As an anxious New York Jew with one hell of a monkey mind, I’ve been on Team Meditation for about two years now. Like most people, I initially tried to solve my neuroses with all the usual suspects; therapy, meds, shopping, pizza—but the anxiety never went away. No matter what I did, I always carried around this low-grade sense of panic, even when things were great.
I knew I had a legit anxiety problem when I was offered two amazing jobs, started dating my long-time crush, and was accepted into my dream grad school program. Everything I wanted was happening. And my reaction? I bought a self-help book called, When Things Fall Apart. So crazy, so Jewish.
And then one day, I walked into a mediation workshop at a yoga studio. Everyone else there was like me; Type A looking 2 Chill. I’ve been meditating for two years now, and I have to say my spirit animal is way less George Costanza and way more The Dude.
Recently, I was invited to attend a prestigious private workshop with the David Lynch Transcendental Meditation Foundation where I would learn a new type of meditation that I had never tried before. I was stoked because who wouldn’t want to transcend? Also, Twin Peaks.
When I arrived at the foundation, a chic office space in the Flatiron district of Manhattan, I met with Executive Director Bob Roth. At 61-years-old, Roth is a living endorsement of TM. Sporting a deep tan, bright blue eyes, and a sharp suit, he looks twenty years younger than he is. I’m already sold.
Roth discovered meditation in 1969, when he was attending college at the famously activist UC Berkeley. Caught up in the euphoric idealism of the Civil Rights Movement, Roth was full of fire to change the world. Preparing for a life in lefty politics, his plans dramatically changed when a friend invited him to hear a talk about TM. Although skeptical at first, he quickly became a devotee. “My first day or two of meditating, the experience was so significant, I thought, ‘I’d love to teach this to inner-city kids.”
Cut to 36 years later, and that’s exactly what he does. The David Lynch TM Foundation (DLTMF) was founded by the filmmaker in 2005 to raise funds to send meditation teachers into at-risk communities. In addition to kids in inner city schools the foundation also teaches veterans with PTSD, victims of domestic abuse, the homeless, and incarcerated men and women. So far, they have taught TM to approximately 250,000 students. “It’s not what I wanted,” Roth says, “but it’s a start.”
But it’s not just the disadvantaged and suffering who have found solace in TM. Like many Eastern practices en vogue now, it’s also a hit with the rich and famous. TM is conspicuously popular with comedians, including Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen Degeneres, Louis CK, Howard Stern, and Russell Brand. “I’ve found that there is an ever-present sanctuary within me,” Brand says in the DLTMF fundraising video. If Russell Brand can learn to chill out, anyone can.
But what exactly does TM do?
“This technique allows the active, agitated mind to settle down, and when that happens, you get this whole galaxy of changes in your physiology,” Roth says. “You rest deeper than sleep, you relieve stress, the research shows it wakes up the brain. Is it a flashy experience? Not at all. Is it a pleasant experience? Yes. Is it relaxing? Incredibly so.”
For the next four days, I will be going to the foundation for one hour to receive both private and group instruction. Let the transcendence begin, bro.
Tuesday – Day 1
I arrive at the Meditation Center, which is in a different location than the office. The decor is tasteful and upscale with fresh-cut roses, a plush couch, and framed photos of various TM celebrities. It feels like the Hamptons of meditation centers.
My teacher is Rachel Katz, a stylish 29-year-old Bushwick hipster who is equal parts spiritual and playful. She tells me to take off my shoes and leads me into the chillatorium (my words). The lighting is dim, the carpet is thick, and the room is totally soundproof. Rachel walks over to the shrine in the center of the room where roses, candles, incense, and fruit are offered up to a gold-framed picture of an Indian meditation teacher. Then she begins singing a Sanskrit prayer of thanks. I space out and think about sex until she is done.
Then Rachel leads me to a loveseat and explains how this whole transcending business goes down. First, she gives me a mantra that I am not allowed to tell ANYBODY, EVER. Fine, I’ll tell you! My mantra is…Tara Reid. J/k.
In TM the mantra they give you is just a couple of made-up sounds. It purposely has no meaning so that you don’t get caught up thinking about it. They don’t want to give you an actual word like, “Ryan Gosling” for example, because then you wouldn’t be meditating, you’d be directing a porno in your head. So instead, they give you something like, “Ram Tam” so that your mind has something to chew on but not over-analyze.
Then Rachel asks me to say my mantra out loud, over and over. I have to say it quieter, and quieter, and quieter, until I just say it in my head. Then I close my eyes, and look at that, I’m meditating! When I open my eyes again my head is shaved, I’m totally naked, and Rachel tells me that I can never see my family again. Unfortunately, nothing that exciting happened, I just felt very calm.
Then Rachel leaves me in the room alone to meditate on my own. When she comes back in the room 15 minutes later, I feel like I’ve been sleeping at the bottom of the ocean.
“What did you think about during your meditation?” she asks.
“Nothing really,” I say. (Sex, sex, sex).
Day Two – Wednesday
Now, that I have been instructed in the ways of TM, I will spend the next three days in an all-female group meditation workshop. Looking around at the attractive, successful, ladies in the room, our team name should probably be Career-Driven Babes. Our teacher is a 33-year-old hippy chick named Joanna who has long brown hair, no make-up, and a gentle pre-school teacher voice. She instructs us to all meditate together for 20 minutes, and when it’s over, we go around and share our feelings. Since we’re all a bunch of broads, we crush the sharing part and within seconds everyone is besties. #women
Day Three – Thursday
Today in group meditation, I experienced what they call an “active” meditation. That means my mind was racing like a hamster on Four Loko and I couldn’t stop the tsunami of thoughts.
Some of things I thought about during meditation:
- The fact that Johnny Depp turned 50 and then dumped his age-appropriate wife for a perky 27-year old blond. Typical.
- I can’t believe Angelina Jolie had both of her breasts removed. I wonder what she did with them? Where are they right now?
- How am I going to write this article about meditation? How do you make the practice of sitting down with your eyes closed into a gripping read?
Day Four – Friday
It’s the last day of our group meditation. We all get comfortable and start meditating together, when suddenly there is a strange wailing noise. I open one eye and spy a woman sitting across from me uncontrollably sobbing. When the meditation is over, Joanna explains that it is totally normal to experience intense, overwhelming emotions during practice. “I don’t even know why I’m crying,” said the woman.
Then Joanna asks if anyone experienced moments of transcendence, where they had no thoughts, and no mantra, and their mind was just empty space. A couple of liars people admit that they felt that. I am majorly jealous. I contemplate making up a story about this amazing transcendent experience I had where I saw g-d and it was Tori Amos, but I decide against it.
Overall, my experience with TM was totally positive. I didn’t levitate over my body or find the meaning of life, but that’s a tall order. What I did get out of it is another awesome tool for relaxation. It’s a free practice that I can do anytime, anywhere, and immediately makes me feel more at ease. As a woman who takes 30 minutes ordering at a restaurant, that’s priceless.
For more information about the David Lynch Transcendental Mediation Foundation visit its website.