I AM David Lynch: Art & Consciousness

Photograph of David Lynch by  Dean Hurley  - courtesy of the artist

Photograph of David Lynch by Dean Hurley - courtesy of the artist


David Lynch: icon of film and television, is on a mission to spread peace around the world.  

Lynch started to practice Transcendental Meditation (TM) in 1973 and has been meditating ever since. After a dramatic transformation from being an angst-ridden young artist with anger issues, to a peaceful creative genius in bliss with life; he credits TM for transforming his personality and perspective, in just two weeks [Source].  

Renown for creating the cult television series Twin Peaks, Lynch has crafted some of cinema’s most enigmatic and beloved masterpieces; featuring his signature “Lynchian” style of Surrealism, that explores the light and the dark of American culture and idealism, and what lies beneath its sensual and hyper-realistic veneers—through the language of dreams.

Emily Stolfe, David Lynch, Kyle MacLachlan, and Desiree Guber, Twin Peaks Cannes gala premiere - Photo by Matthias Nareyek/Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images

Parallel to his work as an auteur filmmaker and artist, his other passion is being the Founder of the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-based Education; which is dedicated to ensuring that every child and adult who wants to learn TM, has access to do so. 

Lynch recently gave us a rare Skype interview about “Art and Creativity” at the Gallery of New South Wales, in Sydney, Australia, after a presentation about TM by Bob Roth; author of the new book Strength in Stillness: The Power of Transcendental Meditation.

Roth is a teacher of the TM technique, which has been practised and endorsed by major celebrities, including Martin Scorsese, Oprah, Ellen, Seinfeld, Hugh Jackman, Paul McCartney, Russell Brand, Lena Dunham, Michael J. Fox, Jennifer Aniston, and Tom Hanks. He was recently featured as a guest on Ellen, promoting the book and TM, in the United States.

So, what is TM? TM is a very simple mental technique practised twice a day; morning and afternoon, for 20-minutes at a time. Lynch is quick to remind us that TM has absolutely NO affiliation with any religion or belief system and is not a cult.

Instead, he explains, TM is a method (not a philosophy) that has delivered measurable results documented in rigorous scientific studies after it has been introduced to everyone from all ages, religions, and backgrounds, including; business executives, creative professionals, prisoners, school children, and PTSD sufferers—who have all experienced its life-changing benefits.

If you have ever wondered what makes Lynch tick: this interview is a unique insight into his life, creative genius, and passion for peace.

What are your thoughts on consciousness?

Every human being has consciousness, but not every human being has the same amount.
— david lynch

DL: And if we want to get more of this consciousness—we can learn this technique (TM) to dive within—to transcend and experience this ocean of unbounded consciousness.

Unbounded energy and unbounded peace lives within each one of us human beings. And every time you transcend and experience that ocean; you infuse some of that, and you start to grow in that. You truly begin to expand whatever consciousness you had to begin with.

The side-effect of expanding consciousness is: negativity starts to lift away, automatically—without trying. So, things like stress, traumatic stress, anxieties, tension, sorrow, depression, hate, bitter and selfish anger, and fear; start to automatically lift away. You get this euphoric feeling of the heavy weight of negativity lifting, and solid gold coming in from within. 

So, do you believe there is something beyond energy, the brain, and biology?

DL: It’s consciousness. They say: “Everything is consciousness.” We can only say “I AM” because of consciousness. And it is the Self, with a capital ‘S’. That’s why they have this line: “Know thyself.” This is the Self they are talking about—the big Self—the Self in all of us. And that Self is there, right within all of us. It’s a euphoric, beautiful experience. And like Bobby said, “We’ve lost contact with this field.”

It’s very unfortunate that we’ve lost contact with it because we are left without all the benefits of experiencing that field. And we get in big, big, big trouble, on the surface of life. Stress and all this negativity cause us to do strange things to one another. And we don’t mean to do that.

Meditate regularly: once in the morning, and once in the afternoon. And it’s a miracle what happens to our lives. We get happy. We get so much more energy. All this negativity lifts away. We get more creative. We start enjoying life. We start feeling better in our body. We become more and more “us”.

What is your opinion on death and the after-life?

DL: My personal opinion is: this thing of consciousness is a continuum. Nothing dies. It’s just a change. There’s nothing to worry about. It’s a continuum. It’s just broken up into these different lives.

We’re supposed to be happy campers. They say mankind was not made to suffer. Bliss is our nature. And we’re all, as I like to say, “meant to be happy little puppies, our tails just wagging, with little smiles on our face; enjoying life, and not worrying about anything.”

What are your thoughts about people who say going through a struggle helps creative endeavours?

When I heard of Transcendental Meditation, I thought, ‘I’m an artist and artists should have an edge.’ I didn’t want to join any club. I wanted to do my own thing. I didn’t want to get calm.
— david lynch
Michael J. Anderson and David Lynch on the set of  Twin Peaks  - courtesy of the Richard Beymer collection

Michael J. Anderson and David Lynch on the set of Twin Peaks - courtesy of the Richard Beymer collection

DL: And you know, I was not worried about work. I wanted to work. I wondered about this thing of becoming calm and peaceful; if it would affect my creativity.

And this is a legitimate concern. They say that (for) artists, if there’s anger or there is struggle—it helps them in their work. It’s an interesting thing. But, negativity, I say, is the enemy of creativity. In suffering— true suffering—you don’t feel like working. In real depression, you can hardly get out of bed. The more we suffer, the less creative we are going to be.

You should understand suffering, and you should understand all the negativity. But you yourself do not have to suffer.

(When) you start diving within and infusing more and more of this consciousness, with those all positive qualities; you’re going to have more of an edge in your work. You’re going to have more energy to do your work. You’re going to get more flow of ideas, because, I say that, “The tube that ideas flow through; negativity constricts that tube and it clamps it, and the ideas can’t flow.”

So, when you start meditating, things just start relaxing, and that tube opens up. You get happier in the work. Ideas start flowing through.

When you start expanding consciousness; it gets bigger and bigger. You’re making the subconscious conscious. Now, you’ll catch ideas on a deeper and deeper level. And those ideas on the deeper levels have more power. So, it’s going to feed your work. And you’re going to get more ideas and you’re going to have more energy to do your work. And it’s such a great thing for the artist and for the human being. So, don’t worry about losing your edge.

Your films have a lot of light and darkness and contain the full range of human behaviour and thinking. You’ve been talking about TM as eliminating negativity from your consciousness. Have those ideas that you have had, changed in some way?

What happens to me is: I get ideas, and sometimes, I feel very lucky if I get an idea that I fall in love with. And then, when I fall in love with an idea for cinema, for instance, I love ideas for two different reasons: the idea itself and what cinema could do with that idea. Love, for me, drives the boat.

All throughout time, there’s been storytellers, and stories are not just a happy one-liner. They involve all kinds of highs and lows, life and death situations, (and) much torment and strife. But, they’re stories. So, I say, “have the suffering in the story—on the screen and in the books—but not in your life.” And I say also:

You can be very, very happy, shooting a death scene. But, it’s so important to have the suffering in the story, not in your life.
— david lynch

How would you describe your creative process?

DL: I say a bunch of things. I mostly say, “Picture dictates sound.” But it’s really the idea. The ideas come with a mood. You see the faces of characters. You feel what they might be wearing. You feel the mood of the light. And you feel the mood of the sounds. And as you build the film, you just have to stay true to that idea—every single element. And that’s costumes and props, casting and sets, locations, and light and sound.

All these different things—you keep checking back to the original idea and your brain, and making sure it feels correct based on your idea that’s been driving the boat. And when it comes time for sound, you want to get the sounds or the music to marry with the picture.

So, a lot of it is experimentation and working and altering things, until they feel correct and they marry to the picture. And when all these elements start marrying, you get that magical things sometimes (happen); that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. And so, most of the time, it’s an experiment to nail down the thing that feels correct.

Isabella Rossellini and David Lynch, BTS  Blue Velvet  (1986)

Isabella Rossellini and David Lynch, BTS Blue Velvet (1986)

In essence, what is the practical application of meditation for creativity?

DL: You just want to stay regular in your meditation—that’s 20-minutes in the morning and 20-minutes in the afternoon. And then, you just go about your business. And what you find out is, as you start transcending every day, it feels real normal. A lot of times, your friends notice the change in you, before you realise it. You realise after a while, that you are happier and you feel better. You have more energy and ideas are flowing more.

(TM) is like you’ve been given a key to the treasury within and every day you get to go open up that vault door and bring out the gold. And so, this feeds the good in life.
— David Lynch

And then, you can catch ideas right after meditation. Sometimes, you get ideas in meditation. Sometimes, you get ideas six hours later. Just stay regular in your practice. Go to the treasury every day.

I’m interested in what you’re doing in the schools in America. We’ve heard all the stories about the gun shootings and then this other story of kids doing this (TM) meditation. I’m wondering if you could tell us more about it?

DL: I’ll tell you a story. The story is: this school in San Francisco is called, Visitacion Valley Middle School. It was considered the worst school in San Francisco. Its principal was James Dierke. Jim is a very good guy. He’s not a new-age mumbo-jumbo kind of guy at all. He’s a good old boy. And he was so worried about this school.

These kids came from, you know, troubled, troubled families, and neighbourhoods, and bad things were happening in this school. There were fights. There was bullying. There were terrible grades. There was teacher burn-out. It was a mess. And there was a fight at least once a week, that brought the police and an ambulance. And this was not a happy school. And they tried—as many well-wishers of humanity and people working to get education good—they tried a bunch of things. But nothing seemed to work. They were more like surface cures.

So, someone mentioned Transcendental Meditation to James Dierke. And Jim thought, “Oh no. This is just no, no way.” And then they told him about the research and he started looking into it. And finally, Jim Dierke said: “Ok. Let’s give it a try.”

Then came the Transcendental Meditation teachers. They had a parent-teacher meeting first. And the parents would hear about what Transcendental Meditation is and what it isn’t.

A lot of people say it’s an eastern religion, or some cult, or some sect, and they say, “I don’t want my kid to have this.” But, the teachers explained: “This is not a religion. It’s not a cult. It’s a mental technique.”

They talk about the research and in this case—maybe 60% of the parents say, “Ok, give it to the kid.” And the others said, “No”. So, they started teaching the 60%. And then, you know, people started seeing changes in the students. They started seeing that Billy—who couldn’t focus at all—now Billy can start focusing. And the torment starts coming out of these kids from transcending every day. And this torment that was in there—killing them—starts lifting. Their grades started going up.

Relationships between the students started improving. Students started getting happy. The teachers started enjoying teaching more. Then, the teachers learned, the staff learned, and then Jim Dierke (the principal) learned. And the teachers started enjoying it, the students started enjoying it, and the students started liking their teachers of all things. And it was like something strange was happening.

Some of the parents who didn’t want their kids to learn said, “Oh my goodness, I change my mind.” And other kids started learning. A year later—it’s a school that you would love to have your kids go to or you would like to go to. Students would say: “Before, if that guy said that to me, I’d cut his head off, and I’d kill that guy. Now, I just put my arm around him and give him a knuckle rub, a little bit of a knuckle rub or whatever.” It was beautiful what happened.

And within one year they turned the whole thing around because they’re watering the root and they’re getting it from the deepest level. It’s just beautiful what happens to the human beings that get this. 

How much has Transcendental Meditation inspired how you made Twin Peaks, for example?

David Lynch as Gordon Cole in  Twin Peaks: The Return  - courtesy of Showtime

David Lynch as Gordon Cole in Twin Peaks: The Return - courtesy of Showtime

DL: Twin Peaks is a wondrous world. In Twin Peaks there’s some very normal things that happen, and there’s things that you might consider strange.

In life itself—there’s many, many things, that we feel or we intuit. We feel there’s many things going on; that you can’t see with your eyes and or hear, necessarily, with your ears. But, we feel more than meets the eye. And so, Twin Peaks touches on things like that.

It’s not that meditation inspired Twin Peaks. It’s that meditation expands that container of consciousness and it gives you more of a flow of ideas, more energy to do the work, and more happiness in the doing. And so,

I enjoyed making ‘Twin Peaks’ much more than I would have if I had never started Transcendental Meditation.
— David Lynch

There are artists who have behaved badly. In your opinion: Is it ok to admire the work of an artist who has done “bad things”?

DL: I think it’s ok. There might be people that are pretty bad. But, I don’t think anyone is all bad. And maybe, unbeknownst to this sort of seemingly bad person, some very good things squirted out on that canvas, that you find fantastic.

So, as they say, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” I say; “Every painting on the wall, every person that comes up (to it), gets a different thing from that painting.” And when you step up to a painting, a circle is made. The painting goes into you, and your idea of the painting goes into it, and then, the next person gets a different thing.

If you happen to love this thing, it could be a little disappointing, that the person who did something you love is not a good person. But still, it’s ok to love the painting.

We as human beings are judged by how we treat our fellow man. One of the things that will help us all is if we realise that whatever we do to one another; we are in effect doing the same thing to ourselves. And this is something that, it just gets easier with more consciousness, with more love flowing—to treat your fellow man, the way you would want to be treated.

Technology is changing our world and the film industry. How do you see the relationship between technology, film, and Transcendental Meditation?

DL: For me personally, I really love technology, because it makes certain jobs easier. In the digital world of filmmaking; the equipment is lighter. The things you can do to a film after it’s shot, are just phenomenal, and it’s the same way with sound.

“I think, even though there’s some bad things that happen through the internet, it’s very good because it’s bringing people together all over the world. I think that’s very important.”

And how it goes with Transcendental Meditation is that, I think, just like any tool, you’ll use those tools for more positive things if you transcend every day, and get more of that love, and get more of that happiness. You’ll just appreciate those tools and use them not against people, but for people.

What about film school for the next generation of filmmakers, do you have any advice?

DL: Now, with film school: I believe you need technical knowledge. And also, it’s really, really great to learn by doing. So, you should make a film. And in making the film, you’ll learn all the steps to make a film from pre-production, shooting, editing, post-production, and mixing all the sound and music. And when you do it on your own, (by) yourself, you remember those things.

Many artists dream of having the creative freedom that you have to create whatever projects you want to, no matter how weird they seem to a commercial audience. How did you create such an authentic career and what advice do you have for new filmmakers who aspire to do that?

It’s real simple. We have to do what we believe in. We have to translate the ideas that we’ve fallen in love with, and we have to translate them in freedom. We have to have final cut.
— David Lynch

DL: Although we should never turn down a good idea from someone else, we should never have to take a bad one. We have the final decision. We need to find our own voice, and we need to stay true to the ideas that have come to us. Either through a script, or through the ether. Or whatever.

As much as possible, we need a happy set—we need to have a happy family feeling with the people we work with. And we need support from the financial backers and a good feeling with them.

If we’ve stayed true to the ideas, and done the best job we can do, we’ll be alright.

You can follow David Lynch on Twitter and Facebook and discover more about the David Lynch Foundation at https://www.davidlynchfoundation.org/.

Special thanks to Mark Bunn, CEO of the David Lynch Foundation, Australia for making this interview possible.

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About the Artist

David Lynch

Born in Mousoula, Montanon. Eagle Scout.