groups unacknowledged, our centers did not reflect the reality of our world in all its diversity and cultural richness. Seeing this, we committed ourselves to challenging and transforming societal and institutional barriers that have kept these communities from finding a spiritual home here.
In offering a spiritual refuge for awakening, IMS is committed to cultivating a community that reflects the diversity of our society and our world. We believe that all members benefit from diversity, as a wide range of human experiences and viewpoints broadens and enriches the understanding of all. We seek to promote the inclusion and participation of people of diverse identities, including those of all races, ethnicities, cultures, sexual orientations, gender identities, classes, religions, abilities, and ages, that all may feel welcome, safe and respected within this community.
IMS’s Board made a decision a decade ago to focus much of our diversity and inclusion work on racism and dismantling racism. This is because racism has been woven into the social, political, legal and economic institutions of the US, and is a deeply rooted form of oppression in our society. IMS recognizes this, and also acknowledges our own institutional racism.
- IMS’s diversity and inclusion work is Board-led, guided by the Diversity Committee. An initial step was to increase the number of people of color serving on our Board. Today, one third of Board members self-identify as people of color, and three as LGBTIQ.
- We continue to invest significant financial resources in diversity and inclusion workshops for Board and staff, to increase individual and collective understanding of racism, white privilege, microaggressions, internalized racial oppression, homophobia and transphobia, gender identity and bias, as well as other prejudices, and how these manifest in ourselves, our organization and our communities.
- To raise awareness among our predominantly white visiting faculty, IMS’s Guiding Teachers provide a variety of resources and information on racism and gender issues.
- To bring greater diversity and equity into IMS’s teacher body, a four-year teacher training program is underway, with 75% of the trainees being people of color. On graduation in 2021, this new cohort of teachers will carry their collective wisdom of varied life experiences and perspectives into insight meditation communities throughout the world.
- An article on diversity and inclusion is part of each issue of our internal e-bulletin and our e-publication Sangha News, sent to our wider community.
- IMS offers several annual retreats for marginalized groups – people of color, our LGBTIQ community, and women (cis, trans and genderqueer).
- To reduce the financial burden, we provide financial assistance for people of color retreatants to undertake short and longer-term practice, essential for ensuring more diverse leadership into the future.
- IMS reserves a number of spaces in all retreats for people of color, providing greater accessibility.
- IMS regularly engages in personal conversations with our POC and LGBTIQ retreatants, teachers and Board, so the organization can learn from and deepen the capacity to respond to feedback. A diversity survey is offered to every retreatant.
We are committed to dismantling racism and other forms of institutionalized oppression so that IMS embodies a diverse perspective throughout every part of our organization. We recognize that this work is sometimes painful and challenging, yet we will not turn away from what is called for to realize genuine diversity, equity and inclusivity.