A baptism by fire: Why Paul Dalio’s debut as a filmmaker is Touched With Fire

July 25, 2016

TOUCHED WITH FIRE PosterPremiered last year at SXSW, with a theatrical run this spring, and now on DVD, Paul Dalio’s first full-length feature film, Touched With Fire, is a love story between two bipolar poets that reveals the relationship between illness and creativity.

Dalio was inspired by Kay Redfield Jamison’s book, Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament, which explores the link between great art and bipolar disorder. He read that many famous writers, poets, and artists suffered from this mania and may have produced their work because of it. Their genius was touched with fire.

This was a welcome relief for Paul who had become bipolar. He now saw himself no longer in clinical terms as a social outcast without a cure, but as a creative artist who was dealing with a neurological imbalance.

The most well known example of that heightened state was Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night. The painting is a kind of leitmotif throughout the film, even materializing as a literal hallucination by the main characters.

Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night

Reflecting on his own experience of being bipolar, Paul wanted people suffering with the illness, and those concerned with their health, to better understand what they are going through, that they are not necessarily crazy, perhaps gifted, and to help remove the stigma associated with the disease.

He compares the manic highs and depressive lows of the disease to the seasons. The film’s palatte of colors reflects the changing emotions within and between the main characters. Attempts to control these mood swings with drugs create deadening side effects, part of the conflict within their relationship.

In his Huffington Post blog, Touched With Fire, Paul asks: How much more receptive would a patient be to treatment if the patient was told that the treatment was to nurture a gift they had, instead of terminate a disease they had?

Director Dalio gave author/psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison a role in the film as herself, to explain how the right balance of medication can help rather than hinder a manic personality. Marco is concerned that the medications are stopping him from feeling any emotions, and is destroying his creativity. From her own experience, Kay shares with them how “medication can tamp the fire down a bit without losing that gift.” She tells him, with the right dosage, which takes time, she became even more productive than before becoming bipolar.

Cast and Crew

Paul Dalio wrote, directed, edited and scored Touched With Fire, his feature-film debut starring Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby, with other performances by Griffin Dunne, Christine Lahti and Bruce Altman.

Paul’s longtime friend, Jeremy Alter, produced the film, along with Kristina Nikolova, Paul’s wife and fellow student at the NYU Film School, who convinced him to make this semi-autobiographical film. Their teacher, Spike Lee, is the executive producer.

The brilliant acting in this passionately moving film is intensely engaging. Holmes (Carla) and Kirby (Marco) play two poets with bipolar disorder whose art is fueled by their emotional extremes. When they meet in a treatment facility, their chemistry is instant and intense driving each other’s mania to new heights. They pursue their passion, which breaks outside the bounds of sanity, swinging them from fantastical highs to tormented lows until they ultimately must choose between sanity and love. Watch the official trailer.

Comments from the Critics

The New York Times Critic’s Pick wrote: “Luke Kirby and Katie Holmes boldly meet the challenge of playing bright, high-strung artists. An extraordinarily sensitive, nonjudgmental exploration of bipolar disorder and creativity.” Read the Review: ‘Touched With Fire,’ a Love Story Between Two Bipolar Poets.

The Los Angeles Times said: Writer-director Dalio has firsthand experience with bipolar disorder, and his perspective sheds fresh light on the unique ways in which manic-depressive individuals experience love and creativity. Read the Review: Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby propel ‘Touched With Fire’ as it shines fresh light on bipolar disorder and creativity.

This is a powerful film! We witness their struggles from the inside out. More reviews are listed on the film’s website.

The Role of Poetry in the Film

In one of the interviews from the Special Features of the DVD, Paul Dalio talks about the value of poetry in his life, and for the main characters in the film. “It was only when I met my wife that my heart became more tender, and I actually started reading poetry, which I never did, and I started writing poetry.”

Paul describes the transforming power of poetry to heal and create beauty. He speaks from his own personal experience as someone who has dealt with the ups and downs of this disorder while trying to become a writer, composer, and filmmaker. The film is an amazing testament to his artistic achievement! See his bio under Cast & Crew for more details.

“Poetry at its best has the deepest expression of being in the worst hell, and having no choice but to bring some kind of aesthetic meaning to it, and some kind of beauty to it, just to even cope with it. (and) Only by being forced down there to such a hell are you forced to bring that much beauty to that hell, and in the process it becomes a healing. And so it was natural how it wove itself into the film, as these two characters use it to cope with their psychosis, and to deal with coming out of their situation.”

From my own experience, writing poetry does have the power to transform and heal. Another film where poetry is featured is in Words and Pictures, where a poem invites you to be who you are.

The Soundtrack to the Movie

Paul Dalio’s blog post includes both the song and lyrics to Starry Nights. Listen to the Touched With Fire Soundtrack Preview, followed by Starry Nights, the song at the end of the film during the credits, published by Lakeshore Records. Download the album on iTunes.

Interviews with the Director and Actors

Charlie Rose: ‘Touched With Fire’ (Feb. 4, 2016)  Director and writer Paul Dalio, actor Luke Kirby, and psychologist Kay Jamison discuss the movie “Touched with Fire” and the connections between bipolar disorder and creativity. (18:51) Paul does mention his use of medication and meditation, which he elaborates upon in this next video.

At a David Lynch Foundation-hosted screening of the film, Paul opened up about his own struggles with bipolar and how pivotal the practice of Transcendental Meditation has proved to be in living a happy, healthy, and creatively rich life. “TM is the difference between surviving with bipolar and thriving with bipolar. I never stopped meditating, without fail,” he says. “That’s when my doctor, Norman Rosenthal, witnessed the power of TM and was so blown away he decided to do a study on the effects of TM.” Paul was responsible for Dr. Rosenthal restarting his long-lapsed TM practice, which led to the publication of two best-selling books on the subject. Visit NORMAN ROSENTHAL, MD for details. See Thriving with Bipolar – A Conversation with Writer/Director Paul Dalio.

TODAY: Katie Holmes Discusses Role In ‘Intense’ Film ‘Touched With Fire’ (4:41)

The Washington Post: Filmmaker Paul Dalio mines his bipolar disorder for feature debut

HotSpot: TOUCHED WITH FIRE | Katie Holmes, Luke Kirby, Paul Dalio & Jeremy Alter Interview | February 8, 2016 (26:54)

Video of Marbling Art Animation of Starry Night and Van Gogh

Check out this amazing video on marbling art animation of Starry night and a Van Gogh self-portrait: Van Gogh on Dark Water Animation. The Turkish artist is Garip Ay, and the ancient technique of painting on water to marble paper is called Ebru.

Sweetheart Haiku for Sali from @kenchawkin

July 17, 2016

i took Sali to her dental appointment last Friday. While waiting for the dental hygienist to come in and clean her teeth, I told Sali what she meant to me, and distilled it down to this simple haiku.

Sweetheart Haiku

The sweetness in you
Brings out the sweetness in me
Why you’re my sweetheart

© Ken Chawkin
Fairfield, Iowa
July 15, 2016

Enjoy some of the Zen Poetry of Ryōkan

July 3, 2016

Zen Poet RyōkanA friend loaned me a copy of Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf, Zen Poems of Ryōkan, translated by John Stevens. A delightful little book, his poems are deceptively simple, yet go straight to the heart. A Zen master, Ryōkan was also considered one of the greatest calligraphers of all time in East Asia. Living as a hermit, he spent much of his time writing poetry, doing calligraphy, and communing with nature.

The Translator’s Introduction ends with this sage advice from the poet:

Good friends and excellent teachers—
Stick close to them!
Wealth and power are fleeting dreams
But wise words perfume the world for ages.

Ryōkan’s poems are pure, honest, direct. Here are a few beauties that caught my attention as I read them aloud to Sali.

It’s a pity, a gentleman in refined retirement
……….composing poetry:
He models his work on the classic verse of China,
And his poems are elegant, full of fine phrases.
But if you don’t write of things deep inside your own
……….heart,
What’s the use of churning out so many words?

 —————

At night, deep in the mountains,
I sit in meditation.
The affairs of men never reach here:
Everything is quiet and empty,
All the incense has been swallowed up by the endless
……….night.
My robe has become a garment of dew.
Unable to sleep, I walk into the woods—
Suddenly, above the highest peak, the full moon
……….appears.

—————

When all thoughts
Are exhausted
I slip into the woods
And gather
A pile of shepherd’s purse.

Like the little stream
Making its way
Through the mossy crevices
I, too, quietly
Turn clear and transparent.

—————

The Lotus

First blooming in the Western Paradise,
The lotus has delighted us for ages.
Its white petals are covered with dew,
Its jade green leaves spread out over the pond,
And its pure fragrance perfumes the wind.
Cool and majestic, it rises from the murky water.
The sun sets behind the mountains
But I remain in the darkness, too captivated to leave.

—————

Bamboo

The thick bamboo grove near my hut
Keeps me nice and cool.
Shoots proliferate, blocking the path,
While old branches reach for the sky.
Years of frost give bamboo spirit;
They are most mysterious when wrapped in mist.
Bamboo is as hardy as pine and oak,
And more subtle than peach or plum blossoms.
It grows straight and tall,
Empty inside but with a sturdy root.
I love the purity and honesty of my bamboo,
And want them to thrive here always!

—————

Keep your heart clear and transparent
And you will never be bound.
A single disturbed thought, though,
Creates ten thousand distractions.
Let myriad things captivate you
And you’ll go further and further astray.
How painful to see people
All wrapped up in themselves.

—————

I watch people in the world
Throw away their lives lusting after things,
Never able to satisfy their desires,
Falling into deep despair
And torturing themselves.
Even if they get what they want
How long will they be able to enjoy it?
For one heavenly pleasure
They suffer ten torments of hell,
Binding themselves more firmly to the grindstone.
Such people are like monkeys
Frantically grasping for the moon in the water
And then falling into a whirlpool.
How endlessly those caught up in the floating world
……….suffer.
Despite myself, I fret over them all night
And cannot staunch my flow of tears.

—————

Even if you consume as many books
As the sands of the Ganges
It is not as good as really catching
One verse of Zen.
If you want the secret of Buddhism,
Here it is: Everything is in the Heart!

—————

Chanting old poems,
Making our own verses,
Playing with a cloth ball,
Together in the fields—
Two people, one heart.

The breeze is fresh,
The moon so bright—
Together
Let’s dance until dawn
As a farewell to my old age.

See some of Ryōkan’s quotes at goodreads. Here’s one I liked:

“In all ten directions of the universe, there is only one truth. When we see clearly, the great teachings are the same. What can ever be lost? What can be attained? If we attain something, it was there from the beginning of time. If we lose something, it is hiding somewhere near us.”
Ryokan

Here is a goodreads description of his life introducing Sky Above, Great Wind: The Life and Poetry of Zen Master Ryokan.

Five great articles on #TranscendentalMeditation in The Quad-Cities Online @Dispatch_Argus

July 1, 2016

Here is a series of five stories exploring Transcendental Meditation written by Jackie Chesser and published in The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus. Click the titles to see each one of them online with photos at QCOnline. Or click Dispatch-Argus-May 2016 articles to see a PDF of them all together, courtesy of The Dispatch/Argus.

May 14, 2016: Transcendental Meditation could improve your life

May 15, 2016: Transcendental Meditation a lifesaver for vets with PTSD

May 15, 2016: Q-C instructors are passionate about Transcendental Meditation

May 16, 2016: Transcendental Meditation pays off in the classroom

May 17, 2016: ‘It has been a godsend!’: Q-C people talk about Transcendental Meditation

@DAVID_LYNCH answers questions from students as part of the 2016 Commencement @MaharishiU

June 24, 2016
2. Hagelin & Morris present Lynch with Doctor of World Peace

David Lynch receives honorary doctorate of World Peace from outgoing president Bevan Morris (right) and incoming president John Hagelin (left) Maharishi University of Management ©2016

During their 2016 commencement ceremony on June 18th, 2016, Maharishi University of Management was proud to feature world-renowned filmmaker David Lynch, who was presented with a Doctor of World Peace honoris causa degree. Instead of a traditional graduation speech, Mr. Lynch held a spontaneous Q and A session with students about life-oriented topics that commencement speakers traditionally address. Here is that lively interactive commencement address. (19:37).

Here is a transcript of the David Lynch 2016 MUM Commencement Q&A. See The 5 Best Quotes from David Lynch’s Commencement Q&A

Selected Excerpts

Behind David Lynch’s Success | Consciousness-Based Education | What Makes a Meaningful Life | Graduates’ Roles for World Peace | What Makes a Good Leader | Falling in Love with an Idea | Following Your Intuition | Filmmaker’s Secret.

News Coverage

Motto* (Words to live by): David Lynch to Grads: Intuition ‘Is the Number One Tool for Human Beings’ Watch the ‘Twin Peaks’ director give his advice to 2016 Maharishi University grads | La Voce di New York: David Lynch: trascendere per migliorare il mondo. Here is a translation of The Voice of New York’s David Lynch: transcend to improve the world | The Fairfield Ledger’s Andy Hallman reports: @DAVID_LYNCH addresses @MaharishiU graduates | The Hawk Eye’s Bob Saar: Filmmaker David Lynch gives MUM commencement address in Fairfield | KTVO’s Stephen Sealey reported on Maharishi University’s special graduation ceremonyFilmmaker David Lynch to Give Commencement Address at Maharishi University of Management | Des Moines Register: David Lynch promises ‘strange’ commencement address in Iowa

*Advice worth sharing from the world’s most influential people and the editors of TIME

About MUM

Maharishi University of Management (MUM) in Fairfield, IA is a private university featuring Consciousness-Based℠ Education. The accredited traditional curriculum offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in the arts, sciences, humanities, and business, but also integrates self-development programs. Innovative aspects include the Transcendental Meditation® program, one course at a time, and organic vegetarian meals. Visitors Weekends are held throughout the year. For more information, call the Admissions Office at 800-369-6480 or visit http://www.mum.edu.

MUM Social Media Accounts

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn | YouTube | Google+

Related News

The Gazette: New president named for Maharishi University of Management. John Hagelin takes office Sept. 12 | Ottumwa Courier: Hagelin is incoming president of MUM 

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The Fairfield Ledger’s Andy Hallman reports: @DAVID_LYNCH addresses @MaharishiU graduates

June 20, 2016

Lynch addresses M.U.M. graduates

By ANDY HALLMAN Ledger news editor | Jun 20, 2016

David Lynch

Photo by: ANDY HALLMAN/Ledger photo: Filmmaker David Lynch addresses the graduating students of Maharishi University of Management Saturday in the Maharishi Patanjali Golden Dome. In the fall of 2013, the university debuted the David Lynch Master of Arts in Film program.

Saturday was a gorgeous day for a graduation as 366 students at Maharishi University of Management received their degrees in the Maharishi Patanjali Golden Dome.

The list of graduates included 268 graduate students and 98 undergraduates from 53 countries. The foreign country with the most students graduating was Ethiopia with 42, followed by China with 41. Nepal, Egypt and Bangladesh each had at least 10 students graduating. Nearly one half of the students graduating, 168, earned their degrees in computer science.

The graduating class included a few interesting pairs. Touch Phai and his son Pakrigna Phai, both from Cambodia, had the honor of receiving their degrees together Saturday. Brothers Christian and Nicolas Martina from Argentina graduated together, as did the brother-sister pair of Naamee and Nahshon Yisrael from Chicago.

The commencement speaker was someone the students and faculty have come to know well: filmmaker David Lynch. M.U.M. president Bevan Morris read a long list of accolades Lynch has earned in his career, such as his Golden Globe for Best TV Series for his 1990–1991 show “Twin Peaks,” which he is filming a new season of that will air in 2017.

Adam Delfiner, Afomeya Bekele, Asaad Saad, Laure Muzzarelli

(left to right) Adam Delfiner, Afomeya Bekele, Asaad Saad, Laura Muzzarelli

Lynch’s speech was unconventional in that rather than deliver prepared remarks, he asked four graduating students to join him on stage and ask him questions. He insisted that he not be told of the questions ahead of time. The four students selected for this honor were Afomeya Bekele, Asaad Saad, Adam Delfiner and Laura Muzzarelli.

The students asked the accomplished filmmaker a wide range of questions about what makes a meaningful life, what the world will look like in 10 years and whether he would have done anything differently in his youth.

When Bekele learned she was one of the students who would ask Lynch questions, she turned to Facebook for advice on what questions to ask. She asked him when it was appropriate to trust one’s intuition, to which Lynch said that intuition should generally be trusted and that it was the No. 1 tool for artists, businessmen and women and many other careers.

Bekele said she particularly liked what Lynch said about getting ideas, which was that they are not so much invented as “caught.”

Saad is a computer science major and a graduate instructor. He sent emails to his students to ask what questions to ask, then chose the best ones. He asked Lynch about his interactions with the founder of the university, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Lynch has begun filming scenes for a documentary on Maharishi’s time traveling from northern to southern India, and Saad was curious when the documentary would be finished.

Lynch said of Maharishi that he was the “greatest master who ever walked the earth” and he gave out profound knowledge during his lifetime. Lynch said there were two keys to a better life: practicing Transcendental Meditation and drinking coffee.

On the question about his documentary of Maharishi, Lynch said that he was busy with the third season of “Twin Peaks,” but that once that is finished, he would be able to devote more time to finishing his other projects.

Andrew Rushing

Andrew Rushing

Andrew Rushing, who majored in Maharishi Vedic Science, was the school’s valedictorian and also gave a speech. Rushing said he had little more than a week to prepare his speech.

“My goal was to inspire the 2016 class to reflect on what we’ve accomplished and to encourage them to do great things,” he said.

During his speech, Rushing told the audience, “Just by being your true self, you act as a conduit for goodness in the world.”

Runzjao Xie

Runzjao Xie

Twenty-year-old business student Runzhao Xie was recognized as the youngest graduate. Xie graduated from Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment in 2012, and said he could have graduated from M.U.M. as early as last year but a professor whose class he needed was not available to teach it.

“My parents were both in education, so that got me interested in academics at a young age,” he said.

Xie said he specialized in accounting and took five accounting classes in a row before university officials advised him to branch out into other subjects. He has a summer internship with Andrew Bargerstock, chair of the accounting department.

John Hagelin

Physics professor John Hagelin speaks about the exciting opportunities and responsibilities he will have Sept. 12 when he becomes the university’s new president, taking over from Bevan Morris, who held the position for 36 years.

Also announced during Saturday’s ceremonies was that John Hagelin will become the university’s new president effective Sept. 12, known as Founder’s Day at the university. He will assume the role held by Bevan Morris for the past 36 years. For the first time in its history, M.U.M. awarded post-doctoral degrees Saturday, which it bestowed upon both Morris and Hagelin. (Correction: These new post-doctoral degrees were announced and described, but will be bestowed on Drs. Morris and Hagelin Sept. 12, 2016.)

Hagelin has been a member of the faculty at M.U.M. since 1984. In addition to teaching physics, he has held many positions of leadership such as director of the Institute of Science, Technology and Public Policy and president of the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace.

Reprinted with permission. All photos taken by Andy Hallman for Ledger photo. The 4 photos, embedded here in the article where relevant, are in an online slideshow format, with their captions, underneath David’s photo, starting with John Hagelin. The article and 5 photos appear on the front page of Monday’s Ledger concluding on page 7.

Related news: @DAVID_LYNCH answers questions from students as part of the 2016 Commencement @MaharishiU | The Hawk Eye’s Bob Saar: Filmmaker David Lynch gives MUM commencement address in Fairfield and KTVO’s Stephen Sealey reported on Maharishi University’s special graduation ceremony.

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The Hawk Eye’s Bob Saar: Filmmaker David Lynch gives MUM commencement address in Fairfield

June 20, 2016

Filmmaker David Lynch gives MUM commencement address in Fairfield

Physicist John Hagelin named new president as Bevan Morris steps down.

By BOB SAAR for The Hawk Eye | June 19, 2016

Cody Weber/ for The Hawk Eye Filmmaker David Lynch speaks Saturday at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield. Lynch was featured and feted at the 41st commencement ceremony with graduates from 53 countries in attendance.

Cody Weber/ for The Hawk Eye
Filmmaker David Lynch speaks Saturday at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield. Lynch was featured and feted at the 41st commencement ceremony with graduates from 53 countries in attendance. (click to expand photo)

FAIRFIELD — The 41st commencement ceremony at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield began with hundreds of graduates and their family and friends filling the Golden Dome with “America, the Beautiful” backed by the Metropolitan Brass Quintet of Des Moines.

The fact people from 53 countries were in the room participating gives one hope the mission of MUM and its representatives could be viable: world peace.

“If there’s anyplace on this globe where nations are truly united, that place is here,” said MUM executive vice president Craig Pearson.

Among the 366 students receiving degrees Saturday, 42 Ethiopians and 41 Chinese were outnumbered only by American students.

Nepal, Egypt and Bangladesh had hefty handfuls of graduates as well, including a father-and-son pair of co-grads from Cambodia.

Retiring MUM president Bevan Morris, along with his named successor, world-renowned physicist John Hagelin, presented keynote speaker and filmmaker David Lynch with an honorary Doctorate of Peace for his life work seeking to unite people around the world.

Morris listed many of Lynch’s accolades, including four Academy Award nominations, four Golden Globe nominations, Best Director award from seven film societies, the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival in France — the list goes on.

Lynch’s landmark ABC-TV series that ran 1990-91, “Twin Peaks,” garnered 18 Emmy nominations in its first two — and only — seasons.

And, of course, someone’s cellphone clarioned during Lynch’s introduction. No one minded it any more than they minded the small flock of children chirping at the back of the Dome, having fun on the bouncy meditational mattresses that replaced stiff, rigid stacking chairs.

Lynch, with a hard-earned reputation for quirkiness and individual thought, dispensed with a speech in favor of a question-and-answer session with four graduating students who joined him on stage.

“I did not do all those things they mentioned earlier,” Lynch quipped.

Q: How do we reconcile having a job without a purpose in life?

Lynch: Chances are you will find work you love.

Q: What’s one thing you learned on your film sets?

Lynch: Always have the final cut.

Asked to tell an anecdote about the Maharishi, whom Lynch met or tele-conversed many times, Lynch called the leader of Transcendental Meditation “the greatest master who ever walked the earth.”

Q: Can you tell us a moment when you fell in love with an idea?

Lynch likened ideas to fish: “We don’t make the fish, we catch the fish.”

Asked to define consciousness — he is the founder and chairman of the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-based Education and World Peace — he said: “Without consciousness we couldn’t exist, and if we didn’t exist, we wouldn’t know it.”

His definition of a good leader was “someone who inspires others” and asked to define peace, he said, “Real peace is not just the absence of war; it’s the absence of all negativity.”

And so it went, but just as his commencement Q&A was coming to a close, Lynch talked about long ago when he was in school:

“I hated school,” he told the graduates. “I hated almost every minute in school. It was so boring. I don’t think I learned anything.”

Ah, but the people in the Golden Dome did not agree, and David Lynch took his seat to a standing ovation.

Andrew Rushing, valedictorian, summed up the collective consciousness of the people in the room when he said, “David Lynch is the king of cool.”

The students who received diplomas Saturday not only know they exist, they know what they’re going to do next.

Whatever they do, it’s going to be good.

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Here is a PDF of what the article looks like in the Sunday issue of The Hawk Eye: Filmmaker David Lynch gives MUM commencement address in Fairfield.

Related news: @DAVID_LYNCH answers questions from students as part of the 2016 Commencement @MaharishiU | KTVO’s Stephen Sealey reported on Maharishi University’s special graduation ceremony and The Fairfield Ledger’s Andy Hallman reports: @DAVID_LYNCH adresses @MaharishiU graduates

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KTVO’s Stephen Sealey reported on Maharishi University’s special graduation ceremony

June 19, 2016

Maharishi University of Management held a special graduation ceremony

MUM Commencement 2016-KTVO

Class of 2016 were greeted with a special guest at Maharishi University of Management’s commencement (Stephen Sealey/ KTVO).

The Maharishi University of Management celebrated the class of 2016 with a special ceremony Saturday afternoon.

KTVO’s Stephen Sealey was there to see it all and reports how there were even a few surprises in store.

Maharishi University of Management’s 2016 Commencement was home to big names, big surprises and a diverse graduating class.

Award-winning director, writer and producer David Lynch was given the Honorary Doctorate of World Peace before doing his commencement speech which was a Q and A session.

Lynch said he enjoyed speaking to the class and believes they will succeed.

“They’re going out into the world to do great things. And they get it from Transcendental Meditation which is the key that opens the door to the treasury within every human being.”

Doctor Bevan Morris announced his retirement to the class, while appointing Dr. John Hagelin as the new president of MUM.

“Now I’m going to be the International President of MUM for different countries around the world. That would mean I’ll come here very often also,” Morris said.

Newly graduated students were so happy to be finished with school, but a few told me MUM will hold a place in their hearts.

“I thought that this school was like a gem. Someone once told me that Fairfield is in the middle of nowhere but the people make it somewhere”, said MUM Graduate Andrea Zapata.

“Internally, these four years have made me a better person,” said MUM Graduate Nicolas Martina.

“I feel well-rounded as a person. Feel like I can do anything. I have no breaks, no obstacles. If I do, they’re only steps to get to the next stage,” said MUM Graduate Shivanand Howard.

366 graduating students and 53 countries that were represented.

Vice President Craig Pearson said, “If there is a place in the United States that is truly united, that place is here.”

KTVO would like to congratulate MUM’s class of 2016 on their graduation.

Reproduced with permission from KTVO. (Article link | Video link)

Related: Filmmaker David Lynch to Give Commencement Address at Maharishi University of Management

Des Moines Register: David Lynch promises ‘strange’ commencement address in Iowa

Related event: An Evening With Chrysta Bell, David Lynch’s Muse, Happening June 19

Related news: @DAVID_LYNCH answers questions from students as part of the 2016 Commencement @MaharishiU | The Hawk Eye’s Bob Saar: Filmmaker David Lynch gives MUM commencement address in Fairfield and The Fairfield Ledger’s Andy Hallman reports: @DAVID_LYNCH adresses @MaharishiU graduates

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Fairfield, Iowa, TM and MUM make national news

June 10, 2016

Many articles have come out in praise of Fairfield, Iowa. Two and a half years ago, Rox Laird, The Des Moines Register’s editorial columnist, published an Opinion piece, Fairfield defines community action, on the city’s civic collaboration and Maharishi University’s Sustainable Living Center. The Smithsonian named Fairfield 7th out of 20 best small towns to visit that year. BuzzFeed named Fairfield one of the coolest small towns in America. And The Iowan had published an article on how Fairfield thinks inclusively creating rural success in Iowa.

I like to think the positive outcome of this latest article on Fairfield, TM and MUM, by Kevin Hardy in The Des Moines Register and the  USA TODAY NETWORK, resulted from a phone call I received on my birthday.

In April, I went to visit my son Nathanael at his new home in the Santa Barbara Riviera. For lunch he took me to The Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach, a well-known outdoor restaurant on the beach by the ocean. While waiting for our food to arrive, an unknown number called my cellphone. It was Kevin Hardy. He told me he covered business, labor and the economy for the Des Moines Register, and was researching why some towns in Iowa were thriving while many were losing population and failing economically. Then he said something that surprised me.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Fairfield was Iowa’s fastest-growing city among cities of a similar size. Kevin wanted to know what role I thought Maharishi University of Management had played in the demographic and economic growth of Fairfield.

In addition to some of the longtime established businesses, I  gave him an historical overview how hundreds of meditators came from all over the US and Canada after MIU had moved to town from the mid-1970s onwards. Many would stay and relocate their businesses or start new ones. Also told him about today’s younger entrepreneurs, the new successful ventures they started, and gave him a list of people and companies to visit and interview.

Kevin Hardy and Register photographer/videographer Zach Boyden-Holmes really did their homework. They put together an impressive article that became a national success story! It is reproduced here with permission.  See the full article with 14 photos taken May 9, 2016 by Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Register. I added links for more information.

Why this Iowa town is thriving when so many aren’t
By Kevin Hardy, June 1, 2016

Click here or on the image below to see a short video of Fairfield entrepreneurs. (1:20)

Fairfield out-performed all of the state’s 15 micropolitan areas in terms of population growth between 2010 and 2015.

FAIRFIELD, Ia. – Take a walk around this town’s bustling square and you’ll see an array of businesses that would rival some shopping malls.

On one corner sits a coffee shop that roasts its own beans in house. Down the block is a store specializing in sustainable children’s clothing and toys. Along another strip, there’s a women’s boutique, a Verizon store and a nutrition company.

The town’s retail center also is home to a salon, a consignment store, a furniture store and an art gallery. Just off the square is a pet spa, a natural remedy store and a photography studio. And for those looking for a bite to eat: a Thai restaurant, an Indian cafe, an Italian spot and a joint peddling pizza and steak.

In fact, local officials count only one vacancy in the storefronts that line shady Central Park. It’s just one more sign of success in this town of 9,500 in a state where most small cities and rural areas are seeing residents leave.

Since 1969, census data show Iowa’s metropolitan areas have gained nearly a half million people, while smaller cities and rural places have lost more than 171,000 residents.

But Fairfield has prospered, particularly in recent years. Between 2010 and 2015, the city saw a 4 percent population gain – a rate that rivaled the growth of some of Iowa’s much larger metro areas.

This southeast Iowa city is known as a magnet for practitioners of Transcendental Meditation at Maharishi University of Management, who flocked here since the 1970’s. Fairfield was able to capitalize on that unique niche, building a surprisingly metropolitan quality of life.

While Fairfield is home to 1,000 fewer jobs than it had 15 years ago, state figures show employers have rebounded in the last five years, adding nearly 700 jobs between 2010 and 2015. During that time, Fairfield went from 714 employers to 751, according to Iowa Workforce Development.

“We have a great quality-of-life culture and an entrepreneurial culture,” said Mayor Ed Malloy. “And we see it is allowing more young people to put down roots in this community.”

Around town, there is no shortage of small-city staples like Casey’s General Store and Pizza Ranch, though Fairfield is better known for its funky coffee houses, shops and restaurants. Locals claim the city is home to more restaurants per capita than San Francisco.

Yet the place that Oprah Winfrey dubbed “America’s most unusual town” is more than just quirky. It’s one of the few nonmetropolitan areas in Iowa posting strong population growth, according to U.S. Census figures. And around town, evidence abounds that Fairfield has done what so many small cities in the Midwest struggle to achieve: attract and retain people.

Troy with MUM Solar Array

Troy Van Beek stands in front of a solar power array his company Ideal Energy installed at the Maharishi University in Fairfield Monday, May 9, 2016. Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Register

TM’s long effect
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi introduced Transcendental Meditation, or TM, in India in the 1950’s.

But he brought his technique and “Consciousness-Based education” to Iowa in 1974, when Maharishi International University moved from Santa Barbara, Calif., to the 1 million empty square feet vacated by Parsons College in Fairfield. (The university later changed its name to Maharishi University of Management.)

While some in the community resisted the influx of meditators, locals say most of those tensions were alleviated years ago.

“As time has gone on, everybody’s meshed seamlessly,” said local designer Linda Pettit.

Pettit, who with her husband owns Finishing Touch interior design, has watched Fairfield thrive over the last 32 years from her storefront on the town square. She ticks off quality-of-life improvements such as a new pool and new recreation center.

She boasts about the many restaurants. And she tells of all the new and unusual businesses that have opened.

“We have a very vibrant community,” she said. “I think a lot of small towns don’t have the diversity that we do.”

Pettit hears about layoffs at plants in nearby Ottumwa. She knows how Iowa farmers are struggling with low commodity prices. But she said that isn’t Fairfield’s storyline.

Her business works on residential and commercial projects. But she’s noticed a slant toward more commercial projects in recent years, as new businesses pop up and old ones invest in upgrades.
“It’s a great place to have a business,” she said.

Iowa’s ‘Silicorn Valley’
Over the years, many TM practitioners and others who visited Fairfield decided to stay.

Once here, they had to find a way to make a living. Some Fairfield residents drive to Ottumwa or Iowa City for work. But many have started small businesses in Fairfield, which has been called “Silicorn Valley” for its mixture of tech startups and entrepreneurial ventures.

“People moved here and they had to figure out how to stay here,” said David Navarrete, spokesman for Sky Factory.

The 38-employee company was founded in 2002 by Bill Witherspoon, an artist who moved to Fairfield for its TM community. A serial entrepreneur, he formed Sky Factory as a means of supporting his family. It creates window and ceiling panels that recreate outdoor views like those of a blue sky or a beachfront.

Sky Factory’s biggest clients are health care providers, as research shows even a simulated view of the outdoors can boost moods for those trapped indoors.

“I think there’s definitely an entrepreneurial spirit here, and I think a lot of that comes from the university,” said Witherspoon’s son, Skye Witherspoon, now the company’s CEO.

Fairfield is also home to a surprising array of manufacturing.
Creative Edge makes intricate flooring for some of the world’s best known hotels, casinos, hospitals and universities. Bovard Studios makes and restores stained glass windows for churches across the country. And a host of businesses manufacture agricultural parts, iron castings, polyethylene piping and laundromat washers and dryers.

So many things are made in Fairfield that the Iowa Economic Development Authority will host an export conference here in the fall.

Fairfield’s biggest employers have grown in recent years, too.

Cambridge Investment Research now employs about 700 and boasts more than $70 billion in assets under its management.

Mixed signals
Like many small cities, some employers in Fairfield report trouble recruiting and hiring, especially with Iowa’s unemployment rate remaining below 4 percent.

Lori Schaefer-Wheaton, president of the 170-employee Agri-Industrial Plastics, said hiring is a struggle. She has 20 openings, a number that has held fairly constant over the last two years, she said.

Fairfield is an anomaly among small cities in Iowa, she said, but she thinks recent population growth is largely related to the university.

“That kind of population growth might show up on our census,” she said. “But I don’t think it changes the dynamics of the workforce in our town.”

Iowa State University Economist Dave Swenson said Fairfield definitely out performs many similarly sized cities. But some signals are mixed: While some measures show recent job growth, other data actually point to employment losses, he said.

“They seem to be demonstrating both demographic and economic growth that stands out,” he said. “The big question is this a short term growth or is it sustainable?”

Natives return home
Meghan Dowd came to Fairfield as a child when her parents migrated here for the TM community.

She moved away for college, then ended up working in television in California.

From there, she visited her mom in Fairfield and realized it was going through a “renaissance,” with monthly art walks, a new events center and lots of cool coffee shops and restaurants. She moved back in 2009 and started Shaktea, a maker of kombucha, a trendy fermented drink.

In Fairfield, she says she can do just about anything she could in a metro city. Plus, it’s much cheaper to buy a home or start a business. (She also started Cado, an organic avocado-based ice cream, featured with a photo in the article and video.)

Her children attend a Waldorf-inspired preschool. And after yearning for a yoga studio, she just opened her own.

“A lot of people moved here, the kids grew up here, but then the kids wanted to go out into the world and experience different things,” Dowd said. “I think that happened and some of that is kind of boomeranging back to Fairfield.”

Jesse Narducci followed a similar path. He returned home to Fairfield a few years ago after living in Colorado and California for more than a decade. He opened Jefferson County Ciderworks just outside of town. He brews hard apple cider and runs a taproom featuring hard-to-find craft brews.

Narducci said many of Iowa’s smaller towns are undesirable places to live because they lack quality places to grab a meal or a drink out. Not Fairfield.

“You don’t have to drive to Iowa City to have a good ale or a good meal,” he said. “I don’t really leave that often. … I’m trying to create my own little paradise out here.”

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Filmmaker David Lynch to Give Commencement Address at Maharishi University of Management

June 8, 2016

Over 350 to Graduate from Maharishi University, June 18

Over 350 (366) students representing 50 (53) countries will graduate from Maharishi University of Management at the 2016 commencement ceremony at 1:00 p.m., on Saturday, June 18, in the Maharishi Patanjali Golden Dome. The public is invited to attend.

Noted filmmaker David Lynch will offer the 2016 commencement address. He is famous for films such as The Elephant Man, Mulholland Drive, and Blue Velvet. His many awards include a Golden Globe for Best TV Series for his 1990–1991 show Twin Peaks. He recently finished filming a new season of Twin Peaks that will air in 2017.

Graduates include 37 in South Africa

Those receiving diplomas include 74 undergraduates in Fairfield, 37 undergraduates in South Africa, 160 students in the MS in computer science, and 80 students in other graduate programs. About 160 are expected to participate in the ceremony. Those in South Africa attend the Maharishi Institute in Johannesburg for their first two years of college, and then enroll at MUM via distance education for their third and fourth years of study toward a degree in business.

David Lynch to receive honorary doctorate

David Lynch-Adam Bordow

David Lynch photo by Adam Bordow

David Lynch’s preferred method for public speaking is to take questions from the audience; so four students on stage will ask him questions about life-oriented topics that commencement speakers traditionally address.

As part of the commencement ceremony, the university will present Mr. Lynch with a Doctor of World Peace honoris causa degree, “In recognition of the enormous role he has played in promoting Maharishi’s knowledge throughout the world, transforming people’s lives through the work of the David Lynch Foundation, and laying the foundation for a truly peaceful world,” said Dr. Bevan Morris, president of Maharishi University of Management.

His David Lynch Foundation, started in 2005, raises funds to support bringing the Transcendental Meditation technique to those most in need: underserved inner-city students, veterans with PTSD and their families, and women and children who are survivors of violence and abuse. As a result of the Foundation’s activities, hundreds of thousands of people have learned and benefitted from the Transcendental Meditation technique.

“Not only is David transforming lives through his Foundation, he has made countless people aware of the Transcendental Meditation technique throughout the U.S. and around the world,” said Craig Pearson, executive vice-president of MUM. “Many well-known thought leaders in the U.S. have adopted the practice and have publicly endorsed it at events sponsored by his Foundation.”

Lynch’s activities on campus

Lynch has long been an important member of the MUM family, as a member of the Board of Trustees and in lending his name to the David Lynch MFA in Film program. He has connected with the film students via Skype, has spoken in person to a class, and has hosted the students at his studio in Los Angeles.

He has been practicing Transcendental Meditation since 1973, and has spent time on campus on a number of occasions. In 2006, he offered the first of three annual “David Lynch Weekends,” which brought hundreds of visitors to campus to learn about consciousness, creativity, and the brain.

Nominated for 4 Academy Awards

Lynch has been nominated for an Academy Award 4 times: three times as Best Director and once for Best Screenplay. The French government awarded him the Legion of Honor, the country’s top civilian honor, as a Chevalier in 2002 and then an Officier in 2007. He has won France’s César Award for Best Foreign Film two times, as well as the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and a Golden Lion award for lifetime achievement at the Venice Film Festival. Mr. Lynch has been described as “the most important director of this era” by The Guardian as well as “the Renaissance man of modern American filmmaking” by Allmovie.

About Maharishi University

Maharishi University of Management (MUM) in Fairfield, IA is a private university featuring Consciousness-Based Education. The accredited traditional curriculum offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in the arts, sciences, humanities, and business, but also integrates self-development programs. Innovative aspects include the Transcendental Meditation program, one course at a time, and organic vegetarian meals. Visitors’ weekends are held throughout the year. For more information, call the Admissions Office at 800-369-6480 or visit http://www.mum.edu.

Contact: Ken Chawkin, kchawkin@mum.edu, (641) 472-1314

Editor’s note: Check back here for graduation publicity.

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