Originally published in the Northside San Francisco in July 2011
The David Lynch Foundation is expanding its Consciousness-Based Education program to heal trauma through the use of Transcendental Meditation. Recently Lynch and his wife joined with Children of the Night’s founder Lois Lee to bring a stress-reducing meditation technique to teen shelters nationwide. In the last six years, the David Lynch Foundation has provided over 150,000 Transcendental Meditation (TM) scholarships. Lynch spoke with Sharon Anderson about how meditation helps people gain control of their lives.
I’ve been reading about your nationwide meditation initiative with teen shelters. I understand this began with the Children of the Night shelter and school in Los Angeles. I was hoping we could start by getting the back story on that.
My wife Emily was watching TV when she saw a documentary on Children of the Night. She was so moved by the plight of these kids that she wanted to volunteer. Because she’d been meditating, she thought the girls and boys could benefit from TM. Lois, who runs the place, came to visit and talked about getting the David Lynch Foundation involved in teaching TM to these kids. Most of them really loved the opportunity to learn this technique and loved the benefits that come from doing it. It’s been a big success. Lois had a program that was working so well that she wanted to take it around the country.
What kind of dramatic changes have you seen in these teens after they learn to meditate?
Many have done testimonials about the changes they’ve experienced, and it’s always the same. These days humans suffer from so much stress. The difference is these girls and boys are suffering something closer to traumatic stress, like veterans coming back from war. So it’s heavy duty stress, extreme depression and inner torment, and this keeps them from enjoying a full life. What they say is, right away, this is a profound experience of calmness they’ve never felt before. They can feel the heaviness lifting. They’re so thankful for the change, and happiness comes from within. Happiness starts growing, energy comes in the form of more creativity, love and intelligence.
That kind of calm must be a new feeling because, as with soldiers returning from war, when you’re stuck in survival mode it doesn’t give you a lot of emotional space.
They suffer so much. I’m in New York City right now and tonight we’re going to be talking about Operation Warrior Wellness which is a program to teach meditation to the veterans that suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. Some of these veterans have already been educated. It’s like Children of the Night, they say right away that this experience is so beautiful. There’s so many drugs that mask symptoms but it doesn’t make damage disappear. When you transcend and experience the deepest level of life, all this gold comes up and the garbage starts going. It just happens automatically and it saves people. The soldiers will tell you they get sick of the drugs make everything blurry. Illegal drugs and alcohol have the same effect. They’re trying to get away from this thing that is eating them alive. They can’t sleep, the whole world looks like a fearful, crazy place. Then they get this technique, and the stress comes out. It’s natural, and the only side effect from mining this inner gold is the stress starts to recede. It’s a profound cosmic beauty.
I’ve heard that your Foundation now offers TM scholarships to at-risk students, veterans, people dealing with homelessness, incarceration. It’s very ambitious, the scope of this project.
It just started opening up. We’re working with a homeless shelter in New York City. They’re having the same fantastic results. For the American Indians, there are several tribes that have now started TM and they see it as the return of natural law. They see the symptoms of diabetes and alcoholism decreasing. Now in Oregon they’re doing research on prisoners, guards, everyone in the prison system utilizing TM if they want, and prisoners say my cell completely disappears when I meditate.
And they won’t come back to prison. The recidivism is next to nothing, because all the things that drove them to prison are all going away. They’ll go back into society and be productive. And it’s so much more than just relieving stress. This unfolds the human being’s full potential. It’s an experience that’s as old as time, and it’s a very beautiful time in the world when people are saying hey, this is the experience we’re missing.
I’m excited to see how this develops in the coming years. What’s your future vision of this initiative?
Ten years ago there was some receptivity for meditation. Five years ago, that doubled, and in the years since then it’s phenomenal how receptive everyone has become. People are very open to this. The only thing is there’s so many kinds of meditation and people think they’re all the same. I don’t know which meditation I would take if Transcendental Meditation was taken away from me. It’s such a blessing to have this technique and I would recommend that people try TM to see the difference. It’s a unique, ancient form of meditation and it truly works.
On a personal note, does this project take precedence over your creative endeavors, or do you see it as part of the same thing?
It’s all a part of the same thing. Right now I’m not making a film, but lately I’ve been working on music and painting. I hope to make a film soon.
Find out more about the David Lynch Foundation at www.davidlynchfoundation.org.