This year I resigned from the BMIMC Management Committee, and I was asked to write a few words about my experience on the committee which I joined in 2007.
I became associated with BMIMC in 2000, and started attending numerous retreats with teachers such as Patrick Kearney, Ariya Nani (now Ariya Bauman) and the late Sayadaw U Lakhana. I have always wanted to contribute to an organisation that I believe in, so I was very pleased to join the committee which has responsibility for managing BMIMC.
During my 10 years on the committee, I have witnessed several important changes around how staffing is managed at the Centre, including:
- We now provide our staff higher rates of pay than in the past.
- Key work responsibilities have devolved away from one centre manager, to several part time staff.
- Committee members are now more aware of the occasional challenges that staff face in a centre. Even when yogis are mindful, they can still be very demanding!
- Committee members and cooking staff have to contend with greater food intolerances
Whilst mindfulness-based activities have blossomed in western culture, BMIMC continues to provide a niche market for those who want to go deeper in their practise of understanding the mind. The growing marketplace of meditation will help refine and distinguish what it is that BMIMC does well, in particular teaching ‘mental cultivation’ (or bhavana in Pali) as opposed to just teaching meditation. I hope that the BMIMC continues to offer a pathway to attract serious yogis to the Mahasi tradition, particularly as it exists in Burma, to Sayadaw U Pandita’s retreat centre for instance, the one I am familiar with.
A key feature of Mahasi approach is walking meditation, and on my wish list is a hope that one day BMIMC has a bigger undercover space dedicated to walking meditation. I also notice that there is a tension between BMIMC accommodating a wider approach to Buddhism, and sticking to a Mahasi only based approach.
In the wider community
There are some things that have remained the same at BMIMC: the higher praise we receive for the upkeep of the Centre, the sense of inviting conditions suitable for meditation, the stable body of the sangha willing to volunteer and attend retreats, the equally stable ranks of world-class teachers we invite…and the great food.
As BMIMC is a centre that owns its own land and has experience running retreats, there is an increasing demand from other meditation and wider community groups to utilise the centre’s facilities, and this is something the committee has to grapple with.
During my time of the committee, I have often wondered whether and how BMIMC’s activities could be promoted to reach a broader audience, particularly a younger one. Meditation based on clear method is much needed in the current dilettante age that lacks methods of knowing what is real.
Being on a committee itself has been an honour. I have always enjoyed the professionalism of how the committee is run; it achieves a lot and every committee member is listened to and respected. Most of all, I feel I have significantly contributed to on-going running of meditation retreats at the Centre, and all the good that that provides to the community.
Marc Allas is a former BMIMC resident staff member and committee member