Fitness Friday: Get Dirty

You’ve got to get your fingers in the dirt


My ancestors, like many, were farmers, working the land for sustenance and relationship. I wonder what they felt – was their life difficult?, did they enjoy that work?, did the land respond to them?


The land connection was lost for my family as it was for many; we pursued “more civilized”, academic paths each generation, winnowing and even severing that direct tether to earth, though a few retain remnants (my dad, for example, grows tomatoes and potatoes off his back deck).


From a young age, I felt the pulse-of-something in soil and a sort-of-kinship to wildlife. I felt more at home outside than I ever inside, in classroom, or in a clinic (as a PT). What started as whisper has grown into intention and relationship: I want the interaction, reciprocity, and belonging with the earth (and the earth wants it in return). I find it in herbalism, shamanic practice, re-wilding my suburban yard (slowly), tending and upgrading my children’s elementary school garden (it’s a monarch waystation now ). A favorite saying of mine: “Dirty hands, happy heart” – I’m my best self after being outside, dirt under nails, physically labored.


And I know I am not alone.


If you go our for several hours into a place that is wild, your mind begins to slow down, down, down. What is happening is that the clay of your body is retrieving its own sense of sisterhood with the great clay of the landscape” (-John O’Donohue, Walking in Wonder)


With the pandemic’s slow down, people are feeling isolated, alone, grieving, or untethered with their disrupted lives, and where are they turning? – to the outside for exercise, for reflection, for recreation, for gardening.  I suspect they feel some semblance of connection, a needed salve for a world turned upside down.


The disconnection from earth is a wounding for many, but we can’t easily name it because no one talks about it, or it sounds “weird”, or we are so used to numbing and distracting ourselves to avoid any glimmer of un-ease, that we are unable to pin down what exactly is going on. Sadly and not surprisingly, this internal wound mirrors the external wound we inflict on the earth (pollution, deforestation, climate crisis).


What can we do? – the question that plagues many. From big picture lifestyle solutions like recycling, commuting less using your car, buying grass fed beef, to community efforts like community gardens and supporting organizations that work toward minimizing emissions and pollution, etc to inner work – finding wholeness (happier, more empathic people will naturally experience more care and concern for the earth), self-soothing through means other than excess consumption, and restoring connection to earth (spiritually – through intentional reflection of our belonging to earth and experiences of awe; emotionally – through art, meditation; physically – through green exercise and gardening).  Getting outside then and connecting to earth is a form of fitness – for body, mind, and spirit.


You’ve got to get your fingers in the dirt – a mantra on repeat.


In May, I plan to offer several free webinars through The Resiliency Institute to foster reconnection to earth – on shamanic practice, a book club reviewing the work of Stephen Harrod Buhner, and ergonomics of gardening – how to support the body’s ease while tending outdoor spaces. Watch my Facebook events for more details.


Wishing you all health and well-being and, always, time outside.



Questions for the reader?

  • What practices appeal to you to aid in reconnecting to earth?
  • If you garden, what do you tend?
  • What is growing now in your part of the world? My favorites – dandelions and violets, edible and medicinal are up here in the suburbs of Chicago. Have you used these as medicinal or edibles?


To learn more about permaculture, herbalism, or wild edible plants, please visit The Resiliency Institute at 

To learn more about nature therapy, see my post: (includes a scientific literature review and a podcast)


Written by Dr. Allison Mitch, PT (DPT), shamanic practitioner, RYT 500, and reiki master. Written content is copyright protected. Picture is from Pexels.

For more information on working with Allison, as a client or collaborator, please email at


Fitness Friday’s are posts related to concepts of well-being. More can be found on Allison’s social media pages.

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