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Get out of town, get out of your comfort zone

The henna ink may be fading from my hands by now, but the memories I made with friends and complete strangers last weekend at Dancing Tree Festival will stay with me forever.

Tucked away in the woods of Blue Ridge, Georgia, the festival offered a much-needed break from the grind and a chance to reconnect to myself and nature. This festival was much different than anything I’ve attended in the past with throngs of people, alcohol and drugs, hot sun beating down on you while you stand on concrete and listen to bands all day.

Dancing Tree is a music, performance, and healing arts festival. No alcohol, vegan meals included, camping or glamping available, and a ton of wellness classes to choose from throughout the weekend.

While I was willing to go on this adventure solo, I was even more excited when a few of my moon circle friends wanted to join me. We all have so much going on in our lives. One friend had just finished a long career at the Canton paper mill, working her last day before we left town and wondering what her next steps will be. Another is just starting a new career. Another is planning for her daughter’s upcoming wedding. All of us are working to navigate our relationships with others and ourselves. We were all in need of some rest, relaxation, and time to reset.

The energy at Heartwood Retreat was incredible from the participants to the facilitators. Everyone was happy to be there and happy to share their talents and knowledge with each other. I took classes I’d never find in Waynesville and participated in workshops I’d never feel comfortable signing up for otherwise. But with five friends by my side, we were in this together!

The first class I took was Color Meditation and Sound Healing with Kelsey Beth, a beautiful young soul who was making her way across the country living her dream of being a full-time artist. She led us through a chakra meditation where we shouted out positive affirmations and took turns adding colors to a blank canvas until it was our own work of art.

We followed that with a workshop called Hip Activation with Katie Scott. We all came prepared with a yoga mat for what we assumed would be a hip opening class. Nope. It was not. This facilitator was going to make us shake our hips in ways we were not ready for. We later learned from her that she originally wanted to call the class Tantric Twerking but apparently that wasn’t family friendly enough of a title. It definitely would have been more accurate as we bumped booties with strangers and had a hip-leading soul train line.

Had the class been called Tantric Twerking, I probably would have been too insecure to go. I am not a good dancer. I don’t feel comfortable dancing in front of people, let alone a bunch of strangers, but I’m so glad we went. By the end of it, my cheeks were so sore from smiling and laughing, and my hips were definitely activated.

Another of our favorite classes was Flowlesque with Emily Dee - a mix of yoga and burlesque dancing. More hip moving and dancing like nobody's watching. I think we forget how good it feels to just move and dance even if we don’t think we’re good at it. It’s a form of stress and anxiety release like no other. Give it a try.

My moon circle was to be held right after dinner Friday. I was nervous. What if no one showed? What if too many people showed up? What if I choke? What if I’m judged by others who know way more about lunar living and the “right” way to host a moon circle?

At least I knew I’d have five friends that would show up! But then more started to filter in and before I knew it, the Healing Heart tent was packed with 25 women sitting on cushions around me. It was beautiful. I made the most of the hour I was given to plant some seeds. I showed these women connection, support, and encouraged them to start their own moon circle if one was not already offered in their community.

The night ended with dancing in the sand while listening to some great bands, including Natti Lovejoys that play often in WNC (be sure to check them out) and what hippie festival would be complete without a late night drum circle? And whenever we got too hot to stand it anymore, we could jump into the lake to cool off.

I chose to camp on the retreat property and was treated to a great jam band that played until 1 a.m. on a bandstand out in the middle of the woods. Can’t complain when they were playing some of my favorite tunes.

The other girls rented a beautiful wooden yurt at Kaluna Farm. If you are ever out that way, I highly recommend the farm for accommodations. There are plenty of good hiking opportunities around Blue Ridge.

What a dream of a weekend! It’s good to let go every now and then and try something new and not worry about judgment from others. It’s refreshing to not think about what I’m wearing, fixing my hair or putting on makeup. For me, it’s a removal of the mask I wear on a daily basis.

It was also a wonderful time to bask in the many beautiful parts of life and find joy even during a time when this world feels like utter chaos. I encourage everyone to get out of your comfort zone and find your own adventure with those you love. These moments are what life is all about.

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