I found the week’s experiences and teachings profoundly moving and my heart has been blown wide open again. I felt like a little child opening my eyes to the pure magic of the world all around me and this feeling is still with me—soft and beautiful.
Your training program was truly extra-ordinary. Thank you, thank you, thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
I have to say my view of the guide has definitely evolved over time. I felt like I always understood the “Way of the Guide” and my role as guide, but it was not until I attended the Council of Waters and Trees in Estes Park Colorado that my understanding become evident. Amos spent some time discussing the archetypes of the guide, mentor, and healer and that took my understanding to a new level. I am still processing some of this. I have found the before my walks I check in with myself and review the importance of the “Way of the Guide” and the responsibilities that are now required of me by accepting that role.
The training and practicum has changed my life. Thank you for bringing healing into people’s life and the planet. Deeply, deeply appreciated.
I’ve been developing a direct relationship with the more-than-human world consciously since 2004, opening up to a 2-way or even multi-way communication. Since my clinical contract with my psychotherapy Institute ended in July 2015, I’ve led 1:1 Ecotherapy walks, applying the Buddhist principles learned to the 3-way relationship that formed in the sessions between myself, client and nature. Leaning into my own relationship with nature, getting out of the way and trusting that nature would support the process shaped the direction of the walks.
But still I felt something missing.
Hearing the call to join the ANFT a few years ago, circumstances didn’t align until this May.
As soon as I arrived on the Dartington Estate not knowing where I was going or where to meet anyone, I allowed my instincts to take over, and following my feet I found Amos in the chapel vicinity near the ancient Yew. He introduced me to that phenomenal being, and I knew I’d come home to my tribe. The Yew gave me the most beautiful welcome. The Way of the Guide, and the practice of Council shifted things for me.
One thing in particular has come to the fore - leadership, and the courage to step into this role, to say yes to in different ways in my life. This leadership is not about dominion over, rather reclaiming my indigeneity, and drawing from the web of interbeing, allowing a wide field of knowing to be present. My ancestral roots lie within the land I became a member of Cohort 24 in, traceable back for at least 1000 years, so I guess I was tapping into my own lineage.
Is it possible to sum up the impact of the training with words?! I struggle! I’ve had a very private intimate connection with nature through learning about the energy of nature, mainly practising with trees, but a key impact for me of the FT training is that it offers me a framework that is accessible and down to earth enough for me to share with others, who don’t necessarily have any relationship with nature, so that for one I don’t feel like a weirdo (!) , as for two with the qualification I appear to total strangers credible and professional. FT is a very concrete tool and methodology with scientific backing (satisfy the mind’s need to grasp and understand) grounded in the body and the senses, which then gives you the basis to go into the unseen, potentially spiritual connection with the more-than-human world. It allowed me step fully into what my heart longs for in terms of self expression and actualisation that otherwise would have been chastised by many in my community as “woo woo”. My language is far from polished here lol but I hope you know what I mean!
And to add to that... the training cracked my heart open. I felt safe and happy in the company of trees and other beings human and more than human, so much so that after a train ride back into the city I felt like a dinosaur walking into the real world from Jurassic Park. It took me days to come back to reality - a prolonged shekan shouyou. But that goes to say the power of the training to open our hearts and tap into the deeper layers of our being.
In my view ANFT training is a self-transformational process with a wide and heartful influence in every aspect of living. Loving yourself and all other beings in a more deeper and thruelly, gratitude way. This lead me to bring up the idea of my personal ecological self. What can I do to protect the world? This question is gaining more and more important in my life.... how to act, what to eat etc. Only people with a true deep nature connectedness lives respectfully and caring for each others for the best of every being.
What changed for me? The 6 month practicum took me into a deep relationship with myself and the more than human world. "Stuff" began coming to the surface that I had been trying to address for years and my newly deepening relationship with nature affected me deeply. No longer could things stay below the surface - hidden, but were fully seen, allowing me to see myself; my ways and my life with clarity I have never before gotten to. It was a re-birth and it keeps on going and going from one step to the next. Layer upon layer of my life getting peeled away and rising to the surface. In the outer world (there is not always such a differentiation these days), my empathy for all being awakened so very much. I now cry when I see a dead squirrel on the road near my home, hit by a car as I have been connecting with the community of squirrel in my meadow, just outside my window in the big oak tree. In the past, it was a dead squirrel on the road and I was saddened, now it's an experience of loss of a member of my community.
The ANFT training opened my eyes. There is 'before ANFT' and 'after ANFT'. I will/can never go back to that previous state (of mind/body). Everything I experienced during this 6 months journey has a direct impact on my daily life, on the choices I make, the decisions I take, the course of life I imagine, the accents, nuances, priorities and so much more. You brought this to the surface. Awakening. Now I want to 'touch' others, particularly in their superiority as mankind, to make them understand we are equal to/part of nature and animals. All answers of our existence can be found nature.
From this training I have come to notice more deeply that I am with the nature, not in the nature.. and have realized that we human beings and nature beings we are equal when entering the more than human world. That is because I walk in Finland with the tourists or visitors around the world, we truly are equal... I understand the meaning of cultural repair more deeply too. I also feel more proud to help people around the world to connect with our pure and clean nature and air... and understand how important this movement is.
I am less controlling in my behaviours in the forest and out of the forest. I find I use the way of the guide in more of my life. It is lovely and makes me feel better
I sing and laugh more now....cherishing this moment more... not having as much expectations... making art and being more gentle with my heart. More being in the moment. My confidence in my life has grown. I have faced fears and cried tears that I never thought I would: facing past trauma, facing it and being able to take in the strength that comes from the more than human world. Stepping outside my comfort zone, giving me a chance to do all the things that my heart desires to do without the extra over thought that was holding me back prior.. This training and practice has given me an opportunity to go be the truest me I've ever been to me.
Remembering has been my biggest change. Remembering that as a child I loved to be at the park most days or exploring the local fire roads. Remembering that as a young adult I had a trail guide of the Santa Monica mountains and would try a new trail every week. Remembering that my weekday day off was often spent in the Berkeley hills. Remembering that when my son was little we would go to two parks a day, explore the beach tides or hang out in the redwoods. Remembering how much I enjoyed the years of botany and wildcrafting in the Santa Cruz mountains. Remembering how ever step I take on my FT trail brings all these experiences and more to life again!
The ANFT training opened my eyes. Everything I was subconsciously, routinely caring for -as a fundamental vegetarian-, all of a sudden gained so much attention and importance that it inspired me to strive not only for human and animal rights, but also for plant rights. Topics like plant blindness, plant ethics and tree/forest protection are intertwined with the strong feelings I got touched by during the ANFT training. It revealed an additional dimension that changed my life. There is 'before ANFT' and 'after ANFT'. I will/can never go back to that previous state (of mind/body). Everything I experienced during this 6 months journey has a direct impact on my daily life, on the choices I make, the decisions I take, the course of life I imagine, the accents, nuances, priorities and so much more. You brought this to the surface. Awakening.
I didn’t know what to expect from ANFT Guide Program when I applied for it, but something inside me just kept telling me to trust and just do it. Recently it became clear to me, that training in Slovenia this year was a place where my transformation of nature connection and connection to myself started.
I spent loads of time in the nature by myself before, but never really stopped and spend time with the nature. I’m noticing that I don't want to walk fast anymore, that my senses became so sensitive and I’ve started to experience my time in the nature as unique events. There are so many things out there, which left my jaw dropping, and made me trust I have a non-human partner.
I’m learning I cannot have control over everything in order to provide my experience for everyone. And that simply witnessing and listening to myself, to someone else, to something else is really a master skill.
My creativity boosted in last few months and I stepped on a life-long learning journey. What I’ve experienced so far is, if I’m passion about something than I put a lot of energy to try to master it. And this gives me the satisfaction I need in my life.
Since I remember the exchange with people of different origins and culture was my battery for my everyday life. The ANFT international network, is something I can truly identify myself with and gives me strength, motivation to keep work locally.
Before embarking on this practice, I always felt connected to nature. I certainly spent a lot of time there—it was always my refuge, the place I went to find peace and perspective. Yet through the deepening of my relationship to more than human world, the practice of forest therapy has shown me how relatively shallow that connection actually was. I accepted the refuge that nature provided, but there was no true spirit of reciprocity, no deeper acknowledgement or attention given to the more than human world, just a simple appreciation for what it had to offer. That level of appreciation is not nothing—but it feels like so little compared to what I have now: Love.
This deepening relationship has filled me with a more intense grief than I have ever felt before. However, that grief is combined with an obstinate hopefulness—for we do not give up on those whom we love. That hopefulness has found expression through my art, which has been greatly influenced by the new perspectives I’ve gained through the practice of forest therapy.
Changes as a result of training: Deeper connection to the human world. It’s not something I necessarily expected going in, but I feel like I’ve found a community of people with whom I can truly relate. I was astounded by the deep connections that were forged during that week of intensive training, and which have only grown since. As someone who has spent most of my life feeling rather out of place, I feel like I’ve finally found my tribe.
I have always been very demanding and hard on myself, and would ruminate for weeks when something didn't go the way I expected it to go and I would blame myself. During the first medicine walk i got a very clear message that perfection lies in the beauty of imperfection and that message came again and again during my practicum until I finally accepted that being a unique person is perfect enough. I am still demanding a lot of myself but I am also much more compassionate with myself and others. I feel very relieved and free! I have also learned to be more patient and accept that there is a right time for things to happen that is not necessarily the time I am wanting. I am still in the process of letting go control, the rope is almost cut 😊
I also had a beautiful experience with a sick tree that helped me finally feel in peace with my father's death and understand that nothing is permanent, not even death. The tree took me on a journey to see how we are all connected. I am fully and totally committed to keep doing this. I love it!!
The training ignited me to step it up and share my passion/knowledge of all things natural. Since May I worked for the city teaching nature connection to kids, for our local community college (outdoor leadership and another kids camp) and guided an Art Walk with another organization. Last week I met with a group of the Washoe tribe that could result in a possible collaboration. Thank you ANFT!!!!!
You tied up all the pieces of who I am into this simple package. I've never come home from a training before feeling so supported. When I came back home I felt 'Yeah I can do this!
It's life changing, I'm living a completely different life than before....
I really want to to thank you and the team for an amazing week. Thank you for putting into words and written format what I never could. I've been bathing in the forest, fields, and waters of Maine all my life, but now I have a practice to deepen that connection. You also helped me realize that the human connection is just as important as the nature connection. For these things, I have immense gratitude.
I thank you for this incredible solid footing, for your passion and vision. I am so proud to be part of this organization and to have earned this certification. I feel hopeful, well prepared and excited to continue.
Thank you! I have so enjoyed this training. I feel gently stretched like bread dough for the oven and rising with confidence in my practice. The support I have received has been brilliant and I cannot thank my mentor and all the training crew enough.
This is one of the most profound learning experiences of my life. I feel I was meant to follow this path. I send my deepest gratitude to Amos for his incredible vision and dedication; to our superb trainers, Ben Page, Nadine Mazzola, Vix Kyan, and Jackie Kuang, whose knowledge, kindness and authenticity were a daily inspiration; and to the diver group of new beings, both human and more-than-human, who are now part of my world.
I have enjoyed this training experience immensely. I have found my calling in life: to bring people to a place I've always loved and found incredibly peaceful...the forest!
The most profound aspect of my practicum is finding a way back to myself through my nature connection. I feel this is the path to healing land and people.
I am grateful to my fellow cohort guides and the trainers who so generously gave of their time. I am grateful to ANFT, to Amos, and all of the staff of this wonderful organization. Unlike any organization I have experienced, ANFT is a family of impassioned individuals who are devoted to helping others experience the magic and love of the forest.
Thank you ANFT for making this training available. This has been a very powerful six months me as I have deepened into my connection to the land. I am honored and excited to be able to share this work with my community.
Word's can't fully express my love and gratitude for this practice, this community. All I can do is share it with the world. The experience of learning and sharing this gift has transformed my life in ways I never imagined. I am deeply humbled and grateful. Each of you has shared your gifts and wisdom with me and I thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
My heart is full. My life has been enriched, and I look forward to sharing this practice with others.
In the Celtic Calndar, the elder is the tree which represents the period during which I'll be ending my practicum. It symbolizes the beginning in every end and the end in every beginning. This could not have been a better symbol to mark the end of this training. It is with mixed feelings that I'm approaching it: the sadness of the practicum ending, the excitement of being certified and seeing what I'll do, the fear and doubts of being a guide "on my own." But what's in my me mostly is an acceptance of the unknown and a belief that I'll keep carving the path that best suits me. Let's see where it leads!
Dear ANFT: What a 'walk' it has been! Grateful for the experience. This program brought new meaning to my life. It deepened my connection to nature, my fellow humans and all beings. Thank you all!
This has been an incredible experience, and a door-opening path. It feels like everything I felt as a child--who wandered often alone in the woods and had friends that were trees--are coming to fruition! I am excited for the journey ahead!
My training and practicum has profoundly affected my relationship to nature, and, in turn, my relationship to my art. I have been inspired to new artistic projects in ways that I could not have predicted nor imagined without the influence of my forest therapy training. Apart from anything else, that aspect alone has made the training experience invaluable to me. ”
Becoming a forest therapy guide this year has been quite the journey (understatement!).
When I arrived at Dartington Hall, Devon, the site of our training immersion, I was feeling lonely, the pain of being disconnected from friends and community.
We did a sharing circle about where we were at. Gulp. I physically shook after sharing my feelings. But I drew up my courage and spoke from the heart.
Because how else are you going to make connection?
The founder of the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy, M. Amos Clifford told me afterwards that many people feel grief about many things and it’s okay to bring grief to the sharing circles. “All is welcome here”.
By the end of the practicum, I had found a new community and made friends. I also tapped more deeply into the support of the landscape around me.
I had let go of much of the pain from losing friends and community support that came alongside leaving my job, getting divorced, and travelling a lot.
But not only did the training help me to release the past and find community, it helped me to see past my fears, with the support of my mentor Alex.
I was able to envision a new life. I was inspired to imagine. And see that my fears of coming to grief again in perspective and for what they are. A small smudge on a multicoloured, bold and vibrant canvas that is the life I am creating.
Much love to the ANFT team, trainers and my forest friends and family.
May the forest be with you - always.