8 October 2020
8 October 2020
Manoj Dias knows the simple act of meditation can help navigate the most difficult of times. While climbing the corporate ladder in his 20s, the marketing whizz realised he was “burning the candle” and sharply re-evaluated his life.
“I was not eating healthily and drinking more coffee and alcohol than my body could handle,” Dias says. “Eventually it caught up with me and meditation and mindfulness were the only things that pulled me out.”
While the Sri Lankan-born, Melbourne-raised Dias had been practising and teaching meditation for years, he found it was virtually impossible to convince his friends to join him. In 2015 he traded in his suit and tie and created his own meditation studio, inspiring a new demographic to try the Theravada Buddhist tradition.
“Launching A—SPACE served as an invitation to practise in a contemporary and accessible way with relatable teachers,” he says of the sleek Collingwood studio, which became a community hub.
Dias went on to bring his accessible brand of mindfulness to corporations such as Google, Netflix and Lululemon, and this year he made a permanent move to San Francisco after A—SPACE was acquired by Open, a modern meditation organisation. “Logistically moving to the US has been a nightmare,” he admits.
“Countless requests to the government, cancelled consulate appointments and limited flights – my mindfulness practise has definitely been stretched!”
Open streams an array of meditation exercises, breathing workshops and yoga sessions to a community of members around the globe. “We’re creating experiences led by world-class teachers, featuring mixed methodology to strengthen the mind-body connection, with oneself and with each other,” Dias says. “Now more than ever, mindfulness is essential to human health … frankly, I don’t know how many of us operate normally without some form of mindfulness practise.”
According to Dias, there are three simple ways to practise basic meditation and feel more in control of our health.
Even if we can’t physically connect with others, we can do so in other ways, says Dias. Research from Stanford University’s Centre for Compassion and Altruism found that having someone compassionately listen to us for even a short period of time is enough to reduce stress hormones in your brain.
Long, smooth exhalations of breath are the go-to practise when working to combat anxiety and tension. Long exhalations send messages to the amygdala – the part of the brain which activates fear – that ‘everything is OK, and I am safe’.
When we’re navigating difficult emotions – heartbreak, sadness, anger, rage – it can help to simply open compassionate space for whatever is arising to be felt, explains Dias. Feel the emotions, note where they are in your body and name them.
As we approach World Mental Health Day on October 10, Dias notes some sobering statistics. “Fifty per cent of all medical problems in the US are related to mental health issues,” he says. “In Australia one in three people will experience mental health issues in their life. Thankfully, we’re beginning to normalise these things, which are a by-product of simply being human.”
Dias’s first book, Still Together, will be released in March 2021 through Hardie Grant.
Find out more at www.manojdias.com.au
By Michael Harry