Mindfulness in Nature

Mindfulness in Nature | a 6-day Retreat

2020 dates TBA: click here to get on the wait list

In the busyness of every day life, it’s SO easy to get distracted, anxious, and completely overwhelmed about how to lead your life. It feels like there’s an infinite amount of choices to make; what career path should you take, what school to attend, where you should live, work, travel, eat, who you should spend your time with, and the list goes on and on…and on. On top of this all, you want to be more enviornmentally conscious, but you don’t know where to start, or you feel isolated and uninspired. You want to take better care of yourself and the planet but it feels like there is no time to reflect and no room to make simple changes.

Being in nature—living, camping, swimming, hiking—deepens your sense of interconnection with the world around you. And more importantly, it gives you a chance to disconnect from your racing thoughts, relieve your anxiety, and tune into how you want to live. The more we are able to attune to our inner state and to our surroundings with mindfulness and compassion, the better equipped we are to live an empowered life and face our fears and limitations.

Mindfulness in Nature runs in August. We are located at Sarana Springs near Chatsworth, Ontario. Approximately a 2.5 hour drive North from Toronto. Full location details shared after registration.

For 6 days and 6 nights you will become immersed in Nature on our beautiful acreage right here at Sarana Springs. Surrounded by 170 acres of meadow, mixed wood, red pine and cedar forest, ponds, a small lake and abundant fresh water springs with adjacent wetland, you will discover what is truly in your heart. The natural world provides the perfect environment for turning your attention inward. With the guidance of our skilled faculty members and community mentors, you will gather new inner resources and wisdom and gain the confidence to reach your potential. Deep connection to self, other and the environment are core to the human experience — community makes this happen!

• Learn Mindfulness and Compassion tools to support you living with balance

• Develop compassion and confidence in facing your personal obstacles

• Experience being with the natural world off grid and unplugged

• Find a space of non judgment and self acceptance

• Nourish yourself with nutrient dense and locally based meals

• Illuminate your process with an optional fast and all night inner quest in the outdoors

• Be with like-minded people who root for you and support your growth

The Sarana Team is an intergenerational community. We 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 Instructor, Angie Di Iorio Blake – Program Director, Maxine Iharosy – Program Coordinator, Goldie Sherman, Natalie Howard 

Find your Self in the Wild and Register Now.


• All meals. Locally catered or prepared by us from the permaculture garden. • Our loaded Mindfulness in Nature Manual to keep you inspired and resourced. • Easy to create and nutrient dense recipes to take home • 5 nights of camping on the land, off-grid with solar showers


• Transportation to and from. We will help connect you with other participants to carpool. • Camping equipment. Though we will help you find some to borrow!


$1450 now only $795 thanks to the generosity of our donors. Payment plans are available. Contact Our Program Coordinator, Maxine to ask for more details: maxine@saranainstitute.org

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.

Frequently Asked Questions: 

Do I have to between the ages of 18 – 30? We have been known to make exceptions here! Our curriculum is geared to best support adults going through the transitional phase of 18 – 30. Please contact us and fill us in on your situation. We also have more programs to support a diversity of ages – see here.

I don’t have a tent. Can I borrow camping equipment? Yes! Please contact maxine@saranainstitute.org to set something up.

I don’t think I can afford this all at once. Do you do payment plans? Yes! Maxine will help you out. We require a minimum of $200 as a deposit. From there on we arrange a schedule for payment and assist you as much as we can in the process.

What happens if I register and something comes up? Is there a cancellation policy? Yes! Click here to view all of Sarana Institute’s cancellation policies.

I have no way to get there. Do you arrange pick up? We do not arrange long distance transportation for participants but we will do everything we can to support carpooling. Should you need to arrive by bus we can arrange a pick up at the Owen Sound terminal.

I have a restricted diet, intolerances or allergies. Will I be taken care of? Absolutely. Many of our participants have attended with dietary needs specific to lowering inflammation. Our caterer is known for her creativity in specializing menus for allergen friendly meals. Our menu is not strictly vegan or vegetarian but we provide many options for plant powered proteins. We also utlizie the permaculture garden on site. Ingredients are are fresh and vibrant as possible.

How off-grid are we talking? What if I need to use my phone? There are some areas on the property with cell reception. During free time on the schedule you are able to make calls. There is no wi-fi on site. We encourage a digital detox but absolutely will not restrict your need to contact someone.

What do I need to bring? Upon registration we will send you a list of what is needed along with a reminder in our official welcome letter in July. Long answer short: whatever you personally need to be camping for 5 days knowing that all your meals will be taken care of.

I hate bugs. Are there bugs? Yeah. There’s bugs. The best remedy is layered clothing, bug spray, and patience.

What is the daily schedule like? Do I have free time? You will have free time. Within our schedule you will also be going on solo hikes or visits to your ‘sit spot’ – a place in nature you return to each day for contemplations. Here’s an example of a day at Mindfulness in Nature:

7:00 – 8:00 am: Morning Mindfuless Practice 8:00 – 9:00 am: Breakfast 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 1:00 – 2:00 pm: Lunch 2:00 – 5:45 pm: Afternoon Session 5:45 – 6:15 pm: You time 6:15 – 7:30 pm: Dinner 7:30 – 9:00 pm: Evening Session

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.

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 Retreat teaches these skills:
  • 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.Testimonials:
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