BMCM Webinars

A History of Online Programs


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. 

We had no idea how many people would sign up, but we thought that 50 would be fantastic. As the date grew closer, the numbers climbed past 50 to 100, 150, 200 – and eventually 441 people registered from over 20 countries!

Here’s what a few people said in their feedback:

“Impressed with use of technology. Presentation and explanation was clear and excellent. Videos and time for meditation added interest to the program. Access was easy, pace was perfect and nicely explained.”

“Thank you for sharing passage meditation with the world. It was a great feeling that for five minutes many people all over the world were focused on the Prayer of St. Francis! I bet we could make it rain or snow in the Sahara with all that positive energy.”

“I hope you offer more of these. I have read several of Easwaran's books, but I learned a lot from the webinar. Online is probably my only option other than the books because there are no retreats near me and the cost of the retreat + airfare would be too much. So I am grateful for the free webinar. I am 76 years old and on limited income.”

Next Steps

So our friends loved the program,  but the next step was improving the technology. There were audio-visual sync problems, volume discrepancies, and challenges for the audience with sending in questions and comments. Our work was cut out for us!

Year Two: 2015

In 2015, we expanded our original introductory webinar into a two-part webinar series.

The first webinar offered an introduction to the benefits of passage meditation, and detailed instructions for how to practice it at home. The second webinar focused on the rest of Easwaran’s eight-point program for new passage meditators wanting to strengthen their practice.  We were still wrestling with the technology, so we rented a professional studio at a local college with much faster broadband.

Participants really liked what we were doing – and they had more feedback for us. Now make the webinars more interactive, they said, more spontaneous. So we added a host to the two-presenter team, who welcomed our friends as they came online, conveyed live questions and comments from participants, and drew out the presenters.

Here’s what one participant said: 

“The presenters and the host all exuded a joy that was infectious. It was refreshing also that there was no pretense, no need for special accoutrements, but they were regular people to whom I could relate and feel like if we met, we would easily be friends. Thank you for sharing the joy of this practice!”

Our participants also told us a bit more about themselves, so we could see just who was watching these introductory programs. We were interested to find that many people actually had an established practice. They told us that the webinars were a great way for them to get a boost to their practice – and to introduce new family and friends too. For example, one friend wrote in and said:

 “It would be nice if a webinar could be organised for people who are already using the 8PP because many of us do not have the opportunity to join a retreat or a satsang.”

Clearly our next step would be to create a webinar for our returnee friends who already had a regular passage meditation practice. 

Year Three: 2016

In 2016, we offered more webinars than ever before, and introduced a two-week follow-up email course and phone call to answer any questions. We offered all these activities free of charge, following Easwaran’s tradition of offering his meditation classes “with an open hand.”

We continued to work on improving our technology and our webinar studio. The rented studio had been great for a while, but now the arrangements were getting more complicated. We wanted to make the whole webinar experience as smooth and sustainable as possible for our audience, presenters, and staff behind the scenes. And so in the third round of experimenting with studios, we landed back at the BMCM headquarters, investing in a high-quality camera, better audio equipment, and a faster broadband. We were back on home ground!

In this new studio, we held three introductory webinars, and offered our first two returnee webinars. The returnee webinars focused on one of the eight points, and included a reading study, a video of Easwaran, and an activity to help each participant develop their own strategy to deepen their practice.

And here’s what participants said:

“This was an excellent program. I really enjoyed the answers to the questions people asked- very helpful. Something that was said about our daily practice of the 8 points deepening our meditation really hit home for me. All the practice adds together. Thank you so much.” 

“Great webinar. I have been at 2 regional retreats and 1 in Tomales. This has great potential to have the same effectiveness as the in person experience.”

The Future of Online Learning

In 2017, we’ll continue to experiment with new formats for online learning, including a new introductory online course and a new eSatsang format for passage meditators.

We’ll also be offering three introductory webinars and three returnee webinars – which will be renamed as “online workshops for passage meditators”.

We hope that you’ll join us in these programs, so together we can deepen our understanding of Easwaran’s teachings, find support and inspiration, and build our worldwide community.

Thank you, and stay tuned!