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Support Is Everywhere

 

God wants to sell you something

but you don’t want to buy it.

That is what all your suffering is.

Your manic screaming,

your haggling over the price.

~ Hafiz

 

 

Jonathan Wald is an award-winning filmmaker, theatre director, and artist. Born in Northern California, he now lives in Australia where he is part of the AV crew who film Gangaji and Eli's events in Australia. Jonathan has been living with chronic depression for much of his life. He comes from a family with a long history of mental illness. Three of his four grandparents committed suicide when he was growing up. It’s not an easy legacy to live with. When you meet him though, it is not the darkness that strikes you, although it’s there, but the light that is shining through.

 

In the last 8 months Jonathan has been on an intense journey of healing, healing that reaches back to the past generations of his family, and forward through him to us. Gangaji has been a huge part of that journey.

 

Interview with GF staff

 

In the clip (see below) you talk about the support that is everywhere, and the discovery that the six things that you think are not supporting you, actually are. Can you say more about that?

 

Yes! It’s been a huge realization that not only does literally everything that surrounds me support me, but even those things that don’t appear the way I would like them to appear, still support me. 

 

Depression can be a support. Not having the sort of work that I want can be a support. I got bullied out of a job about three or four years ago, and right around the same time a project fell apart that I loved and had been working on for eight years. I haven’t worked a lot since then. My mind is angry about that. My mind resents it. Yet there’s an opportunity in it too. Even that is a form of support.

 

Last September I had a very bad breakdown. I came off of my medication cold turkey. I felt like it wasn’t doing it’s job because I felt so terrible on it. Also, and I still feel a little uncomfortable saying this, I wanted to feel worse. I wanted to get so depressed that I would kill myself. I wanted to die.

 

In that moment, when I came off my medication, there were only three positive things that I had to look forward to: I was signed up to go see Gangaji and be part of the Leela School in November of that year; I had signed up for a vipassana retreat the following January; and I was going to an ayahuasca ceremony. 

 

Those things kept me going and they have worked together to bring me out of the darkness. In the ayahuasca ceremony Gangaji and Eli were both incredibly present and appeared to me. I’m convinced that I would never have been able to take in what the plant medicine had to teach me without what I had been getting from Gangaji and Eli for the past decade.

 

Somehow I am lucky enough to be the beneficiary of this support, the support of a teaching from a village in India from a hundred years ago, and the support of a teaching from a village in Peru. My grandparents who killed themselves didn’t have that support. They didn’t have access to this stuff.

 

You grew up with the shadow of the suicide of three of your grandparents. How did that legacy show up in you?

 

So much of the way it showed up was not in a conscious awareness of the thought patterns that lead to depression, but in a running away from them. There was a desperate desire to be perfect in my school work, in my professional work, in my mystical work; to hide this deep sense that I was not good enough, that I was not lovable, that I was a failure. There was this sense of absolute horror at the idea of any sort of conflict between me and anyone else. I would feel that if anybody didn’t like me or got angry at me, they would see the unlovable, un-savable, irrevocably flawed person that I believed I was.

 

I had to avoid that at all costs by being perfect, by being agreeable, by blending. That led to me backing away from what I love over and over again. At the same time I was really driven to follow what I love. I was the spiritual one in my family from a very early age, when my family didn’t support that at all. There was always this pull in me, this yearning for something deeper. My parents hated religion, and they didn’t know anything about spirituality. They raised me Jewish but only in the cultural sense. But I convinced them when I was eight or nine to send me to Hebrew school, which they did not want to do. 

 

As an artist I was always drawn to things that were controversial, where I was going to have put my stake in the ground. It would be this dance: “Oh, I’m putting myself out there! Oh, I’ve put myself out there! Oh, my God I have to run away! Oh, I still want to put myself out there! No, I have to run away.”  This kind of dance would provoke extreme anxiety.

 

It happened around my sexuality too. I knew that I was gay when I was six, and that became totally tied up with this sense of deep wrongness. Even though I grew up in Northern California with very liberal parents, I had internalized the judgment so strongly that I just thought, “I can’t show this either.”              

 

I came out when I was nineteen, when I went to college.  But for thirty years, I had the experience when I was having sex that my throat would close up. The idea of expressing a desire, or stating, “This is who I am,” and risking somebody else rejecting me, or somebody else getting angry with me, was incomprehensible to me.

 

How have you made your way out of the grip of all of that?

 

In the last nine months, I feel like forty-eight years and many generations before that of pain and energy have been coming through me. It’s been incredibly intense. For the first six or seven months of the year, I was only sleeping two or three hours a night. I would wake up in the middle of the night, I would shake, I would twitch, I would make random sounds, I was crying, I was laughing at times.

 

I’ve had a couple of means of support that allowed me to deal with this; one was the Gangaji and the Leela School sangha. Another was ayahuasca, which was helping me physically, and energetically. And then also my doctors and my friends.

 

I was incredibly lucky that I didn’t have to work during that period cause I couldn’t. I was on disability and I was getting unemployment benefits, but I didn’t have to show up for job interviews because I was getting some support from my parents. 

 

So I would spend whole days where I just shook, or twitched, or did whatever had to be done.  It’s still happening. Last night again I slept two or three hours, and then I was up, crying in the middle of the night and shaking, but it’s not as extreme. 

 

I’m learning different ways of dealing with it as it appears. There is space around it at times. I can soothe myself through meditating, or listening to Gangaji, or smelling a plant that I learned of. For the last eight or nine months, I’ve had Gangaji’s book or Eckhart Tolle’s book on twenty-four hour repeat on my phone, and when I’m not listening to that, I’m generally watching a video or something. Their voices are keeping me going.

 

What happens if you turn it off?

 

Well when I say twenty-four hours that is an exaggeration! It was twenty-four hours, and now it’s less. At the beginning, and sometimes even still, I was just trying to make it through. But now when stuff comes up I don’t identify with it as much. It’s not as extreme. Before, no matter how much wisdom and transmission I had gotten from Gangaji, with the intensity of what was hitting me, even though I understood intellectually that there was a choice, technically it wasn’t possible for me to make that choice.

 

Even now sometimes I’m in the middle of it, and it’s three in the morning, and I’ve only had two hours of sleep, and it’s dark outside, and it’s dark inside, and I lose it, I lose that perspective. But what I’ve really gotten from Gangaji is that sense that if the weather is bad, an umbrella is possible. An umbrella exists.

 

Why do you think this transformation is happening now?

 

It’s luck! It’s grace. At my first ayahuasca weekend retreat, my grandfather came to me in the journey. The first thing that happened is I got really angry at him, and I told him, “You passed something down to me, and it’s not my stuff. I don’t want it!…” Then pretty soon I got really grateful to him, because he also passed me the resources internally and externally to deal with it. I got this really clear message that my job was to heal, to heal myself, and to heal backwards….

 

You are also healing forwards by just sharing this…

 

Yes! It’s like that Hafiz poem. I don’t really want this to be my job. I want to go out and make art or something. My mind is not at peace with this as a job, but this is the job I’m here for: to transform those generations of darkness, pain, and suffering into light.

 

That is such a surrender. It’s transformative just to hear that.

 

It’s incredibly moving to me to hear that, because you don’t just want it to be for yourself. You want there to be a point. Then it’s not about me and my suffering and my history, but about the support that is here for all of us, everywhere.

 

I feel almost egotistical saying this, but it is the story of Christ: it’s what this body was put here to do, to take on this suffering and turn it into something else. So what to do? We all have our own crucifixions, we all have something given to us that we can fight or we can surrender to. I’m still fighting it, and every time I fight it, I suffer more. Every time I surrender to it, it’s not that it’s fun, but there’s a lot less suffering.

 

How do you feel about medication at this point?

 

Over seventeen years I’ve probably tried twelve or fourteen different medications. They’ve kept me alive, and I’m very grateful for that. I was very productive. I also undermined myself a lot, so I was productive at an extreme cost: not sleeping, anxiety attacks, depression in between. But the medications kept me alive. And I was talking to my psychiatrist just last week about going back on medication because I’ve been off now for almost a year. He thought we had never found a medication that worked for me. That was really compelling to me. So we'll see.

 

Thank you Jonathan, it has been a joy to speak with you and to be able to share this story with others who are finding Gangaji. Who knows who this will touch.