Beyond the Ordinary

If you are in the market for a massage, a tarot card reading, or just a cute puppet or a book about spirits, Insight Concepts is the place to go. And you will probably see Sharon Astarte, who moved the store to Main Street from West Annapolis eight years ago, or her daughter Sarah.

"When it stops being fun," Astarte says, "I'll be looking for something else." But it's hard to imagine getting bored in a place that offers everything from gargoyles and Herki-mer's diamonds (stones you place under your pillow to help you remember dreams) to books telling you how to release your inner dog or catch a fairy. "I love this business," she exclaims. "I'm a compulsive buyer, yet I don't have to keep it." The exchanges with customers also liven up the atmosphere. "All different kinds of people come here," she says.

"Someone may come in, say this place is weird and walk out, and that's OK with me," she says with a shrug. Astarte deals with skeptics the same way she embraces everything else---with a positive attitude. "We're all slowly waking up. Everyone is in different stages of awakening. You're ready or you're not." The store owner observes that while women tend to be more open to the metaphysical world than men, age does not make a difference. Both young and old are looking to explore the world beyond the everyday, and the interest is growing. Anyone seeking a tarot card reading at Insight Concepts had better reserve early as the shop's reader is booked on weekends. Astarte notes that the reader has been with the shop for several years and is well-trained. "It's not all that 'woo-woo stuff,'" she says, referring to the popular stereotypes of tarot card readers.

According to the American Tarot Association, tarot readers are not fortune tellers and they can't reveal your neighbor's secrets. What they can do is talk to you about you and your behavior and your relationship with other people, but only from your perspective.

A voracious reader, Astarte says she launched the store after she read every [metaphysical] book she could get her hands on at the library. March 30 marked the 13th-year anniversary for a business that began as a place to buy books and cards on metaphysical subjects to what is now a metaphysical department store. "Metaphysical means beyond the five senses," Astarte explains. In other words, what you can't see or hear or smell or explain. For example, if you receive a call from an out-of-touch friend who you were just thinking about, don't just chalk it up to coincidence.

The feng shui craze that is beginning to dominate home decor is another example of non-physical forces. Feng shui (meaning wind and water) teaches that the placement of objects and color in a room can affect your career, sleep, or love life by changing the energy of your home or office. Customers entering Insight Concepts may notice that each wall has been painted a different shade to encourage good chi. Nor is the shop door red by accident. Red symbolizes life, happiness, luck, and warmth.

While Astarte is a big believer in things metaphysical, she doesn't promise customers any panacea. For example, she sells minerals and crystals, such as serpentine, which may help improve meditation and increase tranquility. "But a stone is not a cure all," she cautions. "Carrying a stone in your pocket can be a reminder, 'Are you being the most loving you can be that day?'"

Customers often come to the shop on a recommendation, and their shopping needs vary. Some are looking to buy an unusual gift; others are looking for comfort to cope with an illness or a loss. How does she know the right item to help that person? Astarte simply replies "intuition."

Belief in concepts such as astrology can also help with mundane matters such as management. Astarte told New Age Retailer, a national trade magazine in which her shop was featured, that store owners should hire a Capricorn (those who are born between Dec. 22 and Jan. 19) because they excel at organizing. (Astarte is a Capricorn herself.)

Ann Marie Maloney lives in West Annapolis. When she is not writing, she loves to travel and try new ice cream flavors.


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