In conversation with Kirsten Shanks.
For many, Kirsten Shanks is the golden, flowing, ethereal (yet completely grounded) gate-keeper to their health and wellness journey. Her friends describe her as (amongst other things) a “huge hearted pixie with enormous substance”, and from our morning encounter, it seems to ring true. Kirsten, holds a space for people to unlock their own healing force and once again beam and radiate with health and vigour. Her mission is simple, “creat(ing) an offering to positively impact the lives of others, improving in some subtle way the collective wellbeing.”
INTERVIEW BY ONDINE PURINTON-MILLER
Maybe not so simple. But she’s doing it. In a world of diminished understanding of healing herbs and foods, this is in itself a feat of mammoth proportions. It is also a great service to mankind.
Orchard St’s hearth welcomes you like a deep warm embrace, the ritual of self-care once again making itself known here. Within her three locations; Bondi, Bronte and Paddington, you can feed your primordial being, which craves to be nourished with ancient tonics and herbs, completely supported and held by this ancient knowledge. Here, you can feel the vibrations and energetic power of drip-feeding chlorophyll rich foods to your being, feeling and nourishing yourself on a cellular level…or you can simply revel in the beauty and serenity she has created for a community of people. Tonic in tow, frozen or hot, feeding your bliss, utter joy and your body. Multitasking at its finest.
Kirsten seems to also embody this tranquility that permeates the sun-drenched North Bondi corner of heaven. She is a testament to the functional foods and drinks that ooze out of her business. If anyones skin can emanate and radiate, eyes sparkling, hers can. Trust me. But it's not just about her externalised beauty; a culmination of energy rich live foods and juices and spiritual practice, allowing her to “gain perspective daily through meditation and mindfulness practices, weekly through immersing myself in nature.”
All of this is so formative in her complete loveliness. Like many of the women we’ve had the pleasure of encountering, her demeanour keeps you at ease and in and of itself is contagious. It is so palpable, that her mission comes from an authentic space. She truly cares about the whole process and energy she puts out, and the proof is in the raw pudding.
Kirsten is serving a large slice of Sydney, nourishing and caring for people in a way that many have never experienced. You feel cherished and at home when your body is thriving. You can’t help but be grateful for the humans who are assisting to create shifts on a multitude of levels, in many arenas.
I want what she’s having.
Kirsten, to begin; what is your quest in life?
To experience the fullness of this life: the essence of true love, the sweet stillness of peace and the bliss of pure joy. My personal dharma along this road is to create an offering that positively impacts the lives of others, improving in some subtle way the collective wellbeing.
At what moment in your life do you feel most powerful?
When I see others inspired to rise into their own power. This was much more evident in private practice as a naturopath, when you can play witness daily to the positive transformation of a client’s life through the guidance and support you provide. In Orchard St. it is more subtle; I don’t walk beside clients on their journeys to wellness yet simply shine a light on natural medicines, rituals and practices which can lead to vitality embodied and the personal power that comes with it.
As a woman, when I hold my baby Sonny in my arms and realize that this most joyful, most divine little being full of unlimited potential was created through me I feel an overwhelming responsibility, yet one so beautifully powerful.
Is there something in particular that functions as your well of ideas, where you source your magic from?
Ideas spring forth, concepts bubble to the surface, moments of crystalline clarity come as they need to. A lifetime of study in natural medicine has etched its way into that part of my intellect so deliciously deep the understanding it imparts has become part of my consciousness.
The ingredients I integrate into our elixirs, teas and various remedial offerings are sourced from the evidence based medicine which is the foundation of naturopathic training, also the wisdom imparted by the ancient traditions of Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine as well as the many teachers and paths of practice that have contributed to my knowledge base over the years.
What was the process that lead you to the point you’re at now, and when did you realise you wanted to pursue this path?
For as long as I can remember the healing profession has always been my calling but it took years of study, travel and encounters to lay the foundations of the present.
Orchard St. was in my mind’s eye over 10 years before it came to actual existence. I am a big believer in the power of manifestation, and not necessarily in any esoteric sense. In order to bring your dreams into action, into fruition, it is essential to have a strong vision of what these dreams are, from the way they look and feel, to the way your life will be once they are your reality. There may be a few details to contend with along the way but you have a direction - ultimately you just keep moving towards the vision and everything will fall into place.
So for me, the dreams had been weaving themselves together, evolving with my passion for sharing wellness over many years - I could see and feel the stores, my philosophies were clear, I knew there would be teas, elixirs and alchemical potions - but I just didn’t have the exact platform refined. I was in NYC in 2012, living on Orchard St. in lower Manhattan, and I found myself in a cold-pressed juice bar. It was one of those crystal clear light bulb moments when my passion aligned with a purpose; to create the experience of wellness with a holistic juice cleanse offering as the platform. I haven’t questioned or faltered in the momentum of Orchard St. since that moment.
So many of these amazing creators we’ve chatted with have incredible, wondrous upbringings, bringing them to the point of creation and fearlessness. What was yours like?
Honestly, pure joy. We were an expat family in Borneo, Malaysia until we moved home to New Zealand in my teens. Most of my childhood was in a little village camp literally on the edge of the jungle and the beach. Days were spent roaming with a tribe of kids between building forts in the jungle and dancing in the phosphorescence of breaking waves at dusk.
I recognise how blessed I am to come from the most loving and happy family. A bunch of beautifully unique individuals with hearts of solid gold!
How do you stay in your passion and remain constantly invigorated and energised on your journey?
It’s never been a challenge for me to find my passion and inspiration, the effort has more often been finding the best and most realistic way to channel them into reality. I create space to tap in and gain perspective daily through meditation and mindfulness practices, weekly through immersing myself in nature. I am surrounded by the most incredible tribe who support, love, inspire and hold space for me to do what I do daily.
I keep my blinkers on. We’re surrounded by so many people doing such great things, but looking for guidance in others’ offerings can cloud your true vision. It’s reminding me now of studying art; you could think of entrepreneurs as artists, our business creations as paintings; inspired by the colour pallet available, the canvas before us, the needs and desires of society at the time and the work of artists both before us and beside us. We all tap into the global consciousness and create from this what our community needs around us. Every painting appeals to different people for different reasons, as do brands.
Also, It sounds like such a naturopath’s response but I keep myself as healthy as possible; a clean and vibrant body really is the best vessel for a clear mind... and all the pearls of inspiration that come with it. I have a mostly plant based diet that excites, deeply nourishes and fuels me. I love food. I’m not a purist, but a conscious consumer practicing what I call a gentle mindfulness in all I choose. Sure there’s always plenty of green juice, elixirs and ferments but sometimes that conscious choice might be a good strong (chaga infused) coffee to lift the fog or a big beautiful heart opening glass of biodynamic shiraz with a dear girlfriend.
Amen to that notion! So, what is your intention with Orchard St. and all your creations?
To create an offering to our community which provides inspirational access to the true experience of wellness. Through every one of our creations I weave naturopathic medicines so that they may become part of a lifestyle, through a daily ritual that honors health and celebrates nature.
Part of Orchard St’s magic comes from its complete transparency and honouring of the tonic herbs, produce, growers, creators, earth and the elements. How do you stay true to this?
Simply by upholding a definition of value that includes the monetary, but is not defined by it. The world can encourage us to be cynical and profit driven but I created Orchard St. with the purest integrity, with true collective value in mind, and as it turns out, many people share this passion.
What has been the biggest driving force in what you do?
My personal experience of wellness. I live and breathe what I do and my creations honour this.
When something feels so naturally good, and you have the opportunity to share this with others, to positively influence their lives, this creates a driving force of unlimited potential.
Often, we need someone externally to really remind us of our true self. How would your friends describe you?
Response from 3 friends:
‘A gorgeous, huge-hearted pixie with enormous substance’
‘A creative, needs freedom, doesn’t like to feel trapped or fussed over’
‘Calm and serene despite depth of thought and huge responsibilities that may be present’
‘A loyal and considerate friend’
‘A graceful and wise old soul’
‘A woman’s woman’
Beautiful! What is your Zodiac Sign? Do you identify closely with it?
LIBRA. To know me is to know the sign of Libra.
What is your latest obsession?
Rose. It began in my pregnancy. The oil, the flower, the quartz crystal, the gold. I doused myself in rose oil morning and night, bathed in rose salts, drank rose petal tea... I loved it so much I decided it would be the namesake of the daughter I was having... until a beautiful boy was born!
And your favourite scent?
See above. And freshly ground cardamom pods. And my nose deep between the pages of a novel opened for the first time.
What is something you are most passionate about?
My boy Sonny. He’s a bit of a mind blowingly wonderful little human. Pure joy.
What is the most important lesson you have learned thus far?
That there is no end goal. No final destination.
We may have visions to manifest, solid bricks and mortar businesses to create, experiences to conjure... but even once they are tangible, they must continue to evolve. Society is not static nor will our customers needs ever be.
We must keep in flow, in flux. And we really ought to enjoy the ride!
What makes you laugh?
My husband James. Even thinking about him now makes my smile. After 14yrs together he continues to crack me up daily, with that deep bellyaching laughter, he’s got the most brilliantly dry sense of humour.
When do you feel most cherished?
At home cuddled up between my parents, theirs is that kind of unconditional love that saturates every part of you with the most deliciously warm feelings of love, acceptance and compassion.
What gives you courage?
The lives of those around me. Compassion, awareness and appreciation of the journey every one of us is on allows me to gain perspective and detach from any niggling fears I may have about the small yet significant part I play in the greater scheme of things.
What do you consider your proudest moment?
Giving birth to my son. Any other fleeting moments of pride pale in comparison when you produce this perfect little life form.
When do you feel your most authentic, connected self?
Most weekends we retreat to our family farm in the Colo Valley. It is there, when I am lying on the banks of the river with my husband at my side and our son at my breast, face and body bare, the sun beaming down, our breaths joined by the hum of cicadas, the water rushing and wind in the gums around us. Yet behind this rhythm of nature lies an awareness of the inaudible buzz of the city reverberating from a far distance, reminding me of the connectedness of all life.
What is one rule you live by?
Love and be loved.
And finally, if you could time travel, to which time and plane would you transport yourself to?
How about space travel? I wouldn’t mind checking out some other planetary creations of this big old universe. Just for a bit of mindblowing magic.
Interview by Ondine Purinton-Miller
Photography by Matisse Ruby