David Lynch, Transcendental Meditation, and The David Lynch Foundation

David Lynch, of Twin Peaks fame, has been meditating for thirty-five years, since the early heyday of Transcendental Meditation (TM) in the 70s. He says he has never missed a meditation in all that time. He is not the only long-term meditator who claims this. When you hear his first experience it’s not surprising.

In this 1 minute video below David describes his first meditation.

We don’t all have such dramatic experiences to start with…

He rather enjoys the fact that his creativity is so dark. He likes that he is far from the sweet new age image that so many associate with any form of meditation. It emphasizes for him the real effectiveness of Transcendental Meditation – that it is a practice that allows you to be yourself and strengthens that very self – not some kind of externally imposed ideal. He continues to smoke and drink coffee, although TM is generally very effective helping to deal with addictions.

In 2005, he ‘came out of the closet’ meditation-wise and set up a foundation (The David Lynch Foundation) to help finance people in need to learn Transcendental Meditation. They teach kids in difficult schools all over the world, war veterans suffering PTSD, the homeless, prisoners, American Indians, victims of domestic violence and military sexual trauma, and African victims of war. The foundation has found funding for a quarter of a million people to learn TM.

This 5 minutes video gives a nice overview of what the foundation is doing.

They raise funds in all the standard ways, but use celebrity contacts very well. There have been two fund-raising concerts, including Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, as well as many others. Jerry Seinfeld is among them. He has been practising Transcendental Meditation daily for 37 years. I laughed when I heard that name – the man who made millions writing and acting in a series about nothing has 37 years’ experience in doing just that.

The David Lynch Foundation website has articles and videos on what they have done, and bios of all the people involved. Each section has at least one video.

I sat on the computer one cold windy afternoon last week and started to skim through those videos. And I had to ring Telstra and buy more data, because I wanted to see the lot.

The initial pull was that I was seeing American faces that looked just like the ones I see on TV. But these were real people and they came across as real people. They weren’t there for my entertainment and they weren’t going to disappear in an hour’s time having acted out a superficial tale for me.

But more specifically, it was really refreshing to hear their experiences. When we talk about TM to non-meditators there is always the science, the research, the statistics. There were plenty of those on the Lynch videos as well, school grade averages, attendance rates, retention rates, reduction rates for violent incidents, which, however worthy, is boring, and you switch off unless you are making a case for funding.

Transcendental Meditation in Schools

But what these videos had, more than that, was the effect on the personal lives of the people who have been able to learn. The most striking thing was the basic and the poetic ways these people find to describe what long term meditators take for granted. The miracle of experiencing yourself, of being yourself, and the difference that makes to a day. Which is to make that day more normal and more your own. How an ordinary day can be precious just because it is more mine, or I am more me than I was before.

‘There is something about Transcendental Meditation that brings out compassion. I don’t know what it is.’

‘You can think again with your brains? Oh, yeah, I need this.’

‘Spending time with myself. I actually know who I am. I’m starting to know who I am, yeah.’

‘Helping me to find my own voice.’

A counsellor on impulse control. ‘It helps to give people a little gap. Everything happens in the gap.”

‘Helps me be present to the people in my life. Present to myself.’

‘You get under all that noise. That peaceful place that is the you within the you.’

‘happy about living..’

‘the person inside of me actually came out and showed itself.’

The mother of another self-destructive veteran: ‘He’s another person, he’s, he’s – normal.’

A prisoner who is there for life. ‘The chance of actually being happy.’

A homeless girl: ‘I felt, like, a human.’

What can you add to that?

Girls Meditation

On the American Indian videos the biggest emphasis seemed to be on diabetes, which wasn’t what I expected. All the basic stuff about TM, especially blood pressure and stress, came into their own. Then there were the reservation school results: a 42% graduation rate had improved to 81%.

The last speaker, one of the elders, commented on the fact that mostly at a conference like this they would be talking about the problems.

This time they were able to talk about a solution.

Luke Jensen, a suicidal Afghanistan veteran: ‘For the first time in I don’t know how long, I felt hope.’ ‘I don’t take anxiety medicine at all any more.’ ‘I had consistently thought about suicide – [TM] was the first thing to get that away, to get that off my mind.’

Another self-destructive veteran: ‘I experienced this relief from the constant anxiety attack my life had become.’

A Vietnam veteran: ‘The first night I killed 14 people.’ His face crumples, he struggles to contain himself. ‘My feelings were gone. My emotions came back. My life came back.’

The tears in the eyes of the wives whose husbands have been helped… ‘since we’ve been practising TM we actually, we have a future. Now I see us growing old.’

Less traumatically, cadets at Norwich Military College.

‘Them [the people he is in charge of] meditating does make my job a lot easier.’

‘At high school I would drink like a whole thermos full of coffee a day. I don’t have to do that any more. It feels good to not have to rely on things like that, to be able to do it for myself.’

And African women who are victims of war: before, their faces have that drawn, long-suffering look that is familiar from all the TV famine documentaries: Afterwards, smiling, ‘It’s like it happened to somebody else.’

The contrast with the dry, everlasting defensiveness of the evidence-based approach is heartfelt. Subjective happiness matters, no matter what can be proved to the satisfaction of the funding body.

Learn more about the David Lynch Foundation HERE.

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