Indie director David Lynch is touring U.S. campuses to preach the virtues of Transcendental Meditation
NEW YORK — Tom Cruise and Madonna aren’t the only celebrities promoting an alternative approach to raising consciousness these days. American filmmaker David Lynch, best known for creating anxiously entertaining rides through the darker recesses of human psychology, is in the midst of a university tour across the United States to promote the calming benefits of Transcendental Meditation.
As part of the tour, Lynch is publicizing a planned $20-million study on the effects on students of Transcendental Meditation, or TM, supported by a foundation he recently unveiled known as the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace.
Lynch recently led two evening demonstrations of TM at New York University, where students seemed more interested in talking about his films than about meditation. The following day, he spoke at a luncheon conference designed to promote the workplace benefits of TM. On both occasions, Lynch told the audience that he began practising TM 32 years ago and immediately felt it had rendered him more relaxed, energetic and open to the creative process. He currently practises TM three times a day, including at lunchtime, when cast and crews on his films are given extended breaks to enable Lynch to meditate.
TM practitioners focus on a simple mantra, repeated silently in the mind, that slips slowly out of awareness until one is left in a state of thought-free consciousness, resulting in the release of stress from the body and a reduction in mental activity. The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who personally assisted the Beatles and members of the Beach Boys in spiritual quests, is the founder of the TM movement.
On a promotional DVD distributed at NYU, Lynch speaks about the benefits of TM for creative individuals. “Someone asked Maharishi, ‘Don’t you have to suffer to create?’ And Maharishi just laughed because it’s so absurd, it’s absolutely backwards. When you’re depressed, filled with fears, anxiety, anger, hate, it’s a crippling thing and you can’t go out and do your thing,” Lynch says. “When those things start lifting, it opens the door to way more ideas, way more energy and way more of this intuition, and you can really roll.”
– Is TM a religion?
The late-September conference — titled Is the Workplace Bad for Your Brain? — was organized by the Maharishi Vedic Education Development Corporation, which holds the official trademark on the phrase Transcendental Meditation. Lynch was accompanied at both the NYU demonstrations and the conference by John Hagelin, a quantum physicist featured in the sleeper hit film What the Bleep Do We Know? and a professor at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa.
“If you introduce this in the workplace, people will work harder, there’ll be fewer days off, they’ll get there with enthusiasm, they’ll be with you and not against you, it’s common sense,” Lynch urged a handful of human-resources professionals assembled at the midtown Peninsula Hotel for the workplace conference. “It’s called Transcendental Meditation, you can get it going right away, why wait? There’s such a positive thing that comes from it, both for the individual and for society, why wait one more second? What more do you need? Let’s get going!”
Hollywood stars are getting more comfortable in attaching their names to alternative lifestyles, despite occasional catcalls from the press and fans. Tom Cruise and Madonna have been ridiculed as two of the most vocal proponents of Scientology and the study of the mystical Kaballah, respectively. Lynch said that many creative people practise TM but usually do so without discussing it in the press since “it’s a private thing.”
After last month’s East Coast leg of his tour, which stopped at seven universities, including Yale and Brown, Lynch heads to schools of higher education in the western United States beginning next month.