Landmark forum – cult, scam, or path to enlightenment?

by Jack on February 2011

Just over a year ago, I heard about a three-day weekend program called Landmark Forum, an educational experience presented by a “Forum Leader” to large groups of people (50-200) who sought to improve their life situations by going through this experience. Delivered by a company known as Landmark Education, the Forum is their flagship course and is presented to over 100 000 people worldwide every year.

Over the past year, I encountered many different opinions, both online and in person. These opinions ranged from extremely positive (“The most important three days of my life, bar none.”) to extremely negative (“They are a cult – all they want is your money, and they’ll never stop calling you once you’re on their list.”).

I figured that anything that elicited such polarized reactions from people had to have something interesting and potentially exciting at its core. I decided to keep learning more, and perhaps even to consider experiencing the Forum for myself.

I finally decided to try out the Forum for myself after two different conversations with a couple of intelligent and well-balanced friends. I respected – and respect – these men. They are both strong individuals who have experienced both triumph and tragedy in their lives. They described their own Forum experiences in simple language, and explained to me what the process was all about. And so, with some trepidation, I signed up. This is the review of my Landmark Forum experience.

The Experience

Landmark is extremely well-organized. A few weeks before the Forum, I got a postcard asking me to confirm my registration by phone. I called and a friendly man at the other end of the line indicated that my registration was confirmed. Having paid the full amount by credit card, I wasn’t sure why this step was necessary. (Apparently, I later learned, some people put down a deposit or pay in full, and then chicken out and decide not to show up.)

When you arrive, smiling volunteers give you a name tag and direct you to the conference room where the Forum takes place. The conference room is clean and organized with military precision. Chairs are ordered in neat, equally spaced rows and spaces between chairs are measured via the width of a Kleenex box. Everything is intentional, and nothing distracts participants from the business at hand. The focal point of the room is a low stage riser with chalkboards, a table, and a tall chair for the Forum leader. Microphones flank the stage, where the participants go to share their stories and receive live coaching from the Forum leader.

The rules are equally precise: the Forum starts at exactly 9:00 AM; no food or drinks are allowed in the Forum room, aside from water; time out consists of two 30 minute pauses for toilet, snacks and phone calls, and one 90 minute dinner period; note taking is discouraged during Forum time, not because of confidentiality of the course material, but because participants are encouraged to give full attention to the Forum leader and the participant “sharing” his or her story at the front of the room.

Online rumors that I had read about “not being allowed to go to the bathroom” were totally unfounded. The Forum leader explained that he couldn’t guarantee any results (“getting it”, in Forum lingo) to a participant if he wasn’t there for the full experience. That being said, anyone was permitted, though not encouraged, to walk out of the room at any time for whatever reason (e.g. cigarette, phone, bathroom, emotional overwhelm).

The process is described as experiential learning, as distinguished from informational learning. Informational learning is primarily based on moving things from the category “we know that we don’t know” into the category “we know that we know”. Examples include acquiring a new language or learning calculus – we can figure out in an instant whether we don’t know Hindi or calculus, and determine how to get from A to B.

On the other hand, the Forum is described as a means for getting access to the category “we don’t know that we don’t know” – those blind spots in interpersonal relations, habits, or behaviors that keep tripping us up because we don’t even know that they are there.

The Forum cycles between a few main activities. The leader presents concepts in a high-energy, theatrical fashion, sometimes acting out scenes of interpersonal conflict, parental mistreatment, and other human drama, and sometimes scribbling and sketching on the chalkboards to illustrate a concept or principle being taught. After a topic is presented, the leader often asks the participants to share in conversation with the person next to them what they’ve learned, and how it might apply in their own life.

The most intense parts of the Forum occur when people go to the front of the room to “share” with the whole group, and receive coaching from the leader. The intention of this is to help the participant observe blind spots and contradictions in their own thoughts and actions – primarily in their interpersonal relationships, thought other areas can also be examined. In turn, this is intended to help them to achieve a “breakthrough” that will interrupt their habitual reactions, help them imagine other options, and empower them with greater flexibility to choose their behavior in the future.

The “sharing / coaching” segments of the Forum often wind up with participant in tears, and / or the leader shouting at the participant. Well, not at the participant, exactly, but at the mental cage of bullshit and lies in which they are trapped. (“I’m not shouting at you, I’m shouting at your stuff. I’m on your side. Do you want to let this go or do you want to let the past run your life?”)

It becomes clear at these points why we signed a waiver stating that we are emotionally healthy – these confrontations can be intense and are likely to unpack difficult memories for both the person standing at the microphone, and those sitting in the audience. My own life coaches never got in my face this way, or this aggressively, that’s for sure.

By observing the process of a person confronting a difficult situation in his life, in real time, and then beginning (and sometimes even completing) the process of forgiving others and forgiving himself, the members of the audience find themselves able to imagine themselves going through that same process. And it’s a good thing, too, because now it’s time for the phone calls!

In the Forum, all of us participants are encouraged to do our own work of “completing the past”, by calling those people with whom we have conflicts and apologizing for our own contribution to that conflict. To my mind, this has a two-fold purpose. First, it allows the participant to get a lot more value from his participation in the forum, by taking tangible action instead of just thinking about it. Second, it is a brilliant viral marketing strategy that gets participants to communicate to loved ones (or former loved ones), in their own language, how the Forum is helping them interrupt some of their destructive behavior patterns of the past.

I know that if I received a tearful and apologetic phone call from a person with whom I had a conflict, I’d be curious about how they arrived at the decision to take that action. (“Well, I appreciate your apology. You say you’re at some sort of ‘forum’ this weekend, huh? What’s that all about?”) In the Tuesday follow-up session after the weekend, graduates are encouraged to bring friends and family and persuade them to sign up for the course. Since Landmark doesn’t advertise, word of mouth is the main way that people hear of them.

After a 13 hour day of emotional roller-coaster rides, it’s time for some homework. We’re encouraged to draft letters to other people in our lives, taking responsibility for areas in which we have been inauthentic or untruthful. We’re urged to examine our “rackets” – the situations where we execute habitual, disempowering behavior patterns by complaining that something or someone should be different from how it actually is. And in place of all this bad stuff, we’re asked to draft new ways of behaving and being through the phrase “the possibility I am creating for myself and my life is the possibility of being…”.

The Basics

The specific knowledge I acquired was relatively simple and straightforward. It didn’t seem to be the main point of the experience. Landmark itself makes the syllabus available on their web site so there’s no big mystery about the specific learnings that one will acquire at the Forum.

Some of the key messages that I received are:

  • We are all concerned with looking good to others and fitting in with others. The reality is that most people are too afraid of other people – i.e. of being judged and criticized – to do any judging themselves. And if they do judge us, so what? Everyone winds up in the same place eventually – dead.
  • We are all inauthentic assholes who lie and cheat our way through life, take the easy way out, and blame other people for our own problems.
  • There’s no meaning intrinsic to events that happened in our lives. Humans act like “meaning making machines” and construct the meaning of everything in our lives. (Yes, everything.)
  • There’s “what happened” and there’s “my story about what happened”. Assuming these two things to be the same is the source of much pain and conflict.
  • If we don’t “complete” the past, we bring the injuries and complaints of the past – i.e. the meanings that we have created – into the present and the future. In that case, we are literally “living into a future” that is polluted with the complaints and baggage of the past.
  • Completing the past consists of: forgiving ourselves for what happened (even if it wasn’t our fault), and forgiving others whom we have been blaming and “making wrong” for their roles in past events; and consciously choosing to let go of stories and meanings that we have previously attributed to those events.
  • Our use of language constructs our experience of reality. When we use change-based language, we take what’s pre-existing (and, presumably, “wrong”) and attempt to change it. When we use possibility-based / transformation-based language, and complete the past, we create a new future into which we can live with excitement, optimism, and passion.

The Forum in popular culture

My experience was also filtered through my past experience of movies and books that were known to have been influenced or inspired by the Forum.

It’s well known, for example, that Chuck Palahniuk attended a Forum before writing Fight Club, the novel that was turned into the greatest and most inspirational movie ever. This inspiration is clear in a lot of the language that I encountered in the Forum – “thank you for sharing yourself with us”, “let’s acknowledge so-and-so”, and so on. Many of these phrases – word for word – turned up repeatedly in the support groups attended by the main character of that movie.

Within the movie, the structure of the fight club itself also owes a debt to the Forum. The rules-based, tough-love framework, guided and led by a theatrical and charismatic leader, is reminiscent of the Forum experience. Of course, in contrast to Rules 1 and 2 – “do not talk about Fight Club” – we were strongly encouraged to talk about the Forum to anyone and everyone who would listen (as well as those who wouldn’t).

In contrast to the maudlin, sappy support groups, the aggressive and confrontational nature of the underground fight club helps the men who participate in it connect to something exciting, inspiring, primal, and truly empowering. In a very similar way, the bracing (metaphorical) slap in the face of the Forum converts “poor me” stories of self-pity and victimhood, into strength of will and determination to live into an unknown future of bold power and possibility.

The uncomfortable and “unreasonable” homework assignments are another common theme between the Forum and the movie. They take what would otherwise be an inspiring but artificial exercise (whether it be a conversation in a conference room, or a bare-knuckle boxing match in a dive bar’s basement), and redirect that newly liberated energy into transforming participants lives and the environments around them.

The movie Revolver is another one that kept coming to mind during my Forum experience. Less well known than Fight Club, Revolver is about a gangster recently released from prison who finds himself in the middle of an intricate con game run by two mysterious strangers.

At one point, during a high-tension moment in a sharing session in my Forum, the leader shouted at the participant:

You don’t see that I’m on your side. I’m not shouting at you because I want to kill you. I’m trying to kill it.

(“it” being the disempowering story that the participant was telling that kept her trapped, more or less).

Upon hearing these words, I recalled a line from Revolver:

The greatest con that he ever pulled, was making you believe that he is you.

At this, I felt something in my mind strain and then give way, with a little click. Tears followed. In the movie, “he” is the ego, the story that you make up and then tell in order to make things make sense, make yourself right and others wrong, and make yourself look good.

Another line from Revolver is relevant:

One thing I’ve learned in the last seven years: in every game and con there’s always an opponent, and there’s always a victim. The trick is to know when you’re the latter, so you can become the former.

In our lives, we’re all the victim of a con (in Forum-speak, a “racket”), that is set up and run by our ego. Until we realize this, we’re at his mercy, but once we do, we can turn the tables on the opponent and liberate ourselves. We recognize that we only have an ego – our egos are not us.

Most people, however, don’t realize this, since they are knee deep in the games of creating conflict, impressing others, and being right. And of course, in the words of Caesar (echoed by the movie):

The greatest enemy will hide in the last place you would ever look.

You can probably guess where that is.

Reflections and conclusions

The experience itself was epic and fun, even as it was emotionally draining. Jerry Baden, the leader of the Forum I attended, was an exuberant and entertaining guy. He had a faint physical resemblance to the actor Gilbert Gottfried, but with a much nicer voice (something for which I was very grateful, given that he was speaking to us the whole time). His performance was rich with humor and personal anecdotes. As he put it:

You’ll go back to your families on Sunday night and they’ll ask you what happened, and you’ll say “I spent the whole weekend getting yelled at by some Jew with no eyes and all teeth”.

Jerry’s energy level was immense – being the hub of the forum experience for well over 100 people, he was always either listening, speaking, writing on the chalkboards, or running around the stage (and once in a while, around the entire conference room). For 13 hours a day. At age 60.

It wasn’t just entertaining, of course. This kind of stuff has a Very Important Purpose, dammit. And I did acquire and practice a number of useful thought patterns such as:

  • Asking myself if I was blaming other people or situations (“making them wrong”) rather than taking responsibility for my own thoughts and feelings.
  • Being more playful and irreverent about things (as though I needed help with that!), and taking all situations in life far less seriously.
  • Knowing that any hesitation and anxiety in social or interpersonal situations is pointless – life is short, after all – and reminding myself that others are at least as scared of me as I am of them. Probably even more so, since I’m so powerful and intimidating. ;)
  • Feeling more courageous about setting audacious and exciting life goals, and bringing others on board to help me achieve them.

Because of the experiential learning model, instead of writing these things down in a notebook, I managed to install and experience them as the seeds of new habits. With ongoing practice, they are likely to strengthen and take hold over time, but I definitely feel as though being able to experience these states directly during the learning process was worthwhile. A lot of this stuff, I already agreed with or “knew”, but the Forum experience helped me solidify it in a more visceral way.

So what does this all mean? Should you do the Forum yourself? Well, of course, I can’t answer that question for anyone else.

Think about it this way, though. As with so many experiences, a person’s expectations will guide what results he receives. (Put another way, in the words of Robert A. Wilson, “what the thinker thinks, the prover proves”.) If a person expects to encounter a bunch of scam artists and salesmen looking for his money, that’s what he will see. If a person expects to encounter some unusual and interesting experiences that can help with goals, communication, and interpersonal relationships, that’s what he will get.

Speaking for myself, I went in cautiously optimistic, and I found it valuable, entertaining, and worth my $485. And I expect to put the experiences and learnings into practice in my life in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

And you? If you choose to go to the Forum, you’ll receive whatever meaning you create out of it.

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{ 1478 comments… read them below or add one }

Victor Gagnon April 11, 2016 at 20:48

Sven you make for such interesting conversation, you are such a crazy character, who has been stepping on your buttons your whole life,because you know how to push the buttons to get REACTION. Bravo!
So very interesting. The question I have for many of you in your replies is why are you so concerned with the likes of a guy like “Sven” Is it because you all want to be right? Dig deep. You see Sven needs to be right because if he is not right than he does not exist, so that applies to you guys also. He will not understand this but maybe many of you will. Most of you seem to have forgotten to give being right even if you right. Its a real tough one.
Do you all remember the part in the Forum about “what you resist persist” How many of you remember that. If you ignore Sven then Sven goes away even if he blogs a reply. Contemplate this. He goes away for those who do not resist. Sven is a very good example for all of us because he is constant in his quest to hate, Landmark, at least with the comments I have read, in my opinion but maybe he just HATES or loves to push our buttons. That would be ok. He will have something to say about my comment because he needs to be right.
What are the things that you all hate, we all hate a little of something and can’t let go of it. The good example might be Jamie’s share. She let go of the things that she resisted for a time, how brave is that because she understood that if she continued to resist her past that it would ruin her life but most of us want to be right so we hang on and to the hang on to that part is the blind spot. It distress our live and we blame others. So you have a great share by Jamie and so many do not seem to get the message. Consider that to be annoyed at Sven, with his comments, is to be part of that world we now dislike. We are mirrors for each other to learn about ourselves. Please have a good look at Sven, not the person because we don’t know who he is, because you may want to consider that your comments are not about Sven they are all about each of you not about Sven. Just like Sven’s comments are all about him, nothing to do with Landmark. I guess the another way to put it is that you do not see the Sven in you and according to his comments the is pretty scary. We all have the Sven in us but we refuse to look at it.
Landmark is not about just an aha moment to then just move on to our present life. The work is done! The aha moment is for us to look at ourselves and to see how we can change if we desire and have the courage to do so. The Forum is just the first step in the Millions of steps to go forward. We have been going backwards since the day we where born. So how many steps will it take to go forward and create the most amazing life we cannot yet conceive. Its never ending.Choose chocolate or vanilla. So when Landmark hounds the pants out of you then you may want to consider that they understand what it takes to change and that you will not do it on your own and its not just one, or two or even three courses. Its a life change.
The reason I stay here and comment on this blog, if any of you are interested, its because I live my change I just don’t talk about it, ok yes I do talk about. Am I bragging, bloody rights I am because its f—-g hard work and one has to be committed. You may want to consider that is what it takes to be transformed forever not just for a few courses. So the question for those who took Landmark, “How bad do you want this amazing life that you cannot yet see and won’t see it until you do the work?
If guys like Sven want to trash Landmark then let them trash Landmark. For me he is just fun to play with and sometimes just my annoying child.
Just another man’s opinion
Thank you

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JamieLynn April 12, 2016 at 13:29

Thank you Victor, I share for others to get something and I am honored that you enjoyed it. To add, being right was the most difficult thing to give up for me and at times still is. Yet to keep myself in check I one, get coaching if I can’t get it complete by myself, and two remember to always think of what I can take out of the space that will allow others to be gotten.

Seven, I get you. Being right is impotent yet when we do this there is a cost in our lives. When I am “right” about my mom with my sister for example, I am not being with my sister and what she needs to say or what she is dealing with. If I take out being right about my mom in that same conversation, my sister then experiences a conversation where she is herd and loved. That is something I now have the ability to give to others thanks for the training that I demanded.

Thank you all for your thoughts, opinions and shearing. And as Victor said I will agree that becoming the person I am today took strength, determination, being bold, and being a demand while being confronted and resistant and willing to end the suffering I was causing myself. It is not for everyone. It is for those who are up to something in their lives, who are willing to see who they authentically are and deal with what is there.

To the one who felt pressured and saw Landmark as pushy, I would like to say to you, I personally and deeply apologize for the service you received. Landmark promises extraordinary customer service and I get that was not your experience. Thank you for taking part in the program and voicing how your experience was for you here in this blog. I also get your dedication to yourself, thank you for your share and your self dedication. The strength you have shown is needed in these times.
-JamieLynn

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Gnut Hanson April 11, 2016 at 21:21

I suggest we leave Sven alone. He has serious anger issues and is potentially violent. Nothing we say will make a difference to him. He lives to argue and to the extent that we engage with him, we give him something to push back against.

I’m guilty of participating in this discourse with Sven and I hereby choose to opt-out of further interaction.

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Luda April 11, 2016 at 22:42

Sven is a good man having a bad day. He has kids and takes good care of them. He is intelligent and well written. He is a proud citizen of the usa and probably served a few years in the army.

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John April 13, 2016 at 14:11

Hi. Can one of the people who has done the forum please explain to me the idea of ‘being right’ that I’ve heard a lot about. As an outsider it seems that whenever a person disagrees with something that is said then the person who understands the concept attributes the disagreement to the other person wanting to be right. This appears to be a sly way to stop people from questioning? There also seems to be a devaluing of critical thinking in some of these trainings (telling people that they’re thinking too much). Again, this seems like a good way to stop people from questioning and to go along with the process. Am I misunderstanding this?

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Kelly April 13, 2016 at 14:42

One of the conversations in Landmark is about how being right or wrong, proving people right or wrong, viewing things right or wrong seems to be the way the world is and that it is necessary to existing in the world but what we do when we are constantly rating things as right or wrong sacrifices one’s inherent peace as a human being. It’s not to say that someone cannot debate, judge or assess something as right or wrong but knowing that there is no inherent right and wrong and that “right and wrong” come from our own individual choice to judge something or someone as right or wrong. The Forum introduces this but because it’s a conversation with a group of people and people on the group understand this type of conversation differently based on culture, life experience, etc, that is why the Forum impacts people positively because it is done together. Answer your question?

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JamieLynn April 13, 2016 at 15:58

To Add:
The right and wrong views in the world are made up at some point. It was once right to think the world was flat. This only proves that our societal view of right and wrong always changes.

Yes, we do use these words as a way to judge, it can at times guide us, yet when the view of right and wrong is dis-empowering or takes away power, then it becomes a “problem” in the seance that the power is now gone.

Also to take it once step further we are talking about now, another distinction from the second course “Agreement Reality” If you agree with me that the grass is orange and he agrees with us, then we have created an Agreement Reality. This does not mean the grass then becomes orange, it only means that we have agreed that it is orange.

We can apply this to right and wrong as well. If I say jumping rope is bad the a parking lot and you all agree, then I must be right, then some one does it and we make them wrong.

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Anita April 13, 2016 at 19:00

Your comment hit home with me. I almost unsubscribed but I waited; and you talked about Agreement Reality. I have been on this right/wrong spin for a few weeks and I just got it was all an Agreement Reality”. Now I get why everyone was so un-partnering. Thank you! I wish there was a place to review the notes the coach had while teaching us.

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JamieLynn April 18, 2016 at 13:58

Anita -
I am well trained in coaching Graduates and would be happy to do the same for you if you are interested, Please come find me on Facebook, my profile pic is me (the blond in a tan hat) with my grandma (brown hair). Please remind me where we meet and I will accept your friend request.
And your welcome, the greatest gift would be to apply this in other aspects of your life.

JamieLynn April 13, 2016 at 15:51

“being right”
is something that can get in the way. It is best explained in an example of your own life so I will do my best here.

When a person is wanting to be right, it blocks their ability to listen to another. There for no matter what is said, it cannot be truly herd. When a person gives up being right, they clear a space for they person they are talking to, to be herd.

Also if I am right then you are …. wrong. All the person wants who is being right is to have the other be wrong, there for it is as a win lose concept.

When you take out being right and then also take out being wrong from the conversation. All that is left is opinions. Which everyone has and we don’t have to make it mean anything other that what it is, an opinion.

It is a bit abstract with out having a conversation to work from, if you have any further questions I would be happy to assist. By they way that is a fantastic question.

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John April 18, 2016 at 14:39

I understand that dogmatically sticking to an emotional position or belief can cause problems between people, but some things need to be worked through. I understand that Landmark is quite assertive about its concepts of integrity and personal responsibility… it takes a stand on these issues and will try to get participants to buy into them. Without doing that it could not cause what it perceives to be a pisitive change. If you meet someone who believes that HIV can’t be transmitted through unprotected sex this is a potentially dangerous viewpoint and I would argue that there is a responsibility to challenge the person on this belief. This could be positioned as “making someone else wrong” but that seems cynical. It’s also true that science has got things wrong in the past, but the common extrapolation – “there is no truth and we don’t really know anything” – is also misleading. There are some issues which are highly subjective and others for which considerable evidence exists. The anti-scientific and anti-intellectual sentiment is concerning to me. As soon as someone tells me that we don’t really know anything and that all opinions are equal I always brace myself for an unsubstantiated piece of propoganda. Since I haven’t taken the Landmark Forum I don’t know if leaders discourage questions, or whether they invite participants to challenge their statements but if it’s the former I would be nervous.

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Gina April 30, 2016 at 01:19

For me being right all the time, is not being open for the listening of others!! “Is my way or the highway” Is about not allowing others to contribute in ways I might not be open to see or hear or willing to be contribute and maybe I might not see clearly … Being Open for others listening is like using someones tools that might be better than mine, and others might see or say something that I do not see, someone else can contribute with ideas. I have discover that by allowing others to contribute to me it just might be easier to see more clearly and listen in other way or see things in a different space. Is about giving up being right all the time. even if I am wrong!! Now I listen and I still make my own decisions and choices . I have learn to allow others to contribute to me and have learn I am not alone.. It is my choice in the end ..I have not been in Landmark for about 4 years, But what I have gotten out of Landmark Never goes away, My life has quality and know that I have more to discover while I am alive. It is a great feeling.. To know there is more to discover in Life and for my Life.. I Declare about 15 years ago Landmark was going to be for me for the rest of my Life.. It is the University for my Life. I get to acquire new tools every time I go back. And choose when I go back.

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John April 18, 2016 at 15:29

I’m also very keen to read positive accounts of the Landmark Forum (magazines/blogs etc). There seem to be a number of articles written by people who are neutral or critical of the forum… please could someone point me towards positive accounts. Thank you.

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Anita April 18, 2016 at 15:35

You might go directly to the Landmark website to read the testimonials posted.

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John April 18, 2016 at 15:39

Thanks. I have read those but they don’t offer much detail. The journalist accounts describe what happens and their response to these processes. The testimonies are very vague and don’t discuss responses to actual events.

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LF Fan April 18, 2016 at 15:54

John – here are a few articles:

http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/culture/features/4932/
http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2003/dec/14/ameliahill.theobserver
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/diana-odasso/my-landmark-experience_b_105502.html
http://www.gq.com/story/landmark-forum-get-confident-stupid-gq-may-2005

BTW, great that you are interested in LE. But – if I may say so – it sounds a bit like you’re looking for some sort of intellectual answer or explanation for why it’s OK to go. This sort of enquiry isn’t going to get you the answer you want. Why not call them to talk it over, go to a guest event, or simply sign up? You can read all you want but ultimately it’s going to be about making a leap of faith and trusting what’s in your heart or intuition or whatever.

BTW, it’s a good thing to shut up the ego or critical mind for a while now and again. Have you ever tried meditating? This is where the breakthroughs come from.

It is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.

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John April 19, 2016 at 01:07

Thanks. I have read many of those. I agree that there are times when critical thinking is not useful – meditation and relaxation do require this – but I would say that when a for-profit business is trying to get you to buy into their philosophy, to recruit friends and family and get you to take more courses yourself, this is maybe not the best time to turn off those critical thinking skills. I can certainly see how this would be useful from the LM side but not from the consumer’s side. If I was trying to convince someone of something for which there was little evidence it would be to my advantage if I could simply convince them that evidence is not important. Convincing someone that faith (belief without evidence) is a virtue seems like a useful way to get people to believe things based on an emotional rather than rational appeal? I may be wrong.

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Paul April 19, 2016 at 01:43

It had been said that if you experience it
it is the truth. the same thing believed, is a lie.

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John April 19, 2016 at 02:07

Hi Paul. Many things have been said that may sound appealing/valid but which, after a little thinking, can be shown to be invalid or valid in limited circumstances. One recently making the rounds on social media is “You only regret the chances you never take”. Emotionally it’s appealing but tell that ti the person who gambled away his kid’s college fund, or who tried to cross a busy highway and is no longer able to walk. Ask Freddie Mercury if he’s 100% on board with that sentiment. It’s also been said that a casual walk through a mental ward demonstrates that faith doesn’t prove anything. Evidence, and the scientific method, exist precisely because human beings (all if us) have cognitive flaws – we are vulnerable to cognitive distortions, we make incorrect emotional decisions, we associate events that do not have causal links and we are very bad at evaluating information informally when there are unknown factors at play. Trusting your gut may be useful for response to a physical threat, but it isn’t necessarily the best way to make decisions about a particular philosophy?

Paul April 19, 2016 at 02:42

You and I take a walk around the block together:
One of us says, “hunh, a beautiful block” and we note the beauty, admire the trees and flowers.
We go around once more and one of us says, “watch out, it’s hazardous, too.” We pay especial attention to cracks in the sidewalk, potholes in the street.
On our last circuit one of us notes, “Wow, if you look carefully we’ll see the art Deco architecture lying beneath the surface. This block was something in the twenties…”
So, You and I gave gone around the very same block three times, experiencing that block in three distinct ways, cued solely by what we said out loud. (has the block changed?)
The block did not alter, our occurring reality, in language, altered our perception, our experience.
This points to the maleability of subjective reality as a function of language.
Now taking a leaf from a Landmartian POV
If your life was the block, you might inquire, “what have you been saying to yourself over the past X years that gives you your perception, your experience of the now? And further, once having distinguished that dialog, what would you say now that would inevitably provide you a new more enjoyable subjective reality? More power, freedom, full self expression, and peace of mind? In any area of life?
Love, finance, career, any area of life you choose.
That has been my experience of growth and development within the Landmark set of conversations.
I’ve been married, ordained, musically recorded, published a book, become a Hospice Chaplain, a domestic violence counselor, invented at least three innovative businesses. I am secure that my adult children have the tools to master their own realities, and so much more.
That’s the neighborhood I tool around in.
What neighborhood of life would you desire to inhabit? It’s up to you.

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John April 19, 2016 at 03:16

Thanks Paul. I truly am glad you gained from your experience and I have a fairly good grasp of social constructionism (and its flaws). Providing the example of subjective experience (how one might experience walking around a block) does not mean that everything about that walk is subjective. The number of apartments in a building, or the number of floors in a building, or the colour of paint used is far less subjective. There’s a limit to subjective interpretation and communication relies on at least some consensus about the description of “reality”. If you asked someone if they wanted a surprise, and they said yes, and then you punched them in the face this would be disingenuous. You could argue that, to you, a punch in the face is a surprise and that, just because this person considers it assault, doesn’t make him right. “There is no truth… only interpretations”. So while I agree that subjectivity plays a big role in life and learning to interpret life in a way that is positive is immensely valuable (which, by the way, is exactly what Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy… from the 50s… teaches) I think it’s dangerous to make the leap from “look at this example of how things can be subjective” to “everything is subjective and the only way to truly know something is through experience”. I’ve never been to the North Pole but I know that it’s cold there. I never fought a young Mike Tyson but I’m pretty sure it would have hurt. To teach that the only valid way of knowing is through experience seems limiting and the problems with learning through experience only (associative learning) are well-documented. Please understand that I agree with elements of the LM philosophy and it seems to have a great impact on many people. I do, however, have concerns, based on what I’ve heard from graduates, that certain concepts are taken too far.

JamieLynn April 19, 2016 at 09:26

It is not trutly a matter of convincing, either you see value in the program for your self or you don’t. And your not wrong, many people try to convince others and it does not always work. The impact of convincing someone is they could be left with disapointment or frustration. So there for convincing is in the way. The idea is to clear the space and create choice. As far as you have been soeaking it seems you have already chosen not to seek out what Landmark world wide coukd offer and there is nothing wrong with that eather. Just stand in the no, and those around you will stop asking. If you explain why you are a no it leaves the space for them to “convince” you other wise. Simply say no or no thank you, i get your commitment and i am not interested.

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Kelly April 18, 2016 at 16:08

You can join the Landmark group on Facebook. This is one post as of today. https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10153598590956235&id=79075676234

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JamieLynn April 18, 2016 at 22:12

Generaly these are created after a course is completed so if the person running it does not know you from the course they may not let you in. Then simply make a request and let them know you are also a graduate. See what happends.

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JamieLynn April 18, 2016 at 22:08

John-
The best websit to go to is landmarkworldwide.com
The best way to know for sure if this is something for you is to attend a landmark event, home introductions, special evenings or a Tuesday night session.
The web site will have a phone number of a Center and you can ask them if there are any home introductions near you.
Take care

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Kelly April 19, 2016 at 04:43

John… All talk about the Forum or any other experience is just talk. You are no different than say any one of the 1,000′s of people that have participated in the Forum in Massachusetts: heady, intellectual, hard headed. That does not stop them from “getting it”. The Forum is not introducing new ideas or a unique philosophy for folks to believe in. The Forum creatively introduces ideas and POV’s that have existed for millennia but most of us have not had an impactful exposure to those ideas. For example, the idea of what we know: there are things we know and things we do not know, correct? Simple. But, look at it more closely. There are actually 3 categories: what we know we know, what we know we don’t know and what we don’t know that we do not know. I know how to play the drums and cooks eggs, I know I do not know how to build a rocket ship and I don’t know what… I do not know. There is no way for me to know what I don’t know I do not know. That is part of the unmanifested world and someone is either open to it or not. That simple understanding can allow people to view things in a whole new light which can allow authentic change in one’s life especially when talking about some of the deepest parts of our lives including the relationships with have with family. The Forum is an opportunity to have a light bulb light up not a belief in a new system of thinking that can then be controlled and manipulated. Man is attracted to his/her freedom with passion on a very deep level than to having their mind/heart controlled by a specific thinking or philosophy. The things that is forgotten is that some great, great thinkers/philosophers have taken the course and gotten it in a very deep level and reported that it is an extraordinary way to approach age old ideas that can actually make a real, tangible difference in an everyday person’s life. The only thing to do is to take the course, be open to it and judge after you’re taken it. If you want to prove yourself right about free thinking and that the Forum is bad philosophically, you can collect that evidence and be right. But… BUT… If you are open and willing to allow it to impact you, hit you on a deep level in areas of your life that truly mean something to you, I think you can experience the Forum on the level it is meant to be experience. It is not about something to join, something to believe in, something to control. It is about the opposite: it is about marching to the beat of your own drum, to have full freedom with what you think and feel including disagreeing with Landmark if that is what drives your passion. Landmark has some of the most incredible people working for them. Profoundly committed, deeply connected to their own passion… All of it pointing to one simple idea: there is a difference that can be made in everyone’s life. There are billions of us passing each other with sometimes no acknowledgment of our own existence as if our being in each others’ lives would alter anything. It takes tremendous courage to believe that our lives can truly touch others’ lives and positively influence another’s life. I walked away from the Forum with a passion that I know existed but did not burn with intensity. A passion for people and my willingness and ability to touch their life. My life on one level or another has been about making a difference in people’s lives ever since the time I took the Forum back in 1999. I have a peace in my life that I had not discovered before the Forum and I have gone for as many as 6-7 years without being in contact with the actual company of Landmark at all. When I have gone back to take a course or work in one of the local centers, it has been greeted with nothing other than gratitude to have me around and respect for my purpose which is impacting people around me positively. Nothing weird occurs, nothing intrusive or devisive. So, do it or don’t do it but running through the intellectual mill will produce nothing that I have ever experienced as useful. Gandhi said: “”The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” There is nothing intellectual about this. There is something profound there and it is the same profundity that has been available to humans since the dawn of thinking, ego, etc.

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John April 19, 2016 at 05:03

Hi Kelly. I’m asking questions and you label me “heady, intellectual and hard-headed”. This seems like an emotional appeal, and one which (according to numerous accounts) is commonplace in the LF. If I don’t agree with, or am investigating, something and I don’t have the same perspective as you I don’t reduce myself to making personal attacks. Looking for evidence is not being hard-headed – it is acknowledging well-established flaws in human thinking and decision-making and trying to avoid those flaws. Being “open-minded” also means considering things, not believing things without justification. LE claims to not use manipulative techniques and this may be the case, but if it does (and people are oblivious to these techniques) then convincing people that the only way to understand LE is by participating would be useful. Hence, I am cautious. Trying to insult me into participation by suggesting I must be hard-headed will, I’m afraid, not work. If you have any other insight that doesn’t come with emotional manipulation I’ll be happy to listen.

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LF Fan April 19, 2016 at 05:36

John – I just drafted a response to you but then deleted it because I thought it sounded too harsh. Do I have your permission to be frank with you?

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John April 19, 2016 at 06:13

By all means be frank, although we may define it differently to one another.

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LF Fan April 19, 2016 at 07:39

Ok. Here goes.

John, you seem like a reasonable person in a genuine enquiry and everyone’s been very polite with you so far but to be brutally honest, this is all getting rather boring. It’s more of the same. Kelly offered you some valuable insight earlier and yet you get defensive and paranoid. You talk of flaws in human thinking yet seem blind to the flaws in your own thought processes. I suggest this is simply fear manifesting itself, that your ego calls critical thinking, or “investigation”.

What are you committed to here? Really explore that for yourself. Because from the outside it looks like you’d rather have an endless intellectual debate ABOUT something than you would actually ever engage in it. In my day they used to call this living life “in the stands” (as distinct from on the pitch). It’s kind of like thinking a PhD in Renaissance art is a valid substitute for the experience of actually being in Florence and seeing, feeling, smelling the real thing and being truly moved by its beauty (which also requires a surrender of sorts). Your analogy about the North Pole is a prime example.

Getting any result from the LF is going to require you to suspend this intellectual “strong suit” of yours. To paraphrase Einstein, you’re not going to cause anything outside your current expectation (which you must want, otherwise you wouldn’t be in this conversation) by employing the type of thinking that got you where you are now. Your ego has got you trapped, my friend.

LF Fan April 19, 2016 at 07:58

I truly think the best way you can get your queries resolved is to go to an introduction event of some sort, as suggested by someone earlier. You will get a sample of the course material, see how it works in practice, meet some of the kind of people who are involved, and this will give you a much better feel for whether it’s for you, or not.
All the best x

Kelly April 19, 2016 at 05:40

I was referring to people in Massachusetts and likening the way you are approaching this to them. That is not a personal attack. Those are characteristics of how one approaches life. If you think that is a personal attack than all the more reason to participate in the Landmark Forum. If you got hung up on that with everything else I said, than I assert you are missing something and trying hard to miss it. I’m not approaching this conversation as a debate. I’m approaching this has an attempt to convey what I have experienced and you have not. The Forum is all about the experience and trying to discuss it with someone who has not experienced it is extremely difficult. That has my hands full to a much greater extent then trying to attack you. Put aside the assertion that I am attacking and read what else I wrote.

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John April 19, 2016 at 06:23

Hi Kelly. Saying that I have the same ostensibly negative traits as a group of people is insulting. I hear the same thing when I tell people I don’t believe in psychics. They’ll all tell me I have to experience it to believe it… so I did and it was a con. There’s no evidence other than the personal experience of people who don’t understand psychics to suggest they are valid. These believers will always call me closed minded for not believing in this, but I researched it, understood other explanations for the “success” of readings then went to one (highly recommended) psychic myself. It was embarrassing how transparent this person was when one has a basic understanding of their processes. It’s also disingenuous to suggest I’m hard-headed (if I said you reminded me a lot of an asshole that’s the same as me calling you an asshole) and then to take no responsibility for it. You deftly suggest that I’m too sensitive. Is this the accountability that LF promotes?

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Kelly April 19, 2016 at 06:40

My interpretation, from seeing many, many people take the Forum is that when someone is over intellectuallizing this, that is one of the things that they do in their life that is used as a strength but can be simultaneously a weakness. If I’m being an asshole and you point it out, i will wear the shoe when it fits. I never once referred to your sensitivity. That is your POV. I was pointing to what you were choosing to focus on when there was sooooooo much more important stuff that i said. It is because of your POV that I was stating to just participate in the Forum. Your POV on psychics is perfect. You do not know that psychics are completely fraudulent. You researched, you thought it though and you came to the belief that they are fraudulent or poppycock. There is no “evidence” that you can really point to whether psychics are true or false. That is something you ultimately have to jive with or not. Belief. I assert that you are only using your intellect to ultimately craft your belief system and that you will settle on what you believe in and live your life inside of that. The Forum looks under all of that. You may come to the same belief but the innards will be much deeper because of the way you get there. This conversation isn’t pretty as the conversation in the Forum at times is not pretty. But it’s real and that’s what has people sing the praises for the Forum when the finish… The vast majority, that is. Rarely have I seen folks walk out having either gotten nothing or had a negative experience. My POV is that when that happens, someone is trying to have a negative experience. And that is a POV based on experience. This would be much easier in conversation so I am quitting this thread. Good luck in your future endeavors, with or without the Forum. I hope you find what you are looking for at every turn.

John April 19, 2016 at 06:54

The POV tactic is a useful one. If I call you an asshole you could be offended but I could say that it’s “tough love”. If your dad rapes you he could call it a “bonding experience” etc. It removes all accountability from the abuser and places it with the person being abused. It may be useful to view things in a more positive light but this philosophy creates a loophole – the person being abusive simply suggests the other person should look at things in another way.

Kelly April 19, 2016 at 06:03

I am also not saying that what you could experience in the Forum you haven’t experienced before. I experienced a number of things in the Forum that I had experienced before but it was unattached or unassimilated into my way of thinking but in the Forum I made connections with my past experiences, feeling and thoughts that have made a lasting difference in my life. So, it is important to see that when I talk about experiencing or not experiencing the Forum that I am not trying to be uninclusive. I’m genuinely pointing to that we are intellectually dissecting something (which has its merits) that is not completely intellectual in nature. It seemed to incorporate a number of aspects of what makes me tick: intellect, emotional capacity, philosophy, spirituality, intuition, etc. I believe most of that the Forum is about is intuition and my intuition rang loudly in a positive way with what was discussed and occurred in the course. Intellect is only a piece to the puzzle.

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John April 19, 2016 at 07:11

I’m not actually closed minded about psychics. It just seems that for the thousands of “genuine psychics” out there one would have been able to demonstrate his/her powers under controlled conditions? There’s no reason someone wouldn’t be able to do that… if they could. I know in some circles this makes me closed minded. Strangely people who believe in things (for which evidence could be produced but for which there is no evidence) are considered open minded. Odd.

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Kelly April 19, 2016 at 08:27

Accountability does include being responsible for how you see and process the world. You speak as if how you are approaching this is in a searc for truth with truthful means being utilized. That couldn’t be further from the truth. You are using what you believe to be the “right” way to analyze this stuff and then you will ultimately come to create a core belief, whatever that is. No truth… Just beliefs. So, start will being responsible for how you are processing this and then maybe you won’t keep pointing at the lack of responsibility on my part. I am 100% accountable for how I see this, convey this and process this. I do not parade around claiming that how I process life is the truth. How I process life is based on a series of beliefs that I developed after witnessing what I believe is truth. My own peace in various conversations and settings are my compass and that is age old wisdom around for millennia. Peace in your being is, as far as I’m concerned (and believe) is about all there is and supersedes intellectualization especially.

Kelly April 19, 2016 at 06:22

If you choose to or not to participate in the Forum is up to you. I gain nothing for whether you participate or not. I am not selling anything. I believe there is immeasurable value available for anyone that puts themselves in the seat to participate in the Forum. But that choice is strictly your own. I had heard about the Forum for years but nothing had been said that compelled me to register. But one day I pumped into an old colleague and she was talking to me about it and it clicked with me. I wanted to participate and was ready then. Anyone choosing to do the Forum will choose it on there own time and it typically, IMHO and experience, occurs when a person is “ready”. Something is said or done where someone sees the value for themselves on whatever level and it’s time to do it. Or, someone chooses to never do it for whatever reason. The one thing I know if that no one can be dragged in against their will and have it make a positive impact. That does not happen.

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Kelly April 19, 2016 at 08:20

POV is POV. No tactic. “Abuse” is based on POV. If you do not like behavior or an experience, you do not engage in that behavior or experience. Someone who is “abused”, by their calculations, needs to do what they need to do to “heal” from the “abuse”. Another perfect example of over intellectuallizing something that has no inherent truth.

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John April 19, 2016 at 08:55

To clarify Kelly… if a father goes into his son or daughter’s room and forcibly has sex with him/her this is not inherently abusive? It is only abusive if the son/daughter interprets it as abusive?

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Kelly April 19, 2016 at 09:58

Now this is where it can go either way for you depending on how well I am able to deliver this and how you interpret what I am saying. One thing I am going to recommend is that you not look at this emotionally to at least “try on” what I am saying as it is the meat and potatoes of what I believe the Forum offers as an opportunity…
There is nothing inherent about that behavior. That does not mean I condone the behavior, feel that the behavior is ok or do not understand the multiple repercussions of that behavior on another human being. BUT, “abuse” is a perspective, no matter what the behavior. Why this is important is that being in this conversation with a roomful of people, some people will fight it, others will see something in their life and have a literal “eureka” moment and they want to talk about it to the group. No one tells anyone not to think. Not one person tells anyone in the room at no time not to think. No one asks anyone to believe anything. The only thing that is asked is to try something on, like clothing. Apply it to your life, take a look and go as deeply as you want. I saw how I viewed a number of scenarios in my life as abuse, to personalize this… Sexual abuse, mental/emotional abuse, things that people older than me should have not been doing to me. I felt free for the first time in years by seeing how much of my interpretation of the situations kept the impact of the abuse reliving itself over and over again. I saw it for the first time without my interpretation and dealt with it for what it was. I was able to talk to the people that “abused” me and saw that they were not who I interpreted them to be and found that I had so believed my POV that no other POV was possible. I call what happened to me abuse but not because it’s true. It’s because I choose to distinguish it that way because I am committed to that not happening to other people. It is about consciousness and at what level we are conscious. Intellectual deduction and declaring things as truth and reality is a very restrictive way of processing life. FYI, I never spoke in front of the group in the Forum and I’ve been a performer for years (so I should be one of he people in front of folks first). But, again, describing this and discussing this is extremely difficult and you, for example, will either have a switch go off inside of you and you will have some understanding of how the Forun works or you will get sick of the research when it doesn’t produce what you hope or expect it will and pigeonhole a course that should never, ever be pigeonholed. That is not to pay unnecessary respect to the Forum but that’s what it deserves… The Forum is more about the people than it is about the leaders or the topics. The leaders are right in the thick of it with you. The inquiry is profound. Choose to do it or not do but sizing it up as anything less than a profound opportunity that needs to be chosen powerfully is just not true.

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John April 19, 2016 at 10:28

Thanks. I think I understand this perspective very clearly and it makes sense based on other things I’ve read. I do agree that looking at an abusive situation in a more empowering way can be very useful, but this does not work with everyone. What happens to the people who have been raped/beaten/abandoned who don’t “get it”? Will it not add salt to the wounds if these people are made to feel that they just need to look at things differently? I understand that LE categorically states that it is noy psychology or psychiatry. It does however seem to attempt to help people who have been raped/beaten/abused etc. This is pretty much what counseling psychologists do. LE also seems to focus on reinterpreting events in a more positive way – you described this I think as the “meat and potatoes” of what the LF is about. This process is basically REBT, used by psychologists. So LE addresses the same issues as psychology, using established psychological techniques (with a few tweaks) and then claims it’s not psychiatry or psychology. This means a few things: trainers don’t need to study for seven years and the practices of LE are not regulated in any way. It seems that there is little follow-up on participants and no academic research to assess the effectiveness of the programs. This is not to say that all psychological techniques are that effective but assessment is done and is published in academic journals.

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Kelly April 19, 2016 at 10:41

The way you twist and interpret what I say is amazing. No one makes anyone feel any way in the Forum. No is berated and made to feel like they are not keeping up. This is where you not actually taking the course leaves you with guesswork. People who let Landmark know that they have a history of abuse or psychological issues are spoken with about what they are registering for and that they should know that it may get intense for them. Those people who come from extreme pasts are taken care of differently to make sure they are taken care of. The dark shadow that complaints have cast on this are, frankly, ridiculous to me. Many renowned psychologists and psychiatrists have am taken the Forum and reported amazing results and a huge impact on their own professional work. The Forum is not manipulative as people have alleged. Those allegations are, IMHO, products of someone who refused to put down their stance long enough to consider anything outside of what they consider reality. That can dangerously sound like brainwashing but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Distinguishing psychology or spirituality or cult mentality are all useless. The distinction that is most important is do you want to be deeply affected by something that could help shift how you live your own life in such a powerful and unexpected way that your life is never the same again… for the positive. Otherwise, knowing about every little detail about the psychology and the science or the philosophy will not make any difference… it just ends up, for me, to be a very boring conversation with no real difference made. Now, I’m out. Work and life call. If my comments do not help you, John, they will help someone else reading this thread… Which is why I’ve even taken this much time. All the best with life!

John April 19, 2016 at 09:29

Thanks LF Fan. I appreciate your psych assessment – since I question things it must be a ‘strong suit’ and my ‘ego’. Of course, reading someone calling me pig-headed, and drawing the conclusion that they were calling me pig-headed reveals deep-seated paranoia… thanks for your guidance. The search for evidence is because I realize that there are problems with the way that I think. It takes a degree of humility (and an understanding of research) to acknowledge this weakness, so a focus on evidence demonstrates that I am aware of at least some of my cognitive flaws. Trusting experience is great, as long as that experience isn’t being manipulated somehow. If you went to a magic show with a friend and the magician turned the blonde assistant into a tiger, and your friend was completely convinced that a tiger had been created then his experience would not reflect reality. If you knew that there was a trap door etc. and that it was just a trick then, as much as your friend believed in his experience, he would have been tricked. I’m trying to work out if there are any trap doors. If this is tiring for you then disengage – I find this fascinating.

It also seems that many arguments made here (as I’ve read occurs in the Forum) follow a process of disarming the person in question with emotional attacks (which, of course, are positioned as ‘tough love’) and then asking the person to reconsider their position. If a person doesn’t agree it is because of their ‘strong suits’ or ‘rackets’ and because they are ‘uncoachable’ or insist on ‘being right’. Participants are made to feel like assholes in front of a roomful of other people and there is significant pressure to conform. Of course, these arguments apply only in one direction – the trainer’s perspective could never be a strong suit, or a racket or a need to be right. So you’re in a room with huge social influence talking about something that you have never considered before (but which the trainer is an expert in) – this seems a bit like arriving at a debate where the other debater has prepared for years and you hear about the topic two minutes before the debate starts. This could be compared to watching an expert young earth creationist debate an atheist who has never studied geology. The young earth creationist may dominate, but the playing fields are not level. Then, conveniently, there is this anti-intellectual stance (over-thinking, over-intellectualizing etc.). If I wanted to get a bunch of people to believe something that didn’t make too much sense then convincing them that thinking too much would be bad would be a great idea:

Person A: I’ve got some concepts here that I really want you to believe…
Person B: Great.
Person A: It really will help if you don’t think about them too much… you don’t want to be one of those pesky people who over-intellectualizes stuff.
Person B: That doesn’t sound remotely manipulative. Start feeding me new concepts at a high rate, don’t allow me to challenge anything and make sure people around me put pressure on me to conform. I can’t see what could go wrong with that.
Person A: Awesome.

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Gnut Hanson April 19, 2016 at 10:48

What information are you looking for, John?

Bottom line is, take it, or don’t take it. No one here has any interest in “convincing you” to take it.

BTW, the point that’s being missed here (and in most conversations about LE (and I speak with some degree of authority, having taken it and ancillary courses several times over the past 30 years)) is that you’re looking at things from the outside in. You, like 99.9999% of all humans, believe that your thoughts about things matter. In fact, your thoughts issue from thoughts and experiences from the past. Very little “original” thinking takes place in our lives.

To take it a step farther, you think “you” exist. You don’t. The “you” you think you are is based on past perceptions and recollections.

Here’s something to ponder: who does the thinking you think is you? Who feels the things you feel?

Since it’s impossible to experience the present (computers process information way faster than humans – they process information electronically; we do it neurochemically), we can never experience reality – there’s a lapse of a fraction of a second between an occurrence and our perception of it.

Bottom line: everything you believe about yourself, about your thoughts and feelings, about the world you live in is false. It’s created by your thoughts.

The mind is more like a projector than it is a camera.

When you grok the illusory nature of your “self”, you can let things be the way they are, rather than trying to have them be the way you want them to be.

A weekend with Landmark doesn’t get you all the way there, but it’s a good start.

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John April 19, 2016 at 15:04

Thanks. I have some sense of what I might expect. It doesn’t sound like it’s for me.

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Kelly April 19, 2016 at 15:16

I disagree that it is not for you as the way you came to that conclusion is exactly what you would wrestle with in the Forum. More accurately, it’s not for your identity which has nothing to do with you. Choosing via identity, which is what I believe you are doing, just strengthens your identity. There is a reason that you are even curious about the Forum which I assert is the place you should look to really determine whether it is for you or not. Hyper intellectuallizing something that is not necessary to intellectualize is what is keeping you from seeing what is available for you. My kids did the Young Person’s Forum where the time spent and material are very different because the leader will not have to deal with the baggage that adults come with. You are the only one to make the choice to participate and to be willing to see the value but it doesn’t mean that people around you should just sit back and agree with you when it doesn’t hit the mark (which is why I am speaking up even after saying I’m done). My $.02.

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John April 19, 2016 at 16:15

Thanks for the input. The closest office to where I am is about 1000 miles so hence gathering information before making the call. Last question… what time does the forum run from and until?

LF Fan April 19, 2016 at 16:50

John –
From http://www.landmarkworldwide.com/the-landmark-forum#coursedetails:

The course takes place over three consecutive days and an evening session (generally Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday evening). Each full day begins at 9:00 a.m. and ends at approximately 10:00 p.m. Breaks are approximately every 2-3 hours, with a 90-minute dinner break. The evening session generally runs from 7:00 p.m. to 10:15 p.m. (in certain locations, from 7:30 p.m. to 10:45 p.m.). Note: Landmark Forums presented simultaneously in more than one language may end as late as 12:00 midnight.

x

John April 19, 2016 at 17:20

Hi LF Fan. I did go onto the site and read those times but also, based on articles recommended by someone else on this forum, read about a dozen magazine articles and blogs of people who have done the forum. All of them say the classes ended at around midnight every night and some say that there’s homework to do once you’ve driven home. I struggle with sleep so naturally this is a concern.

LF Fan April 19, 2016 at 18:08

John – when I did it, many years ago, it ended between 10 and midnight. Afterwards, I was in leadership and support roles for some years, and they seemed to be finishing nearer to 10. I remember hearing a theory that they could maybe move through the material faster as understanding and acceptance of the concepts grew in wider society. I don’t know what the current trend is. I suspect it depends on how the conversation is moving and the group’s response to the topics. As you can appreciate, group dynamics differ, and a LF taking place in a location of recent conflict (for example) would take on a very different flavor to one in a more stable area. Maybe someone who’s taken it more recently than me can report their experience.

But regardless of the finishing time, my experience was that their courses always gave me energy, and sleep wasn’t an issue. For me it was one of those areas where I got to see that I could operate outside the usual boundaries or rules that I’d unconsciously absorbed from society, so it was kind of useful to see just how much I was operating from conditioning, and what became possible when I saw that for what it was (like The Matrix) (and also what’s possible when operating from a big enough commitment). But it’s a very respectful, honoring environment. Well-being of participants is paramount. If you have a genuine concern or medical issue, you can discuss this with the team and find a workable solution for you. They always used to speak to everyone personally by phone before the course started; I hope they still do this. (N.B. It is a very safe space. They could not facilitate the kinds of conversations and results they do, without that being so.)

There is homework. Yes! (At least in my day). But it will most probably complete itself with ease if you have been engaging in the exercises during the day. As one of homework exercises I wrote a letter to my Dad which I actually mailed subsequently (actually sending it wasn’t part of the homework). It opened up our relationship in such a profound way. Later, my mum told me it had resulted in him sharing things with her from his own childhood that he’d never spoken about before. My Dad’s in a nursing home now and can no longer communicate verbally. I’m so pleased I took that risk!

It seems like you’ll have to travel, so I guess it might make sense to stay somewhere close to the event, to ensure you get maximum sleep.

John April 20, 2016 at 00:32

Hi LF Fan. I hope you understand my concern – LF simultaneously tells potential participants that it ends at 10, then warns them in the disclaimer about sleep disturbances. Every account I’ve read (many from the last five years) states the course ended at around midnight every night. These accounts are from separate individuals in different areas, but none of them mention the two language issue which LE suggests may cause the course to take longer. Then there is homework which might take some time. Have you considered why you have all of this extra energy? Maybe it’s not healthy for some people and the ambiguous information provided doesn’t allow someone to make an informed decision.

Kelly also states that no one is berated during the course but this is concerning for two reasons. Firstly it seems that LF graduates might define ‘berated’ very differently after the course (abuse is in the eye of the beholder) and secondly, almost every account I’ve read (or watched) shows some person being humiliated in front of a group of people (it’s because the leader cares? I don’t have the right context?). Again, for people to make an informed choice about doing the course they need to have some sense of the environment. But thanks for your feedback.

LF Fan April 20, 2016 at 08:17

John – I’m out at meetings today, but will respond to you more fully later. I’m formulating some thoughts! Meanwhile, I commend you for the courage and commitment that have you engaging in this enquiry. It’s not really about the LF at all, but about your life and the possibilities you glimpse. More later!

LF Fan April 20, 2016 at 14:35

[Long post alert]

John

Now, first of all, you don’t have to do the LF. You don’t need it. You seem to be getting by very well without it. It is just a vehicle like many others. I happen to think it’s a pretty good vehicle, but that’s all it is. Your results will come about as a direct result of your commitment to your life, and your willingness to be open-minded, and stick with the uncomfortable conversations (as you are doing here), and the LF can most probably help you move further along a path you’re already on, if you so choose. There are other ways of getting insights and having breakthroughs, though I think this one is fast and effective. What’s more important, from my POV, is that you get what you need to support you in whatever has inspired you to seek out this blog. That’s what I’m interested in nurturing. Whether you do the LF or not is irrelevant to me.

If you have issues of physical or mental health, the LF might not be appropriate. This should get picked up during a registration call or follow-up call with the office. My comments assume you are fit and well enough to cope with it, but that’s your responsibility.

OK… Your points:

“Sleep disturbances” – I don’t know what this refers to. Seems to me they’re being pretty upfront. I have led training courses myself and it just seems that some groups get through things really quickly, apparently with just as much understanding as the other groups, and some take longer. LE is committed to the group as a whole getting value, and sets an outside limit for the ending time, so that is the variable. You could call it a “No man left behind” sort of policy. There are practical things you can do to support the group finishing on schedule, like being on time yourself, being back from breaks in good time, engaging and participating fully, being clear beforehand that you really want to be there… All these things contribute to the group spirit, energy and integrity.

Also, you can discuss this when you call up to book. Ask about the average end times for that particular city and the LF leader they have scheduled for those dates. Share your concerns and see what they say. Ask for a hotel recommendation next door to the venue to cut down travel time.

The two-language thing is probably quite rare. I’m not up-to-date with where that applies but I’m assuming it’s for where they are branching out to a new country and don’t yet have a native speaker trained as a LF leader. (Training takes 7 years I think.) So if you want to take a course run in English, you’d probably want to choose Ireland, Australia, UK, or North America. You could double-check with the local office before booking that there’s no simultaneous translation happening during your weekend (unlikely if in one of those English-speaking countries).

Homework need not take more than 30 minutes. You could look upon it as an opportunity for a breakthrough :-) Don’t be a perfectionist: you don’t need prize-worthy prose, as long as you do the work fully.

Extra energy – doesn’t worry me. It was only a weekend. I demonstrated something to myself; I didn’t endanger anyone else on the roads. I take good responsibility for my well-being.

Informed decision. Hmmm… It seems to me that in life we almost never have all the information we’d ideally like. I own a business and make decisions (or choices) every day whilst being in possession of incomplete information. I use my best judgement; and I trust in my training, education, experience and intuition to guide me to do the best I can at any given moment. Imagine if I’d waited until I knew absolutely everything about my future spouse – I’d still be single! So of course it pays to be as well informed as possible, but there is also an opportunity cost to waiting, and that is something to weigh up, also.

Berating. I think you need to bear in mind the agendas of those who complain about being berated or humiliated (which is a very small minority). There are many, many thousands of people who don’t feel that way. I think Kelly put it well when s/he expressed the opinion that those people simply weren’t willing to set aside their stance for long enough to consider a different perspective. That is my opinion also. I don’t wish to invalidate anyone who’s had such an experience, but that is just my honest personal opinion about what’s likely to have happened. Maybe being there wasn’t the right thing for them at that time. Some people are very wedded to a certain view of things and challenging that can seem threatening. It’s possible there are some interactions that weren’t handled elegantly, but I’ve never witnessed that at LE myself.

When you say you’ve “watched” people being berated, I’m not familiar with what you’re referring to. Personally, I have never seen anything in a Landmark course – and I’ve seen quite a few! – that looked remotely like humiliation, berating, or abuse. Never. There might be straight talking, yes, but I have witnessed much worse in the average family and place of work. Think about the topics that get discussed there: it absolutely has to be a safe space for those conversations to take place. And, at any time, anyone is free to go discreetly to the back of the room, express their discomfort and say they want to leave, or wait for a break and speak to a member of the team.

At no time is anyone forced to do anything. There is no requirement to go to the mic. Therefore the chances of being spoken to in public by the LF leader without volunteering must be zero or close to it. Many of the exercises take place in your chair with someone sitting close to you, and/or in a break.

It’s very much like normal education. The leader presents something like a case study or proposes a concept, people discuss in pairs and/or publicly (voluntarily), the leader draws out some of these comments to demonstrate a learning point… and so on. Whenever the LF leaders comment on what’s been shared by a participant, it’s always clear that they are speaking to the whole group. Exactly like at a school or university: if one person has a question, most probably many others also had the same question but didn’t raise their hand, and it’s an opportunity for the learning point to be shared with everyone.

You’re right that it’s hard to make an informed choice without getting a sense of the environment. That’s why guest events, completion evenings and home introductions are so valuable. That would be the ideal way for you to learn more, I think, but maybe not possible if you’re 1000 miles away from the nearest location (or did I misread that?) It seems you don’t have any family members, friends or people you trust who’ve already done it, so are relying on your own research. I understand it’s a big decision. Most people come to it through word-of-mouth referral. I heard about it through a business contact, was curious, called the office and booked without knowing anyone else who’d done it.

Now, just another observation. I have this image in my head of these two aspects of “John”: JohnP (for Possibility) and JohnS (for Sensible). It feels like JohnP has sensed something important out there worth exploring, like a potential unfulfilled, or a new possibility; while JohnS is like an over-protective older brother, cautious lest the impressionable JohnP fall prey to some con artist, get taken for a fool, be humiliated in public, or drop through a trap door to be eaten by a tiger! Certainly I have at least two such voices of my own. For me, one of life’s biggest challenges is learning to distinguish the signal from the noise in those voices; working out which of (my) JohnS’s admonitions are worth paying attention to, and what’s simply the boring old yakking of a incessant yakking machine (with some obsolete programming). It’s an ongoing endeavor, and one the LF has helped me with a lot.

If you can’t get to a guest event of some sort, why not just call the office at your preferred location to talk it through? I don’t know whether the LF is right for you but I hope you find a supportive way to nurture the part of you that seeks greater expression.

I would love to hear how you get on x

JamieLynn April 20, 2016 at 14:11

This is a link that will give you an idea of what the Landmark Forum is about. Then for graduates this is a wonderful reminder of the course. The man speaking is Warner Ernheart.

https://youtu.be/Id_aqxlj4qE

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John April 20, 2016 at 14:25

Werner Erhard… yes. Not sure if LM people like the association with Erhard? He had a few PR issues towards the end of his reign.

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JamieLynn April 20, 2016 at 22:26

Werner Erhard, still works closly with Landmark Worldwide, and is always looking at new levels of transformation to eather add in new coureses or adjust current courses to better accomidate the promise of extrodanary customer service.

As for getting out at midnight every night, this is a rare occurence at least in the Chicago Center. The latest course I was assisting around was 11 and the participants were asked if they would like to continue the conversation.

I apoligize for miss spelling Werner’s name in my previous post.

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John April 21, 2016 at 00:08

Thanks JamieLynn. My understanding is that the association with Werner Erhard is downplayed by LE now? Interesting to hear that he’s fully involved and that there is transparency on this issue. One of you mentioned “straight talking”. Is there a possibility that this is what causes stress in some (all?) participants? It can be stressful being in front of a crowd but to be challenged in a very direct way in front of a crowd must be nerve-wracking? Is this why the course warns about stress, and describes itself as a “roller-coaster” or would guided vizialisation exercises (the “fear exercise”) also play a part?

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JamieLynn April 21, 2016 at 21:09

No not fown played at all. When Werner came to Chicago to speak, everyone who could went to see it, I missed out however I waa assisting at the time. The rollor coaster is stressful being that the conversations are confrunting and then freeing, then confronting then freeing again. And yes being up st the mic is stressful as well, then when they get the conversation and 150 or so stangers are rooting for them its very freeing.

The fear excersize is done in ones seat with eyes closed its a conversation that you simply listen to and see what you can discover about your self. Each person experences this diffrently and something is gotten by all. For some it seems more dramatic for my husbsnd his experence was calming and releaving. As for me I thought I didnt get it, but I did once others started shareing. I hope this answers your ceriosities. (Again sorry for my spelling) take good care John and be well.

JamieLynn April 20, 2016 at 22:41

LM Fan and John
Yes Landmark Forum Leader can take 7 years and it can I heard it can be fast tracked as well.

Unfortunetly we do not have Leaders that speak in all the languages that this work is demanded of. Luckly some centers do have tranlaters. We recently had a course translated into spanish. We have just over 50 or so leaders leading in 20 countries around the world. When we compair the demand of the work to the amount of leaders there really are not enough of them.

As for sleep and well being, Landmark leaves the responciblity of well being up to the individual. Of course it is best to get as much of the course as you can, however your well being is priority. If it is ten pm and the course is still going and you know you need 9 hrs of sleep, it is up to you to ensure that happends.

LM fan-
There has been a recent transformation to the work, I invite you to come back and assist!

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Jim G April 26, 2016 at 09:50

Good for you for having a good attitude about Landmark. I took the courses 18 years ago or so, and I volunteered a few courses (assisted.) Critics don’t realize there are simply good things and bad things about Landmark. But where else would you get the good things? It’s really as simple as that. If it’s a cult, it’s only a temporary cult. As you are there just a few days. I have found the benefits to stick throughout the years.

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JamieLynn April 26, 2016 at 10:05

Well said Jim G

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Corey May 5, 2016 at 21:20

If you’ve come here looking for answers, there is also the teachings of Vernon Howard, who’s style is not for everyone but his message can take you to a completely new reality / state of mind that is beyond comprehension while in the ‘normal’ state of awareness.

1. The ego is a false entity / thought form
2. observe yourself / your inner thought world
3.dissolve the ego / thoughts about who you are
4. there is something on the other side of ego death that is incredible.

Youtube has some talks of his, and he wrote many books. I have persisted with his instructions and have experienced state of minds that are beyond words. The way is known, whether someone in landmark or a book tells you, but you have to do the hard work of looking at yourself under a microscope and applying all you learn every second of your life. No one is going to hand you a state of mind, you need to get your stupid little ego out of the way for reality to enter.

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Kanye West June 4, 2016 at 16:44
Pierre June 6, 2016 at 16:39

Firstly, Jack, I commend you for your way with words. What a well written piece. Thank you.

Secondly, I recently took the Forum and I cannot stop thinking about it and myself. Is the philosophy new? I doubt it and I don’t care. Can it be offered through other media? I don’t know and I don’t care. What I do know is that I now choose me because I choose me and I love the bliss of my present. I also know that Udi was a masterful conduit to getting all the participants to learn from each and one another other. I am so grateful for the strength of my peers.

Are some of the volunteers persistent? I know that I don’t know that, as I have yet to experience it. I know that I wont gauge my gotten if I do observe it. But, honestly, I hope that one is super persistent!!! I know that I 100% know that the Forum has taught me how to handle that. No one can pressure me other than me.
Such great practice it will be. Lots of people are persistent. Let’s start with a person who knows that I know I am powerful first, then with someone who doesn’t. And besides, I understand the persistence.

Am I part of a “Cult”, a word for which I don’t have an exact definition? Let’s see. I pay no annual dues. I get to meet people with whom I freely can choose to be, where no one will make me do what I don’t want to do. I get to freely choose programs I want to attend, just like I can choose a new iPhone when I want one. Sounds pretty sweet.

@Anya (03.03.2016) “Life is empty and meaningless”. I didn’t get it right away. And in fact, it took me longer to pick up just that first piece of it than the total of it. I had an immediate “a ha!” when I realized that I was first putting meaning to that sentence.

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David Ford November 12, 2015 at 12:57

Sven, you are posting the names and ADDRESSES of people you have a beef with, and you’re accusing others of being sociopaths?!? I see only one crazy stalker here. It’s no wonder these people cut ties with you.

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Dumbfounded December 4, 2015 at 19:16

Wow, it is hard to imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to be in business with you, Sven. You seem like such a nice guy.

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Dumbfounded December 4, 2015 at 21:02

Sounds like the feeling between you and the Kramers must have been mutual. Better to realize that early on in the relationship.

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Carina January 10, 2016 at 16:36

Hi Sven,

Have you been to landmark? A friend of mine really wants me to attend the february forum. Perplexed as im not too sure its for me.

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Gina January 25, 2016 at 05:05

Sven
I want to remind you ! That if Your name shows up as”" Sven”"! is because you subscribed that way ! You have a great day!

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Peter Harrison January 10, 2016 at 17:40

Carina,
The last person you should ask is Sven – based upon this and other posts he has made. He clearly is not a Landmark devotee.

I have been involved as a participant/volunteer/assistant with Landmark for 10 years – it has done wonders for me and countless others who I have observed when taking the “seminars”

But it is clearly NOT for everyone – and it doesn’t say that it is. I have a friend who has spent a time in therapy and even though she has observed MY growth, she still wants to stay on HER path – it works for her.

Just go along to a Tuesday “completion” with your friend, take your daytimer and your check book/credit card. If you see something for yourself (with an open mind) then sign up. Your friend hopefully will be coming from the space of “benefit” for you rather than you need “fixing”. You don’t, but Landmark can show you areas which are stopping you from being more than you can imagine.

And it is NOT anti-religious – it has NOTHING to do with religion, it all based upon philosophy.

It is NOT a cult either – sure you will be encouraged to take additional courses, but if you don’t want to, then you just don’t.

Landmark states that it works for 94% of people (worldwide) and thus 6% don’t like it, don’t get it and, frankly, knowing humanity – people are more likely to complain rather than praise.

Landmark has also delivered the Forum to Buddhist monks – and even they have their concerns – am I holier than the next person, am I praying harder etc.

Do some research, google Landmark and check out both the negative and the positive. And probably you will note that Landmark is banned in France – not for its “teachings” but because it is a for-profit company – France has issues with using unpaid “volunteers” to further the profit agenda.

Respected sources, Harvard University, reporters from various respected news agencies and “happy” consumers will attest to the fact that there is something that works and that certainly it isn’t a cult.

Go along with an open mind, listen to both the leader and the participants, and if it makes some level of sense (apart from the money) – go for it. Even if you don’t LIKE it, you will ultimately gain something amazing for yourself.

I have spent over 5K in therapy, some of it certainly beneficial, but none of that expenditure compares with the $500 I spent at Landmark.

I even had a conversation with a therapist – she took the Forum and then the Advanced course a few weeks later, and she disclosed that her “approach” and relationship with her patients was so markedly different that her patients commented upon how much more they felt “related” to her.

Note also that Landmark gives scholarships to Police and Clergy – they recognize the contribution that those two branches can make to the people that they come in contact with.

Don’t listen to Sven – review all the other posts both + and -. and then choose. I can assure you that the value of the insights you receive about your self will much exceed the value of the $ you spend.

Which city are you thinking of taking the Forum in??

I wish you the best,

Peter

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Laura brusca March 5, 2016 at 16:02

Hi Carina not sure if u decided for or against landmark forum but I just wanted to say I took the program back in the 1980′s and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done for my life. The benefits are still with me today. I don’t call landmark a “cult” as a few people might do- but if it was a cult then it is certainly one that I want to join! Best wishes to you.

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Gina April 11, 2016 at 16:59

Sven

Wow!!! all you do is vomit what you have inside you, How . You appear to me is you are full of hate no matter what!!.. and Very angry! have you looked yourself in your mirror? have you recorder yourself talking?? You want to make somebody angry, to [play your “right game” and you are not going to find it here.. . So you can vomit all you want about Landmark etc, etc,. In Landmark I have discover not to play “the right or wrong game”…. You are entitle to your own opinion.. I invite you to search for a website that aligns to your thinking! ! In the mean time you have an Awzome Life.. Really!

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Sven April 11, 2016 at 17:04

Why do all Landmark drones use the same words? You all sound exacly alike. Like a collective, or a better word, a cult. You are all exactly the same person. Its fucking creepy. Now go back to your groupthink, little drone.

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Gina April 11, 2016 at 19:06

You think and believe, everyone thinks and is like you…How boring! Clear your brain and you might discover something !
You are not present for You! and your Life.

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Gina April 11, 2016 at 19:23

WOW! THAT IS A THREAT!! I AM GOING TO REPORT YOU TO THE PROPER AUTHORITIES>>>ARE YOU OK??

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Gnut Hanson April 11, 2016 at 19:40

You need to do the Landmark Forum, Sven. Get over yourself.

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JamieLynn April 12, 2016 at 13:31

No one needs Landmarks Programs, we all already have all that we need.

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Gnut Hanson April 13, 2016 at 15:51

“Put down”…how, Sven? Like a crippled dog, or are you just using “put down” instead of using the term “criticized”?

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Kelly April 13, 2016 at 15:55

And how do you know with certainty that life is not a game? Many spiritual texts over 1000′s of years refer to life as a learning opportunity or “game” for your eternal soul or being to play. There is scientific evidence that shows that energy never “dies” but it morphs, moves, alters and transforms. This is not from Landmark… This is wisdom and thinking from many, many years. I do not think you are equipped to effectively judge Landmark, it’s customers or philosophy at large. You, as one unwilling to debate a topic, are exhibiting the characteristics of a cult member being astringent to the point of violence and threats to uphold your beliefs when no one… NO ONE here is threatening your beliefs. It’s convenient for you to pigeonhole an organization like Landmark and the people that song it’s praises from the results they’ve produced in your life… But your argument is surface level and, frankly, lacking abstraction and nuance where it makes no difference. I’m crystal clear I will not change your mind but not because of my lack of argument but more importantly your lack of willingness to really face a truth… Not sell your truth.

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JamieLynn April 13, 2016 at 16:02

Ok, I get that, yet if by saying Life is a Game empowers the person who declared it to cause mericals in their life, I would say use it. If calling life a game has you be up-set, then don’t use that phrase. Pick something else that will inspire you.

(sorry for the bad spelling)

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JamieLynn April 13, 2016 at 16:10

Sven, I have meet many Marines who have served in this recent war who have found their personal freedom form the education Landmark offers. As with them I will do the same with you.

Thank you Sven for your years of service to the USA, you are all beyond brave and beyond strong. I only wish we could do as much for you. Yet, it is up to us as individuals to find what causes us to be free. I hope you will experience a life you love living and the freedom you more than deserve. Again thank you for your honorable service.

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Kelly April 13, 2016 at 15:57

Correct… It only points to what is simultaneously individual and collective in all of us.

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JamieLynn April 18, 2016 at 14:11

Peter-
I love what you said about do what works!
That is perfect, if something does not work for you then why bother? On the other hand will you know if it works or not unless you give it a chance. The Tuesday invitation gives you apart of the work that is done in the weekend. This way, if you take this on, you actually get to “try on” so to speak, if this kind of work, works for you or not.

The big thing is this, don’t leave being unsure if you want to register or not. The impact of that could be guilt or sadness. That is not what Landmark would love for you to be left with. Instead, know that you are a yes or a no. And Yes does not mean you have to register right this second it could mean, Yes and I need a course in August and there isn’t one open right now. You can tell that to the person who is registering you and they can assist you in sorting that out.

Then too, if you are a No. that is great as well. Then you know and you can confidently stand there.

Thank you for considering doing business with Landmark.

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