Manoj Dias, Fitzroy, Melbourne
Images by Tasha Tylee
In the current climate it’s no surprise that more of us are seeking ways to find quiet in the everyday. With this in mind we visited the serene Melbourne home of Manoj Dias, the founder of multidisciplinary meditation studio A–SPACE. We spoke to Manoj about his journey with meditation, creating a space mindfully and the intersection of wellness and design.
“My house is a converted warehouse in the middle of Fitzroy, it was part of the old Australian institute for fashion’s design school. I really enjoy living here because it’s big, bright and spacious and having lived in tiny apartments in New York it can feel very luxurious and soothing. I spend a lot of my day surrounded by people, so having a little oasis filled with plants, books and sunlight was important for me to feel rejuvenated, especially as the last few years have been quite taxing.”
“I enjoy the simplicity of this house, it’s white walls and concrete and wooden floors allow me to feel at ease and the plants make the house feel warm. My favourite part of the house is my meditation cove, it’s where I spend so much of my time in the morning. There’s nothing more nourishing than when the sun is peaking out and I feel it’s warmth on my face while the birds sing brightly. I think having a dedicated meditation space makes my practice feel like a ritual. I light a candle and some incense and for 45 minutes each morning I feel like I’m really tending to myself and the world around me.”
My favourite part of the house is my meditation cove, it’s where I spend so much of my time in the morning.
“I tend to keep my space very clean with just the essentials. I find I can gather little things easily so it’s important for me that it’s as intentional as possible. I have three books that I always tend to rotate through (currently: James Baldwin - Notes of a native son, Ta-nehisi Coates - Between the world & me, Mingyur Rinpoche - In love with the world) I have a little bedside bowl for my rings, an artwork of my teacher and I, during a time I was on retreat and a painting by Sophie-Alexia Joly Delotbiniere — which I love.”
“My wooden Buddha statue means alot to me, more so sentimentally than symbolically. I bought it in Bali, close to 10 years ago before my first silent meditation retreat, the retreat itself was very transformative for me and one of the first times I had felt the effects of prolonged meditation sits. At some point during the retreat I knew I was being moved in a very profound way. I developed a deeper relationship with compassion during that time that has never left me. The statue also reminds me that no matter how far I think I have come, it was only yesterday that I knew nothing.”
At some point during the retreat I knew I was being moved in a very profound way.
“I’ve lived in and around Fitzroy for over a decade and you get to know the shop owners, baristas and retailers over time. After living in Brooklyn for a while I was craving a small community and I feel like I have that here. At the moment my favourite cafe is Gabriel as it’s 90 seconds away from my place and their caesar salad has me feeling all kinds of ways. Down the road my lunch spot is Cibi. I also dig that there are so many yoga studios close by - Power Living, Good Vibes Yoga and Gertrude Street are all great.”
“A—SPACE was Australia’s first drop-in meditation studio and really came from a crazy idea me and my former business partner had about creating a community space where people could come and feel things. We ran classes, workshops and programs to help people cultivate more presence, connection and compassion for themselves and others. At the heart of our studio was somewhere everyone felt safe and included, no matter what you looked like or how much money you had and through it we saw thousands of beautiful people come through the doors. The studio was around for a number of years before I decided to change the model and move from one fixed space, to multiple pop-up studios in different locations throughout Australia and the U.S.”
“This year I hope to launch the A—SPACE app, an online learning tool for those wishing to explore more about how meditation and mindfulness can help us with life, love and death as well as expand our event series in Melbourne, Sydney and the east and west coasts of the U.S. My vision is for these healing practices to be accessible to more people around the world and I’m trying everything I can to make that happen.”
“[Prior to A—SPACE] I spent a decade in marketing and finance and eventually got really sick. I was sick for over two years with everything from anxiety and chronic insomnia, to addiction and an eating disorder. I was unhealthy, lonely and lacked any knowledge of how to get well. In my search to get better I stumbled upon my meditation teacher’s classes and his beautiful community. I learned how much a set of teachings, combined with a loving group of friends can really help us overcome our darkest days. I think that’s why a sense of belonging is so central to A—SPACE events.”
In my search to get better I stumbled upon my meditation teacher’s classes and his beautiful community.
“With meditation practice we’re taught to be intentional with where we place our awareness so I think this relates closely to design. Mindful design doesn’t have to mean clean, minimalistic and ironic - it can be evocative, innovative and complex. However if our intention is not to feel those things then we need to be conscious of our design thinking. When I design a studio or new space I always start with trying to evoke a feeling of coming ‘home’ this is often where many of us feel most comfortable and at ease.”
“We live in trying times. I think the demands of modern life are starting to take its toll on people’s health and wellness. What was once seen as mystical and esoteric is now seen as an essential part of one's self-care. But we’re also seeing that meditation and more broadly spirituality offers so much more than stress-relief. It can reorintate our world view from being so self-absorbed and nihilistic to being more curious, conscious and compassionate. I’m seeing people really become more interested in breaking the patterns they see themselves in once and for all and using spiritual practices to help them do this. I also sense that people are searching for a more meaningful and purpose driven life, when our minds are calm and our empathy networks are active - we’re able to access this wisdom more readily “
I’m seeing people really become more interested in breaking the patterns they see themselves in once and for all and using spiritual practices to help them do this.
“[Outside of the studio] I love to study and read. I’m currently studying an advanced Buddhist philosophy course online, reading a collection of essays by James Baldwin as well as trying to keep up to date with U.S politics which has been a strangely satisfying and addictive past time since November 2018. I also spend most weekends trying to convince my daughter to come to a yoga class or to record a tik tok video with me. Both have been unsuccessful so far.”
“I’m also currently writing my first book. It’s a mammoth task as I've never written so many words but it’s been a beautiful and brutal project that i’m thoroughly enjoying. I plan to move permanently to New York in the latter part of the year to launch the A—SPACE app and spend more time with my partner as well as study with some of my teachers. Also, I’ve experienced 3 winters in a row and I’m about done with the cold weather.“