My great and late father, Paul, was a plant freak in his own right and gave to me my love of the natural and spiritual worlds. My mother tells me that I was conceived at Wind Cave National park in the Black Hills while the family was on a tent camping vacation. As it turns out I am the product of a rainy night, a wet sleeping bag, and the quickening of a Black Hills thunderstorm.
My family lived on the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota for about nine years where my father worked as a social worker. He was a naturalist, gardener, spiritualist and great hunter. He provided our family with almost all of the food we ate, from organic vegetables to wild game. We made everything from scratch because we had to, so I learned a great deal about how the natural world of nourishment and biology works by hanging around the kitchen. When I was 6 and my brother 7, my father walked us down the street holding our hands and lectured us on Yin/Yang theory. I will never forget my first lesson on the law of cause and effect.
I grew into a member of the counterculture and spent my teens and early 20s exploring the world of natural foods and communal living. My father’s philosophy and my early life experiences opened me to my own responsibility to be of service, to accept and feel compassion for individuals in any culture, religion, race, sexuality, or economic strata and to understand that there are many planes of reality. I began to explore and expand my understanding of spiritual and metaphysical matters when I was about 14, and trust me, I looked for God everywhere so that I could feel comfortable in my own skin.
For the last 40 years, I have been experiencing life on the material plane in many capacities, as a musician, artist, comedian, student, restaurateur, business and accounting consultant, computer technician, gardener, financial fiduciary, stock broker/investment advisor, and entrepreneur. Everything that I have done in life has prepared me for what will come next, as long as I can intermittently return to awareness.
I have had darshan with some of the world’s greatest spiritual teachers and the most important lessons that I have learned are: I don’t need a guru, that we are all teachers, forgiveness of self and others is essential and that the path to enlightenment is an inside job. We are already that which we seek.
In early 2009, I opened Liferoot Acupuncture & Healing Arts, LLC, with my business partner who is an acupuncturist. I contributed a grounding force, business acumen, warm reception and beautiful surroundings. I initially enrolled in the East West Course early that year, which has been a circuitous journey for me. After I attended my first seminar in 2012, I knew that I had found my people and I am very grateful that Michael and Lesley express themselves so genuinely. I am beginning practice as a clinical herbalist at the clinic and am planning to attend acupuncture school in the fall. I wish to expand my herbal practice and broadening my work with those who suffer in this age of enlightenment.
As a kid, I loved to play in the woods adjoining my suburban neighborhood. It was the home of a grandmother oak tree, in which my best friend and I built a two-story tree house. We would fantasize about living tribally in a tree house village, living off the land while the rest of the world drowned in a tidal wave of their own industrial stupidity. That experience awakened in me a deep desire to live freely, with nature, in community. In high school we would return to that tree house and perform plant spirit medicine rituals, giving thanks for the tree and praying for the Earth's healing.
While traveling the country and continuing my love for plant medicine, I was led back to my home state of Illinois to kindle a soul connection with a very special lady. With all the magic and healing that ensued, I began to embrace the beautiful hills of the Shawnee forest as my homeland. For the last three years I have lived with my partner, Earthdancer, and her son Ari, on a secluded six-acre solar-powered homestead surrounded by national forest. We grow food, raise ducks and chickens, and practice our ancestral heritage of co-creating with and protecting nature. Our intention is to assist in healing this amazing planet, while focusing on regional resiliency, sustainability and environmental justice. My philosophy and plan of action resides in a synthesis of traditional medicine, permaculture, activism, and primitive skills.
My life work involves co-creating a new model, through building Earth-based communities and local food systems that improve soil fertility and purify water, and by relearning and teaching the ancient wisdom of living in rhythm with nature, that which our ancestors successfully practiced for hundreds of thousands of years. That work also involves creatively dismantling the current paradigm, and supporting those on the front line of environmental justice, with food and healing.
I currently run a small herbal practice, where I am always willing to give free consultations for our activist warriors and farming healers. We operate Dancing Spirit Herbs and Crystals, our family business, which is mostly Internet-based and are currently procuring large acreage for a permaculture and traditional medicine farm, village, and retreat center. I'm an intermediate student, attendee of the 2014 seminar, and plan to finish the East West Herb Course in 2016.
My direct experience with herbs as medicine only began a few years ago. Even so, I believe that they were always there running a parallel path with me and, like little brain synapses, connections were being built over time.
I grew up in the center of the Western medical model in the 1950s. My doctor dad and nurse mom were part of that new generation that embraced the miraculous “magic bullet” perspective signified by the antibiotic. Every sniffle in our household resulted in my three siblings and I being lined butts up on the couch for a shot of penicillin. I didn’t fare as well as the others and tended to be chronically tired and ill with one thing and another. Because no medical reason could be established, I was eventually dismissed as being weak and a bit of a hypochondriac (even though I had significant and measurable symptoms).
Even so, it was a good childhood in a small rural town where I developed an abiding love of nature. I always spent time outside communing with my frog friends and voraciously reading in my private “room” under our huge lilac. This microcosm set the ground for my passion for social justice. College was exchanged for membership in what was considered to be a radical group (SDS – Students for a Democratic Society) and I lived in a commune dedicated to social justice. Later I hitchhiked around Europe for a couple years. Along the way I was introduced to healthier food choices and alternative health modalities – still not in the forefront but securely tucked in my back pocket.
After marriage and children I went back to school and was able to fully indulge my interests in social justice. My academic work was centered on history, Cultural Theory and Whole Systems Theory and I found that most often I was drawn to issues around food, water and health – and more connections were made. Through all of this, I gardened. I considered my garden my sanctuary and I was always most happy on my knees weeding.
I’ve felt a connection with plants for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until my first move to the Southwest that I began to integrate them into daily life. There I discovered how the native cultures traditionally used plants, and how they are still using them today. It fascinated me, and inspired me to complete my Consulting Herbalist certification at Clayton College of Natural Health with Phyllis Light. It also spurred my graduate research into the medicinal plants of the San Francisco Peaks, comparing how the 13 tribes in the region utilize these plants. While I loved academia and research, my real passion was making medicine and helping others to resolve health conditions. After using Michael and Lesley’s books for years as resources, I was thrilled to finally enroll in this program.
East West has helped me develop my clinical and diagnostic skills tremendously as I work with clients through my holistic practice, Banyan Moon Botanicals. There I strive to heal the whole person by utilizing herbs, nutrition and lifestyle recommendations. As a registered yoga teacher, I will often incorporate yoga therapeutics into my treatment plans. I’m also an adjunct professor for Kaplan University’s Department of Health and Wellness, and a freelance writer for natural health magazines and regional herbal publications.
I love sharing this knowledge with others, and can often be found leading various medicinal plant walks, kids in tow. My goal is to keep learning and to keep sharing. There’s always another layer to peel back!
I love sharing the wonders of wild edible and medicinal plants, and I am fortunate to make a living doing that. I'm the author of the book, "Dandelion Hunter: Foraging the Urban Wilderness," which Publishers Weekly kindly called "the funniest herbal adventure you'll ever read." I also write the herbal blog First Ways, and offer plant spirit classes and private plant walks where I live in Portland, OR. And I absolutely love doing energy healing with plants in my Plant Spirit Reiki practice. I am passionate about herbs and I love introducing people to them. Often it's a very special and empowering experience for people, because our culture has really become disconnected from nature, and people are eager to reclaim that sacred, primal connection that is still within all of us. The plants are such amazing beings.
Before I started studying with East West, I had a lot of experience with plant identification and had been wildcrafting herbs in the city and surrounding wilderness areas and making tinctures and salves, and I got to see them cure myself and friends overnight in a number of acute instances -- for example strep throat, urinary tract infections, and other occasions that call for herbal antibiotics -- which was amazingly inspiring to me. Because I was documenting this on my blog, people would sometimes write to me and ask about treating chronic conditions or complex diseases, and I didn't really have much to offer them because I did not have an understanding of how to use herbs holistically. This course has been extremely useful to me in helping me develop an understanding of how herbs work for chronic conditions and how they can balance each individual's body energetically to enhance health and prevent illness.
I'm very much looking forward to the upcoming herbal seminar this April. I'm excited to deepen my knowledge and meet the inspiring teachers who created this wonderful course.
It's only fitting that every photo I've found of myself lately includes my daughter - my studies at East West coincided very much with my transformation into a mother. I decided when I was pregnant that I wanted to create a long-lasting and valuable family legacy for my daughter, one that was primarily based in plant medicine and the traditional knowledge of ancient cultures and first peoples. I wanted this to be my daughter's foundation, her strong beginning, and so I signed up for my formal studies at East West School of Planetary Herbology in September 2012 when she was just three months old. I have embarked on this lifelong journey of herbalism with her and all future generations in mind.
My goal is to foster a world where the norm is living wholly and healthily - one where the focus is on prevention rather than cure. My natural journey began with studying Permaculture in Australia from 2005 to 2007. There, with some amazing individuals in really diverse communities, I first became deeply immersed in nature in a way that was previously unknown to me. It was also during this time that I began my connection with plant medicine, and the flame was lit under the cauldron of herbal creation in my soul. Upon relocating to Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, in my native Canada, I shared a home with two women who had devoted their lives to practicing herbalism personally and professionally, weaving the rich web of plant medicine in the Pacific Northwest. I took that inspiration and ran with it, starting my informal independent studies on my own.
Through the years I continued to travel and explore, eventually making my way to California where I made my home, put down some roots and fertilized those roots with my enrollment at East West. Up until then it had been a journey of a serendipitous sort and since then my herbal journey has taken a more deliberate shape.
I've worked in the natural health industry for many years, mainly in retail. As an advanced student in the East West Professional Herbalist Course, I plan on completing my clinical certification within the next year. I am looking forward to the privilege of attending the EW seminars and transforming my student membership in the American Herbalists Guild into a professional one. Recently my aspirations have grown beyond my original intention of simply creating a family legacy to planning to go into clinical practice. The idea of being able to help people every day is exciting and exhilarating. My confidence is growing each day as the building blocks of my career are laid: creating my website, working with my first clients, living the day-to-day life of an herbalist. East West has given me the foundation and tools to build a career that I didn't even know I was looking for. With their education and guidance I hope to influence and guide not only my daughter but her generation and generations to come in a relevant and helpful way. My 30th birthday is the first day of March and being honored as Student of the Month at East West is the best gift yet - one I believe is a wonderful omen in this prosperous and possibility-filled Year of the Horse.
I was born and raised in Hong Kong. I went to college in Australia and lived there for eight years, earning my bachelor's degree in computer science and an MBA. My career has been in I.T. thus far despite my interests, which probably have always lay somewhere else. I like tennis, piano, interior design, marketing, and travelling – I guess that’s the part of me who enjoys exploring new ideas, new concepts and getting excited with finding something new.
I had been very lucky to be growing up in a fast-paced city that has always embraced East meeting West. This means there were bottles of anti-inflammatory pills alongside Yin Qiao San sitting in our medical cabinet and to me, both of them were labelled as magic bullets back then. My journey with natural healing started with aromatherapy and with amazing results using essential oils to treat circulation related infection and muscular challenges. These inspiring experiences made me wonder about how smart or complicated human bodies are. Since then, I have looked into Bach Flower remedies, qi gong, and massage therapy until I started a natural healing program locally in 2008. All these have truly transformed my concept of health and enabled me to know myself better, both physiologically and psychologically.
I strongly believed that synergizing western herbalism and energies of TCM is where herbalism will shine. Hence, when I decided to further my herbal studies in 2011, East West Planetary Herbal program appeared as the perfect choice. I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to learn and grow with this family of East West herbalists! Apart from herbal knowledge, I grew as a therapist more so as I learn from the inspiring teachers who demonstrated respect for not only medical practitioners, but fostered connections through themselves and others to a better world!
I have been in apprentice practice for some time now and I think the perfect place for my natural healing practice to land is in training and consultative family care. I think everyone of us deserves a better sense of our health and even more so support people in regaining control of our health through a combination of healthy lifestyle, self-awareness and the right natural treatment, be it herbal, structural or psychological treatments. Only when we own our destiny can we do something about it!