The HighExistence Retreat

Bios

Who you will meet at Apotheosis.

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Martijn Schirp

Co-Founder and CEO of HighExistence, Martijn left his professional poker career to meditate in the Himalayas, replacing casinos with monasteries, and poker chips with Dharma books. Returning home, he studied interdisciplinary science and philosophy (phenomenology in particular), before immersing himself into the shamanistic practices of the Amazon. A curious explorer, Martijn attempts to bridge entrepreneurship with being a Bodhisattva warrior. In different embodiments, Martijn currently creates retreats and workshops, coaches on purpose, and consults for companies in the psychedelic space.

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Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks originates from the countryside in South Wales, and as a young boy was drawn to magic and illusion. He soon learned that through practice, study, and dedication miraculous feats could be achieved that brought spectacle and joy to those around him. The world of illusion served as a gateway for Jon’s curiosity into the realms of art, psychology, and film—other types of magic. As a high school student, he graduated with the top grades for art in his country and went on to pursue an undergraduate degree in filmmaking; here he dived deeper into the psychology, spirituality, and writing. After leaving university, Jon created a blog called Comfort Pit, which in a synchronistic event brought him to the attention of Martijn Schirp, the co-founder of HighExistence. Jon is now the co-owner of HighExistence and tries to inspire through his own life story and writings how to transcend the ordinary world and embark on a Hero’s Journey.

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Jordan Bates

Jordan Bates is a creator, writer, entrepreneur, hyper-curious autodidact, rap artist, and world traveler who has been to 21 countries. After studying English literature, philosophy, and Spanish in university, he moved to South Korea, where he taught English for one year before embarking on a several-month backpacking journey throughout much of Southeast Asia. Since quitting the world of traditional jobs to work full-time on the Internet, he’s continued to travel, finding temporary homes in San Francisco, Amsterdam, Albania, Colorado Springs, Bulgaria, and a cabin in a Canadian forest. He’s experienced firsthand the immense transformative power of travel and meeting amazing individuals, and he’s eager to help others find that power. Jordan currently serves as Executive Editor and Co-Owner of HighExistence, as well as Founder and Creator of Refine The Mind. In his free time, he loves reading, learning, hiking, kayaking, poker, skiing, deep conversations, and craft beer.

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Jonathon Weisberger

Jonathon is the founder and steward of Ocean Forest Ecolodge. Sparrow, as his friends affectionately call him, was born in Berkeley California but raised from a very young age in the country of Ecuador. Although he likes to consider himself a professional beach bum, in truth he is an insatiable scholar, knowledgeable ethnobotanist and intrepid rainforest guide. For over 15 years, he has been leading avid adventurers into remote regions of Ecuador, Peru and Costa Rica to rediscover Nature's beauty and intelligence.

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Adam Rice

Originally from Florida, USA, Adam Rice has been teaching Vinyasa flow yoga since 1999. A former Junior Olympic athlete, entrepreneur and adventurer, Adam discovered the power that yoga has to restore his balance and reconnect him with his inner strength. In addition to his teaching, Adam has dedicated his life to helping others. He is the founder of Yoga Kids Uganda, a program to integrate yoga into trauma therapy programs for the child soldiers of the Ugandan civil war, and Travel with a Purpose, which takes yoga students to places like India to volunteer in orphanages. He is a Legacy Ambassador for Lululemon Athletica, a Senior Teacher at Spirit Yoga Berlin, and offers workshops and retreats around the world.

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Melissa Stangl

Melissa Stangl holds a Master’s Degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, USA. After several years conducting brain and lung cancer research and gaining managerial experience across a wide range of businesses, her interests turned toward the healing power of plant medicines and psychedelics, and their influence on the mind-body connection. She has since managed operations and coordinated various social projects as Director of Business Development at Pulse Tours/Arkana Spiritual Center, an ayahuasca retreat center in the Peruvian Amazon. She is currently the Founding Partner and Chief Operating Officer at Soltara Healing Center (www.soltara.co), a plant medicine and holistic healing center in Costa Rica, with a strong focus on integration support and creating a community that empowers each member to be their own healer. In an effort to dive more fully into the plant medicine movement and recent renaissance of psychedelic science, she is also currently writing a book called Roots of Consciousness, which has won the MAPS-sponsored psychedelic literature contest through Publishizer. For more information, see: www.rootsofconsciousness.net

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Mayry Craver

Mayry Craver was raised in the forest of the Colorado Rockies, she is a lover and student of nature who fills her mind with thoughts of universal optimization and personal mastery. Her joys include working as her grandmother's caretaker, creating delicious plant based recipes, and learning about organic gardening, sustainablity and minimalism. She is fascinated by culture, art and humanity, an eclectic pagan and believer in magick, as well as a poet, philosopher and artist. Her dreams include building an off-the-grid self-sustaining homestead, becoming a long-term international vagabond and following her art wherever it may lead her.

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Gibby Barnfather

Just a dude from England, living in Bristol. Having awoken from the slumber, his enlightenment continues to unravel the confusion and stress which enlightens the load to make life easier and a joy. He no longer works for the man, running his own media and print consultancy business, Funky Gibbon Ltd...  choosing not to work too much or too hard to spend more time with his family. His kids are 2 and 5yrs old. Gibby lives an idyllic life away from the stress and pressure others seem to be under. That's his life, it's relaxed and easy going, with a non-sticky mind he likes to feel and go with the flow. He continues to explore the cosmos and he is excited about embarking on this adventure with you amazing people, surrounded by nature in a far away corner of paradise.

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Eric Brown

Eric is a serial brand builder, having built up multiple companies in industries like the sharing economy, eCommerce, wearable technology, and currently cryptocurrency and digital assets. Trying to live at the intersection of emerging tech, self-actualization, and social good, he wanders the world trying to play his part in building the future. A self-professed techno-utopian, he is shifting his focus from external technology to internal development. He’s spent some time recently helping out around the virtual HighExistence office, from social to content to the Apotheosis retreat. 

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Cara Christopher

Cara heard she could be whatever she wanted to be when she grew up so she became a rainbow.  As a youngster, she was fascinated by death, ancient civilizations,  outerspace, ETs, and life's mysteries.  She couldn't wait to be a grown up so she didn't have to answer to anyone and could do what she wanted when she wanted.  At university, she switched majors from philosophy to photography to psychology.  She is a very peopley person and completed her coursework for a Master's in Community Counseling but then shifted her attention to alternative healing modalities and holistic health.  She is a certified holistic health coach focusing on sexuality and emotional healing.  She has led many workshops on crystal healing as well as polyamory and open relationships.  She especially loves synchronicities, goofy tattoos, reading, learning, teaching, sharing, galactivating, growth, rainbows, stickers, crystals, chanting in Sanskrit, serving others, hiking, waterfalls, highpoints, spots off the beaten path, and random adventures.  

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Jake Zieman

Jake Zieman was born and raised in Scarsdale, NY and became enthralled with filmmaking at a very young age. In 2015 he moved to Southern California to pursue a degree in Television Writing & Production at Dodge College of Media and Arts at Chapman University. Upon graduation, Jake plans to begin his career as a freelance editor and eventually acquire the connections and experience necessary to write and direct films of the surrealist genre. Jake has a big heart, loves connecting with people and is always looking for opportunities to learn and grow. He loves artwork of all kinds; his hobbies includes making dreamlike digital art and writing and recording original raps. He worked for HighExistence as a Video Editor and Graphic Designer and is extremely excited for this retreat. Jake considers it an opportunity to self-actualize and find solidarity with individuals he likely wouldn’t have a chance to meet otherwise.

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Nicole Abrams

Nicole Abrams is a Canadian born, United States raised, self-proclaimed nature nerd living the high life in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. She received a degree in Wildlife Sciences from Purdue University back in 2009 and promptly entered the Peace Corps upon graduation. She spent 27 months living in Morocco as an environmental educator and community development volunteer. She entered the world of outdoor environmental education when she returned to the states, teaching coastal ecology to students in North Carolina on Bogue Banks barrier island. She relocated to Avon, Colorado in 2013 to teach natural science summer camp at Walking Mountains Science Center, eventually leading to a position as the Avon in School Science Instructor and after school Girls in Science Coordinator. Nicole is also an avid volunteer for SOS Outreach youth mentoring, Women's Empowerment Workshop's Chrysalis Circle camp for teenage girls, and sits on the steering committee for a local volunteer coalition called Bare Roots, a project of the Vail Valley Salvation Army, which promotes healthy and sustainable food access through education, outreach, and partnership. She is most passionate about this work, helping the group maintain the local greenhouse and community garden as well as facilitating yearly events that connect the community to local food resources. Currently, Nicole is in a life transition. After 5 years, she is set to leave her full time position in May and is full of so many ideas of work she would like to do. She is most excited to be attending this retreat to meet like minded, spiritually inclined people who can share their wisdom and experiences. Nicole will be coming into this retreat as a vessel ready to be filled with inspiration and guidance. 

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Matt Karamazov

Matt Karamazov is a nightclub bouncer from Halifax, Canada. Make that: the friendliest bouncer IN Halifax, Canada. He is obsessed with human rights, fitness, and reading, and is currently more than halfway to his goal of reading 1,000 books before he turns 30. Among other lessons, reading has taught him to balance radical humility with an aggressive self-belief, and to constantly think on two levels at once. Through his writing, he teaches personal responsibility and self-respect, and has recently launched a nonprofit that indirectly raises money for Doctors Without Borders. Seeing people his own age literally starving to death on the streets of New Delhi taught him exactly how full of shit he actually was up until that point in his life, and pushed him towards the seemingly-impossible project of self-perfection and the task of combating global suffering wherever it is found.

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Jonathan Toniolo

Jonathan (Tony) Toniolo was born and raised in South Carolina by a family of Brazilian immigrants. Amidst a relatively normal, middle class upbringing, he nurtured an insatiable curiosity about the world, which eventually culminated in a complete reassessment of everything that was offered to him as normal. Come time for University, he was completely disillusioned with his path and decided to pause school to live and work in the lovely ski town of Telluride, CO. He eventually landed at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, where he acquired a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies, along with a renewed passion for education. He plans on returning to CIIS this fall to pursue graduate studies in Integral Counseling Psychology. But when he’s not thinking and reading about psychedelics, philosophy, or psychology, he’s busy bartending, playing soccer, dancing to live music, or traveling to foreign lands.

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Thiago Hanken

Thiago is from the cultural and colorful northeastern city of Recife, located in Pernambuco, Brazil. He is a Journalism bachelor and a Non-immigrant Visa Specialist. When he's not an Avatar in the 9-5 job, he enjoys cooking, reading, dancing, and drumming "Maracatu" on the streets of Recife. He has become obsessed with healthy living, environmentally friendly products, and hemp as an alternative for construction, clothing and medication. He has had major spiritual breakthroughs since 2014 and is in transition phase to veganism. He dreams of becoming a spiritual and cognitive development coach after he becomes a rockstar - or both, at the same time. In the meantime, he travels every year to some place where he can learn more about spirituality, neurohacking, and how to enhance his photography skills. He journals about his experiences with poems on his Instagram pages @thiagoh and @eyesofhanken. 

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Kelli Gookin

Kelli lives in Sebastopol, California with her best friend and soulmate. She is lucky enough to care for a small farm, a few goats and chicken, two amazing dogs and a kitty stardust. Hard work and getting her hands dirty makes her feel truly accomplished. A dream would be to not have to go to her day job and be completely self sustainable, produce all her own food and possibly an income from the land she lives on. That Dream is still a little out of reach so in the meantime she works as a body Piercer and managing the shop.  She has been doing this for the last 13 years and is ready for change. Kelli decided she will be leaving her job this year and hopefully finding something to really put her heart in to. Her passion faded in her current position and she is now soul searching for something more fulfilling. There are few paths she can currently take and is hoping this trip can help her find some clarity for her future. 

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Gavin Williams

Gavin was born and raised in a somewhat rural town in Northern California. Being an only child and having been indoctrinated with catholicism, both at school and church, it was a sheltered but happy childhood. During his teen years his world began to expand and after witnessing the gradual death of his father and immediate death of a close friend he discarded his inherited faith. The next decade was spent mostly in mindless destruction, both inward and outward, fueled by substance abuse and loathing. After realizing the endless cycle of anguish he was subjecting upon himself and others, and with the help of dozens of hours of psychotherapy, he began a different path. Today, Gavin enjoys horticulture, trail running, world travel and record collecting. He is in the early stages of creating a backyard nursery business with his partner and in his spare time he maintains a square job as a water treatment plant operator. As an effective altruist, Gavin gives his time, blood and money to those less fortunate whenever possible. He is constantly getting lost in philosophical and spiritual literature and finds great peace in his Dharma practice. Gavin is fascinated with love in all its forms and is optimistic in his continued development of his capacity for compassion.

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Lee

I like street-art, I produce music, I work as a freelance app developer. I take long breaks (mini-retirements) to focus on things that are important to me.

I feel time is more valuable than money, especially when you're young and able-bodied. My life aim is to involve myself more with music.

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Philippa Wilkin

Born and bred in the English countryside, Philippa is a corporate escapee, life explorer and breathwork facilitator. Her existential crisis led to a path of self exploration, deciding to quit normal life and break out of the ‘small brown box’ she found herself in to discover her true purpose.  Living in Brazil was the perfect antidote to her western conditioning and provided the space to explore and train in Transformational Breath®, a style of therapeutic breathwork. She is the founder of Breathworks, a coach and retreat leader, and travels the world empowering people to use conscious breathing techniques to achieve their greatest potential.

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Robin Van Nuffel

Robin Van Nuffel (Belgium, °1983) has always opposed traditional ways of life (get a job, start a relationship, buy a house, have children), only to realise that he now has all four. Contrary to what he thought his life is not ruined, but it has a strong and loving base camp from where he can explore the world and all it has to offer. Four years ago he was an uncertain and dependent nihilist, today he is proud of his transformation to an independent and confident optimist, always looking for new doors to open. He started working less in 2017 to make room for things he really wanted to do in life. He took singing lessons; started practicing tantra; spends a lot of time with his girlfriend and son; and after nine years of working as a cameraman and video editor he’s now making his first (and hopefully not last) documentary. 

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Sven

Sven is a highly curious adventurist who feels most at home on the road. Learning best as a chaotic autodidact, he loves doing weird ass experiments (polyphasic sleeping being a favourite). He started out studying Neuroscience, taking Science almost religiously. After his study he became a Wim Hof Method Instructor, redressing Science as a tool. Instead of trying to cancel out the placebo effect, he is now using it as a tool for empowerment. He loves to tribe up with others and sing and dance and play guitar around a midnight-fire. Sven aims to become an interdisciplinary shaman, helping others to step out of their comfort zones and to face their fears, a spiritual call-to-arms. For now, he is trying to suck up experience where he can and work on his own steps forward.