Should There Be a Fee for Meditation Instruction?

Should learning to meditate be free? Should instructors be paid for sharing their expertise?

I’ve been thinking about these questions intensely since attending a recent meditation teacher training in which the answer was a resounding NO.

Without naming names, this training was offered for free by a local non-profit that has brought meditation into public schools, churches, the military, large corporations, prisons, hospitals–you name it. Although I already had formal training as a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction teacher and other forms of meditation, I wanted to learn more about best practices for working in the public sector.

But the day left me feeling very frustrated and discouraged. We were told that we were not being certified as representatives of the organization, that they did not want any volunteers, and if we wanted to teach meditation on our own, we should should still follow their provided script and not bring in any other wisdom or techniques. They reiterated again and again that we should not charge for meditation instruction, period.

I felt confused. While I feel that meditation should be made accessible to all, those sharing their skills also need to make a living. How to balance those issues?

At the lunch break I sat with a few participants and informally polled them about their reasons for attending and intentions to teach meditation. Everyone had noble aspirations, from teaching their grandchildren to meditate, to working with battered women’s shelters, to making meditation available to non-English speakers. Sharing the benefits of a meditation practice with others is a beautiful thing; with that I could not argue.

Yet I had invested $2500 in my training as an MBSR teacher, not to mention the money I had spent learning bodywork modalities, yoga teacher training, and personal enrichment, trying to make myself a well-rounded teacher. Was I wrong to want to be compensated for my hard-earned expertise and experience?

I decided to press the instructor further on his financial model. If his organization has no outside funding, there are no paid employees, he doesn’t charge for his services, and this is his full time career, how does he support himself? I asked him this pointedly in front of the group and he replied, “How do I live? I live peacefully and happily.” It was all I could do not to flip him the bird.

I felt insulted, frankly. I am serious about my meditation practice and about sharing its benefits with others. I am just as serious about paying my rent on time and wanting to secure a future for myself. Money is not a dirty word; it’s just energy. Exchanging money for instruction in meditation seems acceptable to me. I have always donated some of my time and services to underserved populations, which is my way of making them accessible to those who might not be able to afford them.

After this experience I began to wonder, should people charge for meditation instruction? I mean, what could be more simple than focusing the attention on the breath? It’s the birthright of everyone on this planet. Everyone has the tools, yet I hear from people all the time that they want help in developing the skills, and some are willing to pay for that expertise.

But not all. Twelve years after starting my massage practice, two years after my yoga teacher training, and a year after my MBSR training, I am barely getting by financially. I am in my mid-40s and have never made more than $20k per year. I’m over it! I don’t aspire to be rich and enjoy living simply, but I would like to feel secure, knowing that I can pay my bills and be planning for my old age. Mindfulness was recently on the cover of Time magazine, evidence that it has become mainstream, yet here I am.

I’m not sure what I want to do with all this. I am planning to go back to graduate school in the fall and finish my master’s degree in library and information science, hoping it might lead to a better job where I can still help people. I’m not sure what to do with this blog, or my website, whether to market my teaching or where to put my energy.

I would really like to hear from people about whether meditation instruction has value, and whether to charge a fee or not. If you are “making it” as a spiritual teacher, let me know how. Is there a model that you think works well (e.g. a corporation sponsoring meditation instruction made available for free to participants)? Teachers, students, I want to hear from everyone.

Thank you!

Advertisements

Lost and Found

It was the day after Christmas and I was ready to take a break between massage clients. I thought I’d walk down the street and get a hot chocolate. I reached into my purse for my wallet, but the wallet wasn’t there. Huh, that’s odd, I thought to myself.

I began to retrace my steps. I’d last seen it the night before in a restaurant when I paid cash for dinner. I called the restaurant. “No, no wallet has been turned in here.” I texted the friend who had given me a ride to dinner: “Any chance my wallet is in your car?” “No, I looked under the seats and it’s not there.” I walked out to my own car and looked under my own seats. No wallet. Please let it be at home on the table where I usually put my purse, I said to myself all afternoon, an uneasy and vulnerable feeling seeping into me. I lost my appetite for the hot chocolate.

I got home and looked everywhere. Still no wallet. I then called my bank and cancelled all my accounts. When I called I said, “My wallet’s been stolen,” noticing that I couldn’t say that I’d lost it, taking responsibility for possibly making a dumb mistake somewhere. I’m usually so organized and together, I thought. This couldn’t possibly happen to me. But it had.

I knew I’d be okay. My accounts were safe, and I could get copies of all my membership cards. I could print out new photos of the bunnies. My driver’s license photo needed updating anyway. Yet I still felt uneasy. Why did this happen to me?

A friend left a loving message on my voice mail: “Remember, you are not your wallet. You are whole and complete. You cannot be separated from what is yours. The meaning of this event will become clear in time.”

Yes, I wondered, what is the meaning of this event? I reflected on how before Christmas I’d made a list of the different organizations that I wanted to tithe to, those that I felt had uplifted and supported me over the year. Yet I only made one contribution to one organization. I felt tight fisted. My spousal support payments would be ending very soon, and I still hadn’t found enough income to support myself. I couldn’t let the money flow outward, and wondered if that might be blocking the flow of money coming inward.

Another friend gave me a prayer technique that she said had worked for many others who had lost objects. “Picture the object in your mind, and say, ‘Reach!’ It will probably show up in a few days.”

I practiced the prayer. At first I kept thinking, “This seems like New Age mumbo jumbo. How is this going to help?” But then I set my doubts aside and tried to pray with faith. I began to see the image of a Dumpster in my mind’s eye. Huh. Maybe my wallet was in a bin somewhere. I kept praying, “Reach!”

Three days later I got a phone call from a stranger. “Hi, you don’t know me, but I was cleaning out my recycling bin and found your wallet at the bottom. Give me a call so we can connect.”

I burst into tears of relief and gratitude. I was so glad to see my green wallet, which I’d bought for myself during my divorce as a reminder that I could fill it with green on my own. All the cash was gone, although all those pennies I’d picked up on the street were still there. I took out the cancelled credit cards, and in the little plastic windows I inserted two reminders to myself:

PRAYER WORKS!

and

THIS IS AN ABUNDANT UNIVERSE! GIVE MORE MONEY AWAY!

I added up all my pennies, and saw that I had enough for a hot chocolate. I walked down to the cafe, grateful and willing to let the money flow.

See a Penny, Pick it Up

See a penny,

pick it up,

and all the day

you’ll have good luck!

images

I’ve been aware of this little saying for as long as I can remember, at least back to when you could still buy something for a penny (gumballs were a favorite, or your fortune dispensed from an animatronic gypsy in a glass case at the Boardwalk). These days pennies actually cost more to make than their inherent worth. But I still pick them up.

Sometimes I see a penny that’s been really banged up, like some kids probably put it on the railroad tracks, or it got washed with a load of zippers. Some even have a green patina, like they’ve been lurking at the bottom of a junk drawer, mingling with other chemicals. But I pick up the ugly ones, too.

Pennies on the street have become a symbol of abundance to me. Even though on their own they aren’t worth much, they add up. And more importantly, they are representative of the abundant nature of the Universe. God doesn’t care if you find one penny or a hundred dollar bill. Money is energy. And even one cent is a little slice of that energy.

Sometimes I collect so many pennies that my wallet bulges and feels heavy. It doesn’t matter to me that it’s filled with pennies that couldn’t even buy an ice cream; I look at it and say, “Wow, my wallet is overflowing with money!” It’s this gratitude that acts as a magnet and draws more abundance into my life. Maybe later that day I’ll find a nickle. The fact that I believe that the penny is prosperity is what helps me fill my wallet with more than enough.

I actually use my pennies often. I like to keep the energy circulating. I’ve always been an exact change kind of gal, so when the cashier says, “Your total is $12.31,” I reach into my wallet and find one of those pennies. As I hand it over I think, “I’m so glad I found that penny. It was exactly what I needed to buy parsley for the bunnies. Thank you, Universe!” Never do I ask, “why only a penny?”

Your job is not to say how or when abundance comes to you, but simply to say yes to it. When it occurs, become the observer and give thanks for everything. Every time you see a coin on the street, pick it up and recognize it as abundance flowing your way. Receive the energy. Say thank you and be grateful.

 

%d bloggers like this: