david lynch is on a beautiful trip towards enlightenment (and you can be, too)
As his Transcendental Meditation foundation turns ten this year, we speak to the legendary director about changing the world twenty minutes at a time.
"Well, I woke up, I had a cup of coffee and a smoke, and then I meditated," says David Lynch over the phone from Los Angeles. I'd asked him about his morning, and this is, apparently, what he has done every morning since 1973.
His Missoula, Montana accent sounds exactly how you know it sounds. It's cherry-pie wholesome, and very, very calm. Ironically, given that we're about to discuss his 42-year-long practice of Transcendental Meditation, I have never felt less calm. I am on the brink of an anxiety attack, brought on by extreme fanatical love for the work of David Lynch. I am like the perfect "before" case in a study about the benefits of TM.
This year is the tenth anniversary of the director's TM organization, the David Lynch Foundation For Consciousness Based Education and World Peace. It's also the year in which everybody seems to have discovered meditation. Sky Ferreira has spoken about how TM "saved her life" and in April she sang a cover of "Blue Velvet" at a concert to celebrate the foundation's birthday at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles. In June, Russell Simmons launched his own TM app, Meditation Made Simple. Offices and schools are now setting aside time for TM. And suddenly no one can sit through a lunch without telling you about Headspace.
According to its website, The Lynch Foundation "helps to prevent and eradicate the all-pervasive epidemic of trauma and toxic stress among at-risk populations through promoting widespread implementation of the evidence-based Transcendental Meditation (TM) program." In practice, this means the foundation works with children in inner-city schools, veterans with PTSD, prisoners and victims of domestic violence, introducing TM as a way to improve health and happiness. "A lot of people suffer from traumatic stress. Not just stress, but traumatic stress," David tells me. "They get this technique and it's like blowing the top of a power cooker. It's miraculous, it's transforming. It's so beautiful."
Here is an edited insight into the swirling vortex of David Lynch's almost enlightened mind (he's "still on the path"). Next week, I'm taking an introductory course in TM.
How did you first discover TM?
It was 1973, Sunday morning, July 1, at about 11 o'clock. My little sister called me and told me she had started transcendental meditation. At first, when the Beatles were with the Maharishi [Mahesh Yogi, the developer of the TM technique] and they learned to meditate, I thought okay, fine for the Beatles, but I have no interest in meditation. Then, I started to hear the phrase "true happiness is not out there; true happiness lies within." And that phrase had a ring of truth to it, for me. I thought, maybe meditation is the way to go within and find that happiness. I read a bunch of stuff about many forms of meditation and nothing seemed right. But when my sister called I heard a change in her voice. There was more happiness, more self-assuredness. I said that's what I want, and I went and got it.
Where were you in your career at that point?
I was working on my first feature, Eraserhead.
How did meditating effect that?
The way it effects any human being. I got happier and this anger that was in me lifted away. I got more energy, ideas flowed more freely. I felt good in my body. I felt more optimism. The difference was a beautiful thing, Alice, and it came from diving within each day.
Jerry Seinfeld said in an interview once that transcendental meditation is like a phone charger, and your mind and body are the phone. Is that a helpful analogy?
Yes, only that charge is coming from within. Within every human being is a field of unbounded intelligence, creativity, happiness, love, energy and peace. Every time a person truly transcends they experience that field, infuse some of it and begin to expand their consciousness.
It's an ancient form of meditation brought back by the Maharishi for this time. And it's easy and effortless. If you are a human being it will work for you. It doesn't matter what religion you are, what walk of life, what culture you're from, what color your hair or skin is. If you're fat or thin, tall or short, it will work.
People think oh, I'm so busy, I don't have time for this. But people waste way more than 40 minutes in a day. You just have to make it part of your routine. You meditate for 20 minutes in the morning before you go about your activities and again in the evening. And when you come out of meditation you are super refreshed, so it's like it's money in the bank.
Besides the immediate effects, is there an end goal?
The goal of human life is supreme enlightenment. That's our full potential. Everybody's birthright is to one day enjoy supreme enlightenment. It's just a question of time and infusing what you know with pure consciousness. It's a beautiful, beautiful trip we're on, Alice.
How do you know once you get there...?
Well, first of all, I'm not enlightened. But on the way to the goal, things get better and better. There is a phrase "And the world is as you are."The analogy is: if you have green glasses you see a green world, and if you have stress the world doesn't look so good. You start cleaning that machine and infusing that gold and the world starts looking better.
They say you know 100% when you reach supreme enlightenment. There is a saying that you will have 200% of life. You would have 100% of everything manifest and 100% of everything unmanifest. It is usually described as "more than the most." It's the be all and end all.
What made you want to take what you've learned and help other people with the Foundation?
Well, I visited a school with consciousness based education in Fairfield, Iowa. And what consciousness based education is, is a school that has a regular curriculum, except the students are doing transcendental meditation in the morning and evening.
I went to the school play on a freezing cold rainy night in a little theater. And I thought it was going to be one of the most boring nights of my life. But onto the stage came these students and I saw the most magical thing: I saw consciousness glowing off their faces. It's this thing that is so beautiful that you can't stop watching it. I thought wait a minute, every school has got to have this. Schools are hell holes now. If we introduce transcendental meditation to the students, it changes everything.
Between 2005 and 2015 how do you think the world has changed, and how has the foundation changed to meet its needs?
People are so fatigued these days. They're so stressed out. It's a crazy, crazy world. But you give yourself this dive within each day and things just get better and better. So now there are a whole bunch more happy students, vets, homeless and prisoners, and a whole bunch of so-called "regular people" that are happier. You can look at this way: in a dark world if everybody became a light unto themselves there wouldn't be darkness anymore. We are supposed to be happy - these little puppies who are wagging their tails with smiles on their faces.
Final question: How does TM effect your work, and specifically your characters?
Characters, they kind of come along. When you start meditating, creativity and ideas start flowing more freely. But there are trillions of ideas out there, Alice, that we can catch. And you catch ideas on a deeper and deeper level when you start expanding that ball of consciousness. I fall in love with certain ideas, and Sam falls in love with another bunch and Suzy falls in love with another bunch. But they're out there to be caught, you just have to expand that container of consciousness.
Text Alice Newell-Hanson
Photography David Lynch