Interview with Mr. Amos Clifford: Engaging in the healing dialogue between humans and other-than-humans

One of guest speakers of this summers´ First International Forest Therapy Days event is Mr. Amos Clifford, the founder of the American Association of Nature and Forest Therapy.  ANFT has trained and certified 384 forest therapy guides across the globe. We are honored to have Mr. Clifford speaking  at the seminar, and a guiding at the retreat. We had a chance to dig deeper into how he got started with the fastest growing Forest Therapy approaches with a certification program.

Here is an interview with him for your reading pleasure!

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“I grew up in the foothills of the mountains of Santa Barbara. The Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens were very near my home. In those days, there were no admission fees or barriers to prevent neighborhood children from playing there, so I did… a lot. Because the gardens are organized into sections that collect plants from specific bioregions, I unconsciously absorbed a lot of knowledge about plant communities and species.

In 2012, after several years of deep inquiry involving multiple vision fasts, I made a 10 year commitment dedicating the next phase of my life to bringing forest therapy into the world beyond the borders of Japan and Korea. I founded ANFT in 2012. I then spent a couple of years guiding many walks, giving workshops, and working with my mentees. I wove together many strands from my 40-year professional career to create what is now the Standard Sequence, Language of Invitation, Way of the Guide, and other
elements of forest therapy as taught by ANFT.

Photo by OC Gonzalez on Unsplash

I suppose if I had not founded ANFT I would continue to explore and teach methods of healing dialogue between humans and other-than-humans. Because embodied awareness, imaginal sense, and development of the Ecological Self are central to the work of restorative dialogue with the more-than- human world, it would have looked a lot like forest therapy.

In the years 2009-2012 I was working in restorative practices, where my interest was unusual, because I was focusing on how to use restorative dialogue to heal relationships between humans and the other-than-human species we are harming, and also the landscapes and places that sustain us all. I developed the “Aloha Ropes” technique then, which is still used in the Council of Waters and Trees workshops that ANFT provides.

I don’t have a specific hero; my intuition has long been that when we choose a hero or singular role model (such as guru, for example) we risk dis-empowering ourselves. I am aware of a being who is known to me as Coyote who has been instrumental in my path and while Coyote is not really a role model (that would be a disaster!) he is a source of inspiration and periodic humbling that is very important to me. A role model to me is anyone who has fully embodied their unique medicine and is living from a place of authenticity.

My work is not separate from my life. It’s all in nature. In fourth grade I memorized these lines by the poet Robert Frost, from his poem “Two Tramps in Mud Time” (the one that also mentions the “path less taken.):

Yield who will to their separation
My aim in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
as my two eyes make one in sigh.

That has always been my aim and I’m happy to say that now that I am in my sixties I have accomplished that, specifically through the work of forest therapy and training guides”.