Russell Brand, who credits Transcendental Meditation for helping him stay off addictions to alcohol, drugs and sex, will do a stand-up comedy show tonight at the Palace of the Fine Arts in San Francisco to benefit the David Lynch Foundation.
Brand has said publicly that meditation had helped him find a “deeper state of happiness.” Other celebrities — including Oprah and Ellen DeGeneres — are devotees of TM.
“What it felt like to me was the dissolution of the idea of myself,” he said at a press conference last year. “Like, I felt separateness evaporated, this tremendous sense of oneness. I’m quite a neurotic thinker, quite an adrenalized person. But after meditation, I felt this beautiful serenity and selfless connection. My tendency towards selfishness, I felt that exposed as a superficial and pointless perspective to have.”
Brand, who is best known for his films, “Get Him to the Greek” and “Arthur” – and for being the husband of pop start Katy Perry – gave up alcohol nearly a decade ago. He has said, ”I was really, really committed to that drug addiction.”
The David Lynch Foundation, the brainchild of the filmmaker of the same name, has been committed to helping those who suffer from trauma since 2005. The often dark and abstract director credits his creativity with 37 years of meditation.
Their meditation programs have helped those in the military, who are at higher risk for post-traumatic stress, and in schools where students grow up in a climate of fear with bullying, violence and substance abuse. They also work with other at-risk populations like Native Americans and the homeless.
The Lynch foundation now teaches 150,000 students for free in 350 schools around the world; 15 of them are in the United States.
“It’s not a religion,” Lynch told ABC last year. “It’s not against any religion, it’s not mumbo-jumbo. It truly does transform life. Kids come to school and they meditate together for 15 minutes in the morning. And before they go home they meditate for 15 minutes. A lot of them come from, you know, bad situations, and so this gives them this thing you know, at the beginning and the end of the day, the rest of the time you just watch the violence stop. Watch relationships improve. Watch happiness in the hallways, in the classroom, watch creativity flow more and more, watch that heavy weight that we are living under gently lift away.”
Brand learned TM at the foundation headquarters in Fairfield, Iowa, during a time when he was making a documentary on happiness with directors Oliver Stone and Albert Maysles.
David Lynch Foundation vice-president Bob Roth asked Brand if he wanted to learn TM. “I have all the time in the world,” Brand responded, according to foundation spokesman Ken Chawkin. “He taught him and he loved it and came back a second time.”
Brand went to India, where he was married to Perry last year, to research the film. The comedian is a vegetarian and devotee of Buddhism and Hari Krishna. He also practices yoga.
Oprah also meditated with 500 other women in the “dome” on the Maharishi University campus in Iowa, according to Chawkin. ”Her companies are now instructed as part of their daily routine,” he said. “It’s awesome. She really got it.”
On Dec. 3, Brand will join actress Ellen DeGeneres and Def Jam’s Russell Simmons in Los Angeles for another benefit performance. The foundation will webcast from their website a live global news conference on Dec. 2 on its gift of $1 million to teach veterans to meditate. The celebrity event will be replayed online Sunday, Dec. 4.
Various studies funded by the David Lynch Foundation have shown that those under stress, particularly ethnic and racial minorities, can reduce their stress levels by 36 percent by practicing TM. Students in “quiet programs” that include meditation have also shown higher rates of achievement.
Brand has said that his stress was rooted in his celebrity. “I used to be poor, now I’m not,” he said last year at a conference with young people. “I didn’t used to be famous, now I am. And I thought that both of these significant transitions would bring a certain amount of satisfaction.
“They did a bit, initially as being famous gives you enormous access to– given there are some young people here– partners in physical nocturnal activities.”