Let Thy Food Be Thy Medicine

An invite to join Menzi & Simone from 6 – 9 December, 2020 at Dharmagiri Sacred Mountain Retreat, Underberg, KZN (details below), for a retreat focused on Medicinal Plant Based Food Making & Sharing, that includes the following:

Vegan Food Making Workshop
Mountain Meditation Walks
Tea Ceremonies
Vegan Baking
Cave Exploration
Herbal Cleansing.    

Let Thy Food Be Thy Medicine
by Menzi Mbonambi & Simone Carolissen
Dharmagiri Kitchen managers and vegan cooks extraordinaire

The use of food as medicine is an ancient practice that has been shared by diverse cultures and creeds the world over. Civilisations have sustained good health and maintained well-being  by raising their awareness about the use and consumption of medicinal plant foods as a tool for attaining high consciousness and longevity.

Our work is the continuation of this ancient tradition, inspired by the Great Ones whom connect us through a primordial thread of wisdom.  Food is our primary source of energy, moreover ; mindful consumption ensuring  continued evolution of the human race.

The Dharmagiri duo, Simone and Menzi, have been using food as a medium of communication and a tool for breaking barriers. Simone articulates how she finds joy in using food as a means to stimulate nostalgia and a sense of belonging.

When you arrive at Dharmagiri,  we  offer  you  a unique opportunity to experience a  holistic, plant-based lifestyle supported by pristinely beautiful surrounds, deeply nourishing meditation guidance and peaceful silence; all held in the bosom of Mvuleni Sacred Mountain.

The medicine found in plant foods works to transform  the body and mind, the physical and the spiritual dimension, to support the manifestation of our spiritual heart -forms. It is a complete body “work out”.

Menzi believes that the process of “returning to root”, also includes a repatriation of heart-mind to its cultural and natural heritage. Menzi observes this intersection, with access to indigenous plant-foods and crops. “The land forms such a large part of our being and expression of being that it is imperative that we, the people rebuild and heighten our  connection to the land.”

That journey begins with the tongue”, says Simone. The mouth is where we remember. Word –sound power bellows and breathes. It is where our favourite childhood smells, tastes and memories are softly held. And it is the place from where our truths are spoken into manifestation. We believe that there is a natural mystic cultivated when cooking and sharing food. It becomes a vital source of cultivating this good and healing energy.

Our meals are made with great thoughtfulness and consideration of the retreatants needs and comfort during the guided meditation time and resting. The use of indigenous herbs and plant medicines remain integral as a catalyst for deep healing. Some of the herbs we use and grow is lavender and rosemary – powerful for its calming and deep relaxation effects. These herbs support stillness and act as energy clearing agents. “This is a simple, yet effective way that we utilise herbs for full body healing.”

The team also sources natural medicine from around the country and have a deep appreciation for indigenous herbs from the Cape.  There are many other herbs we use in the kitchen, fresh herbs from the garden and surrounding community,  used in our cooking. Other favourites include the use of Buchu, Echinacea Root and Moringa as potent herbs for tea-making and drinking.

Our passion for food, culture, people and deep spiritual growth is allowed to flourish and bloom in this majestic setting. Dharmagiri inspires a child-like innocence of mind and heart that is creatively nurtured to produce a playfully inspired plate of nourishment.   

Our offering includes:  Indigenous African plant-based cuisine, Herbal tea-ceremonies, Vegan picnics,  Cave exploration, story -telling, plant-based cakes and pastries, Indigenous knowledge and medicine making, food planting, herb growing.

Everyone is equal around a table. Sharing and fellowship flourish whilst friendships bloom. Wonder and gratitude envelop joy-filled hearts. Remembrance and unlearning dancing on delicate palettes. Unanimity found in each morsel of familiar taste and texture.

Love is in beginning of everything. Care is the keeper of everything. Passion is the driver of everything. Will is everything. Together we are everything and everything.

An ancient soul, manifesting as one of the creative attributes of the universe. Giving life to the lifeless and creating from nothingness to something
.MenziMZI live as an artist, decipher melodies from the celestial realms. The mountain is my home, I always feel a deep connection, I believe there is a higher purpose concerning feeling, hence most of my inspiration descends the mountain. Meditation and drinking from the ancients springs and rivers is my delight.

Food is my medium and medicine for healing and life sustenance, I am a student still, ever willing to learn old and new ways of human interactions. I am looking forward to life at dharmagiri , meeting people from around the world exchanging life experiences it is an exciting adventure. An ancient soul, manifesting as one of the creative attributes of the universe. Giving life to the lifeless and creating from nothingness to something.


Eco-warrior. Inter-dimensional traveller. Truth Seeker. Serial tea-drinker. Lover of life andSSimoneC all things beautiful. Inspired by the journey of teaching and learning, I remain teachable and prepare others to be taught. I am especially fond of working with young people, mentoring and facilitating workshops . Marvelling at the world and deliberating its challenges occupies much of my heart space. In between visioning a better quality of existence for all, I can be found baking indulgent plant-based treats or hosting herbal tea ceremonies!

I believe in the healing power of food as medicine, the meaningful friendships that arise from food fellowship and the strength that lies in reclaiming personal health and well-being. The universe continues to embrace me with grace and gratitude, for which I feel deeply entrusted to reciprocate love and care to all living beings. The journey to Dharmagiri fulfils a life-long passion to live and learn from the land; I endeavour to serve and protect its majesty.



Testimonials to Menzi & Simone 🙂

“Stop blowing my mind with every single meal! Wow! Thank you.”

“Thank you for all the love, details and bursts of flavour you guys put into our nourishment.”

“You are soon talented! You amaze me with every meal! Thank you both so much!”

“Thanks, that was delicious! Loved the non-rotes and spicy curry… and the “custard” – yum!”

“Words cannot describe how blessed and grateful I feel for eating your delicious food. The colours, textures, the flavours are truly sublime. Thank you so much! x”

“You two are amazing. That was a taste sensation! Everything so delicious. Your live shines through. Much gratitude for such care + nourishment.”

“That was a lovely + fun lunch! Thank you for delicious food… falafel + tzaziki… great bowl idea! Thank you :)”

“My deepest gratitude”

“This food has inspired me and shall leave an indelible imprint on me forever.”

“I’m not sure if the OMG acronym is appropriate on a retreat like this but OMG! From yesterday to today the food is so delicious & so nourishing. I am in awe & so much respect! Thank you- for bringing plant-based food alive. P.S. for someone who has to watch her insulin, the pea flour Rotti stole the show for me. Much love”


Reflections on Mandaza’s “Understanding Our True Connection with Nature” Retreat


The theme for this retreat was: understanding our true connection with nature.  What emerged from the experience for me was not so much ‘understanding’ as waking up to a living oneness with nature – of being gently reabsorbed into nature –  the sense of separation between ‘me’ and ‘nature’ softly fading away and being replaced by a vivid sense of oneness, of belonging, of being of the same fabric.  Something perhaps like Thich Nhat Hanh’s ‘interbeing’ including all and everything.  Mandaza spoke of it as the great spider web of Spirit that interconnects everything in the universe.



On reflection it seems to me that this sense of separation is something that we unconsciously create when we withdraw from an active relationship with the abundance all around me – because it was through consciously engaging with this abundance that the vibrant sense of oneness sprang out of its dormancy and into life.

On the first day of the retreat we were awakened to the earth.  We sat outside on the rocks and grass in the beautiful spaces cleared by Martin, beside the stream flowing and babbling down from the mountain, and were asked to identify all the other communities present there with us: the grasses, mosses, flowers, trees, soils, minerals, insects, mammals, birds – in the earth, on the earth, above the earth.  Our group identified over 70 within a very short time.  We looked at just some of their roles and contributions to the web of life.  In simply bringing this to mind, an awareness of the abundance of interconnected support all around us arose together with an awareness of our forgetfulness as humans – of our dismissive disregard for all that gives and supports our life  when we imagine ourselves to be separate and superior.  We blindly blunder on in our arrogance, caring little for the source of our lives or for the wellbeing of future generations.


This led to a lot of discussion about how this way of conceiving ourselves leads to such flagrant abuse and destruction of that upon which we depend for our lives and wellbeing.  Mandaza spoke of all that we receive from the earth and how the earth receives all our waste, transforming it into fertile life-sustaining nutrients.  He asked how often we say ‘thank you’ to the earth, how often we give back to the earth by seeing, feeling, noticing, appreciating, tending and caring for the earth and all her communities?  Later in the day we were encouraged to take a handful of seeds and go out to the places on the land that we feel a special bond with and express our gratitude by giving some seeds back to the earth as a gesture of recognition and thanksgiving.  It is difficult to describe how powerfully meaningful and moving it felt to do this. And the earth took her rightful place as our mother.

On the second day of the retreat we were awakened to water.  We began by talking about water – its qualities, attributes, roles and contribution.  A rich dialogue followed about water – the beauty and functions of its various forms like ice, snow, rain, rivers, ocean, mist, steam; its volume and extent on the earth and in our bodies and all other bodies, its network of streams and rivers and oceans, its life-giving and sustaining role, its role in circulating carbon dioxide, cleaning the air and maintaining the atmosphere, its molecular structure and capacity to respond to sound and other forms of energy, the pleasure we feel in playing and bathing in water….and so much more.  And then Mandaza asked us, each one individually, instead of speaking about water as if it is something separate from us, to speak as water about water’s contribution to the web of life: “I am water, I ……”  And water came to life within us.


In the afternoon Mandaza took us each through a water ritual at the stream after which we spent time on our own outside contemplating our individual experience of the ritual.

In the evening we began to talk about dreams and listening to the messages that come through our dreams – both for ourselves individually and communally.  So began the process of integrating the dream world into the healing of our wholeness.  Each morning then began with a dream circle where we shared the dreams we could remember from the night before and shared what we saw in each others’ dreams.  And the messages lived among us.

Dialogues continued through the remaining days on our purpose as humans on earth, on our relationships with our partners, families, children, elders and ancestors, on race and gender, on what love is, on the languages that we use – of love and hate and gossip, on leadership, on service, on prayer, on healing, on forgiveness and justice in our personal and national lives, on living in peace. Interspersed among the dialogues were meditations, laughter, play, song, and drumming. And the birds and butterflies came to join us.


I was left feeling both immense joy and sadness.  Joy at the taste of fulfilment of a deep yearning from childhood for this immersed attunement with all that is – and sadness at the tragedy of what has been lost and devalued through the alienation and arrogance of human hubris. May we yet have the humility and courage to ask for the help we need from the wisdom keepers among us for the wellbeing and joy of present and future generations of all life on our planet.
by Chandasara