Why is This Free?
I work one-on-one or in small groups with a lot of folks, spending hours at a time with my new friends. One of the questions I most frequently get is, “what do you charge for this?” or “Why is this free? What’s the catch?”
There is no catch. Everything at the Zen Happiness Project that can be free is free.
On our meditation retreats we share the rental and food cost of the weekend among the attendees. This cost sharing model makes our retreats more affordable, and allows more people to attend.
I’ve assembled a comprehensive list of all the reasons our beginners’ classes, challenges, one-one-one coaching and small group instructions are free.
- Meaning + Purpose + Hope = Happiness: A major theme of the Zen Happiness Project is the idea that real sustainable happiness comes from developing Meaning, Purpose and Hope in our lives. I have found no faster way to create these three things than being of service to others. Being of service gives me a purpose, creates meaning and generates hope that we don’t have to do this alone. This is my service work.
- This started out of self-interest: I started the Zen Happiness Project in 2013 because I needed a community of meditators to help support my practice. At that time I knew I was going to be moving from my town where there were two meditation groups. I wanted a community that would travel with me wherever I lived. Much of my life is online, why aren’t my meditation friends?
- I’m a rebel: In today’s capitalistic, profit above all else, consumerism society the most counter cultural thing you can be is not motivated by greed. I’m tired of feeling like every relationship I have is based on some measurable outcome or ultimate payday. I want authentic relationships with my meditation friends that is rooted in care for each other.
- Meditation Changed Me: Meditating daily has made me more compassionate and generous. I’m really inspired by the teachings of Thich Nhat Hahn when he talks about aspiring towards a level of compassion for others that is like when the right hand goes to comfort the left hand when it is hurt. No sense of separation, just the natural instinct to help, regardless of who you are. If we’re not friends, we’re just not friends yet. I like helping my friends. Meditation is scientifically proven to make us more empathetic.
- Minimal overhead: The ZHP operational costs (website, email service, conference call line, and the like) were $2,100 in 2014 and $2,300 in 2015. For the time being, I’m lucky to be well employed and don’t mind paying these expenses to stay in touch with all my friends.
- Family tradition: My grandparents were Lutheran missionaries on one side and a family pharmacist on the other that served the poor in their community to the point of near bankruptcy. Both of my parents devoted their whole professional lives to non-profits, as I have. I’ve had the good fortune to be raised in a family that always asked what we were doing for others. ZHP is how I volunteer today.
- Love: I love meditating, talking about meditation and seeing it transform my and others’ lives. When you love something this much, it is a passion project and turning it into a job seems like a great way of sucking the life out of it.
- Gratitude: A meditation practice has profoundly changed my life for the better. I am eternally grateful to the people who helped me start and sustain a practice. None of them ever asked for money. How could I charge for something that was so freely given to me? Paying it forward is the only way I can pay back all the people who helped me along the way.
That was about as exhaustive of a list that I could generate. I hope I will have convinced even the most skeptical reader of my and the whole ZHP team’s altruistic intentions.
May your practice go well.
Anthony A. Cernera, M.Ed.