You may be surprised to learn that the maker of movies such as Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, and Lost Highway is an avid spiritual practitioner, but as a remarkably upbeat and ebullient David Lynch told WIE recently, he’s been sitting down twice a day, every day since 1977, to practice Transcendental Meditation. Last spring, Penguin published his book Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity, in which Lynch writes about how his long-standing passion for meditation has influenced his work as a filmmaker and artist.
WHAT IS ENLIGHTENMENT: You describe the experience of meditation in Catching the Big Fish as “electric gold.” What do you mean by that?
David Lynch: When human beings dive within and transcend—which means you go to the source of thought, you experience the unbounded and eternal ocean of pure consciousness—it feels like you’ve been hooked in to the cosmic electric factory of bliss and it’s flowing right into you. As I say in the book, the side effect of this experience is that negativity starts to go away. It can’t live in the light of unity. People throughout time have been sitting in meditation, and for what reason? To dive within, experience this field, and unfold their full potential. Their full potential is called enlightenment. Things get so good when you have this experience—it’s electric gold!
WIE: In the book you debunk a common idea that artists need to feel anger, pain, or conflict in order to have a creative edge. Why do you think so many artists these days, as you say, “don’t like the idea of getting happy”?
Lynch: Well, I’m kind of the same way. I don’t want to lose my edge. I don’t want to be some kind of happy goofball who’s laid-back, because sooner or later you’re not going to have any power in your work. If meditation made me that way, I would quit so fast it would make your head spin. But the truth is that meditation leads to the reverse. When you dive into it, you literally and truly grow in creativity and intelligence. Those “big fish,” the good ideas that are ahead of other people’s ideas and are really hip, come from that unified field of consciousness. The belief that you have to be depressed to work is a joke. You can’t work when you’re depressed! That idea is some kind of French thing. I mean, it’s great to get chicks, because they feel sorry for you and cook things for you and take care of you. But if you really want to get into the creative flow, then you have to dive into that electric gold.
WIE: You write that if you were enlightened and doing “enlightened filmmaking,” perhaps your films would not be as dark and as violent as they generally are. What would enlightened films look like? Do you have any examples?
Lynch: I don’t have any examples, but I do think about this from time to time. I believe enlightened filmmaking would somehow portray the whole spectrum and depth of human experience. It would be transcendental filmmaking. It would be the surface and every single level on down, all the way to the transcendent. It would have fullness. It would have unbelievable power, understanding. It could be a simple story, but it would be completely thrilling on all levels. Filmmaking is still pretty new—only 110 years old! There’s still a lot of potential in it.
WIE: How has your initiative to bring TM into the American school system been going?
Lynch: It’s been real good. The foundation is raising money. There are new schools introducing Transcendental Meditation into their curriculum. Every single time it happens, students become absolutely transformed. Their grades go up; they aren’t afraid to go to school; they’re happy inside themselves. When you see kids that are reflecting more and more consciousness, they glow with a new power and become so self-assured you stop worrying about them. I think education should really develop the full potential of the human being, and that all you have to do is give them this simple technique that allows them to dive within and enliven the deepest level of themselves. It’s such a beautiful thing.
"When you dive within, it feels like you’ve been hooked into the cosmic electric factory of bliss and it’s flowing right into you. It’s electric gold!"