Inspired Pricing Model for Teaching Mindfulness

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.

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Mindfulness Teacher
Comment by Shalini Bahl on May 2, 2016 at 6:03am
It turns out that I had more dropouts with people only paying $100. So I increased the commitment fee to 200 for students and 300 for non students plus offer scholarships in which they pay $50 and some kind of service in exchange. I have heard from people that this model allowed them to take the class they felt inhibited to take earlier because they couldn't work with the current sliding scale offered by other teachers. I am sure all teachers offer scholarships but it still creates a perception for some people that they can't afford it and may drive a few people away who feel awkward about asking for scholarship.

Mindfulness Teacher
Comment by Shalini Bahl on September 5, 2014 at 5:46pm

Thank you for your reflections Deanna and Paul. I am coming to this place open to experimenting if it opens up the space for more people to attend while making it a sustainable practice for me. One thing I feel is that while earlier I was not comfortable charging because i was not sure if my services were good enough, now I feel I cannot charge a fixed price for this because this service is priceless. My hope is that it will even out with some people paying more and some less that what i used to charge but it will get many more people to take the classes. Will keep you posted :)

Mindfulness Teacher
Comment by Paul Deger on September 4, 2014 at 1:14pm

Wonderful offering, Shalini! Always a question worth asking of how to make training and classes on mindfulness available to broad populations and a teacher/trainer being able to meet family financial needs. 

Mindfulness Teacher
Comment by Deanna Burkett on September 1, 2014 at 11:20am

Money and Mindfulness. Definitely a relationship that deserves reflection, continued reflection. Asking for payment for mindfulness-based "services," if we want to use the language of commerce--and mindfulness has become a part of the health care "industry"--can produce feelings of confusion or guilt or even inspiration in the heart of someone who wants to help others. I think ALL these feelings are to be welcomed, and for a teacher devoted to mindfulness practice, these feelings are there not only to inspire reflection on "What are the logistical/pricing answers to resolving issues around these feelings?" This IS an important question, as the answers CAN remove the barriers that money creates. My experience is that these feelings are also there to be worked with on a personal level, as they help us break ground on really rich inner territory that can inform issues closer to home--self-concept, what I perceive I need to "give" versus what I perceive I am "not giving," motivations around self-concept that might be driving these perceptions, boundaries around time and how (for us householders) time is a form of currency that allows us to take care of commitments we've made to our families. These are lifetime questions, I think, and the logistical/pricing questions can be "career-long" questions for some teachers who will be lucky enough to find themselves engaged with the quandary of mindfulness and money. :~)

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