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A while back I met a man named Achai, a tribal elder from the Altai Mountain region in Mongolia. He is emphatic in his declaration that he and his people are neither part of Mongolia nor are they part of Russia. They are their own sovereign people, a horseman tribe. He is a tulku, of an ancient shamanic tradition said to bring the seeds of civilization to the world. Historical accounts credit these people with seeding the civilizations of ancient Greece, India, Tibet, even the Americas. In my experience of him, he is fiercely passionate about what he knows, has a ready smile, and loves to dance. He told me his wife is his equal in all ways and they have children. 

Imagine these people if you will. They tame and befriend hawks and eagles; they wear their horses day by day like you and I wear a pair of pants. They are one with their natural environment and recognize Spirit as tangibly interwoven in the physical world and beyond it. Ceremony is primal to their existence. They are free.Achai was an honored guest of several Kogi elders who had traveled to his world the previous year as part of an indigenous unification process. I had the pleasure of getting to know Achai over several weeks, mainly through observation since I didn’t speak the language…but it’s funny how we can communicate even when we don’t speak the same words.

We traversed several very high mountain villages; some have little or no outside contact, some have limited contact. There is no noise there, like the hum of wires or traffic. The air is pure. Some of the elders have cell phones and one time an elder motioned and pulled me to a spot in the middle of a high plateau field and told me to stand on this small rock, exactly there. He pulled out his phone saying the rock was a transmitter. I was simply full of awe. Later it was explained to me that what the man meant was if one stands on that specific spot marked by the rock, one has cell phone access. I’m still awed.

In the more “socialized” villages however, we began to be alarmed by the huge amount of plastic bags and containers littered everywhere. The mess aside, what about water quality with so much rubbish in and around the water used for drinking and cooking? It was explained to us that the villagers believe that everything is of the earth and will return to the earth as part of the cycle of the “Mother,” the origin of everything manifest in form. Along with fishing, growing their own food, and raising sheep for the wool that they weave into their clothes, they have huge pigs that are unconfined and roam everywhere, weaving in and out of village life. The pigs eat the waste of the villagers and the villagers in turn eat the pigs. Except the pigs can’t eat the trash. It was so weird and discombobulating to realize that the villagers simply could not see the trash since it didn’t fit into their syntax. We tried to have conversations about garbage and the toxic by-products of convenience foods but we could not find a way to dialogue and be on the same wavelength.

One afternoon after a meeting, Achai was walking back to the hut and I saw him start picking up the trash and just looking at it, obviously thinking hard. I went over to him and he motioned me to start picking it up to form a pile in an open area. Others joined in and soon we had a giant pile of plastic and bags and bottles, etc. The villagers began to gather and in his quiet and unassuming way Achai remained thoughtful, seemingly pondering what to do next….. did I mention he was quite theatrical too?

What he did next was go to one of the cooking fires and grab a burning branch. He brought it to the pile and tried to light it… over and over and over, scratching his head and making harrumphing noises with his voice, getting lots of attention. Now a large group were gathered; villagers, kids, guests, even those pigs bumbling about. After a long time standing there trying to light this noxious pile Achai said, ” See, even the fire cannot consume this substance. It is alien technology.” The villagers started nodding their heads. They could see! They got it! They perceived the truth.Now I share that truth with you.

With Aloha 

Cynthia Mellon