Designing Beautiful Lives

An artist by profession, Poonam Tandon worked for a short while in a visual media company as a user interface designer. But she found more satisfaction and fulfillment in designing people’s lives beautiful by teaching them meditation. And this is exactly what she has been doing since 1999. She has taught meditation to people from all walks of life, be it businessmen, children, or college students.In a little chat with Divya Sachdev, she shares how meditation transformed her life.

How did you encounter meditation?

Interestingly, I learnt meditation when I was nine. My family had a guru who used to come from India. Every summer vacation used to be spent with the guru. But even then, meditation was abstract to me and as I went to college, I lost touch with it.

But I was still seeking, I wanted something more. So I read every spiritual book, but then there came a point when it was more conceptual and I was longing for something more tangible. I heard that when one is ready, a teacher comes to the person. So I just prayed. And in some time, I found a flier with Sri Sri’s picture and I felt recognition.

I did the Art of Living Course and it was exactly what I was looking for – it was so tangible, yet so profound. I was blown away! Now, there is not a single day that goes without meditation.

I definitely meditate every day. I can’t imagine life without it! When I started, it wasn’t so easy to fit it into my life. But now it is just as natural as brushing my teeth in the morning. Meditation is the first thing in the morning after my shower. I start my day with.

What transformation did you see in yourself after starting to meditate?

I used to be very shy. Being an artist, I had grand plans but no one would get to see my art. I only played the piano when I was alone. But after the course, the shyness broke through. People can’t believe me now when I tell them I was shy. A lot opened up in my life.

Being a teacher, I have seen many kinds of transformations. I have taught corporate leaders, college students, kids, and politicians. The course is different at one level where we address their concerns but at the core, there is the same element. Everyone wants to be happy and I feel so much joy well up in them.

In a deeper sense, meditation is the most profound experience, a sense of knowing that I am not alone, I am part of something far greater, and I need not be afraid.

I was a part of a project, I Meditate New York, and it was just amazing to see people from different age groups, cultures, and careers come together to meditate. They were all looking for something deeper but just did not know where to find it. The Lincoln Hall in New York was filled to capacity and everyone went back happy.

How do you see meditation uniting people from different walks of life?

We are usually stuck in the periphery, seeing all the superficial differences, and this causes separation, judgement, and fear in people. But, meditation is coming back to the source and when we experience that, it is not difficult to see the same source in others.

When you have been working in the office all day long, say for 24 hours, you just long to come home and sleep in your own bed. It is like coming back to yourself. After this, it is easy to go back and work. In a subtle sense, meditation helps us to come back to our self. Our mind goes on a trip everyday to take care of all the responsibilities. And it needs to come back inside to its home. That happens in meditation.

If you are hungry and you are not sure if or when you will get food, then the tendency is not to share whatever you have with the others. But when you know that all the food that you want is available all the time then you don’t mind sharing. This happens with meditation. You are so fulfilled inside that you can share with everyone.

As an artist, how does meditation help in bringing out one’s creativity?

If you ask any artist, “Where did your beautiful art come from?” They will say, “I don’t know.” That is because it is not in the head. I used to be an artist from the head. There was talent but intellect got in the way. That is why I was inhibited and was unable to express myself fully. Creativity needs freedom and meditation frees us. You can really shine through. The true artist in me came out only after becoming a meditator.

I was interviewed a few times in MSN BC and CBS. I had zero experience and you need certain skills to be in front of the camera. Being a meditator, there was a sense of drop. I just showed up there and the skills came to me so naturally. People told me that the interview was really good and they asked me if I’ve done this often!

There is a belief that meditation is a religious activity. What do you have to say about it?

Does breath go beyond caste, religion, and culture? If yes, then meditation also goes beyond it. Doesn’t matter which country we are from or what sacred text we read from childhood. We all have a heartbeat, we eat, and feel connection with our family. These basic things are humanness.

Meditation is being in that humanness; not being stuck in our emotions or desires. The more we spend time meditating, the more we recognize the sameness in all of us. Then we can revel in the diversity and realize that we are just many ways of expressing the same truth.

What tips on meditation would you give a beginner?

  • There are many types of meditation but learn from an authentic source.
  • One of my favorites is the Sahaj Samadhi Meditation.
  • Just know that you can do it. It is something very profound but also incredibly natural to us.
  • You can start with guided meditations.
  • We think meditation is concentration but it is actually very effortless. Sahaj means effortless and Samadhi means bliss. It means effortless bliss!
  • You can meditate anytime, but definitely once in 24 hours, on an empty stomach.
  • Meditation should be done seated.

And lastly, remember that you are too precious not to meditate. You are totally worth it. Come join us!

Founded in 1981 by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar,The Art of Living is an educational and humanitarian movement engaged in stress-management and service initiatives. Read More