As the coronavirus pandemic rages on, the mounting collective stress and trauma in the nation was the impetus for Meditate America, a new campaign led by the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace bringing free meditation to at-risk populations.
When asked what inspired the cause, David Lynch unambiguously replied, “Take a look at America today.”
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Meditate America launches December 3 with a free virtual benefit concert streamed on YouTube featuring pre-recorded performances by Elvis Costello, Angelique Kidjo, Kesha, Sting, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, and others, including live talks with media personalities, and an interview with Hugh Jackman and Katy Perry on meditation and motherhood. The fundraising event will draw awareness and support for the initiative that aims to make meditation free to anyone in America who needs it.
The campaign is part of the David Lynch Foundation’s ongoing efforts to provide the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique to at-risk groups experiencing stress and trauma. Founded in 2005 by the acclaimed filmmaker and avid meditator who bears its name, the David Lynch Foundation has already offered free meditation to 1 million students in underserved schools in 35 countries, as well as thousands of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and their families, and survivors of domestic violence.
The new initiative will focus on the effects of pandemic-related stress and trauma on healthcare and essential workers on the COVID-19 frontlines, as well as families in underserved communities living in hard hit areas where hospitals are underfunded, and once again, overwhelmed as virus cases continue to rise. Meditate America will also continue to serve veterans at-risk for depression and suicide during the pandemic.
The State of the Nation’s Mental Health
A recent CDC report detailing the impact of COVID-19 on mental health in the country showed that at least 40 percent of adults struggle with substance abuse and mental health issues, with 31 percent experiencing anxiety or depression and nearly 11 percent considering suicide. Some experts have already warned of a potential for long-term psychological effects.
Meditate America’s goal to serve demographics that currently reflect nearly half the U.S. population may seem lofty, but Bob Roth, CEO of the David Lynch Foundation, says he has no doubt the campaign will be a success. Though the virtual benefit concert is free, Roth says donations supporting the cause are already rolling in.
“We just wanted to give the country something wonderful to think about and celebrate,” Roth said by phone. “And meditation is the counter-opposite to absolutely everything that’s going on in the country today, which is fear and anxiety.”
Roth says the production costs were covered by donors and explains that other campaigns led by the foundation are often subsidized by the generosity of the TM community, which includes a growing roster of celebrities. “It’s all very grassroots,” Roth says. He explains that the Starbucks Foundation, for instance, recently provided the David Lynch Foundation with a $250,000 grant to offer free TM to healthcare workers in underfunded hospitals as part of the foundation’s “Heal the Healers Now” campaign, which launched in April in response to the rising rates of physician burnout.
Why Make Transcendental Meditation Free?
Transcendental Meditation is a trademarked meditation technique developed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the mid-1950s and famously adopted by The Beatles. The evidence-based practice involves sitting and silently reciting a mantra to yourself for 20 minutes twice a day. The popularity of TM can be attributed to its simplicity and accessibility for most adults and children, including those with ADHD. “It gives the body a profound state of rest and relaxation and a different constellation of changes take place in the body,” Roth says.
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The average cost of initiation for TM ranges from $500–$1,000, which is why the David Lynch Foundation remains committed to providing it for free.
Meditate America is garnering support to fund rigorous scientific research on the efficacy of the Transcendental Meditation technique. Most studies to date have been small in scale. If successfully funded, Meditate America plans to conduct large-scale studies and clinical trials on the scientifically proven benefits of TM for healing trauma, reducing high blood pressure and the risk of heart disease and stroke, and reducing anxiety and depression.
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By completing large-scale phase III clinical trials, TM could potentially qualify as a medical intervention covered by public and private insurance companies. This would make the TM technique free for anyone in the U.S. with insurance, as many as 300 million Americans according to the David Lynch Foundation. “The whole country is at risk,” says Roth. “The whole country is traumatized.”
Roth, a respected leader in the Transcendental Meditation community with 48 years of experience teaching the technique, says the world is changing and it won’t be long before alternative healing modalities like TM are covered by insurance. This of course, will depend on the outcomes of the phase III trials, which could be about three years in the making, according to Roth.
In the past, medical intervention had been reserved for pharmacology and surgery, but today, Roth says that complementary and integrative therapies like acupuncture, yoga, and meditation are already becoming more widely accepted as forms of medical intervention.
“There is no medicine, no pill that anyone can take that’s going to help reduce and neutralize the buildup of anxiety,” Roth says. “We should equip our citizens with enough evidence-based tools to be able to handle the world that’s coming to us.”
Meditate America airs December 3 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Register and attend the event for free and learn how to make a donation at meditateamerica.org.