By John McMurtrie
Standing at a microphone, a student in a packed auditorium at the University of California at Berkeley faces David Lynch and tells him that he really likes his movies. Then, with a quizzical look, he adds, "But at the end, I don't get it."
Breaking into an easy grin, Lynch has a quick reply: "You start meditating, pal!" Always reluctant to discuss the meanings of his famously idiosyncratic films - among them, Eraserhead, Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive - Lynch last week wrapped up the West Coast leg of a US tour of universities where he eagerly spoke of a subject as close to his heart as film: Transcendental Meditation. The talks, free to students and the public, were a rare opportunity to hear the director - dressed in a no-nonsense black suit, black tie and white shirt, his puffy hair slicked back - speak of the technique that he says reduces his stress, allows him to feel bliss and feeds his creativity.
"It's a beautiful thing," Lynch often says in his distinctive, nasally voice in describing TM, which became popular with the likes of the Beatles after Maharishi Mahesh Yogi introduced it in 1957. Not content to just meditate on his own (and "dive within," as he says), Lynch hopes to turn others on to the technique - he is quick to point out that TM is not a religion (though some critics view it as a cult that's after your cash). With this goal in mind, the director founded the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace. "The stresses of today's world are taking an enormous toll on our children right now," Lynch writes on his Web site. "There are hundreds of schools, with thousands of students, who are eager to relieve this stress and bring out the full potential of every student by providing this Consciousness-Based education today."
As the name of his foundation also indicates, Lynch believes TM can help spread peace around the globe. The price of peace? Seven billion dollars. That's the lofty sum TM educators are looking to raise to create seven Universities of World Peace. Students there would not only be enrolled in classes but would meditate en masse to "radiate" peace throughout the world. This may sound like something from a movie, but for Lynch and his followers, it's what has to happen in the real world.
Lynch talked about it all in a phone call from his home in Los Angeles.
You've been meditating twice a day, every day, for 32 years. Some people can't even brush their teeth with such regularity. How did you become so passionate about meditation?
I wasn't interested in meditation for a while and I thought it was a waste of time. And I wasn't for it or I wasn't against it, really - I just didn't see it. And then suddenly I thought differently, and when I thought differently, I think I somehow got this yearning. It's money in the bank for me to get wet with that pure consciousness and bliss every day. And I didn't want to stay with the same size consciousness. I see this as common sense.
Initially, did you have any doubts about promoting Transcendental Meditation? Did you fear that some might say, "Oh, here's another liberal Hollywood kook telling us what to do?"
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