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© Thiago Piccoli/WikiCommons
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David Lynch Is Hollywood's Transcendental Guru

Picture of Marnie Sehayek
Updated: 3 October 2016
‘Transcendental Meditation is life-transforming for the good,’ says a small silhouetted figure. ‘It works if you’re a human being.’

If the nasally tenor of the subject’s voice isn’t a dead giveaway, the unusual cinematic stylings of the video might be. From the set of 2016’s upcoming Twin Peaks, it’s none other than director David Lynch. While many are acquainted with the director’s eccentric storytelling in cult films like Mulholland Drive and Eraserhead, his devotion to Transcendental Meditation (TM) is a lesser-known Hollywood fun fact. He hasn’t missed a day of meditation since he began the practice in 1973.

Since 2005, Lynch has been touting the benefits of TM to the mainstream through his organization, The David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace. Extensive research supports the foundation’s claims that TM reduces psychological distress (PTSD, depression, anxiety) and the symptoms of learning disorders, in addition to increasing intelligence and creativity.

With outposts in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City, the non-profit has introduced the practice of TM to thousands of at-risk youth through their Quiet Time program in low-income schools, where administrators see a marked difference in attendance and engagement, academic performance and overall mental health of their students. For Quiet Time, participant-teachers are trained by the DLF to facilitate two ten-minute sessions each day for their students. The foundation has also brought the technique into homeless shelters, veterans associations, domestic violence centers, and to some of the most dangerous prisons in the country, including California’s San Quentin and Folsom correctional facilities. Guiding the disenfranchised towards inner healing introduces a much-needed rehabilitative aspect to spaces where they are all too often forgotten.

Furthermore, in a city like LA, where creativity is not only fetishized but also commodified, the promise of enhancement is alluring. ‘You want more ideas, you want more energy to do the work and more happiness in the doing – where are all of these things? They are within…,’ Lynch said in a recent interview with the LA Times. ‘I think ideas are out there and you catch them like how you catch fish. The more consciousness you have, the deeper you can catch those ideas.’ This concept has resonated with more than a few successful creators who are more than happy to lend their celebrity to the cause. On the organization’s website, figures as diverse as Jerry Seinfeld, Katy Perry, and Arianna Huffington express gratitude for the technique’s enhancement of their creative lives.

Since the modality’s popularization in the West in the 1960s, with a notable endorsement from The Beatles, TM has fixed itself to celebrities as a way of proliferating the movement, exacerbating an association with wealth and inaccessibility. Learning the technique from the DLF comes with an almost $1000 price tag, though funds are used to remunerate TM teachers and support its pro-bono initiatives in diverse communities. Lynch’s brand of TM has distanced itself from the religious affiliations of the practice, emphasizing the practical aspects of the technique instead.

Studies have failed to show a significant difference between TM and other meditation modes, such as mindfulness, but as both gain popularity in a variety of contexts – from the classroom to the Google boardroom – more and more people praise its effectiveness. While meditation is certainly not the panacea it’s sometimes made out to be, it’s a powerful step in the right direction. At the very least, starting to meditate now, according to Lynch, ‘will be the best decision you ever make.’