28 September 2010

Not Like Anything I Knew

Last night I drove to Santa Cruz and attended the first session of a ten-week seminar on "Effectiveness" being offered by Landmark Education.

Earlier today, drinking coffee on the front porch, a feeling slowly invaded me and produced the thought "I think I drank the Kool-Aid."

People who "believe" in Landmark often remark that personal transformation begins from the moment of registration for a Landmark workshop or seminar. I've experienced it myself. I actually felt lighter, like I weighed less, after my first telephone conversation with a Landmark representative who called to acknowledge receipt of my enrollment packet.

That sensation hasn't happened much since then. More often now, I hang up the phone (or, sometimes, leave the in-person encounter) thinking "Huh? That was weird." And, then just forget about it.

When the Kool-Aid feeling started today, I was reflecting on mental notes about last night's meeting. I remembered the broad waves of laughter that frequently washed through the room and the unabashed sales pitches by the seminar leader. At the end of the evening, we broke out into groups of 5 or 6 and designated a leader for each group.

I became the leader for my group and today the way in which that came to be looked spooky to me: the five of us sat down and no one said a word for awhile. Finally L_____ (one of three group members who have attended Santa Cruz Landmark seminars for many years) said, "So is anyone interested in leading?" I said that I was interested and, almost in unison, A___ , L____ and M____ said, "Great! You can be leader." How did they get me to do that? I wondered, sipping coffee 15 hours later.

I finished my coffee and sat down at the piano. Bach, Chopin and Schumann have been my focus for a few months now but I chose Debussy today. I was not in the mood to exercise precision of technique, time and timbre; I wanted to experience an impressionistic swirl of sound and emotion.

It doesn't happen every time I play but today I found a deeper road into the Sarabande movement of the Pour Le Piano suite. I was attempting a strict rendering of the dynamic markings assigned in the Dover publication I work from. When staccato and pedal and volume and phrasing and tempo were all observed and honored, a new articulation emerged. It was like seeing a brand new world.

The fundamental motivation driving my involvement with Landmark is readiness and longing for transformation. Yet it would seem that when I find myself transformed--taking on leadership of a group of strangers, for example-- skepticism or resistance arises.

In the form of NVC*, I looked first for an objective view of last night's events. What did I observe?

  • A room full of people laughing at something I either didn't understand or didn't find funny
  • A man announcing registration discounts through a lavalier microphone
  • Four people sitting silently in a circle of chairs with me
  • Me saying "I'm interested in the idea"
And what feeling did I experience in each instance? What was the need underlying each feeling?
  • lonely from the (unmet) need to belong
  • embarrassed from the (unmet) need to avoid money (maybe this is actually 'fear'?)
  • peaceful and free from the (met) need to belong and to be held in positive regard without effort
  • powerful, realized, inspired from the (met) need for learning, expansion, growth and challenge
I've experienced Breakthrough many times as a musician and performing artist. It doesn't scare me. I have experienced spontaneous peak moments of grace, good fortune and joy in my life and, at the time, referred to them as experiences of Breakthrough. What I "got" last night is that unless my will is applied to the situation, it's not Breakthrough. I can want or need something; I can even be happy and grateful when it serendipitously shows up on my doorstep. Something nice happens -- but I am fundamentally unchanged.

The essential characteristic of Breakthrough is that it shatters the status quo and changes the life it held in bondage. It's not about an alteration in what's happening around me-- although
it's common for people to change the world around them as a result of what springs forth from their Breakthrough. It's about an alteration in how the world looks to me and how I look to myself and what I create.

A friend who teaches ballet at a local college called while I was out last night. Her regular pianist is no longer available for two classes and she has invited me to take those two classes! This is a very old dream come true. I started fantasizing about being a dance class pianist from the time I learned such a thing existed, probably from some 50s movie or TV.

The gig starts immediately. I'll go to the administrative offices tomorrow to complete paperwork and get the lay of the land. Eight o'clock Wednesday morning I'll play the first class.

This won't be the last time in the transformation that's turning my life that I'll be provoked to fear I suspect, as the shackles of the old ways fall away and I get acquainted with Freedom. I will see myself in a new light and wonder "Who is that woman in the mirror?" I'll learn again and again that Transformation = Change ...

*Non-Violent Communication

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