November 16th, 2014

What I’ve gotten out of Landmark

Like a lot of Landmark graduates, I can genuinely say that I’ve gotten much of my life from my participation in the programs. I was introduced to the programs by the woman I am now married to, after having walked out of an introduction session because I considered it to be total hype and completely implausible. This was in 1985, shortly after the transformation of the est training into the Forum (now called the Landmark Forum), in Canada.

My first course was actually the Communication Workshop (now retired), which had a profound and immediate effect on me. I was 41 years old, and had already done an enormous amount in my life, including living in several countries, earning a Commonwealth Scholarship in New Zealand, moving to Toronto and then to Ottawa to work for the Canadian federal government, spending a year in Paris and visiting Israel and Gaza, and returning to Ottawa and starting a passive solar design and construction business, building houses, and moving into real estate development. I had refused to attend the Forum, but I was willing to consider that I might learn something from a course on communication, since I was having trouble keeping my thirty-five employees on track in the construction business. After four years in business I was already a half-million dollars in the hole. That the course was being led by a Montreal real estate developer also appealed to me. But I was still skeptical that this might be some kind of Scientology scam, which I’d already encountered though not fallen prey to.

Unless you’ve done some kind of transformational program such as est, Landmark, Actualizations, LifeSpring, etc. I can pretty much guarantee that you have no idea of what’s possible. In the course of as little as a weekend, your entire world view is exposed as a fabrication, a fabrication you put together in response to whatever incidents happened to occur in your childhood, and how you chose to interpret them at the time. The experience is shattering, but also enormously freeing: you see who you have become, and have the opportunity to choose newly.

For myself, I realized that I had told myself a story that wrote my father out of my life, and numbed me to the consequences. I missed him, I was angry with him, I was sad for him, but I had shut all that out — and had no idea until that moment how that had distorted some of my choices in life. I realized that for the most part I had no respect for others, and was doing a piss-poor job of listening to them, to what they were actually saying as opposed to what I was making up and projecting on them. And there were other insights as well, all of which left me confronted with the real choices and changes I needed to make, in my business, in my personal life, and in the level of honesty I needed to have with myself.

The first thing I felt I needed to do was to confront Victoria about her ongoing vacillation over whether to stay with me or not. I wanted to be with her, but not unless she was willing to commit to the relationship; she had to “shit or get off the pot,” as she put it. If she left I would be heartbroken but okay; what was crucial to me was that she make a choice. By giving her the freedom to leave, I was able to learn whether she really did want to be with me.

In all the early Landmark courses, there was an “opportunity to leave” at some point during the first day; the idea was to be left with only those participants who knew that they were choosing to be there, committed to discovering the truth about themselves and transcending whatever limitations they had imposed upon themselves in the past. We are, truly, our own worst enemy; what Landmark does is to allow us to get out of our own way, to be capable of fulfilling our deepest commitments, to living a life we choose. And what’s remarkable is that can let go of the past and make these choices in a weekend, in ways that permanently alter our lives for the better. We are stronger, smarter, and less fearful than we have always believed, and we are finally in the driver’s seat of our own destiny.

Within six months I was out of debt, had laid off all of the employees and re-employed the competent ones as subcontractors, and was on my way to undertaking a project ten times the size of anything I had done before. Within two years I had taken most of Landmark’s programs, and began leading introductions, and the Introduction Leader program. Victoria went to work for the consulting firm of my Forum leader, landing big sales. In 1989 we had our daughter, born a few weeks early but healthy. So in a way I can say I got my entire life from the Forum — a life I am enormously fortunate to have lived, and to continue to live; a life in service of my own highest ideals, that is open to beauty and awe and appreciation for all that is, including the pain and the terror that we seek to banish from the world as well as the joy and the happiness that we can unreservedly embrace.

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