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(Credit: Netflix)

Film

David Lynch on meditation and the darkness in his movies

David Lynch, the iconic director of Dune, Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet fame has had an illustrious career, but none of it has come easily. Over the years, the 76-year-old filmmaker has been subject to bouts of depression, something many creative minds find themselves grappling with. 

In an interview with The Talks, Lynch explained how he began using meditation to control his depressive state and anger issues in the early 1970s. “I picked it up in 1973,” he said. “It was the idea that the human being can gain enlightenment. It was driving me crazy because you hear we only use five or ten per cent of our brains. What is the other part for? How do you get more and more and what is the most you can get? A lot of people said meditation is like jogging or like lying in the sun on the beach. This shows a huge misunderstanding about what meditation is. Meditation is a way to go within, all the way within to the deepest level of life, the transcendence, the absolute, the totality and reality, and experience that. The human being is built for it.”

Reacting to the director’s response, the interviewer asked if Lynch feels that the heightened level of consciousness attained through meditation helps his artistic process. “I don’t know,” Lynch admitted. “You can catch ideas at a deeper level when you start meditating. Intuition grows, and intuition is the number one tool for an artist – feeling and thinking combined. When you are working on a painting, it’s like you know, and you enjoy the doing so much. It’s the same way with films. The enjoyment of working increases, the enjoyment of everything increases. The ideas are flowing, and the feeling that you can get it to feel correct. You know what that is. It’s a knowingness that grows. It’s really beautiful.”

Later, Lynch was asked whether he finds his depression returning despite meditating. “You can still get a wave of depression or hate,” he explained. “And it’s all relative. The degree of it is less and less. So suffering begins to go away. Mankind was not made to suffer. Bliss is our nature. We are supposed to be happy. It is entirely possible to be packed with happiness. Real, deep bliss, wide awake, happy in the doing of things. And it’s the doing of things, the enjoyment of living, that is so much more intense when you have this bliss growing.”

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Elaborating on how meditation affects daily life, Lynch said: “The events of the life stay the same but how you go through them certainly gets better. On my film Dune, that experience could have finished me. It was so horrible. I identify so much with my films – and I knew I sold out – and meditation kept me from jumping off the cliff. There is a saying: ‘The world is as you are.’ You can wear dark-green dirty glasses, and that’s the world for you. Or you start diving within and experience the unbounded ocean of pure bliss, consciousness, creativity, intelligence, all these beneficial things, and you start wearing rose-colored glasses. And that’s the way the world looks for you. And it gets better.”

On the subject of tinted glasses, Lynch was then asked why his films often seem to look at the world through “dark glasses”. Lynch explained: “If you saw a film and the beginning of the film was peaceful, the middle was peaceful, and the end was peaceful – what kind of story is this? You need contrast and conflict in order to tell a story. Stories need to have dark and light, turmoil, all those things. But that does not mean the filmmaker has to suffer in order to show the suffering. Stories should have the suffering, not the people.”

While Lynch finds ways of eliminating the oppressive clouds of darkness from his psyche in his personal life, he uses them to his full advantage in his work. As he explained so perfectly, you need the darkness to contrast with the light, the rough with the smooth. Otherwise, the light could become dimly boring.