Notes From the Botswana Road

We traveled for nearly a week through the Greater Kalahari, Makgadikgadi Pans, and Moremi parklands onto Savuti, the Place of Lions, over interminable dust, scree, and Csand roads as if the vehicle was riding waves, up and down, rather than the earth. Then the landscape suddenly changed. The Botswana landscape is mostly flat, but this was different. The geology and contours weren’t dramatically different, but the feeling was. Small rocky hills and Baobab Trees encircled us heralding the arrival into a deeply sacred space. It felt ancient. When we explored, there was a painting on the rock from 4000 years ago. It was the simplest art. An Eland, Elephant, Oryx Antelope (or Gemsbok), and Snakes. Essential meat and medicine for survival.

Tsonxhwaa, Savuti Marsh, Chobe National Park.

All through we had been traveling the lands of the San/ Bushman/  Khoisan “First Sitting There People” where we peeked through a timeless portal into a peoples who for 30,000+ years roamed this dry and brittle ground, rejoicing when the rains came. One day, bees invaded the camp looking for water. As we drove out, we saw the Oryx antelope dance. Rock, our Botswana guide, told us they felt the rains coming. And then the black water laden clouds swept in and dumped the rains. We weren’t prepared; our tents were washed out.

Once, a long time ago, when we were new to Southern Africa, an Elder Bushwoman told a friend that they, the San, were the peoples “on track.” That we, in contrast, in our modern world, were so off track, we didn’t know there was a track. She said that as they, the first peoples, crossed over from this world first, we would follow not so long after.

We all know we live under the terrifying shadow of a rapidly warming biosphere that is radically changing weather patterns and threatening sustainable life. Alongside this, the immensely destructive power in the hands of a few wracked by greed, hatred and delusion is endangering our collective well being. We have read and heard so many words and perspectives in response. We have anguished and put ourselves to task to try and step down the looming disasters. And while we must maintain hope and work for a sustainable, just, and equitable world, we too must remember, as the KhoiSan knew so well, that we are only dust on this ancient Earth. One day, the winds will blow our foot prints away too.
Kittisaro & Thanissara, notes from the Botswana road, 
Dharmagiri Ubuntu Tour July 2018

                               The Wind Intends to Take Away Our Footprints
Its name is ≠Koaxa, while the Europeans call it Haarfontein; and it was at Haarfontein that Smoke’s Man saw the wind. He saw the wind but thought it was a !kuerre-!kuerre bird, and therefore, he threw a stone at it, and it burst into wind, it burst out blowing, it blew hard, it blew fiercely. It raised the dust, and it flew away and went into a mountain hole: and he, Smoke’s Man, being afraid, went home. The wind was once a man, but he became a bird and wore feathers on his skin and went to live on a mountain. He became a bird and no longer walked, but he flew. He wakes up early and he leaves his mountain and he flies about, he flies about, about, about, about, as he flies to eat, and then he returns, he returns there to sleep; and because he feels that his feathers used to blow, he, too, blows. They were the wind and therefore they blew, and he, the son of the wind, is now a bird.
So said /Han≠kasso.

We are leaving.
Shredded and raw heart seeks calm shore.

We dream another shore waiting
and we need to know how to go.
Not flights of fancy
of awakenings’ glitz
floating eloquences
of enlightenment.
Tongue bright with witty rational
flowing from throat to head
shaping realities of transcendence
while in the core of burning samsara
swirling emotions
float free
on upward circling perceptions
divorcing themselves from our heart connection.

Ascenders into the light,
we descend before you.
An exhausted pile of bones
smouldering in cold ash
from words sliding sideways
in mega churches
preaching crazed dissonance non-union.

But here is the truth.
There is no heaven in the sky.
No nirvana apart from samsara.
No paradise virgin to your violence reward.
And no Planet B.

So sit the night patiently through
and gather your wayward mind.
Take up your own power
as in your heart
is the earth’s body
and all bodies,
the stars, mountains, oceans,
flowers, trees, cities and moon.

Sit until dawn, without flying to the light,
instead, plunge your life
into your unfathomable yearning
so you can be pulled to the intimacy
that this direct path heralds
within each beating heart
where every precious breath
redeems your lost soul.

And when preachers promise a far off place
challenge them
with your honest voice.

Can you dissolve walls of the mind
and into the undivided heart arrive
to stand up fierce
for our Earth
and her all living beings

Because from common ground
we move from birth into destiny
while death dream reality
and bone ash wait.

Because all is possibility
with no substance found.
Particles of no-thing-ness
transform into each other
in universal systems
of potentiality
where space, time, matter and light
forever melt like waking dreams.

The wind does thus when we die, our own wind blows; for we, who are human beings, make clouds when we die. Therefore, the wind does thus when we die, the wind makes dust, because it intends to blow, taking away our footprints, with which we had walked about while we still had nothing the matter with us; and our footprints, which the wind intends to blow away, would otherwise still lie plainly visible. For it would seem as if we still lived. Therefore, the wind intends to blow, taking away our footprints.
So said Dia!kwain.

Time with relentless harvesting
your precious human life
is short.
As all life
gathers proof of our faith
through the pilgrimage of the night
that tests the grounds of our being
so we may know
the measure of courage
and the wellspring of our heart,
from which we sip nectar.

Just as the brown, striped bug
drinks from the white elderflower,
and the orange, thin-winged butterfly
skips through ochre grasses,
and the grey, knowing wolves
move through cold, white snow,
and the rhinos through dry, bush veldt go
as lions stalk impala
along the river slow.

Slow is the Earth’s rhythm,
deep and unfathomable in our collective soul.
The rhythm of the days tick-tock,
winding through the web of our connection
of Internet consumption
where we search what we hope to know.

But to truly know is to not know.
And to not know
is so much evidence of where faith can go.

And even when the realms of empty space are exhausted, the realms of living beings are exhausted, the karmas of living beings are exhausted, and the afflictions of living beings are exhausted, we will still accord with this, our deepest heart, endlessly, continuously, without cease. Our body, speech and mind never weary of service to living beings and to this great Earth. So whispers our true heart.
                               Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Svaha




Extract from The Heart of the Bitter Almond Hedge Sutra by Thanissara, written at Dharmagiri Sacred Mountain Retreat KwaZulu Natal, 2013, which includes extracts from The First Bushman’s Path, stories, songs and testimonies of the /Xam by Alan James, University of Natal Press, Pietermaritzburg 2001 SA.
Photos – Thanissara
Baobab Tree of Life, Animal KoiSan Paintings, Savuti Lions, Chobe Park, Botswana
Community KoiSan Painting – Garden Castle Park, Southern Drakensberg, Underberg.

Ending Plastic Pollution

Greetings! We missed getting this out for Earth Day, (April 22nd) but then as our wellbeing and survival depends on a healthy environment, Earth Day awareness nowadays has to be every day. We all know we live in an intensified world where resources are increasingly limited, our eco-systems are under great threat, our wildlife too, and our warming biosphere threatens to tip us into climate melt down.

But it’s never too late for a reminder about how we can do our piece, and certainly awareness around consumerism is a very large piece. Below Dharmagiri’s recently employed office admin manager, Penny-Jane, has penned an encouragement for us all. Take 10 mins to read how we can take steps to leave the planet in better shape for those who come after.

First, to introduce you further to Penny-Jane

penny-janeI am an environmental scientist by training with a strong background in environmental law and policy. Having grown up and studied in Stellenbosch and Cape Town I feel a strong connection with nature and feel blessed to live in, what I think is one of the most beautiful countries in the World. I have spent the past four years of my career working for Greenpeace Africa as part of their Climate and Energy team with the majority of my work focusing on renewable energy as an alternative future for Africa (and the World), with a move away from fossil fuels and nuclear energy. My studies as well as my work are based on my strong belief that we as humans need to find a more sustainable way of living in harmony with our planet if we are to survive as a species. Our fundamental disconnect with ourselves has led to a society that has forgotten it is a part of the natural World that we are systematically destroying. Travel is one of my great passions and I have spent time in many parts of the World, most recently a four month working period in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This also allowed me to fulfil a life-long dream of seeing a glimpse of South America which included the majestic Iguazu Falls, Machu Picchu and the jungles of Peru.

I have had the privilege of attending retreats at Dharmagiri in the past and I have been on a long journey to find my way back. I believe that Dharmagiri creates the space for us all to reconnect with our inner truth and to feel part of the beautiful natural surroundings here. I feel strongly in the work that is being carried out at Dharmagiri and look forward to being of service here to further that work. This opportunity to live and work at Dharmagiri is a real privilege for me and I look forward to meeting you all.

Earth Day 2018 (and every day!) – End Plastic Pollution by Penny-Jane Cooke. 

Here’s the thing about plastics right, they have become a pervasive part of our everyday lives, they are the substance that makes our lives more convenient, from that shopping bag when you forget your lovely reusable material one (again), to that straw that seems to make your smoothie taste extra good. They are the substance we love to hate.

The dark side of this everyday convenience is that they are polluting our lives and the lives of so many species that share this planet with us. My heart breaks every time I see a picture of a turtle suffering with a plastic ring strangling its body or a beached whale with a stomach full of plastic. Our everyday convenience has become a problem on a Global scale that is impacting our health and polluting the environment at an unprecedented rate.

But what can we do, sometimes these issues seem so unsurmountable that it is impossible to imagine that an alternative World exists. The good news is that there are alternatives, there are solutions and in Earth Day 2018 there is the support we all need to realise our ambitions to kick that plastic habit.

The call for Earth Day 2018 is for all citizens of the World to band together help end plastic pollution by finding out how many plastic items you consume every year and make a PLEDGE to reduce the amount. To this end there is a fantastic update to the traditional 3R’s that we all know so well, to now bring you the 5R’s Reduce – Refuse – Reuse – Recycle – Remove

So what does all that mean…

Reduce (ok so you knew this one already)

Consume what you need – Many plastic products you may frequently use are generally unnecessary – do you really need a straw to drink a glass of water? It is important to only consume what you need, especially when it comes to plastics. Many of the most commonly disposed of plastic products have viable alternatives. Always ask yourself if you can get the same product without consuming plastic before you buy something.


When you order a drink at a restaurant, you can tell the waiter that you don’t want a straw. If you know you need a straw, you can purchase a metal or wood/paper based straw and bring that with you. You could also go a step further and ask the restaurant to stop providing plastic straws or to only provide straws to customers when requested.

Plastic bags are one of the biggest sources of plastic pollution. Refusing the plastic shopping bags given away at retailers and grocery stores is easy. If you need a bag to carry your purchases, bring reusable canvas bags instead. And buy cloth or mesh bags to carry fresh produce to the cashier.

Take a little extra time while doing your shopping, select products without plastic packaging and always be sure to avoid or even boycott products that are excessively wrapped in plastic (for example fresh produce).

When you go clothes shopping, it is best to avoid fabrics with plastic microfibers such as nylon and polyester. Or check ways to collect the fibres in your washing machine.


You can buy reusable mesh bags that replace the plastic bags you use for bulk produce at the grocery store.

You can purchase canvas shopping bags and leave them in your car for anytime you go shopping.

Get a reusable water bottle instead of buying plastic ones and throwing them out.

There are reusable wax lined bags and wraps that effectively replace single use sandwich bags.

When you finally decide to get rid of old clothes, toys, furniture, or electronics, donate them rather than throwing them away.

Use dishes, glasses, and metal silverware instead of their plastic counterparts.

Consider trying washable reusable cloth diapers instead of disposable ones

Many food containers from restaurants are durable enough to be reused for kitchen storage.


You have made it through the section about adopting a plastic reduction regimen. You are now thinking about turning down straws, carrying your own shopping bags, and encouraging your friends and family to do the same. But in a world where plastic is so ubiquitous, there are going to be instances where consuming plastic might be necessary. It would be difficult to expect you to reduce your plastic consumption to zero overnight. That’s where recycling comes in. Your next step is to learn about recycling. Recycling is far from the final solution to the Plastic Pollution problem, but it is an important part of it. It cannot replace the need for reducing consumption or refusing and reusing plastics when you can. If recycling is the best option, you should do so following the rules of the community, town or city in which you live. For the most part, only recycle if you are positive that the item is truly recyclable.

Should I recycle this?

Plastic bottles for recycling, Tel Aviv, Israel


Help the effort to remove plastic:

Start a beach or river clean-up in your local community.

Support the work of organizations removing plastic from the environment.

Purchase innovative products created from recovered ocean or environmental plastics.

Personally, I am really amped for Earth Day 2018 and keen to get started, for more information and to take the pledge check out the Earth Day website –

And most importantly the awesome tool kit they our friends at Earth Day have put together here –

Blog post by: Penny-Jane

A bit about me… World Traveller, environmental activist, passionate about education, empowering communities and finding solutions to some of the environmental issues facing the World today. Part time blogger, currently living in the Underberg, KZN.

Penny- Jane (second left) at our recent retreat with Mandaza Kandemwa, focusing on deepening our relationship with nature within an ensouled world. 2 mandaza