By Ralph DePalo, Ph.D.
New York, N.Y. Leaders of the David Lynch Foundation (DLF), the Global Stress Initiative (GSI), and The Water Initiative met recently at the home of business leader and philanthropist Kevin McGovern to highlight the remarkable successes of these charitable organizations to overcome traumatic stress among at-risk youth, veterans and abused women and girls – as well as to purify the contaminated drinking water of billions of people worldwide.
Robert Cancro, M.D., Chairman Emeritus of NYU Langone’s Department of Psychiatry and Medical Director of the Global Stress Initiative, explained that post-traumatic stress and other stress-related disorders are on the rise and can precipitate alcoholism, substance abuse, depression, depending on a person’s genetic predisposition. Dr. Cancro recommends the simple, nonreligious Transcendental Meditation technique for everyone because it helps combat stress. “Research has shown that TM can increase attention, clarity, focus and decrease anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Given there are no side effects this technique is well worth considering since it improves a person’s quality of life,” Dr. Cancro said.
Lorraine Cancro, MSW, Director of the Global Stress Initiative promotes alternative approaches for the alleviation of stress disorders. “One of our goals is to spread awareness of TM and its efficacy as an alternative technique for the alleviation of stress and in some cases supplement to psychopharmacologic treatment for post-traumatic stress, which impacts military members, their families and civilian survivors of trauma from man-made and natural disasters. TM is making a huge difference in people’s recovery from stress disorders.”
Business leader and philanthropist Kevin McGovern explained how TM had given him focus and peace of mind to be able to found The Water Initiative:
Working to bring customized and innovative clean water solutions globally thru The Water Initiative is a spiritually rewarding experience. Helping the wonderful people working with the David Lynch TM foundation – particularly helping with their work for children – is also spiritually rewarding and complementary.
Bob Roth, executive director of the David Lynch Foundation, expressed appreciation that Kevin McGovern would host the evening gathering. “Kevin is an incredibly successful business leader, a true visionary, and a practical man with a huge heart. The David Lynch Foundation is very grateful for his time, attention and support.”
Emily J. Dean and Singer/Songwriter Lisa Nemzo at the event. Photo: Rose Billings.
Musical advocacy on behalf of veterans was also a part of the evening. Brilliant musician Lisa Nemzo launched a video called Arlington on April 24th to raise awareness of the great loss that returning veterans and their families endure. Arlington is a beautiful but haunting song that was featured during the evening and may be seen on YouTube. There was not a dry eye in the house. The Washington Post calls Arlington an “Anthem to a Generation.” Music is a universal language and through such a song we hope to open up people to the suffering of so many and encourage them to enlist in helping the military population.
Lisa Nemzo stated:
Lisa Nemzo states she feels strongly about helping veterans and their families who suffer from stress disorders since they put their lives on the line for America. Even if you do not agree with the war, they performed their duty for our country. We owe them our allegiance, support and care. Proceeds are being raised to help military members and their families through the David Lynch Foundation’s Operation Warrior Wellness, Global Stress Initiative and the Arlington Project.
David Lynch, world renowned filmmaker and founder of DLF remembers now how he recoiled from the concept of meditation when he heard about it in the late 1960s, when the movement — founded by the renowned Indian meditation teacher Maharishi Mahesh Yogi —was experiencing its first wave of popularity among young people in the West thanks to the songs and support by pop stars like the Beatles, Beach Boys, and Donovan.“The word ‘harmony’ would make me want to puke,” recalled Lynch. “Meditation would be a sickening thing to consider, because you want that edge to create,” he said, wearing worn khaki trousers and a tattered black sports jacket with a hole in the right elbow the size of a saucer. “I don’t want to be a namby-pamby.”
That all changed in 1973, when the future filmmaker discovered Transcendental Meditation (TM), which he believes allowed him to quiet — and, at the same time, unleash — his considerable inner creative forces. He said that he has not missed a day of meditating since. And now, the low-key auteur is emerging as the most visible, at times highly activist, proponent of the resurgent practice, which is being used increasingly in schools and in the workplace, as well as by a new generation of stars, including Ellen DeGeneres, Russell Brand, Russell Simmons, Heather Graham, Laura Dern and the recording industry maven Rick Rubin.
The David Lynch Foundation was established to bring meditation to at-risk youth. In July 2005, Lynch launched the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace, which has now provided Transcendental Meditation scholarships for 200,000 at risk, underserved students in middle schools and high schools throughout the country and worldwide. Later that year, Lynch embarked on a series of lectures on college campuses in the U.S. and worldwide that would draw over 100,000 young people and garner significant attention in the news media.
Lynch wrote a book about his experiences on the road, Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity (Tarcher/Penguin), which is now reaching an international audience. “It’s weird,” said Lynch. “I guess it’s as simple as this: I wish I had heard it earlier.”
One of the most frequently asked questions of Lynch is: What is an edgy artist like you doing promoting the bliss of meditation rather than the angst of suffering? His answer is always right to the point: “Artists like to say, ‘I like a little bit of suffering and anger,’” he said. “But if you had a splitting headache, diarrhea and vomiting, how much would you enjoy the work and how much work would you get done? Maybe suffering is a romantic idea to get girls, but it’s an enemy to creativity.
“It’s like a key that opens the door to the treasury within,” he said. “Here’s an experience —poooft! — total brain coherence. It’s what’s missing from life today: unbounded intelligence, creativity, bliss, love, energy, peace. Things like tension, anxieties, traumatic stress, sorrow, depression, hate, rage, need for revenge, fear — poooft! — all this starts to lift away. You see life getting better and better and better. Give the people that experience and it’s beautiful.”
Mehmet Oz, M.D. – “Dr. Oz” – has meditated for three years:
As a heart surgeon, I see the effects of stress on the heart. We believe TM can help a lot of people. That’s why it’s important to understand exactly how effectively this meditation reduces stress and stress-related disorders.
So, what exactly is Transcendental Meditation? Transcendental Meditation is a trademarked mental technique introduced by Maharishi in 1958 based on the proposition that a practitioner, by silently repeating a personal mantra throughout two 20-minute sessions a day, can achieve a state of “restful alertness”— and, theoretically, tap into a “unified field” of energy. The training process involves working with personal instructors over five days at one of about 1,000 Transcendental Meditation centers worldwide, and it costs about $1,500 for the initial training and a lifetime of follow-up—with special discounts and scholarships for students, military personnel and veterans, retired people, and the unemployed.“David has become a huge promoter of TM,” said Donovan, whose real name is Donovan Leitch. Leitch learned the practice from Maharishi himself, along with the Beatles, Mia Farrow and Mike Love of the Beach Boys, in Rishikesh, India, in 1968. Leitch added that Lynch has been able to capitalize on his fame and “redirect meditation back where it belongs, with the students.”
During the past 40 years, the TM practice has been the subject of 340 scientific studies, conducted at leading medical schools and research institutions and published in top scientific journals. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded nearly $30 million to study its impact on stress and heart disease. Numerous studies have shown that meditating middle school and high school students have higher grade point averages and test scores, higher graduation rates, and decreased suspensions, expulsions, and drop-out rates.
In the past few years, hundreds of schools worldwide have implemented the technique into their curriculum. Called “Quiet Time,” students and teachers meditate for 10 to 15 minutes at the beginning and end of each day.
“Grades and attendance go up 20% to 30% and suspensions and expulsions go down,” Lynch says. “Instead of giving the kids drugs like Ritalin that just numb them, we give them a technique to reduce stress and focus better.”
At Trinity College in Hartford, the women’s squash league began meditating together after every practice last year. The Doe Fund, an organization that assists the homeless, has begun offering TM to its residents to help them master courses in computer skills and job training.
Martin Scorsese a two-year year meditator, told us, “I want to offer my support and encouragement in these efforts to help children and veterans, and anyone who needs the help to overcome stress through meditation.
Jerry Seinfeld, a 41-year meditator, said:
I’ve been practicing Transcendental Meditation most of my life. I think it does something good to your nervous system. It has given me a calmness I don’t think I had at nineteen.
Lynch says the reason his foundation has grown so fast is, well, basically, TM works. He also credited the growing number of prominent meditating artists, musicians, actors and television personalities who have lent their considerable support.Beginning in April 2009 with the first “Change Begins Within” benefit fundraiser at an historic concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York City with former Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr (along with Jerry Seinfeld, Cheryl Crow, Eddie Vedder, and Ben Harper), the David Lynch Foundation has benefited enormously from high-profile galas that bring global media attention and financial support to the cause.
The momentum continued in December 2010, with “Change Begins Within II” at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art with celebrity support coming from Mehmet Oz, M.D., host of the Emmy award winning Dr. Oz Show, Russell Brand, and Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorsese (via videocast). And just this past December, the third annual “Change Begins Within” gala shifted coasts to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art with Ellen DeGeneres joining Russell Brand and Russell Simmons has headlining hosts.
Brand spoke passionately and sincerely about the emotional solace he has found in Transcendental Meditation, describing how TM has helped him repair his psychic wounds. “Transcendental Meditation has been incredibly valuable to me both in my recovery as a drug addict and in my personal life, my professional life,” Brand said. “I literally had an idea drop into my brain the other day while I was meditating which I think is worth millions of dollars.”
Bob Roth, Executive Director of the David Lynch Foundation where he has helped to direct the introduction of the TM program to over 150,000 at-risk students in 130 public and charter schools in the United States, Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa.
A teacher of Transcendental Meditation for 40 years, and author of the definitive book on the technique, entitled, fittingly, “Transcendental Meditation”, published in 21 languages states: “Learn to meditate, transcend, dive within and be yourself…”
Meditation, properly understood and practiced, allows the mind to settle down effortlessly deep within to quieter levels of thought until the quietest, most refined level of thinking is transcended (that means going beyond the field of thought) and you are left alone with your Self… the big Self, the Knower, the Experiencer, You.
And who are you? When you experience your Self you will know for certain… You are infinite, unbounded, eternal… a limitless reservoir of energy, intelligence, and bliss…
The David Lynch Foundation has provided scholarships for over 100,000 at-risk youth (and now men and women in homeless shelters and prisons) to learn Transcendental Meditation, dive within to experience their own inner Self, and transform their lives from within…
By the way, there are real, concrete benefits to transcending—beyond the bliss… Medical schools have been studying the effects for decades. There are dramatic reductions in stress, anxiety, tension, headaches, insomnia, substance abuse… dramatic improvements in creativity, decision-making, problem-solving, innovative thinking…
It’s not magic… It is who we are when we are who we really are, without the heavy baggage of years and decades of built-up stress and fatigue…
The body can throw it off… Learn to meditate, transcend, dive within, and be your Self…
The attendees at Kevin McGovern’s home were intrigued at the prospect of transcending their troubles through this age old technique that is fast reaching millions around the world. With more events like this it will not be long before most of Manhattan will be using TM to find inner peace. If it can make it here it will make it anywhere.
Ralph DePalo, Ph.D.
Dr. Ralph DePalo received his B.A. in Gerontology from Iona College. He went on to receive his Master’s Degree from Fordham University and received a full scholarship from the National Institute of Mental Health in Gerontological Community Mental Health. He received his analytic post-graduate certificate in psychoanalytic training from The Alfred Adler Institute in New York City. He obtained his Ph.D. in Clinical Social Work from New York University’s Ehrenkranz School of Social Work.See Stories by Jim Luce on:
The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation (www.lucefoundation.org) is the umbrella organization under which The International University Center Haiti (Uni Haiti) and Orphans International Worldwide (OIWW) are organized. If supporting young global leadership is important to you, subscribe to J. Luce Foundation updates here.
Originally published in The Daily Kos, June 24, 2012.