At BHAV, we believe in empowering women to find unique ways to embrace their cultural heritage. We started 'The Culture Connection' to explore the impact (both good and bad) of heritage on a variety of incredible women, and understand how it continues to play an influential role in their lives. We invite you to join us on this journey, with the hope that you find value in these conversations.
Tejal is a mindfulness and meditation expert for kids, and recently released her book 'Meditation for Kids' (https://tejalvpatel.com/meditationforkidsbook/). In addition to her passions for Kundalini yoga/meditation and reading spiritual/self-help books, she's a devoted mom who loves partaking in Bollywood dance parties, playing board games, and getting in a Barre class. Read on to learn about Tejal's devotion to teaching mindfulness, tips for getting started with meditation, and what she loves about South Asian fashion.
On Her South Asian Heritage:
What's your background?
I am Indian-American.
How has, or currently does your heritage play a role in your life?
When I decided to make the switch 10 years ago from an attorney to becoming a mindfulness and meditation expert for kids, I think there was a lot of pressure from people to conform because they just couldn’t understand why I would leave a high-paying “respectable” profession to do something that was more of a 'hobby'. I had to work on my inner self-confidence and self-worth to believe in myself to break away from the traditional South Asian path.
But to be honest, I've been a bit of a rebel since my teenage days. When someone said I shouldn’t or couldn't do something, it fueled my inner desire to prove myself. In the case of my career, my vision was strongly tied to raising mindful, meditating children, and it was something that was meaningful and necessary to me. I do think that as mindfulness, yoga and meditation has become more mainstream, and I’ve established my expertise and conviction to my cause, it's helped that I’m South Asian since yoga and meditation is something that is so rooted in Eastern philosophy.
For women out there who are considering meditation as a tool to better cope with stress but don't know where to start, what advice would you give them?
The biggest mistake I see beginners make is believing the entry point for meditation is having to sit still quietly, while focusing on your breath and clearing out your mind so it becomes blank and devoid of thoughts. This is a form of passive meditation, and it's actually the 'CrossFit' of meditation. This is NOT where you start when you are a beginner - rather, it's where you end up after enough practice and consistency.
If you're having trouble sitting still when starting a meditation practice, try to do yoga or some sort of workout to move out energy within you before you sit. Secondly, try starting with a form of active meditation where the meditation has a built-in meditation anchor to help train your brain to slow down without focusing on your mind. Apps like 'Insight Timer' and 'Headspace' are great for guided meditations, and you can try using a mantra or an active breathing exercise to help. I have plenty of examples for kids and parents to follow along in my 'Meditation for Kids' book.
Your 5-year old son Ayaan seems like he's taken to meditation incredibly well. Do you find that's common amongst other kids you've taught, and what do you view as the biggest keys to getting children to stick to building this valuable skill?
Having taught kids yoga for 10 years, one of the fascinating things I've found is that after my students (4-7 years old) would cite the breathing and relaxation part of the class as their favorite part. I've seen first-hand how being still and having moments to pause is a natural part of a child's essence, and I firmly believe that adults should aim to help create that space for them in their lives. Kids won't become meditation experts overnight, but they can become quite proficient with consistency. Just like building the habit of brushing their teeth each day, they can similarly build the habit of brushing their brain by meditating and taking deep breaths daily.
Tell us more about your podcast 'Time-In Talks'. What topics do you focus on, and what are your goals with the podcast?
It’s honestly a place where I can share different perspectives on the problems and situations we face most in modern life. Not only is it about empowering and uplifting other women, it’s honestly very therapeutic for me as well. Being someone who has been on a spiritual path since my 20’s, I'm always looking for new points of view, inspiring perspectives, and solutions to problems we all face (in motherhood and life). And I felt that all the wisdom I've learned would be more beneficial to be shared than just kept to myself.
In the podcast, I share yogic, spiritual and Ayurvedi wisdom that help me heal on my own personal journey. From overcoming stress, to raising resilient kids, to dealing with toxic friends and family, I try to cover the most common things we face on our journey. And I also include my 5 year-old son Ayaan for special episodes where he shares mindful solutions to modern kid problems :)
What do you love most about South Asian fashion?
I love that I feel like an absolute princess. It’s like being 'extra', but it’s totally allowed. I feel my most radiant self in Indian clothes. I love drapery, so taking a duppatta and dropping it in a cool and new way on a lengha is my favorite. Being a lover of Indowestern, I also love dhoti style pants.
What's your favorite thing in your closet right now?
I’m a big Indowestern lover, and my current favorite designer is Sonam Luthria (based in Mumbai). My favorite outfit is her dhoti pant pre-pleated sari suit. I love wearing outfits that are unique, trendy and one-of-a-kind. Dressing up in a statement necklace, Indowestern outfit, gold heels, and a set of lashes makes me feel like my outsides match the radiance from the inside.
What's your go-to cocktail, spirit or drink?
I’m not a drinker, but in the rare occasion I do drink it would be a glass of prosecco on a warm summer afternoon.
What are you currently watching?
'Hunters', and '4 More Shots'.
Name of the best book you've read in a while?
'The Universe Always Has A Plan' by Matt Kahn.
Morning person or night owl?
What's 1 small thing you couldn't give up (daily ritual, accessory/personal item, etc.)?
My daily meditation practice, hands down!