20 Years of IMCW: Talking with Luisa Montero-Diaz
By Editor | Oct 11 2017
IMCW 20th Anniversary Celebration
Join us for an evening of food, fun and reflection
Saturday, October 28, 6:30-9 p.m.
Featuring Tara Brach
The Insight Meditation Community of Washington (IMCW), according to one of its co-founders, Luisa Montero-Diaz, was built organically from the ground up. “There is no cookie-cutter business model here,” she exclaimed.
IMCW was created at a time when people were beginning to wonder about mindfulness and the health benefits surrounding it. Since IMCW’s incorporation back in 1997, its growth of has exploded, especially over the past ten years with the emergence of social media venues. “We started appealing to those outside the circle of spiritual seekers,” remembers Montero-Diaz.
An integral part of IMCW, Luisa Montero-Diaz emigrated here with her family from Cuba at age 6. “I remember it completely. It was the most seminal experience of my life,” she says. Montero-Diaz’s mother had come to the U.S. earlier through Baptist missionaries in Cuba and was able to complete her college degree in teaching.
“The minute I walked into her class, I knew it was for me. The practice is a wonderful discipline that brings in wisdom as well as the heart and emotional aspects.
After she returned to Cuba, was married and had children, her mother’s former college roommate sponsored the family in their return to the States. The family landed in a small town in North Carolina. Fayetteville, NC was their home, right in the southern Baptist belt. The mother was a devout Baptist, but always allowed her children the understanding that the world was full of different religions and ways to be spiritual.
Montero-Diaz’s most important spiritual teacher was her mother. “My mother never pushed her Baptist views on anyone. She was tolerant, kind, generous, and accepted those for what they were,” Montero-Diaz reminisces. That relationship laid the foundation for Montero-Diaz really becoming what she is today. She fondly considers herself a Latina Buddhist Baptist.
In 1994 Montero-Diaz met IMCW founder Tara Brach when she started attending Brach’s talks and meditations. They became friends and Montero-Diaz began managing retreats for Brach, who in turn, became her mentor. “The minute I walked into her class, I knew it was for me. The practice is a wonderful discipline that brings in wisdom as well as the heart and emotional aspects. This is it, baby,” said Montero-Diaz. When IMCW incorporated as a religious non-profit organization a few years later, Montero-Diaz was one of the original trustees and signers of the articles of incorporation.
Since its incorporation, IMCW has had a number of articles published on the benefits of mindfulness meditation and their teachings in national publications including The Washington Post, Inquiring Minds and Tricycle Magazine, all of which have contributed to the current growth of IMCW. “The founding board set out to reach individuals through these publications and radio shows and those efforts got people coming to talks initially lead by Tara [Brach],” remarked Montero-Diaz. “Tara’s insightful talks, her book Radical Acceptance, meditations, and deep understanding of Buddhism radiated and drew people in. She is definitely the backbone of IMCW.”
Since 2013, senior teachers Tara Brach, Jonathan Foust, Hugh Byrne, Ruth King and Montero-Diaz have welcomed the addition of more than 20 teachers and teachers-in-training to meet the growing need for more classes and retreats. IMCW meditation instruction has extended broadly through the use of audio dharma (teaching) talks, and videotaped classes, which have become increasingly popular through the years.
As IMCW celebrates its 20th anniversary this year with guiding teacher Tara Brach at the helm and over 50 teachers in the DC Metro area, IMCW now reaches thousands of meditators through the use of podcasts and taped talks, as well as over 125 events each month. “IMCW is poised to be one of the ‘greats’ because of our committed leader [Tara Brach]. Her dedication, education and knowledge are unmatched, but we still have a ways to go,” said Montero-Diaz.
According to Montero-Diaz, meditators need to be wary of what is real, and she expresses some concern over individuals following the wrong path in meditation practice. “Start with an organization that has been around for a while, with steady growth,” says Montero-Diaz. IMCW is one of those organizations.
“Much scientific evidence is out now on the health benefits of mindfulness meditation,” says Montero-Diaz. “I have developed a wonderful sense of belonging and grounding, brought on by my practice and teaching through and with the Insight Meditation Community of Washington,” says Montero-Diaz. “I often wonder how some do life without meditation?”
IMCW would like to thank volunteer writer Noreen O'Brien and guiding teacher Luisa Montero-Diaz for this article.