IMS Turns 40

IMS History

From co-founders Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein

Valentine’s Day, 2024, marks 48 years since IMS first opened its doors. Back in 1976, we had no idea that tens of thousands of meditators would come to our Retreat Center and Forest Refuge, letting go of the busyness of daily life to explore their minds and open their hearts.

We are grateful to each and every one of you for the steps you are taking toward awakening, and for bringing the fruits of your practice back to your communities.

IMS Turns 40 Strip



How IMS began

In 1975, a group of young teachers – Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Salzberg and Jack Kornfield – decided to start a meditation retreat center. Having traveled and taught around the country the previous year, they recognized the value and support that a dedicated facility would provide.

So the search began for a suitable environment. On hearing of a Catholic novitiate for sale in Barre, Massachusetts, they came to take a look. As they traveled through the picturesque New England town, its motto, displayed on the town common, came into view: Tranquil and Alert. This seemed a fitting sign and captured the spirit of meditation.

Generous friends and supporters provided enough funds to purchase the property, priced at $150,000. And on February 14, 1976, a small band of teachers and staff opened the center.


Ancient Teachings, New World

Over the years, IMS has hosted many renowned Asian Buddhist masters. Some have come for short visits to give their blessings and offer teachings. Others have stayed for months at a time leading yogis in intensive practice.

These great teachers have represented many traditions: His Holiness the Dalai Lama, His Holiness the Sixteenth Karmapa, Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche, and Tara Tulku from the Tibetan tradition; Seung Sahn Sunim and Venerable Ku San from the Korean Zen lineages; and from our own Theravada tradition, Anagarika Munindra and Dipa Ma, the Venerables Mahasi Sayadaw, Sayadaw U Pandita, Taungpulu Sayadaw, Ajahn Chah, Bhante Gunaratana, Sayadaw U Janaka, Sayadaw U Lakkhana, Sayadaw U Tejaniya and others. We particularly value this deep and ongoing connection with the Asian roots of our practice.

All these wonderful teachers have been an inspiration on many levels and have helped nourish the growth of the Dharma in the West.

One particularly vivid image comes to mind. In 1979, His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited IMS and we gave him a tour. When we got to the old bowling alley, left from the time when this was a Catholic novitiate, His Holiness demonstrated the joy and ease of heart for which he is so well known. He took a ball and sent it flying down the lane.

~ Joseph Goldstein, IMS co-founder

The “Instant” Meditation Society

Shortly after we opened IMS, we received numerous requests for information. Two remain etched in my mind for how they were addressed. One had been written to “The Hindsight Meditation Society,” seeming to convey either that our retrospection was perfect or that we started IMS as an afterthought.

The other was addressed to “The Instant Meditation Society.” What I find interesting here is that the only “instant” part of meditation is this instant, now, followed by the next instant, and then the next. The most important quality in “instant meditation” is patience.

~ Sharon Salzberg, IMS Co-founder

Dharma Jewel

IMS is one of the great dharma portals and jewels on this planet. I have been going there to sit retreats whenever I can since it began thirty years ago. The teaching is uniformly superb, and the conditions for deep practice optimal. The vision for mindfulness-based stress reduction arose there one afternoon, while I was sitting in my room in the Catskills [now Karuna House] dormitory.

A retreat at IMS is potentially the best vacation you could ever give yourself – a true vacating, a thorough washing of the accumulated detritus of obsessive and deluded mind states, a reconnecting with what has always been deepest and most beautiful in your being. It is also the hardest work in the world. On the other hand, what else is there to do? As Kabir put it, ‘Don’t let a chance like this go by.’

~ Jon Kabat-Zinn, Founder of UMass Medical School’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program