Style.com: The Transcendentalists: David Lynch and Calvin Klein Collection’s Italo Zucchelli on their shared passions: creativity and Transcendental Meditation
On a winding road high in the Hollywood Hills, not far from Mulholland Drive, is a Brutalist-looking concrete structure that’s equal parts manse and bunker. It’s the studio of David Lynch, and appropriately for his many pursuits—he is an auteur across media, from film and television to painting, music, self-help books, and coffee roasting—it has a variety of different spaces: a screening room, a recording studio, storage for his photographs and artwork, a kitchen with an industrial-grade espresso machine. (Lynch die-hards may recognize it as the house from Lost Highway.)
I’ve come here from New York, along with fashion designer Italo Zucchelli, to discuss one of Lynch’s abiding passions, Transcendental Meditation. The director established his own nonprofit, the David Lynch Center for Transcendental Meditation and World Peace, in 2005. He credits the practice with much of his success, and he’s devoted as much time to raising awareness of it as he has to virtually any of his other endeavors. His 2006 book, Catching the Big Fish, is dedicated to the subject.
Transcendental Meditation is an ancient practice, but its profile was raised in our era when the Beatles took it up in 1968, under the guidance of its twentieth-century guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It comes with, and rules out, no religion, faith, or creed, but because of its new-wave aura, it has largely bubbled away at the fringes of culture. Lately, however, it is experiencing a new boom. “In the last year, something tipped,” says Bob Roth, the affable executive director of The David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace. “If one [particular] thing happened, I haven’t seen it—and I’ve been on the front lines. But something happened, [because] I don’t have enough teachers to teach all the people in New York City who want to learn.”
TM has a very healthy celebrity fan base, which no doubt helps its public profile, and the foundation, which exists to provide scholarships to at-risk populations so they can learn the practice, including schoolchildren, survivors of domestic abuse, and military personnel, has taken advantage of that fact. Paul McCartney, a practitioner, performed at the foundation’s first benefit concert. Hugh Jackman and Jerry Seinfeld, Transcendental Meditators both, were honored at its most recent benefit gala, in December. Mario Batali and Martin Scorsese will both speak at its upcoming conference in February. The list of adherents is even longer. Ellen DeGeneres does it. Oprah does it. Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund, does it. And in the realm of fashion, so does Zucchelli, who is celebrating his tenth year as creative director of menswear for Calvin Klein Collection.
“It” is a relatively simple practice. It consists of devoting twenty minutes twice a day to meditating, which in the Transcendental iteration means silently chanting a Sanskrit mantra. (The mantra must be given by a teacher of Transcendental Meditation, as part of an instruction that can cost upwards of $1,000.) Devotees say that it combats stress, improves mood, and staves off illness and disease. Remarkably, science confirms much of this. The American Heart Association found in a study that Transcendental Meditation, alone among meditation practices it tested, reduces high blood pressure; other studies indicate it can improve functional capacity in patients with congestive heart failure. Over the past forty years, more than 300 studies have been published about the effects of the practice in peer-reviewed medical journals, and the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense have both given millions for further testing. While a quick Google search does turn up skeptics and critics—more of charlatan practitioners than of the practice itself—the tide seems to be now firmly in TM’s favor.
“In 1968, meditation was a fad,” says Roth. “In 2013, because of the research, Transcendental Meditation is being incorporated into the actual fabric of our culture.”
There’s something undeniably intriguing about the beatific bliss that Lynch and Zucchelli radiate—in the filmmaker’s case, in stark contrast to his dark, often violent work. I wanted to find out more about the connection they both draw between the practice and their creative lives. Below, condensed and edited, is a transcript of that free-flowing discussion.
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