It's David Lynch's birthday. To celebrate here are some wellness tips from our favourite Transcendental Meditation practitioner
Seriously. Where does David Lynch find the time? In-between making movies, dabbling with photography, music, painting – know what else he does? Transcendental Meditation. He’s been doing it twice a day, every day, since 1973, and insists he’s never missed a day. That’s how much he swears by it. He describes TM – as it’s also known – as a dive into “an ocean of pure happiness”. He explains it as a technique that lifts things like stress and anxiety; as a vehicle that carries you towards intelligence, peace, creativity, and what he calls “pure consciousness”.
Based on the techniques of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who introduced Transcendental Meditation to the world in 1955, Lynch launched his own foundation in 2005, the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace. He started it, the website says, “to ensure that every child anywhere in the world who wanted to learn to meditate could do so.” Since then, the foundation claims to have provided scholarships to teach Transcendental Meditation to more than 300,000 at-risk youth in underserved schools, veterans with PTSD, women who are survivors of domestic violence, and homeless and incarcerated individuals.
Could TM be the ultimate cure for modern life? We’ve dug around, taken a closer look at his movies, watched various lectures, and we’ve discovered some handy wellness tips from the man himself. As if his calming voice alone wasn’t enough to lift your anxiety.
Embrace your failures
“Failures are so incredible,” says Lynch. “A failure is a big, big sadness and a horror. But there’s nowhere to go but up. So it’s a freedom, as a result of failure – a huge euphoric freedom. There’s no way you can lose more, you can only gain. A success is so beautiful, but then, Oh my goodness, what if I fall? The next thing better be very special,” he says sarcastically, “or the whole thing is gonna crumble. You get tense. You start worrying. A success can be a nightmare.” In other words: don’t get too caught up with sustaining a success, but rather, embrace your failures.
Don’t rush, enjoy life’s in-between moments
If Twin Peaks has taught us anything it’s that, even in a high-stress job like Dale Cooper’s, it’s important to take breaks. Enjoy your cherry pie, enjoy your “damn fine cup of coffee”. It’s these small details that Lynch delights in. He puts them into his movies, sharing them, as if inviting us to take a break too.
Dig beneath the surface of life and things
What you quickly learn in Lynch’s movies is, what you see is never what you get. Meaning, he’s not interested in what lies on the surface so much as what lurks beneath it. Similarly, with his Transcendental Meditation, he talks about mind and matter lying on the surface. “Pure consciousness” is something that comes when breaking through this surface by a mantra. Don’t worry if that’s unclear. Watch Lynch draw a literal diagram of what he’s getting at in this doc.
“You have to have patience”
Eight minutes into this doc on Lynch’s TM, the director mentions the importance of patience in relation to creativity and ideas. “A desire for an idea is like a bait on a hook. You’re desiring an idea and you have to have patience, just like you do in fishing,” he says. “It’s a little bit like daydreaming, thoughts come and come, and maybe – boom! – an idea comes that is so thrilling you’ve caught a little purple fish with red fins and little dancing speckled eyes.” And so, rather than stressing out over projects, darting from one to the next, have patience. That way you can catch your own little purple fish with red fins.
Similarly, daydreaming isn’t necessarily unproductive or a waste of time. For Lynch it’s often when ideas come. Though he has insisted his dreams don’t influence his movies, he is interested in dream logic and professes to enjoy daydreaming himself.
“I get ideas from daydreaming,” he told the Daily Beast in 2017. One example from Twin Peaks: “The idea for the Red Room came when I was leaning against a warm car at sunset, and the idea for Bob came when I heard some girl say, ‘Don’t lock yourself in Laura’s room’ to Frank Silva.” So yeah, basically without daydreaming Twin Peaks wouldn’t exist.
Don’t try and make sense out of every little thing
You could drive yourself crazy trying to make sense of Eraserhead. Why is there a woman singing in a radiator? Why is there a half-dead foetus thing that looks like a skinned rabbit? In life, as in Lynch movies, sometimes you have to accept that strange, inexplicable things exist in this world. For humans, as pattern-seeking animals, it’s hard to accept that, sometimes, 2 + 2 = 5. But when we do, when we see the beauty in that? Oh boy.
With his movies, Lynch has always been led by his curiosity, like Jeffrey Beaumont in Blue Velvet, diving into a mystery after discovering a severed ear in the grass. What’s the world look like from this angle? How about over here? Lynch is basically the curious kid who turns over the rock to see what lies beneath. His movies teach us to see the world in a different way, peering into the cracks of life to see what’s there. In other words: we could all be a bit more like Jeffrey Beaumont.
Know the meaning of life by “being it”
Lynch had this to say, when asked the minor question of what is the meaning of life: “The meaning of life is totality,” he says. “Everything. More than the most. Smaller than the smallest. Larger than the largest. Totality. The human being is an exquisite being, and we have a potential, and that potential is called enlightenment, fulfilment, total fulfilment, liberation, salvation. And it’s huge, supreme enlightenment. That’s the meaning of life. Know it by being it.”
Be true to yourself
At a lecture, Lynch gave some solid advice to a first-year film student: “Be true to yourself. Have your own voice ring out. Other things can inspire you but find your own voice, be true to that voice, don’t let anybody fiddle with it. Never turn down a good idea but never take a bad idea, and be true to the ideas all the way along, every element.” He pauses, then smiles at the audience. “And then start your Transcendental Meditation…”
Lynch has this to say on his website: “If you don’t already meditate, take my advice: Start. It will be the best decision you ever make.” The director also says he felt its positive benefits on his creative process right from the start. “I had so many anxieties and fears [before Transcendental Meditation] that I suddenly felt lifting.” He swears by it. And judging by his work, it’s done him wonders.