In works such as "Blue Velvet" and "Twin Peaks," the filmmaker David Lynch has explored the darker side of human nature. In his personal life, though, Lynch has found contentment and balance by practicing Transcendental Meditation. Popularized by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Transcendental Meditation involves twice-daily sessions in which practitioners meditate on a specific mantra. In recent years, Lynch has worked to publicize scientific research on the benefits of TM, and his David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace works to bring TM into schools to reduce student stress.

Lynch spoke with Beliefnet about the effects of TM on his life and his plans for bringing the Maharishi's teachings to a much broader audience.

You've been meditating since 1973: What effect has it had on your life?

It had an effect right away, and that right-away effect was this anger lifted away from me. I knew I had this anger, and I’d take it out on my first wife. Two weeks after I started meditating, she came to me and said, “What’s going on?” And I said, “What are you talking about?” And she said, “This anger—where did it go?” And I honestly didn’t know that it had lifted. But she knew it had lifted. It just went away. I had anxieties and fears and this anger, and those negative things started lifting. And I started enjoying life. It sounds strange, but I started appreciating things more and enjoying the doing of things more.

That was in the beginning, and then it just keeps on growing. I think the ability to catch ideas grows, and the enjoyment of doing almost anything grows. An awareness, a clarity grows. A bigger picture starts to form—bigger and bigger. And you seem to know certain things more, and understanding starts to grow more and more. And people seem familiar. Everybody starts looking pretty good. The world starts looking better.

What is involved in practicing Transcendental Meditation?

In Transcendental Meditation, you’re given a mantra, and Maharishi did not make up these mantras. They’re ancient. Transcendental Meditation is an ancient teaching. It works if you’re a human being.

"You sit comfortably..."
You sit comfortably, you close your eyes, and you start your mantra. And that mantra, word, thought, vibration, turns the mind within, and you start to experience subtler levels of mind, intellect, and then, there, at the source of thought you transcend, and you experience that ocean of pure consciousness—sometimes called “pure bliss consciousness” or the “absolute” or “being” or “divine being.” Pure consciousness there, at the source of thought, and the source of thought also happens to be the source of a tree, a fish, a star, a universe. It’s the source. It’s the self. In Vedic language, that pure consciousness—that ocean of pure consciousness—is called “atma,” meaning, the self, the self of us all. And when you experience this pure consciousness, you enliven it, you unfold it, and it starts to grow in the individual. So whatever consciousness you had when you start this process, now that consciousness is growing.

You’re really and truly expanding your consciousness. You go beyond the field of relativity and you experience the non-relative absolute. You go beyond duality, and you experience oneness. You go beyond boundaries, and you experience the unbounded, infinite, eternal, unified field, pure bliss consciousness. And also, this field has the qualities of pure intelligence, pure creativity, pure love, pure energy, power, pure harmony, pure coherence, dynamic peace. It’s all there, and you can unfold that and grow in that.

As Maharishi teaches, mankind was not made to suffer. Bliss is our nature. Life should be blissful, and blissful doesn’t mean just a small happiness. It’s huge. It is profound. It’s like totality. This atma becomes brahma, totality. It’s there, it’s our potential, it’s our birthright to enjoy enlightenment. You just need to unfold it.

How do you take that sense of bliss and transcendence that you achieve while meditating and keep it with you beyond the 20 or 40 minutes a day that you’re meditating and make it really part of your life?

On the EEG machine, Dr. Fred Travis [a professor at the Maharishi University of Management] was showing the brain waves of a beginning meditator and a meditator of, I think, eight or 10 years. The experience of transcending is exactly the same. Transcending is transcending. So you see the total brain engaged in the beginning meditator, and you see the total brain engaged in the 10-year meditator. But the difference is, the beginning meditator doesn’t carry that inactivity in waking, sleeping, or dreaming. Whereas, the 10-year meditator, they see that even engaged in activity, the total brain, more and more, is holding that transcendence. Holding those qualities engaged in activity. And cosmic consciousness is when you have that 24/7, locked in.

And so, it’s something that grows. And as it grows, on the way to enlightenment, each day gets better. It’s not like you have to wait and wait and wait and suddenly you get the full present on Christmas—it gets better and better and better on the way to the full enchilada.

Do you feel like that highest level is something that you will achieve in some point in your own life?

I doubt it. I just know things are getting better. I’m not that worried about it. I just know that I truly believe, based on experiences that I’ve had, that it is completely possible. It’s very special. It’s divine. It doesn’t happen overnight.

"You’re in a elevator, and they snipped the cables..."
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Do you have other spiritual practices in addition to TM or religious affiliation that you also follow?

Well, I was raised Presbyterian but I’m not really going to church. I think the experience in meditation is pretty much where it’s at for me.

Do you have a favorite prayer or mantra?

The mantra that you’re given in Transcendental Meditation you keep to yourself. The reason being, true happiness is not out there, true happiness lies within. We try to find happiness out there, out there, out there, and we do find happiness sometimes, but we live in a world of change, and that happiness recedes or something happens and it changes. And then we look somewhere else for happiness. Now, that mantra is designed to take you within, so you don’t want to say it out there. You want to say it and have it take you within.

When I heard my mantra, when it was given to me, my first meditation was--I cannot describe how--I say in my talks, you’re in a elevator and they snipped

"When I heard
my mantra..."
the cables and just, “Boom!” you go, so deep in bliss and it’s so profoundly beautiful and I just said, “Man, everybody should have this experience. Everybody. It’s unbelievable!”

If somebody wants to start TM, what’s the first step they should take?

The first step is to go to a TM center, find a legitimate teacher of TM. There’s apparently a lot of rogue teachers out there who will teach you for less money or for this or this or this, or they say it’s Transcendental Meditation and it’s not. Get a legitimate teacher, make sure of that, and then it’s a seven-part process, starting with an introductory lecture and then learning it, and then having your first meditation, and then follow-up lectures. The point being to know what it is and have your questions answered, know that you’re meditating correctly, and then off you go.

The big thing that stops people is $2,500. And that is an obstacle for people. They say, “Wait a minute. I can’t afford that.” Some of that money goes to the teacher and some of it goes toward world peace and it’s a big chunk, but I have heard stories of people who are very poor who want it bad enough—they go get that money. And for a lot of times those people who say they can’t afford it, you go in their house and they’ve got lots and lots of toys that cost more than that. It’s with you for the rest of your life. It takes you to your full potential, and it’s a gift.

You're working to bring consciousness-based education to schools. What does that mean?

The students are spending an hour a day or more diving within and experiencing that ocean of pure consciousness growing in them. And that’s the big difference. The knower has been left out of the equation [in mainstream education]. And you take whatever consciousness the student has, and that consciousness is the container of knowledge. That’s the amount of understanding they have—that’s the amount of awareness they have, that’s the amount of inner happiness they have. That’s it. Nothing else is going to expand it—all you’re going to do is put more and more facts and figures and stuff in there and send them off to live. Now, you’re expanding that container of knowledge, you’re expanding understanding, expanding happiness, expanding wakefulness, expanding appreciation, and you’re still giving them all the facts, all the figures. But it’s together with that expanding of the container.

Why is TM education such a big focus of what you’re doing now?

The idea came to see if we could get 10,000 students meditating, to create a wave of peace. We’re like light bulbs, and the more we glow with this consciousness or unity, the more we project that. We affect our environment.

"The idea came
to start..."
And we can affect it in a negative way, a neutral way almost, or a super positive way. And the more of this light we project, the more positive it is. And it transforms life. I met students who practice Transcendental Meditation. Who took part in consciousness-based education, where the knower, the student, knows himself or herself. They dive within, they experience that, they grow in that, and watch what happens. They are so much stronger students, they’re happier students, they’re smarter students. You don’t worry about these people. It’s unbelievable what happens.

"They say about three or four B-1 bombers would get peace on earth."
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When you start seeing the way that education is, to me, true education should be something that develops the full potential of the human being. That’s consciousness-based education, where the student gains total knowledge, or the student gains enlightenment. This is education—the rest is a farce, it’s a joke. It’s just to get a job. All that anxiety, all that stress, all those fears, all the negativity is still right there on that poor person, and they got a job. Big deal. It’s a joke what’s going on, and it’s time to start thinking about experiencing this beautiful unified field—which is really us. It’s our home, it’s us.

What is the significance of 10,000 people meditating?

Ten thousand people meditating scattered about is a good thing, but 10,000 people meditating as a group is, they say, “quadratically more powerful.” So, this foundation is called The David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based
"Ten thousand people meditating..."
Education and World Peace. Real peace is not just the absence of war. Everybody knows there have been times where there have been no wars, but the seeds of war, the negativity, is still there. So real peace is, believe it or not, the absence of negativity. It’s a positive world. It’s real peace.

So I would like to raise money to get consciousness-based education going and to get these large peace-creating groups going. And one idea is a university of peace, where you can kill two birds with one stone—have consciousness-based education in a university of 8,000 or more students, and as they’re learning, they’re also doing their program as a group, which would be so powerful. They say it’s isotropically moving at the speed of light, [when meditating in] unity, it’s like a peace-creating factory. It pumps it and things get better in collective consciousness. And it’s science. It really works. And when you look at the alternatives, killing in the name of peace, which is the most absurd notion, but now this thing is here, this teaching is here, let’s give this a try.

How much money are you looking to raise--and how confident are you that you’ll be able to do that?

I say $7 billion would get a real good start. They say about three or four B-1 bombers would get peace on Earth. Instead of building those bombers--which are nice looking and they carry those rockets and all that--instead of building four of those, put seven peace-creating groups of 8,000-plus together and watch the need for B-1 bombers disappear.

On the individual level it’s a lot of money. There’s not that many people that could make it happen, but I sure would love to speak to Bill Gates about it.

How has TM influenced your filmmaking and creative life?

"I love ideas..."
I love ideas, and everything starts with an idea—a piece of furniture, a painting, a piece of music, it’s ideas, ideas, ideas. And if you could expand your consciousness, you can catch ideas at a deeper level. That means that there’s more in that idea. There’s more understanding of that idea. There’s more spark of inspiration in that idea. And knowing this, consciousness comes with a thing of knowingness and the way you work. Intuition, to me, is emotion and intellect going together in a kind of knowingness, and for a painter or a musician, it’s like a knowingness, where to go now, where to go, do this, do this, do this. This kind of thing is consciousness on the move, and the more of that you have, the deeper you can go, the more you enjoy the doing of it. It just changes, it just makes everything better. Because it’s a holistic experience, all the avenues get better.

You’ve talked a lot about this state of peace and transcendence that TM brings you. Is there any sort of disconnect between that and the darker aspects of life that you depict in so many of your films?

I think that you don’t need to suffer to show suffering. And that’s sort of what happens. You still fall in love with certain ideas, and stories will always have contrast, conflicts, highs and lows, goods and bads. It’s just a way a story is supposed to be. But the storyteller does not have to suffer or have those same things that the characters have.

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