Dear beautiful Refine The Mind community members,
First things first: I love you.
I hope life is progressing in a favorable and delectable way for you.
How are you? It’s been quite some time since I sent out a General Life Update Thing.
I’m currently sitting in a lovely house in the countryside in southern Poland, where I’ll be situated for the next month.
It’s hard to know where to begin filling you in on all that’s happened in recent times. I’m going to confine myself to 2018, because this year alone has felt like a lifetime, and I say that without exaggeration.
The past seven months have looked like this:
One week in Austin, Texas for a friend’s wedding at which I saw ~25 old friends.
7 weeks in Costa Rica, with multiple weeks spent in the jungle, for our first-ever HighExistence retreat and to simply explore with dear friends. Costa Rica ended up being one of the most transformative and unbelievable chapters of my life.
One month in Las Vegas (including road trips to Utah and Arizona) to visit a dear friend and see several other old good friends who were all English teachers in South Korea at the same time as me.
Two weeks in Colorado to see dear friends, old and new.
Three days in Wisconsin to meet a groovy rapper friend I’ve begun collaborating with.
One week in the Upper Peninsula of Northern Michigan for a camping and kayaking trip with my dad and his long-time best friend, Alan.
One month in Iowa to visit my family and old great friends.
Three days in Nebraska to see wonderful old friends.
Two weeks in San Francisco, California to see dear old friends.
One day in Iceland for a layover on my way to Europe.
Three weeks in Amsterdam, Netherlands for our second HighExistence retreat—three of the best and most profound weeks of my life.
And now, Poland. Yesterday I explored Krakow on foot for several hours and found it to be an absolute treasure of a city. It’s now one of my favorite places in the world, I think.
Then last evening I arrived at my present dwelling—a spacious house in the countryside village of Grodziec, to which I traveled thanks to the gracious invitation of a good friend. Here I intend to spend a month in deep solitude diving intensively into my creative process.
Writing this letter seemed like an apt way to arrive in this place—a chance to catch my breath and reflect on how the “cannon called my past” (to use my friend Mike’s lovely phrase) ejected me into this very moment. An opportunity to begin integrating.
In the last 5 years, I haven’t stayed in one place for longer than one year at a time. I’ve now visited ~25 countries (28 if you count places where I was only in the airport). Hell, I know I said I wasn’t going to go back farther than 2018, but real quick, let’s trace the rough timeline:
Summer of 2012: Studied abroad for one month in Toledo, Spain. Here, the floodgates of my wanderlust were thrust open.
Autumn of 2013: Moved to Busan, South Korea to teach English for one year.
2014: South Korea, Japan, Cambodia, Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, then finally back home to Iowa after 16 months in Asia.
2015: Moved to San Francisco, lived there for ~8 months.
2016: San Francisco, Los Angeles, a cabin on a commune in Canada; Amsterdam, Netherlands for three months; Germany, France, Belgium, Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, Colorado…
2017: Moved to Colorado Springs, lived there for ~11 months.
2018: Back home to Iowa to start the year with family (there were also intermittent Iowa visits interspersed throughout the aforementioned), then on to the places I already mentioned earlier in this letter.
Way back in 2014, I wrote about novelty overload, and I chuckle now, considering how that unsuspecting 23-year-old version of me had little idea how much more novelty was yet to come. Sampling many forms of novelty has become a kind of theme of my adult life, and though this can be discombobulating, I wouldn’t have it any other way, as I believe novelty refreshes, re-enlivens, and re-awakens us to the wonders present all around, if we have eyes to see.
And yet, at the same time, holy shit, sometimes in this whirlwind journey that my life has become, it’s hard to find time to BREATHE. To reflect, process, INTEGRATE, marinate—to wrap my damn mind around the things I’ve done and seen. It’s a lot to take in.
And as I said, this year in particular has been something else entirely. 2016 and 2017 seemed to fly by, but 2018 just seems to keep going and going and going. This likely has something to do with a certain number of life-altering entheogenic experiences in Costa Rica that deepened the spiritual/mystical dimension of my being in unforeseen, welcome, and paradigm-shattering ways, but there’s more to it than that.
This year feels like a vortex. Like some kind of portal opened up, and, whether I wanted to or not, it was time to fly. Time to expand at light speed in ways I could not have imagined.
God, it’s been a hell of a ride. Like really, I find myself wondering where the fuck I am, who the fuck I am, what the fuck is going on. Reality has become something out of a peculiar, fast-paced novel. Yet Madre Mia, have there been blessings along the way. By the chin hairs of Buddha, I swear I am immensely grateful—for all of it. All the holy-shit-ness. Christ. Wow. How. What. Where. When. Who. Gah!
And the gods chuckle, dance, wink.
“If only you knew what the gods had in store for you, you’d dance naked on an ocean beach, arms outstretched to the sky, weeping tears of joy.”
I heard some words along these lines once, and this is the iteration into which they’ve since morphed in my funny mind. These words ring true at the moment. Oh so true.
“Nature loves courage,” McKenna said. You leap and things shift to catch you, to elevate you. “Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls,” Campbell said. Experience strongly suggests to me that these aphorisms are not kook soup or woo woo, but gemstones of unadulterated truth.
It hasn’t been easy, though. Far from it. Life’s fucking hard, man. Plenty of pain to go around. Always.
2018 has been a decidedly challenging year filled with heaps of joy and heaps of pain. Life is always life-y—containing plenty of chillness and plenty of difficulty. Everyone is fighting a strenuous battle, yet there’s always much to be grateful for.
And of course, when we recognize the trials all are undergoing at all times, it becomes clear that kindness is everything. Why would you want to inject more shittiness into this already challenging-ass existence? Be kind, friend.
In life I simply aim to flow with the go, grow with the flow, learn from the darkness, share the good vibes, and savor the sweetness.
Playful non-resistance. Surrender to the River. Trust Nature. Breathe deeply. Respond skillfully, don’t react knee-jerkingly. Non-reactive spacious awareness is freedom.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for listening. Thank you for feeling with me. Thinking with me. Deep thanks to those of you who have continued to listen to my scribblings for years. You’re all fucking awesome.
Infinite thanks and love to the many, many gorgeous souls who have made this year such a marvelous and moving adventure! You know who you are! And special love for my dear family—deepest gratitude for your unending encouragement and support.
Big love and hugs to all who may read this. Thank you for existing and co-creating this reality we’re experiencing. Cheers to making it a lush and luscious place for all life on Earth and beyond!
With Tremendous Love and a Hearty Belly Laugh,
Jordan Clark Bates
P.S. As you probably noticed, in the whirlwind of the last few years I’ve gradually allowed Refine The Mind to become less of a priority. However, it is now my intention to revitalize. I hope to publish at least every ~month or so, and I’m creating some new things as well. Stay tuned.
P.P.S. In case you missed it, I recently released a new life-affirming rap EP entitled, ‘YOU’RE FUCKING ALIVE, MAN.’