A Culture of Listening and Respect

The organizational culture of the Body-Mind Centering Association (BMCA) became quickly apparent to me as I had the opportunity to sit in on, and participate in, a variety of leadership meetings in my first week interning with them. This included attending a meeting with the Board of Directors, that will happen monthly, as well as two separate committee meetings, that all meet periodically. My internship with the BMCA this summer is completely remote, therefore these meetings took place via Zoom. However, interestingly enough, because the BMCA is an international organization with leadership based in countries all over the world, they were already comfortable communicating remotely prior to this pandemic. Therefore, all of these virtual meetings occurred seamlessly. To provide some context, the current President and Vice President are from Brazil and France respectively, and other members I have met are from all over the United States, Canada, and Germany! Very few live in the same city, let alone the same state or country.

What became very evident to me about the organizational culture through just sitting in on these few meetings was that all of the members of the organization have high levels of respect for one another. Every team member was encouraged to contribute, and when they did – the rest of the members would sit back, allowing them the space to be heard. What this also demonstrated to me was that people within this organization listen, reflect, then respond rather than just quickly replying and trying to spit-ball solutions.

This commitment to reflecting was also shown to me at the very start of their meeting. Before they began a dialogue with one another, they all sat in silence. This moment of silence is seen as so important to them, that it is actually pencilled in on every one of their meeting agendas that they send out to everyone beforehand. It lasts approximately one to two minutes, many people choosing to close their eyes and/or put their hands on their hearts as they sit. Even though it is not a lot of time, it stuck out to me. No other company meeting I had even been to before had done this collectively. In fact, being silent is the last thing normally on anyone’s mind to do at a meeting – especially given how busy people’s schedules are now a days. Meetings always seem to get ‘right to business’, making any time doing or saying anything unrelated to the meeting’s main purpose feel immensely unproductive. Yet, as I mentioned, it was only a minute of their time, and it was this minute that seemed to change the entire atmosphere to be one of understanding and a grace. I believe this centering time also allowed them to remember to be more present during the meeting and to give themselves fully to the conversation – putting aside the other myriads of things they were dealing with that day for the hour or two that the meeting was going to be.

Therefore, the strengths I have seen so far in the BMCA’s culture definitely includes this level of respect and presence that they all have. Another one, that goes along with this, is that there seems to be no hierarchy of opinions during the meetings. Of course, at the end of the day, it will be the Board of Directors that have the final say, the way the committee meetings are structured allows the members to steer the conversation where they see necessary. In addition, another strength the BMCA has is that since it is such an international organization, they have the privilege of having diverse perspectives and opinions which leads them to come up with unique and thorough solutions to tasks and problems that arise. 

The weaknesses of the BMCA that I have seen thus far, which have actually been brought up already in conversation, is that although the organization’s membership spans a wide range of people, not everyone feels the same representation. At large, the largest demographic of people within the organization are of Northern-European descent, and the leadership teams seem to reflect this (regardless of coming from different countries). There are not many people of color represented at all. To increase their diversity, I believe that they first need to ask current members who are of color for their input, thoughts, and experience – if they are willing to share – and also to look inward at their history and practices and see if there is anything that is hindering people from joining. In addition, another issue is scheduling for online webinars, etc, with international membership. The best time for someone to come on a call in the United States, Canada, or Northern Europe, is completely different than what it would be for someone in Australia, Asia, or New Zealand. I believe to combat this issue, it is their duty to host more than one meeting and/or post recordings on their website of these virtual conversations they have so that all members are given the chance to respond and have their voice be heard.