The filmmaker is trying to save the
world one meditation at a time.
By Allan Richter
David Lynch’s films are testimony to an endless, albeit dark, imagination. Busting boundaries between art house cinema and Hollywood with films such as “Blue Velvet,” “Wild at Heart” and “Mulholland Drive,” Lynch has reached mainstream audiences that have learned to expect the unexpected with an oddball cast of characters: a mysterious lounge singer, an Elvis-impersonating ex con, an amnesiac car-wreck survivor and other square pegs often squeezed through the round hole of seemingly unblemished, small-town America.
Lynch is as preoccupied with the depths of the psyche and soul as he is with the far reaches of the imagination. In evidence are his David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace, and its efforts to promote Transcendental Meditation among at-risk schoolchildren, the homeless, veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other vulnerable groups.
With ancient Eastern roots, Transcendental Meditation was introduced to the West by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, known most widely for his contact with the Beatles in India. TM advocates say other forms of meditation are superficial because they are based on concentration or contemplation, while TM involves delving deep within one’s consciousness. They compare it to an ocean, with upheaval residing among the surface waves versus the calm found at the ocean floor.
“It transforms a person’s life,” Lynch says. “This experience of diving within with this technique really gets you to the deepest level of life. Once you experience that transcendent level, that unified field of Oneness, the Source, whatever you want to call it, it has many names, you infuse some of that.
You’re bringing in the gold, and the side effect is that garbage starts going out. All sorts of negativity and stress starts lifting. Anxiety, tension, sorrow, depression, hate, anger and fear start to lift away.”
Promoting the practice on frequent travels, Lynch is a Johnny Appleseed for the soul. With reams of research backing the benefits of TM in tow, Lynch often traverses the globe to promote the practice with celebrity TM practitioners such as Paul McCartney, Clint Eastwood or Russell Brand at his side. Lynch spoke to us in New York.
Energy Times: In your book Catching the Big Fish (Tarcher/
Penguin), you describe the ease with which TM worked for you the first time you meditated in 1973. You said you had not noticed that 20 minutes had gone by. Yet Norman Rosenthal, MD, in his book Transcendence (Tarcher/Penguin), notes that it took him several months. Of the vulnerable groups that you are bringing TM to, did one particular group take to it faster than another?
David Lynch: I think in a strange way you can say the more you’re suffering under stress the more you’re going to feel the benefits in the beginning. I wasn’t suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder. I just happened
to luck out and slip into the transcendence in my first meditation.
I have heard stories about other people who didn’t have that euphoria right at the beginning, but somewhere along the line they might have a flashy experience.
In one research study, two girls are hooked to an EEG machine and they meditate for 20 minutes. The first girl comes out and says, “I had the most beautiful meditation.” The other girl says, “My meditation was just terrible. I just didn’t feel it.” The results showed both girls transcended an equal amount of time. An amazing thing is happening. You can slip into that transcendence without having a burst of bliss or euphoria. A lot of times people don’t have flashy experiences in their meditation but they notice in their life the world looks brighter, things seem to go easier, people look more friendly and more familiar. You kind of get this thing called “supportive nature.” Not that things are delivered to your front door, but it’s easier to get things done. This is a very, very cosmic thing.
ET: There’s a lot of emphasis on creativity. Artists such as Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and Clint Eastwood have embraced this for a long time. How have the effects of your meditation been apparent in your body of work?
DL: You really start seeing that everything is connected. It’s kind of uncanny but you’re more on your toes watching the world, therefore you’ll see something that will serve the work or help you in some way. An alertness comes more and more, and you are able to take advantage of what I call happy accidents and see something. It will spark some idea that will lead to something and really make you happy.
There are two things that happen. When you dive down, the physiology settles down just behind the mind and intellect, and it gets rest three times deeper than that of the deepest sleep. It provides a chance for huge stresses to be released. When these stresses get released as you start meditating, a feeling of freedom comes because this heavy weight is lifting away. That serves the work. This heavy weight cramps the flow of ideas, cramps creativity. That’s one thing.
Then you’re infusing all of this happiness, energy, creativity from this deepest level. So you’re expanding the container of consciousness. You’re going to catch ideas easier and on a deeper level. The more of this consciousness you have, the more the creativity and happiness flows. It just serves the work. When you’re sick, depressed, you just don’t feel like working and ideas don’t flow so well. If you can reverse that, it brings all this creativity and all this joy in the work.
ET: You’ve said that “Mulholland Drive” was your only film project for which you got ideas that you could explicitly link to your meditation. Why do you think that happened for that film and not
DL: I don’t know. But I always say that desire for ideas is like a bait on a hook. On that particular day, I really needed those ideas because I got the go-ahead to make “Mulholland Drive” from a [television] pilot to a finished feature film, and I didn’t have the ideas. So I needed them. Lo and behold they came. It was the only time in meditation that ideas came. But you know ideas come more frequently and easier, a flow of ideas come, since I started meditating. You can be super-creative and not meditate. It’s just that you become more creative if you dive down and get the treasure each day.
ET: How has meditation improved your physical health?
DL: When I quit smoking when I first started meditating, I quit for 21 years. Then I started smoking again, and now just recently I’ve quit again. They say a meditator, a person who experiences that transcendence, will look and feel 12 to 15 years younger than their non-meditating counterpart.
ET: Do you feel that is true of yourself?
DL: I think it’s true. I also say, and Norman writes in his book, there are 500 or 600 research studies on the benefits of transcending, Transcendental Meditation; it helps reduce heart attack, high blood pressure, strokes. The symptoms of diabetes and the need for medication lifted very fast in a research study of Native Americans. Everybody feels the benefits right away. It’s the experience of that big ocean within, with all positive qualities.
ET: You made a short film on cooking quinoa. I don’t know if that was intended as humor, but that’s one of the healthiest grains out there.
DL: I really love quinoa. It wasn’t meant in humor. A friend of mine taught me that recipe, and then I did the thing for my site to show people how easy it is to cook.
ET: You also sell your own blends of organic coffee.
DL: I love coffee, and I do have the David Lynch Signature Cup Coffee which comes in House Roast, Decaf or Espresso. I love the flavor of coffee and I love the ritual of it. I grew up just wanting to be a painter and live the art life. So for me—I know it doesn’t make sense in the modern age—but part of the art life for me, because I grew up with it, was smoking, drinking wine and drinking coffee. Three ingredients you had to have for the art life. Now I would say forget those things.
Transcendental Meditation is going to do way more for the art life.
ET: What else can you tell me about your diet or fitness routine? Do you take supplements, for example?
DL: You know there’s been a big move to alternative medicine and natural medicine. One thing I take every single day without fail is [Ayurvedic] amrit nectar. This is what they call a full-spectrum antioxidant. People just sing the praises of this. It’s an ancient formula and it tastes really good, to me anyway, and I take that every morning. I eat pretty healthfully. I like to eat chicken, but I don’t eat red meat anymore. I like to eat vegetables with the chicken, and I like pasta with vegetables. I like healthy, good-tasting vegetarian food. And we hear different things about insecticides, and it’s scary. So if you can get organic food, I think it would be better for you.
ET: What do you do for fitness?
DL: I walk around.
ET: Many people exercise to relieve stress and frustration. You meditate 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening. Do you meditate at other times in the day if you get frustrated or angry?
DL: You’re going to get angry and frustrated less. But let’s say there’s something coming up that you’re pretty nervous about, some opening or something you’ve got to do. You sit down and meditate. I noticed that nervousness that you feel gets very intense. It seems to get intense when you start meditating. It seems to amplify it. It’s not really happening that way, but it seems that way. Then when you finish meditating you notice that you’re much calmer. It seems to have lifted so much of the nervousness. Some actors meditate before an audition.
ET: You are also a musician, and you sing and play guitar on your new blues album, “The Big Dream” (Sacred Bones). How does TM feed your musical muse versus your creativity as a filmmaker?
DL: It feeds creativity, and people find there are ideas in the world for everything. We’re going to catch more ideas, and it’s going to be beautiful. But lo and behold, not only are we going to get ideas for the things we like, but we are going to like even more and different things.
There was a medical doctor I was talking to once, and he had some friends who were quantum physicists. They’d all get together, but the quantum physicists outnumbered him. They started talking about physics and he was totally lost. This doctor didn’t understand what they were talking about and he didn’t really want to. After he started meditating for awhile, he starts listening to them and somewhere inside himself he starts understanding what they’re saying. He may not be able to say it back to them, but he intuitively starts understanding what they are saying.