Siberia: Blessed by an encounter with “the spirit of the place”

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Siberia/Mongolia, 2017


It was one of those days, like they all were, when we on this magical mystery tour basically had no idea what would come next. We were “along for the ride,” and what a ride it was! In our small luxury bus with plenty of room, rolling along a major Siberian highway (comparable to a paved country road in the  U.S.) somewhere out on the Siberian Steppes. Our Mongolian/Siberian guide Erjen was, as usual, very present and full — of what? We didn’t really know. But we trusted her, totally.

About two hours out of Ulan Ude the bus veered off onto a narrow gravel road. I’ve told most of the story of that day before, in my very first post of this series —


— so you might want to reread it before reading this. I focused there on the life/death springs, the Bronze Age gravesite area, the Genghis Khan ridge ambush, the lunch, and a tiny bit of the “portal” story. In this post, I will flesh in that final portal piece, for to tell the long version of this tale puts me right back there, just as when I have managed to tell it in person, two or three times since returning home. In fact, this tale felt like the pinnacle for me personally, of our time in this vast land which indigenous peoples have long called home and which speaks to them on a daily basis, those who still know how to listen. So here’s where the “shamanic” part of this tale begins.

Even though I have long been familiar with Native American reverence for and communion with Mother Earth, and even though I have been to “portals” elsewhere — for example, in Egypt (a tiny Egyptian temple dedicated to the goddess Sekhmet) and in Peru (a portal in a stone wall on Lake Titicaca), and indeed, even though I lived for 20 years in the Tetons, said by some to be a vortex portal for the Ascended Masters, I have only rarely been personally singled out for attention at or in one of these portals.

So, to begin.

After lunch, shown here with Karl, one of our members, actually checking his cell phone (he was the only one with the capacity to do so; the rest of us had left them behind for the duration of our magical mystery tour) — and BTW, that’s J.K. my roommate, sitting on the end of the bench in the middle.

Erjen reminded us that there was a portal ahead, if we wanted to take the path up. Offhand, she also said there were two more portals, but much higher up; she had never been there. I took it to mean that she didn’t expect us to go up there, either!

So most of started trudging uphill, quite steep at this point, in the little canyon that sliced back from the high rocky ridgeline we had been following all morning. Though I didn’t really process the feeling at that time, looking back on that day I noticed, about 20 feet below the large rock that Erjen said was the first portal, that I had just moved through an energetic curtain of some kind, that beyond this point, it was if “different laws apply here.” But as I said, that’s in hindsight, and colored by what happened next.

Most of us did manage to get to this portal.

From J.K.’s notes, talking about her experience:

And now the energy portals. A very long climb and are we there yet? No, no, and no. At long last I make it to the great stone and I lay at its side. Bill is completely one with the slab. Lois is embracing it. Gladys, Marc, Lisa and Carl keep going. Rinchin takes Ann to the pinnacle. What a couple of pairs of lungs and legs on those two, I wish oh I wish I could have done that.

What she is referring to is the following, some of which I’ve already told, but not in as much detail. The climax to this story, however, is utterly new, and frankly, it has changed my life forever.

Okay. I’m at the first portal with the others. But feeling restless. I want to continue up, to the ridge I figure, a few hundred feet more. I begin the trudge. A few minutes go by. Then I hear someone following along behind. Who? I glance back. It’s one of our Mongolian guides. Then came a strange sensation, of fear, female fear. I don’t know this person. These guides just joined our entourage what was it, the evening before? I’m highly aware of my “fear,” how it stems back to my mother, her fear, the fear in my female line, the forever female fear of overpowering males.

The Mongolian then comes to my side, and cuts in front of me. Now I see his entire, long-legged form. Oh! It’s Rinchin! My fear subsides. While Rinchin may look like an iconic 14th century Mongolian warrior, his kind, gentle nature has already communicated to all of us, when he helped two of our more senior female members down the hill from Genghis Khan’s ambush overlook.

Okay! I follow him up, cutting through saplings and over downed logs as we near the ridge. Until, here we are, on a gentle, rounded north/south slope between two tall outcroppings.

I thank Rinchin effusively for accompanying me on this trek. Though he doesn’t speak English, I make my gratitude obvious with smiles and hand movements.

Then he pantomimes a message that he knows I will understand: Pointing to his own heart, and then to my heart, he  waves his head and hands up, up. “You (pointing) and me (pointing) go up!”

Oops! Really?

I’ve never been a rock climber, even when I lived in the Tetons. Though I relish long uphill treks, I’ve never felt comfortable testing my physical prowess that way. So his invitation felt, to say the least, distinctly uncomfortable! Especially now, when I’m 74 years old. I did not learn when young what my body was capable of in this arena, and I want to start now? It felt foolish. But he felt insistent. And my curiosity was, of course, immense, intense.

So I began to follow him, up, over rocks, along tiny trails with abysses below, on and on, following as he climbed, like a goat, ahead. At one point we came to a place where in order to continue, I would have to leap from one giant boulder to another, with an abyss inbetween. He had already jumped to the other side, reaching his hand to me. NO!

He leaps back across, then straddles both boulders, patting his knee, which he wants me to use to step  from one giant rock to another. What, land and balance my rickety 130 pounds on one foot on his one knee? Even if I had had the nerve to do it, that felt foolhardy. He looks at me. And then, all of a sudden this Mongol warrior who can’t speak English says, “It’s just fear!”

Okay, says my 74 year old body that has never leaped large boulders with abysses between them, fear it may be, but it’s also knowing my own physical limits. I just shook my head strongly, NO.

Okay. He leapt back onto my side, commanded, authoritatively, “Wait. WAIT!” Apparently concerned that I wouldn’t. I said okay, and hunkered down. He was gone about five minutes, scouting out another route, then returned to get me.

We kept going, up and up, exhilarating, fun, and terrifying. Here are a few shots from up there, where I had never been before, and certainly didn’t expect to find myself that day or any day, ever!

Finally, we reached a boulder with a small round hole. I took a pic (and have cut Rinchin’s face out of it, as he doesn’t want to be recognized).

Can’t remember if he said this was one of the portals we were on the quest of. In any case, he indicated that it was important for some reason.

Soon we reached an area (I forgot to take a pic), that he said was the second highest portal. A little flat place nestled into the giant rocks, about six feet square, with say, three foot rock walls on the side that looked south.

Okay. Keep going. Five minutes more, none of it difficult, and we approached the final, highest, summit portal. Again, it felt like a room, flat, but much larger, with a  typical Mongolian/Siberian altar in the middle with flags.

This portal doesn’t feel all that astonishing unless you look to the top left of this photo, to realize how high up it is. Clearly, it is a place of pilgrimage for native inhabitants.

We approached the altar, Rinchin gave me a coin, we both offered them to the spirit of the place, and then backed up to one of the walls to sit in meditation for a few minutes.

Okay, done. Mission accomplished! I thought. I was ready to go. But no. On the way down is when the absolutely astonishing thing happened, the one that I have yet to mention in this series.

We had just completed our journey out of the high summit rocks, and were entering the forest on the ridgeline, when Rinchin looked at me, seemingly stunned, and then pointed downhill. “Look! Animal! And it looked at YOU!”

What? My eyes shot to where he was pointing. An animal about the size and color of a badger was scurrying downhill for cover. “Badger?” I asked. “Are there badgers in Siberia?” Rinchin looked at me, seemingly puzzled, perplexed, even a bit disappointed. Though his response didn’t register at the time, so intent was I on finding out the name of the animal, so instantly triggered did my left brain become after this out of time and space right brain experience in the high portals, but now, in hindsight I realize that he thought I was some sort of foolish American idiot. And, I would say now, how true!

On the ridge we enjoyed a long hug before proceeding down to join the others. At the bottom, I told Marc, who is an ecologist and happened to be carrying a book that identifies the wild animals of Siberia, about the animal Rinchin pointed out to me. Badger? I asked? I didn’t see the front, but the tail, somehow, seemed different. Bushier. We pored over the book for quite awhile. And, given that my immediate thought was that it had been a badger, I also wondered what that meant, symbolically. On our way out, one of our tour group, who happened to bring along Bear and Co’s Medicine Cards book, hearing me discuss the animal with Marc, handed it to me. Wow! I’ve got that book here at home, but certainly didn’t expect to be handed it on a bus on the Siberian steppes.

Here’s what it says: Badger signifies AGGRESSION! I think back today to the essay I posted recently detailing my own decidedly unconventional and persistent healing journey when I read this paragraph: “Badger medicine may point to the aggressive healer who will have the courage to use unconventional means to exact a cure.”

About 25 years ago, I had an encounter in the Tetons with badger on two successive days. I had walked the trail from our yurt park in Kelly to the warm spring a little more than a mile north. At the end of the trail, just as I was about to cross the road, a badger appeared from his hole, sat up on his hind legs and stared at me. Then again, the very next day, on the same walk, he did it again. So I had been familiar with badger from before, and with its symbolic meaning, though if it was a badger that had, according to Rinchin, “looked at” me, then at this point in my life I assume I need to be reminded to be more “aggressive,” to never give up, whatever my goals. Just what that goal is became more and more clear as the trip wore on;  I was finally able to give it voice at the very end. I’ve already spoken of it in previous posts, and will do so again here.

But in any case, badger or not badger, the next thing that happened really threw me for a loop. Erjen had looked at me puzzled the night before when I was going on and on about possibly seeing a badger. Looked at me as if, I would say now, she too thought I was an American tourist idiot! It turns out that Rinchin told her what happened on our way down, so she was familiar with the story, and perplexed by my response. Huh? None of that registered with this American tourist, who had immediately flipped into left brain after that encounter, trying to “figure it out.”

The next morning, seeing that I was still in a dither about badger, Erjen came up to me, and said, quietly: “About that ‘badger.’ You need to know that this was no ordinary animal. This was the spirit of the place manifesting to YOU.” She paused. “This is very rare.”

So that’s the fuller story of my journey with Rinchin to the high portal. I was blessed with a personal encounter with the spirit of the place. And I will never forget it. Had the trip ended there, I would have been okay. This was the reason I had been guided internally to go to Siberia/Mongolia.

So what does it mean? Now, with a bit more hindsight, I tend to look at what happened on that trek down from the portal with both left and right brains. With left brain I name what the spirit animal seemed to have appeared as, and note that this quality, of relentless aggression to reach a goal, is something that I have in spades, when I reach down within myself to grab it. In the last few years I have focused otherwise, on cultivating what I would call “lightness of being,” the other inherent quality within my Sagittarian self — to move in a light-hearted way through life, filled with joy, infecting those around me with that energy. I welcome this change.

The aggression of badger is just so easily tipped into fury, anger, control, all of which I manifested relentlessly during my “violent peace activist” days, back in the ’80s, when I had the encounters with badger in the Tetons. Then, badger was nudging me to tone it down. Now badger nudges me to ramp it up!  I sense that I am meant to recover badger in myself, integrate that warrior energy with lightheartedness, so that I can move both subtly and relentlessly towards my goal, which is to recognize that portals exist everywhere; that wherever we stand, if we can move into awareness of the alive, intelligent, wise being under our feet, we can then commune with her, fill ourselves with her massive power, and open a new “portal,” to the SPIRIT OF THE PLACE. That is indeed, what we are doing here in Green Acres Village, and in a cover article for the next Permaculture Design magazine, I will demonstrate our experience of that evolutionary, multidimensional process under the theme of “Thresholds.”

I told my GAV partner Rebecca about this idea, that portals (or vortexes) are, or can be, everywhere on Earth, not just in “special places,” — if we but open them and open to them; she referred me to a podcast she had just listened to, which talked about that very thing. (From about minute 8 on.) Another synchronicity! YES!





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