What is Shapes and Sounds?

reflections Sep 06, 2020

From day zero, Shapes and Sounds has moved much faster than the timid, snail-like pace that I’m most comfortable with.

I’ve been playing catch up from the very beginning.

And as Shapes and Sounds faces another stage of expansion, I thought it would be a good idea to catch everyone up on who I am, how Shapes and Sounds began and what we currently do now.

About me

So, my name is Asami and my job titles are; registered music therapist and yoga teacher, as well as now founder of Shapes and Sounds. My previous work experience lies predominantly in acute youth crisis and trauma as well as over 10 years teaching in yoga studios in both Melbourne and Tokyo.

I started Shapes and Sounds in October 2019 following a very dramatic experience of burnout and PTSD which occurred not so much because of the client group that I was working with, but more so because of the organisational and structural failings that I was witness to.

I found the lack of cultural diversity in the workforce exhausting to be around every single day, and I found the lack of culturally responsive practice in the organisation that I was working for (and surrounding services), to be deeply confronting. So much so that I really wanted to do something about it, but had no idea how and no energy to address something so big.

My friend and long-time mentor suggested that I meet with as many people as I could for coffee to talk about my idea, which I reluctantly did. I even bought a couple of jackets to make myself less “youth mental health-like” and more, “I’m an actual grown up-like”. And before I knew it, my coffee dates had referred me onto their contacts who then referred me on to their contacts and when I blinked, Shapes and Sounds had become a thing that people were talking about.

(And that I couldn't back away from or leave un-actioned.)

The name

Shapes and Sounds comes from my working experience of yoga (making shapes) and music therapy (making sounds). It is really that simple and I chose it because it sounds cute and feels easy to say.

I also added the “just” in front of Shapes and Sounds because I like to take the fluff and drama out of things. Like, we’re not doing yoga and engaging in music therapy, we're just making shapes and we’re just making sounds. It’s not a big deal...

We’re just talking about mental health and racism, it’s not a big deal.

Right? 

What we do now

Shapes and Sounds is an online platform to talk about Asian Australian mental health and wellbeing.

And when I tease that out, I like to think of Shapes and Sounds as a cultural hub that has a focus on mental health and wellbeing. It’s important to recognise that culture plays a strong role in our health, and also that our diaspora culture is often overlooked or misunderstood, therefore our conversations are always grounded in discussions about culture.

You could say that Shapes and Sounds is all about the intersections. There’s discussions about culture happening over here, and there’s many discussions about mental health happening over there, however Shapes and Sounds likes to explore the middle bit:

How does racism impact our mental health?

How has growing up Asian in Australia shaped our identities, our self-worth, our sense of belonging?

What is the experience of people who live between two cultures and how have we managed to find a sense of wellbeing here?

And what we (“we” being myself, Shapes and Sounds the entity, as well as the many supporters behind the scenes) do is we bring these questions to life via storytelling. Because stories are probably the easiest ways to engage in difficult and innately human experiences like culture and health.

We also provide free resources like the Asian Australian Mental Health Practitioner List for people who are seeking a psychologist of a similar cultural background, as well as our Introductory Rest and Reflect Program which is an online course that teaches you how to self-reflect in a powerful and transformative manner.

I see this Rest and Reflect program as foundational to Shapes and Sounds because deep self-reflection is really necessary for us to tackle the big, juicy topics that Shapes and Sounds so often talks about.

There are of course also paid services, like individual music therapy with me or future online programs that will be released very soon.

Whatever the modality, ultimately what I am most interested in is creating a space for Asian Australians to come together, think deeply and work together to care for their own and the wider community's sense of health and wellness.

I want Shapes and Sounds to contribute to us living with clarity and ease.

What’s next for Shapes and Sounds

Well, very small steps include adding more psychologists to the Asian Australian mental health practitioner list, especially in Sydney which is just such a hard nut to crack (why?) We'll also organise more webinars with different mental health practitioners and cultural innovators to keep us learning and growing together.

But much bigger steps include measuring the magnitude of impact that Shapes and Sounds has. All we have at the moment is anecdotal information about who is finding our resources helpful and who is accessing therapeutic supports via our resource list and gaining a bit more data around this will help us to inform our next steps.

We especially want people accessing the site to be able to share this information with their friends, relatives and coworkers who may be less engaged in these conversations about our mental health and wellbeing, so we need to know what is most helpful and useful.

Just a quick note...

It’s important for me to highlight here that our health and wellbeing exists in relationship with others, not in isolation. And when it comes to Shapes and Sounds, we need to recognise that if we only feel well and confident amongst people of Asian ancestry, we’re actually escaping rather than living fully.

Then, you may wonder, is it not detrimental to focus so heavily on “Asian Australian” mental health and wellbeing? If we’re all connected and in relationship, shouldn't we be focusing on everyone’s mental health?

I’ve thought about this a lot and have wondered at times if my work fuels more division and anger in a world that loves to separate. However, I feel it's important to create spaces for people to retreat to, grow, learn and feel strong (especially if these spaces have not existed in the past), so that we feel more capable and willing to engage in all of our relationships out in the world.

How you can help Shapes and Sounds

By reading this, signing up to the mailing list, using our free resources and following us on Instagram, you are already A-plus-ing your engagement with Shapes and Sounds.

However you can help us further by sharing our content with your networks if something especially resonates with you. Share our posts on Instagram, re-post our resources on LinkedIn and please help us to reach more and more people.

You can also always email me about what you want to see, or what’s most meaningful to you, as your opinion counts and I value it incredibly.

Shapes and Sounds is growing and I’m so honoured that you have been here with us right from the very early days.

Thank you and stay close because we’re bringing a new world and reality to life.

I really believe it.

Connect with our community.

You're not alone in navigating the intersections of race, culture and mental health. Find out more about our Shapes and Sounds Community, designed for and by Asian Australians.

Learn more