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October 7, 2005

A Telegraph Column by Michael Brindley

Courtesy photo Director David Lynch, seen here in a self-portrait, is such a firm believer in the benefits of Transcendental Meditation, he tours the country to tell people about it.

Director touts meditation’s benefits in U.S. tour

A young filmmaker nervously walked up to the microphone and asked director David Lynch to explain how transcendental meditation helped him improve his life. The woman, who said she was also a film teacher,
admitted she was skeptical about its benefits.

Lynch, with his wavy, gray hair sprawling in every direction, grinned at the woman and admitted that at one point he, too, was skeptical. The woman’s question prompted a lengthy response from the director, known mostly for the bizarre nature of movies. He went on for a good five minutes, explaining how before he began meditating more than 30 years ago, he was filled with depression and anger. But once he started, his life changed.

“There is an ocean of pure vibrant consciousness inside each one of us,” Lynch said with a sweet gentleness to his voice. “Anger, depression, sorrow. . . these are beautiful things in a story, but they are like poison to the filmmaker. They’re poison the painter. They’re like a vice grip. It’s like
money in the bank to get that beautiful consciousness growing.”

After a somewhat complicated but ultimately insightful response, Lynch was in need of some water. He was parched. His assistant shuffled out onstage with a bottle of Dasani.

“Pretty good,” Lynch said, after taking a sip and putting the bottle down. “But not quite as good as pure consciousness.”

The audience laughed, one of many instances when Lynch got a chuckle from the crowd at the Cutler Majestic Theater on Saturday night. It takes a unique personality to inject a little humor into a discussion about Transcendental Meditation, something Lynch obviously takes pretty seriously. Lynch’s presentation in Boston was part of his mini tour of talks focusing on meditation, called “Consciousness, Creativity and the Brain.”

Lynch spent much of the evening talking about the benefits of Transcendental Meditation and an organization he has founded called the David Lynch Foundation. The goal is to ensure that any child in America who wants to learn and practice the Transcendental Meditation program can
do so. Lynch believes the process can increase creativity, improve health, reduce stress and improve academic success. He hopes to raise $7 billion for his foundation and his foundation is currently developing a center in Washington, D.C.

First, let me say that I have never meditated nor have I tried meditating. Like Lynch admitted to being at one point, I, too, have always been skeptical about it. But I am also open to the idea of trying something that could allow me to relax and ease my anxieties about life and work.

I admit that it was not Lynch’s quest for enlightenment that initially drew me to Boston. Lynch has been an artist I have admired since I caught the first episode of “Twin Peaks” on ABC. I was about 10 years old and for those who have seen the show, you’re probably wondering how my parents let a 10-year-old watch a show like “Twin Peaks.” It turned out pretty well. The show taught me to appreciate a beautiful and compelling story. The episode when Laura Palmer’s killer was revealed was one of the most
disturbing, scary and beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I was immediately sold on Lynch.

Since then, I had a chance to visit Snoqualmie, Wash., the town “Twin Peaks” was based on and where parts of where the series was filmed. I’m eagerly awaiting the release of the second and final season of the show on DVD and his new movie, “Inland Empire,” next year. I’ve seen “Wild at Heart,” “Blue Velvet,” “Mulholland Drive” . . . pretty much everything he’s ever made. And I’ve had a passion for films and art in general since then and I have Lynch to thank.

At the beginning of the presentation, Lynch fielded questions about his movies and his filmmaking process. He doesn’t care if his movies don’t make sense to everyone. He insists on having final cut. And he’s done with using film (a “dinosaur” as he called it) and has moved onto digital video.

But after the question-and-answer session, things moved on to the true reason Lynch had called his fans together – he wanted to share his positive experiences with transcendental meditation. And although at times the presentation did border on an infomercial-type feel, the fact that it was free helped ease my concerns and Lynch was quick to present evidence for skeptics like me.

He brought along quantum physicist John Hagelin, the president of the David Lynch Foundation, and Fred Travis, the director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness and Cognition at the Maharishi University of
Management. Both spoke about the benefits of transcendental meditation. There was even an on-stage demonstration. Someone who had been meditating for years was hooked up to a machine with his brain waves on a big screen for everyone to see, and the most amazing part to me was
watching how much his brain rested simply by closing his eyes.

After the presentation was over, I wasn’t in awe, the way I thought I would be after seeing someone whose work means so much to me. Like after watching one of his movies, I was left with questions. I wanted to learn more about the tool Lynch said helped relieve him of so many of life’s
stresses and pressures.

Sherry Levesque said Lynch is hardly alone in his success with Transcendental Meditation. Levesque is the director of the Maharishi Enlightenment Center, teaching the transcendental meditation program in
the Manchester and Nashua area. She believes the David Lynch Foundation’s goal is one of the greatest philanthropic events of our time.

“When people learn in this particular environment, it’s a wonderful thing for them,” she said. “We’re working to create more centers in New England.”

Levesque said a 450-acre enlightenment center has been developed in Antrim, and there is a facility in Manchester. She is hoping to establish a center in Nashua.

Levesque gives free introductory lectures where people can come and hear more about the process. Her organization is nonprofit and the lectures allow people to get an understanding of the process before committing to it.

“The typical response from people is that they are enthusiastic,” she said. “Anything we can do to think more clearly can have an enormous effect on our lives.”

Most of what Lynch talked about was how the process can help with creativity, but Levesque said its impact on health is also positive. Levesque said there is a major difference between meditation and Transcendental Meditation. Meditation is meant to require imaging something and losing yourself in that. Transcendental Meditation, she said, is meant to be achieved without effort. Transcendental consciousness is a deep, restful state.

Like Lynch, Levesque has been meditating for more than 30 years. She believes the benefits have been proven time and again and an effort to make the teaching of Transcendental Meditation available to students of all ages, from young children to students in college. She believes many of the side effects that come with ADHD can be tempered better through meditation than by potent drugs.

“There is a school in Iowa where all of the students and the teachers take part in Transcendental Meditation, and the students excel. It has a tremendous impact on the brain,” she said.

Lynch spoke about a school in Detroit, where there has been similar results. Students meditate 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the afternoon. All the parents agreed to let their children learn Transcendental Meditation.

“It turned the thing around. The school is a blissful school. It’s a thing that works,” he said.

After Lynch’s presentation and speaking with Levesque, I am more open to the possibility of trying meditation and looking into whether it is something that would benefit my life. I remain a skeptic and if it’s not something for me, at least I got a chance to listen to one of my inspirations speak about
what makes him tick.

“Anyone who wants to meditate can. If you’re interested in finding that peace within, it’s there. This foundation is trying to make it available to you. I want to help make it happen,” Lynch said.

And maybe through this article, I’ve helped someone out there discover something that will bring him or her pure consciousness, whether it’s in the form of a Lynch film (I recommend picking up the first season of “Twin Peaks”) or Transcendental Meditation.

© 2005, Telegraph Publishing Company, Nashua, New Hampshire

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