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Illuminating Our Team

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Kelly Benson

Greetings! I’m Kelly - the co-founder, herbalist, and community weaver of Earth Spiral Community. I have had a very broad spectrum of human experience and professional training that has led me to this place. My mission and purpose in this earth realm existence is to support others on their journey of healing and deep transformation through connection to the Earth Mother and her medicine, as well as connection to their most authentic truest Selves.

After an open heart surgery in 2006, I spent several years roaming the streets of Boston hopelessly swirling in the grips of substance use disorder. In 2010, I experienced my first series of yoga and meditation classes in a treatment facility. FINALLY, I noticed a glimpse of a very real shift within, and it provided inspiration and true motivation for my soul. That was the last time I went into treatment, and I have never looked back. I completed a 9 week residential Bikram Yoga training in 2012 and taught at Maine Hatha Yoga in Portland, Maine for 2 years until I birthed my son in May of 2014. I completed a local 200hr training in 2015, and several Trauma Informed Yoga workshops and trainings during that period, including a Trauma Sensitive Yoga workshop at Bessel Vanderkolk’s Boston Institute of Trauma. In 2015, I started a local chapter of the non-profit, Pure Action- Yoga is Medicine and had the opportunity to teach in local treatment facilities working with women who have endured substance use disorder, sex trafficking, and domestic abuse.

My plant path began in 2013 - I was transitioning off of 15 years of multiple prescription drugs and I was searching for gentle, safe, & natural support. There happened to be a huge lemon balm plant in the yard of the log cabin we were then residing in. When I found out that her name was Melissa officinalis and she soothed the nervous system and induced feelings of joy through her high volatile oil content, I was in complete awe and admiration. 

The never-ending spiraling rabbit hole that is herbal medicine will be a lifelong journey for me - for once you are on the Plant Path and are engulfed and entranced by their magick and wisdom ~ their medicine, spirits, and songs will never leave your side. 

My perspective on plants has shifted quite a bit these last few years. I came into herbal medicine from an allopathic symptom based mindset because that was ingrained in me from 3 semesters of nursing school, my entire upbringing coming from a family of nurses, and growing up in the allopathic medical system. I now work with plants based on their spirits, energetics, intentions, physical and ecological effect,  and other ways they can support our humanness. 

I have participated in apprenticeship circles locally with clinical herbalist Mischa Schuler, and have studied rather extensively these last five years with internationally known Sajah Popham, through his Alchemical Herbalism Course, and now clinically through the Vitalist Herbal Practitioner Clinical Skills Course at the School of Evolutionary Herbalism. I have also sat in a year long online apprenticeship circle with Marysia Meirnowska from the School of the Sacred Wild, and some of my other inspirational influences and teachers along the way these last 11 years include Matthew Wood, Stephen Harrod Buhner, Rosemary Gladstar, Gabor Mate, Anodea Judith, Hafiz, Michael and Angela Weymouth of Maine Hatha Yoga.

 After a few years, the allopathic approach to herbal medicine that I began with was no longer in alignment with my soul's evolution and path. This happens naturally when you work closely with Gaia ~ there is a remembering that happens and the shift from mind to heart is inevitable. The vitalist and wise woman lineages I have come into these last 5 years, are more in resonance with my other passions and training in yogic based healing modalities than my entry-level allopathic approach.  They offer a more heart centered, embodied, felt-on-a-cellular-level experience of learning with the plants.

I am incredibly passionate about bringing people together in community - and consider myself to be a weaver in that way. I currently live on a 12 acre solar powered farm in Durham with my partner Ethan, his daughter and my two children, a menagerie of animals, and an abundance of medicinal plants and flowers. We look forward to creating space for people to experience and learn about the earth’s gifts while simultaneously supporting expansion of ourselves as individuals as well as leaders in our community.

Ethan Lavendier

I have always tromped around to the beat of my own drum. My early youth was spent skateboarding and listening to punk music, giving me a proper education into defying authority. A lost soul in college, after a start in elementary education, I ultimately entered as an english major. This allowed me to take many credits beyond my chosen major. I filled this time with art, outdoor and sustainable communities classes. This included getting certified as a Permaculture Designer by Charles and Julia Yelton in 2005, studying both in Maine and Hawaii.

In my last two years of college, I also began to share my love of music with the public in the form of “Reggae Lunchbox'', a weekly 2hr radio show on WMEB. A year after college I enrolled in a 9 month apprenticeship learning how to build wooden boats in midcoast Maine, while also living in an intentional community. It was a wonderful lesson in patience, tolerance and communication, while learning how to build boats and furniture. Due to an incredible teacher that taught locally, I also found a love for Ashtanga yoga. After leaving the boat school, I spent the next two summers in Maine and one winter in Florida as a sailing instructor for Outward Bound. While I had originally entered college to become a teacher, this was my first opportunity to share my knowledge and skills with groups ranging from 14-60. After a brief stint in CA, I returned to Maine and began a career in all things carpentry, while occasionally djing on the side. I spent the next 8 years working full time while rehabbing two houses that I was living in and welcoming my daughter into the world. At this point I was burned out and completely numbing everything with alcohol. I was stuck in a spiral of self pity and utter stagnancy and knew that I wasn’t going to show up in life as a man and father unless I made some major changes. Three weeks after I stopped drinking I found myself in a meditation and mantra course that I had signed up for months before with the Shiva Shakti School of Yoga. I was initiated into a mantra and given a spiritual name by a Sivananda monk. My practice had ebbed and flowed over the years, but never really sticking. This course helped me create a morning practice that would carry and support me through the early days of sobriety. From there I did an advanced pranayama and meditation course through Shiva Shakti, and then my 200hr Yoga Teacher Training with the Portland Yoga Project. I’ve spent the past almost 4 years digging deep into my trauma, my bullshit, and what it means to show up as a man. Despite having taught for Outward Bound, I never really felt I had a voice. One of my teachers from Shiva Shakti introduced me to the practice of chanting mantra in sanskrit. This has been one of the most powerful practices I’ve found in my healing journey and reinvigorated my love of singing. More recently, I participated in a 6 week Sacred Sound mantra course, further deepening my connection. Beyond yoga, I’ve also found the works of David Deida, and Chris Bale to be extremely influential in showing up more as both a man and father. Each of these experiences has led me to believe in the power of community, the importance of supporting men in brotherhood, and utilizing sound and music to raise the collective vibration. I currently reside on a 12acre solar powered farm in Durham with my love, Kelly, her two kids and my daughter and a menagerie of animals.

“I am a smattering of star dust and earth soil, replete with the messy compost of human emotions, swirling around in my own self absorbed tornado”

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