Hear from the two Nature Immersion and Deep Listening facilitators, Matt Whitney and Jeanette Banashak, in the two videos and the podcast below.
Nature Immersion, Forest Bathing, and Spiritual Direction and Companionship with SDI
We are pleased to welcome you to join the SDI Community for this uniquely designed 6-night (arrive Sunday and depart Saturday) Journey to the woods of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.
For all spiritual directors, companions, and seekers, we invite you to spend a week immersing in nature, breathing the clean forest air, finding silence and stillness, and experience deep listening on new levels.
Dr. Jeanette Banashak is a queer and bilingual interspiritual and interreligious companion. She has a diploma in shinrin yoku (forest bathing) and guides people of all ages in nature urban immersion experiences as an act of justice, as well as is working on a piece that explores interspirituality and trees. She is the co-founder/director of The Spiritual Guidance Training Institute, an organization providing training in spiritual direction/companionship with an interfaith, interspiritual, inter-contemplative focus. Jeanette is the author of The Mindful Pilgrimage: A 40-Day Pocket Devotional for Pilgrims of Any Faith or None and a 30-Day ezine of haiga from the Camino (available on SGTI’s website). In 2018, she became a “dual pilgrim” after walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain and Kumano Kodo in Japan. Jeanette also teaches social and emotional learning and development at Erikson Institute and spiritual direction at the Graduate Theological Foundation.
Matt Whitney is the Creative Director at SDI. A certified spiritual director, he is a multidisciplinary artist and educator who grew up in the Pacific Northwest and lives in Seattle. Matt has taught retreats and courses on topics such as Pilgrimage, The Everyday Practice of Walking, and Life as a Contemplative Artist. He is an avid backpacker in the Central Cascade Mountains and makes annual treks into the Grand Canyon. He recently spent nine days walking the Chemin de Saint Jacques de Compostelle in southern France, which is where this photo was taken.
Note – depending on enrollment for this Journey, additional facilitators will be announced!
We know being in nature is good for us,
on many levels.
When we go into nature, we encounter life on a different level of being – simpler and yet richer. The constant chatter of our minds is slowed. Our senses are awakened. The air we breathe is fragranced with the scent of pine needles and the loam of the soil. Our ears are caressed by the sound of the breeze as it flutters through the leaves and the branches. Our feet connect to the earth, waiting for us to make and receive the emerging energies. Our fingers lightly sweep across the soft fir needles along the length of a branch. We pause to gently place a hand on the trunk of a tree, breathe in, and on the outbreath acknowledge a true communion. All becomes still, and for a moment it is so quiet we can hear our hearts beating – in tune to the silent rhythm of all that is around us – and we are one note being played in a symphony of Life.
As we are spiritual directors and companions, we listen deeply and consider the benefits beyond ourselves.
We recognize, and are invited into, new levels of spiritual companionship. This involves listening to the trees themselves – what are they saying? What do they want to share with us? How can we listen to the story of the trees? It involves listening to the land – the forest itself, the earth, and the air. In a time of climate crisis and much environmental stress, doesn’t the Earth too need our companionship?
We then retell the story of the trees to one another.
We reflect what has been revealed to us by the trees to our spiritual companions. And as spiritual companions, we help to create the contemplative containers that will hold these sacred stories and help to weave them into our collective Story. We hold space for the tree, the soil, and the sky. We listen for what needs to be shared. We compassionately mirror back, and we see ourselves too. We dissolve into being with all that is. There is no “us and the trees” – there is no separateness. You and I and the trees – we are one.
A Unique 7-Day, 6-Night Journey to the Blue Ridge Mountains
The Blue Ridge Mountains
The Blue Ridge Mountains are part of the Appalachian Mountain range. They extend 550 miles in the eastern United States, and include parts of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. The Blue Ridge Mountains are known for having a bluish color when seen from a distance. Trees put the “blue” in Blue Ridge, from the isoprene released into the atmosphere. This contributes to the characteristic haze on the mountains and their perceived color.
The Blue Ridge Mountains have stunted oak and oak-hickory forest habitats, which comprise most of the Appalachian slope forests. Flora also includes grass, shrubs, hemlock and mixed-oak pine forests.
About the Trees
With this SDI Journey we are able to offer reasonable pricing, with a significant Early Bird discount if you register before October 8th. We are offering standard single and double rooms in both a contemporary inn setting, as well as multi-room cabins and cottages. Bring a friend (or a few friends!) and let us know with whom you’d like to share lodgings. If four or more of you would like to reserve a cabin or cottage together, call us and we’ll work something out.
This unique Journey will offer many points of entry, and many opportunities for contemplative community. Come for rest and renewal, and you will receive it. If you need spaciousness and solitude, it will be there for you. Take long walks – either with a spiritual companion, or not. Learn a new contemplative tool (or several) to take home in your listening service to others. Make a few new friends and get reacquainted with old ones. Drink from the expansive contemplative wells of nature immersion and spiritual companionship.
This space is created for you.
Designed for spiritual companions
Designed by spiritual directors and companions, for spiritual directors and companions, this Journey retreat is sure to nourish, restore, and intimately connect you to Nature, Contemplative Community, and the Essence of your very Being.
"The first time I did Forest Bathing, I was like, oh, this is Spiritual Direction."
- Jeanette Banashak
Get to know Jeanette and Matt (who are good friends) a little bit via listening to this previous podcast episode from a couple of years ago, in which they discuss walking, pilgrimage, and spiritual companionship.
A Sample Day Plan
Subject to change, but to give you a sense of how we envision a day might be structured.
morning contemplative practice – meditation, yoga, outdoor sit
morning program: forest bathing
rest, walk, creativity, intentional community building in various groups
campfire, drumming, creativity, reflection
evening ritual, dedication
About Kanuga Conference Center
More than a beautiful place,
Kanuga is a sanctuary for your spirit.
Established in 1928, Kanuga is a non-profit conference, retreat and camp center nestled on 1,400 peaceful acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Hendersonville, NC. Kanuga’s historic setting features a 30-acre lake, 20 miles of hiking trails and full-service meeting and lodging facilities. Kanuga is a year-round sanctuary for your spirit.
Stay in an historic 1900s cottage or in a more contemporary inn room, enjoy hearty meals, and soak in that special peace and awe found only in nature.
Kanuga is located just south of Historic Downtown Hendersonville in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, easily accessible whether you are driving or flying. For a complete list of transportation options, click here.
Optional Activities Available
(Note – it is the responsibility of the individual to inquire, register, and pay any additional charges associated with optional activities – call (828) 692-9136 for information)
Travel and Information
If you have any questions regarding directions to Kanuga, email [email protected] or call 828-692-9136.
Kanuga is easily accessible via Interstates 26, 40 and 85 as well as via US Highway 25. If this is your first visit to Kanuga and you will not be using a GPS, we recommend using these directions.
Interstate 26 East (from Asheville and I-40)
- Take exit 49-B on US-64 W/Four Seasons Blvd into Hendersonville. Continue for 2.3 miles.
- Turn left on N. Church Street (South Business 25) and drive nine blocks.
- Turn right on Kanuga Street (becomes Kanuga Road) and following for 3.75 miles.
- Turn right on Kanuga Lake Road.
- Proceed to the Conference and Retreat Center.
Interstate 26 West (from South Carolina and I-85)
- Take exit 53 Upward Road toward Hendersonville
- Turn left on Upward Road, continue 2.5 miles. You will cross over US-176/Spartanburg Hwy (intersection with large Ingles Grocery) onto Highland Lake Road and proceed until the road ends.
- Driving a bus? Please avoid Little River Road and take this alternate route.
- Turn left on NC-225 South (Greenville Hwy) towards Historic Flat Rock.
- At the traffic light (just past the Flat Rock Playhouse), turn right on Little River Road and continue for roughly 4 miles until the road ends at a blinking red light.
- Turn right on Crab Creek Road/Kanuga Road.
- Take first left onto Kanuga Lake Road (watch for the brown road sign).
- Proceed to the Conference and Retreat Center.
Asheville, NC (AVL – 30 min.)
Asheville Regional Airport, located thirty minutes from Kanuga, offers service on Allegiant, US Airways, Delta and United, with daily nonstop service to Charlotte, Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Orlando and other major hubs. Taxi services and major rental car companies are available at the airport terminal. When exiting Asheville Regional Airport take a left onto Airport Road and follow the signs for I-26 East toward Hendersonville. Follow directions for Interstate 26 East.
Greenville-Spartanburg, SC (GSP – 1 hr.)
Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport, located one hour from Kanuga, offers service on Allegiant, American Airlines, Delta, Southwest, United and US Airways. Taxi services and major rental car companies are available at the airport terminal. When exiting Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport follow signs for I-85 N. Continue for 14 miles and take exit 70 to merge onto I-26 West towards Asheville, NC. Follow directions for Interstate 26 West.
Charlotte, NC (CLT – 1 hr. 45 min.)
Charlotte Douglas International Airport, located one hour and 45 minutes from Kanuga is the largest airport in the region. If flights into Asheville or Greenville-Spartanburg are unavailable we recommend Charlotte as an alternative. When exiting Charlotte Douglas International Airport follow signs for I-85 South towards Gastonia/Spartanburg. You may choose to follow I-85 all the way to I-26 West. Alternatively you can take exit 10b to merge onto US-74 W towards Kings Mountain/Shelby for 56 miles. US-74 merges with I-26 near Columbus, NC. Follow directions for Interstate 26 West.
- Follow Kanuga Lake Road for approximately 1.25 miles.
- Turn right on Kanuga Chapel Drive at the large Kanuga welcome sign.
- Follow signs for check-in continuing past the business office, tennis courts and Kanuga Lake Inn (approximately .5 mile).
- Turn left just before the Chapel of the Transfiguration.
- Check-in is in the Lobby located just to the left of The Shop at Kanuga.
Bring moderate clothing that you can layer. Include rain gear and sturdy walking shoes or boots for walking over hilly and sometimes damp terrain. It is impossible to predict, so be prepared for variable weather, aware that this is a nature immersion retreat and we will spend considerable time outside. Pack a sweater or jacket for potentially cool days and sunglasses and a hat for sunny days.
Besides walking meditations, there will be opportunities for longer walks and short hikes. You do not have to participate in the walks if mobility is an issue.
Meals are provided as part of the Journey tuition. Freshly prepared buffet-style meals are served three times a day in Kanuga Lake Lodge dining rooms. Meals are prepared using local produce as available, including herbs and vegetables grown in Kanuga’s organic garden. Vegetarian and other special diet requirements can be accommodated upon request.
Frequently Asked Questions
Forest bathing (shinrin yoku) is a series of invitations designed to awaken the senses in an intentional way and facilitate aliveness of life. Slowly and mindfully, we attune our senses in a natural setting and cultivate awareness, relationship, and appreciation for the intelligence of things both living and non-living. Forest bathing is an evidence-based practice that nurtures health and happiness through engagement with the forest or natural surroundings. Though the name was coined in Japan in the 80s, people have nourished relationships with the natural environment since the beginning. In Japan, forest bathing is a foundational practice for health and well-being and can be prescribed by a doctor.
Kanuga Conference Center, Inn & Lodging continues to follow guidelines from the CDC and the local health departments. All guest rooms are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. Every surface and touch point in the room, and its entry, are cleaned and disinfected using EPA-approved, antimicrobial products developed specifically for the use against emerging viral pathogens and novel coronavirus. Public spaces are also continuously cleaned and sanitized at a heightened frequency throughout the day.
During this Journey we will take walks through the surrounding forest, on paths and hiking trails. Our retreat center is surrounded by forests with easy access, so there is no need to walk long distances if you do not want to or if mobility is an issue. We will let you know each day, before any activity, whether there is any physical intensity involved and the level of activity required. On any given day, a participant can skip a walk. That said, you should generally be in good health for this Journey.
We have a mix of accommodations through Kanuga Conference and Retreat Center.
The Inn is comprised of traditional, hotel-style guest rooms with private bathrooms and shared balconies. Recently updated, these comfortable guest rooms are furnished with one king or two queen beds and include the following amenities:
- Some Rooms Feature Balconies
- Device Charging Station
- Complimentary WiFi
- Communal Lounges with TVs
- Bath Amenities
- Air Conditioning
- ADA Accessibility & Features, Learn More
Cottages: Ranging from one to six bedrooms, Kanuga’s charming historic cottages are an affordable option for groups and families seeking a no-frills experience. Featuring views of the lake or camp, most cottages have two twin beds per room, private bathrooms, living rooms with working fireplaces, furnished porches, and ceiling fans. Highlights of these fully winterized cottages include:
- Living Room with Fireplace
- Screened Porch
- Coffee Maker
- Complimentary WiFi
- Towels & Linens
On our registration form, you will have the option to specify your preference of accommodation – either The Inn or a Cottage. Every effort will be made to place you in your preferred option. You will also have the opportunity to specify a roommate or partner if you are signing up for a shared room.
We will be spending considerable time taking forest baths in the nearby woods. We will invite the trees to be either our seekers or spiritual directors and practice holding space for them or being held by them (all with permission). As well, our facilitators are trained spiritual directors and can offer 1/1 sessions throughout the week. And, there will be opportunities for group spiritual companionship and reflection. If you are a trained spiritual director or companion and are open to offering sessions during this Journey, let us know when you register!
All spiritual travelers are welcome on this Forest Bathing Retreat, wherever you are on your journey. You do not need to be trained in any capacity, nor do you need to offer spiritual direction or companionship. We simply ask that you be open, curious, and respectful of your experiences and the experiences of others.
No, you do not need to be a member of Spiritual Directors International to join the journey. The pricing has been set to be very affordable and competitive, and thus there is no member discount for this particular Journey.
Yes! Please contact SDI Membership Services and they will work with you on a payment plan. Please contact [email protected] or telephone 01-425-455-1565.
If you need to cancel, notice of cancellation must be signed, dated, and received in writing via e-mail or postal mail. SDI will then refund payment for services not received, minus applicable cancellation fees, according to the following schedule: Until November 15, 2022, the cancellation fee is USD$375. From November 16, 2022 to February 1, 2023, the cancellation fee is USD$750. There are no refunds after February 1, 2023.
There are no exceptions to the refund policy. We strongly suggest that you obtain travel insurance to cover financial losses from any personal emergencies or other events that require your cancellation. You are responsible for reading your policy and understanding what it covers.
Guides That Companion With You
Every SDI Journey is led by guides that are experienced both in the local landscape, history, and custom, and also as spiritual companions. Companions that listen to your story and longings with care and compassion, as they offer you deep insight into what is happening on your travel experience.
Pause. Rest. Renew.
We all need downtime. Opportunities abound to slow down, explore and pay attention, find words for the experience in poetry and creative writing, or to take a nap. Simple daily rituals call us together as a community, to share in discovery and wonder.