Oh, modern life. For all its joys and conveniences, it also brings with it a particular set of stresses. From fast-paced, expensive city living to pressure from friends, family, and social media to be and look a certain way, it's no surprise we go through our days feeling a bit overwhelmed. Yet, compared to the effort we put into our physical wellbeing — clocking hours at the gym or religiously adhering to one diet or another — we tend to pay much less attention to our mental health. The result: an uptick in depression, anxiety, and general unhappiness. Luckily for us Sydneysiders, Mary Hoang and her innovative new psychology and mindfulness venture The Indigo Project are here to help.
Noting the lack of businesses dedicated to mental wellbeing in Sydney, Hoang set out to build a sanctuary where city dwellers could go to de-stress and cultivate inner peace. Based in Surry Hills, the newly opened space uses mindfulness and modern psychology to, in Hoang's words, "help people get their shit together". Refreshingly unpretentious, The Indigo Project offers innovative workshops, one-on-one therapy, meditation, yoga and lunchtime nap classes (yes, nap classes), as well as local and international retreats.
Hoang's path to founding The Indigo Project was winding. Originally from Perth, she moved to Sydney to pursue a degree in psychology and, after graduation, worked with the city's street kids through The Salvation Army's Oasis Youth Support Network. "I found the best way to connect with the kids was through mediums like hip hop dance and graffiti," she says. "And I became passionate about this creative, down-to-earth approach to psychology."
But going on to work in various private practices, Hoang found that her youthful, creative approach was not readily embraced by employers. "I had all these ideas like taking meditation into the corporate world and creating mindfulness workshops that incorporated music, but my bosses preferred to stick to their old-school ways," she says, in her characteristically enthusiastic tone.
So, in 2012, Hoang decided to take the leap and branch out on her own. Naming her venture after the concept of indigo children (that is, a generation of individuals thought to have supernatural intuition, intelligence, and creativity), she set out to build a business that would cater to young, creative individuals by teaching mindfulness in an approachable way. While the journey hasn't been easy — "you certainly don't learn how to run a small business in your psychology classes" — it's also been incredibly fulfilling.
After three years of working out of her apartment and renting rooms for workshops and classes, Hoang finally opened the permanent location last month, in October 2016. "It took me years to find this place because I wanted somewhere people would want to linger, to talk, to collaborate — not just drop in for a class and then rush back out," she explains. This goal has been achieved with the serene Surry Hills space — it features beautiful Scandinavian-style furniture, abundant potted plants, and an AstroTurfed rooftop.
Today, The Indigo Project's jam-packed program offers something for everyone. The only "requirement", Hoang says, is a curious mind. "If you're asking questions about how you can be more present and reduce your stress, we have something for you." For an introduction to mindfulness, try one of the daily meditation or yoga classes. Once you're ready to delve deeper, sign up for The indigo project's signature Get Your Shit Together course. An eight-week mindfulness meditation program, the course gives participants the tools to understand their minds better and learn to live in the present.
You could also give the genius Nap Time a try. Perfect for those moments in the work week when you're practically nodding off at your desk, the class provides a guided relaxation meditation and the opportunity for a little pick-me-up snooze in the middle of the day. It's designed so you head back to work energised and ready to tackle the afternoon's challenges. If you don't have a nap desk, this is the next best thing. Even if you're sceptical, give it a go — your mind will thank you.
The Indigo Project is located at 33 Foster Street, Surry Hills. For more information and a class timetable, visit theindigoproject.com.au.
Keen to check it out? The Indigo Project team are offering one free yoga, meditation or naptime class to the first 50 Concrete Playground readers who book online using the code CPGROUND50. Book via www.theindigoproject.com.au.