Dias uses apps to guide his meditation practice. (Pictured: Samsung Galaxy BudsPro in Phantom Black) Manoj Dias is a man of habit. Every morning, after he wakes up, he meditates for half an hour and performs breathing exercises. Then he sits with a cup of tea and contemplates the day ahead before working out. “I go for anything that’s going to elevate my heart rate,” he says. “Something that’s going to get me into my body at the start of the day.” It’s a ritual that has been decades in the making. Dias, who was born in Sri Lanka and raised in the Theravada Buddhist tradition, became a meditation and mindfulness teacher after a decade spent working in marketing and finance in Melbourne—a lifestyle that he found increasingly unhealthy. Mindfulness—with its ability to “give us the choice between stimulus and response,” as Dias puts it—opened the door for him to a more fulfilling way of life. In 2009, he started teaching meditation and, a few years later, launched A—Space, the first multidisciplinary meditation studio in Australia. At its core, Dias explains, mindfulness allows you to become more aware of the moment you are in. He acknowledges that it might not always be the easiest thing to practice; when we’re present, we’re more likely to become more aware of issues like depression and anxiety. But, Dias says, it’s possible to come to terms with what we are experiencing through meditation. This approach forms the basis of Dias’s book, Still Together, which explores how mindfulness and meditation can allow us to be more present and connected in the digital age. It’s a process he believes is rooted in our relationship with our bodies. “We’re a culture that exists primarily in the mind—we’re always planning ahead or looking back,” he says. “The more we’re in our bodies, the more we can relate [to each other] on a much more human level. It’s what I’ve struggled with the most in my life—feeling connected to myself and other people—so it’s a theme that feels very real and energizing to me.” The book sets out a range of practices that Dias has developed at Open, a wellness platform that he established in Los Angeles in 2020. Founded on the principle that mindfulness can be found through breathing exercises, the classes at Open, which are streamed online, bring yoga and active movement together with breath work and music. Dias says that when he started teaching, over 10 years ago, he had no idea how much the recent interest in meditation and mindfulness would grow. It’s a phenomenon that he says reflects a growing dissatisfaction with our fast-paced, always-on culture, which can result in feeling a “disconnection from joy and happiness.” “People are looking for ways to slow down, to feel they exist on their terms and that they’re not a machine,” he says. For Dias, the key to slowing down and being mindful does not lie in avoiding technology altogether—his phone is actually a useful tool that does everything from helping him get to sleep to serving as an aid for meditation. The idea, as with everything he teaches, is to be conscious of the relationships we form—whether with ourselves, other people, or the technology we use. It’s why morning rituals are so important, setting the tone for the rest of the day. “It’s about those little things, like not using my phone as soon as I wake up, but establishing a time where I can engage with it responsibly,” he says. “We always have a choice, and in that choice lies our growth and freedom.” This story was created in partnership with Samsung as part of Slow Systems—a new series offering simple ideas for transforming everyday moments into more meaningful experiences. TwitterFacebookPinterest After meditating, Dias takes time each morning to enjoy a cup of matcha tea without distraction. Artwork by Sophie-Alexia de Lotbinière Related Stories Partnerships Saehee Cho How food creates communities. Partnerships Shin Okuda On small acts of sustainability. Partnerships Amanda Gunawan In pursuit of balance. Partnerships Serena Mitnik-Miller On finding room for creativity. Partnerships Chelsea Mak How to create your own rhythm. Partnerships Issue 50 Object Matters New light on an old classic.