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Carroll County resident Marjorie Bowers conquered her fear of heights by trekking a mountain range in the Tibetan Himalayas.
Last year, she conquered clostrophobia – fear of tight spaces – by crawling 250 feet down a 3-foot-by-3-foot shaft into the depths of an Egyptian pyramid.
Now she is fearless, she says with a smile.
But conquering those fears actually has been more of a serendipitous by-product of her travels to such far-flung, exotic places. Rather, Bowers is attempting to quench her deep thirst for knowledge.
A retired assistant superintendent of Boone County Schools, Bowers said she is fascinated by ancient cultures and the advancements they made. Second, as a holistic healer at Mystyk River Retreat – which she and her partner, Garnett Worthington, operate out of their Kings Ridge home – Bowers is drawn to learn about spiritual practices of all cultures. She said she is particularly fascinated by how religious beliefs and traditions worldwide – and through the centuries – all tie together.
And she is interested in extrasensory phenomena, particularly orbs, reflections or light sources that often show up in photos. Some believe orbs are paranormal representatives of the spiritual world, while others believe they are reflections of tiny particles caught in a camera’s flash.
“I’ve studied orbs a bit, particularly if I’m in a temple where there’s a very specific or dramatic thing that happened,” Bowers said. While in the king’s chamber of the pyramid on Egypt’s Giza plain – the one believed to be a temple to Osiris, god of the underworld – she said a photo she had taken before the lights were turned off and a “toning” session was held showed very few orbs. A photo taken afterward, however, was filled with orbs. “When I was in France, I found a lot of orbs in photos I’d taken; also in Peru.”
Each of her trips have been small-group study excursions led by authors who are experts about the various destination or the indigenous people who live there. Participants are required to complete a rigorous reading list prior to each trip.
Her trip to Tibet, originally, was planned to include a stay at a monastery, but instead she became part of a trekking team. The trek was 32 miles long, up and down the steep mountain range that surrounds Mount Kailash. The trek, called the Kora, takes one month. In addition to reading, Bowers spent hours each day for months on her Nordic Trak treadmill, set at a 40-degree incline. She also hiked 12 miles daily up the steepest hills she could find in Carroll County.
The first four days were spent in Lhasa, acclimating to the altitude. Backpacks and dufflebags were meticulously packed to specific weights. Backpacks could weigh no more than 10 pounds, including two large bottles of water – the only source of oxygen in those altitudes for a trekker’s leg muscles, she said. The dufflebags could weigh no more than 30 pounds, and were carried most of the way by yaks – the only beast of burden that can survive the thin Himalayan atmosphere.
For the most part, there is no trail because the mountains are mostly rock at that altitude. Kailash, itself, is sacred, Bowers said. Because of that, and the fact that it is sheer ice, no one has ever climbed the peak itself, according to Wikipedia.com. Therefore the trek, known as the Kora, is one of the holiest pilgrimages for Buddhists, Hindus and other religions in Asia.
Bowers said there were times when she and the others had to carefully step sideways over logs serving as bridges across gorges thousands of feet deep.
“I had a fear of heights when I started; now I have a fear of a loss of oxygen,” she quipped.
The trek took four days, Bowers said. Her group hiked the Domala Pass – the 18,600-foot mountain – in one day, starting at 5 a.m. and reaching camp at 8 p.m. – with no breaks.
Some pilgrims believe the trek must be accomplished on one day; others spend weeks on the trek, crawling on their knees and prostrating along the entire route.
It’s also patrolled by heavily armed Chinese soldiers, who, with a mere mention of the Dalai Lama’s name, will take trekkers in for intensive interrogation. Bowers said the monasteries along the Kora are equipped with surveillance microphones and cameras used by the Chinese for the same purpose.
“You are heavily taught – or, really, debriefed – about how to act and what you could say and could not say,” Bowers said.
One common thread that she has found in her travels through sacred traditions and beliefs has been that of “sacred geometry,” some of which is used to make some of the tools she and Worthington use in their holistic healing practice.
From the geometric shape of the Egyptian pyramids – which some believe generates mystic healing powers, to the beautiful geometric pattern on her prayer pillow – and beyond, to the other-worldly geometric shapes of the Peruvian nazca lines, Bowers said this is one of the world’s wonders that fascinates her most.
After a trip to New York City in May, where she will be part of a group studying with the Dalai Lama, her next adventure will be in August to Ecuador, where she will split her time living with indigenous tribes and their shamans in the Andes mountains and in the Amazon rainforest.
“I want to know, I want to learn what they do and how they practice their religion,” she said. “It’s another piece I haven’t seen.”