Get Your Shit Together.
It’s not the first thing you’d expect to hear from a new therapist, but The Indigo Project, by registered psychologist Mary Hoang, is all about doing things differently. Get Your Shit Together is also the name of one of the courses at the newly opened Surry Hills wellness centre, pitched primarily at those in creative careers.
The centre is impressive. It’s housed in a late-Victorian-style warehouse building built in 1906. The basement will be used for artist residencies; a reception area and three practitioner rooms take up the ground floor; the first floor is a huge studio for classes, with high ceilings and plenty of natural light and the rooftop will be used for meditation and smaller yoga classes.
“Creativity requires an expression of individuality, constant new ideas and finding fault in the default,” explains Hoang. “It requires a lot of courage and with that comes a lot of anxiety, self-doubt and insecurities and that’s what I’m quite interested in.”
Hoang, who previously worked in private practice, found inspiration for her new venture in her early work as an in-house psychologist with The Salvation Army’s Oasis Youth Support Network.
“Those kids really didn’t like talking to psychologists, so I began bringing in my creative friends who ran hip-hop, DJ-scratching and graffiti workshops to try and engage them,” she says.
“I think that was a great inspiration for me; you’ve got to be real. It was something as simple as listening to the same kind of music. They felt like I was on their level, which is good because I didn’t get chairs thrown at me like everyone else!”
Hoang attempted to channel this sentiment into other practices she worked in, but inevitably found tension with her more “old-school” peers. Indigo, a labour of love some eight years in the making, is her chance to prove there’s more than one way to do what she does.
“Sydney needs something that’s relevant, modern and teaches people how to deal with their overactive minds.”
Indigo will also offer what appears to be a first of its kind: an old-school album-listening session that doubles as a mindfulness course. The first, which takes place tonight, will involve a full playing of Nicolas Jaar’s critically acclaimed Sirens.
“We’ve realised the way we listen to music has really changed. It’s either ADHD-style or in the background, but we never really give it our full attention,” says Hoang.
“The beauty about mindfulness is it doesn’t have to be eyes closed, lotus position, floating off into cosmic space. You can just be doing one thing with purpose.”
No doubt the breadth of Hoang’s courses (including one called Naptime, which sounds like the greatest meditation session ever) will pique the curiosity of the many photographers, writers, creators and designers who work in close proximity to her Foster Street location.
“We don’t learn these skills in school; how to pay attention, what to do when we freak out or when relationships go sour,” says Hoang. “It doesn’t matter if everyone else around you thinks you’re ‘killing it’; if your mind is not in the right space, it’s not even worth it.”
Many young people don’t deal with their psychology openly. With an open mind and some dope beats, Hoang may be able to help change that.