Samita ASBL

Of earth, heat, water, wind and bears

What can I write about the quiet meditation high up in the Dragoon mountains or the silent steps through the Sahara sands that marked my retreat time? The elements, the space, the silence is all pervasive and the mind becomes calm and quiet. It’s the perfect environment for meditation and contemplation.


Living in the wild and out in nature you are living close to the elements. The earth element was very present in the cave where I lived and in the desert sand under my feet. The change in climate visible in the increasing scarcity of water both in the Dragoon Mountains as well as in the Sahara. I was lucky to still have a little water in a man-made rainwater catchment system, but the animals around me were suffering so I frequently shared a little water with the lizards I shared my cave with.

In the mountains, my only companions where the animals. The blue-collar lizards in my cave, the little spotted skunks that would jump in my lap, the squirrel that foraged around me when I sat very quiet, the coatis that were surprised to find me meditating in their path, and the mountain lion that came early one morning to check out this weird being in it’s territory: all inspired a sense of wonder and compassion.

But the most interesting of my encounters was with a black bear. He quietly climbed up a slope where I had just sat down to meditate for the day. He was very surprised to see me and stood there for a few seconds, not knowing what to do. My mind was very quiet and I was in awe of this amazing animal that stood so close before me. Then the spell was broken and the bear took off over the rocks with a speed I had not thought it was capable of, leaving me to contemplate what just happened.

Once a week I went down to the valley to go on pindapata with my friend and teacher Ajahn Buddhisaro. And in the evening we had our inspiring Dhamma discussions until late in the night. The wonderful people at the Dharma Treasure retreat center made sure I had sufficient supplies of allowables while in the cave (my only nourishment for 6 days a week) and a radio to keep in contact. Every morning when I made my coffee and saw the sun come up, I would see the center below me and think of the kindness of the people there.

But everything ends and after my stay in the cave, I found myself in a different desert: the Sahara in Morocco with a small group of wonderful kind and caring women and our Berber guides. Another desert, similar in some respects, different in others. The same sense of space and silence, a different landscape and amazing biodiversity I had not expected. We walked in silence every morning and had three groupsittings a day. The night sky, while each of us slept in our own little valley between the sand-dunes, a beautiful tapestry of stars and some bright planets. The day, hot and scorching, but the landscape was always amazing around each bend, over each dune.


Our Berber guides took care of the camels with such kindness, went to fetch water from the small wells and made us some wonderful meals!

I was always aware of our dependency on each other, on the group, the camels, the Berbers. Without that we wouldn’t be able to survive. This was a new experience for me. Fourteen people, all from different backgrounds, meeting each other in the middle of the desert and learning to work and live together, being very well aware that we all needed each other to survive in some way. Despite our differences, the harmony in the group and the great care for each other was amazing and inspiring.

But throughout it all, the protecting earth, the scorching heat, the all-important search for water, and the ever-present wind, sometimes strong, sometimes nearly absent, and above all the immense space accompanied me everywhere. And with that the contemplation of the elements, in it’s myriad forms, was the thread throughout my practice.

Venerable Vimala


  1. Mary Stan

    Thank you for sharing this journey.

    1. admin

      Thank you for being a wonderful host while I was having Covid!!! It was great to see you before the retreat!
      (Ven. Vimala)

  2. Edwin

    Wow, wonderful! Thanks for sharing!

    1. admin

      Thank you for your support and participation in the iSangha all these years! 🙂
      (Ven. Vimala)

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