By PATRICIA DUFF
South Whidbey Record Arts & Entertainment, Island Life
Feb 19 2011, 9:11 AM · UPDATED
Lose the shoes and your blues.
So says Mick Dodge, who shows folks how to step out of their shoes and connect to the earth through the bare soles of their feet.
He is known as the Barefoot Sensei, and promotes barefoot-movement practices to help people find what he calls their natural exuberance.
“Tender souls/soles need to step out and start paying attention and stop denying what is around them,” Dodge said.
“We need to ground our mind into the reality of our primal body, that which equals our animal, spirited self.”
In order to do that, Dodge said, one needs to know how to step out into nature and embrace the sensorial joys of the world.
He will talk about “The Earth Gym,” or his Exuberant Animal Rhythmic Training Hall from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 22 at the Chiropractic Zone at the Sears House in Bayview. The talk is part of Craig Weiner’s series of Transformational Dialogues held the last Tuesday of each month at the clinic.
Dodge walked 1,000 “smiles” across Washington in 2009, from the drenched and verdant Hoh Rain Forest of the Olympics and through the back alleys of small towns and along the railroad ties of the cities.
He’s been without shoes for more than 20 years, and lives mainly outside in various parts of the state using a tent for shelter. During that trek, he was often mistaken for a homeless person, rather than just a person who was walking barefoot through the terrain and living without walls. Police have often tried to move him along, he said.
“I use my exuberance to break down the tension of those who view me as homeless,” Dodge said good-naturedly.
The 60-ish Dodge is decidedly articulate and is the opposite of what he may appear to be to those who might size him up on the spot: a drifting, hippie with no clear purpose. Instead, he is passionate, organized and methodical in his quest to live closely connected to the land.
To those who ask him to teach survival skills, he balks. Survival is not what it’s all about for Dodge. He tells them he’s into passionate living, not simply surviving; he becomes uncomfortable if he can’t hear the wind, because of some unnatural noise such as traffic or airplanes.
“I’m interested in finding the integration point of fitting into the natural world,” he said.
“To build exuberance without walls and electronics, and to sit down and practice using both the inside and the outside to get into the flow.”
There are three kinds of terrains in this life, Dodge said. They include the wasteland — those places where there are walls (buildings), machines (computers and cell phones) and traffic — and where one is trapped from the natural sensory flow of the world.
There are also the open-fenced lands, such as the spaces of Whidbey Island, which Dodge calls the “middle island” — where he currently lives in a tent — central as it is between the Olympic National Park to the west, the Cascade Mountains to the east and the San Juan Islands to the north. Finally, there is the gated wild lands, such as the national parks, for which one is required to pay to get into the most pristine areas of natural land, he says, hinting at the injustice and unnaturalness of being kept out by a gate.
As a former Marine Corps sergeant and longtime martial artist, Dodge said he has learned to take what he has learned inside, and bring it outside. He takes his lead from fellow advocate Frank Forencich, the author of “Exuberant Animal, The Power of Health, Play and Joyful Movement.” The book explores the totality of human health and promotes an integrated approach to living that spans culture, biology, psychology and animal behavior. It talks about ideas for movement and living that are meant to stimulate one’s vitality, creativity and enthusiasm.
Dodge’s Earth Gym follows the principles of using movement within the natural world to truly feel oneself in the world and to release passion and creativity. The fundamental methods of the Earth Gym are gathering, storing and releasing.
“I try to keep it real simple,” Dodge said.
Everyone has two hands, two feet and four soles with which to get a grip on movement and the moment, he said. Body gestures speak louder than words.
In the Earth Gym practices, he teaches people to ground themselves with the largest sensory organ of the body — muscle — through the use of simple tools that include sticks, ropes and stones.
The Earth Gym Training Quest, which he hopes to offer to whole families and not just individuals on Whidbey Island, uses practices that cut a path back to the earth. It is a connection between mind, body, spirit, land, ancestors and tribe, he said.
It has to include everyone, even if the elder members of the tribe must be carried on a stretcher or a pharaoh-like chair to the mountain or the forest. It is for all members of the tribe both young and old, Dodge said.
“It’s about changing your body to change the world. Connecting to that flow; that thing that excites us and inflames our passion. It comes and goes,” he said. “It is a force you cannot own, but it is a force you can channel. It is your chi.”
The Chiropractic Zone is at 2812 E. Meinhold Road in Langley.
The Barefoot Sensei: 6 -7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 22.
This is the third year that the Chiropractic Zone has hosted monthly dialogues with local South Whidbey authors, artists, healing art
practitioners and innovators in the field of transformation.
Events are always from 6 to 7 p.m. on the last Tuesday of the month, and help to support local nonprofits.
All events are by suggested donation of $10-$15, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds. Talks take place at the Chiropractic Zone, at the Sears House in Bayview, unless otherwise noted. The events are audio recorded and are available for listening; here.
Proceeds from February’s event will go to Langley Community Garden to help pay for the construction of a hot house.South Whidbey Record Arts & Entertainment, Island Life Patricia Duff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (360) 221-5300.