What do I have in common with Ellen DeGeneres, Russell Brand, Oprah, David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, and Russell Simmons? Probably not all that much, but... we all practice TM, Transcendental Meditation.
We have virtually nothing in common in terms of personal style, the art we attempt, or, for all I know, our politics. Our only common denominator is that we each do TM. I learned in 1976, a few years after The Beatles. Paul McCartney and Ringo still meditate, and so do I.
I've kept it up all these years for a very simple reason: TM is incredibly easy. You don't have to "try," you don't have to "not think anything," you don't have to "quiet your mind." You can do it on a plane, in a car (assuming you're not driving), on a bus or a train. I've meditated on a New York subway.
If you think you can't meditate, TM may be perfect for you. For me, my twice-daily, 20-minute meditations are like taking welcome mini-vacations. Most of us go on vacations to recharge, rest, or get away from the busy-ness of our lives. Sadly, vacations often fail us in this way. But when I finish TM, I'm recharged and ready to take on my day. On a film or TV set, or in rehearsal for a play, meditating after lunch helps me get through the rest of what's usually an incredibly high-pressure work day.
So when the brilliant director David Lynch started the David Lynch Foundation (DLF) to teach meditation in schools, prisons, and to returning soldiers with PTSD, it was a natural fit for me to get involved. The scientific research is amazing on TM: how it literally melts away stress in all the forms in which science understands that the body stores stress. Blood pressure decreases, reaction time improves, substance abuse decreases, anxiety decreases -- with meditation, not medication. Schools that use DLF to make TM available to students and teachers report big drops in absenteeism and big upticks in grades. Maybe more important, students and teachers say that their school day flies by and is much less stressful.
Returning vets with PTSD who learn TM show greatly reduced states of anxiety. Prisoners who do TM are dramatically less liable to become violent and they show a major statistical tendency to stay out of prison once they're released. In the U.S., our biggest problem with "corrections" is that released prisoners usually commit a new crime and get sent back to prison. The cost to society of this revolving door of inmates is astronomical. TM stops this process. Imagine prisons getting emptier because a prisoner has actually been rehabilitated! What a concept.
I'm proud to sit on the board of DLF. As David loves to say, "Change begins within." We can't create peace in our world or in the world, if we don't carry a measure of peace around inside of us.
Sound too woo-woo for you? Ask Clint Eastwood. Ask Laura Dern. Ask Howard Stern. Or Jerry Seinfeld. They've all been doing TM for decades.
A persistent myth about artists is that we need to exhaust ourselves or lead wildly disordered lives in order to be creative. In reality, to succeed over a lifetime in the stressful entertainment world, we need tools to keep us rested so we can work at the high level expected of us, under usually grueling schedules.
TM isn't a system of thought or a philosophy. It was brought to the West by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, an Indian physicist who became a meditation teacher. There are no required meetings, no membership dues, no tithing, no worshipped leader. Everyone pays a fee to learn TM, but that initial payment is all you'll ever have to fork over. After that, you can have your meditation "checked" with a TM teacher anywhere in the world for as long as you live, without charge.
DLF makes meditation available for free to the populations I mentioned. Russell Brand, Ellen DeGeneres, David Lynch, and Russell Simmons will be appearing at a gala "Change Begins Within" event on Saturday, Dec. 3 at the Los Angeles County Art Museum. I'll be there, too.