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David Lynch on Fearlessness

He may be known for his dark and disturbing films, but David Lynch is actually upbeat and blissed-out.

Disturbing and bizarre visions are a specialty for director David Lynch—think of the mutant baby in Eraserhead and the severed ear in Blue Velvet . Personally, Lynch sure is sunny. He attributes his blissed-out state to 32 years of transcendental meditation (TM), which he began after noticing that the practice improved his sister's mood. Lynch, who loathes the literalists who ask for explanations of his dreamlike plots, says meditation enables him to delve more deeply into his unconscious.

CF : You are exuberant and joyful, yet your movies are mysterious and dark.

DL : Think about a film that's blissful from start to finish—it would be completely boring!

How does meditation spill into your personal and creative lives?

After two weeks [of practicing TM], my first wife came to me and said, "What is going on with you, you're not angry anymore?"

On a film set, it's not a clamping, fearful, anxiety-ridden atmosphere. You start enjoying even the people who are giving you pressure—the producers and money people. That heavy blanket of negativity starts lifting.

Are most directors tyrants?

It's almost like a badge of honor [to say,] "I run my business on fear."

But doesn't fear motivate?

In the short term it works. But, at the same time, you're killing people. The other way is, you get an atmosphere going on the set—it's not [that] you have candies and little happy moments—it's energetic and it's inspirational.

What do you think of the notion that you have to suffer to create?

When you think about it for more than three seconds, it's completely absurd. When you have deep anxiety or deep fears, you're a big beautiful V-8 engine running on three spark plugs. If you could get that to lift away, you can still understand anger and you can do all kinds of stories about the human condition. But you yourself can do a better job if you aren't suffering with fear.