The phoenix rises … in books

Sue Sharpe of Phoenix Rising Books

Image credit: Fiona Morris

While it seems actual physical bookstores are rapidly disappearing, there are still some wonderful stores to be found, many of which specialise in particular strands of literature or non-fiction. For me, a regular stop by Phoenix Rising Books in Glebe is essential. The owner, Sue Sharpe, is not only a very lovely lady, but a vastly knowledgeable one who is invested in her subject area – namely, new age, wellbeing and spiritual texts and audio, amongst other things. We had a chat about these categories, her support of self-published authors and where she thinks books and bookstores are headed.

Tell me about Phoenix Rising Books and what your business is ultimately all about.

Phoenix is a bookstore plus.  Our specialty is mind, body and soul, and broadly that covers material you can read, listen to or watch which has the potential to shift your level of awareness beyond the physical day to day realm to the universe beyond. What has become very special is the diverse community Phoenix attracts and how many people share their experiences with me as they read books they select. I have customers that have been with us for 15 years and it has been a delight to watch their progression and transformation, not to mention my own learning and development as we share experiences. We stock titles ranging from the beginning of a subject right up to the expert level from authors across the globe.

How long have you been in “new age”?

I purchased Phoenix Rising Books mid-1999. I have always had a passion for books and can recall as a youngster thinking that having a bookstore would be great. The genre at that time was very new for me.  I had my personal reading, which I soon realised was just skimming the surface. So the learning curve has been huge, and it has only been in the last two to three years that I have felt like an ‘expert’, and by this I don’t mean in knowing it all, but knowing where to research and find the leading edge of authors in this field.

You’ve mentioned before that you reject the ‘self-help’ label. Why is that and what do you prefer?

I sense that self-help has a ‘fringe’ element tag to it and so when that label is used it can switch people off as what comes to their mind is the 1960’s alternative living community. I don’t actually have a label as such.  The material offered in all the books we stock has, in the most part, been created to open the reader’s thoughts to ideas outside their current reality. They can learn skills to change behaviours or emotional responses, to bring into their current work and family life and to nourish their soul at times of difficulty.

There’s a lot of talk about the “death of print publishing”, but in my own experience, it seems there’s still a huge market for it, particularly in non-fiction. What are your thoughts on this?

I feel there is still a huge market for print material. As the younger generation grows up, maybe that will change. What I am seeing is that whilst it is easy to get an e-book, the reading experience is not the same.  It’s a bit hard to curl up with an electronic device!  What customers are telling me is that for this genre they prefer the paper format as they can make notations, go back to it, pick it up and put it down without having to worry about power source.

What are your best sellers and what do you think makes them successful?

Over the years there have been two titles that stand out in sales volume. The first was the film/documentary ‘What the Bleep Do We Know!’  Released in 2005 it was one of the first in this category to talk about the world beyond our physical body. It was screened at the Dendy in Sydney for many months and the DVD still continues to be a good seller. For many people it was the first time they had considered the importance of their thoughts, the impact on the environment they may have and how they can choose to change their reality. Supporting the storyline were a credible team of scientists, neuroscientists and the like.

The second title that comes to mind is ‘The Untethered Soul’ by Michael A. Singer. Released in 2007, it just keeps attracting people to read it. Singer very clearly takes you through the process of how we close our hearts based on trauma, fear and or anger. He explains what impact this has on our physical and psychological bodies. As you are reading he takes you with him, so when he suggests ways of opening your heart, it becomes easy. Easy is not the right word – because to make that change requires paying attention and practice.

Do you find that the classics remain popular for particular reasons?

Often they are referenced by many other authors and so still stay in circulation. Mostly though they resonate with us at a core level as the archetypes they relate with are components of the human condition, regardless of gender, race or culture.

Where do you see the new age industry headed, particularly with the rise of oracle decks and self-published gurus?

The challenge for any author or artist, regardless of the product type is to get heard in the ‘noise’. The wellbeing and health industry, where I put our genre, is growing and so I suspect we will see more and more product and noise. The challenge will be to cut through this noise and find what is just right for you. This is where somewhere like Phoenix can assist in the sense that based on customer feedback we can help to make a path through the noise. The challenge is that what will be ‘noise’ for one person will be ‘gold’ for another.

You have good relationships with a lot of self-published authors. What are you looking for when they tell you about their books?

Firstly, my admiration for self-published authors is enormous. It is a very gutsy thing to do and for that alone I would like to support. As we talked about earlier, cutting through to what works for our customers is my role.  To help with this I take books on consignment, list them in our new release program and see what happens from there. If customers purchase then we will take the title on as a permanent title.

What advice would you give to self-published authors?

To get your social media platform as robust as you can. You need to build your audience; no one else can do this for you. A great resource is a book called ‘Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World’ by Michael Hyatt. In this book he takes you through a plan, based on his extensive knowledge and experience as a writer, publisher and speaker.

How can people follow what’s happening in store and online?

Our website, which is undergoing a facelift, can be found at www.phoenixrisingbooks.com
We have an active Facebook community and we have just joined the Twitter world.

Matters of the home

Holly StarIt’s always nice when you come across a unique product by chance. Flipping through a magazine one day, I read about Matter & Home, a company specialising in small homewares, in particular, candles that are charged with intention – Strength, Courage, Propserity and Strength, to name a few. As someone who is an advocate positive thinking, charged intention and manifestation (with participation from yourself), I was intrigued.

And in the words of its owner, Holly Star, Matter & Home is also a concept, which brings these wares into the home in a way that encompasses how we think of products and personal growth. “It’s a relationship to how we use objects and how we interact with personal items with meaning and how we think and connect.”

In this interview, she reveals a very holistic, self-reflective approach to daily life.

I came across your products by chance in a magazine, and a celebrity had mentioned she loved your candles. I was intrigued by the fact that they’re charged with particular purposes and are blessed. Tell me a bit about what makes your candles different to other offerings?      

They are soy candles with glass engravings and cotton and paper wicks. They are based on specific oils that have energetic qualities that house and facilitate movement of a particular intention. We also say prayers and blessings for each person to receive exactly what it is they need, i.e. the Fearless Candle is a base of frankincense to clear lower energies and promote meditative qualities while sandalwood is grounding and birch holds the space of courage to overcome that which the fear is connecting to. Prayers to overcome any fear or doubts you may have in going forward, and for what most wants to happen.

Some have gem or flower essences to have subtle undertones, which I believe to be like vehicles or carriers that once lit, pass through the air, and this is where intentions, or letting go comes in.

Matter & Home by Holly Star

How did you fall into making candles that are tailored this way?

Haaa. Honestly I don’t know! I think it came from a need from my clients. I travel a lot with work (as a consultant/­intuitive) and seeing a need to let people progress deeper and have a personal connection to their growth, I decided I wanted to give a physical object to connect and represent that process.

How do you decide on the elements of a candle? E.g. Strength, courage, etc.    

It mostly came from meditations, and seeing what people needed the most in their lives.

What are your biggest sellers?

It changes as people change I think, right now I would say Vitality and Fearless.

Have you got more candles to come?

Too many! I have some new ideas without images or engraved words so its not as direct but still has deep prayer and blessings in them. So they are more adaptable for all people.

You also offer other items. How do they complement your primary offerings? 

The lunar tables are great for charging items you may use and help with dreams. They were taken off of certain lunar phases for receiving clarity and as I call them ‘visionary dreams’. The medicinal boxes I use for my meditation. I set them each day when I wake up and it keeps my central priorities easier to focus on and feel supported with. Like if you were to open the part of the box with the herbs that represent relationship and you are looking for new connections you would also use the Friendship or Love candle to help support follow through.

What’s next for Matter and Home?

I have been developing things like smaller wooden items for jewelry ­to charge your personal items as you go out into the world. They are what stay on your body and with you throughout the day. Also I’ve designed a coffee table that looks just as is but transforms into a meditation table. There is a desire to move into different household items such as bedding and trying to encompass all lifestyle items, so we can transform our homes into supportive environments on all levels.

Q&A with life coach Stin Hansen

Stin Hansen thought coachA few years ago, I began in earnest what I like to think of as my self-development journey. I knew that I needed to address the internal monologues and change the language of my brain. Well, maybe not completely change – we are all imperfect creatures – but switch to a more positive way of seeing myself, the world around me and my own potential.

I don’t remember how I came across Stin Hansen, but her soothing voice reciting affirmations had me at first download. Her podcasts are free to download, and years later, I still tune into certain recordings when I need refuelling.

It was my absolute pleasure to have a phone chat with Stin recently. And I have to say, hearing her “in real life” was kind of a thrill.

AA: I’m a big fan of your meditations and affirmations, and I started using them at a really important time of my personal growth. Is it important for you to know who you’re reaching? Do you receive feedback from around the world?

SH: I do, and I have to say it’s a weird thing that I do, because there aren’t faces or stories really when I start writing content. But when I hear back from people and there are stories, it makes such a huge difference to help me keep going.

And there are times when I’m writing, I always try to meditate and get centred spiritually before I write. Sometimes I’ll just have certain impressions of things to write, and I also have a notebook where I keep ideas.

And I don’t know how it all works, but I know there’s some sort of pull towards things that people need. Some times more than others definitely, but there are some where I will just have this strong impression and sometimes I hear back, sometimes I don’t. But it feels right, it flows so easily and it’s just, I don’t know, little angels everywhere (laughs).

AA: So it’s a very intuitive process for you then? There are rules for affirmations, but where’s the spiritual element for you?

SH: The best part of it is it does require me – if things aren’t right inside, nothing comes. It’s almost as if everything’s just blocked up. It’s a pretty miraculous process. And I know it does help that I have had to use all of these things on myself during difficult times, and they’ve worked, so I have a lot of faith in the process.

But there is something else, there’s something special. Not everyone will resonate with my voice or what I have to say, but the ones that do, I feel a connection with them somehow. There’s just something there.

AA: You have a very soothing voice, and I can understand why it’s such a comfort to people. Even the cadence…

SH: Yes, and as much as I hate listening to my stuff, occasionally I do. At the beginning I spoke too fast, and I don’t like to meditate to my voice, but when I do, it’s always helped me improve. Because I speak too fast, or I don’t pause long enough. You learn.

AA: If you don’t like listening to your own material, is there someone you go to for meditations?

SH: I do my own meditating, or sometimes I’ll be working on my own affirmations that I write, things that I want or intend for myself, that I probably need to change or improve on in my life.

There are times though, when things are more difficult than others – my dad passed away, I had a really hard time getting back in the groove. I knew that I needed help from someone else, so I just kind of put it out there. I wrote down in my journal what it was I felt like I needed, and invited the universe to bring it to me.

I don’t think everybody does it that way, and I’m sure there are plenty of people who think it’s crazy, but it’s been so consistently good for me to do my life that way, it makes things so much easier. Because I trust that it’ll show up, and when it does, I know that it’s the right thing at the right time.

AA: So something came in response to your request to help you?

SH: Yes. Two friends from completely different circles had mentioned somebody they had been working with, and I knew that that was where I needed to go. And it really helped me. It was, I think, reiki, but it helped me so much.

So there are people and there are books and there are words that are written that I’ll come across years later. And a lot of times it’s my own journal. I am a big journaller. So when I get lots of ideas or impressions and I write a lot, sometimes it’s not until years later that I go back and realise that that’s my answer.

AA: You’re well known for your podcasts and website. What else do you do? Is there speaking or a book on the way?

SH: There are some things happening. I’ve got five kids and taking care of them is a big part of my life. It’s interesting, because they all have such unique individual needs. In fact it was my son’s anxiety that really got me moving forward in really researching anxiety management, and the anxiety meditations that I’ve done have been so – I mean, just millions of downloads, because it’s such a huge need. And it’s interesting that that’s how it came about.

And now he’s in high school, and I was in the airport with him, looking at colleges, and we were walking through the airport and for the first time in about five years he started to have an anxiety attack. And he was talking about this visit, and he was concerned about all these big decisions he had, and it was starting to hit him. And I watched him just work it through, and say all the things that my little meditations … ‘This is just a thought, this isn’t who I am’, ‘where in my body am I feeling this? OK, yeah, there it is’.

And it was just this huge football player, high school kid going through this really remarkable process to calm himself down. And that was really awesome for me, because I didn’t have to say a word. I just watched him be his own coach.

AA: That’s fantastic, and you want to empower people to be their own coaches. I know some of yours by heart now. How did you find yourself in this area in the first place?

SH: It’s actually all of my failures that eventually led me to realise what it is I was really supposed to do. You try out different things, and sometimes they worked but they didn’t fit as well.

But I had done a lot of physical personal training for athletes and a friend of mine had gone through breast cancer and was kind of in the throes of it, and had asked if I would work with her, because she knew I used to be involved in it.

And at this point I was in a completely different field – I had started some random film company, and just doing all kinds of whacky stuff. But I started to help her in the gym, and as we were going through that process, every time we would finish, I would always take her through some sort of visualisation. She was really struggling with accepting the diagnosis, and visualising a future and trying to figure it all out.

So I would always give her a guided visualisation at the end, and sometimes I would have her do different workouts. And when I couldn’t be there for the workouts, I started just recording my voice so that she would always have that, because this is kind of a lifeline for her, the relationship that we developed.

And it kind of spring boarded from there. I really felt like that was what I was supposed to be doing, and started taking on more clients. And then I started a company called Fit DJ, which was just back 10, 15 years ago, CDs; I did guided workouts, and the guided workout always finished with some sort of visualisation or meditation. And then from there, when podcasts began, in 2006 I put up a few of my recordings on a couple of different podcasts, and I did my workouts. And I thought, definitely the workouts are going to be huge.

But then I put some of the meditations up, and it was actually the meditations that went viral. It was incredible. Within a couple of weeks, I was number two in all of iTunes, which is pretty awesome. And that was when I realised I had hit some sort of pulse there.

And they were really bad. I mean, I was doing my recordings in my closet. It was really bad, you know, just putting socks over the microphone. But there were so many people around the world who found it, and of course technology made it possible that people I would never meet or know would somehow hear my voice, and it really created a way for this business to happen.

Throw it out there, and whoever needs to find it will find it. That’s my belief … that’s my prayer, every day. That whoever needs it, help them to find it, whoever needs something that I’ve said, ever, help them to find it. And then the internet does the rest.

AA: Have you moved out of the closet for your recording sessions?

SH: (laughs) I do have a studio, it’s not in my closet anymore.

AA: You said anxiety is a popular download. What is your most popular and what is the most common thread amongst people who want to listen to you?

SH: Anxiety’s an interesting one, because people who are anxious are highly motivated to feel better. And so they’re the ones who are searching, they’re the ones who, if my website is down, I have a stream of emails in my inbox, and I can tell, it’s the people who have got anxiety, that need to find an anchor. And so they’re really the meat and potatoes of what I think has helped me. People who struggle with anxiety and have resonated with my voice, there’s something calming about it for them. Because people who are depressed are not really motivated to do anything.

So my anxiety ones are probably most popular ones. But I think meditation’s had its day. A lot of research has come out about the benefits of meditation. People don’t know how to really start. I think for 80 per cent of the world [meditation] is so far beyond what they would be able to do – sit still for 10 or 15 minutes, with nothing but their thoughts. It would be overwhelming. So to have somebody coach them all the way through to having a relaxed body, and a centred place where they can go, is very helpful.

AA: There are people who are motivated to change and people who aren’t. Do you get a lot of skepticism about what you do?

SH: The good news is they never look for my content. People that are skeptical don’t ever download me. It’s perfect. And the day will come. Everybody eventually gets to their moment, their more-than-they-can-handle, and that’s usually the thing that motivates them to find me.

AA: When it comes to people finding you, what are the tips you have for people who are having trouble getting started and making change in their lives?

SH: It’s tough. I do think that life is kind of perfectly designed to take people to a point where they can’t remain complacent for too long. But it’s either going to get so difficult that they really need help or they really are motivated to make changes. It gets them off the fence.

I don’t think that life … is getting intense for everybody. It’s kind of amazing. Everyone really has as much as they can handle, and there are moments of valleys and vistas, but for the most part, life is pretty hard, and it’s intensifying, and there’s a fear in the world – the unknowns are hard for people to try to navigate through.

So I figure if they’re not there yet, that’s OK. Some day, life will bring them invitations to improve, whatever that is, and whatever path is right for them. And everyone’s story is different. People are highly motivated to become as self-actualised and productive as they can, and that’s part of what we’ve brought here with us, that nature. But some aren’t, some are just doing it, and that’s their personality, but eventually life will invite them.

There are so many things that people can numb out with to and just stay in a place where they never have to feel really deeply. But in the inside of everyone is that yearning or that aching for more. And whether it’s me or not, I know there are so many great thought leaders out there and so many people offering their gifts to the world, that wherever they find it, it’s available. That’s the good news, it’s available. There’s so much great stuff out there.

AA: You talked about guided visualisation, but what are the rules of affirmative thinking? You can’t focus on what you don’t want, you’re supposed to focus on what you do want. Any tips?

SH: That’s a really good question. For some people, there are times that it’s too much of a stretch to say an affirmation of something that you want. [Saying] ‘I have an abundant financial future’ when you’re bankrupt is a hard stretch for people to really believe, and so that’s an interesting place.

And there are a couple of places where people can kind of make that jump. And one is to do that EFT. EFT is a really good precursor for affirmations.

EFT is really a matter of, where is the file in my brain – because your brain is always filing things away – and especially anxieties and worries and skepticism. Those things are stored in the brain in little files that come out when other things trigger them. So there’ll be something, say, that you love chocolate, and so when you see chocolate, that file is wide open and all of the good thoughts about eating chocolate are just wide open. What EFT does is it sort of bypasses that pathway in your brain that is just going to always go to a certain response to something.

And it works really well with people who are having panic attacks, to kind of tap through those things and say all of the thoughts that are coming up, that are not what you want. The place you’re allowed to say the things that you don’t want is in EFT. When you tap through those places, you will say, ‘I am afraid of this happening’, ‘I’m worried about this happening’, and when the file is wide open and you’re actually feeling the feeling of being afraid of that thing, or being worried about it, is when you would do that tapping. It kind of just juggles things up a little bit in the brain, so that then you can put an affirmation in there and start to go back into a more proactive creation of what it is you really want.

AA: But there are certain places on your body you tap, like the pulse points?

SH: Yes, but you don’t know exactly which point is going to be right for you. So there are points that you go through and it may be three, but it’s hard to say which one it’s going to be, where it is you’re storing it. So you just tap your head, and there are those points – you say, ‘I am afraid of…’ or ‘I release the feeling that I’m never ever going to get my financial life in order’. You tap in between your eyebrows and go up. You’re just giving words to a feeling in your body, and all of those things that are in that file of anxiety or worry, that are keeping you from believing your affirmations, these are the things that you’re letting go of and releasing.

You’re putting your intention out there and if put your intention of letting it go as you tap through those EFT points, it’s remarkable how then, after that, if you do your affirmations, they stick, and it’s like your brain can accept them and believe them and see a different future for you. If you’ve been really stuck, it can help to imagine something far beyond where you were before the tapping.

It’s kind of an exciting field, but that’s a trick, if anyone is stuck with affirmations, I have them tap through all of their resistance. What is keeping you from believing that this could be a possibility for you?

For Stin Hansen’s podcast streams:

Meditation for Children and Teens

Meditation for Children and Teens

For iPhone apps, see here:

Meditate Now SLEEP – Stin Hansen

Meditate Now Kids – Stin Hansen

My New Body – Stin Hansen

Meditate Now II – Stin Hansen

Meditate Now II – Stin Hansen

Meditate Now ANXIETY – Stin Hansen

Meditate Now HEAL – Stin Hansen

Find your balance

Blackmores stress less campaignAs a long-time health writer (mainly in trade), you’re exposed to a variety of well-being offerings and, sometimes, you really click with a brand on a personal level. I’m a fan of supplements, and while some don’t subscribe to their potency, I do, in the same way I dig aromatherapy essences, mists and the like.

So you can imagine my excitement when I discovered that Blackmores is targeting stress. The tagline is none other than my personal (albeit unofficial) motto for life: find a balance.

I don’t like stress, in the same way most reasonable human beings don’t. But as Blackmores points out, your stress levels can make you ill. I usually feel it in the gut and my digestion suffers. And my head feels like there’s a bag of cats fighting in it. And my sleep becomes rubbish.

So. I am pumped to try out the Digestive Bio Balance (which tastes very much like a fruit tingle) and the Multi supplement – Sustained Release Multi + Antioxidant. And there is also a Sleep Sound Formula that makes my heart sing in anticipation.

Basically, Blackmores’ offerings are a stressed-out supplement-lover’s dream. Like being let loose in the Wonka factory when you have a predilection for chocolate.

The new element to its stress campaigning is a survey – you can  assess your stress at Blackmores’ website, an exercise that in itself is useful if you’re trying to figure out why you let the bag of cats in.

The allure of a new you

web-affirmationcreator-insideAnyone who knows me knows that I love affirmative thinking. There are some days when all you can think is “all of the cheesecake”.

But mainly, you should create positive thoughts. And on that note, here I am talking about being positive all year round at Aquila Style:

“Recently I came across a set of books that deal with creating your own “happiness”. One of them is Affirmation Creator by Frances Verbeek. I am sometimes weary of products that capitalise on wellbeing, but this one was a practical and inexpensive way to create affirmations. It’s essentially there to be used and not read; an action pad that will help you “create a head full of empowered, loving, peaceful beliefs”.”

You can read the whole piece here.