The massive increase in global connectivity has offered us some great new opportunities in the BMCM. With an internet connection and a computer or phone, you can now find information, learn any skill and meet like-minded people online. We’ve seen the result right here on our website, where the number of new international visitors has more than doubled in five years.
Meanwhile members of our existing community have been asking us for more online activities, and they’ve participated enthusiastically whenever we’ve offered online programs. Although our Tomales in-person retreats are always very well attended, we know that some people are finding it increasingly hard to travel to the BMCM.
So we’ve been exploring new ways in which we can support our new international friends and all our existing friends online. Here’s the behind-the-scenes story!
Year One: 2014
We researched all the options, and decided to develop a free, one-hour webinar.
Our goal was to present a program which was informative, interactive, and conveyed the same warmth and spiritual fellowship of an in-person program. Designing the program was the easy part. The webinar included inspiration from Easwaran, instructions in meditation, a sample five-minute meditation, open time for Q&A, and resources for ongoing support – all in one hour! By the end of the webinar, participants had everything they needed to start a passage meditation practice.
Our biggest challenge was the technology. At that time, most webinars used broadcast slides and gave a phone number that you had to dial in to hear the speakers. We were more ambitious, so we decided to have a live video-stream of the presenters, to share an Easwaran video, and to work out a way to receive comments and questions from our participants.
We found some suitable webinar software, set up a simple webcam on a laptop computer, and added a couple of studio lights to light a pre-dawn 6 a.m. broadcast from the BMCM.