25 July 2010

Landmark Education: What I "Got" From the Forum

Last weekend, through the generous contributions of two friends, I attended Landmark Education's Forum in San Jose. Three days plus one night of ...

Friends have urged me toward Landmark for at least 15 years. Initially I resisted because it felt like a cult to me. After awhile, I noticed there was something "special" about everyone I knew who had gone through Landmark and I wanted some of that specialness for myself. I was taking antidepressant medication at the time and had one hospitalization for depression in my past. Landmark policy at that time (late 90s) precluded participation by "people like me."

It is interesting to me that not a soul mentioned Landmark to me during my time in Louisiana or Mississippi. I have some thoughts about that but will save them for some other time.

Soon after arriving in CA this year, the Landmark suggestions started again. Sometimes they were prompted by something I said: "You know you ought to look at Landmark Education, Alex. That kind of thinking is right in line with what Landmark teaches." Sometimes they were prompted by the way I said something: "You'd make a great Landmark Forum leader!" And sometimes they were prompted by something I was struggling with. "Landmark could help you with that..."

So I decided to give it a try. It was the smartest decision of my life. Paying my enrollment fee was the kindest, most generous life-saving gift anyone has ever given me.

As with any system or organization, Landmark has its own jargon: running a racket, meaning-making machine, story, etc. Most of the concepts the jargon treats, however, were not new for me. Concepts like taking responsibility for your sh*t, the impact of personal history and beliefs on our perception of reality and the havoc that results when what we say is out of integrity with what we do.

Applicants to the Landmark Forum are asked to state their objectives for enrollment on the registration form. I was seeking clarification in my process to discern a life work. After decades of struggling to find work, keep work and financially support myself, I was running out of steam and ready for a change. My whole life, lots of other people had regarded me as a powerhouse of talent and potential -- why couldn't I see what they saw and why wasn't all that talent and potential translating into joy and prosperity?

What I "got" from the Landmark Forum (and this is in no way an exhaustive list. It is the nature of the gift of Landmark (essentially a process of awakening to yourself) to reverberate and continue to stimulate new awareness):
  • There's "what I know" and "what I know that I don't know" and then there's the vast universe of "what I don't know that I don't know" which can be thought of as a space of being or potential--and that's where I want to hang out as much as possible.
  • I am a meaning-making machine and in the same way that a toaster or a lawn mower or a washing machine toasts or mows or washes, my machine makes meaning. It's just what it does. There's no problem.
  • My "view" of the world derives from various sources and my thoughts, actions and feelings will always be in keeping with that view. My thoughts, actions and feelings produce "results" in the world. To change undesirable results, I change my thoughts, actions and feelings. To change my thoughts, actions and feelings, I change my "view".
  • All of the above also applies to everybody else. Nobody ever sees exactly what I see because their machine and view are unique; they see what they see. Sometimes there's agreement -- this is remarkable. Sometimes there's disagreement -- this is not a problem. It's just the way it is.

The Forum leader, Jan McHenry, was awe-inspiring. He walked the talk without exception. I liked him, then loved him, then was annoyed by him, resented him...and then loved him again. He stayed true throughout, modeling the freedom that's right here, all the time, available to all of us.

Two of several shimmering moments for me during the Forum:

Jan asked everyone in the room age 25 or younger to stand up. Perhaps a dozen of the approximately 100 people in the room stood up. "These are your parents when you were born," he said. In my head, walls fell down, lights went on, my heart broke open. I "got" it. These people looked like children to me. I'd spent time with some of them during breaks in the programming and gotten a glimpse of what they didn't know about the world.

During the next break, I set about getting in touch with my parents for the first time in decades. In the process I discovered they're both ill and beset with some fairly serious mental health issues that preclude my contacting them by telephone. Doesn't matter. I'm still on task to repair and revitalize my familial connections and I owe this change to Landmark and Jan McHenry.

Second shimmering moment: Jan shared the story of meeting and marrying his wife. The journey to finding her was wild, winding and rocky. I saw myself in that part of his story -- "So I'm not the only one wandering around scarred and incomplete, looking for love..." I thought. I was touched but my resigned conviction that I will not enjoy a committed intimate relationship in my lifetime remained unchanged.

Until he spoke the vows they made at their wedding. "I will never need you. I will never know you. And I will always rock your world." In a micro-second flash, I was thrust forward in time and simultaneously saw those words written across a pristine blue sky in phosphorescent letters and heard my voice and the voice of my beloved intoning them in unison. In two seconds the sensation vanished but I WAS THERE for two seconds. And my conviction disintegrated like dust on the wind.

What I "got" from the Forum is a place to stand in the Universe where the Future stretches wide and unwritten before me; unshaped, unblemished, unlimited and mine.