Mindfulness in Nature


Please note: due to Covid-19, at this time, Sarana Institute has postponed all in person retreats until further notice.

The more we are able to attune to our inner state and surroundings with mindfulness and compassion, the better equipped we are to live an empowered life and face our fears and limitations. You are not meant to do this alone.

Read On for More Info On Our MIN Intensive Retreat


The Sarana Team is an intergenerational community. We draw from the fields of mindfulness, meditation, expressive arts, yoga, embodied movement, permaculture, holistic nutrition, deep ecology, psychotherapy, and Buddhist chaplaincy, and secular and spiritual traditions alike.

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


• 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!

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 – 32? We have been known to make exceptions here! Our curriculum is geared to best support adults going through the transitional phase of 18 – 32. 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.

MIN Weekend Retreat 2020 in inspired by our annual 6 day retreat. This focuses 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 + Self Leadership
  • BODY: Nourishment, Permaculture and Food Sovereignty
  • SOUL: Meaning Making, Vision and Purpose

MIND Mindfulness + Compassion Skills, Practice and Training

  • Learn about the origins and benefits of mindfulness practice through the lens Contemporary Mindfulness, Neuroscience and Eastern/Buddhist perspectives
  • Receive guided instruction to develop a daily practice, focused on experiencing the skills of “everyday” mindful awareness and the power of P.A.U.S.E
  • Gain insight into the nature of your inner thoughts—both the reactive, unhealthy and self-sabotaging ones, as well as those that lead you to well-being and balance
  • Practice mindful listening training with attention to how empathy effects our ability to listen, and how to develop presence so we can truly be there for others
  • Embody self-compassion through understanding how you turn away from suffering in your own life so you can more conciously address your needs

HEART Nature Awareness + Self Leadership

  • Learn to meet nature on its own terms, travel daily to your chosen Sit Spot and discover how nature provides you with space to listen to your ‘true’ voice
  • Identify, track, immerse, experience, and encounter the plant, animal, mineral, and energies of nature by exploring forest, meadow, wetland, water, and sky
  • Learn leadership skills in community by finding your style, voice, and contributions, by speaking, being heard and listening to others
  • Meet your limiting beliefs and obstacles of being in a group
  • Dig deep to uncover how intergenerational patterns manifest in your life so you can make decisions based on what is truly best for you going forward

BODY Nourishment with Food and Movement

  • 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 climate change, sustainability and well-being
  • Create and collaboarte around the joy of cooking and nourishment 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.

SPIRIT Explore Vision, Meaning and Purpose 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. 

  • Journaling, Expressive Arts and time at your Sit Spot provides space for unscripted self-reflection, where you can really practice listening to yourself
  • 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
  • Explore concepts for self understanding shared by many spiritual traditions
  • Contemplative reflection is a skill that is born from mindfulness, where you learn to listen inwardly, to cultivate greater kindness towards our limitations and weaknesses, and root into deepest aspirations and intentions.
  • Exploring a variety of ritual practices such as water and fire ceremonies, the retreat allows each participant to travel “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 that converges all our self awareness practices into one memorable night.


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