When the Beatles embraced Transcendental Meditation in the late ‘60s, they did so under the tutelage of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the guru who developed the technique. The Maharishi died in 2008, and these days when you hear about a rock star who practices TM, there’s a good chance they’ve studied with the David Lynch Foundation For Consciousness-Based Education And World Peace. Last night some of the organization’s famous friends — including Katy Perry, Sting, and Jerry Seinfeld — appeared at NYC’s Carnegie Hall to raise money for its mission to achieve world peace through meditation.
David Lynch Foundation has deep ties to the creative community and in its 10th year has leaned on some big names in music to fund mantra meditation lessons for veterans with PTSD, underserved youth, the homeless, and victims of domestic violence. In early April, Duran Duran, Wayne Coyne, and Karen O performed at a high-profile DLF benefit in LA. A week later Nick Cave, Courtney Love, and Lucinda Williams played another. The Citi-sponsored Change Begins Within event at Carnegie was part of DLF’s Meditate New York initiative to provide TM instruction for free to 10,000 at-risk New Yorkers. Mindful meditation is said to alleviate stress and lower blood pressure.
The Foundation’s namesake did not attend the two-hour concert, but in a video message recorded on a dusty road in Washington (where he is filming Showtime’s 2017 Twin Peaks reboot) the director said, “Every human being has a treasury within, and Transcendental Meditation gets you there easily and effortlessly. And it changes life for the good.” Language like that might help you understand why TM is often accused of being a cult or at least a religion. Early in the night Angélique Kidjo explicitly addressed such criticism by promising it was neither.
Perry explained in a clip that screened before her headline set that she started “TMing” about five years ago with DLF Executive Director Bob Roth. She joked that she doesn’t always meditate the recommended two times a day because she’s so prolific on social media (it was her second social media use joke of the night) and may need a refresher course. But the pop star did explain how it changed her life and made her feel “like the neuron pathways in my brain [were opening] up.” Clutching a pink microphone that matched her gown, she sang five of her massive hits that had been reworked by the house orchestra. “Roar” first, then “Teenage Dream” and “Wide Awake.” “Dark Horse” featured a killer violin solo from Margot (of the Dolls) in lieu of Juicy J. “Firework” saw four ballerinas come out onstage and dance around her.
Sting, who I’m guessing has studied TM since birth, delivered a particularly satisfying performance by focusing on some less obvious singles from his solo catalog. This should have been a relief to NYC Sting fans who could only see him doing Geordie show tunes or lute covers in recent years. He played “Englishman In New York” and “Fragile” from 1987’s …Nothing Like The Sun and “Shape Of My Heart” and “Fields Of Gold” from 1993’s Ten Summoner’s Tales. The classical guitarist Sharon Isbin, who plucked a jaw-dropping “Asturias” earlier in the evening, accompanied him on “Shape Of My Heart.” She’s been meditating since she was 17.
A dapper Jim James (who appeared at the aforementioned LA benefit in the spring) played only one song, “State Of The Art (A.E.I.O.U.),” but it was a unique version with strings arranged by the night’s music director Rob Mathes. The My Morning Jacket frontman was introduced as a six-year devotee of meditation.
In addition to Afrobeat powerhouse Kidjo, who taught the room’s well-heeled donors how to sing backup for her on “Afirika,” the night had enthusiastic testimonials from Seinfeld (in person, with phone battery jokes) and Howard Stern (on video, in conversation with Seinfeld). Both comedians have been practicing TM since they were teenagers.
At one point, George Stephanopoulos led the audience in three minutes of silence. Good Morning America’s unforgiving schedule means the anchor has to do his morning meditation at 2:30AM. So Katy Perry really has no excuse.
Check out our photos from the night by Ryan Muir in the gallery up top.