“Over a 25-year period, we’ve survived three recessions, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, electronic books, Sam’s Club,” notes Jeff Cuiule, who owns Woodstock’s spiritual bookstore, Mirabai, with his wife, Audrey Cusson. “It hasn’t been easy for bookstores — yet we’re having our best year ever. We’re in the exact right place, here in Woodstock, the center of the alternative spiritual vortex.”
The store celebrates its 25th anniversary this month, with a special sale on Saturday, September 22, when virtually everything in the store will be discounted by 25 percent, except for consignment items. The owners took over the shop in 2000 from Anne Roberts, who founded Mirabai in 1987, inspired by an idea that popped into her head in meditation during a week-long retreat. “We have now owned the store for twelve and a half years, half of the store’s life,” marvels Cuiule.
With year-to-date sales the best in the store’s history, up eight percent from last year, Cuiule attributes Mirabai’s success to “the fact that we are serving a well-defined set of people. When we initially came to the store, we tried to broaden the selection somewhat, extended it to such books as inspirational bios. We’ve come to realize that if we stray too far from our mission, to bring people to a higher state of consciousness, it doesn’t work so well.”
The couple spends a lot of time curating the collection, so that customers in search of elevating reading or listening will be able to find what they need “at their fingertips, as opposed to having to wade through materials to find them,” says Cuiule.
“Every item,” Cusson adds, “books, CD’s and crystals, has a positive energy and potential to change someone’s life.”
“Often the books that come to Mirabai under the radar become underground bestsellers here for several years before they take flight in the mainstream,” observes Cuiule. Examples include the Australian DVD “The Secret” and The Pleiadian Agenda by Barbara Hand Clow. A month ago, Michael Singer was interviewed by Oprah about his book The Untethered Soul, a popular Mirabai title, and it’s now going mainstream.
The year after purchasing the store, the owners inaugurated the workshops that have become a big part of their business. “Over the last five years,” says Cusson, “the group workshops have really gotten amped up. They seem to have taken on a life of their own in terms of teachers who are coming to us. There are also more private channeled reading and energy healing sessions in our separate gallery space, which is much in demand.”
Stars of the workshop series include James Philip from Scotland, who channels an entity called White Eagle. “He’s been extremely successful,” says Cusson. “He’s a magnet here and will hopefully become a regular.” West Hurley healer John Carroll is starting a four-part series on morphology — evaluation of physical and emotional issues through the shape of the individual’s face — and will also conduct private energy healing sessions. Saugerties-based herbalist Susun Weed, who has been teaching at Mirabai since the first round of classes, will be doing a workshop on herbs for digestion.
“I think the reason people come to Mirabai is that they’re stepping out of their daily routine, out of the box and out of the mainstream world,” muses Cusson. “They’re moving into the alternative, intuitive, and psychically tuned-in part of themselves. Mirabai offers a safe place to let down their guard. It goes beyond sales, beyond a retail store, and becomes a sanctuary that also supports me and Jeff.”
An important date on the workshop schedule is December 21, the winter solstice and the day of the much-discussed end of the Mayan calendar, marked by a momentous galactic alignment. “At Mirabai, it’s never been a day of apocalyptic vision,” says Jeff. “We think a positive shift will occur. On that day, we’re having private one-on-one energy alignment sessions with Kate Loye, to bring people to a higher frequency.”
That evening, Kristine Flones will lead a three-hour winter solstice rose mediation, using sound, scent, guided visualization, and lots of roses. “I think people are going to be looking for something uplifting to do that day,” says Cusson, “to connect them to the higher consciousness of the alignment of the planets.”
Information about workshops is available from the store website, https://mirabai.com/, or by calling the shop at 679-2100. “A lot of our customers don’t even have computers,” notes Cusson. And unlike most bookstores, “We really don’t do any Internet business.”
Mirabai celebrates its 25th anniversary on Saturday, September 22, with a 25 percent storewide discount. A commemorative canvas tote bag will be given away with each order over $50. Woodstock chef John Barbaro will serve vegan organic finger foods, including gluten-free options. Mirabai is located at 23 Mill Hill Road in Woodstock.