She once dreamed of pursuing a career as an interior designer. She became an Art of Living teacher and loves seeing people recognise the beauty within - an interior designer in the true sense!
Born on the 6th of May, in Pindi, Pakistan, Shahnaz Minallah comes from a long line of Sufi saints from the ‘Kakakhel’ tribe. It resulted in her having a deep spiritual background, significant in shaping a divine outlook. She spent her childhood years with her parents on their tea estate in Bangladesh, where she was first home-schooled by her mother, and then, later, was sent to a convent school, where she was educated by nuns.
The partition of East and West Pakistan brought Shahnaz and her family back to Pakistan, leaving behind their well-established life and belongings to begin a new life. She graduated in Law and Political Science, married and gave birth to two children, Sharmine and Sharez. Her married life was accompanied with plenty of travel. She eventually settled in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan.
In 2001, after she had sent her children abroad, to pursue their education, her life took another dramatic turn; She was in the conference room of Elixir, a software company, in which she was among the board of directors. “I wanted to do landscaping and interior design, shares Shahnaz, “But I was not sure if I wanted to tell people how to put their curtains and carpets. I wanted to do something very different’ and that’s when an Art of Living teacher, Naushad Thariani came to Pakistan.”
The ways of The Art of Living were quickly adopted by Shahnaz. She started to believe in ‘one world family’, moving from family structures to a limitless, and an international commune awareness. She started to feel, that getting the right people together, at the right time, for the right purpose, can work wonders in any situation.
After doing her Part 1 course, Shahnaz strengthened emotionally and physically. She explains, “I became stable, and now, I could observe my emotions. I had stopped depending on my family, and I started to feel that I was taken care of. Physically, I was thin, and I never slept well. I had a rather disjointed sleep, but after the course, I started getting good sleep. That is what first transformed me, as I started to feel I am having such great sleep, I felt amazing.”
In 2002, Shahnaz did her first ‘Advance Course’ in San Francisco, California. ‘That changed everything,” she exclaims. While in USA, she was introduced to a fellow Pakistani Art of Living follower, Naeem Zamindar. After the course, Shahnaz soon came back to her home country on a four month summer holiday, and that, incidentally, was the same time when Sri Sri had planned his trip to Pakistan. She, along with Naeem, expedited Sri Sri’s VISA process in six days, which otherwise should have taken about six weeks.
“During his visit to Pakistan, Guruji even came to my house and had lunch with us like one of the family,” smiles Shahnaz. Deeply involved in seva (service) and sadhana (spiritual practices), Shahnaz wished to spread her master’s knowledge. Explaining her decision, she says, “I became a teacher, because I felt Pakistan really needed one. I did my ‘Teachers Training Course’ (TTC) during the silver jubilee of The Art of Living, in February 2005, and from that very time, I have been taking courses back to back. I teach almost everyday, except the national holidays,” smiles Shahnaz.
“TTC really transformed me,” shares Shahnaz. “We all have problems, I have seen a lot of troubles and tragedies too, but after ‘TTC’, I feel so confident of everything. I couldn’t speak in front of a crowd, but the course really transformed me. ‘Sudarshan Kriya’ helped me get that anxiety out of my system. I was looking for a purpose in life, and I found it after becoming a teacher.” “As The Art of Living is an ‘Indian thing’, there is a lot of scepticism attached to it when it comes to Pakistan,” explains Shahnaz. Thus, the challenges are always greater than usual. People think of it as a ‘Hindu technique’ but all that vanishes when the course starts, and that is the power of the workshop.” She continues, “We haven’t advertised for courses here, it’s only been through word of mouth, which has led to the organization’s success in Pakistan.”
She shares a magical experience of a boy, who decided against committing suicide after watching her over on television. “This quiet, reserved boy, on the last day, said something that brought tears to all of our eyes,” shares Shahnaz. “He had decided upon committing suicide. One night he was surfing through his television when he happened to see my face on one of the channels; I was talking about the benefits of Sudarshan Kriya. It was then, a voice in him said 'wait, I must attend this course, there is no harm, and I can always take my life later.' He found us and apparently that is all he needed," she smiles.
To Shahnaz, spirituality is an amazing thing. “It doesn’t matter whichever religion you’re from, it’s the same for everyone. When we see the energy behind everything, we are spiritual,” she explains. “It has made me strengthen my goal and my service. It has taught me to operate at the level of my intuition, and I have experienced, that if you do so, everything just works out fine. My role, as a woman, in the society, has also changed after the course. It has totally magnified. I was helping people change, and it was just magical to see them transform.”
Shahnaz's vision is to get Sri Sri’s powerful message amalgamated into the average Pakistani lifestyle. She aims to empower many more to take on this wonderful journey of love, wisdom and service.