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The wandering hemp hippie

She came up weekends to escape ‘zombieville’ and never left

| 03 Apr 2023 | 11:38

She’s lived in Dubai, Manhattan, London, Scotland, Sri Lanka and Vietnam; worked as a yoga teacher, beauty therapist, Reiki healer, nutritionist, wellness coach, herbalist and designer of hemp yoga slippers. Now, Shanti Life owner Kim Williams has put down roots in Warwick, N.Y., where she’s set up shop selling all things hemp: CBD gummies, oils, treats and teas at her shop – and of course yoga slippers.

What brought you to Warwick from London?

My son was here (in New Jersey), and the pandemic was kind of – you know, in the beginning we were all like “What is happening?” and had no idea what was going on. I just jumped on a plane... March 22, 2020. It was lockdown, the airport was completely dead. Everybody was shell-shocked. And when I got here it was crazy, I just didn’t know what to do. New York City was like zombieville. So I came to Warwick for weekends and I didn’t leave. The streets were open, there were people out, eating – and I was like, Oh my word, something’s happening here. And I got a little job in this shop, and then I bought the shop.

You sell CBD products, crystals, teas – did you have a prior career in this?

Well, my background: I’m an herbalist, a nutritionist, a Reiki healer, a permaculture designer. I worked with the Hmong people, they’re in Vietnam. They grow hemp. So I went to spend time with them, and live with them for a while and watch them growing the hemp. This was like 15 years ago.

What drove you to do that?

Oh my word. Because I’m bonkers? [laughs]. I’ll tell you. I’m a yoga teacher, so for me, I was always running around to different studios thinking Oh my God. Some people’s feet were nasty. There are socks and stuff, but you can’t grip. So I called my yoga teacher in India with this idea, and he was like, “Yeah, the ancient yogis used to wear a foot cover.” They didn’t have mats and stuff, right? The ancient yogis used to wear slippers. So that was it. I got my go ahead from him, and I was like, Okay, I’m doing this. So I got the design sorted, and then I flew to Vietnam because I wanted to make [yoga shoes] from hemp.

Why hemp?

Hemp is antifungal. It’s just a wonderful plant. You can clothe yourself, you can house yourself, it’s the strongest fabric. They used it for hundreds and hundreds of years as a shelter, as a food. You can build with it, you can make biofuels, you can make paper. It’s a fast-growing crop so you don’t need to be chopping down all these trees.

The hemp, that’s what brought me to Vietnam, because I wanted to learn about growing, about weaving, about all of the uses.

How long did it take to create the yoga shoes?

On and off, back and forth, I had several trips. We got the fabric, and then I had to take the fabric into the city, into Hanoi. I had to find a factory to work with me. So these products came out in 2010. It took a couple of years to get everything together, and blood, sweat and tears. Living in the U.K., I would go do little fairs and shows. And then I started making my hemp yoga towels, hemp yoga straps, biodegradable yoga mats. Because I was just sick and tired of seeing junk. With yoga, it’s about joining everything and being healthy and whole. Well, people are using plastic mats and microfiber towels now. They’re not knowing what they’re breathing in. These are going to landfills, we don’t know what’s happening to them. So that was my ethos: trying to make products that were biodegradable, within the whole planet of wellness.

Hemp has led you on a peripatetic life journey. Walk us through it.

I worked with a spa in Sri Lanka that wanted to do permaculture design, very eco-friendly. So I was introducing hemp into the build, into nourishment for the soil.

Then I started growing cannabis in Spain. It was a little naughty, we weren’t allowed. But that was the best place for me to kind of be growing to start seeing what we could do, what medicines we could create. My friends who were there, living up in the hills, had this land and barn that we could experiment in. So we just kind of grew, started experimenting with the flowers, with the medicine.

I got really into juicing. Juicing cannabis doesn’t get you high, because you need heat to activate the THC. So if you’re just juicing the raw plant, you’re getting all the benefits of the acid form of the plant, all of the terpenes, all of the phytonutrients, all of the antioxidants. Just lovely.

It seems like you were into CBD back before it was really ‘a thing.’

We were wild hippies, just rolling in the hills, doing crazy things. We would just experiment, like: Today, we’re just going to eat spirulina and honey and see how we feel. Or we’re going to just choose cannabis. We were just experimenting like this, and cleansing the body and meditating.

What sparked your interest in cannabis?

My aunt, she had MS. That’s really where a lot of my interest came from. She was in her 30s when she had been diagnosed, and was rapidly declining. She started using cannabis to help with her pain – to help with a lot of things actually, with her rest. I was a teenager, and that’s really what made me want to learn more about the plant.

And now you’re selling CBD here in Warwick.

The universe just kind of, you know – [the store] was not a plan of mine at all. I realized, not so long ago, that this has all accumulated, it’s been life’s jigsaw puzzle. It’s been an interesting time, I’ve been really blessed, and Warwick has been embracing.

What’s your best seller at Shanti Life?

People really like the teas. In January I launched my new brand, Woke Botanicals. I’m very natural, into organic gardening and everything. So it took two years of really crying a lot and really being frustrated. It was hard to find organic [growers], or people who knew what they were doing with the plant. I’m working with [growers] in Wisconsin now, who are just wonderful.

What makes this CBD different?

This is cold pressed, no processing whatsoever. It’s cut, it’s dried, it’s put into a compress stone – an old Greek olive compress – and with organic hemp oil poured onto it, [the oil] is pressed out of the plant. As far as I’m concerned, with the plant, the earth needs to be clean. The soil has to be clean because the plant can uptake a lot of heavy metals if the earth is contaminated.

What’s your why with Shanti Life?

To have a space where people can feel inclusive and get well. Sharing and teaching about self love, self management and wellness. Shanti means peace in Sanskrit, it’s part of our mantra when we’re finishing our opening prayer or meditation or practice: ohm shanti. Ohm is the universe. It’s about bringing peace to the world.