This app has created a community around wellness

·4 min read

Open is a mindfulness studio that wants to push meditation beyond the image of someone sitting alone in a dark room with their legs crossed and eyes closed. Open wants to make meditation more accessible and collaborative, allowing everyone to access the benefits of meditation and mindfulness.

The range of experiences on Open is vast. It offers on-demand and live classes spanning from meditation to breathwork to yoga to movement. Users can clock into daily meditations, or join any of the live classes provided throughout the week. Or, for students near Open’s real-life studio in Venice, California, there’s the option to practice in-person as well.

Open’s classes incorporate music to facilitate presence and connection with emotions, as well as to help with breathwork, allowing participants to breathe along to the music. On the other side of the experiences that use music, are more restful and quiet practices, which help users shift states from one experience to another.

Open co-founder, Manoj Dias, shares that he had a serious panic attack while working in a corporate setting. The high-stress environment had him getting little sleep, and generally engaging in a not-so-healthy lifestyle that involved a lot of social drinking and going out. After feeling the effects of this lifestyle for a while, a friend randomly invited him to a meditation studio where a Buddhist monk teacher left a lasting impression. “He said, ‘You are not your thoughts’ in the very first class, and that got me really curious about what he meant by that,” Dias tells In The Know. “I ended up leaving [the class] and just slept really well for the first time in my life.”

Dias started to look into mindfulness and the brain. “Research on mindfulness and research on the brain has really blown up in the last 40 years,” he says. “We know that 47% of our day our minds are somewhere else, and when we look at the research on where our minds are, it’s often in the past or future. Now you combine that with the stress and overwhelm of modern life as well as the rate in which we’re meant to operate, like a lot of us are still working full-time hours in the middle of all of this. It’s a really overwhelming and stressful experience for a lot of us.”

Meanwhile, Open CEO and co-founder, Raed Khawaja, brought his own unique experience to Open. Having grown up in a religious context praying 5 times a day, predominantly in a community context, Khawaja admits that he was able to access the benefits of meditation a lot quicker than most. “So I just started experimenting with these different modalities that I had exposure to,” he shares.

Community and collaboration are at the heart of the Open experience. “The experience of making it two-way, the experience of bringing the student into the room with you can be tremendously transformational,” says Dias. “Especially coming out of the last two years where for many of us, we’ve been indoors by ourselves and the outside world has kind of been restricted.”

Open wants to harmoniously blend a community experience with the ever-growing technologies that allow us to access community digitally. “Everything we do online, digitally, should bring us together, otherwise we’re still staying separate,” Dias tells In The Know. “And so we’re having to create new ways to cultivate this connection. Meditation ultimately is a connection to ourselves and each other, and what I’m learning over time is through any means necessary.”
In other words, Open wants to meet people where they’re at in order to give them full access to all of the benefits meditation has to offer, and the benefits of that only get paid forward. “When people are happier and healthier themselves, they can be better versions of themselves to the world around them, the direct community that’s closest to them,” says Khawaja. “And so I think on the other side of many people practicing, is a much more conscious community that sets up the entire planet for a more sustainable life.”

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