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By Soledad O'Brien, edited by Jim Luce

New York, N.Y. It all started with a deep desire… to alleviate stress and promote peace in the lives of people everywhere... by giving them the gift of meditation…  For years, David Lynch had heard of students going to school carrying guns; heard of the tens of millions of children taking drugs for learning disorders, anxiety, depression, even high blood pressure.  He read that seventy percent of students with mental health problems were not getting the help they need, and that the third-leading cause of death among teenagers… is suicide.

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Soledad O’Brien Opened the Symposium by video (below). Photo: David Lynch Foundation.

He saw an epidemic of global proportions.  He saw a generation being lost.  What to do?  David was a meditator.  Transcendental Meditation had been the key to everything good in his life. It helped him overcome stress and anger issues in his youth, unlock and continuously replenish an unlimited storehouse of creativity within his incredibly fertile mind, and live a fuller, more purposeful life.

Meditation helped him, for sure, but could it do the same for young people and adults with serious stress, help them handle the heavy stuff—the violence and trauma and abuse experienced daily by millions—if not billions—of people?  He probed and questioned and discovered, yes, it could help, anyone, big time. The research showed it could be a game changer—even a lifesaver.

So David started a nonprofit to raise the money and implement the programs: To start with David wanted to ensure that any child anywhere in the world who wants to meditate can do so.  “With the best teachers—at no cost.”

The first thing David did was to fund out his own pocket Transcendental Meditation programs for a public school in Detroit—and then another public school in Washington, D.C.  Hundreds of kids, as young as 10 years and as old as 18, sitting at their desks, eyes closed, meditating. Meditating?  In a public school?  With so little time in the classroom and with so much pressure on teachers and students to learn?  Really?  How could they even sit still?  Meditating?  It’s hard work, woo-woo, right?  Not this technique.  Not Transcendental Meditation.  It’s simple, easy, enjoyable, nonreligious, non-philosophical… and effective and powerful.  The kids loved it.  They got a moment of quiet.  They relaxed, deeply.  For the first time, maybe, ever.

Scientists were called and outcomes were measured.  They compared meditating students with the non-meditating ones: Meditators got better grades, higher test scores, higher graduation rates, plus fewer suspensions, expulsions, and dropout rates. That last point is key: a kid drops out from school and he or she is a prime candidate for the “prison pipeline.”

Within a few years, the David Lynch Foundation was funding Transcendental Meditation programs all over the U.S., Latin America, Africa, the Middle East. More than 250,000 kids are meditating thanks to David’s foundation… so far… and, of course, counting.

Then the word spread to other at-risk populations and the Foundation was invited to fund meditation programs for veterans back from combat with the nightmare of post-traumatic stress disorder, violent inmates caged in some of America’s toughest prisons.  Then this year, the Foundation began offering T.M. to abused women and girls: women veterans who have been victims of military sexual trauma, teens who have been saved from a life of prostitution, and mothers and daughters who have been tortured and raped in Africa and other war-torn regions.

What’s the common denominator?  Traumatic stress. Forbes magazine called stress the “black plague” of the twenty-first century. Conventional approaches, pharma-therapy and talk therapy, are too costly, impractical, and often entirely ineffective.

It turns out something as simple and natural as Transcendental Meditation works far, far more effectively. In fact it is the opposite of conventional: it is cost effective, easily accessible, and evidence-based.

David thinks very big.  He thinks of the world.  But to get there, he is acting, for him, quite modestly. He has a two-year plan to teach 30,000 at-risk folks that will serve as the platform to teach 300,000 and then millions.  Here is what David is doing:

Students.  The National “Quiet Time” Demonstration Project is in place to teach Transcendental Meditation to 15,000 students grades 7 -12 in New York City and nationwide. Already, 3,000 students are meditating in San Francisco schools, with new projects under way in New York, Newark, and Los Angeles.

Veterans. The National “Resilient Warrior” Demonstration Project is under way to teach 10,000 veterans, active duty personnel, cadets in training and their families to meditate in New York City and nationwide. Already we are working in New York with the Wounded Warrior Project, Jericho Project and the National Women Veterans of America.

Women & Girls. The National “Women’s Initiative” Demonstration Project will teach Transcendental Meditation to 5,000 women and girls suffering from traumatic stress in family justice centers, homeless shelters, schools and women’s prisons in New York City and nationwide. New projects are under way in New York with St. Luke’s Hospital and the Brooklyn VA Center.

The David Lynch Foundation (DLF) raises funds and provides program grants for T.M. projects in schools, military colleges and military bases, veteran service organizations, family justice centers, homeless shelters, prisons, and other organizations addressing at-risk populations suffering from traumatic stress.  The program includes individualized instruction in the Transcendental Meditation technique, followed by a four-month comprehensive program of individual and group instruction taught by certified teachers of the Transcendental Meditation technique.  Outcomes of DLF programs are based on four-month, one-year and two-year evaluations of program participants.

The epidemic of traumatic stress in New York, America and the world is overwhelming.  The demand for our programs is overwhelming.  Now we need your help to close the gap between problem and solution, between need and delivery.

Soledad O’Brien is the anchor of CNN’s “Starting Point.”
The symposium “Women, Violence, and Meditation” was held at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City, March 31, 2012 sponsored by the David Lynch Foundation and Third Fire Films.  Every nine seconds, a woman is assaulted or beaten in the U.S.  One in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime around the world.  Most often, it is a member of her own family.  Over 19,000 women veterans have been victims of military sexual assault during the past year.

Healing and Empowering Women and Girls.  For more information on how you can help secure funds to support outreach to women and girls, please contact the David Lynch Foundation’s Women’s Initiative, 654 Madison Avenue, Suite 805, New York, N.Y. 10065 or by e-mail.

Women, Violence & Transcendental Meditation Series
Dr. Sarina Grosswald: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder More Prevalent Than We Realize (video)
Ms. Joni Steele Kimberlin: Filmmaker: Get Real Wise Women Speak (video)
Dr. Pamela M. Peeke: Empowering Women & Girls with Mind-Body Fitness (video)
Ms. Soledad O’Brien: Opens Women, Violence & Meditation Symposium (video)
Ms. Tara Jones Wise: Transcendental Transition from the Military (video1, video 2)
Plus: African Relief (video)  |  COTN (video)  |  Children on the Night (video)
See Stories by Jim Luce on:

Children   |   Health   |   New York   |   Social Responsibility   |   Women’s Issues

The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation ( is the umbrella organization under which Orphans International Worldwide (OIWW) is organized. If supporting young global leadership is important to you, subscribe to J. Luce Foundation updates here.

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