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 semiformal 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.