Mindfulness in Nature is an immersive program for ages 18 – 30 that connects you to yourself and your surroundings, by deepening your awareness of the impact your actions have on your life, your relationships, and the earth.

Nature attunes us to another rhythm and way of being. It helps us to listen inwardly to the place where we draw upon our inner strengths and challenge our unhealthy patterns – both the patterns we’re aware of and the ones we’re not. The more we are able to attune to our inner state and then to others with compassion and empathy the better equipped we are to live an empowered life and face our fears and limitations. Being in nature can provide opportunities for young adults to discover self acceptance and ease as we learn how our anxiety and stress can reconnect us with a sense of belonging and shared humanity with others. When we add mindfulness and other awareness practices, such as deep ecology, food sovereignty, creative expression, and rites of passage, we create an even more powerful experience in connecting to our place in the greater landscape.
Questions: Maxine@saranainstitute.org Program Coordinator 519.270.7450
 August 9 – 14th, 2019   |    Chatsworth, Ontario   |   18 – 30 years | Fee: $795 *

In this Program You Will:
  • Learn Mindfulness and Compassion tools to support you living with balance:
    Do I know the difference between responding and reacting?
  • Develop compassion and confidence in facing your personal obstacles.
    Do I feel secure in myself and with my choices?
  • Experience being with the natural world off grid and unplugged:
    How often do I  tune out the digital world and tune into the outdoors?
  • Nourish yourself with nutrient dense and locally based meals:
    Is food also medicine to me? Do I take time in preparing and eating?
  • Find a space of non judgment and self acceptance:
    How can I be present even when the present moment is difficult?
  • Illuminate your process with an optional all night inner quest and fast:
    Do I dedicate time to reflect and gain clarity?
  • Be with like-minded people who root for you:
    Do I feel empowered and strong in myself with others?
    *Fee: $795 was $1450 | Program Fee REDUCED thank you to our donor generosity!!! Payment plans are available. Fee includes all meals and manual. Does not include transportation to and from Sarana Springs.

  After you make the commitment to register, your journey begins. Register Now.

Program Location at Sarana Springs near Chatsworth, Ontario.

This program is outdoors based. Need camping gear? Contact Maxine.

Sarana Springs is approximately a 2.5 hour drive from Toronto, north of Markdale and south of Owen Sound, located on 171 acres of sprawling wilderness, wetland, and meadow.

From Toronto: Greyhound buses are available and a pickup from Owen Sound can be arranged.


Mindfulness in Nature at Sarana Springs:  

Sarana Springs, on 171 acres of meadow, mixed wood, red pine and cedar forest, ponds, a small lake and abundant fresh water springs with adjacent wetland, supports us to engage or discover what is truly in our hearts. The natural world provides the perfect environment for turning our attention inward. With guidance, you gather new inner resources and wisdom and gain the confidence to reach your potential, which isn’t easy. As Young Adults from ages 18-30 years, you stand at the most important threshold of your lives—finding out who you are and what your gifts are. This program gives you a structure that provides you with mentorship, mindfulness training, emotional resiliency, compassion, and insights to strengthen your acceptance of not only who you are on the inside but who want to become in out in the world.

What you see determines how you interpret the world, which in turn influences what you expect of the world and how you expect the story of your life to unfold. -Sheena Iyengar

Building a stronger relationship within yourself, seeing who you are and the ways you react to life, begins with slowing your mind and body down. Through the skills of mindfulness training, you learn how to let go and relax, how to P A U S E , by grounding yourself into your five senses. And especially you learn how to deal with your sixth sense, your own mind and with its crazy thoughts. And one more thing, you will learn not to believe all of them! Our leadership training program includes daily guided instruction in developing everyday mindfulness practice skills, and the development of self awareness and self insight: our ability to notice, observe and reflect on our thoughts, be they positive or negative. This intentional awareness builds greater presence and acceptance—less self-judgment, criticism, and loathing—within and towards the world around us.

Presence is a dynamic and fluid sense of being fully present in body, mind and heart and knowing it. -Janice Marturano, Founder, Institute for Mindful Leadership

In mentoring young adults, it begins for us with us knowing you are an adult and that you’ll be seen this way. Our inter-generational faculty brings the wisdom of both younger and older teachers, where each one of us is learning from the other, and where you can learn to value your gifts and/or obstacles and what they bring and teach you in your life.  The program draws from a diversity of perspectives, including Indigenous, Eastern Buddhist, and Western spiritual views of initiation and awakening.

Like the Hero/Heroine’s Journey in any tradition, each must discover the face you show the world and the one you hide, escape, avoid and deny.  Stepping in nature, it asks us to be real and also to face our fears. Nature reveals itself to us; but only as we listen and become silent, do we realize we are the ones being watched.

Gain insight into your own story:
  • What works, what doesn’t and what are you willing to change?
  • Are you seeking connections with other like-minded people?
  • Do you feel caught in old, unhealthy habits and paradigms?
  • What tools do you need to meet both your personal and our collective challenges?
  • Are you concerned about the environment, the state of our world, and your own well being?
Belonging, connection, and community are core to our human experience; it’s not enough to do it alone.


The Sarana Team  is an intergenerational community who draw from the fields of mindfulness, meditation, healing + expressive arts, yoga, embodied movement, permaculture, holistic nutrition/cooking, deep ecology, psychotherapy, chaplaincy,  and end-of-life, where we draw from secular and spiritual traditions alike, including Neuroscience, Systems Theory, Buddhism and Indigenous Wisdom.

Left to Right: Andrew Blake– Lead Teacher, Angie Di Iorio Blake– Program Director, Maxine Iharosy – Program Coordinator, Goldie Sherman – Supporting Faculty, Natalie Howard – Supporting Faculty

A unique four part curriculum for  full circle learning and integration

Being in nature-living, camping, swimming, hiking, and deep listening–deepens our sense of interconnection with a wider sense of the world.  Gradually, we notice that we are part of something larger, something that connects us into our wholeness. Nature attunes us to another rhythm and helps us to listen inwardly, where we draw on our inner strengths, ones we may not have been aware of. It provides  opportunities for youth and young adults to discover the strengths we can draw from being in the natural world and reconnects with a sense of belonging and finding meaning in relationships. When we add mindfulness and compassion practices, and other awareness practices, such as deep ecology, food sovereignty, creative expression, and rites of passage, we create an even more powerful experience in connecting to our place in the greater landscape of all beings.  
Our Minfulness in Nature training skills are divided into four main areas:
  • MIND: Mindfulness + Compassion:  Skills, Practices & Training
  • HEART: Nature Awareness + Leadership: Self Awareness, Mindful Listening, and Communing with Nature
  • BODY: Food Sovereignty, Permaculture + Deep Ecology: gardening, yoga, hiking, swimming
  • SOUL: Vison + Meaning Making:  Journalling, Expressive Arts, and Ritual

Mindfulness + Compassion Training                                            

“For me, the most compelling thing about compassion and kindness is how they bring purpose to our life…Having purpose in life turns out to be one of the crucial factors of personal happiness, and it even affects our longevity.”
-Thubten Jinpa, PhD, Author, A Fearless Heart: How the Courage to be Compassionate Can Transform Our Lives
Bringing mindfulness and compassion training into the program will give participants skills to calm their minds and to explore their relationships with their mind and body, learning how to skillfully handle difficult emotions and thoughts, and to direct and sustain attention, cultivate compassion, and to deepen our ability to communicate authentically with one another.
  • Learn about the origins and benefits of mindfulness practice through the lens Contemporary Mindfulness and Eastern/Buddhist perspectives;
  • Receive guided instruction and develop a daily practice, focused on experiencing the skills of “everyday” mindful awareness and the power of P A U S E , bringing your awareness home into the present moment;
  • Gain insight into the nature of your inner thoughts—both reactive, unhealthy and negative ones as well as those that lead you to well-being;
  • Engage mindful listening training with attention to how empathy effects our ability to listen, and how to develop presence, or fully being with another, and authentic communication with others;
  • Embody self-compassion through understanding how we turn away from suffering and how can apply the actions of kindness towards oneself, thereby opening our caring towards others.

Nature Awareness + Self Leadership Training

“The secret to creating inspired change in yourself and your community isn’t to simply push harder and work yourself into the ground. It’s to stop and listen.  There’s a deep intelligence, purity, and wisdom in the space before thoughts, where confidence is abundant, clarity emerges…and creativity occurs effortlessly.” -Centre for Nature and Leadership http://natureleadership.org/collective-vision/
Nature-awareness practices are skills gained through living and being in nature, but also by encountering the natural world on its own terms and by learning the skills of observation, identification, and overcoming our fears and discomfort.
  • Learn to meet nature on its own terms, travel daily to your chosen “sit spot” and discover how nature provides you with actually space to listen to your “true” voice and contemplate your “protector” voice;
  • Identify, track, immerse, experience, and encounter the plant, animal, mineral, and energies of nature by exploring forest, meadow, wetland, water, and sky;
  • Face our natural fears of nature and its beings through supportive encounters with nature and being alone with our thoughts;
  • Learn leadership skills in community by finding your style, voice, and contributions;
  • Meet your limiting beliefs and obstacles in being in a group, which includes our family of origin issues.

Nourishment, Permaculture & Food Sovereignty                                           

“Organic gardening and ecological farming is rooted in and encourages local stewardship and protection of land and water resources; it works in harmony with natural ecosystems to sustain diversity, complexity, and real health in the garden and in the wider community. “
-Wendy Johnson, From Seven Gardening Principles That Will Permeate Your Life https://www.ecoliteracy.org/article/seven-gardening-principles-will-permeate-your-life
An important element of food sovereignty is giving our youth resources in meeting the challenges of climate change and addressing our relationship with globalization of food, i.e., where does our food comes from?  You will learn about your relationship with food, not only by spending time in the vegetable garden, weeding, planting, building soil, harvesting food, etc, as well as learning cooking and food preparation skills.
  • Study about the garden in a permaculture-designed mandala garden and work in the vegetable evolution from compost, soil, seed, weed, cultivation, and harvest;
  • Engage in daily movement rituals inspired by Yoga and Qi Gong, facilitated by instructors on staff
  • Consider our current food crisis world-wide and how our relationship to food is intimately connected to global warming, sustainability and well-being;
  • Create, prepare and collaborate in finding the “joy of cooking” and food preparation while exploring vegetarian, vegan, raw, and international cuisines
  • Consider how the “four elements” that make up life—Earth, Water, Fire and Air—can sustain life or can destroy life, depending on our relationship with them.

Meaning-making, Vision, and Purpose

“Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.”
-Terry Tempest Williams http://www.coyoteclan.com
An integral element of the program is building our relationship to our purpose and then joining with community, fostering mentorship, relationship and friendships, as well as embracing cross-cultural ceremonies and the arts.
  • Working with journal and expressive arts practices and spending time at our “sit spot” in nature, we will journey around the traditional medicine wheel exploring the five elements–earth, water, fire, air, and space–where we explore these elements both as emotions and states and as forces of life
  • Contemplative reflection is a skill that is born from mindfulness, where we learn to listen inwardly, where we cultivate greater kindness towards our limitations and weaknesses, and where we root ourselves in our deepest aspirations and intentions.  The hero/heroine goes out into nature to find their gift, they may even fast or stay up all night “praying for a vision.”
  • Exploring a variety of ritual practices such as water and fire ceremonies, the program allows each participant to travel a “full circle” in learning who they are and what it may take to become the person they wish to be.
  • Experience an optional ‘Inner Quest’ as an all night self-reflection at your ‘sit spot’ or by the fire circle. This Inner Quest is a symbolic and transformational evening; converging all our self awareness practices into one memorable night.
What’s a typical Mindfulness in Nature day?
This program gives you a structure that provides you with mentorship, mindfulness training, emotional resiliency, compassion, and insights to strengthen your acceptance of not only who you are on the inside but who want to become in out in the world.


  • 7:00 – 8:00 am: Morning Practice   –    intention setting, grounding, and waking up through mindfulness practice in the Temple Barn or out on the trails
  • 8:00 – 9:00 am: Breakfast    –   make your own, all the necessities there for you (oats, bread, coffee, fruit etc)
  • 9:15 am – 9:30 am: Morning check in with the group
  • 9:30 – 12:30 pm: Morning Session
  • 12:30 – 1:00 pm: You time before lunch. Time to hop in the spring fed lake, take a walk, or just have a rest
  • 1:00 – 2:00 pm: Lunch is served. Think nutrient dense and locally sourced with an abundance of summer flavour!
  • 2:00 – 5:45 pm: Afternoon Session
  • 5:45 – 6:15 pm: You time before dinner. Time to integrate the afternoon’s session, clear the body with some movement like yoga by the lake, or cool off with a swim!
  • 6:15 – 7:30 pm: It’s dinner time! Lightweight, easy to digest, full of local flavour
  • 7:30 – 9:00 pm: Easy going evening teachings around a camp fire. Including music making, story telling, drumming etc. This is rest and digest time.



Past Participants Have Said They Felt: Empowered, inspired, self aware, confident, loved, connected, supported, heard, seen, motivated, enriched, well-fed!
“I started a daily meditation practice as a result of this program, and it has helped me tremendously. If I hadn’t attended, I probably would never have taken meditation seriously, and would probably have abandoned it when it got difficult. I also find that I pay much more attention to nature when I am outside, and notice things I would otherwise have missed. I always used to spend lots of time outside, but I would crash around in the woods without much observation or attention to detail; I now purposely try to walk quietly, not disturb the silence, and take everything in. I notice so much more, and feel much more relaxed and at peace.” -Tommy

“(My takeaways from this program are) I don’t need to wait until I’m a ‘perfect person’ to offer myself to the world…Positive words I was told from faculty (continue to) resonate in my mind.” – Alexandrina

“My main takeaway right now is analyzing ancestral habit patterns more deeply. Seeing how those patterns are playing out in my life and cultivating compassion towards myself and my relatives who are dealing with these patterns. Understanding that these patterns are super deep and will take much effort to work through. They aren’t just simple decisions to make to stop doing something that’s been happening for many generations.” -Simon

Blogs & Articles about Mindfulness in Nature:


Cooking the Young Adult Program: by Angie Di Iorio & Andrew Blake

To be well, to enjoy living a life with meaning, and to be aware and present in meeting this world’s challenges, we need to look carefully at each ingredient, understand what is needed and combine all of them into nourishment.


Seeds of the Youth Program: by YAP Director Angie Di Iorio Blake

“Gardening is about awareness and relationship—consequential relationship. It’s also about taking a stand and standing by your principles. At the same time, it’s about giving up control and learning from your mistakes…Meditation and gardening settle [us] down into the deep core of the present moment, they also shift shape and take on the world in…



Sacred Action Through the Young Adult Program: by Natalie Showfield Howard

Now is the time to act and bring forth mindfulness education, reconnection with nature, reconnection with the power of food, and reconnection to each other for all life is interconnected! For throughout my journey I have discovered that what I do for or to you, eventually comes back to me.



It’s no doubt we live in times of dire consequences amounting to turbulent climate change, anxious populations, and the loss of lineage through species decline to name a few. There is a feeling I get though, when in the company of trees and sky, and other humans who have been softened by the teachings of nature…