I can remember being absolutely hooked and engrossed into the surreal world of the cutting-edge television series Twin Peaks back in the '90s. That was when series creator and director David Lynch became a household name and the show developed a massive and passionate cult following (which the show still has -- there was much excitement over the recent announcement that Twin Peaks will return as a limited series with new episodes written, directed, and produced by Lynch to air on Showtime in 2016). In addition to receiving numerous Emmy nominations for his work on Twin Peaks, Lynch has also received three Academy Award nominations for Best Director and Best Screenplay for iconic films like The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet, and Mulholland Drive. All these years later, I found myself playing my own cameo in a seemingly surreal scene: hanging out with David Lynch in a hotel cafe in NYC, sipping lattes and talking about topics such as meditation, consciousness, the Unified Field, and "positivity moving at the speed of light in all directions." What I experienced during our inspiring and thought-provoking time together is that while he is an explosive force of nature creatively, in person he is a gentle, soft spoken, thoughtful, and deeply caring and compassionate soul.
In addition to being a consummate artist in a variety of mediums (as well as being a film and television director and writer, he is also a musician, actor, author, and visual artist), David has one passion that is especially dear to his heart: the David Lynch Foundation, a non-profit founded by the legendary filmmaker to help people overcome trauma and transform their lives through the Transcendental Meditation technique. It began when he first experienced how dramatically TM transformed his own personal life experience, which he says granted him "access to unlimited reserves of energy, creativity, and happiness deep within." But he says, "I had no idea how powerful and profound this technique could be until I saw firsthand how it was being practiced by young children in inner-city schools, veterans who suffer the living hell of post-traumatic stress disorder, and women and girls who are victims of terrible violence." The organization was founded in 2005 as the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace to ensure that every child anywhere in the world who wanted to learn to meditate could do so. Now, the foundation has expanded and is actively teaching TM to adults and children in countries everywhere and offers a variety of pioneering campaigns and programs, including many innovative initiatives aimed at youth and a variety of at-risk communities. The positive effects of the organization's work is backed up by measurable results and emerging scientific data and research, as well as support from celebrities and fellow TM practitioners such as Russell Brand, Howard Stern, Jerry Seinfeld, Ringo Starr, Ellen Degeneres, Lena Dunham, and Katy Perry.
In the following interview, David Lynch shares the story of his own personal transformation and his belief in the power of meditation to not only positively affect one's own enjoyment of life, creativity, and ability to cope with stress and trauma but also transform our "collective consciousness." As he told me, "The human being is like a light bulb. If a human being is super stressed, depressed, and filled with negativity, this is what that human being radiates out into the world. On the other hand, if a human being is filled with happiness and positivity, this is what they radiate out into the world. We each affect our environment and that collective consciousness. The more people who are diving within and transcending and are getting that happiness and positivity, the better the world will be."
Marianne Schnall: Tell me a little about your journey that led you to found the David Lynch Foundation and just in general how you wound up at this place, your own experience with Transcendental Meditation.
David Lynch: I started Transcendental Meditation as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1973 in Los Angeles, California, on July 1st on a beautiful Sunday morning, about 11:00. I loved my experience with Transcendental Meditation. I loved my experience, I just loved it. And I've been meditating twice a day for 41 years now, never missed a meditation in those 41 years. I went to Fairfield, Iowa, one time to visit a high school where the entire school's teachers and students practiced Transcendental Meditation. While I was there on a cold and raining night, I was invited to a high school play and I thought maybe it would be one of the most boring nights of my life. I went to a little theater that was packed with people. Then on the stage came students, high school students, and they put on a play that blew me away.
A lot of things about the play impressed me so much, but the main thing was a glow on every face -- this glow of consciousness, of intelligence, of happiness. None of them were actors. They were high school students. They weren't going into acting, but they were so beyond good and the timing of everything was so good, the humor of everything, where it was supposed to be humorous, was so good. It was tight. And it was performed so beautifully. There was some kind of extra thing coming off them that was thrilling. After that, I thought every actor, every actress, should learn Transcendental Meditation. It's that thing, that charisma, that magic thing that was coming off the high school students.
Around this time, I started hearing about different schools around the country. I started hearing about students bringing guns to school and then more and more through the years, about more and more violence in schools, metal detectors, no learning, fights in the school, a lot of depression, a lot of pharmaceutical drugs, a lot of illegal drugs -- the whole thing that by now everybody's heard about. And I thought, Wouldn't it be great if students knew about Transcendental Meditation? And one thing led to another and this foundation got born in 2005.
The main focus was on schools, called consciousness based education, meaning that every human being has a treasury within of consciousness -- of pure consciousness, unbounded consciousness within every human being. When a human being transcends, they experience that pure consciousness. And that consciousness within has the all-positive qualities of unbounded intelligence, unbounded creativity, unbounded happiness, unbounded love, unbounded energy, unbounded peace -- within every human being. We just need the technique to get there to that deepest eternal level.
When a human being gets this technique of Transcendental Meditation -- the ability to transcend -- they start getting happier. All the torment that's in the human being starts lifting away, the students' grades go up, relationships improve, their ability to focus and comprehend becomes bigger every day. When whole schools start practicing Transcendental Meditation, within one year there is a 180-degree turn around. The school becomes a school that we would love to go to or have our kids go to.
Then the Foundation's projects branched out, to not only students, but vets and Native Americans, homeless, prisoners -- people who really were suffering -- girls in prostitution, boys in prostitution, young kids having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, real bad traumatic stress that was just ruining their lives.
I just read this thing this morning about vets. People are trying all different kinds of things to help the vets, and I read about the fact one of the things they're giving them is fish oil [laughs] and they're giving them all of these different things to try to help. But these things they are trying are all surface cures. It's like trying to help a sick tree at the level of the leaves. The experienced gardener knows to water the root. Get that nourishment from the deepest level and then the whole tree starts coming up to perfection. The vets I know that started Transcendental Meditation say, "I've got my life back again. This is such a blessing." And if you can tell the vets in your report that this thing of Transcendental Meditation is not a surface cure. It goes to the deepest level and it will rid people of traumatic stress.
People who are suffering have got to give this technique a try. With this technique of Transcendental Meditation, in simple terms, you could say gold is coming in, garbage is going out. It works. And the vets and all the people suffering with the stress of today have got to get this technique and the government has got to get behind this, the government has got to support this.
MS: There is a lot of research and statistics emerging that are beginning to back this up. Do you think that we are evolving to that place, where it would get that kind of widespread, mainstream support?
DL: Big time. The word's gone out. There's hardly any resistance to it. Still, there are people who don't know about this technique, and there's still probably a thing in some people's head about Transcendental Meditation being a weird Eastern religion or it's just too weird to sit and meditate. It's not a macho thing, maybe they think, or it's not an American thing. The problem is, it works, and people have got to know that. When you meditate, it's not something weird. You sit in a comfortable chair, close the eyes and practice this technique the way the teacher taught you, and it works. It's easy and effortless -- it's not a concentration technique, it's not a contemplation technique, it's a unique form of meditation, which is very natural. It's a very natural thing for every human being to do. It's such a powerful and beautiful thing to experience the treasury within. When a human being transcends every day, life gets better every day. Say goodbye to suffering. Say goodbye to that torment and start enjoying life.
MS: And for you personally -- obviously you are a multi-talented artist in so many mediums -- how do you see your own evolution as a human and an artist? How has this transformed your own consciousness?
DL: Well, first of all, this word "consciousness" is something that most people don't fully understand. There used to be what they called "consciousness-raising groups" -- they weren't raising consciousness, they were raising information, and there's a big difference. Consciousness is the "I-am-ness of life" -- you can only say I am, because of consciousness. Consciousness is really life itself. Every human being has consciousness, but not every human being has the same amount. The potential for each one of us human beings is infinite consciousness. This is called supreme enlightenment, and it just needs unfolding by transcending each day. The more consciousness we have, the better life is.
I was creative before I started meditating, but I had, looking back, a weakness. I wasn't self-assured. I had a little bit of melancholy. I had a lot of anger for my situations in life, and I would take this out on my first wife. Also on the day I got the go ahead to make my first feature film, having been given a place to work in the stables area of a 55-room mansion and all the equipment I could dream of, I felt I should have been the happiest person in the world. But I looked inside, and that happiness was only on the surface, not so deep. Beneath it was hollow. Up until that time, I had been thinking meditation was a joke, a fad and a waste of time. Around that time I heard a phrase: "True happiness is not out there. True happiness lies within." And this phrase had a ring of truth for me. I thought maybe this thing of meditation is a way to go within and find that happiness. And I started looking into different kinds of meditation -- there are so many different meditations out in the world. I thought, like everybody else, you could get meditation from a book -- why do you have to pay for meditation? What is this? I read about this kind of meditation and that kind of meditation, but nothing felt right. One day my sister called, and said she started Transcendental Meditation. I liked what she told me about it, and I said, "This is for me." And I went and got it and never was sorry I did.
Within two weeks of starting Transcendental Meditation, my wife comes to me and asks, "What's going on?" I said, "What are you talking about?" And she said, "The anger, where did it go?" The changes in me were so natural, I didn't realize that I wasn't angry anymore. I didn't try to get the anger away. It just went. I realized all these changes are so natural -- you just naturally get happier, you just naturally feel better in your body, you just naturally have more fun in the doing of things, you just naturally appreciate people in the world and life. It just creeps up on you. And I always say this negativity that we live under is like the suffocating rubber clown suit of negativity. This clown suit starts to dissolve when you transcend every day. And this gives a person a huge freedom. Surface cures are not going to get rid of the torment that's inside the students or the vets or the prisoners or anyone suffering from this torment. Drugs cover it over, but they don't get rid of it. When a human being is transcending every day, that torment dissolves. It lifts away.
MS: You were talking earlier about its use in a school setting -- I would love programs like this to be in my daughters' school. When I think about children today, I look at my daughters, I have a 13-year-old and a 16-year-old, and kids today are all constantly on their phones and devices, so many inputs coming at them -- I do have concerns about the role of technology and, as you were saying, the angst and stress that we're seeing in our youth. I do feel like it would be important to learn these skills and practices in school, to be part of educational system. Maybe we're headed that way.
DL: I think we are definitely headed that way. Education should unfold the student's full potential. The regular practice of Transcendental Meditation does unfold the human being's full potential. So consciousness-based education, which I am helping to promote, is basically the same education that good schools are giving today with Transcendental Meditation added for the students, teachers, staff, and principal. In learning or education, they say there is the knower, the process of knowing, and the known. In schools today, we have the process of knowing and the known, but nothing much is being done for the knower -- the student, the human being, so many of whom are filled with torment. You give them this technique of Transcendental Meditation and start them unfolding their full potential. They start understanding more and more. They get that ability to focus. Their relationships improve. They become great, great, happy creative, energetic, and peace-loving human beings. And they get very much more self-assured and self-sufficient. They're feeling great with this all-positive coming in from their practice of Transcendental Meditation and they're seeing the negativity and torment lifting away. This goes for the teachers, staff, and principal as well. Transcending is what they call a holistic experience, so all avenues of life improve. And this secret has always been within, within, within.
MS: As you are saying, this has obvious benefits for one's own personal experience, but I know you also talk a lot about how it's connected to outer world change. How do you see that connection?
DL: In the world there's a thing called collective consciousness. All of us billions of human beings together create that collective consciousness. With all the problems in our world today, you can see that the collective consciousness is not so high. The human being is like a light bulb. If a human being is super stressed, depressed and filled with negativity, this is what that human being radiates out into the world. On the other hand, if a human being is filled with happiness and positivity, this is what they radiate out into the world. We each affect our environment and that collective consciousness. The more people who are diving within and transcending and are getting that happiness and positivity, the better the world will be.
Then there's the phenomenon of the peace-creating groups. Maharishi brought out advanced techniques and if these techniques are done along with Transcendental Meditation in a group, their effect is quadratically more powerful than the same number scattered about. Peace-creating groups are like a lighthouse of positivity, creating a huge glow of harmony and happiness in collective consciousness. I would like to help establish peace-creating groups on a permanent basis in our world.
A university would be a great place for a peace-creating group. The freshman students would learn these techniques and join the sophomores, juniors, and seniors. The students would practice these techniques for an hour or so in the morning and an hour or so in the afternoon together as a group. The rest of the time they can go about their university business. This would be such a powerful thing for every country to have -- a university as a lighthouse for peace.
All that's needed is the square root of one percent of a population. That number is very small. And it seems to me it would be easily accomplished. So you see, for the whole world it would only take one big peace-creating group of at least 9,000 to bring enough harmony and happiness to collective consciousness to make a huge difference in the entire world. It's amazing to me that this hasn't happened yet. The main reason is that people just don't believe it and they try to solve the problems of hatred and violence the old way, through killing and through war, etcetera. It doesn't matter if all the people don't believe this -- just a few have to believe this and it would be great for the people who want to do this. They'd really be floor boarding their own evolution and they'd be doing a giant service for the world.
MS: You talked earlier about some of the great programs and initiatives the David Lynch Foundation has--there are so many people dealing with so many different forms of pain and trauma. I run a women's non-profit organization, and I am remembering hearing about the Women's Initiative event you had at the Paley Center. Using even that as an example, how does that initiative seek to help women who have experienced various forms of violence?
DL: Domestic violence and violence against women in general seems to be a big problem everywhere in the world. It seems to me this problem comes from stress, pent up anger, frustration, and all kinds of negativity within human beings. If people in a relationship are both filled with torment inside, it's easy to see how violence can erupt. And people do things on the spur of the moment without having a chance to think about the consequence of their actions. If the people in a relationship were able to get rid of this torment within and replace it with happiness, love, and a sense of well-being, they would never think to hurt another human being. They would be filled with an understanding of others and an appreciation of others and have an ability to reconcile differences without any violence whatsoever, to reconcile differences in a very loving way, a very happy way.
As collective consciousness goes higher and higher, all the differences in the world will be appreciated more and more. A definition of peace is unity in the midst of diversity. Or you could say happiness, love, and peace in the midst of all diversity. All the differences would be appreciated fully in the light of this peace.
MS: Do you think part of the problem is we're all so busy, almost an autopilot -- people are just trying to get through their checklist each day, almost sleepwalking -- not even aware of being able to come from this conscious place just because of all the inputs and demands of modern life?
DL: Yes, everyone knows there's so much more input these days, so much more information coming to us, it's no longer just from around the house or around the neighborhood, but it's coming to us from all around the world. All this adds to the stress, the worry, the fear and it causes people to do strange things, sometimes violent things, sometimes hurtful things. And even if they don't mean to do this, they still do it. It's like they can't help themselves. The torment causes it.
Transcending gives a human being a chance to think before acting. And experiencing this beautiful treasury within gets rid of that torment and replaces it with happiness, inner peace, creativity intelligence, love, energy. This fuels a real good life and fuels an appreciation for all human beings. It's so powerful and it's a blessing for humanity.
MS: You are of course a multitalented artist, and I know right now in the world we could use lots of creative ideas. In addition to just enhancing one's well-being and help deal with stress, can you talk a little bit about how it is connected to fostering creativity, either for yourself or in general?
DL: I say negativity is the enemy of creativity. For instance if you're filled with depression, you can hardly even get out of bed, let alone feel like creating something. If you are filled with bitter, selfish anger, this occupies the mind and leaves little room for creative ideas. It's like we have a conduit that ideas flow through. Negativity squeezes this conduit. By transcending every day, the negativity starts lifting away and that conduit opens up.
When we transcend we are diving into a field of unbounded creativity. This is real creativity and when we experience that and grow in that, we can more easily find solutions to problems. We can get ideas for whatever it is we're working on. And we will get happier by transcending every day and we will find that we're happier doing almost anything. We'll get more energy to do our work.
Artists don't want to lose their edge and they worry that meditation might take away that edge and make them calm and worthless. This was one of my worries before starting meditation, but I find way more of an edge, way more creativity flowing, way more happiness in the doing, way more energy to do the work. And I say that this transcending every day fuels the work and a very good feeling in life. No one likes to suffer. Sometimes in a romantic way, artists think suffering is part of the art life. But looking a little deeper we see that it is only romantic for others, it's not really romantic for the artist to be starving, cold and suffering in the garret. It's absurd to think suffering fuels creativity. The artist should understand suffering, but the artist doesn't have to suffer to do his or her work. Suffering and negativity kill creativity. So let's get real and experience that treasury within which fuels real creativity.
MS: Obviously there is a lot of negativity in the world right now -- it's hard to not turn on the news and feel overwhelmed by the violence and war and the images that we see. At the same time, I feel very hopeful that there are people like you, and more and more influential people like Oprah using her network and programming like Super Soul Sunday. There seems to be a new consciousness emerging, which is becoming more mainstream. Where do you see humanity right now -- because some people feel we're in a very dangerous place -- do you feel hopeful that we can, as a collective, move ourselves in a positive direction?
DL: You wouldn't know it from watching TV, but people who study these things say that there's far less violence in the world today than in the past. Things seem to be getting better. Like I said before, the peace-creating groups are so important for raising the collective consciousness and bringing real peace. This Unified Field within, this ocean of consciousness is where all the power is anyway. People know how powerful the atomic level is, well, the treasury within is the deepest field and millions of times more powerful than the atomic level. It is the most profound, most beautiful, eternal field and it's all-positive. It's such a life-transforming thing for the good to experience it, to enliven it. It's so beautifully powerful. They say that once enlivened by peace-creating groups it moves isotropically at the speed of light. Positivity moving at the speed of light in all directions. This positivity projects out, seeing no barriers and it makes a huge difference for peace in the world. So let's get going on peace-creating groups and completely end the torment and suffering in our world.
MS: You could have just used this practice to enliven your own experience and continue your art, but you were moved to found this incredible organization to help people. What drives you, what is the source of all of your energy and passion around this work?
DL: I've seen so many cases where lives have been transformed for the good and heard so many stories about this. This technique of Transcendental Meditation really works for the human being. The David Lynch Foundation is headquartered in NYC and is run by the great Bobby Roth and his team. As I said before, there are many programs now going through the David Lynch Foundation, programs for schools, for prisons, for the homeless, for the vets suffering with Post Traumatic Stress, for abused children, for people suffering with ADD, ADHD, bipolar, etcetera. But EVERYONE is really at risk these days because of the amount of stress and negativity still in the world. Unless one is supremely enlightened, Transcendental Meditation is something to be seriously considered for a better and better life. In Transcendental Meditation, you need a legitimate teacher of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's Transcendental Meditation. And if you can't afford the price, you can write a letter to the David Lynch Foundation and if we have the money, we will try to get a scholarship for you -- either a reduced fee or if you can't even afford that, for no fee at all.
Transcendental Meditation is not a religion, it's not against any religion, it's for human beings, no matter what color, what religion, what walk of life. If you're a human being, it will work for you. And you will be very glad you found this technique and took advantage of it.
MS: I believe in putting out these positive visions -- what is your wish for the future of humanity? What would it look like if we manifested everything you want for people and the world?
DL: We would have heaven on earth, peace on earth. Everyone would be enjoying life. There would be affluence, happiness, good health and a clear path for the fulfillment of desires. Some old desires of course would change and new positive desires would naturally come up. In this world of peace, your fulfillment of desires would not only benefit you, but would in turn benefit everyone else. No one would feel to hurt anyone, we could travel anywhere in the world and meet a friend, not an enemy. This could very easily be the reality if we enliven that all-positive eternal field within us and help establish large peace creating groups on a permanent basis.
Another name for this field within is the Kingdom of Heaven. In the Bible it says, "First seek the Kingdom of Heaven which lies within, and all else will be added unto you." Seeking implies finding, finding implies experiencing. Anyone who experiences that kingdom of heaven within infuses some of that every time they transcend. Staying regular in their meditation, in their transcending every day, in time they infuse Totality, infinite consciousness and that is "all else is added unto you." This is the full potential of every human being. It's every human beings' birth right to one day enjoy supreme enlightenment, immortality, total fulfillment, infinite bliss, a state described as more than the most. All we really need is this technique of Transcendental Meditation, which allows any human being to easily and effortlessly transcend. When you get this technique of Transcendental Meditation, stay regular in your meditation twice a day and you will begin to rapidly unfold your full potential as a human being and see life get better and better and better.
Mankind was not meant to suffer -- bliss is our nature. The individual is cosmic. Let's rock.
For more information, visit the David Lynch Foundation web site at www.davidlynchfoundation.org
Marianne Schnall is a widely published writer and interviewer whose writings and interviews have appeared in a variety of media outlets including O, The Oprah Magazine, Marie Claire, CNN.com, the Women's Media Center and many others. Marianne is a featured blogger at The Huffington Post and a contributor to the nationally syndicated NPR radio show, 51 percent The Women's Perspective. She is also the co-founder and executive director of the women's website and non-profit organization Feminist.com, as well as the co-founder of the environmental site EcoMall.com. She is the author of Daring to Be Ourselves: Influential Women Share Insights on Courage, Happiness and Finding Your Own Voice based on her interviews with a variety of well-known women. Marianne's new book is What Will it Take to Make a Woman President? Conversations About Women, Leadership, and Power. You can visit her website at www.marianneschnall.com.