Consciousness & Creativity with David Lynch & Bob Roth
When: May 23, 7 p.m.
Where: SFU Goldcorp theatre
Tickets and info: $27.50-$65 eventbrite.ca
These days it seems you can’t swing a string of Buddha beads without hitting someone who meditates or is about to start to do so with help from their freshly downloaded Headspace meditation app.
Despite some forms of it dating to as far back as 1500 BCE, it seems meditation really is all the rage today. You can tell that is true by how tightly the marketers have embraced the idea of selling inner peace. Everything from juice to moisturizing lotion and bubble bath come with the word mindful attached. If you are in the U.K. you can even order online meals from the Mindful Chef. However, you have to agree to not talk with your mouth open. Actually not talk at all. Kidding.
“Meditation has become so much more mainstream, all the different forms,” said Anne-Mareike Chu, who is one of the 20 registered transcendental meditation, or TM, teachers who work out of the Vancouver TM Centre. “We have lots of people who come to us who have tried different kinds of meditation or apps.”
If you’re the type of consumer that likes a good celebrity stamp-of-approval in these influencer-driven times then TM has you covered. Supermodel Kendall Jenner told Vogue it helped her with anxiety and to clear her mind. Fans of Ellen DeGeneres’s daytime TV show have likely heard her talk about her eight-year TM practice.
“It’s changed my life,” said DeGeneres during a show that aired a year ago.
She was talking about TM on this day because her personal TM teacher Bob Roth was on the show with his new book, The New York Times Bestseller Strength in Stillness — The Power of Transcendental Meditation.
The book is a quick and interesting guide to TM through Roth and other people’s (some famous, some not) experiences. It’s an engaging and unfailingly understandable guide to a meditation practice that was brought to North America 50-plus years ago by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
Roth learned the practice from the Maharishi/guru to the Beatles and has been practising it for five decades. For the past four decades he has been instructing it to everyone from PTSD-suffering war veterans to Fortune 500 CEOS to anxious teens to Tom Hanks.
Aside from teaching, Roth runs the non-profit David Lynch Foundation (DLF) that he formed with the famed film director 15 years ago.
As part of the DLF’s international outreach (it has offices in 35 countries) Roth is in Vancouver for the Consciousness & Creativity with David Lynch (via live video link) & Bob Roth event on May 23 (7 p.m.) at the SFU Goldcorp theatre. He will also be travelling to Montreal and Toronto.
The event is a discussion of TM, Roth’s book and a chance for audience members to ask questions of him and Lynch. Lynch is the director behind such wonderfully weird works as Eraserhead, Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks.
“We’re both Eagle Scouts. Which is funny David Lynch as an Eagle Scout,” said Roth over the phone from his office in N.Y. when asked about he and Lynch’s connection.
Currently there is a DLF office in Toronto and Roth says there are plans to expand in Canada.
The non-profit focus of the foundation is to bring free TM to inner-city kids, vets and victims of domestic abuse. Roth reports that the foundation in North America has delivered meditation to about one million of those people. All the proceeds from Strength in Stillness will go back into supporting that work.
Roth’s connection to famous folks began with Lynch. From there word of mouth brought him together with other bold names like Oprah, Jerry Seinfeld, Howard Stern and hedge-fund billionaire Ray Dalio.
“Whether they are CEOs or famous people they say: ‘Oh, you need a good cardiologist. I’ve got a good cardiologist for you. Oh, you need a good meditation guy, oh, I’ve got a good meditation guy.’ So that’s how it works,” says Roth about his famous clientele.
While more and more celebs and CEOs are signing up, Roth says there is another growing demographic — politicians.
It’s seems the lawmakers (sometimes) in Washington are a little bit stressed out these days. Hmmm, wonder why? Roth says he has been working with quite a few members of the U.S. Congress — members from both sides of the aisle.
“It can’t hurt,” said the affable Roth when asked about bringing meditation to the partisan gridlock of the beltway.
“There’s a different quality of stress in Washington, D.C. Everyone’s furious with them. The members of Congress go back to their districts and no one is happy with them,” said Roth. “You’re either not Liberal enough. Not Conservative enough. Nobody is happy and it is sort of this thankless task. They’re really stressed.”
A big driver for Roth these days is to help end what he calls the “epidemic of stress.”
“Modern medicine has no antidote to stress and people are eager to minimize the detrimental impact of stress,” said Roth.
“Canadians go to TM centres now: that means, all types of Canadians — students, retired people, doctors, business people, athletes, teachers, clergy, yoga instructors, because stress does not recognize age or religion or profession,” says Roth.
When talking about TM’s benefits Roth points to studies and peer-reviewed papers that support TM”s health-benefit (less anxiety, better sleep) claims. The American Heart Association has gone so far as to say the practice of TM helps to lower blood pressure.
Right now the DLF is in the midst of raising funds to bankroll more third-party research so that TM is considered in the same light as any other medicine or any other medical intervention.
“Right now we are in the process of subjecting TM to the exact type of studies so that we can go to all these insurance companies and employee assistance programs and government agencies and say, Hey this is as good or as if not better at reducing high blood pressure than this antihypertensive medication and there are no side-effects and we’ve got the same research by the same researchers as a drug,’ ” says Roth.
It’s the increase in and access to studies and discussions about meditation that Roth and Chu say have led to an uptick in interest in all forms of meditation.
“Meditation in general used to be seen as so out there, but now it is so widely accepted because people started realizing the power of our mind really lies within and now science is catching up to that finding,” says Chu, who worked in the sustainability field with Bing Thom, the famed Vancouver architect and TM enthusiast. “People are more open to natural treatment to improve their health and well-being.”
TM is easy. You sit down comfortably. And with your eyes closed, repeat a mantra.
“I use the analogy that you are in a little boat and you are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and all of a sudden you get these 30- or 40-foot-high waves around you and you could think the whole ocean is in upheaval, but the word whole ocean is a bit of an exaggeration because if you were able to do a cross-section out there you would realize that the ocean is over a mile deep and while the surface of the ocean may be turbulent, by nature the depths of the ocean by its nature are pretty darn quiet,” said Roth when asked to describe TM. “The analogy is to the mind.”
The official TM course in Vancouver will run you $1,300 (centres do have discounts depending on individual circumstances) for a lifetime membership. The course consists of four consecutive days with 90-minute-to-two-hour sessions.
In Vancouver, the TM Centre says about 35,000 people have picked up the practice since the late-1960s.
“Vancouver is one of the most successful centres,” said Roth, who also hosts a Sirius XM radio show.
While TM is booming there have been detractors over the years. Some people have called it a cult (especially at the higher levels of the practice) and some just poo-poo it as some leftover flower-child, free love thing invented by a tiny hirsute Indian man who thought he could fly (look up yogic flying).
However, if social media and shopping habits are any indication, the times have changed and people no longer think yoga, organic food and meditation are only for the hippies and Gwyneth Paltrow.
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