Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 11, 2010

Magazine's message helps readers — and staff


TRAVERSE CITY — Victoria Sutherland grew up in the Catholic faith but came to a crossroads in her mid-20s.

Instead of just doing what her faith told her to do, she began a spiritual journey that led her to different churches, caused her to wonder where others' faith came from and eventually taught her to find more of her own faith within herself and nature.

So when brother-in-law Paul Sutherland decided to purchase a struggling Spirituality and Health magazine in 2007 and asked her to publish it, the idea made perfect sense.

"I came to this from a business perspective, but it matched where I was at in my own journey," said Victoria Sutherland, also the founder and publisher of the book-industry review journal ForeWord Reviews.

Based in Traverse City, with editors and writers from all over the country, the bimonthly Spirtuality and Health reports on the people, practices and ideas of the current "spiritual renaissance." It's open to all points of view on spiritual questions, drawing on the world's "wisdom traditions" as well as science, psychology, sociology and medicine. Columnists include a Catholic monk-turned-psychologist, a neuroscientist and a rabbi.

That's because body and soul are strongly connected, said Editor-in-Chief Stephen Kiesling, of Oregon.

"The body is the ultimate Sunday school teacher," Kiesling said. "When we walk in the woods, meditate, when you tap into it, you learn all sorts of things."

Besides self-tests and guidance on spiritual practices, the magazine offers reviews of the latest resources for people on spiritual journeys; inspiration and insights from leading teachers, researchers and practitioners; and a forum for the exchange of ideas among various disciplines and communities.

Recent issues have focused on compassion, "finding your stage of consciousness," growing "a new you," "being the change," and "finding your Avatar."

"If your faith background is doing it for you, if you're a happy Catholic, you're not going to pick up this magazine," Kiesling acknowledged. But more and more, people are curious about exploring other religions and traditions and asking themselves, "What are the traditions of this religion? And what can that tradition teach me?" he said.

Currently the national magazine has a subscription circulation of 30,000, with an additional 30,000 copies selling on newsstands, Victoria Sutherland said. Barnes & Noble and Whole Foods are its biggest retailers. Readers tend to be professional women 45 and older, but the goal is to reach people from 10 to 100, she said.

Toward that end, Spirituality and Health magazine has become Spirituality and Health Media, with a beefed-up website, more columnists and a newer book division that publishes four to eight titles a year. In addition, it offers classes, conferences and travel events with columnists and theology experts to spiritual destinations like Israel and Portugal.

The magazine was launched by Wall Street's Trinity Church as a 300th anniversary project to boost spiritual development around the country. But the decision to rescue it after it lost funding was a personal one, Paul Sutherland said.

"When I looked at the content and saw who was reading it and who this was helping, I didn't want to see it go," said Sutherland, founder and president of Financial Investment Management Group and author of several books including "The Virtue of Wealth." "From an investor's point of view, I think people are realizing materialism does not get them where they want to be. It doesn't make them happy. The next trend is to seek something with meaning."

Now he, Kiesling and the other Sutherlands, including Managing Editor Matt Sutherland, aim to give readers that meaning by helping them "explore the spiritual journey." And Traverse City is just the place for editorial inspiration, Paul Sutherland said.

'Traverse City is absolutely the best place for the magazine. We care about our neighbors, we're accepting of our neighbors' differences. Traverse City is a very accepting community," he said.