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Dancing with grace

How an Ecovillage helped this combat vet find healing.

· veterans,Climate Change,Activism

I have never been one to have fulfilling relationships.

I dealt with some childhood violence and trauma in my early years, and, after a brief period of relative stability as an adolescent, I Joined the Marine Corps and experienced the terrible gauntlet that is War, serving in the Second Battle of Fallujah, the bloodiest of the occupation (I also deployed with the Army, but Fallujah was the "big one" for me). I imagine those events have contributed to my introversion to some extent. People can be horrible to one another, and it's always seemed, to me, that distance from others was the smartest move.  

That is, until I decided to move to Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. Since I moved there in 2014, I've watched, often still from a distance, trying to "crack the code" if you will. I've always known I was a little maladjusted to the company of others (which was generally a plus during my military service), but as I've grown older, I came to the realization that I wasn't going to be able to have deep, meaningful relationships unless I changed something about myself...but what?! And, more importantly, HOW?

I've always considered myself to be a fairly quick study, and usually need a just a little hands-on experience, and can take it from there, independently. I'm happy to say I got exactly what I was seeking from the community at Dancing Rabbit. The techniques and mannerisms that community residents and members utilize act as solid, practical examples to follow in a world that seems to have increasingly less respect for one another. 

In choosing to emulate and absorb the way folks treat one another here, I've been able to foster some of the most fulfilling relationships I have ever had. Through the use of non-violent communication (NVC), and the practice of using "I" statements (also avoiding words such a "you" and "should"), I've found that when I'm experiencing frustration with someone, the issue is almost always internal, not external. This paradigm shift has had a permanent effect on me; once I ingrained the understanding that my frustration is rarely due to anyone else's actions, I was surprised at the patience I began finding towards others, even in open conflict.

So, a few months ago, I decided I wanted to do something for the community that has helped me find a brighter view of humanity, as well as a brighter view of myself. Inspired by a yoga instructor with the Veterans Yoga Project, and Alline Anderson, fellow founder of the Milkweed Mercantile Eco Inn, I settled on the idea of building a full-scale labyrinth for community members and visitors to enjoy.

After a brief crowdfunding campaign (community residents and members being the primary contributors), we raised about $800...just enough to purchase a (biodegradable) template with the pathway design printed on it. Saved me a whole lot of mistakes along the way, and I did NOT want to get into all the math involved in pathway design. I was happy to contribute the rest of the money, materials, and time needed to make the vision a reality.

The project was completed just two weeks ago. If anything, I hope this encourages folks to visit Dancing Rabbit, donate to The Center for Sustainable and Cooperative Culture, and, for those who are military veterans, consider joining Veterans For Peace. I believe these organizations are at the forefront of making the world a better place, as that's exactly what they've done for me.

So, without further ado, I present to you... Horizons. Be gracious today. You'll be glad you did.

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