The David Lynch Foundation brings Transcendental Meditation programs to at-risk children, veterans, prisoners and survivors of domestic violence. Here, its executive director, Bob Roth, explains his beginnings with the age-old practice, and how it blossomed into a calling to help people around the world.
I love teaching people to meditate. Particularly the skeptics—the ones who say, “Meditation? I don’t believe in that stuff.” Or who tell me, “I’d love to meditate, but I could never do it because my mind is too busy—I could never clear my thoughts.” Or who think meditation is some sort of a generic thing, as in, “I meditate when I jog/listen to music/nap/paint.”
There are so many basic misunderstandings about meditation: that it’s difficult, or a religion, or an escape, or basically nothing at all.
When meditation is properly understood and practiced, none of these is true. It’s an incredibly simple, practical, effective tool to help the busiest, most cynical, most alpha-dog personalities gain a state of profound rest and relaxation that is, in many regards, deeper than sleep. Meditating 20 minutes, twice a day translates into a host of healthful benefits.
I’ve been teaching the Transcendental Meditation technique for more than 40 years. When I first learned to meditate, most people thought it was some sort of a religion or philosophy. But today, meditation in general, and TM in particular, is considered mainstream.
And there’s one very good reason for that: scientific research. Hundreds of studies have shown that TM really works—that, for example, it can reduce stress, improve focus and creativity, and reduce high blood pressure. This makes it so much easier for people to look beyond the name “meditation” and give it a try. In fact, you’d be amazed at how many Manhattan hedge funds, media companies, schools and hospitals now offer TM as part of their wellness programs.
My parents raised me and my three siblings with a deep sense of appreciation for the good fortune of our lives, and taught us that it behooved us to give back to others in need.
Growing up I had a love for public service. I worked for Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign and had my sights set on going to law school, entering politics and, ultimately, being a U.S. senator. All that changed with the bloodshed of the ’60s, and I shifted my focus to education, with an emphasis on developing curriculum.
Through a series of serendipitous incidents, I ended up learning to meditate, and within a few years, found a desire to teach the technique to inner-city school kids. So I became a teacher, and since then have instructed thousands of people. But the highlight for me came nine years ago, when I was fortunate enough to team up with the great filmmaker David Lynch—also a devoted meditator—to establish a charity in his name.
The idea caught fire in ways I could never imagine. Today, the Foundation brings TM at no cost to thousands of NYC’s youth and adults in underserved schools, women’s shelters and veterans’ hospitals. We’re active in 35 countries and have provided meditation scholarships for nearly 500,000 at-risk youth, veterans, incarcerated men and women, and survivors of domestic violence.
There are now more people learning TM in NYC than in any other city in the world. Some of the more prominent practitioners—including Jerry Seinfeld and Howard Stern (both 40-year meditators), Martin Scorsese, Donna Karan, Dr. Oz, Hugh Jackman, George Stephanopoulos and Lena Dunham—are also among the most generous.
Because of their big-heartedness, we’re bringing genuine meditation and deep relief to those who need it the most. David Lynch Foundation, 216 E. 45th St., Suite 1301