I have been inspired to offer the eight-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program at no upfront cost to people committed to learning and practicing mindfulness. Participants will only make a $100 upfront commitment fee to reserve their space and to offset some of the overheads including the cost of the handbook, CDs, and rent for the studio. After experiencing the full program, participants can make a donation based on the value they give to their experience. The donations can involve monetary reimbursements, volunteering services, and an exchange of other services and products that can be used at Downtown Mindfulness or to run the online mindfulness community, Mindful Universe.
This decision is inspired by my recent ten-day experience at the Vipassana silence retreat. Even though this is an inspired idea, I see three reasons for making the payment for the eight-week programs based on donation:
1) Accessibility: During the silence retreat, I experienced an urgency to make this knowledge accessible to as many people as I can. There are so many people – young and old - suffering in schools, colleges, relationships, and at work who can benefit from this secular set of practices that can help them change their habits of affliction at the source, thereby bringing clarity, peace, and choice. Even though I have always offered scholarships, not bringing money into the equation removes any barriers that money can impose on people, preventing them from the benefits of these valuable practices.
2) Value of Mindfulness: It is impossible to set an upfront value for this profound knowledge. Once people learn to practice mindfulness in these courses, they will continue to benefit all their lives, as long as they continue to practice. Practicing mindfulness can help people save money and peace of mind with respect to their health, work, education, and relationships. As such, it is better to allow people to offer a donation based on their actual experience of the benefits and their capability to make a donation.
There are people who cannot make a monetary payment for the benefits received and can offer services instead or people who make a bigger monetary donation can support people who cannot pay. My hope is that my willingness to teach for free with the intention to make mindfulness accessible to everyone looking for this knowledge, will inspire others to play their role in co-creating mindful communities.
3) Free from Expectations: Setting an upfront price creates expectations among participants and can raise issues that money sometimes creates. As such inviting the participants to dive into the program fully without a set price, will create a safe place, free of expectations, within which they can focus only on the program.
Mindfulness has been a gift passed on to me and I hope I can share it with as many people as I can. I hope that this new approach to making mindfulness available to people, will open up the way for many more people in my community to take the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction classes I teach in Downtown Mindfulness.
I don’t want to imply that this model of donations is my creation because such models are successfully being used in different industries. See the Vipassana centers and Community Cafes launched by One World Everybody Eats for examples of similar pricing models. Even though I have been impressed by this pricing model, it is only now that it has come to me form within to remove any expectations that money raises in teaching mindfulness. I am happy to share this journey with you as it unfolds.
If any of you has used a similar model of pricing in your work, please share your experience here.
If you have any reflections or inspiration about this way of offering mindfulness, please share here.
I encourage other teachers, if you are able to, consider trying this model. If you do try this model please share your experience and lets explore ways to support the growth of mindfulness in our world.