In his book on art and meditation, "Catching the Big Fish," Lynch says the experience was like descending into a "hell hole."
Lynch discovered TM in 1973, as he was making his first feature film, "Eraserhead." Despite a lush existence in Beverly Hills, Calif., and being on the cusp of success, he said, "I looked inside and felt hollow."
"I always heard the same thing, a phrase, 'true happiness is not out there, true happiness is within,'" he said. "But they don't tell you where the 'within' is or how to get there."
His sister introduced him to his practice.
"The most important thing I heard was the change in her voice, a self-assuredness," Lynch said. "And I said, 'That's it,' and went down to the center."
That twice-daily practice continued and in 2005, he established the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace -- a lofty mission that he hopes to expand with $50 million in fundraising this year.
In the United States, those programs largely serve disadvantaged or special needs children in public and private schools.
About 4,600 elementary-age children in 19 schools in Oakland, Calif., learn "mindfulness" in a stress-relieving meditation class.
School officials say it helps children regulate their behavior, control impulses and focus better.
At Ideal Academy in Washington, D.C., where daily shootings and poverty stressed out students and teachers, TM was introduced as a pilot program. But when test scores went up, it became part of the curriculum in grades 5 to 10.
In other schools from Massachusetts to Wisconsin, principals are using TM as a tool to calm students down and be better learners.
"People are desperate," said John Hagelin, chairman for leadership performance at the David Lynch Foundation. "The age we live in is increasingly stress producing. People need some way of handling and releasing that stress."
"But there is also a need to be more creative, not just more relaxed -- to use our potential better," he told ABCNews.com.
Despite meditation's associations with flower power, "it's not hard to convince a principal or a parent of the medical efficacy of TM," Hagelin said.
New studies also show that TM is a drug-free way to help children with ADHD.
Hippies once hailed TM for "expanding consciousness," but today experts like Hagelin say it increases the "orderliness of brain functioning" and helps students realize their "peak performance."
How the practice works is still unknown, but its key is the use of a mantra, a "smoothly harmonizing sound that you say quietly in your head," according to Hagelin.
Through TM, the brain is drawn into a deep state of rest and awareness, Hagelin said.
At Project MORE High School in Tucson, Ariz., about 25 of the 180 students have signed up for twice-daily TM sessions at no cost to the school.
The school takes at-risk students who have been thrown out of other schools for disciplinary issues.
Principal John Mackay was skeptical when he first learned about TM at a teachers' conference.
Now, he is a believer. Through TM, Mackay's blood pressure dropped 10 points.
"You hear of hundreds of millions of dollars being spent in schools, but this project could have a massive impact on public education," Mackay told ABCNews.com.