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Let Nature Be a Container for Health and Healing

Embark on a journey of self-discovery and reconnect with the natural world in a way that uplifts your overall well-being. Embrace the balance of mind, body, and spirit in our Backpacking Retreat– an enriching experience that lasts far beyond our time together.

Hosted by the Living Earth School and The Nature of Mind-Body, this immersive three-day, two-night workshop is for attendees who want to learn and practice science-backed tools to incorporate resetting the mind and body into their everyday lifestyle to better their well-being

Nature is part of our identity, we are part of the natural world. Scientific evidence reinforces the substantial benefits that spending time outdoors offers us, including reducing depression, boosting happiness, regulating sleep with our natural cycles, sparking creativity, enhancing spiritual connection, improving energy levels, and so much more. The research has demonstrated that when mindfulness practices are brought into connection with nature, these health benefits multiply exponentially.

Our workshop integrates mindfulness techniques with the great outdoors, providing participants with a multi-sensory present-moment experience. This unique approach allows you to fully embrace each moment, and feel fully alive, present, and engaged in the beauty of nature.

What to expect:

This retreat will take place in the backcountry in the beautiful Saint Mary’s Wilderness, located in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains where we will explore mountain ridges, narrow valleys, and limestone-lined creeks and rivers weaving a mesmerizing tapestry of natural beauty. Join us for an unforgettable experience, surrounded by the serene charm of nature at its finest.

Participants will meet at the Living Earth School base camp in Afton, VA to finalize packing and be transported to the trailhead. We will descend 2 miles to set up base camp on day one, participate in a beautiful day hike on day two, and hike back up to the van on day three.

In addition to learning backpacking skills, participants will enjoy gentle therapeutic yoga practices, journal prompts, formal outdoor guided meditations, nature-based mindfulness activities, nature connection activities and games, nature art, daily interactive psychoeducation lectures, and SO much more. While we are immersed deep in the forest, we will have so many opportunities to connect with ourselves and the natural world around us.

What you will gain:

Participants will walk away from the experience with new tools and techniques to promote inner peace and well-being that are easily accessible and integrated into their everyday lives, including: 

  • Sense-Based Nature Connection Activities

  • Reflective Journaling Prompts

  • Therapeutic Yoga Practices

  • Personal Goal Setting

  • Evidence-Based Meditation Techniques

  • Gratitude Practices

  • Foundations of Cognitive Behavioural Theory (CBT)

  • And other techniques to regulate your nervous system

  • Introductory Backpacking Knowledge and Skills

Where you will be:

This retreat takes place in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, lush with spring wildflowers and under the canopy of native trees. All camping equipment can be rented for free for this event. All meals are vegetarian and included in the cost. 

Who should register:

This is open to all levels of backpackers. A Beginner Backpacking Zoom Call is offered 1-2 weeks before the event to help participants prepare. Gear can be rented at no cost. (Participants should be able to comfortably wear a 30-40 lb backpack and hike up to two miles in varying terrain).

Financial aid will be available as an option to participants who express an interest.

**If there are any concerns or if we would like further clarification, one of our guides may reach out to you individually prior to to start of the trip. **

Meet your guides

You will be guided by two instructors over the course of our long weekend together. Both instructors are licensed healthcare professionals, trained wilderness guides, and certified yoga instructors who bring their full heart into their work.

Jayme Vance, OTR-L, RYT, WFR, HWC

Jayme is a licensed Occupational Therapist, registered yoga teacher, certified Health and Wellbeing Coach, and experienced outdoor guide. Co-founder of “The Nature of Mind-Body,” an organization that leads transformative retreats blending modern neuroscience, evidence-based practices, nature, yoga, and mindfulness. Jayme also founded and led “Nature and Mindfulness,” a course created within the Contemplative Science Center at the University of Virginia. With over a decade of experience as an occupational therapist, Jayme has worked with diverse groups of individuals, with a specialty in oncology rehab. Combining her passions and perspective on full body health, she recently completed her coaching certification through Duke University’s Integrative Health. She has received specialty training to lead therapeutic and trauma-sensitive yoga practices. As a professional guide, she has worked for various organizations, including women’s specific adventure travel, and wilderness therapy, and has led international expeditions. Positioned at the crossroads of healthcare, mindfulness, and nature, Jayme guides individuals toward a balanced and enriched life.

Stephanie Ray, LCSW, RYT, WFR

Stephanie is a psychotherapist, yoga teacher, and outdoor guide who specializes in the intersection of mental health and nature. She has guided folks in the backcountry for over a decade in both recreational and wilderness therapy expeditions, and continues to “keep her foot in the door”. She’s worked at a yoga and mindfulness group psychotherapy practice and continues to incorporate similar modalities into her current approach to mental health. Stephanie founded, developed, and directed a non-profit wilderness therapy program that supported adopted adolescent girls who experienced significant trauma. She is certified in Poly-Vagal Somatic Therapy and has written a research paper on the neurology and physiology of PTSD and how yoga can help from a scientific stance. Steph has found healing and meaning in her profound and continued awe of nature and finds purpose in guiding others to this connection. Between her career in wilderness therapy, recreational guiding, and personal backpacking trips, she has over 2,000 days of experience in the backcountry.

Testimonials from Past Participants:

“Jayme and Steph both have wonderful energy, spirits and are great teachers and mentors. I have a lot of trust in them in the wilderness. They were very accommodating to all group needs, which is not easy in a group of 9. Everyone on the trip (in my opinion) felt like they were in a safe space to open up and explore their true self and feelings through meditations, teachings, reflections and more. The weekend was challenging, yet relaxing at the same time. They both put so much care, thought, passion and love with all they do. Jayme and Steph stand are truly amazing.”

“Jayme and Stephanie are amazing instructors and rugged outdoors people. I felt so safe and supported. Their patience and flexibility and ability to pay individual attention to everyone and small details are extraordinary. They walk their talk and are the role models I need in my life. Thank you!”

“I am actually able to effectively bring my nervous system into better balance through my practiced actions in nature. It is often easy to feel hopeless when you live in a constant state of hypervigilance, but this retreat literally gave me a new lease on life. I have reframed the way I think about my condition, and am finding myself drawn into nature now in ways I never expected. This has re-oriented my life in a profound way that I believe will last for years to come.”

Details & Registration

  • May 17-19, 2024 @ Blue Ridge Mountains, VA (FULL)

    Workshop begins on Friday at 8 am and will finish at 4 pm on Sunday

    Guided backpacking retreat where all gear, equipment, and food will be hiked into the camping spot.

  • Ages: 18+

  • $450 – Financial aid is available for this workshop. Please fill out this form and our staff will be in touch about your request.

    Registration includes all meals (can accommodate vegan and gluten-free) and gear rentals if needed (backpack, tent, sleeping pad).

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