March 2015

Mindfulness in South Africa continues to grow locally and nationally and expand our international links.

Stellenbosch Diploma

There has been a successful second intake of students for the diploma course in Mindfulness run by the University of Stellenbosch.  Sheryl Maastrecht, a psychologist from East London was one of the participants. She writes:

“My experience of the initial retreat for Module 1 of the Post Graduate Certification in Mindfulness Based Interventions

no.1I entered the initial contact week feeling a mixture of chest fluttering excitement and stomach churning anxiety and soon discovered I was not alone in having mixed feelings. Viv Zaacks had done a great job of linking out-of-towners with those willing to provide lifts so I had an opportunity to spend a few car hours forging a new friendship with Lila – before discovering she was also my roommate. The comfort of our room exceeded my expectations and I was touched to see that it was called “Orchid” as this connected me with my late mother.

Bodhi Khaya has to be the most ideal location for a retreat: geographically isolated, quiet and picturesque.  The short walking trails and lily pond provided lovely places to take a break during free time and the large trees attracted numerous birds. Adam, the chef, impressed me with his talent for combining interesting flavours in his vegetarian fare and he generously shared his recipes with those foodies who requested them.

no.2Sitting for lengthy periods did take its toll on my body but I also appreciated how the extended group practice grounded me by the end of the retreat. Linda and Simon managed to herd our large, diverse group (37) with the patience and skill of sheepdogs. Their embodiment of loving kindness and attuned attention, with a good dose of humour and mischievousness, enabled an endless feedback loop from inside-out to outside-in. I am looking forward to the journey ahead and to sharing more contact plus on-line time with a wonderful group of new friends.”

Qigong workshop, Dharmagiri

Lorna Schofield attended this workshop presented by Max Weier from Switzerland. She writes:

no.3“It is not often that I have set plans a year in advance and while I might want to put it down to my learned present-moment focus, it is more often because set plans too far in advance seem constraining. Yet I knew a year in advance that I wanted to attend Qigong teacher Max Weier’s retreat at Dharamagiri Hermitage in Underberg.

My certainty was based on my introduction to Qigong while on a nine day silent retreat with Dharmagiri’s Thanissara and Kittisaro in February 2014, and my wish to incorporate into my practice.

In his book The Qigong Way, Max says: “The ancient art of qigong aims to cultivate one’s life force and harmonise body and mind through movement, attention, breath and meditation”.

Words are my music and the lyrical descriptions of the Qigong moves invoke fluidity and flow. Who wouldn’t want to engage in Warding off 1000 Illnesses or a Magic Spell for a Long Journey?

Swiss-based Max teaches all over the world and his teaching while sincere and heartfelt is offered in a playful and theatrical way. Following his free style teaching with bare feet on Mother Earth, below the great mountain at Dharmagiri had me abiding at the centre of myself.

It will be some years before he visits South Africa again, and my planning horizon stretches to accommodate this. It is great gift that Max shares his teaching, in the way he does.

Fellow retreatant, Barbara Gerber had this to say: “Being back at Dharmagiri for the Qigong retreat was a blessing in many ways. I tapped into a bubble of joy, a sense of lightness, and energy that I haven’t felt for a very long time. I return home refreshed and look forward to continuing this practice with my three fellow road-trippers and to sharing this powerful and yet gentle work with the mindfulness community of East London.”

For Mari Hurly: “Attending Max’s Qigong workshop at Dharmagiri has added a whole new aspect to my meditation practice. I have found a deepening of my meditation and a greater ability to sit quietly for longer without my mind wandering. I have found that practising Qigong for just 10-15 minutes before sitting has helped me to keep my awareness on my breath and body in a much more gentle and relaxed way – without the striving that sometimes comes with it (depending on what is going on in my day and in my life at the time).“

For Christine Morling the retreat was a welcome surprise: “When I heard about the Qigong and meditation retreat, I wasn’t immediately drawn to it; my comfort zone is challenged by the thought of long periods of meditation and slow movement. The Qigong surprised me at how it helped me meditate. The flowing, soft, powerful rhythmical moves brought to life the felt body, sensing energy shifting, feeling a connection with the energy of the earth, the space around me and the people around me.  It was very moving.  I came away knowing that this was powerful and healing and that I wanted to continue the practice.”

Thanks to Thanissara and Kittisaro for organising Max’s joyful teaching.

On-line course

Thanissara and Kittisara from Dharmagiri have developed an excellent on-line programme which gently and profoundly explores an understanding of the underpinnings of mindfulness, with the aim of awakening the heart.

Janine Kirby and Barbara Gerber are currently working through the course, and have found the teachings both challenging and deeply moving.  We have incorporated the knowledge and insights we have gained into our daily practice and our teaching. We highly recommend this to all practitioners and teachers.

Kittisara and Thanissara have recently published a book, Listening to the Heart, which weaves their personal stories with the teachings of the dharma. This is an ideal companion book for those undertaking the on-line course.

Worldwide Insight

Worldwide Insight is a Dharma practice group that you can join from anywhere in the world. Each Sunday, renowned Insight Meditation teachers offer meditation instruction, teachings, and live Q&A on video.

Join the weekly discussion on Sundays by signing up at

Developing international networks and collaborations to support Mindfulness-Based Interventions’ integrity

With the growth of Mindfulness Based Interventions worldwide and the proliferation of training organisations a need has been seen to arise to network between training organisations that are offering training in MBI to ensure integrity of teaching. An initiative, spearheaded by Rebecca Crane (Bangor University Center for Mindfulness), Willem Kuyken (Oxford University Center for Mindfulness) and the UK Network for Mindfulness-Based Teacher Training Organisations, will facilitate meetings this year that will explore internationally what is needed to support MBI Integrity. The intentions are to create a network of networks within an international container, within which MBI training organisations can meet collectively and take responsibility for governance in the MBI field, through building bridges and conversations that enable alignment toward common aspirations. Meetings over the next three months will be held in Europe, Australasia, the US, UK, as well as South Africa. The South African initiative is represented by Patricia Luck and will be based on the work done by the IMISA teacher integrity group, as well as other MBSR/MBCT based groups that may wish to be part of this discussion. To hear more and contribute to this discussion please feel free to e-mail her at Patricia Luck, Simon Whitesman and Linda Kantor will be present at the meeting for this which will be attached to the UK Mindfulness Conference in Chester in July.


At the recent world Forum in Davos, Switzerland, more than 100 high powered delegates were entirely silent, led by Jon Kabat-Zinn.  Read the full story here

A reporter in the room noted “The truth is, we show much more compassion to our smart phones than ourselves,” Ms. Huffington said. “If we treated each other as kindly as we treated our smart phones, it would be a major revolution.”

Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk who has been dubbed the world’s happiest man gave an inspirational TED talk on letting altruism be your guide.

Interesting Links

no.5A very good book, Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana can be downloaded as a pdf file from

Jon Kabat-Zinn describes the book as a masterpiece. This is an excellent guide and resource for those both teaching and participating in Mindfulness Based Interventions.


The American Mindfulness Research Associations publishes a monthly guide to mindfulness research. The March 2015 issue highlights can be viewed at

Topics include:

  • Elementary school based program improves cognitive skills in children
  • Mindfulness helps to restore self-control over aggressive behaviour
  • MBI and CBT provide comparable benefits in a primary care setting
  • Can mindfulness protect the ageing brain?
  • MBI versus CBT in chronic pain
  • Mindfulness curriculum promotes prosocial behaviour in preschoolers
  • High Mindfulness linked to heart health


no.6Dr Trish Luck has been approved as a Certified MBSR Teacher through the Center for Mindfulness at UMass Medical. She writes;

“It has been a long road of training and teaching MBSR these past thirteen years that started with attending the very first conference with Matthew, Simon and Linda in 2003. I am deeply grateful for the many contributions all of you have made individually and collectively to my development and look forward to the ongoing engagement we have in this work together.”


Please contact us with any ideas, news, sites or articles which we can include in future editions.

Janine Kirby and Barbara Gerber