Like falling in love, the process of creating art can be a mystery, even to the person writing the song or sculpting the statue. As the novelist Eric Jerome Dickey said, “It’s impossible to explain creativity. It’s like asking a bird, ‘How do you fly?’ You just do.”

Yet a growing number of creative artists and actors—think Katy Perry, Lena Dunham, Hugh Jackman—have found that practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique is a powerful yet dependable way to capture the ever-elusive muse. And if one artist can boost creativity through meditation, you have to wonder what would happen if everyone on the set—singer, actors, producers, installation artists, production crew—practiced the TM technique?

“This reworking manages to enrich the sound without losing its ethereal quality.” —Indiewire.com

This actually happened when LA actress Elena Charbila (who has a dual career as a singer-songwriter under the moniker Kid Moxie) asked producer Michael Sternfeld to collaborate in creating a music video for her hauntingly beautiful rendition of the iconic score “Mysteries of Love,” composed by Angelo Badalamenti for director David Lynch’s 1986 film Blue Velvet. 

In just three long days of shooting and ten short days of editing, Elena, Michael, and a crew of over twenty—all of whom practice TM—created an artistic and evocative video that debuted at the “Music of David Lynch” tribute concert to a sold-out crowd of 1500. As reported in Rolling Stone, the concert not only raised funds for the David Lynch Foundation to teach TM to at-risk children, but featured an all-star lineup of Duran Duran, Moby, Donovan, Chrysta Bell, and Sky Ferreira performing music from the director’s movies and albums.

The “Mysteries of Love” music video garnered positive reviews, like this one from Indiewire.com: “While the original composition has long been a favorite among die-hard Lynch fans, this reworking manages to enrich the sound without losing its ethereal quality…and the end result is pretty great.”

Yet the real story is found in the making of the video, as the mythic power of love not only informed the theme of the song and video, but became the creative force that united the team and threaded its way through every image and sound.

Connecting with the David Lynch Universe

For Elena Charbila, the video was the fulfillment of a lifelong love affair with the work of award-winning director David Lynch and composer Angelo Badalamenti, who collaborated on the scores for most of David Lynch’s films.

“Some melodies become a part of you, inspire, and transform you,” says Elena. “The universe that David Lynch co-created with Angelo Badalamenti was like that for me.”

Although born in Greece, Elena based her career in LA, starring in films alongside Al Pacino and Malcolm McDowell. Five years ago, she had the chance to interview her personal hero, David Lynch, for a major Greek newspaper.

“The way he talked about meditation and creativity intrigued me,” she says. “Because I deeply respect his work as an artist, I thought there must be something there. So on my next birthday, I gave myself the gift of TM.”

“For me, the underlying theme was showing the dark and the light side of love.” —Elena Charbila

“It helped clear away the mental clutter,” Elena adds. “To have a clear idea of what you want to express through your art, you need to hear your own voice better. And TM certainly helps you do that.”

Soon she became a contributor to the David Lynch Foundation and its radio station, Transcendental Music, to help underserved children and adults learn the TM technique. Then one day she worked up the nerve to mail her music to Angelo Badalamenti.

The fabled composer not only liked her music, but at a later meeting, mentioned that he was remaking “Mysteries of Love” with a full orchestra and suggested that she perform the vocals.

Elena found his offer “both scary and extremely exciting” and recorded the song in the transcendental, delicate vocals that are her trademark. “It was a personally satisfying moment for me,” she says. “Angelo loved what I did with his song, and he was generous and gracious enough to let me use it for my new album, 1888.

The story might have ended there, but Elena couldn’t let go of a certain idea.

A Collaboration Based on Trust

“I remember that it was floating in my head that ‘Mysteries of Love’ was such a cinematic piece, an iconic song, and there was no video for it,” she says. “So I called up Michael Sternfeld and said, ‘We have to do this together.’ ”

Elena had met Michael Sternfeld through the David Lynch Foundation during Michael’s five-year stint as event producer for events featuring Paul McCartney, Ringo, Sheryl Crow, Moby, The Beach Boys, Jerry Seinfeld, and Jim Carrey.

From the start, the two felt tuned into each other’s thoughts to an uncanny degree. “We were laughing that we could read each other’s minds, and we both felt that there was trust,” says Elena. “That is a huge building block for starting anything.”

They decided to shoot the music video in Fairfield, Iowa, home of Maharishi University of Management (MUM). Michael set out to assemble the production team, recruiting directors Amine Kouider, media and communications faculty at MUM, and Sam Lieb, head of DLF.TV, as well as co-producer Donald Revolinski, faculty of the David Lynch MA in film at MUM.

At first it was challenging to get the team to clear their schedules. Then Michael thought, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if we showed our music video at the live ‘Music of David Lynch’ concert?” Says Michael, “We didn’t even know if David wanted to feature music videos. It was basically a one-in-a-million chance, but the project suddenly went from some wild, pie-in-the-sky idea to something that could actually happen.”

The only problem was, there were only three weeks left before the concert.

The Art of Creative Collaboration

What transpired in just three long days and nights of shooting outdoors in freezing March temperatures was nothing short of magical.

Elena, who had never taken a creative journey with a group of people who were all TM meditators before, was struck by the level of harmony on the set. “There was extreme care with each other’s ideas. Egos were kept at a minimal healthy level. From the first meeting, there was so much love, like a nonverbal contract that we were going to stay connected, we were going to stay in love for the entire process. I had never felt that before.”

Elena also felt a heightened energy level that she finds hard to explain. “It was a very long shoot. We were reaching for the sky with the things we wanted to do. Yet the feeling level was electrifying. For me it was a beautiful pool to swim in.”

“Underneath there was a feeling of no doubt that we would finish, a deep trust in the flow of nature.” —Michael Sternfeld, producer

With shoots lasting into the wee hours of the morning, she appreciated the meditation breaks. “There was a mutual understanding that everyone was going to do it. Whereas here in LA, if somebody saw you meditating, they’d be like: ‘Hey what’s up? What are you doing?’ There, nobody asked any questions; everybody knew the process. That was pretty refreshing.”

Realizing the Vision

The video’s beautiful yet disturbing visual images of the cocoon unravelling into a butterfly, performed by S.B.Woods, a performance and installation artist who has been practicing the TM technique for 34 years, fit perfectly with the shared vision for the film.

“For me, the underlying theme was showing the dark and the light side of love,” says Elena. “Because love is both beautiful and scary, especially in the beginning stages.”

The motif of light and dark reverberated through images of the video’s mystical forest set, created in two days of freezing temperatures by “tree woman” Cherie Sampson, an environmental performance and video artist who previously taught at Maharishi University of Management and now teaches at the University of Missouri.

After the last day of shooting ended at 4:00 a.m., there were only five days left for the three editors to complete post-production editing—a task that would normally require three months of work.

“The entire project was a stretch,” says Michael, “But underneath there was a feeling of no doubt that we would finish, a deep trust in the flow of nature. We never gave in to fear or anxiety; we just did it. And that comes from working with a group of meditators.”

The crew waited as David Lynch and the producers of the LA concert reviewed the video. Finally, just a week before the concert, word came that David Lynch not only loved it, but it was the only music video approved for the live concert.

“That was stunning,” says Michael, “but there was no time to celebrate. Because we had sent an unfinished version, we spent the remaining five days on final edits and the coloring process, finishing just twenty minutes before being delivered to the control room in the theater at the ACE Hotel in LA.”

Michael notes that from the moment they conceived of this project, there was a feeling of inevitability that swept them along. “Instead of thinking, ‘we need to make something happen,’ what if love itself was making this happen?” he wonders. “And that, to me, is key—the feeling you’re left with at the end of this video. If the viewer’s heart opens to some deeper level of life, then we accomplished our job.”

Watch Mysteries of Love here YouTube Preview Image

[This article was originally published in Issue 25 of Enlightenment: the Transcendental Meditation Magazine.]

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An Interview with Thomas Egenes, PhD

Questions and Answers on the Origins of the Origins of TM

TM originates from the Vedic tradition of knowledge of ancient India. This broad-based tradition is widely recognized as the oldest living tradition of knowledge on earth and encompasses a wide diversity of areas including Yoga, Ayurveda (healthcare), Vastu (Vedic architecture), and Gandharva Veda (music).

Perhaps you’ve been practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique for several months and have enjoyed greater happiness and calm in your life. Now you want to know more about its origins and what distinguishes it from other practices. Recently Enlightenment asked Dr. Thomas Egenes, an associate professor at Maharishi University of Management and a Certified Teacher of the Transcendental Meditation technique, to answer your questions.

Q: Where does TM come from?

Dr. Egenes: The Transcendental Meditation technique comes from India, from a deep, profound source called the Vedic tradition, which is thousands of years old. The word “Veda” means knowledge. The Vedic tradition is widely recognized as the oldest living tradition of knowledge on earth, maintained continuously and passed down from teacher to student. It is a broad-based tradition of knowledge encompassing a wide diversity of areas. Just to name a few, it is the origin of Yoga, Ayurveda (healthcare), Vastu (Vedic architecture), and Gandharva Veda (music).

To maintain this age-old tradition, four seats of knowledge were established in India by the great Vedic scholar, Shankara, thousands of years ago. Maharishi is part of this ancient heritage, having studied with the leading custodian of Vedic wisdom (Shankaracharya) from the northern seat of knowledge. Maharishi first brought this knowledge to the West in 1959 when he started his first of several world tours teaching the Transcendental Meditation technique.

Q: Since Transcendental Meditation and the knowledge of transcending was contained in this original expression of knowledge—the Vedas—does that mean it is connected to a religion such as Buddhism or Hinduism?

the Vedic tradition of knowledge of ancient India.

The ancient wisdom of transcending through the TM technique can be validated in three ways: through personal experience, through modern scientific research, and through the ancient texts, which have been passed on since time immemorial.

Dr. Egenes: Actually, the Vedas predate these religions. The rich, profound knowledge contained in the Vedic literature has been drawn upon for inspiration by literally hundreds of schools, religions, and philosophers on every continent throughout history. Today, people from all religions and cultures around the world practice the TM technique to experience inner peace and happiness, whether they are Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, agnostics, or aetheists.

This ancient wisdom of transcending through the Transcendental Meditation technique can be validated in three ways: through personal experience, through modern scientific research, and through the ancient texts, which have been passed on since time immemorial.

Q: What are some personal experiences of transcending?

Dr. Egenes: You may notice when you sit to meditate that your breath becomes softer, or there may be a brief period of time when there are no thoughts and also no mantra. You know you are awake, because if someone walked into the room, you would hear it. However, you may experience that you are awake toawareness itself, without thoughts. Or you may notice that your mind and body are completely settled. As one person described it, “During the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique, the silence became very deep, and I experienced a vast sea of peace within.”

After meditating, you may find that you are spontaneously happier and healthier, and life is more fulfilling. Millions of people have reported similar experiences—that after meditation their mind is more calm, their body healthier, their emotions more positive, and behavior more harmonious since starting the TM technique.

Q: How is this subtle experience of transcending validated by scientific research?

Dr. Egenes: When Maharishi introduced TM to the West, long before anyone had conceived of a mind-body connection, he encouraged researchers to study the effects of meditation on mind and body. Maharishi predicted that measures such as EEG, heart rate, and breath rate during meditation would be distinctly different from measures taken during the well-known states of waking, sleeping, and dreaming states of consciousness. In fact, he predicted that the mental technique of TM produced the experience of a completely distinct fourth state of consciousness.

The first physiological study on the TM technique was conducted at UCLA by Dr. Keith Wallace and published inScientific American and other journals in 1972. By studying EEG, breath rate, and heart rate of subjects while they practiced the TM technique, Dr. Wallace found physiological evidence of this fourth state of consciousness, which could also be called a state of “restful alertness”—“restful,” because the physiology is in a deep state of rest, and “alertness,” because the mind is wide awake.

Groundbreaking research by Dr. Wallac

Maharishi predicted that measures such as EEG, heart rate, and breath rate during meditation would be distinctly different from measures taken during the well-known states of waking, sleeping, and dreaming states of consciousness. In fact, he predicted that the mental technique of TM produced the experience of a completely distinct fourth state of consciousness.

This groundbreaking research by Dr. Wallace, and subsequent research on increased EEG coherence (orderliness) of brain activity, shows us how the fourth state of consciousness experienced during the TM technique is a unique state of consciousness, as evidenced by Alpha1 waves observed throughout the brain during Transcendental Meditation, with the highest concentration in the pre-frontal cortex. The brain waves become synchronous, which means that the brain is more coherent and integrated, with the different parts working together like a symphony orchestra. This results in better memory, increased creativity, increased intelligence, and emotional stability as shown by research.

In subsequent research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and top research universities, we’ve seen that the practice of the TM technique results in decreased anxiety, decreased cortisol (the stress hormone), decreased blood pressure, decreased insulin resistance, decreased insomnia, and a lower risk of heart attack and stroke. At the same time, research shows an increase in happiness, well-being, productivity, efficiency, and success.

Q: Can you explain how transcending is validated by the ancient Vedic texts?

Dr. Egenes: The literature from the Vedic tradition, called Vedic literature, is a vast body of knowledge. Here are examples from three ancient texts that Maharishi often quoted in his lectures.

From the Yoga Sutras: “Yoga is the complete settling of the activity of the mind.” This key phrase is perhaps the classic definition of Yoga, or union. While physical stretching (as taught in yoga classes in the US) is a part of the practice of yoga, in the Vedic tradition, the actual state of Yoga is defined as the complete settling of the mind. For many Western scholars, this state appears mystical or elusive, but for those practicing TM, it is a daily, personal experience and, as we have seen, has been reported in widely published research studies as well. In the literature on Yoga, this state is referred to as Samadhi, a state of pure awareness, or Transcendental Consciousness. It is pure wakefulness, devoid of any content such as thoughts, feelings, or perceptions.

The Bhagavad-Gita, also considered to be a text of Yoga, has many passages that describe how the mind settles during meditation. The verse “. . . having established the mind in the Self, let him not think at all,” describes how the mind becomes established in the Self, or pure awareness. This is awareness, but not awareness with an object of attention. Rather, it is awareness aware of itself. In this state, the person meditating has gone beyond thinking. There are no thoughts, no mantra, and no other object of attention. The mind is in a simple, settled state, calmly aware of awareness itself. In this state, the Bhagavad-Gita describes a person as being “freed from duality, ever firm in purity, independent of possessions, possessed of the Self.”

The Upanishads describe the fourth state of consciousness at great length and as different from waking, dreaming, and sleeping. In the Upanishads this state is called Turiya Chetana, or the fourth state of consciousness, often referred to as the Self (with a capital S, to denote the universal Self). For example, in this passage “The peaceful, the blissful, the undivided is thought to be the fourth; that is the Self. That is to be known,” specific characteristics are given for this fourth state of consciousness: it is peaceful, it is blissful, and it is undivided, meaning that it is an experience of unity. There is no object of attention, just the Self knowing itself.

While physical stretching (as taught in yoga classes in the US) is a part of the practice of yoga, in the Vedic tradition, the actual state of Yoga is defined as the complete settling of the mind. For many Western scholars, this state appears mystical or elusive, but for those practicing TM, it is a daily, personal experience and, as we have seen, has been reported in widely published research studies as well

While physical stretching (as taught in yoga classes in the US) is a part of the practice of yoga, in the Vedic tradition, the actual state of Yoga is defined as the complete settling of the mind. For many Western scholars, this state appears mystical or elusive, but for those practicing TM, it is a daily, personal experience and, as we have seen, has been reported in widely published research
studies as well

It’s important to note that the experience of the fourth state of consciousness happens innocently during meditation, often without us even noticing it. It’s not a matter of trying to be calm, or trying to feel relaxed. This is one of the major differences between TM and other techniques—there is no conscious effort required because the natural tendency of the mind is to transcend. Without effort, you experience a deep state of pure consciousness during meditation and naturally enjoy its many benefits throughout the day. Effortlessness in meditation and spontaneity of benefits are two of the key principles of Transcendental Meditation.

Q: Does the Vedic literature discuss benefits experienced outside of meditation?

Dr. Egenes: The Vedic literature gives ample knowledge about the benefits of experiencing the fourth state of consciousness. For example, the Bhagavad-Gita states, “Supreme happiness comes to the yogi whose mind is deep in peace.” And it makes the point: “Even here, in this life, the universe is conquered by those whose mind is established in equanimity.”

This brings up a theme that is found throughout the Vedic literature—the fulfillment of desire is a natural consequence of knowing the Self. It has been everyone’s experience that when we are anxious or fearful, it becomes more difficult to achieve what we want to achieve. Maharishi has been very clear about this—when one has the ability to desire from the Self, from the settled state of the mind, then the desire easily finds fulfillment. In his commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita, Maharishi says: “It brings a realized man to a state where, by virtue of a high development of mental strength and harmony with the laws of nature, he finds that his thoughts naturally become fulfilled without much effort on his part.”

The Upanishads place great importance on the experience of inner happiness and inner peace, because as meditators around the world have experienced, the calmness of mind experienced during meditation carries over into activity. Even from the first days of learning to meditate, people report that they feel calmer, more relaxed, and less stressed. This was described in the Chhandogya Upanishad, which says, “Established in the Self, one overcomes sorrows and suffering.”

The Upanishads eloquently express how desires are fulfilled by contact with one’s own Self:

Whatever world a man of purified nature sees clearly
in his mind, and whatever desires he desires,
that world and those desires he wins.

Q: What about regularity? Do the Vedic texts discuss the value of experiencing this fourth state of consciousness on a daily basis?

Dr. Egenes: Yes. They are very clear about this point. The daily experience of pure awareness, or Yoga, is emphasized in the literature. For example, the Yoga Sutras say, “Yoga becomes an established state when it has been respectfully and uninterruptedly cultivated for a long time.”

We all know that the benefits of exercise depend upon doing it as a regular habit. Similarly, the benefits of meditation depend upon regular practice. The Bhagavad-Gita gives similar advice: “This Yoga should be practiced with firm resolve.”

All of the benefits described in the Vedic literature and confirmed by modern scientific research result from regularity of practice. And the rewards are great.

Oprah Winfrey recently stated that at 9:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. her entire company, Harpo Studios, sits down to meditate because, as she described it, being still, coming back to the center, is more important than whatever work her staff is doing. “TM teachers have taught everyone in my company who wanted to learn how to meditate,” she said. “The results have been awesome: better sleep, improved relationships with spouses, children, coworkers. Some people who once suffered migraines don’t anymore. Greater productivity and creativity all around.”

Thomas Egenes, PhD, is an associate professor of Maharishi Vedic Science at Maharishi University of Management and author of seven books, including The Upanishads: A New Translation, co-authored with Dr. Vernon Katz, Tarcher/Penguin, 2015.

(This interview originally appeared in  Enlightenment Magazine, Issue number 24. Reprinted with permission.)