The price of spirituality stresses me out. Why does it cost half of my rent to “enhance the essence of my being” for a weekend? I don’t remember reading that Jesus or Buddha ever asked for hundreds of dollars as they were dropping knowledge and blessings, but I could have missed something.
I first noticed this pricey investment trend in my 20’s while living in the Bay Area. A girlfriend and I wanted to go to Harbin Hot Springs to a four-day enlightenment workshop that one of our groovy goddess gals had suggested. Assuming that it would fit into our non-existent budget, we headed out of the city.
We naively drove to Middleton, excited that in just four days we would be “enlightened.” We cruised into the forest leading to the main house and were surrounded by older couples and middle-aged bohemians. They all stared at us as my yellow VW bug purred onto the grounds.
Strolling into their workshop office, we found a woman behind a desk arranging pink cosmos in a vase. After telling her that we were there to attend the enlightenment workshop she calmly said, “Wonderful. We will just need the down payment, as well as the workshop fee, right away. Each of your totals will be $998.”
My friend opened her eyes as big as the flowers on the desk. “What?” she asked. “You gotta be kidding me.”
The cosmos woman assured us that she was most certainly not kidding us and that the fees covered room, board and food as well as the cost of communicating with Quan Yin, Abraham and Sananda.
Not wanting to seem spiritually un-cool, we said we would have to think about it and walked out. It didn’t seem to be our time, so we drove back to San Francisco, giggling at our soulful immaturity.
Here in the islands there are copious ways to delve into the alternative world of spirit. For the price of $3,000 anyone is welcome to go to a transformational vacation called “The Art of Being” at Maui’s Kolealea Retreat Center for three weeks, where they can enjoy workshops in Tantra, open sharing circles and meditation. The purpose of the workshop is to “reconnect you with you essential nature” and “experience life fully” by also taking trips to “bathe in forest pools, play in the ocean, enjoy the whales and witness the glory of sunrise from the summit of Haleakala.”
On Molokai there is a five-day workshop to explore the healing properties of poetry writing. It provides a non-judgmental environment to express your life in poetry. The cost is $1,750, with the fees covering room, board and the actual workshop.
There’s no doubt that these workshops really can work for people who have the money to invest in these organizations. Curious to see how much a session of Concentration Meditation would cost, I called Margaret Astrid Phanes.
She told me her sessions were $25 an hour. I told her I was pleasantly surprised.
“Well, I try to make it affordable since most people have very little discretionary income, particularly on Maui,” Phanes said.
Relieved, I asked her why she felt that some people charged more than others in a field where monetary gain was the least important goal.
“Sometimes these trainings start on the mainland and they are not aware of the income levels here on the island,” she said. “They could also be trying to reach different demographics such as tourists or people visiting. It could also be that their personal training was expensive and they might be trying to re-coup their investments or that they justify their price by taking the workshop to a variety of places even when the populations may be diverse.”
But she also said that a lot of times people create their own practices, which are not necessarily based in true spiritual traditions.
Phanes was not the only spiritual practitioner who charged reasonably—I was actually surprised to find many different modalities moderately priced here on Maui. What’s more, I realized that it wasn’t the money I spent to make my spirit happy, but the amount of time that I had invested. MTW