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We’re speaking to small businesses and entrepreneurs across the country to better understand how they’re adapting to stay open, how they’re keeping their community safe, and how we can support them now during this time, and beyond. We’re focused on keeping Australia open for business, even if doors are closed. #OpenWeStand
His dedication to understanding the human experience has taken him around Australia, and throughout the US, hosting events in iconic spaces like the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the National Gallery of Victoria, and mentoring like-minded individuals and groups from companies like Google, Slack and Netflix.
Also a regular columnist for TheLatch—, through his profound writings, Dias shares his own ever-evolving journey to mindfulness through meditation on a mission to help others understand the human experience through the lens of the heart and mind.
This year was set to be one of Dias’ biggest years yet. With the release of his first book and a line-up of events and collaborations, his plans, like many others’, were rocked by COVID-19. Though in some ways, he’s busier than ever before (as many at home prioritise their own mental health), aspects of his business have changed.
We caught up Dias to discuss how his business has pivoted in this time, and find out how we can show our support for the work A—SPACE is doing to help others find peace and mindfulness in a time of crisis.
Katie Skelly: Hi Manoj! Thanks so much for chatting with me today. Tell me about A-Space and how the studio helps others achieve a sense of mindfulness.
Manoj Dias: A—SPACE has been around since 2015. At the time we launched the business, it was the first multidisciplinary meditation studio in Australia, and what that means is that we had many different styles of meditation practices and multiple teachers — all under the one roof.
We had a studio space for a few years, though we eventually moved to a pop-model, hosting workshops and meditations in corporate spaces, fitness studios and cultural centres around Australia.
KS: That’s how I first met you! During a workshop at my gym in Sydney. Tell me, how have you been affected by the pandemic?
MD: When COVID-19 hit, all of our mass meditations, workshops and programs were reduced to zero. We had a couple of companies looking to work with us through Zoom, but of course, the inability to connect with businesses in-person really affected us.
Most of our loyal teachers aren’t able to teach class at the moment, and this has been a really sad part of what’s going on. For me right now, my efforts primarily lie in, one, keeping the business afloat, and two, find a way to serve my community and look after our teachers.
We’d been working through a few ideas, and eventually, we landed on the ‘School of Deep Feelings’, which is a completely free offering to Australians and members of our community overseas.
The School of Deep Feelings brings everyone from neuroscientists and psychologists to meditation teachers and mindfulness experts together, to offer their time for 30-minute sessions, all hosted on the A—SPACE Instagram channel via Live streaming.
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? Your first teacher: @manojdias_ —— Manoj is a leading voice in the next generation of meditation and mindfulness teachers. He is the founder of @_aspace, a global ambassador with @lululemon and proud father. Join Manoj’s class on Monday 8am Australian standard time, for our friends overseas: Sunday 5pm EST and 2pm PST. We can’t wait for you to #feelwithushere
KS: That’s such an incredible resource for people seeking guidance right now. Would you consider the offering a business pivot in response to COVID?
MD: The School of Deep Feelings was not born from a strategic business pivot. It was more of an emotional response to the needs of our community, for the people who felt as if the current climate was a struggle.
We never had plans to charge people for the offering, so when we first conceptualised the idea, we asked our teachers if they’d like to take part on a completely voluntary basis. We were so touched by the response — that everyone wanted to be involved.
KS: That’s such a beautiful thing to have done for your community and those people who needed support.
MD: Yeah, and look, perhaps it comes from a place of privilege that I was able to live for four weeks without a salary in order to build this platform, but when times are really tough, I believe you either see the best in humanity or the worst in humanity, and the potential is there from everyone to show their best. And we’re seeing it.
From early days in isolation, everyone has been online and sharing whatever it was they could to encourage people to get involved in something new, be it cooking or yoga.
“When times are really tough, I believe you either see the best in humanity or the worst in humanity, and the potential is there from everyone to show their best.”
KS: I know I’ve been getting into the cooking! You’ve been busy lending your expertise to people seeking mindfulness right now. Do you feel like this time in isolation has potential to make the world a more mindful place in the long run?
MD: For me, it feels perhaps too early to consider a silver lining. I think people generally have a slight resistance to meditation, but what this pandemic has really shown is that resistance to mindfulness can go out the door in the span of a day, when people realise they need to learn to find a way to deal with discontentedness and some sort of suffering.
I think people generally could be more open to meditation going forward, but do I think the world will be a more mindful place after all of this? I don’t know! I’d like to think so.
KS: I know I’ve been finding calm amid the chaos right now through meditation. But tell me, how can people show their support for A—SPACE right now?
MD: For us, it’s less about supporting A—SPACE and much more about showing your support for your friends and family. The more people that can share about the School of Deep Feelings or join in on one of the Instagram Lives, the better.
With this offering being free, we were only out to equip others with the tools to be more mindful and supportive of their own needs, in addition to the needs of those around them. It’s about supporting each other.
KS: As a business owner, what have you learnt about A—SPACE in this time?
MD: I think what this pandemic has done for A—SPACE is it’s forced us to look at what’s important, and what’s feasible. The studio has been a community-led organisation for many years, and through reflection we’ve identified some limitations, one example being a reliance on funding.
But also, I think there’s an opportunity to explore the business model to be more sustainable. Ultimately, this time has really illuminated how important it is that we feel connected in our lives, to ourselves and to each other. So the question of how we convey that message is really at the forefront to everything we’re doing right now.
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? Hey fam, some of you may not be aware but for the last two months @_aspace has been hosting free meditations, interviews and talks from some of the world’s most loved teachers in an effort to help us feel our feelings. Like all good (and bad) things, The School Of Deep Feelings comes to an end this week. It’s been such a joy to practice with some of my ideals and fellow teachers and to share their wisdom with our community. If you haven’t had a chance, tune in tomorrow from 8am Melbourne time or 6pm EST to catch a class before it ends. #feelwithushere
KS: And what has been like to know just how much you and your business have been able to positively impact people in a time like this?
MD: Our community is incredible. We’ve had around 30,000 people tune into A—SPACE’s videos over the past few weeks. We get messages daily from people who share with us their appreciation for the platform and the meditations that make them feel more connected.
People let us know we’ve helped to ease their feelings of anxiety and depression, and even let us know of the joyous and complex thoughts they’re having after attending a session, and I think it’s really important for us to take a moment and recognise that we’re not alone in what we’re feeling.
“It’s really important for us to take a moment and recognise that we’re not alone in what we’re feeling.”