Medication was long thought to be the only recourse from the intense emotional spirals of bipolar disorder. But for the 5.7 million American adults living with the condition, the treatment has many adverse side effects, including a flattening or absence of feeling and emotion. In the words of filmmaker Paul Dalio, who was diagnosed with bipolar at age 24, “Feeling nothing, feeling numb … [is] the only thing worse than pain.”

After years of dealing with manic depression and the anesthetizing effects of its treatment, Dalio found something that made the difference between surviving and thriving: meditation. Under the guidance of an experienced teacher and the supervision of his doctor, Dalio committed himself to regular transcendental meditation (TM) practice, which eventually led to such remarkable improvements his doctor was inspired to research the method and write a book about its potential for healing.

According to Dalio, the practice serves as a way to both calm the mind and heighten sensitivities to allow an individual with bipolar to experience deep feelings in a more stable way. “When you settle your system down in a way that’s natural and healthy you don’t need these heavy medications to filter your system and senses—you’re able to experience so much more of the emotion while at the same time being stable, so they don’t knock you over,” he says.

In this candid conversation with Bob Roth, the executive director of the David Lynch Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving at-risk populations through TM, Dalio beautifully articulates his personal experience, which eventually helped inspire his new movie “Touched with Fire,” starring Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby, in theaters now.

Related: How Yoga and Meditation Help Me Manage Anxiety