Transcendental Meditation...and sales techniques

May 17, 2016

I have a friend who completed the course to teach transcendental mediation. He seems extremely impressed by it, and he’s someone whose thinking processes I respect. Therefore, though I had tried learning the meditation many years ago (I found the initiation very lackadaisical and superficial) I decided to take up the offer he made, to teach the first five people who responded to his FaceBook post, for free.

Though I am not usually a person who goes in for freebies, in my present financial situation, I suppose the offer attracted me.

Trying to organize the initiation process (it apparently needs five consecutive days, with the first session lasting nearly 2 hours), it was apparent that he’d stipulated a condition that I had not met…that I should share his post on FB.

So, the initiation would cost me Rs.1500. Not a big amount…but certainly, as an unexpected expense, something to think about. Having accepted the “free” offer, I thought I should not back out of the “paid” one.

I was then told that I would have to buy flowers, fruits and coconuts as part of the initiation ceremony. As someone who’s had less and less liking for rites and rituals, this bothered me, but this, too, I accepted as part of the deal.

But when he explained to me that I’d not “shared” his post on FaceBook, I demurred. Why should endorse a process which I had not yet taken up, and, indeed, had not found appealing all those years ago? Surely he did not praise transcendental meditation before he took it up; why did he expect others to do so?

I analysed my actions further. I had, I decided, fallen for that old sales technique…the “something-for-nothing” pitch. Tempted by the offer of a “free” initiation, I had not paused to reflect that nothing, especially knowledge, should be free. There is always a cost to acquiring anything, and anyone wishing to acquire it should pay that cost. Alas, my friend wanted to defray that cost by asking me to endorse the process in advance, a cost that I had not paid, and was not keen to do, either.

My friend then told me that the actual cost of the initiation would be closer to Rs.2000, and indeed, in the US (I don’t know how he arrived at the figure) it should be $1000. I don’t know why he brought up the dollar figure, as neither of us are in the US.

At this point, I was quite disillusioned, and decided that I would not take up the initiation. I also had a feeling that, whether I paid Rs. 1500 or Rs.2000, I would feel beholden to this friend, and not having found the initiation helpful to my mental processes or peace of mind many years ago, I might be also starting with a slight bias against it.

I blame myself for falling for the “freebie” sales technique, which played to my sense of getting something for nothing. Most marketing and sales techniques, with their offers of various freebies, work on this mentality. Surely, a little rational reflection can make me realize that everything has a cost, and in a “free” offer, this cost is built into the transaction.

I cannot blame my friend. He used a recognized sales technique; and when he found that I had not endorsed him by sharing his post, he told me, up front, what the costs would be, and what the rites would be. It was just to me that neither the technique nor the ritual appealed, and the fact that I would have to pay for it made it even less attractive. I made up my mind and told him that I’d decided not to take up the initiation.

When I would not buy a packet of detergent just because it comes with a “free” bucket (I asked that I buy the detergent without the bucket. I actually got Rs.40 off the price, and saved myself from getting a bucket that I didn’t want!), why should I agree to go for a “free” initiation? It was, I think, my reasoning that since, this time, I would not have to pay, I would approach the meditation process with an open mind, and see if it worked any better for me. When the money aspect kicked in, my resistance to the process also raised its head again.

“Free”…a misleading and much-abused word in all commercial transactions. And no matter whether it’s a detergent or transcendental meditation which is the product, it is a commercial transaction, and I should never go for “free”. A lesson which, I hope, I have learnt for the final time, and well.