A Beginners Guide to Meditation

1. Let go of your expectations  

When I started out meditating I treated it as something I needed to master and that it would ‘cure’ certain problems I was experiencing. Just like achieving a goal in other areas of my life; work, fitness etc, so I took the same approach to meditation.

What I soon found out though was that this approach was, in fact, working against me and my progress. When I finally just surrendered from my expectations of what I wanted it to do for me (almost at the point of giving it up), that’s when it started to work its magic.

So my first piece of advice/step for those starting out or wanting to try meditation is to first let go of the reasons why you want to meditate and just enjoy the process. Go into it expecting nothing and I’m confident you’ll come out of it with more than you can imagine.

 

2. Find your zone and essential gear

There are certain ‘things’ that help with the effectiveness of meditation, particularly when starting out. First is finding a place/environment you feel comfortable and relaxed in. For me, this was just down the road from my place at the beach, early mornings. Nature has a special energy and immersing myself in it when I meditate really helps.

Another is your surrounding sounds. Again, when starting out, minimizing potential distractions does help. Either picking a place which you know will be fairly quiet or investing in a pair of noise-canceling headphones will help.

If you can find a quiet place in nature, then I don’t think meditation music is needed. But if you can’t find such a place, grab those headphones, head to Spotify and search for some meditative music (I prefer to just go for nature sounds like the crashing of waves).

As you progress and get stronger with meditation you may be able to practice in any environment and welcome any noises around you or even find peace and connect with what you once found were distractions.  

 

3. Priming the body

Another thing I experienced when I was first started to meditate was that it would take a while for my body to relax or I’d find myself fidgeting or having to break my sitting position. I did some research and found that a few Tai Chi exercises before meditation really helped put my body in a state ready for focus. If you don’t want to learn Tai Chi, I would recommend doing some easy stretching and breathing exercises before meditation.

Once your body is feeling nice and relaxed, find a sitting position that is comfortable for you. There’s often this preconceived idea that you have to sit like a pretzel to meditate, which is not the case at all. For me, it’s sitting in a chair, feet firmly planted on the ground (shoes off) and hands just resting in my lap. The only two things that are important I think when it comes to your sitting position is to activate your core (pull your belly button in) and having a nice long, straight spine. Other than that, just find a position where your body feels most comfortable.

 

4. Start with life’s most basic yet essential process. Breathing.

You’re now ready to delve into the meditation practice itself. Simply close your eyes and start focusing on the cycle of your breath. Particularly bring your attention to the area around your left nostril. Really feel the air entering the nostril and follow it all the way down into your lungs. Once it fills up the space in your lungs, follow it as it begins to leave. Let your body sink and relax a little more with each breath out.

Whenever you feel ready, gently bring your attention to the right nostril and repeat this process a few times. Finishing with focusing on your breath entering and leaving the body through both nostrils. With your breath getting deeper and heavier.

 

5. Detach your body

When you’re ready, take your focus all the way down to the very tips of your toes. As if you’re putting your mind into your toes. They may feel tingly as if there’s energy swirling around and through them. Focus on this energy as it begins to move around your feet and creep up your legs. Take your time with this and just focus on the different parts of your body as this energy moves up. The calves, around the knees, your thighs, hips and into your lower back. You might notice that your lower body begins to feel heavy and detached. As if it’s becoming a part of the ground underneath you. Just let this happen and continue to follow the energy as if moves up and around the body.

Let your torso, shoulders, arms and hands go. Notice that your spine is still long, straight and strong. Leaving only your neck and head left. Take your time as you feel the energy move around neck and head. Paying particular attention to the detailed areas around your face. The last part of the body ‘to go’ is your eyes. Focus on your eyes, only your eyes and when you’re ready just let them melt away.

 

6. Tap into your primary sense

At this point, you may feel very light and your attention is now looking to grab onto something. Each one of us has a primary sense, this could either be auditory, visual or kinesthetic (touch). Left your focus drift to what it naturally gravitates to here. This could be the sound of the waves or birds chirping around you. It could be the colours flashing before you or the gentle breeze touching your face. Whatever you pick up on first, just focus on that and then go deeper with it. Dance with it. Connect with it. Get lost with it. All we’re doing here is being completely connected with the present moment.

What you’ll often find when you’re doing this is that thoughts will pop up and break your connection. This is completely natural and to be expected. When this happens, welcome the thought and just gently move it aside and bring your attention and focus back to that primary sense you’ve connected with. This essence of meditation is just simply repeating this process. You can’t stop thoughts coming in, you can just simply and gently move them aside and tap back into that sense you connected with.

The more and longer you do this, you’ll begin to find ‘the space’ between these thoughts that pop-up will lengthen and that is the ‘special space’ of meditation.

 

7. Coming Back

To ‘come back’ from that meditative state, when you’re ready, begin to bring awareness back into your body. Just like the detachment process, do the same thing in reverse order. You don’t need to take as long to do this, just start from the head and work your way down. Moving slowly each part of the body as if you’re waking it up.

Then when you’re ready, open your eyes and where ever your gaze is, just let it sit there for a while. This is when I like to give thanks for everything I have in my life and set my intentions for the day. How I want to feel and approach what’s ahead of me.

Meditation doesn’t have to go for a particular period of time. For me, the whole above process goes for about 30mins. 10mins for the stretching breathing/Tai Chi phase, 5-10mins for the detachment process and 10-15mins for the connection & coming back phase.

If you want to go for longer, great go for it! If you can get what you need in a shorter period of time. Awesome!

The most important part with all of this is to find what works for you. Even if the above steps don’t quite resonate, I’d really encourage you to not give up. Continue to research and explore different techniques that might work and lead you to that place of peace and contentment that the above has done so for me.

If you'd like to know more about how you actively begin to practice meditation with me, I'd love for you to click below, read what Soul Flow is about and register your interest either for an upcoming group class or One-on-One lessons with myself.

Cheers,
Luke

 

 

Top 3 Myths of Meditation

Learn to meditate

Myth One: It’s about ‘not thinking’.

I’ve heard so many times “I’ve tried to meditate. But I just can’t seem to quieten my mind.” or ‘meditation would never work for me. My mind runs at 100 miles an hour.” In fact, I’ve been/am one of those people. I have more thoughts and ideas pop into my head every minute of the day than Michael Phelps has gold medals… ok, maybe not the best example but that was one of the random thoughts that came to mind at that precise moment which I think validates my point even more.

So if it’s not about ‘not thinking’ what is it about?

For me, the answer came when I was reading one of Ram Daas’s books and he said something along the lines of… ‘meditation isn’t about not thinking, but accepting.’

When I read that, that instantly resonated with me. So the next time I meditated rather than get frustrated when a new random thought popped into my head, I simply said ‘oh, hello there little random thought. Thanks for stopping by I’m just going to gently bring my attention back over here.”

And the ‘over here’ focus point would be something like my breath or the sounds of what was around me, birds chirping, the ocean, meditation music etc

At first I was saying this a lot. But as time went on, the gaps between me saying this to myself started to get further and further apart and my meditation started to become deeper and more powerful.

 

Myth Two: You have to sit like a pretzel

Type into google meditation and you’ll get a hundred thousand photos of people sitting on top of a mountain cross-legged, eye’s closed, hands turned upwards resting on their knees with index fingers touching the thumbs. Got the visual right? Well, what did I do when I started out meditating? Yep, I found a mountain and sat in the pretzel position just like in the photos for half an hour or so until my body was riddled with cramps and I’d have to break the position with frustration and pain. Not the most peaceful of experiences.

The reason why we instantaneously associate meditation with the pretzel position is that traditional and very experienced meditators/gurus would choose this position to ‘lock’ themselves into position to forget about the body and focus. They would also often practise yoga and stretching which would help with their flexibility/posture.

Now if you’re just starting out to meditate, by all means try this position and if you feel comfortable in it, great. However, if your hamstrings are as tight as mine then I would recommend you start just sitting in a chair. Feet planted firmly on the ground and your hands resting in your lap however you choose. The only real suggestion I have when it comes to the sitting position is that your core is activated, shoulders are relaxed and your spine is nice and straight.

The reason why I suggest these few things is that although we want our body relaxed we want our mind to remain sharp and focused, not to fall asleep. Which often happens if you try and meditate laying down or if your core is not activated.

 

Myth 3: I’ll be enlightened within a few sessions.  

You can’t get a six pack from doing just a 100 sit-ups. It takes time, effort and patience. This is true for meditation as well. However, it is even harder to ‘see’ the benefits as it’s a state of mind, not a muscle. But if you give it a chance it can change your life.

We spend so much time working out our bodies. I wonder what type of society we would live in if we spent even just a quarter of that time working out our minds?

Just 20 minutes a day. If you can’t do every day, start with 3 times a week and work your way up. As mentioned before your results will be harder to notice than most things you put effort into. But they will come. You may notice that you are able to focus on a particular task at work for longer than usual or you procrastinate less and are more confident in knowing what the right decisions are to make. It could even be that you catch yourself responding to situations more calmly and composed, whereas before a similar moment would of frustrated or annoyed you.

There is more and more research coming out that proves that meditation enhances all areas of one's life. But just like most things in life; it takes time, effort and patience.

Practise being more You

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I see the 'better' trap happening all the time in business, music, sports and even with myself, where what originally lead to the success was following who we are.

Then we get into this world of 'I've gotta do/be better now' so we start to look at what else is popular and 'working'.

By all means we should always continue to read, learn and research. But then the crucial part comes in running it through the 'internal gut filter'.

If it doesn't sit well, don't do it. If it does and makes your soul sing, then take action.

This can often be really hard to follow as the 'better' option can be very attractive.

From my own experience when I've chosen the 'better' option knowing it didn't quite sit well with me, it has eventually lead to unfulfilment.

Where as when I followed and listened to who I am, even if that meant temporary pain, it has lead to happiness 😊

Practise being you ✌🏼️

The Power of Vulnerability

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There's great power in vulnerability

I took me a while to understand and accept this, as growing up it was seen as a weakness to open up

I feel it is now more important than ever to let those walls down and show others the real you

Social media often doesn't tell the 'full story'. We pick out the best bits and share those. I'll admit I do this and although I really do try to inspire others to live a more balanced life, I certainly still have all the doubts, struggles and uncertainty that every person has to deal with

I have however found that life moved quicker in the direction I wanted when I shared and accepted brutal honesty. Not just with others, but particularly with myself

It doesn't have to happen on social media (although I do think when done with the intention to serve and help others it can be very powerful) but when it does happen, I mean when you really just 'tell it how it is' it's like a chain releases from your ankle allowing you to run that little faster to achieve your goals

Have you got something that's weighing you down? Open it up and get it out. We will accept it and respect you even more

Is sitting on the Fence such a bad thing after all?

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Why do we always have to choose a side? And if you don't, you're then seen as lacking conviction or commitment. You aren't willing to take a stand for something?

I'm tired of all the segregation. The constant us vs them. You're either with us or against us.
Choose a religion. Choose a political party. Him or her? Black or white??

I tell you what I choose. What I stand up for with conviction.

I choose the ALL inclusive option.

I choose to sit on that fence!

Because you know what?? While everyone's down there defending their point of views, debating why they're right and those over there that aren't. I'll be sitting up here enjoying the view of both sides thanks. The east and the west. The sunrise and the sunset.

Nature doesn't choose sides, it just accepts what is and moves towards what works and for anything to truly organically work it needs the right balance of opposites.

Whether that's sunlight and sleep or water and food or heat and cooling. You push one side too much, the balance slips and that's when things start to go wrong.

Why can't our thinking and choices be more like this?

Will the consciousness of the majority evolve to a point where what we choose is the wholistic option? Not one or the other. Just All?

I don't know. For now though I'm just going to keep on enjoying this 360 view ✌🏼️

Fare Well Co - Conscious Clothing & Supply

Cam is the definition of a modern day gentleman. He's smart (he's a geologist), well-spoken, has the George Clooney silver fox hair and recently launched a conscious mens clothing business, Fare Well Co. Yup, he ticks all the boxes, but unlike Mr Clooney, he's a taken man.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with him over a coffee to have a chat about his new venture, his previous life as a graphic designer and a couple of chickens.

Firstly, congrats on Fare Well Co. I love the style, message and approach of what you're doing.

Thanks man. It's been in the works for a while but I'm now really happy that it's out there for people to check out.

Before we get into Fare Well Co., I usually like to ask how things have lead up to the point they are at now. Can you tell us a bit about your journey?

Sure. I'm not sure how far you want me to go back, but I'm a born and bred Northern Beaches guy, went to school here and have always worked around Sydney. I've travelled a fair bit, but this is my home.

I studied to become a graphic designer, and once I began to work in the industry I soon came to realise it's not as fulfilling and creative as I had hoped and it really started to get to me. Everything was about cost and when you've got guys over in India competing against you at literally 5% of what you'd charge, it just isn't sustainable. I still do a bit of it, but I do it now for the love, not as a career.

So you went and became a geologist, is that right?

Yup. I went to uni to be qualified for a job where I wasn't stuck at a desk and would be dealing with facts and science, not creative opinion. Like, you can either build on this piece of land because there's rock here or you can't. It is as it is.

I was quite lucky to get the job I do now. It was originally offered to a friend of mine who couldn't take it so he referred it to me and I've now been with them for about four years.

I enjoy it but It has also exposed to me to some hard truths. We sometimes get enquiries for coal seam gas work and mining jobs and I'm really lucky that my boss has the same sort of ideals as me, where he doesn't want anything to do with that. We have done some environmental remediation work though where there have been mine sites, gas plants etc. and the places are just fucked.

So what do you think is the solution?

I know that in some ways it is a bit of a contradiction starting a company producing consumer goods while trying to solve the mass consumerism problem. But I think you've got to first replace the bad with the better and then change again to less. The big companies aren't going to go away and they certainly aren't going to change anything unless it means making more money for themselves. Their existence depends on profit, nothing else. So the change is going to come form the smaller, local companies chipping away at the big guns and my hope is that Fare Well Co. is part of that transition.

Couldn't agree more. Can you explain more about what Fare Well Co. is? 

It's a men's conscious clothing company with a focus a high quality, timeless pieces that you can wear season in, season out. I don't like having to change my style every time the wind changes, so I wanted to make pieces that wouldn't go out of fashion.

What's really important to me though is all the behind-the-scenes business practices. I promised myself that when I started Fare Well Co I would adopt the best possible practices at every stage of the business cycle, including looking after everyone involved in that process too. From the farmer who grows the organic cotton, to what happens to the shirt once it's primary use has been completed. Making sure each step is as environmentally friendly and ethical as possible.

All profits go towards two causes that I'm really passionate about, Room to Read and Saving the Tasmanian Devil. I wanted to associate the brand with a people cause and an environmental cause.

I love Room to Read, as education is a proven and transferrable cause to help people out of poverty. If you can educate one person in one family, it will often help the entire family. I think I first witnessed how simple education can make such a big difference through my parents, who were involved in the project called Can Help Letters, where they're pen pals with kids in third world countries, writing letters to help them learn English, and how to write and communicate.

With the Tasmania Devil cause, I wanted to support a cause that was close to home, and by supporting an Australian iconic animal you're also indirectly saving the ecosystem required for the animal to survive so it's a win-win.

100% of profits go towards these causes. That's very generous. 

My uncle's a businessman and thinks I'm crazy (laughs).

As long as I'm covering my costs I'm happy with that and hopefully that resinates with other people and they support what I'm doing, want to talk about it and buy Fare Well Co.'s products.

Have you thought about making some money from the business?

I've been reading a book called 'Money Manifesto' about an Irish guy who's gone without money for two years. He lives in a caravan on a farm he volunteers at, and grows all the food that he eats. He talks about how money is a meaningless exchange that has diminished the connection we have with other people and the environment. 

Now, I accept the fact that this is an extreme example and that we do need money for the moment for society to keep operating. But if we begin to create businesses that don't revolve around money and instead revolve around relationships and helping each other out, I find that extremely exciting and a realistic concept.

Speaking of relationships, I've heard you and your girlfriend have chickens in your backyard?

Yeah, they're so funny. They've all got their own personalities. You would never think of a chicken having a personality, but they do.

We first got two from a friend of mine whose parents have a farm up the coast and they gave us two roosters by accident, as it's hard to tell their sex when they're young. They started doing their cock-a-doodle-do thing in the morning and the neighbours got the shits with us so we had to take them to a nursery and swap them for two hens. They are now both laying, which is pretty cool. 

I know you live in quite a suburban area, how were you able to get the go ahead to keep them?

We live in a block of four units, which has a shared backyard that no one really uses. I went to the other units and asked whether they were cool if we built a little coup out the back, and they were all for it. It's also quite relaxing, them being there. Some of our neighbours have even said that after a stressful day at work, just going down and hanging out with them helps them relax.

Coming back to Fare Well Co, what are some of the key lessons learnt so far?

I think it's all about the golden rule of treating people the way you want to be treated. I had to do this job in Mongolia, which I went and did, and the client decided not to pay. We hadn't done anything wrong. He just simply didn't want to pay and I had a hard time trying to understand his logic as to why. I finally just accepted the fact that that's the type of person he was, how shit he made me feel and how I vowed to try my hardest to make people feel valued. Because I now know what it's like to be treated the complete opposite.

Another one is not telling people what's better but simply presenting the options and showing one compared to the other, then let them make up their own minds.

Where do get your inspiration from?

I find it inspiring when people can break out of their comfort zone. The further they're in it, as in the more money you have and higher career position, the harder it is to do. To be able to throw themselves into the deep end and start something that they know isn't going to be easy. 

Take Room to Read for example, it was started by a guy named John Wood. He used to be a high profile executive at Microsoft making a hell of a lot of money. Through his business travels he could see how he could make a difference, but kept putting it off until one day he just said —
 

"Fuck it. I'm using all of my money to start something that really makes a difference in other people's lives and that's going to be my life from now on."

What are your plans for Fare Well Co?

I've got some winter staples coming out soon (the Journeyman socks are available now online), which is exciting, and building a community around Fare Well Co. is something I've been working on too. Everybody that buys an item I send a little card to saying, let's keep in touch and come to our next party. I hope to throw one every six months to celebrate the amount of money we've been able to provide to Room to Read and Saving the Tasmanian Devil. The idea of bringing Fare Well Co.'s customers together and chatting with them all in a social setting is a great opportunity to gain feedback and share ideas on where things should go next.


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SOUL STORY/STYLE - Oscar Wylee Eyewear

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When John and Mike met in their first year of university in Sydney it was like the beginning of a 'business romcom', they knew straight away that they would go into business together. It wasn't long before they moved in with each other and started an e-commence site selling women's fashion accessories. They noticed that the sunglasses were out-selling everything else two to one, and, after some research, came across a business in the UK that were delivering glasses to people's homes and work. They dropped out of their last semester of uni and started Oscar Wylee, a high-quality, affordable eyewear company that delivers five pairs to your doorstep to try in the comfort of your own home/office, for free. Oh and I almost forgot, for every pair you buy they also provide someone in need access to vital eye care. I sat down with John and Mike at their newish and stylish retail studio in downtown Sydney for a chat...

Hey, these are nice!

Mike: Yeah, they're the Gatsbys. They've been really popular lately.

Any type of marketing play there with the Great Gatsby movie?

John: I think we named them that even before the movie came out. But, I'm pretty sure it's helped in selling them (laughs)

Not that you need any help. I've heard so many good things about your glasses and of course the amazing value. But before we delve into Oscar Wylee I'm curious as to what you guys were doing before.

John: Mike and I met at university and like most uni students, most of our time was spent at the bar. However when ever we went out we'd always end up away from the group talking about business ideas and this would happen every time we went out, until it got to the point where said to each other, "Well are we going to do something or not?"

On top of our studies we started an e-commence site that sold designer female fashion accessories, like necklaces, bracelets, sunnies etc.

Mike: What we soon came to notice was that sunglasses were doing really well, so we did some research and found a business in the UK that were delivering sunglasses to your door. No-one was doing anything like that in Australia so we thought, let's give that a try.

Can you tell me a bit about what the early days were like when you started out?

John: As with most new businesses, really long hours, no money and no customers (laughs).

Mike: We were running it out of our tiny lounge room for around a year and a half. I mean it was tiny! Our neighbours started to get pretty peeved at us because once we started taking orders we had so many boxes and freight guys coming and going from our small apartment.

Now you are able to offer the same if not better quality glasses as some of the most well-known brands at a quarter of the price. How have you been able to do this?

John: There's pretty much three huge companies that own all the high-end sunglass/prescription brand names. 

Mike: Gucci, Prada, Ray-Ban, OPSM, Sunglass Hut are all owned by one company.

John: That's right. These three multinationals pretty much have a monopoly over the market and have been able to charge what ever they like. I mean, for a pair of brand name prescription glasses you can pay up to $600-$700. Which is crazy! We we saw an opportunity to offer equally as good a quality at a more reasonable price. (All Oscar Wylee sunglasses retail for $98 and $120 for prescription glasses).

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Do you have people questioning the quality of your glasses because of such a large difference in price?

Mike: Yeah, we do get that a bit which is kind of frustrating, because we know for a fact (their glasses are made in the same factory) that our lenses and frames are equally as good as the ones you'd buy from any optometrist.

Coming back to the business you discovered in the UK delivering glasses to peoples door — why did you decide take a similar approach?

John: One, there wasn't anyone else doing it in Australia and these guys in the UK were experiencing quite a lot of success with it and two, there would have been a lot of risk involved, and also very expensive to open a bricks-and-mortar operation.

Mike: It also takes the pressure out of the buying process. Finding a pair of glasses is a big decision for a lot of people, particularly prescription, because you wear them all the time and they're on your face, which is the first thing everyone looks when they meet you!

John: It becomes a fun and intimate retail experience in your very own home or office. You get to try on a variety of different types and styles where your family, friends or colleagues can comment on them in an honest, relaxed environment. 

Customers are able to choose five pairs to be sent to them and try for free, is that right? 

John: That's right. The pair or pairs they like the most they keep and the rest they just send back to us in the provided return to sender box. Once we get the box back we bill them for the ones they chose.

Mike: It's also a great marketing, because whoever you're with when you receive them will no doubt want to try on a few pairs themselves and if they find a pair they like, well, we've just then made another sale!

I'd like to talk about the work you're doing in Cambodia with i-care initiative. 

Mike: Sure, my heritage is Cambodian and I've seen firsthand how simple eye-care can make such a huge difference in developing countries. Through my family, we found a clinic that was doing some work in the poorer more remote part of Cambodia and wanted to help in any way possible with their operation. 

We're now helping them do up to 80-100 eye tests and around 15 cataract surgeries every day. We've also put two of the volunteers through university to become doctors and provided over 1000 pairs of glasses.

Wow, that is amazing! Was having a social cause always part of the business plan?

John: Yeah, definitely. My parents have always been heavily involved in various philanthropic projects, so I've been brought up with those principles to try and remember to always give back and help those around you who mightn't be as fortunate as you are.

What else has been an important factor of the business?

John: Having a business partner has really helped, especially in those early stages, it can be such a struggle. Like those days where you haven't made one sale or where everything seems to go wrong. It's just nice to have someone there to share your frustration with. (laughs)

So what's next for you both, and for Oscar Wylee?

John - We've always seen business as a tool to do the things you want and feel passionate about. I think a lot of business owners get so consumed in their business they forget why they started it in the first place. For us, we'd like to get it to a point where we can step away from it, go travelling for a couple of years and come back to start something different.

Mike: We've now also got this awesome space in Sydney and we're looking at opening another one soon in Melbourne. 

One last thing — where did the name come from?

(Both start laughing) John : We were traveling around Japan and decided to just jump on one of those bullet trains and see where it took us. We ended up in this really dodgy place I can't remember the name of. Anyway we found these hot springs and while we chilling in these hot springs this older, really funky Japanese guy...

Mike: He would of been in his sixties.

John: ... just started talking to us. He was wearing these really cool sunnies and his name was Oscar Wilde (named after the Irish poet I assume). But we had misheard his name (laughs).

Mike: We thought he said 'Oscar Wylee'.

That's a pretty awesome story for a business name!

 

(By the way, I did end up buying the Gatsbys and am loving them)



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the romance of all-natural perfumes

One of my favourite things to do is simply take a walk through the local national park and take in all the different natural aromas Mother Nature has paired up with everything she's created. Our sense of smell is the strongest of our senses, yet it often takes the backseat to sight and taste. It was for this reason I was quite intrigued to meet Sally, the founder of Aromantik, who, for the past ten years, has used the kitchen in her Manly beachside apartment as an all-natural perfumery. After our chat, I took the opportunity to smell some of Sally's perfumes. Let's just say I think Mother Nature would give a big tick of approval. 

Is it true you worked on creating and perfecting some of your perfumes for seven years before you began selling them?

Haha, kind of. It wasn't like I was working on them full-time. It started out and still really is a creative outlet for me. It wasn't until 2010 that I made it into a business. For about seven years before that I had been researching, studying and experimenting with natural perfumery. The formulation of the perfumes obviously takes a lot of time, finding all the ingredients from all around the world and then testing how they work/smell together. Then came all the business side of things like branding, packaging etc

Then you started selling them at the local markets?

Correct, which served as a great testing ground because I could instantly see what people liked and didn't like. From there I picked up a handful of retail stores and perfumeries that now stock my range. You can now also buy them directly from our website, which at first was difficult obviously because people want to smell a perfume before they buy it. So the way I got around this was to sell small sample packs, that way people could decide what their favourite was for only a small amount of money.

Great idea! So what else were you doing while all this was going on?

I worked in the magazine industry for a long time as an art director. Then I went out on my own doing freelance work as a graphic designer and editor. The skills I've learnt from those years have really helped me out. All the packaging, branding and web design I've done myself.

Wow, I was going to comment on how beautiful the labels look.

Thanks. I'm lucky that most of the things I've had to do (packaging design, branding etc) I really enjoy, so it hasn't felt like work.

What made you get into natural perfumery?

I've always been quite conscious of the type of skincare products I've used and was shocked when I looked into what was in the perfumes I was wearing. It was like I was dumping poison on myself and undoing all the hard work of these wonderful skincare products. It didn't make any sense. Our skin is our largest organ and whatever we put on it is absorbed into our bloodstream within a few seconds. A lot people are concerned with what food they eat, however don't realise that what you put on your skin has just as much of an effect as what you put in your mouth.

So I started looking into all-natural perfumes and there was almost none available in Australia. There were a lot that claimed to be all-natural but really weren't. I think commercially in Australia there are still only around five of us. It's quite a weird thing to do, they say there's more astronauts in the world than there are natural perfumers.

I started to do a lot of research and became fascinated with the history and tradition of these all-natural perfumeries. I love thinking about all the people involved in the process of what I do. The people that grow the flowers. The people who pick them and then those who extract the oils from them. There's a lot of romance in going back to how everything is done. 

More astronauts than natural perfumers, that's a pretty cool statistic.

In some ways it can be a good thing, like we have a very loyal niche market. However the fragrance industry is quite heavily governed by an international authority and they certainly aren't making it any easier for us.

What do you mean?

The fragrance industry is big business and when there are people or companies who disrupt it and begin to gain some interest, even though that interest might be so minute. They don't like it haha.

Also because we've become so accustomed to these synthetic perfumes and are obessed with cleanliness our sense of smell has evolved, or de-evolved I should say. There is an international authority that is attempting to ban or limit the use of natural materials and it is essentially threatening the use of natural materials in favour of synthetic ones.

That's unbelievable! It's like we're training ourselves to become more artificial.

It's funny you say that, because I had to redevelop my natural sense of smell. It's really amazing when you start to train your nose. It really develops a different part of your brain. Particularly around memory.

There's some really interesting scent artists around the world that are exploring how to re-engage our sense of smell through art. There's an artist in Switzerland that actually collects armpit sweat and then somehow combines it with a type of paint and creates these pieces of art which she then exhibits. People from all around the world come to see — and smell — her art.

 

Haha, kind of reminds me of those 'scratch and sniff' things.

Exactly! I do love the idea of creating art that engages your sense of smell and visual curiosity though. It's something I've thought a lot about lately, although I certainly don't think I'll be collecting people's armpit sweat. Maybe something to do with flowers, haha.

I was starting to get worried then... Coming back to how scent is closely related to memory, I'll often smell something and it will take me straight back to a particular moment in my life. 

Smell is such a powerful sense. Unlike sight where it can take time to process what we see logically, that doesn't happen with smell. It kind of skips your consciousness and goes straight to your emotional being. 

My mother passed away when I was 17 and one of the things I inherited from her was this old chest with all her perfumes in it. One day I opened it and was smelling all the different perfumes and I felt such a close connection to her, almost like she was right there. It was a really emotional experience.

Is that how you come up with different products, by recalling a particular memory?

Very much so. I'll often remember a particular moment in my life and start to run around frantically in my kitchen trying to recreate it. Other times I'll just start experimenting with different ingredients and a particular formulation will trigger something and it'll take me away to some place. It's a very intuitive experience.

How do you know what ingredients work well together?

Again it comes back to training your nose and a lot of experimenting. The tricky part is creating a consistency in the product. It's kind of similar to making wine in the way that you may get a slightly different product depending on what Mother Nature decides to do. For example, Bulgaria might experience more rainfall than usual or it might be a really hot year in India. All these factors change the molecule make-up of everything I use to create my products and when some of my fragrances have over thirty different ingredients, you have to be able to slightly adjust each batch to make sure there's a consistency in your product. 

Surely there's someone else who can test and measure this part of the formulation to make it easier for you?

You're right, there is and a couple of years ago I did try and see if I could get one of my fragrances formulated somewhere else, but for some reason it just didn't smell the same. Even though I gave them the exact same formula.

There's something special about creating something with your very own hands. I feel there's a bit of myself in every bottle. It's kind of like Mum's home cooked roast dinner on a Sunday afternoon, you can just taste the difference and nothing will come close.

For me this has always been a creative outlet. Even though I could probably push it to become more business orientated, I don't think that would make me happy and at the end of the day I suppose that's what it's all about. Doing something that makes you happy.



Making people Smile through cool casual clothing

When I first started researching for companies to feature on Got Soul, I stumbled across a company that ticked every box of what  I wanted Got Soul to be about. They were Australian. Made cool, high quality gear that uses as ethical as possible materials & production, with an inspiring social mission behind their business model. This company was Smile. A casual clothing company founded by Sunshine Coast local surfers, Soren Molineux and Bede Carmine. I was so delighted to see a reply to my email from Soren saying he'd be stoked for Smile. to be featured on Got Soul. It's taken me this long to get the story up because between managing a business that is experiencing huge growth, delivering 5,000 school uniforms & t-shirts to children in need throughout South East Asia and surfing some of the most remote places on earth, it hasn't been the easiest of tasks catching up with them for a chat. However, I finally managed to find some time and am now so excited to share with you my conversation with Soren and the story behind Smile. 

Soren & Bede

Firstly, I have to say that what you guys are doing I think is truly inspiring! What inspired you to start Smile?

Thanks very much. Smile started about 4 years ago - at least in its inception. The idea was fairly simple really, myself and a few buddies were looking for a way to give back to the communities in which we have extensively travelled and surfed in over the years. Initially, we were not sure how this would best fit, or at least how we could create a sustainable method of giving. After much thought, I figured the best way to support communities on an ongoing basis, was to create a One for One clothing business, with areas of focussed assistance targeting school uniforms to children in need. This was important to us, as we had often found ourselves in areas where school uniforms were not readily available, or in same cases not available at all. This meant that kids we had met could often not go to school consistently.  A few of my buddies loved the idea, and very early on this was how Smile was born. We have only been trading for just over 2 years, with the initial time consisting of trial clothing drops in Indonesia, and of course learning our product from start to finish. During the past few years, our clothing drops have resulted in us being able to give over 5,500 school uniforms or T-shirts to children in need. The regions we have been lucky enough to work with have been Indonesia, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, India, Kenya & Australia (Remote Northern Territory).

Can you share with us how the give first, wear second/one for one works?

For every garment we sell, we will donate a school uniform or T-shirt to a child in need. One for One. Where possible, we try as hard as we can to work with the local communities and organisations to which we are travelling to in order to figure out the best fit (pardon the pun) for what is most required. 

clothes drop to a local school in Indonesia 

I'm sure there's been a lot of highlights since you started Smile, however is there one that really stands out? 

By far the best part of what we do is the clothing drop trips. Being able to give to children less fortunate than ourselves is a surreal feeling. As cliche as it probably sounds, not only is it great to see all the kids smiling and having a fantastic time, but I guess each clothing drop reinstates what we are all working for, and gives each of us a sharp realisation that the small difference we are trying to make is slowly but surely working. Another notable mention is seeing our customer base and online communities grow, especially all the extremely humbling messages of support we receive from all kinds of people.

On the other hand like any business there are hard lessons learnt especially when starting out. What are some of the lessons you've learnt?

Besides the obvious 'business start up' type issues that everyone faces, the one that stands out is production. Especially when we have not been able to spend as much time as we would have liked overseeing the process. This is far less an issue these days, and to be honest nothing has been beyond fixing. Not too many complaints our end I guess.

New 'Chutes' Boardshorts. Available online soon in two colourways. Seen here in full trim. Indonesia, 2013.

Can you tell us about the range and style of apparel Smile offers?

Smile offers fairly simple clothes for both men & women, that would best be described as casual clothing that has its roots in ocean faring and outdoor activities. We are not trying to be on the vanguard of fashion, I guess it is all relatively simple gear in nice cuts and basic colourways that due to our growing up on the East Coast of Australia probably is best suited to a coastline. That being said, we have noticed that people from all walks of life enjoy our garments, whether in Noosa, Zurich (in the summertime) or Bali.

Smile Circle Tee's

Where can we get our hands on some it and what $$ are looking at for it?

Our online store is available at www.smileclothing.co/shop. Our new range is just about to come online and we are super happy with the results and larger options we will now be able to offer our customers. Garments range between $45 - $70 across the board.

What do you guys do when you're not working on Smile?

Up until recently, all 5 active members of the Smile team had other full time vocations. We have, up until this point, been balancing full time work in a whole manner of industries, and gettingSmile done in our spare/hobby time. With the scales tipping to Smiles favour, 2 of us have now taken residence in Indonesia to concentrate on Smile full time, with the other members still actively contributing in their spare time. In down time, we would best be described as a relatively active bunch, with most of us spending as much time in the outdoors, predominately the ocean and travelling the open road.

Navy & Teal 'Half Halves'. New boardshorts available online this Spring. Java, 2013. Photo @gianggaw

What's next?

With more time to concentrate on Smile, we hope to continue giving to children in need, just on a greater scale and a more World Wide scope. We truly hope that the next 12 months enables us to continue working on Smile full time, and to continue doing what we love by assisting others in remote locations. The more people we can make aware of Smile, the more clothes we can sell. This ultimately means more uniforms and T-shirts to children in need. This is, and will always be, the goal for Smile. Have also got some exciting collaborations lined up in the near future, which we will continue working on. Would like to say some nice, uncrowded waves as well, but we shall see.

 

breathing life into vintage fashion

Brittany and Rebecca have known each other since the age of five. They lived around the corner from each other, went to the same school and have always loved vintage fashion (raiding their grandmas' wardrobes to play dress-ups). However, it wasn't until after they had graduated from uni (Brit studied communications and Bec studied design) and worked for a couple of years for different multinational companies, that they decided to leave the corporate world and combine their new learned skills and experience — along with their mutual long lasting love for vintage fashion — to create BOST. A vintage fashion brand, their website describes itself as 'a destination for those that want to do their own their own thang!' Something that they are indeed doing... 

Got Soul - I heard the BOST Pop-ups are quite the event. What makes BOST Pop-Ups so different?

Bec - A lot people when they hear the term 'Pop-up' they think of a warehouse sale. Where what we're doing couldn't be any further from that. A BOST Pop-up is a small creative space where you can expect to find high quality hand-picked vintage fashion from all around the world.

Brit - We want to create a fashion experience, not just a retail outlet, and that those who come to a BOST Pop-up to feel like they're getting lost in a world of fashion and fun.

Got Soul - So how do you create that atmosphere? 

Bec - Technology is a big part of it. For example, we set up these multimedia stations where you can select your own personal type of music genre and then once you start listening to the music, a slideshow begins of different (fashion) pieces that fit that particular type of music.  

Brit - We also bring in our own furniture and try to be as creative a possible with different props and spaces. Plus we have a DJ come in for the day and a set up a bar so if people just want to hang out with a beer and chat, they can. 

Got Soul - It sounds a little like a modern day Alice in Wonderland party?

Brit - Hahaha we'll take that as a compliment!  

It's not enough anymore to just go into a store and look at clothes. People want more than that. They want a level of engagement and excitement. 

That's the reason why everyone's going online to shop, because no-one's offering what they want off-line.

Got Soul - So you think it's more about engagement rather than cost? 

Brit - Cost is obviously a reason too. However we don't think it's the main reason. People want things that are unique and know that not everyone down the street is going to be wearing the same thing. That's why online is great, because you can buy something from some overseas boutique that you can't get in the shops over here. But if you can solve that problem in a face-to-face setting then we think people we will come and support that.

Bec - and that's the beauty with vintage fashion too. You're not only getting a one-of-a-kind piece that no-one else is wearing but that it is also really affordable. You don't have to blow your entire pay cheque on one peice of clothing that everyone else is already wearing. 

 

I know some people might think of vintage clothes as being a bit 'daggy' or not as good quality as new clothes. 

Brit - I think that couldn't be further from the truth. Vintage is all about embracing your own style and being comfortable with who you are. Not trying to be somebody else and fit in. 

Bec - Quality-wise, vintage clothes are made so much better than the mass produced stuff you get at the department stores these days. We're losing the quality in the clothes that are made in today's fast fashion. 

In fifty years there won't be such a thing as vintage fashion, because everything that is made now won't survive another ten years, let along fifty.

That's an interesting point. When you started BOST, was supporting sustainability an important part of what you wanted to create?

Brit - We're very conscious of how much trending fashion is hurting the environment and although we don't overtly promote the fact about being sustainable, it certainly is front of mind for us. 

Bec - I suppose we're lucky in a way that what we're passionate about (vintage fashion) is also a good cause to promoting sustainability.
 
So what's next?
 
Bec - We're looking into more partnerships with different cafes and bars and how we engage with the community more...
 
Brit - And how it works beneficially for both us and them and start to capture data around that. So when we approach other cafes/bars we've got some great facts into what they get out of it too.
 `
Bec - Our online shop is also now up and fully functional, so if you can't make it to one of our pop-ups you can head straight to the website and buy directly from there.
 

Awesome! Thanks so much for the chat, I'll be keeping an eye out for the Mad Hatter at the next Pop-up.


Next BOST Ltd Pop-Up (Miami Vice Theme) -
Saturday, 14th Sept @ Berrins Gallery Manly  

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