A dynamic Art of Living teacher, Pooja Tolani, has spent the last 12 years travelling across different countries conducting various Art of Living courses and bringing peace of mind to thousands of people. Her travels have taken her from Nagaland, where she strived to change the hearts of Naga militants, to North America, where she has worked with a number of ministries, government officials, and agencies to reach out to different sections of society. As a continuation of her constant efforts, she, along with a few others, organized the largest meditation campaign in Calgary’s history, I Meditate Calgary, with a vision of revitalizing and recharging Calgarians.
Another dynamic personality whose contribution has been immense in organizing this campaign is Desa Radic. Desa has worked on development and youth leadership programs both nationally and internationally with the Art of Living and has had the opportunity to interact with various individuals with a wide range of socioeconomic, cultural and political backgrounds.
In conversation with Pooja and Desa …
Q1. Could you please share with us the vision with which this campaign was initiated?
Desa – I Meditate Calgary was initiated to revitalize and recharge our Calgarians. It was not only a movement in Calgary, but people came from all over Canada.
We did not want this to be just a one day event. So we launched the event with Sri Sri on 21st April and it continues even now. Before the launch, as a part of the preparation for the post-event activities, we prepared some meditation schedules. For instance, we have a meditation session every day from Monday to Thursday at different locations. Anybody can just drop in! So the event aims to give back to the community with free meditations (even after the launch).
Pooja – Yes, the idea was that we wanted to build a continuing relationship with the people, something that people can hold on to, something that they can take back home with them, something that they come back to when feel they needed. We also wanted to create a community of like-minded people, create opportunities for people to come together, meditate, be stress free. And I think we were fortunate to find the platform of meditation.
Q2. So what was the idea behind choosing meditation as a tool for this event?
Desa – Well, here in Canada, Yoga in the last decade has just exploded. It’s amazing to see how people have really adopted it. For some people, it is a part of their daily life. However, not many have found an opportunity to learn meditation; the moment we started talking about the campaign, we received a huge response. So many people came back and said that this is something that they have always wanted to try but did not know where to go. So, I think it was really the perfect way and time to initiate this campaign.
Q3. Could you talk about the kind of work that happened before the event?
Pooja – Well, it all started with just a handful of us, but later because of the huge response, a lot more people kept joining us. For about the next 3 months, we had our calendar packed. We had our volunteers at every market, at health stores, health festivals, everywhere!
Volunteers simply kept on coming. We also invited a lot of like-minded groups to partner with us. Most of them were so enthusiastic to join because they knew this was something that would complement what they were already doing.
We partnered with the Mountain Equipment Co-op, a sports store; Genesis Center, a community centre; Self Connections Bookstore; and a lot of wellness centers. Bikram Yoga was very supportive of what we were doing. World health organization (not to be confused with WHO) is a chain of gyms at 7 locations; we had our volunteers on information booths at each of their gyms.
We got a lot of support from the Corporate Sector too. A lot of companies invited us to do meditation sessions in their offices. The city of Calgary, which is a municipality; the governing body of the city; and the Mayor were very supportive. They have also partnered with us in an arrangement where they want us to come twice a month and conduct meditations for their staff. For us, getting support from them was a huge thing.
Then we also reached out to people through social media. Event posters, billboards, and banners were all over the city. We planned meditation mobs on the busiest streets of Calgary and had local stores support us.