I am imagining a day when I drive down a Melbourne high street and I see as many meditation studios as I see yoga studios. I imagine people leaving the office at lunch time to go and meditate with their teacher, in a class full of other office workers. I imagine droves of people getting up at 5am to go and meditate before they go to work.
I am not the first to imagine such a change; people have been speculating for years about what such a cultural change could have on our lives as individuals, on our functioning as a society, and on inter-country relations. And conversations using the terms like mindfulness, meditation, presence, and living in the now, seem quite common today. Perhaps what I imagine is less than a decade away.
14 years ago, when this week’s guest Masha Gorodilova first arrived in Melbourne from Russia, yoga was at a level much like what meditation is today. There certainly were pockets of it, but it was more traditional with slow, two-hour practises more the norm than the fast-passed hour long sessions more common today. And there was certainly much less Lululemon – yoga was not yet the pervasive trend that it was today.
While she had practised since she was 13, when Masha first arrived in Melbourne she found she did not want to continue her practise. The plans for her life had been thrown into turmoil. And while she trusted her intuition to stay on in this city, she decided that she did not believe in ‘spiritual stuff’ any more.
The crisis of a relationship break-up reconnected Masha with her spiritual quest. She soon found herself in the bubble of Byron Bay, teaching yoga, living simply, and once again reconnecting with her spirituality and intuition. It was here she met her meditation teacher – a long-haired German called Stefan who rode a Harley, laughed a lot, and challenged Masha’s understanding of those who meditated and what it could bring to her own life.
A chance invitation to the Grand Prix brought Masha back to Melbourne, popping her Byron Bay bubble. Immersing herself in a variety of meditation practises including Vipassa, transcendental, Vedic, she began thinking about the pace of the lives of people who lived in cities. Why was it that the prevailing metaphor of urban life seemed to be that of a project, with endless to-do lists, deadlines and measures of productivity? Yoga was quite common by this stage. As Masha says, yoga prepares the body to sit. It stills the body, so we can start the process of de-exciting the mind. Would there be an audience, and would it be of use, to teach more broadly what Masha was learning about mindfulness and meditation? Could it also help others to stop, sit, be and hear?
13 months since opening its doors, Happy Melon studios has become the manifestation of this thought process. Originally co-founded with Olivia Downing (who is now working on other projects), Simon Davey and a silent partner, Happy Melon is a place of clam. Yoga, pilates, meditation, and dynamic fitness and all offered in a space design with intentionality and oozing tranquility. But it is mindfulness that is at the centre of all that happens here: all teachers are trained in it; all classes incorporate it; and the focused meditation classes are growing by the week. It is Masha’s express aim that by 2020 a mindfulness practise is more prevalent than a yoga practise.
In our conversation Masha talks about why she sees this focus on mediation and mindfulness as being so important. She talks about how it provides a way to release the puss that is inside each of us, without it spilling out into the other parts of our lives. As she says, you can’t see people’s thoughts or breath, but you can see the impact they both have on the lives of those around them. In making it a focus, Masha hopes to enable others to live their normal life, but in a way where they are present in each moment, in each thing they are doing: in driving their car, talking with their kids, drinking their wine, walking down the street.
Happy Melon is a place of stillness in a city of never-ending movement, and in talking with Masha it is evident where this sense of calm comes from. For me, it was a calmness that stayed with me for the rest of the day, and reminded me of the benefits of becoming aware and present.
Masha has a natural grace, and the studio she has co-founded is a place of elevation. I hope you also enjoy a sense of calm as you listen to our conversation, and one day get to practise mindfulness in this place for yourself.