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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{ 1257 comments… read them below or add one }

bodog博狗 June 18, 2015 at 03:17

I got two networked blog setting of a single blog in facebook. I want to delete of them. Is there any way to delete only one networked blog keeping the another as it is ?.

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Victor Gagnon June 20, 2015 at 11:23

So much is being said on this blog about the LF, saying its a cult, we are brainwashed etc. So I thought I would offer a text from a gentleman by the name of “Jiddu Krishnamurti about brain vs mind. So many think that mind and brain are the same thing. Now this has nothing to do with LF but does have everything to do with why we respond the way we respond to things.
Enjoy the text.
The brain produces the mind
…What is the mind? When I put that question, please don’t wait for a reply from me. Look at your own mind; observe the ways of your own thought. What I describe is only an indication; it is not the reality. The reality you must experience for yourself. The word, the description, the symbol, is not the actual thing. The word door is obviously not the door. The word love is not the feeling, the extraordinary quality that the word indicates. So do not let us confuse the word, the name, the symbol, with the fact. If you merely remain on the verbal level and discuss what the mind is, you are lost, for then you will never feel the quality of this astonishing thing called the mind.
So, what is the mind? Obviously, the mind is our total awareness or consciousness; it is the total way of our existence, the whole process of our thinking. The mind is the result of the brain. The brain produces the mind. Without the brain there is no mind, but the mind is separate from the brain. It is the child of the brain. If the brain is limited, damaged, the mind is also damaged. The brain, which records every sensation, every feeling of pleasure or pain, the brain with all its tissues, with all its responses, creates what we call the mind, although the mind is independent of the brain.
You don’t have to accept this. You can experiment with it and see for yourself.
cheers

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sonypro June 20, 2015 at 14:12

I plan on starting a blog and would eventually like to bring in ad revenue, should I start out on a free website or should I buy a domain?.

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Levné Nejlevnější Boty Nike June 24, 2015 at 05:07

I enjoy the stuff you put in here. Very pertinent information. Consider yourself book-marked.

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Victor Gagnon June 24, 2015 at 12:50

Before I took the LF and the curriculum for living at Landmark Education I had gone through two years of depression, anxiety, anger, hate, and much fear. Especially fear and anger for I had lost my job at the age of 55 years young and could not find another job. My wife, in hindsight blamed me. I could not find a job as I tried for two years. How will I support my wife, how will I pay my bills, my mortgage etc, where will I live. The good life was now over. How will I deal with that and so many more questions.
I am a very organized person and what I was not used to having is something like this thrust upon me at a moments notice. I was always in control until now. That was very difficult for me to deal with being out of control.So many uncertainties. Even suicide was looking good but now becoming very real and very scary. So I started like most taking LF with my wife, her suggestion and yes we were sort of coerced in taking the Advance course because here I learnt that society and others as whole chooses for us. I had never learnt to say no and make my own decision in my life situation. This was very annoying for I thought I was always in control when in fact I was never in control. It was quite a bit more money for me but I had landed a small job.
I started by simply being present and open to what will they will teach me, not judging because judging is from the past. Trying always to staying present as possible. So I went up to the mike as often as I could and shared my victimizations with the crowd and yes I was called names and I deserved it in this context. It made me realize that I was a victims of the world. What I learnt is that I created all my fears and much much, more. So understanding that then how will I now uncreate my fears.
So again I offer the words of this gentlemen “Jiddu Krishnamurti” who explains fear better than I could.
Hope you enjoy this knowledge.
I am afraid
My inquiry now is how to be free from the fear of the known, which is the fear of losing my family, my reputation, my character, my bank account, my appetites and so on. You may say that fear arises from conscience; but your conscience is formed by your conditioning, so conscience is still the result of the known. What do I know? Knowledge is having ideas, having opinions about things, having a sense of continuity as in relation to the known, and no more….
There is fear of pain. Physical pain is a nervous response, but psychological pain arises when I hold on to things that give me satisfaction, for then I am afraid of anyone or anything that may take them away from me. The psychological accumulations prevent psychological pain as long as they are undisturbed; that is I am a bundle of accumulations, experiences, which prevent any serious form of disturbance—and I do not want to be disturbed. Therefore I am afraid of anyone who disturbs them. Thus my fear is of the known, I am afraid of the accumulations, physical or psychological, that I have gathered as a means of warding off pain or preventing sorrow. …Knowledge also helps to prevent pain. As medical knowledge helps to prevent physical pain, so beliefs help to prevent psychological pain, and that is why I am afraid of losing my beliefs, though I have no perfect knowledge or concrete proof of the reality of such beliefs.
Love yourselves into live
cheers

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grinder June 27, 2015 at 03:54

I completed the forum a few years ago in the midst of my own bout with the same useless junk that drags all humans to the gutter. I had no real expectations, good or bad, just went in with the hope that things might somehow become less ominous. I was at the bottom, with no prospect of anything else. I came out having lost more things than I gained, which was exactly what needed to happen. Up to that time I had been living a life colored by the past events that shaped it. I came out having lost my need to carry the results of past events into my future. I lost my fear of tomorrow, and my regret of yesterday. I lost my need to appear as though I have my life together. I lost my need to control every facet of my life. I lost my brooding disappointment when things didn’t go as planned. I lost my need to plan at all. I lost much more than this, but those are the more crucial things that had been running my life. All of this doesn’t mean that I can’t plan, or control things, or let my past shape my future. It simply means that such things are not the only option open to me. I now have the ability to choose if and when I do these things. In short, I am completely free. Free to choose positive over negative, to choose the way things affect my life, free to choose how I live life.
A friend once told me that its not possible to eradicate the synapses that are already formed in the brain, once they are in fact fully formed. What that meant to her is once you form a reaction to a stimulus, that’s it. That’s what you do, implying there is no other way. My answer was that while synapses may be permanent (no one really knows, without the possibility of doubt, simply because we don’t know everything that can possibly be known about the human mind), that doesn’t mean new ones can’t be formed. Your reaction is not a pre determined course of action, meaning that you can choose whether or not to act upon your initial response, or disregard it in favor of another, thus in time forming a completely new synapse, and by extension a completely different response!
One of the things I gained from the Forum and the curriculum that followed is ownership of my life. When something happened that I didn’t like, I would get angry. I would then look for a way to change the situation by looking at what “made me angry”, and since I couldn’t change what happened, because it already happened, I would get stuck with my anger. What I was missing was that I did that. I got angry, even if it was a subconscious reaction that spurred a CONSCIOUS ACTION: to BE angry. I learned to apply logic to the situation by realizing that if I in fact GOT angry, I could in turn NOT get angry, simply because I was the one that owned the choice of which response to take. Did I have to work at it? You bet! I still do sometimes, but I CAN do it.
The Landmark Forum is nothing new. The ideas presented in it are nothing new. They can be found in many places, and in many teachings throughout the world. The thing that sets it apart is that all of these ideas are in one place, able to be acquired in a very short time. You could search for decades for the things I learned in a matter of months, and you may still have missed many of them. My question to you is: if you could take a single step down a path that led to a life filled with passion, passion for every facet of life itself, and with each step taken you learned how to take the next, would you hesitate to take that step, and if so why?

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Victor Gagnon June 27, 2015 at 10:54

Great comment grinder, thank you!!
For your friend if one wishes one can look at books about the brain and what they know today and you will find the a term called “Neuroplasticity” which means the brain can change. Bruce Lipton, a biologist, has two books out. Both interesting reads, he is an amazing man. As you said when you connect new neuronets then eventually the old ones fall off from not being used by simply thinking differently and being in control of your life. That is why they say we are addicted to our past. Its the old connections, the old learnings, the conditioning that are disconnected and if not used then we create a new way of thinking and then we see we are in power over our lives because the old way is conditioning and yes its very hard but worth it. Most people don’t understand that they are already brainwashed by their past, their cultures, their religions, their social following etc.
LF simply offers a way in which you can be empowered and they never ever take away your power. Society, cultures, religions etc take away your power. You are conditioned to think a certain way, propaganda and then you become addicted to that way of thinking. Your neuronets are hard wired and constantly feed your conditioning.
Thanks again grinder, such a great share.
Love yourself into life

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Scott Adams June 27, 2015 at 18:06

I see a number of comments on here accusing Landmark being engaged in some ominous form of “brainwashing.” So let’s suppose for a moment that you could push a button and brainwash another person into changing his thinking to match your preferences. Would it be ethical to push that button?

You probably had a bad reaction to the thought of brainwashing another human. It seems counter to every notion of freedom we have. And you certainly would not want anyone to brainwash you.

But if you remove the word “brainwash” and replace it with “education” or “advertising” or “leadership” you have a perfectly acceptable situation. And in each case someone is trying to change your thinking to manipulate your actions. So why is brainwashing so bad and yet advertising, education, and leadership are considered good?

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grinder June 28, 2015 at 12:44

Scott, those are 2 very common, and good questions that will beg different answers from different people, but I’ll give you my take on each. 1st, brainwashing. Changing another person’s thinking with the express purpose of aligning it with your own would in fact be brainwashing, as you stated. Most people would agree that this is bad, and not do it. But what about manipulation? Is the act of manipulation not the very same thing, to change someone’s thinking to suit “your” liking? This of course assumes that you would have the temerity to believe that your way of thinking is somehow better, or more pertinent to that of the other person. There is only a subtle difference in the 2 methods here. One is achieved by force, without that person’s consent, and the latter is achieved by coercion and deceit, again without that person’s consent.
Now what would happen if a person changed someone else’s thinking WITH their consent? Would that negate the coercion and deceit, and by extension the act of manipulation? You see how subtle the differences are here? If you take someone’s property without their consent, we call it theft. But if you take their property after having gained their consent, we call it a gift and you now own what was once theirs. When I took the forum, and the rest of the curriculum I saw no manipulation. No coercion. I was hit many times by sometimes brutal words coming from the forum leader, but I sought this process out by going up to the mic in the first place. What’s more is that every time prior to being hammered on I was asked if I would retain the necessary frame of mind to realize that he was attacking my BS, rather than me. I agreed every time, and I succeeded. That’s why it worked, because I remained in the necessary frame of mind.

2nd, they use uncommon, sometimes grammatically horrid words in the forum to get the point across, but why do they do this? Certain words elicit certain subconscious responses. I call this the armor. You alluded to this with the word brainwashing, and the negative connotation it likely elicited. The more widely a word is used, the greater the response because the number of people issuing that response is also greater. When someone says you’re wrong, the armor goes up because you feel an attack coming. We all learn this very early on in life, which is the reason we develop the armor in the first place: to repel the attack. The issue is that when the words coming down the pike are NOT an attack, whatever is said after the word wrong still falls on deaf ears because the armor has slammed into place. When someone says you’re not being authentic, your subconscious mind says “what?? That sounds odd”. While the definition of the word still registers, you end up concentrating momentarily on the oddity of the word itself, and the barrier doesn’t automatically rise, meaning you will actually hear what comes next. More importantly you now have the opportunity to accept it based on its merits, or dismiss it based on its merits, not based solely on the fact that your armor slammed the door on the idea. A lot of people leave that part out when they talk about the forum in a negative light, almost as if they didn’t want you to know that you can still choose to believe what is presented. Manipulation? Indeed. Also if you are not being authentic, or being “inauthentic” (very subtle difference there because being inauthentic is actually taking action, instead of just remain inactive) the issue now becomes about what you are doing (or not doing), instead of about what you are in “you are wrong”. If you’re doing something and it isn’t working for you, stop doing it! That’s the message here.
You ARE the things you cannot change: Human (change into an alien, I dare you).
You DO the things you can change, simply because logically, if you can do something, you can also stop doing it.
What do you do? Everything that does not fall into the ARE category.
Some examples for you: You are not overweight, you’re just a man that weighs more than he would like. The man part you cannot change. the overweight part, you can. How? My Doctor likes to tell me “eat less. Move more.”
You are not a jackass, because you are in fact human, and such is illogical. You can however, act like a jackass… or not. The choice is yours.
You are not a smoker. You’re just a man who happens to smoke. It’s an action, one you can choose to continue, or not.
Simple in concept, difficult in practice, at first. But it does get easy over time, and becomes second nature. That’s when the fun begins!

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Victor Gagnon June 27, 2015 at 19:36

Scott
a good point thank you. Don’t you think we have to get to the understanding of what we call brainwashing. There are many definitions are there not? My definition is that most of us believe what one is told without questioning and we are told that this is the truth. So if someone says Landmark is brainwashing you then they believe that without any background knowledge or questioning simple a judgement. Your parents and your culture told you things that this life is the way it is, but is it or have they been told to believe what they believe by their parents parents without questioning. My parents told me that Catholicism was what I should believe in but when I questioned Catholicism I was chastised because I no longer believed in what they believed and they could not understand that. Yet they made me so wrong. I was no longer part of their group. Why is that? Is it definitely your choice or are you just being told what someone thinks they know and you should just believe it. Why do we believe what we believe without questioning things? Is it because a belief systems cannot be proved? So should we not allow anyone to believe in what they believe? Now Landmark does not want you to believe anything because then it would go against what Landmark teaches and that is for each and everyone of us to believe what we want to believe, to empower us but to understand that that belief you have is your choice and not your cultures choice or your families choice or your religions choice, your choice. Most times they are not choices but decisions. Decisions are usually predicated on the past of what we know. I will not allow my child to walk to school because the media has told its unsafe for kids or something like that. My choice after 40 + years is not to be Catholic anymore. My choice not my decision. Am I not allowed that? As I have said before we do not choose, or question we simply follow what we are told and believe that its true hence your comment on advertising fits in very well here. It goes hand in hand. That is why advertising is so successful because we have already been trained to accept something without questioning. If one really wants to argue, or converse in this field of choice vs decision then please feel free to come forward. Speak what you need to speak but in order for this to be beneficial one must also listen even if its written on this blog. There is a listening attached to this blog. Pay close attention. Go beyond what you been taught and question everything that you have been told is true and I guarantee you it may come up as being false if you really do understand.
Shakespeare once said that there is no right or wrong but thinking only makes it so. What do you think he meant by that?
If one responds to my words than pay close attention the words you choose because they belong to you and notice if you have any judgement about what I have said. This is simply a suggestion of awareness.
Love yourself into life
Great questions Scott. Questions everything you know and believe nothing you are told. Just be you.

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Scott Adams June 27, 2015 at 22:19

Thanks for the unsolicited advice, @Victor Gagnon, but I have read a number of your posts and you seem to be monopolizing much of the discussion on this webpage, having repeated yourself a number of times. I’m really more interested in what others think if that’s ok.

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grinder June 28, 2015 at 00:57

I think choice can be a sticky situation. People have a natural (previously learned) tendency to gravitate toward what they know. Everything a person does, short of breathing and running the vital systems, they must first learn from someone else. Taking into account the fact that this is true for everyone, and that there is nothing inherently wrong with this, it’s easy to see how a circular pattern can arise. We (most of us anyway) learn new things when we meet new cultures, or read new books, etc. There are a few people in any given period who can simply look at a situation and see a way to improve it, or innovate it, or completely disregard it out of hand, but these people are very few in number indeed. My point here is that most people will look at choice from the perspective of what they have had experience with, and nothing more. This will certainly fill a need in almost all situations but it falls somewhat short of optimal, because there is a world of other choice out there. If one looks at a problem that needs solving and thinks of two or three possible choices that they are familiar with (because of past situations that were similar in scope), they will choose one of those options. But what of the other two or three choices that are outside of that person’s experience? The ones that they didn’t even consider? You’ve just doubled your possible choices, and therefor your possible outcomes, one of which is probably better than your best choice in the beginning. This line of thinking becomes a bit obtuse in the details, but once you can become familiar with the process involved you can duplicate it at will with the proper frame of mind.
My wife and I met online 5 years ago, as I was learning how all this stuff works, and right away my friends and family were telling me it wasn’t going to work. We lived 150 miles from each other and both owned small businesses. She had one employee, and I had no employees, so there weren’t a lot of options to take up the slack. I was talking to my folks about it and my mom said that long distance relationships just don’t work, especially with business owners.
Why? I asked.
They just don’t, she said.
Right away I recognized that she really didn’t know why they didn’t work, that was just something she “knew”. At that point I went straight to the fact that this relationship would work, and I would make it so. I then asked myself what successful relationships had in common, and came up with a short list of criteria. Communication is key. We both need to want this. Action is necessary.
First we started to talk about why long distance relationships historically haven’t worked, and found that in every instance we could think of someone simply said that it wouldn’t, and someone else followed that advice to the relationship’s eventual doom. What’s that all about? Who are these people, and what bearing do they have on us? I asked. What if they were just not willing to seek out new territory here? I asked my (then) girlfriend that if she and I were the only ones that could really choose whether or not our relationship could work, and if neither one of us had any experience with making a long distance relationship work, don’t we in fact have a blank slate here? Can we not make up OUR own rules… or none at all? So we both agreed, and the first rule was that it would work out. To make a long story short (because there’s so much more to it than what I’ve written here) After selling two businesses, one of which was a partnership, finding new careers, and unexpectedly moving half way across the country, on our 4th anniversary we will have lived in the same house for a total of 8 months. It worked out just fine, against all other expectations, simply because we made it up as we went along and didn’t listen to the nay-sayers. Was it tough sometimes? Sure. Were their times when we didn’t know how it was ever going to happen? Every day. It did happen though, because we never lost sight of the goal, and never stopped doing what was necessary to achieve that goal. Action is key! There is one other reason I think it worked. Neither of us had any idea how to do what we wanted to do, we just knew that we wanted to. The idea of choosing an outcome first, and then working through what needed to be accomplished to achieve that outcome is something I learned through Landmark. Landmark didn’t make that happen, we did. Landmark did show me how to take that first step though. We took it from there, and we’ll do it again if we want to. Most people will get bogged down by the how, but if you focus on the what and keep an open mind, the how will present itself.
Sorry for the book here, but to illustrate the idea of choice, and more specifically the idea of finding the choice you didn’t know you had in the first place, I find it easier to write of my own experiences.

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Victor Gagnon June 28, 2015 at 10:42

Thank you grinder great comment. Great example of choosing. Great example of taking control of your life and I know many will benefit from you words.
For @Scott Adams you are welcome and please point out to me where I am forcing you to read my post. I have also been on this site for a long time as I think its a great idea because you and I get to say what we like without trying to offend each other. After all its simply a conversation.
Anyway Scott I will read your posts with great interest. I always have interest in what people have to say about me in my posts no matter what it is because then I learn about me. Thank you.

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Victor Gagnon July 14, 2015 at 19:39

Again although this is not really related again to Landmark’s teachings I would suggest that this is maybe the reason why some go to Landmark education and maybe more than we think. The underlying unknown for so many.
I would like to write this comment for those like Scott Adam. Not to dis him and not to make him wrong but to maybe give him some insight as to who I really am or maybe who he really is. To see me clearly you must have the right mirror otherwise you will only see yourself.
What is love? How do we produce it? we all long for it? It carries us so away, in some form or other yet we are not taught how to love I mean the unconditional love. why is that? Many talk about love but do they really know what it means? We are certainly taught how to hate, how to judge, how to gossip, our media and society does a good job of that, but never ever are we taught how to love and to start should we really not know what love is? What is love?
What is it that we all seek? Is it love? but then what is love? Do we really have any understanding of what love really is? Is it physical, is it sexual, is it the love of something materialistic, is it relationship or is it none of those things. Is love conditional, and if it is than is it love?
Of course many of you know that the Beatles said it all, “All there is, is love” but what is love?
How come we love one moment and then we hate in another moment. Is hate the opposite of love? Is there an opposite to love? Must we do something to gain love from someone? and if that someone does not do what we want and then leaves us than do we then hate that person.
Do our religions know what love really is or are they taught the same as we are taught what love is, conditional, an attachment. Do this and I will love you! Can you teach love? Is hate the opposite of love? We are not taught about the real love, the unconditional love. To understand real love, unconditional love should we not then understand who we really are. Not the human being wanting, thing after thing, materialism. Materialism only makes us happy for a short time. Is that love? Just look at what we all have and that is things, things that make us momentarily happy but soon we become bored and seek something else, do we seek love. So why is that? What is it that we always seek?
The following comments should be read with an open mind but one’s choice.
An interesting observation:
Most parents unfortunately think they are responsible for their children and their sense of responsibility takes the form of telling them what they should do and what they should not do, what they should become and what they should not become. My parents told me that I had believe what they believe. Sound familiar! Why do I have to do that? The parents want their children to have a secure position in society. They always mean well. What they call responsibility is part of that respectability they worship; and it seems to me that where there is respectability there is no order; they are concerned only with becoming a perfect bourgeois. When they prepare their children to fit into society they are perpetuating war, conflict and brutality. One might want to think closely on this comment because its only what they know and we can’t make them wrong. It is obvious in so many countries. Do you call that care and love?
What is love? Do you know? Do you really know? That is the big question. There is no condition to love, none what so ever.
If we love than we accept all the people in our lives for who they are and for who they are not. Can we do that? or Can we only accept love with condition. To love with condition is love with expectation and to love with expectation is to be disappointed.
Food for thought. What will your mirror tell me?
cheers

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Blue Star Sapphire Ring July 26, 2015 at 20:49

Crucifixes, St Christopher pendants, purity rings, mezuzah
pendants, rosary beads, Star of David necklaces, Islamic prayer
beads and Buddhist symbol bracelets are just some of the items that are used or worn for religious purposes.

When it is confirmed to be favorable for a person, it can act to be
extremely effective. A gold ring is so soft,
on the other hand, that your standard electrician pliers can cut through
a gold ring within a second.

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Toni August 1, 2015 at 22:54

Wow! So I actually participated in the Landmark Forum back in 1998! I even did the advanced course and a course after that. I forgot everything I learned and just thought about it and decided to google to see if I could get info on what I learned when I was there. I do remember they showed a movie clip with a coke bottle that falls from the sky in Africa and they do not know what it is and it causes all kinds of problems. I remember them teaching us to use our mind to dissolve the pain we would experience sitting in those hard chairs for so many hours, and it worked and I still use that technique (when you feel pain imagine what color and shape it is and pour a pitcher of water on it) in your mind). The last thing I remember was we went to dinner one night and I remember feeling so confident and did not care what others thought of me. I felt so happy, But that went away pretty quickly. But now reading over the stories and rackets it’s coming back to me. The leaders were amazing! But anyway, you forget it all unless you keep practicing it. I don’t think it was a cult but the inviting people and calling people was really uncomfortable and annoying to me. It seemed no one in my life was interested in self help concepts. It would be great though if everyone was taught theses concepts at a young age and everyone lived this way. But anyway thanks for your experience. I enjoyed reading it and it brought me back 17 years! :)

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Sharlene Rumer August 6, 2015 at 13:42

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Scott Adams August 6, 2015 at 13:52

I suspect that there is a good deal of overlap between people who are immediately dismissive of Landmark without having actually done the Landmark Forum and people who support Donald Trump for President.

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Pete Hilton August 15, 2015 at 19:08

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Sven August 18, 2015 at 05:05

In early July of 2015, I placed an ad on Craigslist advertising my need to find funding for my business. I was contacted by Zevi Kramer of 1801 Dorchester Road, apartment 6K, almost immediately with an email that read something along the lines of, “I am interested in the car industry and I want to invest in your product and make your business thrive.” I looked up the name Zevi Kramer to find names like Bloomberg and how he invented the C-Bird for Maritime Broadband, his Brooklyn based communications company.

I didn’t describe my product in the ad beyond what’s needed to intrigue someone enough to make the first move and say, “Hello.” Zevi’s first email was very exciting. He quickly sent over an NDA and told me how great my idea is and thanked us several times for considering him as an investor and working partner. He made my partner and I feel important and on our way to accomplishing something. He set up a meeting to meet with us and that first meeting, had an engineer (or an actor) by the name of Shawn Groce there. They seem to have gotten to the engineering and design conversation right away! I thought, “Wow, these guys mean business!” Their attitudes were light and positive and this seemed like a breeze to them. Zevi Kramer and Mary Ellen Kramer even argued with each other about the best course of action to enhance this cherade. Then they agreed to compose a letter of intent and the meeting ended with hugs and jokes. Though, it was a little odd that Zevi lacked a certain something. We said good bye at his home and he wouldn’t walk us to the door.

In the following days, Zevi opened “WhatsApp” groups and “DropBox” folders just for this project and sounded like he’s really keeping Shawn Groce busy with work. It was exhilarating to see my baby coming to life and on a fast track by (who I thought were) brilliant engineers. They invested about $50 for some electronics to show me some pretty lights for my project to keep my partner me on their hook.

In a phone conversation, Mary Ellen told me she wanted to visit new car dealers to do a little market research for our automotive aftermarket product. In that same conversation, she also told me that she would like to attend a “Landmark” meeting at 317A West 33 street in Manhattan.

Though I had no clue what Landmark is, I politely declined and told her that I’m in financial position to pay for empowerment seminars, nor am I in need. Her tone changed before she said the next words. She told me that she wants me to come to the first one for free and then it’s just $600 for blah blah blah…”but no pressure.” I made it clear that I don’t go to empowerment seminars. But even with this suddenly thicker air, the conversation continued.

After hanging up, I researched “Landmark” and found that it is an “adult education center” for suckers to fork over their money in return for happy words, bullshit sales pitches and unlicensed group therapy. Landmark promises you to solve all your problems and live a perfect life. It’s a cult. It’s part Scientology and part Amway. And if you don’t join, they shun you and make you believe that you’re caught up in your own rackets.

We went to a few dealerships, and though, four of them gave our product rave reviews, Mary Ellen kept saying that the one guy who didn’t like the product had some good points about why this product will fail. This was the one guy at the rattiest, shadiest new car dealership in Brooklyn, who no clue about the automotive aftermarket or the car culture. She was clearly looking for an out, but after four other dealerships told her that they’ll buy our product by the hundreds, she didn’t find it.

A few days before our market research, Mary Ellen Kramer and Zevi Kramer sent me a draft letter of intent. We requested a few revisions as they got the company name wrong and few other details and replied.

Mary Ellen Kramer told me that they are rewriting the letter of intent and will return to us shortly. Her next reply came on August 14th, as I was enjoying an excellent birthday dinner at Wheeler’s, in Sheepshead Bay, with my wife and our two children on the night of my 40th birthday. I never touch my phone before I order at a restaurant because this actually hurts dining establishments financially. So, after we ordered, I took out my phone because I had received an email before we ordered. I was excited to see an email from Mary Ellen with the subject line reading “Draft agreement for your review.” I opened it and it read “…we have chosen not to move ahead.” I instantly understood that their Landmark cult has something to do with it. I tried to gain some more information from them as to why they ended the relationship so abruptly only to be met with rude replies and riddles. Zevi told me, “I gave you the access to see what is missing. This access is for me to see what is missing.”

He never said a word about why he’s suddenly dropping this project about which he was over-excited about just two days before. Then, I researched Landmark. This sadistic, rotten, evil to the core couple of demonic fecal waste prey on the hopes and dreams of people in need. When those people display the slightest reluctance to join their cult, they desperately seek a way to sever the relationship. So, if you’re ever contacted by Zevi Kramer and Mary Ellen Kramer with promises of having your dreams fulfilled beyond your hopes, know they they are only interested in recruiting you to join their cult…for $600.

At Landmark seminars, they will shower you with comedy, sex jokes, weeping sessions, some thinly veiled philosophy, heavy brainwashing, subliminal, liminal and super-liminal indoctrination and a sales pitch as the cherry on top. Then they call you and hound you to pay their $600 membership fee because you’re a mess and they can cure you by making you do things that aren’t going to help you in any way at all. They use fake smiles and fake positive attitudes to make you feel inferior should ever see through their lies.

Zevy Kramer and Mary Ellen Kramer are con artists and and truly disgusting, sadistic, immoral predators who seek out people in need and build their hopes up only to crush them when you see through their game. If you are involved with these evil people, turn away and never look back. You are about to become a victim of horribly malicious scum.

I had a serious investor on the line and let him go because Zevi Kramer made himself seem like the perfect partner. Zevi Kramer has set me back at least an entire month and several hundred dollars and it means less than nothing to him. He will gladly harm anyone he has to in order to recruit, recruit, recruit.

Zevi Kramer and Mary Ellen Kramer are the lowest form of sub-living scum and should be avoided at all costs. These people are not here to help you. They are only going to exploit you in any way they can to get you to come to their Landmark seminars. Every good review of Landmark is posted by a Landmark sucker who paid and now understands that the only way to get his money back is to recruit others.

If you are in contact with Zevi Kramer and Mary Ellen Kramer, you are about to victimized by an evil, malicious scam. Don’t dare pause when they mention Landmark, all their agreements have a secret, unwritten contingency that you join their Landmark cult.

I’m making this public knowledge because as a good person I feel the responsibility to make sure I can prevent scum like Zevi and Mary Ellen Kramer from victimizing others.

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Litmus test August 18, 2015 at 06:25

When I was single and dating I used to use Landmark Forum introductions to weed out the douchebags (the people who would later cause me trouble always seemed to react to the idea of doing the Landmark Forum the way you describe yourself as having reacted). Reading your comment it sounds like this technique works in business, too; I’m stealing it. Kudos to these guys for avoiding getting themselves too tangled up with the likes of you.

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Victor Gagnon August 18, 2015 at 20:57

Sven what a great story and I truly understand that it is your story, not mine. If you are still reading can you tell us more. I am not suggestion anything but just that your story indicates that you know nothing about Landmark education regardless of what someone may have told you and hey I could be very wrong. So I often wonder why it is important for people like you to take the time to bash Landmark. Do you think this could be considered as being violent? I don’t get that part. What has Landmark done to you? Googling Landmark does not give you experience. It simply gives you someone else’s story as you have just done. Now the Kramer’s may have done what you said and I don’t doubt that for a bit but my question is how your invention went from the Kramer’s to Landmark so quickly in your story and I am sure you have a good reason. Maybe I missed something. You say:” Landmark promises you to solve all your problems and live a perfect life” NOT True. Landmark promises to do nothing for you. We , all of us have to be in charge of our own lives, take responsibilities for our own lives, no one does that for us oh but we simply want to blame others about our life. Maybe you would like to elaborate a little bit more as it is unclear in your story as to what you really know about Landmark. It sounds more like a judgement. Judgements have no experience. I will truly accept your experience if you had one. Judgements always point the finger at others. No experience on your side except to judge Landmark education. Now please pay close attention I am not making Landmark anything I am simply questioning your comments. The Kramer’s may have talked to you about Landmark but to what extent its not clear in your story and I really don’t care. Those like you always get to the “its a cult, and it cost a lot of money, its a great way to bash something when you have no experience to back it up. Those comments always give it away. You might want to tell me what organization does not charge for these type of courses. You you be in business for free. Why would you charge for your invention? You call it a self, help. NOT even close. To do any of the Landmark education programs you have to have a lot of strength. So please enlighten us all and tell us more about how you know so much about Landmark. Not the Kramer story but Landmark. Not the google Landmark, but the experience that you had. You see, if I may suggest, your email is tantamount to gossip and I have often said that to people like you. Most who bash Landmark are simply cowards within themselves and want to blame others for their lives. Pay attention for anyone who is offended just remember I put these words down and if you accept them then you are them just like I don’t accept Sven’s words, if you accept them then you are them. Please don’t believe a word I am saying. The brave would look deeply within themselves to understand my comments. Be brave or blame others for you life. Your choice not mine.
cheers

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