David Lynch is to Transcendental Meditation as Tom Cruise is to Scientology.
Lynch may not have jumped up on his chair as he promoted this mind-body practice at American University’s Katzen Arts Center recently, but he looked pretty happy.
The writer-director famous for dark, surreal, sensual films such as “Blue Velvet” was all smiles — he even giggled — as he talked with fellow TM practitioner and CNN anchor Candy Crowley about the technique that he says helped him let go of his anger and sorrow, and helped him reach his full creative potential. The David Lynch Foundation raises money to teach TM to people around the world.
Transcendental Meditators seek to achieve a state of relaxed awareness — the eventual goal is complete silence, clarity — by shutting their eyes and silently repeating a personal mantra to “transcend” their mind.
Decades of studies funded by the National Institutes of Health and TM-related institutions have shown that TM and other meditative practices are helpful, complementary tools to manage addictions, anxiety, high blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, stress and depression.
“There’s a lot of research showing that there’s a benefit,” said Mary Ann Dutton, a psychology professor at Georgetown University who studies the health effects of mindfulness meditation. “[Meditation] is not a panacea for everything, but it can be a benefit for a broad range of things and it can make a difference in people’s lives.”
TM has plenty of skeptics, too, who say its fees are too high and its claims are overblown. Some have likened TM to a religious cult.
TM practitioners pay as much as $1,500 to learn the trademarked seven-step TM technique and to receive a personalized mantra from a certified instructor.
Lynch said he turned to meditation almost 20 years after Maharishi Mahesh Yogi — guru to the Beatles, actress Mia Farrow and the rumored inspiration for George Lucas’s Yoda in the “Star Wars” movies — introduced TM to the world in 1958.
In addition to Lynch’s praise for TM (“Life just gets more fun. Everything gets more fun.”), the event at the Katzen Arts Center included testimonials by veterans, Georgetown University Medical School professor of psychiatry Norman Rosenthal, author of a new book about TM, titled “Transcendence,” and a video shout-out by actor and director Clint Eastwood, who said he has been a practitioner for almost40 years.