Mary Hoang is the founder of The Indigo Project, an innovative concept that combines psychology, meditation and mindfulness to help inspire people to live a meaningful life through offerings like interactive workshops and manifestation classes.
Working as a psychologist herself, Mary says that it was her experience in this area that paved the way for The Indigo Project. She wanted to move away from such a ‘clinical’ approach to addressing mental health and came up with a more creative way to really connect with her clients.
“Working as a psychologist with street kids for The Salvation Army at the beginning of my career saw me enlisting creative means to start meaningful conversations with the young people there,” shares Mary. “I was bringing in my creative friends in music and the arts and running hip hop, DJ-ing, songwriting and graffiti workshops.”
“At The Indigo Project, we believe that it’s ok to not be ok, we’re not into quick-fixes or shallow approaches to mental health. Our therapists have lived, they’ve been there, they’re real people.”
“These days, The Indigo Project still pays homage to that time, particularly using music to teach people about the mind through our monthly Listen Up events, and using music in therapy to help people connect with their emotions, although we predominantly work with adults and those in creative industries today.”
“The Indigo Project was also inspired by realising that there weren’t any psychology practices that were down-to-earth and real; the kind of practice that we’d want to go to.”
“My clients, and the clients of The Indigo Project are from creative industries, entertainment, music, corporate and hospitality. They’re looking for a considered and thoughtful approach to mental health which isn’t just about looking at them as ‘broken’ or assuming that there’s something wrong with them.”
“We love thinking creatively about mental health and helping people get their shit together.”
“I think people are tired of uptight, rigid and clinical approaches to mental health—each and everyone of us is evolving as we try to keep up with our fast-paced world. Our approach to seeing a psychologist is that it’s a normal thing, designed to help people move through inevitable transitions in life, and an opportunity to discover their potential and level up.”
Mary first started meditation and learning about mindfulness about 12 years ago when she herself was feeling quite lost in her own life and started questioning her own self-worth. “I’ve had quite a lot of ups and downs in my life. I started learning about mindfulness from a Buddhist monk who was also a psychologist and it provided me an opportunity to slow down and develop the self awareness to understand my ‘self-talk’—and it wasn’t pretty.”
Overtime, meditation turned into something that is now a staple in Mary’s life and admits that it has given her the ability to enjoy life more, to really notice the little things and to find space for herself every day.
“The science of meditation and what it does to your mind is pretty outstanding,” says Mary. “It’s taught me to ‘see’ myself and the way I react to situations. It allows me to connect with myself on a deeper level. I still have shitty thoughts about myself and find life challenging at times, but at least I have the ability (at times) to step away from the waterfall of thoughts and just see it for what it is.”
Mary’s 5 meditation tips for beginners:
1. Use music
Meditating to silence is hard as a beginner, as you’re prone to distraction. Use your favourite chill track, with minimal vocals to help keep you focused. Music also has a direct effect on your emotions, so you can choose music to help you feel awesome and inspired for your day.
2. Start small
You don’t have to be in a lotus position being zen for hours on end to experience the benefits of meditation. Create consistency and start with a small goal such as 5 minutes a day, increasing by a minute each week until you get to 10 minutes. Use an app to help you develop consistency such as Strides, which sends you daily reminders to do the things that you’re trying to create habits for.
3. Understand its purpose
There are different types of meditation depending on the purpose or effect you’re looking for. Mindfulness of breath is great if you’re looking to practise focus and concentration, whereas body scanning is great for regulating emotions. Relaxation meditations are great to fall asleep to, and visualisation meditations for manifesting.
4. Don’t judge
There’s no golden standard or destination that you should be seeking from your meditation practice, so let go of expectations of ‘doing it right’. Meditation is simply time that you are carving out to check in with yourself.
Finding the right type of meditation practice for you takes time and patience. Try apps such as Headspace, Calm, and Buddify, check out your local yoga and meditation schools for classes, or try a retreat.