Tag Archives: Jonathan Greenfield

Jonathan Greenfield Breathes For ALS

It’s been more than a year and a half since I profiled Jonathan Greenfield.

A lot has happened to the man I called The Most Interesting Person in Westport

A few months after that story, the NYU dropout/photojournalist/documentary filmmaker/surfer/triathlete/tea specialist was diagnosed with cancer.

And ALS.

He is battling both diseases with his trademark optimism, good humor and vigor.

Meanwhile, he continues to focus on others. He’s eagerly assumed a leadership role in a crusade to help everyone — those diagnosed with ALS, and all the rest — breathe better. We can enhance our lives — even live longer — Jonathan says, if we learn proper techniques, then take ice baths.

And — oh, yeah — Jonathan is organizing several events, to raise funds for two causes: breathing workshops, and ALS research.

Jonathan Greenfield and his wife, Iris Netzer-Greenfield.

Jonathan’s ALS diagnosis in December 2018 did not come out of the blue. His father had died not long before of what is also called Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Jonathan’s brother has it too.

Doctors said they caught it early. But the prognosis — muscle weakness, difficulty breathing, paralysis — is grim. Death, Jonathan says, eventually comes from asphyxiation.

He had already heard about the Wim Hof breathing technique. Combined with cold therapy, it’s said to affect the sympathetic nervous system, resulting in greater energy, reduced stress levels, and an augmented immune system.

When a Wim Hof video appeared on Jonathan’s YouTube feed, he took note. He was about to head to Boston to undergo radiation for the liposarcoma in his neck — a difficult procedure in which a mat would be molded to his face, shoulders and upper body. He would be fastened to a table, and lie perfectly still for 15 minutes.

Jonathan Greenfield, in his body mat.

The weekend before the treatment began, Jonathan took a Wim Hof class. He learned the breathing sequence — then took part in a guided ice bath in the snow. “I was on fire!” Jonathan marvels.

He used the breathing method to endure his first treatment. It did even more than he expected. After 2 rounds of breathing, he went into the deepest meditation state he’d ever experienced.

Over the next 5 weeks, Jonathan developed a routine. He awoke in his Cambridge hotel room. He breathed, went to the hospital for radiation, then returned to the hotel to swim, take a sauna and cold shower. Then he sat — in a towel, still wet — on his hotel deck in the freezing cold. For another 40 minutes, Jonathan would breathe and meditate. He felt great.

In the afternoon, he’d work.

Jonathan was excited. He traveled to Spain, for a Wim Hof workshop.

Working with Westporters Brooke Emery Sharfstein and Julie Blitzer, he booked Earthplace for a June breathing event. He brought 300 pounds of ice.

Jonathan Greenfield, deep in an ice bath.

That’s not all. Realizing that breathing could have helped his father’s quality of life in his final days, Jonathan vowed to share what he learned with the world.

He created Breathe4ALS. In August the organization earned 501c3 status. It’s totally volunteer-run. Sixty percent of funds raised go toward research; 30% to breathing sessions for patients, and 10% for website and operational expenses.

It’s pretty clear that neither ALS nor cancer have slowed Jonathan down. They have not dimmed his spirit either.

“Life is fine,” he says forcefully. “Yes, it’s more challenging in some ways. I’ve taken some wild spills, and thankfully haven’t broken anything yet. But this is what life is about: challenges. It’s how you meet them, harass them and overcome them. Otherwise, life is a bore.”

Not long after his diagnoses, Jonathan Greenfield hiked in Spain with Wim Hof (left).

Jonathan does not want anyone to feel sorry for him. Instead, he urges, “come breathe with me. Hike mountains with me. Celebrate all the possibilities with me.”

Jonathan is focusing on his life here, with his wife Iris — an acupuncturist, who practices in New York and Westport — and their 3 children, ages, 10, 8 and 6. His friends, he says, have “selflessly rallied around us.”

On  Thursday, October 17 (7 p.m., MoCA — formerly the Westport Arts Center — at 19 Newtown Turnpike), Breathe4ALS holds its first fundraiser. It features cocktails, bites and an exciting art raffle. Click here for tickets and more information.

Also ahead: A Breathe4ALS event at the Westport Woman’s Club on November 3. Attendees will learn about the Wim Hof Method (and can enjoy hundreds of pounds of ice).

It’s not limited to people with ALS, he emphasizes. “For anyone, this is a great tool for deep meditation and biofeedback.”

A similar Wim Hof session is set for Cherry Hill, New Jersey on January 12 (Katz JCC).

Meanwhile, Jonathan has a 19.8-cubic foot freezer in his garage. He’s adding a sauna. He hopes to invite neighbors, friends — and everyone else — over, to breathe and plunge.

Cool!

Jonathan Greenfield’s home ice bath. The temperature is 32.1 degrees.

Vani Court’s New Buddy

Alert “06880” reader Jonathan Greenfield loves Westport. These days, he loves it just a little bit more. He writes:

The residents of Vani Court exemplify the absolute best in neighborly values. They truly reflect all that’s wonderful in Westport.

That quiet street off South Compo — which still consists of many post-war Capes built for returning veterans in the 1940s — is where my rescue dog Buddy Holly ended up 2 days in a row after he pushed his way past my daughter, and through an open door.

My 9-year-old son gave chase. I grabbed a leash and ran to the car, as my 4-year-old daughter pointed the way.

I tried to obey the South Compo speed limit, but panic set in. My son and dog were nowhere to be found.

Buddy, at the beach.

We often include Vani Court on our daily walks. Maybe Buddy was there!

As I turned onto the road, I saw a commotion.

My son arrived out of nowhere — on a bike, which he’d gone home to retrieve. I got out of my car, and learned that 2 drivers had seen my son running along the road. They offered him a ride, to help. He declined, saying he could not get in a stranger’s car!

At the same time, residents on  Vani Court had come outside with their own dogs and treats, hoping to nab Buddy. He darted from one dog to the next, having a great time.

Tim Luciano came close to nabbing him. James McLaughlin tried to lure Buddy into his backyard.

The chase became exhausting. But when Jesse Daignault appeared with his dog Milo, Buddy took interest. With lightning fast hands, Jesse grabbed Buddy’s collar.

Victory! Jonathan Greenfield with Buddy, on Vani Court.

But Buddy was just getting started.

The next day — just as my youngest was leaving for preschool — Buddy pushed her aside. He was ready for another adventure.

This time I took a different approach. I followed him calmly, so I wouldn’t chase him away. He headed back to Vani Court.

Dan and Kelly Merton were out with their golden retrievers. Like a magnet, Buddy went to them. Another mini-circus developed.

Eventually Buddy headed back to our house. He wouldn’t come in though. My wife followed him back to Vani Court.

Soon, I got a text from my wife. Iris said, “Got him!” Melissa Wilson had come out with her dog. She and James McLaughlin lured Buddy into her backyard.

As soon as I got home, I called an invisible fence company. I’m also setting up dates to continue Buddy’s training, so he can run with us and be safely off leash.

We are extremely thankful for everyone who helped. Vani Court is such a special place.

It’s not just the charm of the postwar Capes. It’s the people. They so easily express what it’s like to be neighbors. Thank you!

Buddy, back home with Zach Greenfield.

The Most Interesting Person In Westport Drinks Tea

In a town filled with world leaders in finance, entertainment and industries that don’t even have names, there is no shortage of candidates for The Most Interesting Person in Westport.

Today’s candidate is Jonathan Greenfield.

I can’t — in one blog post — do justice to the many things he’s done. But here’s a brief summary of his life (so far):

He dropped out of NYU, then found himself a member of Shakespeare & Company in the Berkshires.

Without even an undergraduate degree, Greenfield was accepted into the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s avant-garde MFA program.

But he left.

His sister had been a child actor, and Greenfield himself had been on “Another World” before he was 5. So when an agent invited him to California, he went.

He drank coffee, hung out, picked up a camera, and started shooting: homeless people in LA, the beach at Venice.

During Operation Gatekeeper — President Clinton’s attempt to halt Mexican immigration — Greenfield talked his way into photographing what went on on both sides of the border, in San Diego and Arizona.

A 1990s-era border wall. (Photo/Jonathan Greenfield)

He also made money photographing actors, and doing other photography “stuff.” This phase of his life is not suitable for a family blog.

In New York, he started photographing for brands like Laura Ashley. He said “yes” to everything. No one knew how little experience he had.

Greenfield had grown up in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Now he was drawn to Camden, the dangerous city a few miles — and many worlds — away.

He photographed it all, from churches to crack houses. He also made a documentary about Camden. That hooked him on filmmaking.

At the same time, Greenfield was freelancing for the New York Times. One of his photos showed Governor Christine Todd Whitman in a muskrat swamp.

He met a woman named Susanne. They applied to an elite master’s degree film program in Germany. Both were accepted.

He made documentaries for German TV, on subjects like drug addicts in rough neighborhoods, and homeless neo-Nazi transvestites.

Wherever he went, Jonathan Greenfield found interesting subjects. (Photo/Jonathan Greenfield)

A project filming German Jews serving in the Israeli Defense Forces during the 2nd Intifada was — among his many projects — one of the most memorable.

On an extended visit in New York, Greenfield met Iris Netzer. She got pregnant. He stuck by her side. That was the end of his European career.

Greenfield had a show in development with Animal Planet. It featured high-end dog groomers from Yonkers, working in Scarsdale. He got great footage, but it was never greenlit.

Greenfield and Iris had a 2nd child. then a 3rd. Fatherhood changed him dramatically.

His father — a doctor who gave up his practice to trade commodities — told him to give it a try.

Greenfield did. He did very well.

But he missed the adventure and excitement of filmmaking.

In 2015 he got a concussion playing ice hockey. He was drinking a lot of tea.

He had an epiphany: He should focus on tea.

Greenfield found the Tea Association of the USA. He learned as much as he could. He traveled to Seattle, to become a certified tea specialist.

Jonathan Greenfield, recently.

These days, Greenfield is branding a budding tea company. He teaches for the Specialty Tea Institute.

He also surfs year round in Rockaway Beach. And he’s training for a triathlon.

He no longer feels the need to travel the world. He’s put his camera down. He loves tea. He’s at every game or swim meet for his kids. He skateboards with his son.

He does the books, and assists with marketing and social media for Iris’ acupuncture practice — she’s got a thriving business in New York, and a new studio called Noa (specializing in women) on Franklin Street near the train station.

“I’m just trying to go moment to moment,” Greenfield says. “I’m living the stoke.”

There may be other, equally interesting people in Westport.

But I know there is no one else in the world with a story quite like Jonathan Greenfield’s.