david lynch: consciousness and cinema

By: Stefan Warth
I was born and raised in London, England. After finishing my school career early, i started to work in the corporate world of marketing, which lasted for 10 years (too long)! In that time, i ...
Edited date: March 2, 2021Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

David Lynch—Hollywood film director, painter, writer and a practitioner of transcendental meditation. His films includes some of the most ground-breaking, bold and distinctive displays of modern cinema and he remains one of the most respected and critically acclaimed film makers of today. Without David’s daily practice of meditation, audiences would have missed out on his immense creative genius and his ability to show complex layers of story-telling on screen.

The film director remains somewhat secretive when explaining his work and most of his films have left movie-goers puzzled and much remains open to interpretation – his self-penned book, catching the big fish is a rare insight into his meditation practice and how this is central to his film-making. In the book, he describes how meditation allows him to ‘catch ideas’ by ‘diving in’ and if you want to catch the big ideas, you have to swim in the deep ocean – the state of higher consciousness – and how he prepares these ‘caught’ ideas for his work. These ideas do not come in the form of voices in his head (this has only ever happened once he claims, where the ideas for Mulholland Drive’s beginning, middle and end came to him whilst in deep meditation), but the practice itself allows his consciousness to expand. The continuous practice of meditation also has removed dark parts of his personality. With these dark traits removed, creativity is able to flourish.

David Lynch’s films are often described as weird or dark, which seems completely removed from the man himself. David is an ambassador of world peace and has contributed millions of dollars to his own foundation (The David Lynch foundation for consciousness-based education and world peace) which supports consciousness-based education which has proved students attention and academic results are improved by way of practicing meditation. The foundation was set-up in 2005 and works with schools, the military, prisons and homeless shelters.

Yoga teaches us that duality in the universe is an illusion. Light cannot exist without dark and we must embrace both oppositions to grasp the true knowledge of oneself and the creation of the universe. We must experience both to be non-judgmental and we must always conqueror the darkness with light. The practice of yoga and meditation can help with living a life where more light exists and the darkness in ones life is slowly brightened.

Lynch describes in his book when discussing The light and the self, that ‘negativity is like darkness. Don’t worry about the darkness; turn on the light and the darkness goes. Turn up the light of pure consciousness and negativity goes.’  This statement reflects so much on his films in which he has takes his characters through dark worlds comprising of violence and drugs (both of which Lynch does not condone), but still remain beautiful pieces of work showing the human spirit at both their most lowest point and most endearing. Many of his characters have experienced this darkness because of an absence of light which they so desperately need and crave but are somewhat starved of; a true reflection of many people within our society. He also has created ‘other worlds’ in his films and how they connect to the reality of the ‘real world’. This concept reflects somewhat to many religious and spiritual teachings – the idea of heaven and hell, purgatory and unknown spirit worlds where both good and evil reside.

In the practice of yoga and meditation one is taught methods of practices, which they can use to begin moving toward a life where their darkness is removed and their inner light becomes brighter. Lynch describes something similar in his film, Blue Velvet when the character of Sandy describing a dream she had: ‘I had a dream. In the dream, there was a world, and the world was dark because there weren’t any robins and the robins represented love. And for the longest time, there was this darkness. And all of a sudden, thousands of robins were set free and they flew down and bought this blinding light of love. And it seemed that love would make a difference, and it did.

So, I guess it means there is no trouble until the robins come.’ I feel David Lynch wrote this passage as a metaphor for his meditation practice – a man that has candidly talked about how his anger broke up his first marriage- and how meditation helped him overcome his inner demons. It also is a true statement of how we must all love one another in order to shed the darkness within each of us and with the absence of love for oneself and others the light burns out – a true teaching of yoga. A guru is one who brings you from dark to light, whether it be an actual person (i.e. a spiritual master) or one’s own inner guru, or guiding light. I see the robins represented in this passage as the guru – our inner light, our love, joy and light we show to the world and share with each other. The yoga sutras say “In the vicinity of yoga (unity), hostile tendencies are eliminated.”

Before Lynch began meditating and living a life of enlivening unity, he was filled with anxieties and fear which he often took out on other people. After his first two weeks of meditating, the process of change began to lift the anger and fear he felt – he became more free in his creative process: ‘Anger and depression are beautiful things in a story, but they are like poison to the filmmaker or artist, you must have clarity to create.’ This is also a true statement for yoga practitioners.

These particular emotions in my own personal life were the result of holding back my potential. A lack of clarity would make me angry and depressed. Yoga has been the foundation that has helped in letting those fears and anxieties go and take those amazing steps, one by one, to freedom. This space of clarity allows greater connection with others and aligns us to our highest potential, thus expressing the divinity within, a higher being, a higher state of consciousness. We can then go out in the world with a deeper understanding brought to us by this knowledge of the self and share the experience that make up human nature; good and bad. With this understanding, we can help ourselves and others shed their darkness and create a better world in which we live.

When watching David Lynch being interviewed about his films, you will notice he answers with poise, care and grace. You will also notice a fluttering he does with his hand. To some, this maybe just another one of those idiosyncratic gestures the so called ‘mad genius’ has, but I see this as something what shines through him to express his answers – a sort of communication with a higher energy. The same can be said when watching a yogi’s practice of asana – there is a deeper connection with something else that’s leading them in their practice – a higher energy that is radiating, guiding them and expressed through their vessel. Lynch has the bravery and passion for his craft which has been aided by his practice of transcendental meditation. Many people working in film today do not have the same boldness and would prefer to tell a story that sells to a saturated market of movie-goers that has a happy ending, or answers to a story. Good art should always provoke and be out of the ordinary. We all live in mundane world most of the time – art, meditation and yoga releases us from that world.

Cinema is its own unique language, just like yoga is a language. Both include abstract ideas that can be interpreted in different ways. Both the work of David Lynch and meditation can take you into a different world; one created by the inner self and the divine and one created by someone who has experienced that. In these worlds, possibilities are endless, deeper understanding arises, knowledge of oneself manifests and compassion is shared. I see from my own practice of yoga how much David Lynch’s work is yogic and comes from a place of not gifted genius, but a place of expanded consciousness – a practice of oneself from a deeper ocean – where the bigger fish are always caught.

If you are looking for a way to start or deepen your daily meditation – take
look at this program by MindValley: bit.ly/YOGIMeditation and the Mindfulness Based Stressed Reduction online course by Sounds True: – The YOGI TIMES team