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Highest Self Podcast 443: All Your Meditation Questions Answered- And Living Your Dharma As a Teacher with Manoj Dias

“Just close your eyes, breathe and try not to think of anything.” Easier said than done! Have you ever wondered how meditation actually works? If the goal is actually to have no thoughts? And what if you more resonate with breathwork or movement? In this conversation with meditation teacher and Open co-founder Manoj Dias, we dive into all your meditation questions including “If I am not my thoughts, what are they?” and “Is there a certain amount of time I need to meditate to feel the benefit?” We also dive into his dharma (purpose) journey on going from a young boy in Sri Lanka infatuated by monks, to forgetting it all and focusing on marketing, then coming back into it to create his meditation studio and now the Open App. This is an inspiring conversation for any aspiring entrepreneur who is wanting to create a mission that is in alignment with their spiritual selves!

Connect with Manoj https://www.manojdias.com.au/ / https://www.instagram.com/manojdias_/

Receive 30 days free of the Open App for meditation, breathwork, movement and more when you visit withopen.com/SAHARA

Intro + Outro Music: Silent Ganges by Maneesh de Moor

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TRANSCRIPTION

Episode 443: All Your Meditation Questions Answered – And Living Your Dharma As a Teacher with Manoj Dias
By Sahara Rose

[00:11] Sahara
Namaste, it’s Sahara Rose and welcome back to The Highest Self Podcast, a place where we discuss what makes You, Your Soul’s Highest Evolvement.

[00:19] Sahara
I just came back from a month of traveling through Morocco and I truly feel like a different person on the other side. I’m so excited to share with you the downloads and revelations and contemplations that I had on this sacred and mystical and wonderous journey. And I will be doing a recap Episode with everything from how I traveled there, where I stayed, to the downloads that I got deep in the Sahara Desert. Yes, Sahara, which is my name, was in the Sahara, so, it was beyond magical to be there.

[00:52] Sahara
And life has its dualities, while I was in this beautiful experience, I was very saddened to hear the overturn of Roe’s Wade, the last week I was that I was there.

[01:05] Sahara
And for someone who’s work is around empowering the feminine, for someone who’s grandmother was in a forced child marriage, and all of her grandmothers before then, for someone who believes in women’s rights more than anything, that is why I’m here, in this lifetime, to help heal us from the patriarchal wounds and uplift the feminine in all ways and beings, and especially in our political system. I was, and still am, shocked that this is happening in our country at this time. And I know that every step backward can bring us into a leap forward if we take this opportunity and do not remain silent and do not remain apathetic.

[01:53] Sahara
And I think that sometimes that happens, especially in spirituality, sometimes we use spirituality as a way to become numb of the pain and suffering of this world, and that is not what spirituality is about. Spirituality is to open your heart so you can actually, not just feel it more, but also see things from a higher and fuller and more nuanced perspective, to be able to bring about the healing.

[02:18] Sahara
So, meditation is such a powerful practice to help you come back into your power, into your center. When it feels like the world is falling apart, whether it is politically, socially or interpersonally, familially, 2022, and you know, life, and these things can definitely knock us off our camel saddles, per say, and we need to have our practices to help us find our footing again, to help us come back into center, because this is not a sprint, this is a marathon. And I’ve been saying this since the beginning of 2020, that this is not going to be an overnight process of restructuring our government and social planet and beyond, there is so much work to be done, on so many levels, and not just women’s rights, environmental issues that are going on right now and the way that the earth is being wounded and beyond.
So, it’s so important for us to have our practices, to come into our center, to see things from our highest selves’ perspective, because when we’re in our highest self – and the way that I see our highest self is the part of you that knows, the part of you that is connected to your soul self, your highest vision, your full picture, that isn’t caught up, sometimes, in the dramas of this earthly plain. I don’t think the point only is to be in our highest selves, we have our ego selves, our human selves, for a reason, and I really believe spirituality is about the integration of the two, and to be in the body, in the earth, and to also hold that higher level perspective, otherwise we can spiral downwards.

[03:57] Sahara
So, in this Episode, we really dive deep into all of your meditation questions. I have shared before that my meditation journey has not looked traditional at all, my meditation has been breathwork, dance and practices of just contemplation and everyone has their own practices.

[04:16] Sahara
So, I was really excited to sit with Sri Lankan meditation teacher Manoj Dias, who’s also the founder of the Open App, which is an incredible meditation App, I’m obsessed with it. I actually downloaded it way before meeting him and it’s just really beautiful, it’s very modern, they have really cool music, and they, not only have meditation, but breathwork and movement practices. So, we really, I mean, I ask all the questions that I’ve ever had on my meditation journey, of, you know, what is the difference between mindfulness and meditation; if we have thoughts, should we give into them or ignore them; how much time do we need to meditate to feel the benefit; and so much more.
And then, he also shares into his Dharma, his soul’s purpose, journey, as a young boy in Sri Lanka, being infatuated by monks, to forgetting it all and focusing on business and marketing and making money, and then coming back to it, following those breadcrumbs and creating his meditation studio, now the Open App.
So, this is also a very inspiring conversation for anyone that is an aspiring entrepreneur, who is wanting to create a mission that is in alignment with their spiritual selves.

[05:24] Sahara
So, without ado, let’s welcome Manoj Dias to The Highest Self Podcast.

_________________________________________________________________

[05:29] Interview

[05:29] Sahara
Welcome Manoj, to The Highest Self Podcast, it’s so great to have you here!

[05:33] Manoj
So great to be here, thank you for inviting me on.

[05:36] Sahara
And the first question I’d love to ask you is, what makes you your highest self?

[05:42] Manoj
What a question to start with! I think what makes me embody my highest self is when I’m actually in my body. I notice, when I’m really not myself, is often when I’m spending a lot of time in my mind, when I’m in my head, I’m over-analyzing things, I’m worrying about things, I’m getting anxious about things, I’m usually in the past or the future, ruminating or anticipating. And when I feel the most embodied and when I’m at my highest is when I exist from the chin down and when I’m tapped into a sense of intuition and feeling and the sense of being grounded to the earth, actually.

[06:20] Sahara
I completely agree with that! And I feel like sometimes, people even think meditation is only the disconnection from the body, it’s only the ascension and the non-dualism. Can you speak a bit about how we can actually practice meditation to be more embodied and in this earth and present moment?

[06:37] Manoj
Yeah, I think it’s a byproduct of the evolution of meditation, where we’ve thought that the practice is just centered around the mind. And as meditation has evolved from the Vedic texts or the Buddhist texts, it’s become so much more around stress relief, it’s become so much more around being able to navigate the demands of modern life, to be able to sleep, be less anxious. But traditionally, and my trainings and my teachings have been rooted in Buddhism for the last 12-13 years. The Buddha spoke in his [inaudible – 7:12], which I essentially the foundational text for mindfulness practice, he started with the body, he said this is where we, essentially, begin.
And so, as we’ve evolved as a species, as we’ve become more cognitive, as we have really harnessed the power of our mind, we’ve tended to actually be disconnected from the felt sense of the body. And we know, now, because of psychology and research and science, that we tend to experience things first, not in the mind, we tend to experience things, first, physically, somatically, in the body, But the mind actually interprets that and it adds the narrative and it adds the story and it adds our psychology and our history, and it dictates how we experience the moment after that.
But to exist in the body and to really feel and to be connected to the body is to be present to what’s going on, even if it’s not pleasant. So, even if it is trauma, for example, even if it’s fear, even if it’s anxiety, it’s to actually, first be present to that and not run away from that experience, which is essentially Mindfulness 101, can we be present to the reality as reality, not as we want it to be?
So, a lot of my teachings and my practices, first, are around being able to access that part of our emotions and that part of our body, which, for a lot of us, we’re cut off from it due to our experiences, emotional wounding or trauma or a general disconnect. It’s to first exist and be able to feel what’s arising and then to be able to befriend what is arising, and then to use the wisdom that is there within our body to navigate that experience, so, to not – you know, we’ve thrown this term around in our circles, spiritual bypass the experience by turning towards esoteric practices as a way to avoid what is unpleasant, but to actually turn towards what’s unpleasant, to make space for that, to befriend it and to actually embody everything that we’re feeling and not just what we want to feel.

[09:09] Sahara
Yeah, I think that, so often, we think “If I give it more attention, then I’ll manifest it. So, let me not think about how I’m anxious or angry or whatever is showing up, so I don’t cultivate more of that”.
But what I love about just mindfulness is, you’re never going to be able to trick your body into, you know, not – we try to use the mind to just say “I’m happy”, and it’s like, the body’s like “No, you’re not, right now”. So, I love how mindfulness is to be, first, honest and accept where you’re at, and then that naturally creates the way to the desired emotion.

[09:40] Manoj
Right, right! Yeah, I think, to just double click on something you said around not think our way out of the experience but to first acknowledge where we’re at, then gives the foundation, like you said, to move in the direction we want to move. But we first need to acknowledge and admit like “Hey, this moment sucks and I don’t need to say it doesn’t suck in order for it to now suck. I could acknowledge where I am and then take steps towards a direction”.
And I feel like this is just a much more embodied and honest way to exist.

[10:11] Sahara
Totally! And it’s like, once you’ve named and claimed it, it no longer has a hold over you and you’re just like “Okay, moving along”.
So, such much I want to dive in with this, but I’d love to start with your story. I know you were born in Sri Lanka and grew up Buddhist, but you kind of went away from it and came back to it. Can you share a little bit more about your relationship with meditation in this lifetime?

[10:31] Manoj
Yeah, sure, it’s a beautiful way to phrase that. Yeah, I was raised in Sri Lanka, I was raised around Buddhism and some of my earliest memories were around monks coming to our house and giving Dinah, and Dinah means an offering. So, we would have monks come and do offerings and sharing prayers, and I was really captivated at a very young age, specifically the child monks because they would have kids that were my age, that were there, that were meditating, it was just really fascinating for me. And I developed a sense of spirituality without really understanding what it meant or if there was any context to it, from a young age. I was fascinated by something that existed beyond what I could comprehend.
My family migrated to Australia when I was very young, and as a natural byproduct of that, I didn’t have access to monasteries and temples and monks, so I wasn’t as in touch with Buddhism as much. But then, through a very serendipitous set of circumstances, much later on, when I was a marketing director, I came back into contact with a Buddhist meditation teacher, at a point in my life where I was going through a lot of health issues, I was burnt out, I had a lot of anxiety, and all the resistance and the barriers were kind of down at that point, and then, again, like serendipitously, I walked into a Buddhist meditation studio and I came back into contact with a practice that really reminded me that the suffering that I was experiencing at that moment wasn’t necessarily personal and that the thoughts that were going through my mind weren’t necessarily who I was, fundamentally, to my core. And there was a way to train my mind and my heart to be happier and to be healthier and to feel more connected to the people around us.
And so, I studied with this teacher [inaudible – 12:21] for 8 years, roughly, every single day. I was practically living there at one point in my journey and he was fundamentally in me really developing compassionate meditation practice, because prior to that, I used to think that meditation was just about concentration, I’m like “Focus, it’s all about focus and if I can’t focus, I’m not good at meditating”. And I had all the hangouts that everyone else does when they think of meditation “My mind is too busy, I don’t have enough time, it’s woo-woo”, I was such a sports playing alpha male living in this, you know, hyper-complex marketing/advertising world, so I had all the same resistance, but he really taught me how to develop this quality of heart which was really orientated towards compassion, and then he also taught me practices to really understand my mind.
After about 7 or 8 years with him, I started traveling and studying with other teachers, Sharon Sellsberg being one, Joseph Goldstein, and then later I studied with, who’s my primary teacher right now, Miles Neil, really marrying the intersection of psychotherapy and Tibetan Buddhism. And that’s really kind of brought me to today, where I’m actually exploring that, as well as the somatic experience of mindfulness and how we relate the body to what we’re going through and how practices like breathwork, how practices like sound, really influence our ability to be with our day-to-day experience,

[13:53] Sahara
I love that story! So, my first question for you is, how did you come to realize, like, coming from a corporate, high-pressure environment, how did you realize “I am not my thoughts. I am not my anxiety”, especially when these things are so real, it’s like “Well, I might lose my job” or “This person might break with me” or “This really real thing might happen, so I need to worry about it enough to come to this solution”? How were you able to create that distance from it?

[14:20] Manoj
Well, I think, sometimes, the right person does the right thing at the right time. And so, in this very first class, I went in there with all of my anxiety, all of my neurosis, all of my drama and suffering and thoughts, and, you know, we did some gentle stretches and I noticed my thoughts. Again, at that point, I thought, as soon as a thought popped into my head, I am that, you know, like “Oh, you’re a terrible boyfriend. You are never going to get well again, you’re going to be sick. This is how your mind is. Yep, yep, yep”. But then, going through these gentle postures and sitting for a few moments and then having a teacher say to you “At this precise moment, you’re not your thoughts”, and then actually hearing a thought, the very second after he said that, and then noticing “Oh, wow, like, I notice my thought and I notice if I’m noticing something then I can’t actually be that thing”, there is a distance between the witness and what is witnessed, and we refer to it in Buddhism as the subject and the object. And so, at that moment it was “Oh, wow, okay, so there is this space between the subject and the object and the stimuli and the person observing that, and I don’t have to believe that”. And so, that was like an ‘aha’ moment, as Oprah says, I’m like “Oh wow, I don’t have to believe this”.
And so, not to say that my life changed at that moment, because I still have, to this day, all these thoughts that I believe, but actually, it showed me there is a door to something else that I didn’t know was possible.

[15:53] Sahara
So, if you are not your thoughts, where are they coming from?

[15:57] Manoj
I think that thoughts are just a byproduct of our experiences as humans, right? We think thoughts involuntarily, just like our heart beats involuntarily. They’re a byproduct of our psychology, of our neurosis, of our conditioning, of our Karma, depending on what lineage, practice you’re studying. Our thoughts are there, and what they are and their purpose, it’s a myriad of reasons, again, depending on what tradition you, kind of, focus on.
We’re not saying thoughts are bad, we’re not saying the mind is bad, we’re saying just choose which thoughts you decide to take on and embody. And over time, with practice, with wisdom, with maturity, with compassion, your thoughts begin to change because the lens in which you see the world begin to change. And so, they’ll be less self-apricating after a little while, and they’re be more compassionate, and they’ll be more loving, and they’ll be more understanding. But if we’re constantly looking at the world, first, through this lens of like “The world is against me, I’m suffering, I’m a victim, etc., etc.”, a whole host of other afflictions, then, naturally, our thoughts are going to reflect that, we’re going to have that same experience.
So, I think the way out of it is through the cultivation of a practice that really brings you into the body and allows you to see clearly.

[17:15] Sahara
Totally! And I think it’s that labeling that we attach to the thoughts, of “Now, I am”, when we’re identified with that thing.
What do you say the “goal” of meditation is? To have a thoughtless practice?

[17:29] Manoj
Do I think the goal is to have a thoughtless practice? No, not really. I think the goal is so personal. Like, I used to be really rigid in why I would tell people to meditate, you know, “It’s for liberation. It’s for freedom. It’s for this, it’s for that”, but the older I’ve gotten and the more mature I’ve gotten, and the more I’ve practiced with other teachers, I think we all will come to practice with a certain mission or a goal, and that could be simply “I just want to be free from suffering”, which is, like, one of the highest aspirations, right? If you’re anxious and if you’re an insomniac, you just want to suffer less. And that’s really the heart of Buddhist meditation, it’s to free yourself from suffering. But some people are like “Hey, I just want to be less”, which, I don’t think we understand is also the same thing, like “I want to free myself from suffering”, “I want to feel more connected to my partner”, even that aspiration comes from the same intention “I want to free myself from suffering”, because if we’re not feeling connected to our partner, there is something within us that is suffering.
So, what the goal is really depends on what your intention is. For me, it’s to find a sense of liberation, it’s to free myself from suffering, it’s to clear the Karma that I’ve accumulated over many lifetimes, it’s to be the best dad that I could be, it’s to cause less harm in the world, it probably changes every day, but it’s rooted in “I just want to be”, “I just want to come back to that place where I know I’m a good person”.

[18:58] Sahara
Yeah, I love that, and I agree that there are so many goals and outcomes, and every day is a different experience too, that you just have to surrender to and see what needs to come through.
So, I’m wondering, for someone who feels like “You know what, I’m sitting down at my desk all day, I’m so sedentary, to sit down in meditation for 20 minutes, twice a day, sometimes they say, it’s too much”. Do you think that we can cultivate the same benefits from moving or breathwork meditation?

[19:23] Manoj
Yeah, I think we think big and we start small, that’s how we start. For someone that’s never been a meditator, to go for 20 minutes, twice a day, it’s like a big leap, and it was for me as well. So, I think, like, practices that introduce us to that experience, and we call it glimpses, that give us a little glimpse of presence or a glimpse of spaciousness, are great, so, breathwork just brings us into the body; a movement practice brings us into the body. But then to be able to add, like, a 5-minute meditation to that is great. And if you can only do it once a day, 5 minutes, amazing, do it every day for a week, and then maybe a week after, add 2 extra minutes to that, the week after that you add 3 minutes, and in three weeks, you’re meditating for 10 minutes, once or twice a day, that’s how we begin.
I wouldn’t try to be a neurosurgeon overnight, like, I go and I study. The neurosurgery, they have little tests and you have mental, then you gradually work up to a place where you can do this by yourself. And the same thing applies to meditation, you think big and you start small.

[20:30] Sahara
Yes, I love that! And there are also so many types of meditation. So, you see meditations that are very guided, you see visualizations, you see meditations with music, without music – how do we find the right practice for us?

[20:44] Manoj
I think we have to ask ourselves what do we want, first of all, like, what is it that we’re trying to achieve. Some of us will come into contact with it, serendipitously, like I was, I found a meditation teacher straight away. Sometimes your girlfriend or boyfriend will drag you to a class and you’re like “Oh, there’s something in this”. Sometimes you hear something on YouTube or you listen to a podcast, and it’s like “Oh wow, I’m curious about that”.
So, how we enter in really determines our first, kind of, touchpoint with the practice. But in terms of choosing, we have to get really clear on what is it that “I want, do I just want to feel good, do I just want to sleep, for example?” In which case you might choose relaxing yoga Nidra practices, down-regulative practices. If it’s “I’m so confused and I’m lost in my life, then you want to find a teacher and a practice, a lineage, that really helps you understand your mind. So, Buddhism, Vedas, might be like a way of practicing.
It’s getting really clear and then doing the research to find “Okay, what is the path that I want to follow?”
And I don’t really advocate for a path or a lineage because I feel like there’s so much you can learn and grow from that way, as opposed to, kind of, showing up to do 5-10-minute practices, which aren’t bad, which are a great place to begin, but eventually you want to study something or follow in the footsteps of people that have done this for 3000 years and have proved that there is a way to be supremely and infinitely happy.

[22:14] Sahara
Is there, like, after a certain number of minutes, that you just drop in deeper? Like, if you don’t do it for at least 10 minutes or 20 minutes, you’re not going to get the full benefit?

[22:23] Manoj
No. Like, I think, I’ve had practices where I’ve sat for 3 hours and I’ve just been like “When is it going to get easier? Am I just wasting my time? I realize I’ve been thinking about shoes for the last 45 minutes”, or something like that.
It really depends on the day, like, what’s been happening, what’s going on in your life, what’s going on in your mind, the circumstances.
In my experience, of teaching the last decade, you know, people tend to have that ‘drop in’ feeling after like 8-9 minutes. But again, that’s not really the point, the point isn’t, especially in the Buddhist tradition, it’s not to feel good or to have deep experiences, it’s to understand the mind.
And so, if we can understand our mind and the resistance we’re having at that moment, then you could argue that is a pretty profound experience.

[23:10] Sahara
So, in the Buddhist lineage, you would not to a manifestation meditation, per say? It would be more of just witnessing “Oh, wow, my thoughts are really thinking about shoes today”, just having more of an inquiry, correct?

[23:22] Manoj
Yes and no, it depends in what traditions. In the Tantric lineages, the Badryana practices, there is like envisioning like your future self, practices that you can to. In the Theravada, which is the more traditional practices around Thai, Burma and Sri Lanka, it’s more practices that really cultivate the mind, like concentration and vipassana. And there are, in the Mayana, which is the Tibetan practices, a little bit of a blend of both, but really focusing on compassion-based practices.
So, it’s not necessarily just concentration-based, we’re often refer to it as awareness and compassion, those are the two things that we tend to cultivate.

[24:02] Sahara
Beautiful! So, I want to segway into, because you’ve created this incredible App called Open, that I actually came across before I even knew you. I came across it on the AppStore and I bought it and I was like “This is amazing because it’s like Berlin house music”, and I loved the design, it was just so new paradigm.
How did you go from “Okay, I love meditation, but I have this marketing background, I’m not technically a monk, per say, who am I to start a meditation App?” What was that download that you received to actually go for this and then what was your mind telling you after you decided?

[24:36] Manoj
Yeah, it’s a great question. Yeah, I never actually wanted to be a meditation teacher, first of all, I was just practicing because it made me feel good. And I remember my teacher who was pretty psychic, he once told me “I think you’re going to teach one day” and this was 13 years ago, and in Australia, it was not cool to be a meditation teacher.
So, I definitely was focused on being cool back then, so I’m like “I’m going to back into marketing, I’m going to do this”, but I just fell into it because he asked me to teach at his studio. And then, after a while, it became the only thing that I did. And there was a point where, as I was teaching, I was noticing, people really were gravitating more towards this element of coming together as a community, they wanted to meet people that were like them, that had the same questions, and not go to a club or bar or that.
So, me and a friend, we just decided to test this thing, we’re like “Hey, let’s just run a couple of pop-ups”, and our company was called A-Space, at that stage, and we started to run these little pop-ups in Melbourne, and they got bigger and bigger and bigger, and then we were invited to New York and we had some really good experiences there. And when I came back to Australia, I said to him “Let’s just open a studio and let’s just see what happens!” And we both didn’t come from money, we had very little money, we took two credit cards out, we maxed out these credit cards and we started a studio. And the studio became really popular and it became known, kind of, worldwide, and it, kind of, was a surprise to us that this little studio at the back of a psychology practice, people would travel from interstate to come and hang out with us, but the was really the catalyst for it. And then, my business partner eventually left and it was me running it. And in 2020 I was fundraising for A-Space, to launch an App, and I was in New York, my girlfriend at the time was in New York and I found investors and I found partners, and I was ready to take it to the next level, which I thought was a blend of online and offline experiences. But then Covid happened and you know, the rest is kind of history, everything kind of fell to pieces. And it was at that point that I started consulting with a friend of mine who had this tiny breathwork pop-up in San Francisco, called Open. And I was advising him and the company around recruiting and content and all these different kinds of things, and then he was like “Hey, why don’t we just do this together? Why don’t you just move to the West Coast? We’ll do this thing that we both love!” And the premise was is that, how can we bring people, each and every time, to a place of presence and connection? So, I essentially moved to the West Coast, in LA, we opened a studio, we launched an App, and the vision was still the same, like “How can we bring people, each and every time, to presence and connection?” But then broadening that lens and kind of thinking about the East and what the East and the wisdom traditions have so powerfully taught us, and then looking at the West, like, what is the science telling us around mindfulness and the mind and the heart. And so, then we broadened that scope to include things like sound meditations. Some of our advisors, our research and ethno-musicologists that tell us about the power of sound and the nervous system, and looking at the body and like, okay, what practices actually regulate the nervous system, bring us into the body. And then looking at meditation, okay, what practices, now that we’re in our body, now that we’ve felt connected to ourselves and each other, what practices help us actually see the world differently and navigate the world differently?
And so, the App is one manifestation of that, but then our first physical space is also another manifestation of that, which is in Venice.

[28:16] Sahara
So amazing! So, it sounds so fluid, but what were some obstacles that you’ve overcome in this process? Because I know, creating something like an App is a huge endeavor.

[28:25] Manoj
Yeah! Well, thank you for acknowledging that! So many obstacles, one was, well one was just moving countries in the middle of a pandemic. The second was this intersection of being an entrepreneur and a teacher. And my first company A-Space was such a community-based, heart-centered offering, that everything was very serendipitous, like, we needed an architect and we were like, oh, the first student was this amazing architect that gave us a discount on the studio, and we were looking for teachers and then all of a sudden a teacher would walk in. And then moving to like a much bigger scale company that’s venture-backed, and having the pressure of investors, having the pressure of a marketplace that’s very volatile; an industry that’s very packed; and then having to navigate 35-36 staff members, it’s like such a, I don’t want to say juxtaposition, but also a paradox of how I live my life, which is often very slow, methodical, intentional, and then, I’m also a co-founder of a tech start-up, which is the opposite of that.
So, the challenge, for me, on a personal level, is balancing my practice with the reality of my profession, but also remembering the core intention of our mission, which is, we’re bringing people together to experience presence and connection. And we know how powerful that is, given the rates of suicide in the world, the rates of loneliness, the mental health epidemic and all of that. So, that mission really drives me and the team to keep doing what we’re doing.
But on a personal level, it’s like a daily dance between becoming this spiritual teacher and becoming a boss.

[30:06] Sahara
I so feel you with that, and so many people don’t talk about it, they don’t even think about it because it’s like, you, I, we went into it because we love the work. I started writing Ayurveda books and we just love the subject matter, we want to teach it, we become alive when we’re in community, but then you have this big vision and this vision is beyond you, but then you need to step into different archetypes of, you know, management, and sometimes moving in a fast-paced environment, sometimes having that, like, hyper-aroused nervous system because there are so many things, it’s very up in the air, up in the Vata, there’s a lot of things moving in technology.
Was there ever a time that you were just like “You know what, I can’t do this, I just want to teach meditation, this vision has gotten too big for me?”

[30:46] Manoj
I think on a daily basis, I’m just like, I’m done, I just want to go on a retreat. I haven’t sat in retreat for 2 years and that’s not because there’s been restrictions and things like that, but it’s largely been because I haven’t been able to get away. It’s a reality and I think a part of Karma is going with the flow with what life throws at you as well. I look at how Open came into my life, it was fluid, it wasn’t like I chased after it, there was no intention, it was just like life is presenting this to me. And I’ll see it through as much as it flows within my life, and then if there comes a time when the monk, who is calling me, then I’ll follow that path as well. But it’s, I think the older I’m getting, I’m learning to observe the flow and not resist the flow. In Buddhism we call it ‘the stream’, against the stream or up the stream. And yeah, just following the stream, wherever it takes me.

[31:39] Sahara
Totally! And I think all of your years in marketing was preparing you for this, you know, there is a reason why you were guided off of the monk path and into this marketing path, so you could just come together now with both of those experiences.

[31:52] Manoj
Yeah, absolutely! And I think it’s important we express ourselves creatively, whether that’s in the profession that we choose to do or whether there’s other creative pursuits, we’re gifted with these unique talents, we don’t need to suppress them because of our spiritual practice. We can express ourselves fully and still be deeply spiritual and connected to what matters most to us.

[32:15] Sahara
So, how do you bring meditation, slowness, these principles that you’re teaching to others, how do you bring them into your business in the day-to-day and the team, how do you not let go of that? Because sometimes it feels like businesses are preaching one thing on the outside, on the inside it’s totally something else, and I feel like it’s our jobs as leaders to bring in that cohesiveness. So, what does that look like for you guys?

[32:38] Manoj
Yeah, on very, on a first, much more broader level, it’s uniting that you’re on a mission, it’s that, at the end of the day, we are a mindfulness company, We have, yes, targets, we have KPIs, all of that, but it shouldn’t come at the detriment of our own mental health, we should be trying to embody what we do, otherwise it feels like a job. And you know, no one really wants to work, people want to join a movement, they want to join a mission, they want to feel fulfilled, so if there is a dissonance between those two things, then people will generally be unhappy.
But on a much more practical, level, we really prioritize connection. So, we get together a lot, we open almost every meeting with what’s called a moment of presence, so someone in the team, it could be a Head of Marketing one day, it could be a CEO, it could be a community manager, leads a little meditation or a breathing practice. We prioritize fun, that’s really important for us; play. So, it’s kind of reminding ourselves within the grind, because we work really, really hard. In most companies, at our stage, do work really, really hard, but it’s reminding us that we don’t, we can hold both, we can hold these polarities together, we can hold the hard work, and the joy, and the fun at the same time. And it’s part of our practice, it’s not avoiding one for the other, it’s actually part of mindfulness to be able to meet our reality and engaged and all these multiple things.

[34:02] Sahara
Totally! It enhances that creativity, it gives you more energy, it allows you to see more potential. I think sometimes we have been so used to working in a certain way, that that work is hard, it’s sacrifice, we burn ourselves out, we have to hustle through it, that I see a lot of people, they dive into the spiritual journey, maybe they quit their jobs, they step away and they’re afraid of creating their desires, of creating their Dharmas, because they’re afraid of going back to the old version of them.
So, what advice do you have for someone that has an idea that they really want to bring out into the world but they’re just afraid of burning themselves out?

[34:37] Manoj
It’s a really great contemplation, I think it’s a really great contemplation. And I don’t want to give absolutes in my answer, but what I will say is, really work on trusting your intuition. I think if you’re, especially, diving into some sort of spiritual pursuit, there’s, first “Does this feel good in my body? Do I feel excitement? Do I feel energy? Or is there like this crumbled up feeling of tightness and restriction?”, and then work to understand “Is that my intuition or is that fear?”, because for me, for example, there’s a lot of fear, and what I’m working on is being able to trust my intuition instead of saying “Oh, no, it’s this fear talking”. So, a meditation practice, yoga practice, Ayurvedic practice, helps us really get in touch with our body.
Then we use another side of our brain, which is our cognitive abilities and we make an education decision like “Is this a good pursuit?”
I used to have a lot of teachers say “Hey, I want to be a meditation teacher, I’m going to quit my job”, and I’m like “Wow, slow down, first of all. Think through how you’re going to cover your basic needs, how you’re going to look after yourself, your family, and then think big, start small”. So, maybe you teach one class a week, and then two, and then if you feel like there’s momentum there, then dive in. But I also feel, at some point, you’re going to have to make a big leap of faith, with any of these decisions. It can be scary to leave what’s known, and for a lot of us, we stay in what’s known our entire life because that gives us a sense of safety. But if we take a step back and we recognize that life is inherently uncertain. From the moment we were born, we’re not guaranteed anything. So, you have a choice to make at that point, do you stay in this comfort zone which feels safe, and that’s great and beautiful, and people live beautiful lives that way, or if you have this deep calling that really tugs in your heart and your stomach, and it’s asking you, it’s begging you to step into this direction, are you willing to do that?

[36:42] Sahara
Yes! It’s so funny because I have these three paths to your Dharma, your soul’s purpose. The first one is the leap, the second is this low transition, the last is the accidental. And then, in your stories, you had elements of all three. Like, it sort of accidentally fell into your lap, and I also want to note that you didn’t start with creating an App, you started with creating an in-person studio and then you started to get more expertise from that too, which made you a better meditation teacher, which allowed you to know “Okay, now that I’m not interacting with the people on the other side, I know that these words will create some sort of insight within them”, but you could’ve never done that just from the mind or from a hypothesis.
So, I think that so often, we do, is like you said, we jump to that big vision, it’s like, how do we start small, how do we start one-on-one, and getting that feedback? And then the transition of not quitting the job overnight, but maybe you start to teach after work or on weekends, and cultivating more of that trust and security, but then there will always be that element of the leap.

[37:42] Manoj
Yeah. And get good at what you’re trying to do before you kind of dive into it. Like, if I quit my job as soon as I started teaching, I would’ve been a terrible teacher because teaching one class a week, and I just didn’t know what I know now. Having that repetitions of being able to do what you’re doing and really fine-tune your craft before you share it with the world is really strong and powerful.

[38:06] Sahara
Totally! And I also want to share that I love that it’s an App because, just for an example, I was picking my friend up from the hospital and I was just going through all my Apps, waiting, waiting, waiting, and then I was like “Oh, I have Open” and I probably did like seven meditations back-to-back, but it allowed me to have something on my phone to just do instantly, and because I feel like none of them are super long, some of the breathworks are 20 minutes, which I also love, but it was like “Okay, I could do another 5 minutes, I could do another 7 minutes”, so I love how it almost trains us to take our phones and use it in a new way.

[38:38] Manoj
Yes! I think our relationship with technology is a whole podcast episode on its own. Our company was never built to be solely just an App, it was meant to be this blend of online and offline. And the App is just a way to meet people where they’re at. So, like you said “I’m waiting for a friend, I’ve got 7 minutes, “Oh, it’s a 7-minute practice, I can do that”, or you know, you’re about to go into a meeting and you’re feel anxious, you’re like “Wow, there’s a 5-minute breathing exercise I can do before I head in”, or “I can’t sleep”.
We’re really trying to help people navigate whatever life throws at them in any moment. So, an App is just useful because these days we’re always carrying that damn thing around with us.

[39:18] Sahara
Yeah, and I also love how they’re just so versatile, there’s just so many different blends, and you have a daily meditation, which is basically always different. I feel like I’ve never seen the same one twice. So, sometimes you get a meditation App and there’s thousands of meditations in there, you don’t really know, you spend more time looking for the right one, you start listening, “No, I don’t like this one, I want another one”, whereas this one, it’s like, the daily practice you know you’re going to get something good and it just makes it easy.

[39:43] Manoj
Thank you, yeah! And the daily practice is one of our most practiced meditations. And it’s rooted in wisdom, so we’re trying to help people, not just get this feeling of “I’ve just meditated”, but “What am I learning and how can I take this practice and use the wisdom that’s transferred that practice in my day?”

[40:01] Sahara
So good! And my last question for you is, you share that you were like an alpha male, not really interested in the stuff, per say, how do we communicate meditation to husbands, brothers, dads, people who might not be open to it? How do we get them to want to do this?

[40:17] Manoj
You trick them and you take them into a class and then you tell them it was like a hit workout or something. No, that’s a terrible way to do it, don’t ever lie!
I think, I look at the people that I’ve taught in the last 12 years, like athletes, CEOs, people in the army, it’s actually just speaking to what they know and what excites them, you know.
So, for a lot of men, at this moment in time, they’re hyper-focused on performance and bio-hacking the brain. And so, being able to communicate in a way by saying “Hey, did you know there’s a Harvard research piece that says 47% of your day, your mind is here and here, and you could do these practices, you can do this”, it just peaks their attention a little bit; or like “Hey, Kobi Bryant’s meditation teacher taught him this”, and you’re like “Oh, wow!” That’s really just, it’s just finding a common language and, again, meeting them where they’re at.

[41:07] Sahara
I love that! And I definitely have noticed a lot of men, especially, but a lot of people are interested in bio-hacking, and how can you get more productive and earn more from your hour? And sometimes just putting in the language that resonates to the. And luckily, now, there is so much research and studies and books to back this, but I feel like, then, eventually, it no longer becomes about that tangible goal and it becomes about connecting to your higher self.

[41:32] Manoj
Yeah. You essentially hook-wink them because you get them in through this door of bio-hacking and then you actually teach them it’s complete bullshit and they’re like they don’t care, and that point they’re hooked.

[41:46] Sahara
Actually, don’t even exist.

[41:49] Manoj
It becomes – then they actually have a tangible experience of the power of meditation.

[41:53] Sahara
So good! So, for people who are going to download the App, where is a really good place you suggest for people to start, can you share? Because you guys also have Pilates class and movement classes, can you share what’s on the App?

[42:05] Manoj
Sure. All of our practices are built on this hybrid methodology of the breath, the body and mindfulness. So, every practice on the App, whether it’s a Pilates class, a hit class, yoga class, meditation or breathwork, will have these elements to it, and the majority of them are scored by produced musical composition. So, we worked with experts in the field of sound meditation, but also, we worked with independent record labels and producers and artists.
The intention is, we arrived in the body, we settle into the body and then we can experience the world differently.
So, a good place to begin is obviously, is the daily practice, it’s the first thing you see, it’s a really easy, accessible, it’s usually around 7-10 minutes. But then you can also try a breathwork practice, so, for those people that are really challenged b just sitting in meditation practice, breathwork is fantastic because you’re active, you’re actively working with the breath to elicit state-shift. And then if you’re more movement oriented, there’s like a bunch of yoga classes, hit classes and Pilates classes. It’s hard for me to pick favorites, but I think the easiest one to recommend is our daily meditation.

[43:13] Sahara
So good! And I love how it’s really this one-stop shop that you can get all forms of your daily movement, mind-body-spirit in one place.

[43:22] Manoj
Yeah.

[43:22] Sahara
Amazing! Well, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us today, for making it accessible to so many new people, and really for creating a beautiful product. I feel like the beauty path is so needed and sometimes in spirituality, it’s very like 1980s websites (not the cutest) and I love how it’s just, it’s sleek, it’s modern, it’s fun, it’s engaging, and that makes you want to even be more engaged with it.

[43:47] Manoj
Yeah. Thank you for noticing that! We’re very vain at Open, beauty is important!

[43:54] Sahara
Well, thank you so much for being here today.

[43:56] Manoj
Thanks, Sahara!

[43:57] End of Interview
___________________________________________________________________

[43:57] Sahara
So, if you want to try the Open App, absolutely for free, you can head over to withopen.com/sahara and you will receive 30 days free. They have breathwork, meditation, movement, Pilates, yoga and so much more.
I am obsessed with the App and I honestly use it on a daily basis, so I highly recommend it, whether you are a novice meditator or meditating all the time and just wanting to change up your routine.
So, again, that’s withopen.com/sahara for 30 days free and you can find that link in the show notes.

[44:31] Sahara
I hope that you enjoyed this Episode! I’m so excited to hear your guys’ feedback, please share it with me on social media, tag me and Manoj, we’re so excited to read it. And I’ll be back next week, really diving deep into different topics related to the sacred feminine. And of course, my Morocco trip recap, so if you’re not subscribed yet, be sure to subscribe on Spotify, we have a video there, YouTube, iTunes, wherever you listen to podcasts and always, we’re open to different requests, so be sure to send us over an email if you have anyone you would love to see on the Podcast, my email is [email protected]
I hope you loved this conversation, share it with people that you think it may resonate with and I’ll see you in the next one.

Namaste!

Episode 443: All Your Meditation Questions Answered – And Living Your Dharma As a
Teacher with Manoj Dias
By Sahara Rose

 

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