Warm Hand To Warm Hand: IMCW’s Mentor and True Refuge Companion Programs

The Mentor Program

IMCW is glad to announce that the Mentoring Program is restarting after a short hiatus.  At the heart of the program is the principle of sangha, or spiritual community -- the third jewel and refuge in Buddhism. Sangha was key to the 2,500-year tradition, by which practitioners passed the Dharma from “warm hand to warm hand”, as Suzuki Roshi put it. In this spirit, the Mentor Program pairs experienced practitioners with those seeking to deepen their practice. Thich Nhat Hanh explains that the sangha is crucial for those relatively new to the dharma: “[w]e are always running, and it is hard for us to stop and be here in the present moment, to encounter life. For those of us who have not learned to be present, we need to be supported in that kind of learning…With sangha you will be able to learn the art of stopping.” 

As committed meditators and dharma students, IMCW mentors are spiritual friends rather than teachers. They support mentees who seek to establish or maintain a daily practice. They also hold the space for mentees by offering presence without judgment. While a mentor may offer insight gained through their study and practice, the benefit is profoundly reciprocal. By learning the art of stopping, the mentee teaches it to the mentor.  

IMCW member Gary Hillesland, who guided the program since 2011, has stepped down. IMCW is grateful for his work in building the program. A new mentor leadership team consisting of Ray Manyoky, Vicki Doran and Catherine Flanagan has revamped the mentee application process and is developing training and support for mentors. It is seeking mentors from underrepresented groups, such as BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, Deaf persons, and persons with dis/abilities. If you identify as a member of an underrepresented group and would like to volunteer as a mentor, please contact the Mentoring coordinator

The True Refuge Companion Program 

IMCW is preparing to relaunch the True Refuge Companion Program. The program supports practitioners in the IMCW community who face sickness, aging, or death as well as those who care for and love them. Companions hold space for the practitioners’ difficult and uncomfortable experiences, something loved ones often cannot do because of their urgent wish for recovery and fear of loss. Service in the program nurtures the companions’ awakening, especially their capacity for metta (kindness) and clear seeing.    

Jill Drew and guiding teachers Mary Aubry and Susan Akers plan to offer a one- or two-day program in January 2022 to train new volunteers and refresh those currently serving as companions. The program began in 2016, after most of the companions attended an eight-month course led by Mary, Susan and other IMCW teachers called “Sacred Journey: Being with Aging, Illness and Death”. 

More information about the True Refuge Companion program will be available on the website in the coming weeks. If you have a committed daily practice and are inspired to volunteer as a companion, please contact the TRC coordinator.


Catherine Flanagan is a graduate of the Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program taught by Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield. She teaches mindfulness to members of marginalized communities, including incarcerated persons, returning citizens, and those in recovery programs. She teaches at the Center for Mindful Living, a project of IMCW.

It is the mission of IMCW/The Insight Meditation Community of Washington is to support the awakening of hearts and minds through the direct experience of the Buddhist path, and the integration and manifestation of wisdom and compassion in all aspects of life, for the benefit of all beings.

P.O. Box 3
Cabin John, MD 20818

Phone: 202.986.2922

Email: meditate@imcw.org