Meditation and mindfulness have been around for thousands of years, with their origins in Buddhism. Only in recent years has there been a surge in popularity in the west with the number of people meditating tripling since 2012.
Unsurprisingly, corporations have responded as they usually do, by seizing the opportunity to make profit. In 2019, a meditation app company was valued at $1billion for the first time.
While it's undoubtedly a good thing that meditation is now more accessible than ever, is it acceptable that a practice that has been freely available for millennia be co-opted for profit? Mindfulness is associated with becoming less materialistic and more spiritual, so adding another monthly subscription to your digital life while lining the pockets of big business doesn’t quite fit.
David Forbes, a professor of contemplative education at Brooklyn College said it well in an interview with Vox:
As more and more people make money off of mindfulness, I think it corrupts the spirit of the tradition and practice. I think it becomes more and more a product like any other in our society, and I think it becomes more an individualistic pursuit".
Aside from the corruption of the principles of meditation, there's also the ethical question - should something that could potentially help countless people with mental health problems be put behind a paywall? What about the people who can't afford to pay a monthly subscription? Should meditation and mindfulness be only for the well-off?
You may have seen adverts for a particular mediation app saying "increase your happiness by 16%". This shamefully suggests that there’s a quick and easy fix for unhappiness, as long as you fork out the cost of a monthly or annual subscription. Adverts like this add to the constant bombardment of suggestions that we should be spending our money to achieve happiness.
These are the reasons that Medito Foundation is not-for-profit and always will be. We know that meditation can positively transform people’s lives, and no one should have to pay for it.