Tag Archives: Landmark Education

Landmarked

It’s 9am Monday morning, and I’ve slept in (as much as one can do with a new puppy) for the first time in four days. My head is still buzzing from my weekend at the Landmark Forum, and when I look back at my post from last week, I have to say that it ended up being everything I thought it would be, but if I thought I really had a grasp on the big picture, I was absolutely wrong. The forum needs to be experienced first-hand to actually see that regardless of what its detractors may say, this organization is helping people…guiding people…re-directing people…and ultimately, opening their eyes. It really is about empowering every single person (regardless of the usual demographic classifications we use to separate ourselves from each other) to become complete and whole, to face their fears, and to show them how those fears and obstacles that have often paralyzed them from living/growing/loving/expanding/sharing/hoping are based in the decisions that their 5-year-old selves made long ago.

Now don’t get me wrong – I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I had many moments throughout the weekend where I asked myself “what have I gotten myself into?”, where I questioned if experiencing unpleasantness was necessary in order to learn something, but in actuality, when was being challenged and held accountable for your choices and actions ever comfortable? And our forum leader was strong, matter-of-fact, and hell-bent on getting results for the people who were in attendance. Albeit robotic at times, she was adamant in her mission to have us open our eyes to the areas and aspects of our lives and behaviours that we weren’t aware of – the ones that often are visible to others who then point them out to us, much to our disdain. Her mission was to empower us to create new possibilities in our lives, to step up to the plate in order to touch, move, and inspire others so they could do the same and have it ripple off into the world. The creation of these new possibilities stems from living a life steeped in authenticity, and she was there to encourage us to do so…to open our eyes to the time and energy we waste trying to look good to the world around us when in fact, everyone else is doing the same thing and no one actually sees each other. I greatly admired her ability to not simply shower participants with empathy and affection when they collapsed into tears, opting instead to coach them using tools they could practically apply to examine the real source of their obstacles.

Much of what happens in Landmark comes from its participants, and by the end of the weekend, one feels a definite complicity with these people (spending 39 hours together over 3 days will do that). Participants (whose ages ranged from 15-84) are encouraged to share their personal stories with the group, and the courage that these people have to step up to the front of the room and divulge their personal tales of trauma, fear and loss is jaw-dropping and refreshingly inspiring. It is through this sharing of personal stories that the rest of the group sees their own lives reflected back at them, complete with the stories we have told ourselves which have dictated the choices that direct us to where we find ourselves. Those stories, when we actually stand back and examine them, are all based in the mind of who we were as a child when every new thing that occurred in our lives imprinted itself, and understanding that one concept is massively enlightening to many. Once that is understood, it then becomes clear that to move towards a place where we can create real possibilities in our lives, we have to let go of the patterns and thought processes that have led us to wherever we find ourselves. The results come into being through letting go of all the reasons which have informed our behaviours.

The truisms that Landmark is based on aren’t new to many of us, but to others, seem revelatory…that change is futile and accomplishes nothing, and that personal transformation can only occur through acceptance of what is and why it is. The destructive force that is gossip was addressed, as was the power that language has to change our lives…that the cost of avoiding responsibility is one’s own vitality…that we are in denial as a race of human beings about the fact that we are inauthentic..that our actions are what matters and that opinions and talk are worthless without some sort of doing associated to them. The concepts of success vs. fulfillment (which ironically, I wrote about a few weeks ago), and that other people’s battles are theirs to fight were huge ones for me, but the one that seemed to speak to everyone was that we should see what happens as what happens while letting go our of interpretation of it. A lot of important insight was on offer, and to many in attendance, this was the first time they had ever been encouraged to think about anything other than the usual superficialities of daily life. It was incredible to see these people wake up, and even more satisfying to see myself do the same to many things I had simply agreed to not address in my own behaviours and patterns.

Two things didn’t sit well with me throughout the weekend. One was the incessant , non-stop chatter courtesy of the two translators that flanked the forum leader on either side. One was responsible for translating into French every phrase that came out of the leader’s mouth, and it was like watching a tennis match as sentences came out incrementally in one language, followed by the other. The other translator was present to translate whatever was spoken by participants, often killing the essence of what was being shared by having to interrupt to translate to the room. My personal opinion is that there should be two forums, one for the French-speakers and one for the English, so that the flow of communication could remain unimpeded (which could perhaps turn a 13-hour day sitting in a chair into a 9 or 10 hour day). The other element that almost had me heading for the hills (and had my bullshit meter practically exploding) was the selling/business aspect of the experience. There were several moments throughout the weekend where the forum leader spoke about other seminars and programs offered by Landmark, and as a choice between two seminars was already paid for with the cost of the weekend we were experiencing, registration sheets were handed out to everyone to enroll themselves in. The pressure tactics were subtle, but at no point were we told that registration was optional. We were guided through filling out the form and when I handed mine in blank, I was then approached the following day to discuss which seminar I would register for. I politely declined, but knew that a more vulnerable and less self-assured person would have caved and would have gotten brought further into the organization’s programs. When it came to other programs offered, we were given a choice, but told that we could take a few minutes to sign up after the forum leader described the benefits of the programs, and this was done in full view of everyone else, so the ones who chose not to sign up were exposed to the ones who were full-steam ahead, which I felt put undue pressure on people to sign up for fear of standing out from the crowd. This may have just been how I personally felt about it, but looking around the room, I saw I wasn’t alone. I felt that the business side of it all could have been dealt with through transparency instead of spin. I would have felt more respect for them if we had been told that yes, Landmark is a business, and that their product is worth paying for, but that to maintain the integrity of the business, they wanted to tell us about what was on offer. With that said, giving people the option of signing up with a bit more privacy (during breaks, after the day ended) would have spoken more to me.

To sum up, I found that this past weekend refocused and enlightened me in many ways, all for the better. For many who have already connected to something greater than themselves, what Landmark teaches might sound redundant, but for others, an existence steeped in possibilities lies waiting at the end of their forum. I’m grateful to Lululemon for having given me the opportunity to experience Landmark first-hand, and am the better for it.

Landmark or landmine?

Tomorrow morning I start the Landmark Forum, an internationally recognized organization that brings together those who would like insight into how they live and how the decisions they take dictate where they end up. Landmark is as well-known for having participants in their weekend-long program experience massive breakthroughs as they are for being labelled a cult, a sect and a shameless money-making machine. I was asked by Lululemon if doing the program would interest me, as their employees who know me believed that Landmark’s philosophies correlated well with my own, and I jumped at the chance to experience first-hand what Landmark is all about…but leading up to this weekend, I’ve experienced a multitude of emotions about my participation in the program, and at the suggestion of my friend Frances Vicente, I decided to write everything down here to have as a “before” reference once the weekend is over and I’m looking back at the whole experience.

As you all well know by now, I’m a huge believer in examining how we live our lives, and why we find ourselves where we do in any given moment. Yoga has been key in my own quest, and as one of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras states, Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. “The fluctuations of the mind” refers to how attached to and involved with we allow our minds to be with the fleeting experiences and moments throughout any given day…the process of observing the world around us to the process of discrimination that allows us to interpret, identify and categorize the goings-on that we move through minute-by-minute. Suffice it to say, I am actively seeking out a state of Yoga these days as I get closer to Landmark, and here’s why: it’s true that people have spoken to me about how incredibly illuminating this program is, how it opens one’s eyes to the role we play on an individual level within the relationships in our lives, how we prevent ourselves from living fully and completely. People speak about finally being able to move past the circumstances and events that have previously plagued them, in some case absolutely rendering them emotionally raw and stunted. I’m all for anything that speaks to people in language they can understand and practically apply to bring their lives closer to their ideal realities. However, I’ve also heard that from the get-go, the speakers at Landmark start selling you on the program, encouraging you to bring everyone you know to their doors under the guise, “If you love the people in your lives, why wouldn’t you want them to experience what would bring them to a higher understanding and degree of happiness?” I’m very fortunate that Lululemon is sending me and footing the bill, but I also know that the weekend is expensive and would probably not be financially viable for most of the people in my life.  The forum lasts Friday, Saturday & Sunday (plus Tuesday evening), and participants are in the program from 9am to 10pm all weekend. They are discouraged from bathroom breaks, have only one 60-minute meal break in the evening for dinner (we are told that we have 30-minute breaks every 2.5-3 hours, but I’ve also heard that we’re given homework to do in these breaks), and are generally kept cooped up in a room with roughly 150 other people for the entire duration. So you’ll understand if the fluctuations of my mind are off the charts right now ;-).

With all that said, I believe that the people at Lululemon who thought of me for this program know me well enough to know that a) I will walk away from this weekend with tools that I can believe in and apply to my own teachings, and b) if my bullshit meter starts getting higher-than-ever readings, I will simply remove myself from the situation. I’m looking forward to having my doubts eradicated, to being shown why this program is as successful as it is, and to being empowered to move closer to my own goals with a clearer-than-ever vision of where I’m going and what I’m trying to do in the world.

I’ll be back here next week to share with you all how this weekend went down…I’m taking a bit of a leap with the Landmark Forum, but I know that the greatest rewards are most often found by those who take the greatest leaps of faith. I’ll let you know where I land…