In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a generation of young Americans, some of whom were Peace Corps volunteers in Asia, studied insight meditation and decided to bring it to the West. In l976, Joseph Goldstein, Jack Kornfield, and Sharon Salzberg established Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts. Jack Kornfield later co-founded Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California.
Many individuals in the greater New York area had studied with those American teachers as well as senior teachers in Asia and were committed to realizing a vision of creating an urban center to foster a contemplative life in the city. In l997, Peter Doobinin, Tamara Engel, Joseph Schmidt, Gina Sharpe, and Sandra Weinberg founded the New York Insight Meditation Center. The founders of IMS and Spirit Rock—Goldstein, Salzberg, and Kornfield—were invaluable early supporters and continue to serve as NYI’s advisors.
NYI began by renting spaces around the city for its classes, workshops, and sittings. In 2003, NYI moved into a light-filled loft space near Herald Square, which has become the physical and spiritual home of the community. With a main meditation room and a classroom, the center provides a safe space for spiritual inquiry. NYI remains an almost entirely volunteer-run organization with a deep commitment to openness and diversity.