Faculty + Support

Mindfulness + Compassion Certificate Training Program

(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 Retreat, and Meditation Retreats.

He is a Buddhist Chaplain and Registered Psychotherapist.

Lysa Toye

Lysa Toye is an Expressive Arts Therapist and Master’s-trained Social Worker with a collaborative certificate in Palliative and Supportive Care, and has worked in pediatric and adult health, mental health, and palliative care settings for over a decade.  She has also been engaged in contemplative life and practice in various streams of yoga and Buddhism for 2 decades. Lysa works as a counsellor and psychotherapist with the Dr. Jay Children’s Grief Centre and in private practice, and is a past graduate and current assistant in Sarana Institute’s Mindfulness and Compassion Training Program for Healthcare Professionals.  She is passionate about supporting children, youth, adults and families living through end of life, grief and trauma to grieve, grow and give voice to their experiences through mindful creativity, art, ritual and the natural world.

Agnes Wong, MD, PhD, FRCSC

Dr. Agnes Wong is Professor of Ophthalmology, Neurology, and Psychology at the University of Toronto, and an active staff Ophthalmologist at The Hospital For Sick Children in Toronto. Dr. Wong is the former Ophthalmologist-in-Chief at The Hospital For Sick Children, where she held the inaugural John and Melinda Thompson Chair in Vision Neuroscience for 10 years. 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, Dr. Wong has published extensively in the field of Ophthalmology and vision sciences, travelled widely as a visiting professor / invited speaker, and won many research and teaching awards.
Agnes is currently a chaplaincy trainee at the Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, USA. She is a facilitator in the Mindfulness & Compassion Training for Health and End-of-Life Care Professionals program at the Sarana Institute in Toronto. She completed Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy Teacher Training Intensive. Dr. Wong’s current work focuses on physician well-being, integrating mindfulness, compassion, and reflective practices as tools for physicians to maintain and enhance their own well-being, as well as to effect system-level change.

Monica Branigan, MD

Monica Branigan is a palliative care physician providing psycho-social-spiritual support to patients and families at home. She is an associate professor in the Division of Palliative Care at the University of Toronto. With over thirty years of practice, she has a rich clinical and teaching experience. Her mindfulness training includes the Metta End of Life Practitioner Program and MBCT.  Monica is a valued guest faculty member for the Sarana Institute Mindfulness & Compassion Training Program for Health Care Professionals offered in partnership by Sarana Institute and the SickKids Hospital Mindfulness Project.

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 Administration for Sarana Institute and Program Coordinator for retreats, and our Mindfulness in Nature program.

She serves as an embodiment mentor, specializing in helping other women to 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 strongly rooted in 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 work in MIN is in encouraging the relationship between inner and outer environments, and educating in nature awareness. 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.