Life & Culture

Mindfulness: David Lynch’s Top Ten Quotes

As the legendary auteur’s new film, The Art Life, hits UK cinemas, we collate ten of the director’s most inspiring quotes

David Lynch may not be the first person who springs to mind when you think of mindfulness – let’s be honest, the new Twin Peaks is hardly the kind of thing you switch on to zone out to. But think about it for a minute and you’ll see that there’s an oddly haunting, almost soothing quality to his work. From the opening titles of Twin Peaks to Eraserhead’s Lady in the Radiator, even Frank being strangely moved by the Candy Coloured Clown in Blue Velvet, everything is wrapped in an almost stoic calm. There’s a gentleness that belies the violence beneath. 

The reason for this Lynch zen tangent is the new documentary which centres on him and his formative years, The Art Life, directed by Jon Nguyen. Premiered at the Venice Film Festival last year and out in UK cinemas today, the film is an intimate look at the early years of David Lynch, beginning with his childhood and culminating in the making of Eraserhead, during which he first discovered Transcendental Meditation – a practice that has shaped everything he has since touched. (Would we have had a red room with out it?) More moving portrait than a traditional film, the documentary explores the birth of Lynch’s creativity, offering a rare insight into one of cinema’s most surreal minds. 

So, in honour of The Art Life, we present the auteur’s top ten quotes on mindfulness (of sorts) to start off your week.

1. “Keep your eye on the doughnut, not on the hole.”

2. “I would love to be in that state [of a waking dream] all day long, but you have to have some quiet. The world is getting louder every year, but to sit and dream is a beautiful thing.”

3. “When you’re down, when you’ve been kicked down in the street and then kicked a few more times until you’re bleeding and your teeth are out, then you only have up to go. You get reborn again, and expectations aren’t so great because they’ve taken you away. It’s beautiful to be down there. It’s so beautiful!”

4. “I always say human beings are like detectives. We like to look for clues everywhere even if the looking takes us into the darkest places. We’re always drawn to the unknown so that we can finally know everything. Sometimes there is fear in the unknown, but we are good detectives and we have to know everything.

5. “Transcendental meditation for me brings more and more happiness. And this happiness comes from within, but then, as a result of the inner happiness growing, the outside seems to be happier also. Thinking of the United States of America and the many absurdities that this country produces could make one sad because so many of these absurdities cause much suffering. If these absurdities didn’t cause so much suffering, they could really be seen as being funny. And politicians would be known as some of the greatest comedians.”

6. “Expression, for me, comes out of joy.”

7. “Ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper. Down deep, the fish are more powerful and more pure. They’re huge and abstract. And they’re very beautiful.”

8. “It’s maybe impossible to escape [your own head], but I guess the secret is the prison cell just gets bigger and bigger and bigger and prettier and prettier and prettier.”

9. “Being in darkness and confusion is interesting to me. But behind it you can rise out of that and see things the way the really are. That there is some sort of truth to the whole thing, if you could just get to that point where you could see it, and live it, and feel it … I think it is a long, long, way off. In the meantime there’s suffering and darkness and confusion and absurdities, and it’s people kind of going in circles. It’s fantastic. It’s like a strange carnival: it’s a lot of fun, but it’s a lot of pain.”

10. “Don’t fight the darkness. Don’t even worry about the darkness. Turn on the light and the darkness goes. Turn up that light of pure consciousness: Negativity goes.”

Head here for more Quotes of Note.