I have been a meditator for about 12 years. It has given me energy, strength, health, wisdom, and access to my own inner stillness, inner silence, inner bliss. It is my connection to myself; it is my connection to the universe.
About two years ago, I visited a school in South Africa where all the students practiced one particular form of meditation--Transcendental Meditation (TM). They were bright, alert, energized with life. A short while later I returned to New York and I met a long-time TM teacher, Bob Roth, who is a national director of the David Lynch Foundation, a nonprofit organization that has provided scholarships for over 100,000 at-risk school children (and at-risk teens and adults and elderly people) to learn to meditate.
I always thought of meditation as a way to trick the mind to be still. Yogis know that when the mind is still, when the noise is gone, then the person is in total bliss, total happiness. I had heard a lot about Transcendental Meditation but had never learned it.
Bob talked about how TM worked. He described the mind as like an ocean, with waves on the surface (thoughts) and silence at its depths. He said that many meditations try to impose an artificial calm on the surface of the mind while this meditation accepted thoughts but simply allowed the thinking mind to effortlessly settle down and experience the transcendent--the field of silence within.
Decades of research conducted at medical schools like Harvard and Stanford, and funded with tens of millions of dollars by the National Institutes of Health showed TM developed the brain and increased creativity and intelligence, and reduced stress, anxiety, depression and high blood pressure. (Some insurance companies even reimburse for TM instruction if you have high blood pressure.) Research on meditating students showed rising grades and reduced suspensions and expulsions, fewer dropouts, and higher graduation rates.
Even though I had been meditating in different ways for over 10 years, I asked Bob to teach me. I have now been doing TM for two years. It has changed my experiences in meditation and therefore my experiences in life.
I call Bob "the monk." He lives down the street from me and we have become good friends. We meditate together at my home whenever we are both in the city. Bob told me some time ago about the work of the David Lynch Foundation with at-risk young people fighting addiction, American Indians with high suicide rates and type-2 diabetes, veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD, and prison inmates and guards in pressure-cookers behind thick walls. He also told me about how meditation-based executive training and wellness programs are being used in large companies and small businesses.
I support the Lynch Foundation. I am now on the Foundation board of advisors, and I am part of the process of bringing meditation to people in need.
Why am I doing this? Because it is something I believe in. Are there critics? No, not really, not any more. The science is irrefutable (more than 340 studies published in top scientific journals). And if there are critics, they are not with the National Institutes of Health or the American Medical Association or the American Heart Association, which have continued to fund and/or publish TM research for decades. If any, these people exist noisily on the fringes of the web world (you know, the "birther" types).
Several months ago, I was invited to speak on TM at the Doe Fund, probably the most successful program in the nation to help homeless men re-enter society. The Doe Fund, founded and run by George and Harriet McDonald, provides educational and vocational training for 1000 men at in-residence facilities throughout the five boroughs. I spoke to about 200 men at the facility in Harlem.
The men listened with an openness that surprised and pleased me. I told them the purpose of life is to be a giver, that wealth is not defined by money, that happiness -- living it and giving it -- is the goal of life. Before I spoke only a few men had signed up to learn to meditate. Afterwards, the list filled several pages. So many have started and so many more are ready to start.
One of the men who learned, Richard, has now been meditating for a few months. For as long as he can remember, Richard said, he instinctively knew the ancient truth of life--that we are all connected together at our source. "I have always known 'I am That, you are That, all of this is nothing but That,' Richard said. He said he knew it but had never lived it. Then he started to meditate and transcend, to go beyond the surface noise of his mind and experience the field of silence within. Once he started to meditate, he knew from direct experience, not as some intellectual idea, the true underlying unity of life.
This was something I never expected to hear from a man who had been meditating for just a few months. It is a supremely enlightened realization. Students of the greatest yogis struggle for a lifetime to understand and gain this experience of unity, of connectedness.
The ancient Yogis acknowledged the suffering that exists in the world. But, they said, the suffering exists on the surface of life. At its depths, life is an ocean of energy, intelligence, and bliss. And that ocean lies within us all. Meditation--simple, effortless meditation--is the path to that field. You don't have to believe in meditation for it to work. You just have to take the time to do it. The old truth is still true today, "God helps those who help themselves." My advice? Meditate.
If you want more information about what we are doing with the David Lynch Foundation, visit: www.DavidLynchFoundation.org