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To the ignorant, the term “Transcendental Meditation” might evoke images of pagan

worship, cult followings and spiritual misguidance. The uncultured and clueless masses
are generally the ones that jump to conclusions and then, proceed to disregard the validity
of this bona fide and strengthening technique. At times, this meditation seems to
represent a type of threat to conservatism, most probably because it promotes change
through peaceful means (in a time when we’re so used to force resolving every conflict),
and because it is strongly correlated to artistic and bohemian movements in general.
Undoubtedly, the fact that this is so makes its implementation in mainstream society a bit
frustrating, given people’s tendency to reject anything that seems too far off the status
quo.

The whole thing started with a small, Indian man, who resembled an Indian Santa Claus,
with his heavy white beard, and his cherubic pleasant complexion. He was the man
responsible for the creation of what is now considered by transcendental meditation
practitioners everywhere, as “every person’s birthright”. The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
founded the Transcendental Meditation Movement in 1959, and quickly made it available
to a world-wide audience soon after. The movement was made noticeable through the
celebrities it attracted – The Beatles, Donovan, David Lynch and Andy Kaufman, to name
a few.

Of the aforementioned personalities, I had the opportunity of hearing two of them speak
on the subject this past weekend. These two spoke at the Q&A session at the “David
Lynch Weekend” event at the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa.

The Maharashi University of Management is located in a small American town, and is


adorned by tall fir trees with vast green pastures for a backdrop. Once I was there, I
noticed how so many small mom-and-pop stores and gas stations were there (one of each
every few blocks), and how the outskirts of the town made up the remnants of what
seemed to me to be typical American suburbia. Because of this, it was easy to notice how
small-townish the whole state was, and it turned out I was right. The population in Iowa
is heavily dispersed, and the flat land, ridden with tractors and agricultural produce,
makes for most of the state’s landscape.

Getting to Fairfield from Cedar Rapids was a task in itself. There are probably more taxis
in any mid-size American city than there are in the whole state of Iowa (maybe excluding
the capital - Des Moines). The whole trek was composed of two stops – one at Mt.
Pleasant, where I stayed in a medium-sized family-run hotel, and the final stop at the
Maharashi University Campus at Fairfield. I decided to worry about transportation back
to Cedar Rapids once the event was over.

The registration for the event had been on Friday, but Livas (my friend who also attended
the event’s conferences) and I arrived late Friday night, so we made sure to arrive on
campus at the earliest hour on Saturday. Because of that, we got the best seats at the
auditorium – which made for the excellent videos and pictures I was able to take once the
event began.
The conference started out with a scientific discussion led by John Hagelin, a renowned
Scientist who specializes in Quantum Physics and who is currently working towards
promoting Global Peace (through his staunch activism). Originally meant to be a live
discussion, Hagelin apologized for the fact that he wasn’t able to speak in person, and
explained that he was in New York to speak with United Nations officials on matters of
World Peace. His excuse seemed important enough to miss the weekend’s event, and his
sense of familiarity and increasing ease with the audience was enough to make everyone
forget the fact that his discussion was staged not in person, but through a live web-cast.

Hagelin started his presentation by bombarding the audience with multiple math
equations and Quantum Physics theories – and even though he had visibly confused most
of the audience in the beginning of his long discourse, by the middle of the lecture he had
succeeded in making his whole discussion on quantum physics and transcendental
meditation fully understandable. He made sure to pause every now and then to let us
know that he “wouldn’t delve too much into it, because it’s so complicated”.

Hagelin was the real deal, though, and a bona fide scientist if I ever saw one – he laughed
at his own cosmic jokes about the Unified Field (the U.F. “allows for all of the
fundamental forces between elementary particles to be written in terms of a single field”)
and the universe at large. Every time he let out a chuckle at something scientific, he
infected the audience with his humor and made them laugh in turn. As he spoke, his
expressions demonstrated authentic feelings of joy and amazement at facts that he was
revealing to us, old information to him, new to us. He had long ago accepted Einstein’s
Unified Field Theory as truth, and as he so excitedly explained it to us, I thought to
myself, “How grand must these ideas be, for this scientist, to be so excited about them, as
he explains them to us after having told these theories to so many people so many times
before”.

Hagelin was not only convinced that every force and particle in the universe was part of
the same unified field, he was sure that transcendental meditation was deeply tied in to
that same fact. As a proponent of the TM movement, he explained the benefits of this
exercise in terms of physics, thoroughly discussing how practicing TM leads to
enlightenment, and how this, is truly achievable by means of scientifically measurable
terms. He also mentioned how the positive side effects of transcendental meditation
would lead to a multitude of benefits, like world peace, which was apparently the closest
cause to his heart.

After taking in a session of Q&A from the audience (the most memorable question being:
“What is your opinion on people leaving the tangible state of consciousness – in other
words, leaving the physical world?” – to which he responded: “It would be a pity to miss
life and what it has to offer if one did leave”), Hagelin said good-bye and the event’s host
thanked him for his time.

The host, whose last name was Roth, but whose first name I don’t remember, was
fawning (more than necessary) over David Lynch as he introduced him before he came
out on-stage. I assumed they knew each other, and it turned out later that they did. Roth
had presented himself as the acting Vice-President of The David Lynch Foundation, an
organization dedicated to spreading World Peace via the implementation of the
Transcendental Meditation technique in U.S high schools and other learning institutions.

There was no planned discourse or talk by David Lynch, the host had said; he clarified
that Lynch would be coming out solely to answer the audience’s questions.

When Lynch came out, the whole room roared with applause, and as the loud noise
drowned out his paused “thank-you”, he sat down, in a chair that had been placed out for
him, square in the middle of an elevated wood floor. The whole room was dark, and the
spotlight was on him. I was in the second row, so I got a pretty good angle for a picture
(and a couple of videos, too).

Lynch was dressed in black; his hair was tossed back and looked messy (but somehow
wasn’t), and he had on a white shirt, with a black tie. He looked like a simple
businessman with an abnormal crop of hair, and when he uttered his first words, it was
surprising to hear that he also spoke in a very simple manner. I had expected something
very odd from him; more than anything, I wondered what his voice would be like, but he
presented himself as a very normal individual. It was at that precise moment (when I
thought that he was normal enough), that I thought that without a doubt, his voice was the
oddest thing about him; it had a higher pitch than normal, and it had a special ring to it.
Everything else was fairly ordinary. I still thought the tone of voice did not really go
along with his face, and I thought this made for a strange combination.

When the first question was asked, the audience member introduced himself by saying
“Hello”. Lynch responded “Howdy”. It seems trivial to remember that he said that, but I
think that when he said “Howdy” he was inadvertently being very revealing – of his
character, his personality, his public persona and his overall attitude that day. It made for
a pleasant introduction. The rest of the Q&A was a mixture of questions that ranged from
the more serious subject of artistic inspiration to a question that plainly asked about one
of his most enigmatic films: “What did you mean by Mullholland Drive?” Lynch
responded that even he didn’t know what his ideas meant sometimes. For those of you
who don’t know his work, Mullholland Drive was one of his most recent movies, and is
mired in a confusing, yet enticing tangled web of suspense and mystery. It’s an odd
picture – nonsensical, but somehow still making sense in its own warped manner.

I felt a thick feeling of curiosity and deep awe developing in the audience as the questions
kept on coming. People persisted in asking questions, that either had to do with them (I
hated art school. Don’t you agree that art has been heavily compromised these days?) or
that had to do with their curiosity about David Lynch and his work (I loved the Straight
Story. Did you live out here in Iowa when before filming it?). Later, there came a pack of
struggling artists who were reaching out for an opportunity, or a sort of “I’ll help you out,
don’t worry” from Lynch. Some of them looked (it was possible to see who was asking
the question, because there were two screens up – one on each opposite end of the
theater) like they were about to faint while asking their questions. I remember one of
them was sweating profusely, up to the point where I wondered if he was going to be able
to finish his query.

There was one individual who blurted out an odd stutter by the end of his question (he
stuttered not from his mouth, but by moving his neck abruptly, like a tic), and another
was apparently embarrassed, or at least, was shy, about the CD he had brought that had
all of his original artwork, to hand in to David. It’s all understandable.

When you idolize great artists’ lives and work, there could very well be a tendency to
become very attached to what they have done, or how they have gone about it. David
Lynch has been marked with distinctive mark in the film world – he is more different
than most, he is unusual. He has brought down many walls and challenged convention
more than most film directors, and that’s very admirable. Because of it, many people
thanked him; I think most of the people that went to see him thanked him before asking
their questions, which was very pleasant to hear. I can’t imagine the amount of artists and
creative minds he influenced, more than he will probably ever meet in his lifetime.

Lynch’s work is varied. While most of his films follow the same pattern (violence,
darkness, high emotions), they are all inherently different. Eraserhead, Lynch’s first
motion picture, is a real piece of creative work, which is not meant to be understood, but
felt, as are most of Lynch’s films. The Straight Story was one of the few, if not the only,
of Lynch’s films that were completely Hollywood-style-linear in its narrative – its story
was beautifully told by Lynch, just like with all of his other films. The audience was
asking about all of these other films, from the darker ones, to the more light-hearted
films. As the session went on, it was easier to see who was a fan of what film.

It wasn’t all film talk in Lynch’s Q&A, though. The main topic of the weekend was
Transcendental Meditation, and Lynch didn’t miss the opportunity to promote it. He
explained how, before his brush with TM, he had been a very angry person, and how he
had come out of his anger through meditating. There was much talk of the benefits he had
received from TM, and it was clear that it had had a profound effect in his life. He
proposed it as a solution to the World’s major ills: war, violence and in at the level of the
individual, harmful stress.

Lynch’s artistic endeavors were heavily reflected in his discussion. He narrated his life as
a series of occurrences that ultimately led him to become the person he is. He went into
detail about how when he had first found himself engulfed in the whole artistic
experience at youth, he knew he had found his real passion. His passion reverberates in
movies, but more noticeably in his artwork. While still a painter, and sculptor, he is
primarily a filmmaker. In the film world, it’s rare to find a painter – turned – filmmaker;
it’s more common to find the opposite. In Lynch, you find the artist who wishes his art to
become alive, and succeeds in doing it, thus making way for his surreal collection of
stories, manifested in moving pictures.

After the questioning was over, the host granted the audience a small five minute break,
and I took the opportunity to stretch out and go to the building’s lobby. Two tables had
been set up there, with transcendental meditation guides and products, and a couple of
books, authored by the David Lynch Weekend speakers. Lynch’s book was square in the
middle of all of them; I recognized it because of its attractive dark blue cover and the
picture on it - a horizontal water spout splashing through one end of the book to the
opposite end. The book was written in a simple format, and had its topics spread out in
very short chapters, with plain titles, every chapter was composed of a couple of
paragraphs. It was like a short diary full of David Lynch’s thoughts.

As I read through it I realized that in some measure or another, Lynch had repeated the
verbatim in the book during most the discussion that took place at the live Q&A. So,
basically half of the session had been available in the book, and the other half was
original material. But that was irrelevant, because the message had been sent out, and
what mattered to me was the creative energy he was throwing out there, not so much the
individual quotes from his book he had repeated.

After Lynch, the host presented the next guest; a musician whose fame first started to
spread in the 60’s and 70’s (right alongside the Beatles era). His name was Donovan, and
he, like Lynch, also practices transcendental meditation on a daily basis. He came on
stage looking like a hip, but older musician, with a shaggy head of hair and with a semi-
formal appearance: blue jeans, a shirt, and a cool jacket.

Once he started speaking, the whole room was fixated on what he was saying, and not so
much on his gestures and mannerisms (an idiosyncrasy that was difficult to not notice
with Lynch). With Lynch, it really had been an entertaining sight; with his arm-waving
and finger-flapping (he moved his fingers to and fro every time he answered a question).
He also had a tendency to give a heavier emphasis on a few select words and phrases
(especially the word “idea”), and mention quirky metaphors that compared feelings like
anger and depression to a “suffocating rubber clown suit” and how getting inspiration
through an idea was similar to “catching a big fish, from the deep, not the shallow
waters.” Donovan lacked such a set of metaphors but certainly made up for it with his gift
for rhetoric.

Donovan’s Q&A took a different turn. Now, the Lynch fans sat down and the music fans
were the ones asking the questions - about the industry, the songwriting, and the artistic
process involved. Donovan, unlike anyone else in the room (that I knew of), had been a
follower of the TM movement since the 60’s. He had left for India (just like the Beatles
did) and studied the technique with the Maharashi Yogi himself.

While Lynch’s personality was more peculiar, Donovan’s persona seemed to be less
idiosyncratic – more “normal” than anything else. I thought he was a highly intelligent
individual, and fantastic with words. He was able to take every sort of unintentional
verbal jab in stride, and not only that – he answered questions in the most pleasant of
tones, making sure the audience not only got their answer, but a bit extra from him too. It
was like speaking with royalty, only that he lacked the usual arrogance and airs that come
with.
Donovan mentioned his bohemian background, how he hit the streets and played the
guitar for money, and how he reveled in the spirit of the 60’s. As he explained his journey
from unemployed bum to singing sensation, he seemed very comfortable with himself,
and with the audience. There was no apparent rush in him to leave the stage (as is the
case with most busy celebrity speakers). He took his time when answering questions, and
he made sure to answer as best he could.

After a very short time, which had stretched out to what seemed a long time, Donovan
was done with the Q&A and we were instructed to go and eat “Maharashi Unversity’s
very own organic food” at the cafeteria, which had been set up at the university
gymnasium. I have strong feelings associated with food labeled as “organic”. I consider it
more “organic” than the fast food and artificial meals we’re fed now – but people fail to
understand that real organic food doesn’t just come from efforts to grow one’s own food
– it is derived from rich soil and clean air as well, which is something that every
industrialized nation lacks to some degree, so I’m never convinced something is 100%
organic. I thought it a bit pretentious for the host to boast the food unnecessarily.

As those thoughts circled my head, we left for the gymnasium and once we got there, we
went through one of three buffet lines. The food wasn’t all bad, but I was craving for
meat, and the best option there was some sort of vegetable burger - patty, with rice
smashed into it. It tasted much better than it looked, and I was sufficed with the taste.

There is some importance in mentioning the food here – it is, still part of the story. It’s
important to point out that the University itself was stressing Transcendental Meditation
so much, that you could see manifestations of it everywhere. There was Vedic
Architecture – which is a sort of building design that focuses on the following:
Orientation (buildings face unique points to harmonize with the poles), Placement (the
rooms in the building are placed to resonate with energy – as the sun rises and sets),
Proportions (mathematical proportions of the building are based on Vedic formulas) and
Natural Materials (Natural and Non-Toxic materials to build, only). And just like the
food, the buildings reflected the University’s philosophy. It was amazing to see how
everything was touched by a widespread affability and pleasantness, and zero stress.
Also, I think what spurred that on was that the University was literally in the middle of
nowhere (Fairfield, Iowa – population ~ 10,000).

After lunch, we headed back to the building where the auditorium was.

Lynch and Donovan came back onstage, first Lynch, then Donovan. They answered
questions once more, and then both said a pleasant goodbye. Donovan was going to put
on an impromptu concert that night, but I missed it. After the event was done, I was quick
to get on a taxi and head to Cedar Rapids. Every city and town is so far away from the
other in Iowa, that I couldn’t afford to miss the few taxis that were around. The last thing
I wanted was to get stranded in “middle of nowhere”, U.S.A.

As I took the plane ride home, I thought of all the new things I had seen and heard. I was
also trying to process the vast amounts of information I had in my head. I never thought I
would be interested in a science like theoretical physics, but after John Hagelin’s video
conference, I was ready to at least Wikipedia the whole thing and try to figure out what
the hell he was trying to prove.

Then, after processing the discussions, the Q&A and the whole event in my head, like a
rush to the head, it hit me.

There is no apparent change in personality, behavior or attitude in any of the changes


that happen after engaging in transcendental meditation. What really changes is how
long you hold on to any sort of negative or self-destructive behavior. This negativity (or
“clutter”), is the hindrance that surfaces as an obstacle in every person’s lives. The clutter
can be emotional turmoil, physical disability or plain unexplainable frustration. This
clutter can stand in the way of progress, and in the worst of cases, evolve into a
permanent mess.

The three speakers had eliminated that clutter. But they hadn’t changed who they really
were.

So, you don’t change when you lose the clutter, what does change, and what was obvious
in Donovan, Hagelin and Lynch was the way they started living after losing the clutter.
They were happier, were more productive, had better relationships, they enjoyed their
work.

Before losing the brain-trash, these three people were trapped in the middle of sea of
potential, and once that was let go, they changed – but they were still the same people.
They just seemed like different people because the limits were gone now.

So the big message et the event was simply this:

Let go of the clutter, and engage in what is your true birthright: to reach enlightenment
and live fully.