My question for David Lynch
I’ve just returned from two weeks in Fairfield, Iowa, the global center of Transcendental Meditation (TM), to learn a technique to deepen my practice.
At one point in the course, our group talked with filmmaker, television director, visual artist, musician, and philanthropist David Lynch on Skype. Someone asked him to describe the defining moment of his TM practice. It happened the day he learned, on July 1, 1973, a “beautiful, sunny Saturday morning.” The instant he closed his eyes,
“It was as if I was in an elevator and someone cut the cables—so euphoric, so incredible, so magical, I thought: where has this experience been? And I knew at that moment I had something very special with this blessing of the technique that Maharishi brought out, Transcendental Meditation.”
I have loved David Lynch’s work for years, spent more than one Chicago winter huddled before Twin Peaks. The often non-linear, perplexing nature of some of his films (like Mulholland Dr., to which Lynch offered no firm explanation) have befuddled people seeking some sort of taut message. In a similar vein, I wondered what he might offer about his recent music video "Crazy Clown Time," which I have been thinking about for months.
So I asked David about the song and video.
“This is a realistic video depicting an American phenomenon of partying and fun in a backyard around a barbecue, fueled by beer. This is a phenomenon that goes on all across America. And I’d say it’s a very big indication that the Kali Yuga is still with us. We should enjoy ourselves—we should be partying—but in a certain way, I think it would be so much more beautiful if all the partiers and the sports fanatics and the politicians and all this absurd behavior—the people causing it—were diving within, and it would be an entirely different world. I made this song and this video—it’s very humorous to me and quite absurd—and I really liked it. It’s just what’s happening in the world, in my mind right now.”
My history with TM
In the basement of my home, I learned Transcendental Meditation at age sixteen. Beside my older sister and her closest friend and several other people whose faces blur in recall, I listened to my parents’ dear friend, a seasoned TM teacher, talk about the physiological benefits of closing the eyes and letting in a mantra for twenty minutes twice a day. The increase of oxygen to the brain would help us focus our attention, remain calm during sudden fluxes of stress, heighten our creative powers. If we were smokers, we were statistically likely to find ourselves quitting with minimal effort. The early evening meditation was particularly useful because it burned off the stress that had accumulated during the day, and was also the time most people would arrive home from work and resort immediately to drink. The effects upon our skin were underlined: resting the face with such gentle regularity created a more youthful appearance, brought out the deepest pitch of our eyes.
None of this was new to me. I had seen the effects of TM firsthand, the child of dedicated Sidhas. They had also learned TM like I had, but had deepened their practice with the Sidhi technique, which is two hours of meditation per day. At sixteen, I had never seen my parents miss a meditation (this still stands true today). I noticed how different they were from the majority of the people in my life, in that they seemed to effortlessly manage a myriad of activities: my dad worked full-time as a lawyer, hosted a local access television show, wrote articles on positive thinking, law, and parenting, and ran marathons on a vegetarian diet. My mother owned a small business that employed the mentally handicapped, taught parenting classes at our local Youth Services Bureau, and managed to drive me wherever I needed to go. I would show up at her office after work, and no matter how busy she was that day, she would always sit and look me in the eye and listen to what had happened to me at school. As a couple, they were perpetually upbeat, devoted to each other. I rarely saw them argue.
I learned during high school, which was a wonderful period for me. Somehow, I managed to avoid drugs and alcohol; I dated, but never had sex. I was fortunate to learn from teachers with expansive views of the world. Needless to say, I suppose there wasn’t impetus in my life to practice the technique I had learned; things were going too well for me to imagine closing my eyes for anything but the few hours of sleep I managed each night.
During college, not wanting to be considered a weirdo in my dorm, I abstained from the technique entirely. Soon thereafter, I moved to France with my first boyfriend, and dismissed the practice entirely as New Age voodoo, when in fact TM has nothing to do with religion and is practiced by the devout and atheistic alike. On to graduate school, I heralded my intellect: there was simply no room for physiological concerns in my half-pack a day cigarette habit. I steeped in my darkness, decided to devote myself to fiction writing, and spent many nights lying out on the concrete stoop of my apartment, two blocks from the University of Chicago Hospital, sirens whirring in tandem with my pulsing headphones.
It wasn’t until I was 25 that I began to meditate regularly. I’m not sure what precipitated it exactly. I do know that I was living alone in an apartment I once had shared with my boyfriend. He was gone, and I was working three jobs—two of them from home, one for several hours a week, teaching Basic English and Reading at community colleges. I was tired of smoking. The first time I realized TM was doing something was when I was standing at the Congress Theater, sober. The music dropped into my stomach the way water would, spreading out to inhabit every nerve ending I owned.
The effect of dipping into my own silence twice a day seemed to have built up in my system enough that I had come to meet my self in the music.
My writing flows more effortlessly, feels more expansive. There is less second-guessing of my impulses. Intuitive knowledge fuels my creative choices. I try to observe my reactions in a non-attached way. Emotions like jealousy, comparison, frustration with others, seem irrelevant: all the people I know are merely reflecting me. Any situation I am in is one I have created for myself. With this kind of knowledge, how might I question anything that is happening in my life, no matter how undesirable it seems? I simply remove myself when I do not feel nourished; and gradually, the need to do that is growing less and less.
Twenty minutes, twice a day: this is what I do.