by Ash Sturm
It’s strange to think that somewhere I feel so emotionally close to now was a complete stranger a year ago. I’d had several friends and colleagues recommend checking out Dancing Rabbit, but hadn’t done much follow up research.
I was very unfamiliar with the concept of intentional community, and my mind associated “community” with the idea of a cult (like where a husband chief would have 10 wives, ranging from ages 13 to 21…). I was way off!
Regardless of my preconceptions, come last spring, I found myself feeling more frequently depressed, day to day, month to month. More than ever I was feeling the weight of being a woman in American culture and the heavy expectations that come along with that. I was looking for something different, I just wasn’t sure what yet.
So one day, I hopped over to the Dancing Rabbit website and it just so happened they were advertising their first-ever women’s visitor program. Seemed like a well-timed opportunity, as a woman who wanted to visit and was ready for a break from the usual gender dynamics in my life, so I didn’t hesitate to submit an application.
That being said, I’ve tended to avoid female friendships in the past. In my experience, they came with a lot of drama and competition and I was feeling burnt out. I’m happy to say that the amazing group of women I met during my women’s visitor session helped me re-trust what strong allies women can be for each other. See Exhibit A.
Exhibit A: The first night I arrived, it just so happened that the song we sang before dinner, “Time of Your Life”, was the song that played at my brother’s funeral. I didn’t feel ready to share that, so I bottled it up for a couple days. Then I broke down during our regular morning check ins (which were a beautiful thing—we’d sit in a circle and really listen to each person talk about how they were that day, physically, emotionally, spiritually).
I try my darndest to avoid breakdowns because I never have been able to feel safe in those moments with people. However, this particular morning at DR, the women wrapped me up in their support: they hugged me, empathized with me, shared their stories, allowed me my space, and one woman offered a full-body massage for stress relief.
In that raw moment of vulnerability, I felt like this whole group of women accepted me and my broken pieces, had my back, and wanted to take an active role in making my day better. That was a new, overwhelming, amazing feeling. I’ll never forget that day, or finding the piece of paper with the lyrics to “Time of Your Life” on the picnic table covered with flowers.
There were many other similar moments over the course of the week-and-a-half I was there—late night conversations on the dock by the swimming pond; making food together in the morning; going through a tense, but cathartic conflict resolution workshop; sharing vulnerability in our regular check ins; pizza and movie night at the Mercantile; singing harmonies to old folk songs; and choosing to open up to each other about who we are and what we are about.
The visit was not without conflict, and not without sadness. But for me, there was so much discovery and happiness too. Dancing Rabbit really created a space to work through those things in a way that felt safe and productive.
Dancing Rabbit has sparked a lot of serious reflection in my life, and the women’s visitor program was a shifting point for me. I’ve made several lifestyle changes since my visit, started practicing deeper acceptance of who I am, and I’m grateful to have gained a few really close friends from it. I’ve been able to visit with three of them since then, and of course we climbed trees and mountains like the free spirits we are.
I will admit as a penny-pincher and nonprofit employee, I was hesitant at first to pay for the visitor program, but now I know that the value far exceeds the price. If you aren’t already signed up to go, I encourage you to think about attending a women’s visitor program. Whatever you’re looking for right now in your life—answers to questions, inspiration, a digital detox, catharsis—you might just find it at Dancing Rabbit. (Except for husband-chiefs and teenage brides, none of those there).
And if you find a cardboard cutout of a blonde girl in a tie dye dress while you’re there, that’s yours truly, and I salute you from afar.
Happy Trails and Discoveries!
Ash is a Midwestern native, raised in a small but mighty town of 400: Roberts, Illinois. She is currently a St. Louis city-dweller whose goals over this next year are to play more electric guitar, build a tiny house, and hitchhike at least once (or twice) more.
This year’s women-only visitor session is happening Sept 3-17, 2017! Take a step toward your own powerful experience in the company of other community-minded women by clicking here to find out more and apply now!