“Wake Up” (2010). Featuring: Jonas Elrod, J.Z. Knight, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Abdi Assadi, Gary E. Schwartz, Roshi Joan Halifax, Roger Nelson. Directors: Jonas Elrod and Chloe Crespi. www.wakeupthefilm.com
Imagine going to bed one night, assuming that the physical reality you take for granted is all that there is to existence, and then waking up later to discover it’s merely a part of a much bigger picture. Such was the experience of a self-described ordinary guy who suddenly found out that the world was a much more extraordinary place than he ever thought possible, an odyssey explored in the documentary “Wake Up.”
Jonas Elrod, the film’s protagonist and co-director, was living what seemed like an average life until one night when he had a mystical experience in a San Francisco hotel room. He awoke to find the space around him filled with visions of spirits, angels, demons, ghosts and auras. And this new ability didn’t disappear after the initial episode, either; it became an ongoing aspect of his daily routine.
Given that these apparitions were far removed his everyday existence, and an extreme departure from his traditional Southern Christian upbringing, he was startled by these otherworldly sightings. But, once the shock of the initial incident passed, Jonas came face to face with an even bigger challenge—figuring out what to do with this new-found skill. How was it to fit in with the life he had known? How would it change who he was and his understanding of his purpose in life? And, above all, was this something he was genuinely ready to embrace?
To make sure there was nothing wrong with him, Jonas went through medical and psychological screening to verify the state of his physical and mental health. After receiving a clean slate in both areas, he then embarked on a journey in search of his authentic self, exploring all kinds of spiritual, religious, metaphysical and scientific pursuits to find meaning, purpose and direction. He was initially skeptical, even resistant, perhaps wishing that everything would go back to the way it was. But, when he came to realize that his life and world would never be the same again, he had to chart a new path to harmoniously integrate his former self with the person he was now becoming.
Along the way, Jonas travelled the globe to seek the guidance of others, including everyone from his religiously traditional parents and questioning girlfriend to experts in a wide array of spiritual and scientific studies. Among those Jonas consulted were healer/acupuncturist Abdi Assadi, enlightenment instructor J.Z. Knight, Sufi sheikh Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Zen priest Roshi Joan Halifax, neurology professor and consciousness researcher Gary E. Schwartz, and mass consciousness investigator Roger Nelson. His experiences included everything from taking part in a Native American vision quest to a session with an apparitional photographer and even a blindfolded archery session. And, through it all, Jonas came to see how the search for self often raises more questions than it answers but simultaneously delivers an overall experience that makes the journey well worthwhile.
Jonas’s odyssey in many ways embodies one of the essential qualities that define the practice of conscious creation—that we’re all in a constant state of becoming. Viewers witness this as Jonas’s persona and outlook evolve over the course of the film (which was shot over the course of three years), taking him from a place where he seemingly sleepwalks through life to a point where he’s awoken to a new way of being, one where he truly “wakes up.”
Through this process of exploration, Jonas also learns how to come to grips with his beliefs, the elements that drive the conscious creation process and that ultimately determine how one’s reality materializes. At the same time, he comes to terms with his authentic self and, by extension, his value fulfillment, the conscious creation concept that relates to finding our true purpose in life. And, in the end, Jonas finally figures out what he’s supposed to do with a capability that at one time he was uncomfortable even acknowledging, let alone embracing.
“Wake Up” is an intriguing piece of filmmaking, one that effectively explores one man’s journey to find meaning from an unexpected spontaneous awakening. Those who are well acquainted with the concepts this film explores may find the content a little basic, but metaphysical neophytes are likely to be quite engaged, especially those viewers who can relate to the kinds of potentially overwhelming experiences that the protagonist initially encounters. The narrative at times seems a bit meandering, reflective of how one might feel when suddenly thrust from the comfort of a conventional routine into an upending spiritual fog, though viewers might have been able to better grasp the impact of this conundrum with the framework provided by a more clearly defined back story.
The picture premiered at the 2009 South by Southwest Film Festival and made its theatrical debut in New York in 2010. It has since been featured in a series of ongoing special screenings, a list of which can be found on the film’s official web site. It is also available for online viewing through the film’s web site and for purchase on DVD.
As most of us can probably attest, waking up from a sound sleep can be a jarring experience, especially if it happens suddenly and unexpectedly. It can be even more daunting when we emerge from those slumbers into an entirely new world, full of images and wonders with which we’re totally unfamiliar. But making the effort to explore and understand those new marvels can prove rewarding beyond belief, and thanks to this movie, we now have a guide to help us navigate those challenging new waters.
Copyright © 2011, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.