To me, being in nature is my all time, drop everything and do this for the rest of my life, favorite activity in the world! Yeah I really love nature…Ever since I was little, you would always catch me outside playing in the yard, at a park, in a tree, by a river, on a hike anywhere that has lush leaves and big trees, soft grass, cool rivers and streams. I’m there. Every weekend, I make it my goal to go on a hike at a different trail each time. It is my way of winding down and the ultimate relaxation tool. Even if it’s raining you can still catch me romping up the trail with a huge smile on my face!
Lately, I have been dappling with the idea of utilizing survival skills in an outdoor setting, including; fire building, shelter making, food foraging, plant identification, and water purification just to name a few! This concept really excites me. So much so that I do daily research on how to enhance my knowledge and skills. One day I came across a video of a man teaching people how to walk barefoot in the Hoh rainforest. It’s a crazy concept and I’ll tell you why.
If you aren’t familiar with Washington State geography, Aside from being the state that is notorious for its constant downpour of rain, the Hoh Rainforest, closely located near Forks, WA (Twilight fans?) is the most lush, most green, and definitely the most rain fall in North America! Now what’s crazy is this: imagine walking barefoot in that condition!
Mick Dodge, a.k.a. Barefoot Sensei, is an interesting character to say the least. Dodge, is known for his outlook on living along with nature and utilizing materials such as stones, sticks, trees, and other natural bits and pieces, as a form of personal strength and exercise. And he does this barefoot, for the most part! He has created this concept of an Earth Gym, a combination of natural materials, and exercising techniques to help increase strength in the body, stimulate the mind, and connecting the feet to the earth’s ground, which is more important than you may think.
National Geographic found him to be a very interesting man as well and did a series of shows called, The Legend of Mick Dodge. This show includes his way of life, his outlook on living in the Hoh rainforest, the positive magnitude of walking barefoot, and many other exciting insights on how he works with earth gym.
Mick Dodge was a former marine in the Marine Corps and served for six years. After living with the stresses of modern day society, he retreated to the calm and serene comfort of the woods. His ancestors also being woodland dwellers and his father a marine veteran as well, have been very inspirational for his love of the forest and his Scandinavian ancestry. A more intriguing question though, would be what motivated Dodge to go back to the wild, barefoot?
When Mick Dodge found that he had a chronic case of plantar fasciitis his doctors explained to him that he would have this problem for possibly the rest of his life and that there is no way to cure it. Being the sturdy, “I’ll take care of this myself” kind of guy he is, he disregarded the doctors’ diagnoses and began a new journey to focusing on his feet in correlation with nature. Years of walking barefoot actually did him some good! His pain from the plantar fasciitis dissipated and he became stronger, durable, adaptable, and now he continues to prove that nature can heal.
Going in depth about foot health and care, it’s astounding to consider how much we really put our feet and legs through every day! Driving with one foot on gas for possibly 2+hours in traffic a day straining your foot and leg, standing at work having your feet holding most of your body weight for long periods of time, or even sitting for hours cutting circulation of your hips to your legs, all of these are possible strains we put our feet and legs daily without taking much consideration of the effects it has.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the practice of reflexology (a form of massage that dates back to the fourth century B.C.) focuses on the hands and feet, in order to stimulate body functions, eliminate toxins, improve circulation and soothe nerves utilizing pressure points to relieve strains, tension, and/or pain in the body. One-quarter of the body’s bones are in the feet, and misalignment of these bones can cause problems for the rest of the body. A foot problem can lead to hip, knee and low-back pain, which can move in to the shoulder and neck and even cause headaches. The foot contains meridians related to the Spleen, Liver, Stomach, Kidney, Bladder and Gallbladder. Because all of the acupressure meridians of the body either begin or end on the feet or hands, foot health is crucially important for balance of the acupressure energy system. There are over 25 foot conditions, including arthritis, bunions, fungus, athlete’s foot, overlapping toes, corns, plantar fasciitis, ingrown toenails, and heel spurs. These symptoms, as well as sensitive areas and blockages are evidence of a disturbance in the body in corresponding areas. And example being if you have hurt your big toe by jamming it in the door edge, you may feel a sharp aggravating pain in your brain because those points are correlated to each other. The removal of a blockage in the foot improves the blood and nerve supplies as well as the energy flow to the body. The feet are one of the hardest working body parts because we are on them all the time, and doesn’t it feel good to get a foot rub? Taking care of the feet and connecting them with the feeling of foot on soil, sand, grass, water or any natural terrain can be very therapeutic and in some cases cure or assist to a cure some health concerns.
I was so enthused by Dodge’s philosophy that I decided to send an email through his website inquiring in detail about his gyms. Now I sent this in thought that someone of his “fame” (not really sure how famous he is after doing his show but still pretty infamous in the hiking/nature community) wouldn’t reply back to me.
A couple days, later a friend of his, who goes by the name of Moonhair (you would see her making guest appearances on his show) contacted me back sending his phone number. I was so excited my heart almost stopped! I took a couple days to think about what I wanted to ask and say to Mick Dodge the barefoot sensei. I finally mustard up the courage to call him and within 1…2…3 rings of the phone I hear his big burly, “Yoish (his way of saying hello) this is Mick”. For real, my heart stopped! I was so shocked that he actually answered. In excitement I talked to him about what earth gym was about, his inspirations, how to get involved and if there is a way I could meet him in person someday to learn the secrets of Mother Nature.
His answers were filled with wisdom, warmth, and education. In answering my questions he told me something that I won’t ever forget. He said,” Follow your feet and the earth will teach, this connection with nature is within all of us, there is no specific way to do things, go on a hike and be with nature, grab a stick and stretch with it, grab a rock and pick it up a couple times, walk barefoot any chance you get to be grounded. The gyms I have created are to help anyone and everyone! And the earth is a big place! Nature can cure most illnesses, it’s up to the individual to have an open mind to that concept.” He shared with me some resources to look into and helped me connect with some people who are part of the earth gym movement and I couldn’t be more ecstatic with the opportunity I had to speak with him and the knowledge he shared, as well as the future chance of meeting him in July!
When he said that nature can cure most illnesses, I thought to myself, I work at a place that utilizes nature’s roots, peels, stems, leaves, bark, seeds, etc., herbs are as natural as you can get! In combination of using herbs as medicine, hiking, being outdoors and exercising, eating organic and healthy food, being in tune and conscious of your body, your health can be in an optimal condition, and the tools are all around you!
At his age (which is unknown to me at the moment but I’m assuming he’s pretty seasoned toward the 50+ age range) Mick Dodge is still going strong, working with people, children, and anyone with an open mind and a love for nature to help improve their skill, mental and physical drive while, happily combining these skills with mother earth. Continuing to be an inspiration to many people!
In the following months, my goal still remains to go hiking every weekend, but with a twist of enhancing my proficiency by trying the earth gym resources he has provided, and utilizing the earth materials around me. Take a walk outside. Take a moment to breathe in the air that the trees clean for you, or take a moment to walk barefoot in your lawn, front porch, and gravel, anything other than padded floor or carpet for an hour a day. Ground with nature, detach from the busy world for a second and appreciate the green and beauty around you. It truly is soothing and blissful!
~Wishing You Wellness,