David Lynch on meditation: Heaven is a place on earth

Transcending is the only experience in life that gives total brain coherence. Any other thing we do utilises different small parts of the brain, this small part for painting, another small part for mathematics, that small part for playing the piano.

What is Transcendental Meditation? What is transcending? Where do you go when you transcend? And what good is it to transcend? To help answer these questions, I’ve done a little drawing and you can refer to it from time to time. You will notice a line at the top of the drawing representing the surface of life. We live on the surface and see surfaces everywhere. This right side represents matter and the left side will represent mind. Mind and matter.

About 300 years ago, scientists started wondering: what was matter, what was wood, what was air, what was water, what was flesh, etc? And they started looking into matter and they began to find things – things that we now learn about in school. They found cells and molecules. They went deeper and found atoms; they went deeper and deeper, all the way down to the tiniest particles – the elementary particles.

They found four forces that act upon the particles. And on a deeper level, they found that the four forces became three. Some unification started. And, on a deeper level, the three forces became two. About 35 years ago, modern science, quantum physics, discovered the Unified Field at the base of all matter. This field is the unity of all the particles and all the forces of creation. This is a field of nothing, but the scientists say that out of this nothing emerges everything that is a thing. This Unified Field is unmanifest yet all manifestation comes from this field.

Ancient Vedic science, the science of consciousness, has always known of this field. Believers say that it is an eternal unbounded ocean of consciousness. And this consciousness has qualities. So this Unified Field, this ocean of consciousness, is a field of unbounded intelligence, unbounded creativity, unbounded happiness, unbounded love, energy and peace.

Transcendental Meditation is a mental technique, an ancient form of meditation brought back for this time by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It is a technique that allows any human being to dive within, through subtler levels of mind and intellect, and then transcend – that is experience, that ocean of pure consciousness at the base of all mind and matter – to experience this Unified Field within with those all-positive qualities.

In Transcendental Meditation you’re given a mantra. A mantra is a very specific sound vibration - thought. The mantra that Maharishi gives is like a law of nature designed for a specific purpose and that purpose is to turn the awareness 180 degrees from out, out, out to within, within, within. Once pointed within, one will dive easily and effortlessly. It is easy and effortless because the nature of the human mind is always to want to go to fields of greater happiness.

Each deeper level of mind and each deeper level of intellect has more and more happiness – charm, as they say. So the happiness growing is like a magnet that gently pulls us within. And at the border of intellect, one then transcends and experiences the transcendent, the Unified Field, the ocean of pure consciousness, the kingdom of heaven that lies within – the Tao, the home of total knowledge, being or divine being; Atma, meaning the Self, the Self with a capital “S”.

There’s a line we’ve all heard: “Know thyself.” This is the Self they’re talking about. This field is also known as Brahm, meaning totality. First seek the kingdom of heaven that lies within and all else will be added unto you. All else is totality.

Every time a human being transcends, they infuse some of this all-positive consciousness and they truly begin to expand whatever consciousness they had to begin with. There is a side effect to expanding consciousness, and that side effect is that negativity begins to recede. Things like stress, traumatic stress, anxieties, tension, sadness, depression, hate, anger, rage and fear start to lift away very naturally.

The analogy is: negativity is just like darkness. When this light of consciousness begins to truly expand, it is like being in a dark room with a light on a dimmer. As the light gets brighter, the darkness starts to go. And when the light is full on, there is no darkness. Likewise with the light of unity – consciousness – growing, negativity very naturally starts to recede, automatically and without you having to worry about it. This heavy weight of negativity lifting gives such a joyful feeling of freedom to a human being. So you could say the person practising Transcendental Meditation each day is infusing gold and getting rid of garbage.

Transcending is the key word!!! Transcending is truly experiencing that deepest eternal level of life. It is this experience that does everything good for a human being. Every human being has consciousness but not every human being has the same amount. The good news is, every human being has the potential for infinite consciousness. Every time you experience this ocean of consciousness within, you expand more and more consciousness and you are unfolding your full potential as a human being. The full potential of the human being is called enlightenment – infinite consciousness, infinite happiness, total fulfilment. Totality.

Transcending is a holistic experience, meaning that all avenues of life will start improving. The things that used to stress you will still be out there in the world but they will not be able to hit you so hard. You’ll still be able to feel sadness but the sadness won’t last so long. It will lift away more quickly. The same with anger; the anger will leave more quickly. It won’t stay with you and poison you and the environment. Fears begin to lift – you work in more and more freedom. This is a field of infinite creativity. You will see creativity and problem-solving start to expand. Through research, scientists know that IQ can go up because of transcending each day.

Happiness comes more and more and you feel good in your body and enjoy the doing of things more and more. The field within is a field of universal love. This universal love feeds personal love and relationships improve. This field within is a field of infinite energy. People today are so fatigued and here within each of us is an infinite amount of energy to fuel our work and play. There is infinite peace within and that is deep, deep contentment, harmony, coming up inside the human being. It is so beautiful.

Transcendental Meditation is, as I said, easy and effortless. Many people might think that because it is easy it is not as good as other meditation techniques. This is wrong thinking. Concentration forms of meditation, contemplation forms of meditation, will keep a human being hovering on the surface. There will be no transcending. And it is hard work and it is boring and the reward is not there.

Transcendental Meditation as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is a technique that has been here many times before and it is a blessing. It is the real thing. It works. Brain research scientists have found a wondrous thing. When a human being truly transcends, hooked up to an EEG machine, then the full brain gets engaged in concert. They call this “total brain coherence”.

Transcending is the only experience in life that gives this total brain coherence. Any other thing we do utilises different small parts of the brain, this small part for painting, another small part for mathematics, that small part for playing the piano, and so on. Scientists have always told us before that we use only 5 per cent or 10 per cent of our brain but transcending is an experience that utilises the full brain.

This shows us something of the relationship of the human being to this glorious Unified Field within. The more we transcend, the more this coherence stays with us and this eventually gives rise to higher states of consciousness, culminating with supreme enlightenment. On the EEG machine, Transcendental Meditation meditators are seen to transcend many times in each 20-minute meditation. Those meditators who practise concentration or contemplation forms of meditation do not transcend. They do not get the experience of that ocean of bliss consciousness, the Unified Field.

A ten-year-old child can practise this technique of Transcendental Meditation; a 110-year-old can do it, easily and effortlessly, and they will each get the experience they are yearning for. It is a sublime experience to transcend and feel that rejuvenation and that happiness and all those other all-positive qualities growing.

Transcendental Meditation is not a religion. People from all religions practise this technique and they see there is no conflict with their religion. On the contrary, they say they understand and appreciate their religion more because understanding and appreciation for all things grow by transcending each day. It is a technique for human beings, no matter what walk of life, what religion or where you are from. People who have experienced great suffering have gotten this technique and happily said, “Now I have my life back again.” The real story is: THE NATURE OF LIFE IS BLISS and THE INDIVIDUAL IS COSMIC.

Russell Brand’s article in this paper is about revolution. Revolutions are usually associated with violence or force. Transcendental Meditation leads to a beautiful, peaceful revolution. A change from suffering and negativity to happiness and a life more and more free of any problems. The secret has always been within. We just need a technique that works to get us there to unfold a most beautiful future.

Find out even more about Transcendental Meditation at: davidlynchfoundation.org.uk

Mind and matter: Lynch's diagram of Transcendental Meditation. Image: copyright David Lynch

This article first appeared in the 23 October 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Russell Brand Guest Edit

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Counting the ways: what Virgin and Other Stories teaches us about want

April Ayers Lawson’s debut collection is both forensic and mysterious.

The title story of April Ayers Lawson’s debut collection, which won the Paris Review’s Plimpton Prize for Fiction in 2011, begins with a man staring at a woman’s breasts. The breasts belong to Rachel, a recent survivor of breast cancer and a wealthy donor to the hospital where Jake works. His attraction to Rachel grows in tandem with his suspicions about his wife, Sheila, who was a virgin when they married. Jake “thought . . . that she couldn’t wait to lose her virginity to him”. It didn’t turn out like that. Sheila was first horrified by, and then indifferent to, sex. But why does she smile at strange men in the street? Why does she come home so late from orchestra practice? The story ends on the brink of infidelity – but the infidelity is Jake’s own.

“Virgin” is a fitting introduction to the animating question of Lawson’s fiction: who feels what and for whom? The narrator of the second story lists the similarities between her and the two women with whom, at a summer party, she sits in a hammock. “All three of us were divorced or about to be legally so. All three of us were artists . . . All three of us were attractive but insecure and attracted to each other,” she begins. A couple of pages later, this accounting becomes more like a maths puzzle that seems to promise, if only it could be solved, a complete account of each woman and her relation to the others. “Two of us were pale with freckles. Two of us had dark hair and green eyes . . . One of us didn’t talk to her mother and one of our fathers had left and one of our sets of parents had not divorced. . . Two of us had at some point had agoraphobia and all of us had problems with depression . . .” It goes on.

Reading the five stories of Virgin and Other Stories, trying to catch the echoes that bounce between them, I caught myself performing the same move. One story is fewer than ten pages and one more than 60. Two are narrated in the first person and one in a mix of first and third. Two have teenage protagonists and two have young, married protagonists. Two protagonists steal works from a public library. Two stories mention Zelda Fitzgerald. Four contain women who have experienced sexual abuse, or experience it in the course of the story. Four are set partly or wholly in the American South. All five feature characters struggling with powerful and inconvenient desire.

Evangelical Christianity skirts the edges of Lawson’s stories. Her characters are seldom devout but they are raised in an atmosphere of fanatical devotion. The 16-year-old Conner narrates the collection’s funniest story, “The Negative Effects of Homeschooling”. “I saw women only at church,” he says. “Though . . . we went to a progressive church, our women looked the opposite of progressive to me: big glasses and no make-up, long skirts and cropped haircuts. You couldn’t imagine any of them posing naked.” He has “hard-ons ten or 12 times a day”, pores over Andrew Wyeth’s Helga Pictures, is furious about his mother’s intense friendship with a transgender woman and obsesses over a pretty, aloof girl from church. In another story, the 13-year-old Gretchen is fascinated by her piano teacher’s sick brother. Surrounded by people talking in religious platitudes, the two teenagers lack a language for their complicated feelings, re-narrating them as love.

The collection’s last and longest story, “Vulnerability”, suggests that this lasts beyond adolescence. The brutal, joyless sex that takes place near the story’s end is all the more disturbing because of the long, complicated sentences of the 60 preceding pages, in which the narrator tries to make sense of her interactions with two men. By turns she desires them, feels nothing for them and wants them to desire her. Yet brutal though the sex is, its aftermath brings a moment of peace that makes the reader wonder whether she should reconsider her interpretation of what came before. Lawson’s stories, at once forensic and mysterious, show how insistent our wants can be and how hard they are to understand.

Hannah Rosefield is a writer and a doctoral candidate in English at Harvard University.

Virgin and Other Stories by April Ayers Lawson is published by Granta Books, (192pp, £12.99​)

This article first appeared in the 12 January 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's revenge