Faculty and Advisory Panel

Mindfulness + Compassion Certificate Training Program

(Rev.) Andrew Blake, RP

Andrew is the Director of Program Development at Sarana Institute and along with his wife, Angie, is a co-founder. In 2010, Andrew was ordained as Buddhist Chaplain by Roshi Joan Halifax, a leader in the fields of compassion, caregiving and end-of-life. His thesis, Mindful Listening at End-of-Life, was recently published and explores the roles of mindfulness, empathy and compassion, from both neuroscience and Buddhist psychology perspectives, as skills to prevent caregiver “empathy fatigue.”

A teacher and educator of mindfulness meditation, Buddhism, End-of-Life caregiving, and his Mindful Listening work, Andrew has created training and curriculums at University of Toronto through the Applied Mindfulness Mediation Program, at Sick Kids Hospital through The Mindfulness Project, at Hincks Dellcrest Centre, as well as numerous conferences, hospitals, hospices and organizations involved in service, healthcare, end-of-life care, volunteer caregiving. In addition to his teaching, he guides individual and families at end of life and serves as an officiant at memorials and funerals. Andrew is also a Registered Psychotherapist.  www.andrewblake.ca

Lysa Toye, MSW, RSW, ExAT 

Lysa Toye is a Clinical Social Worker and Expressive Arts Therapist with a collaborative certificate in Palliative and Supportive Care. Her clinical focus for over a decade has been centred in pediatric and adult grief and trauma through the Dr. Jay Children’s Grief Centre, the Hospital for Sick Children and in her private psychotherapy practice. Lysa embraced full-time private practice in 2018 and is working increasingly with individuals living with the effects of complex trauma and dissociative disorders. She is an instructor in Wilfred Laurier University’s Death, Dying and Bereavement Certificate program and SickKids Centre for Community Mental Health’s Certificate Program in Children’s Grief and Bereavement. She is also a past graduate and current faculty in Sarana Institute’s Mindfulness and Compassion Training Program for Health and End of Life Care Professionals.  
Lysa has been engaged in contemplative life and practice in various streams of yoga and Buddhism for over two decades. Mindfulness is the foundation of her work as a psychotherapist. She is passionate about supporting people of all ages living through adversity, loss and trauma to give voice to their experiences and to discover their own wisdom and resilience. Her personal website is lysatoye.com.

Agnes Wong, MD, PhD, FRCSC

Dr. Agnes Wong is Professor of Ophthalmology, Neurology, & Psychology at the University of Toronto, and an active staff Ophthalmologist at The Hospital For Sick Children in Toronto. She is the former Ophthalmologist-in-Chief at The Hospital For Sick Children, where she was named the inaugural John & Melinda Thompson Chair in Vision Neuroscience. She is also the former Vice Chair of Research in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Toronto. In her career as a physician-scientist, Agnes has published extensively in the field of Ophthalmology and vision sciences, has travelled widely as a visiting professor and invited speaker, as well as won many research and teaching awards. 


Agnes received lay ordination as a chaplain and Dharma Holder (empowerment to teach) in the Soto Zen lineage from Roshi Joan Halifax, Ph.D., Abbott of the Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA. She completed intensive teacher training in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy with its cofounder, Dr. Zindel Segal, at the University of Toronto. Agnes is a lead faculty of the Mindfulness and Compassion Training for Health and End-of-Life Care Professionals program at the Sarana Institute in Toronto. As a surgeon and clinician, she also gives talks and runs workshops on physician well-being at many professional organizations, universities, and hospitals worldwide, to enhance physicians’ skills in mindfulness, compassion, and systems thinking.


Agnes’ literary and artistic work includes haiku poetry, photography, and translation of ancient Chinese philosophical classics (Tao Te Ching). Her work speaks to love, loss, vulnerability, healing, femininity, and spirituality—important dimensions of human existence that are often unacknowledged in our modern busy lives. Her latest books include “The Art and Science of Compassion. A Primer—Reflections of a Physician-Chaplain” published by Oxford University Press, and “Loving Presence: Visual Meditations of a Woman’s Inner Journey.”


Andrea Taylor J.D., MPS, IMTA CMT-P

Andrea Taylor is a counsellor and mindfulness facilitator, specializing in the support of professionals and caregivers suffering from moral suffering and burnout. Having experienced professional burnout, Andrea is deeply committed to helping others who are suffering to find sources of strength and resilience during difficult times.


Andrea completed the Master of Pastoral Studies program in Spiritual Care at Emmanuel College (University of Toronto) with a focus on Buddhist Mindfulness and Mental Health and she is a graduate of the first cohort of the 2-year Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program developed and taught by Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach through the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California (Berkeley). Dedicated to lifelong learning, Andrea is pursuing further graduate research work at Emmanuel College, focusing on how contemplative practices such as mindfulness and compassion build resilience and well-being among caregivers in secular and multi-faith healthcare institutions. Andrea is currently completing accreditation as an RP (Qualifying) with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO) and will be taking on counselling clients in 2022. For more information, please visit: https://mindfulcounsel.ca/.


Prior to pursuing the path toward personal wellness, Andrea practiced international tax law in the financial services industry for 15 years and is still a licensed member of the Law Society of Ontario. After years of personal meditation practice and therapeutic training, she is excited to be offering supportive practices and care to others experiencing difficult times in a professional capacity.

The Mindfulness in Nature Retreat

Angie Di Iorio Blake

Angie is a co-founder of Sarana Institute and Director of Mindfulness in Nature.  A graduate from Upaya Centre as Buddhist chaplain with Roshi Joan Halifax,  her studies engaged serving in end-of-life and environmental ministries. Through the inspiration of her late husband, Alido Di Iorio’s, vision of a healing community gathering on the land and his empowering, she carries his legacy and years of serving as the Executive Director of Gitche M’Qua Centre.

Her inspiration for developing a Youth Mindfulness and Nature Awareness program grows from her passion for growing food in her “mandala” garden, years of living off the grid and her concern for the future generations. Inspired by years of Buddhist study and practice, training and professional work in the fields of awareness through movement, including, Yoga, Pilates and Continuum, and engaging Systems approaches and Permaculture, she is passionate about building a inter-generational community.  Her vision is to support youth and adults to connect more deeply through mindfulness and nature awareness practices to their inner self and to our interconnectedness with the earth and natural world. In addition to her guiding role at the Institute, Angie is director of Sarana Springs Refuge and Sanctuary near Owen Sound, ON

(Rev.) Andrew Blake

Andrew is Co-Founder of Sarana Institute, Director of Program Development, Director of the Mindfulness and Compassion Training Program, and ongoing faculty member for the Mindfulness in Nature Program, and Retreats.

Andrew brings his rich background, knowledge, and experience into teaching the inner work of our retreat. His sessions have a foundation in his work as a Psychotherapist, Buddhist Chaplain and experienced Mindfulness Practitioner and Educator.

Andrew also pulls from his background of Indigenous teachings, specifically his time spent studying with Ven. Dhyani Ywahoo.

Maxine Iharosy

Maxine is the Managing Director for Sarana Institute, Program Coordinator for MIN and an ongoing faculty member for the Mindfulness in Nature program.

She is an Embodiment Coach in her private practice, specializing in helping women self nurture through movement and nature connection so that they can listen to their inner aspirations and lead a life with confidence.

Her studies are rooted in Yoga, Trauma Informed Somatics, Buddhist Philosophy, Deep Ecology and a curious reverence for all life.  Maxine knows the importance of strong leadership skills for the well being of everyone.

Her personal website is www.maxineiharosy.com

Natalie Howard

Natalie is a faculty member for Mindfulness in Nature at Sarana Springs. Natalie  is the founder of www.therealignranch.com— home to the Mandala Garden. She is a documentary photographer www.natyhoward.com, landscape painter and a HOPE Activist. Natalie supports the realignment of body, mind, heart and soul through a variety of workshops such as Living Raw Food Nutrition, Guided 7 Day Liquid Feasts, Shamanism, Yoga and Mandala Garden Design. Natalie’s intention is to be of service through the process of self-transformation that leads to environmental and personal awareness, self-sustainability and spiritual growth.

Goldie Sherman

Goldie is part of the Mindfulness in Nature faculty as our resident artist and master of laughter. Sarana Institute is delighted to have her as part of the team.  With over 50+ years as an artist, dancer and educator with a trove of creative gifts, Goldie sees her artistic role as an agent of transformation, where she explores with others creative methods that are playful, powerful and accessible.  “May art be in your soul and may you have no fear of expressing it,” expresses her belief that the creative process connects us to our “spiritual” power and strength.

Advisers + Support

Kim Scarrow

Kim is a volunteer and advisor for the Mindfulness in Nature (Young Adult Program) and other events at Sarana Institute.  Kim brings many skills to the Sarana community, including her training as a horticulturalist, her healing work in Traditional Chinese Medicine and her experiences supporting Indigenous rights with the Hereditary Chiefs of British Colombia. Finding refuge and strength in her study and practices in Buddhism, since meeting her teacher Lama Karma Namgyel of Bhutan, Kim commits herself to projects that lead us towards a happier and healthier life for all beings. Living near Owen Sound and close to Sarana Springs, her hands are always there to support our land-based programs.

Nancy Meyer

A past board member, Nancy now volunteers and acts as advisor for Mindfulness in Nature (Young Adult Program) at Sarana Springs. As a grandmother, Nancy is more motivated than ever to work towards alleviating climate change, safeguarding Canada’s food and water, and encouraging the movement to being in a healthy, spiritually-rooted relationship with the Earth. At Swallow’s Bridge Retreat Centre where she lives and works, Nancy pursues her interests in healthy eating, sustainable agriculture, social and economic justice, natural healing, tai chi, yoga and qigong. She served as a founding board member of Gitche M’Qua Centre, has worked at an NGO promoting social justice in Latin America, and, more recently, serves on the board of Planting Seeds of Hope and Children’s Lands, an international project that provides very young children the opportunity to ‘own’ a tiny plot of land where they are given seeds to plant and the experience of protecting and nurturing life. As co-producer of AbundanceGTA, Nancy worked on an eco-arts event drawing attention to the urgent need to preserve precious agricultural lands for growing safe, local, organic food.