Famous for his surreal, often nightmarish style, director David Lynch has made more than a dozen films, including The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet, and the forthcoming Inland Empire. He also created the hit 1990s TV series Twin Peaks.
Last year, he launched the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace, which provides funding for students in grades 4 to 12 to learn Transcendental Meditation.
Developed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, one-time guru to the Beatles, the technique involves sitting with closed eyes and silently repeating a mantra.
So far, Lynch’s foundation has helped approximately 500 students and 50 teachers learn how to meditate, and about 1,500 more will begin this fall. TM advocates say the practice improves concentration, reduces stress, and awakens creativity and intelligence. Studies support these claims, though skeptics—and there are many—question their impartiality.
How long have you been practicing TM?
I’ve been meditating twice a day for 33 years.
Do you reach a state of bliss each time?
Well, yes. ... It was like someone cut the cables on the elevator and I just went VOOM! into pure bliss. Life started getting better.
Why do you think meditation would benefit our nation’s schools?
I’ve met the students who take part in consciousness-based education, and it’s like looking at a miracle. They are shiny, self-assured, very powerful human beings—not clones one to another. They’re each individuals, but really packed with what it takes to have a love of life and a chance for huge success.
If you had made a documentary about Transcendental Meditation in schools, what scene would have best illustrated your point?
I went to Maharishi University of Management [an accredited university in Fairfield, Iowa] to visit one weekend, and it was a cold and rainy night. They said, “David, we’d like to take you to a high school play.” And I thought, Boy, this is going to be one of the most boring nights of my life.
The theater was small but packed, and out came these students onto the stage. Now, they weren’t actors. They weren’t going to major in acting. …The first thing I noticed was the presence of them on the stage, the glow of them on the stage. They put on this performance that was easily Broadway quality—so sharp, so funny when it needed to be funny, so intelligent—and they did it in such a way that was natural. After I saw this, I said anybody who wants to act should start meditation right away.
It’s that glow. It’s that charisma. It’s that thing that attracts. It was so apparent when I saw it on the stage. I could not believe how powerful it was.
Of all the issues in education today, why did you choose to take on this one?
Education today develops a worker to go out and earn money, and they’re still packed with all that stress, all that anger, all that whatever—anxiety, fear—and they’ve gotten it all through school and they’re going to get it all through work, and life is not worth living. You’re just doing it for the almighty dollar, and it’s a stress-packed world.
If you want to get rid of that stress, if you want to really enjoy life, if you want to excel in school in a natural, easy way, learn to dive within and experience the big self—pure consciousness. The experience unfolds, and it’s so easy.
It’s a holistic experience, so all avenues of life begin to improve and all negative things begin to recede. This is a true thing. You introduce this into schools and you have students that are really and truly rising in consciousness, rising in intelligence.
How long does it take for things to get better?
It doesn’t happen overnight. Again, my story is, I was filled with anger. I didn’t even know how much anger, and I took it out on my first wife. Two weeks after I started meditating, my wife comes to me and she says, “What is going on?” And I said, “What do you mean?” And she said, “This anger, where did it go?”
I read that it costs $2,500 per person to learn Transcendental Meditation (a registered trademark of Maharishi Vedic Education Development Corporation).
It’s a price that allows the teacher to live, because the teachers are full-time. It’s a price that allows the movement to continue to function, to bring these programs to people all around the world. ... Now, if a school takes this on, the price goes down significantly [to $625 per student]. That’s a recent thing, and it’s a beautiful thing.
How much money have you donated to the foundation?
A lot, but obviously not enough. There are wealthy well-wishers of humanity out there. When the penny drops, and they realize how powerful this is and what a beautiful thing it is, they’re going to help. That time is coming very soon.