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”


The Journey so Far – Natural Connections by Ru

I truly felt the magic and the benevolent power Mandaza has when he took my hand in greeting and looked me in my eyes. You can instantly sense some people’s energies when you meet them, and he is one of them. I did not get to attend all the workshop sessions due to my responsibilities in the kitchen, however when I did sit in, I was overwhelmed by the peace and the love which radiated from Mandaza and all the other incredible souls that took this journey with us.

Having had some profound experiences surrounded by water in the past, my once idle visions, thoughts and intuitions were reaffirmed and rooted… the water spirits are real and they seek to illuminate our world with compassion and wisdom. They love song! The song which Mandaza sang for us brought tears to my eyes, and as we joined in, even a little bird came and sat on a tree branch near us and also joined in on the song.

Ru - Mandaza gift

Here is a Nyami Nyami (Zambezi River God/Snake Spirit) bead necklace. Mandaza’s wife back in Zimbabwe makes beautiful beed pieces, some of which Mandaza brought along. This one chose me.

When we learn to appreciate and respect nature, we align with our true selves, and we are indeed reminded of that old saying “We are spiritual beings having a physical experience.” And the more we align the more we realize that we don’t “need” as many “things” from this physical realm as we once did. Nature, in all its forms, the mountains, the waters, the birds, it is all part of us; an extension of our spirit. I feel that this is a truly important reminder for anyone feeling disillusioned in today’s consumerist paradigm.

The retreat made me feel in-tune with the unity of the collective human spirit and the plight of the natural world. My dream is not just my dream, it is a dream for all who seek to find meaning. Leadership is a force that lives in the hearts of all of those who choose to listen, even the meek at the back of the pack. Forgiveness is where true strength and peace are found. We are all leaders, healers, peacemakers… and our intention is the key to unlocking our power. “Better than a thousand hollow words is one word that brings peace” today I want to expand on that, not only one word but one song, one dream, one feeling.

The soft and gentle energies I felt from nature and the earth and my fellow humans was something extraordinary. Within me, I felt the importance of manifesting this “state of being” regularly, and it is doable by simply following a few suggestions made by Mandaza. For example visiting the stream daily and making an offering to the water (water spirits)… I myself am the offering if I so choose: my presence is my present! Another is continuing with the dream circle once a week (kudos to Chandasara for encouraging us to do so). As I become more aware, more mindful, I too become more grateful and walk the earth with gentler steps.

Mandaza’s words stick with me: “One day we will all meet again in the Ocean.”

by Ru, Dharmagiri’s excellent cook & housekeeper

About Ru. 

RuGive me the outdoors so we can go for a hike, and a lake, to paddle and swim. I have had several jobs in my past across several fields. A manager, a writer, a capturer (I’m not gonna tell you what I was capturing but I’ll give you a hint: It wasn’t buses), yes I even gave stand-up comedy a go in Manchester (UK), but that one didn’t go too well as you’ve probably guessed by now… but ultimately in my heart I am striving to leave the rat race as much and live as sustainably as possible with nature. Nature, as I see it, is the symbiosis of all manner of life on our realm, including but not limited to: the plants, the animals and other human beings. This yearning along with the spirit of Ubuntu and Sangha in my heart, has sent me to the most beautiful parts of the world… but also to those that are truly sacred.

One feels the energy with which Dharmagiri is blessed, as it sits at the foot of this mystical mountain, a mountain Mother-Nature took millennia to sculpt. I am fascinated by the human mind, in what makes it work (is it only the brain, or is this “I” something more…), and how it communicates with and perceives the world around us. I care about nutrition; I want to feed my soul and the world around us only excellence, and that within itself suggests sustainability. My passion has taken me to cooking (at which I am alright if you compared it to my stand-up – let’s just say I was hackled off the stage in the first minute or so)…

I am very enthused and deeply grateful to be joining such a beautiful team of people here and continue my career as a cook. What an incredible opportunity: To feed people healthy food! I am excited to meet some awesome new people as well! I am very sensitive over many things but not emotional, I find there is a difference, for example I recently read Sister Abigail Nkleko’s book, Empty Hands, and I must have cried cover to cover, but if someone were to taunt me about it I wouldn’t burst into tears, so I would say I’ve curbed having a ‘reactive’ attitude.

My first step towards Buddhism and meditation was at the BRC in 2013, after a friend of mine had past-away and I decided to do something good (rather than destructive) to morn him and for myself. After attending a weekend silent retreat with Stephen Coan – I was truly humbled to my core. Humbled by the things I learned about Dana and the kindness and generosity that has been, and still is, such a powerful force of prosperity within the community. Humbled by the teachings that were passed down to me and the blessings I received. May we all walk a humble path, and may we all truly know how to love ALL of life. Namaste.