I just read a story on a website that reminded me of why I started this blog, and why so many people take part in this profound education. It’s about a man’s experience in the Landmark Forum, and while it’s extraordinary, I don’t think it’s unusual. If you want a review of the Landmark Forum, here it is:
600 Bucks for Nothing and Everything
I spent the last three beautiful sunny days sitting on a very uncomfortable chair from 9 am until 10 pm and still can’t feel my butt. I attended the Landmark forum that teaches the curriculum of living, and registered for the forum because my wife wanted me to. The management of the company where she works sees the benefit in it.
So, I first registered for the forum and then googled it to see what others think about it (as always, looking for the negative comments). What I found were the stories about brain washing, cult, scam, etc. In spite of all this, for the love of my life I decided to go (instead of buying a home theatre at Costco). Actually I wasn’t completely happy with some areas in my life, so I was curious to see if I can learn something that could possibly help me to make some changes.
I was probably the biggest skeptic among the 118 people in the room (not only because I am 6′4 and over 240 pounds). The instructor started by briefly telling us what the forum is about. Then he said that we paid $595 for nothing, at the end of the forum we are going to get nothing out of it. (??!!) Then he added that those who want to leave will get their money back. Dead silence for 30 seconds. Nobody left (I was thinking about that home theatre for a sec…) He continued by telling us what was going to happen over the next three days plus one evening is similar to how the popcorn is made in a microwave: first you have heat only, than you hear pop, then heat and sporadic pop, and then pop-pop and pop-pop-pop, and then pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop, and then again pop-pop , and pop, and nothing for a while and then one more pop. It turned out that each of these pops was somebody’s breakthrough in different areas of their life. I was listening and crying and listening and crying again (I always thought I had no emotions, sometimes I was actually afraid of that thought).
I came to the forum thinking that my problem is a burden that I have been carrying on my back for five years now: the burden of not buying our first home or investing the $40,000 we had saved for a down payment before the real estate market went crazy. On the second day of the forum one of the assignments was to write a letter to a person with whom you think you need to improve your relationship. I wrote a short letter to my 15-year-old daughter Paloma. Then I shared the letter to a partner sitting beside us. I read the letter to an Asian girl named Cindy (one of the most sincere persons I have ever met). When I read the sentence: “I don’t want to be a father who is just commanding and telling what you did wrong, and how it is supposed to be done” Cindy added with a smile: “That’s exactly how my father behaves.” I felt the heat from the microwave for the first time.
Later in the afternoon Cindy took the microphone to share her life story with all of us. She said that she had not talked to her parents for a long time. The conversation with the instructor went something like this: “When did you last talk to your mother?” “A year ago,” she replied. “When was the last time you saw your parents?” “I live with my parents.” “The last time you spoke with your mother, what did you tell her?” (pause) “Hi.”
I popped like a popcorn. For the next ten minutes I wasn’t listening; I was rolling the film of my life back to year 2004, when my daughter was 12 and I noticed that she had changed. That year she met a girl in her class who quickly became her best friend, and they spent most of the time together. She stopped listening to what I was telling her and did all the opposites. I was angry with her almost every day, and all our conversations consisted of me yelling and her apologizing. I blamed her new friend for everything. For the next four years all our conversations were me telling her what to do, what not to do, what she did wrong … I see now that I was blind to obvious: that she was entering puberty – that she wasn’t a child anymore. The frustration and fear of losing my child blinded me so much I could not see the beautiful young woman she was becoming right before my eyes! (She is my first born. I hope–I actually KNOW–that I will not be so blind when our younger daughter reaches that stage of her life.)
On a first 30 minute break I called her and she happened to be just three blocks away at her friend’s place. In five minutes we met outside, sat on the grass and after a minute of trying to catch my breath (I don’t want to say crying and weeping) I told her in detail what I had just realized. She replied “I was hoping you were going to say that…” It turns out she knew I was at the forum and knew what it was all about. For the next ten minutes we talked, cried, laughed, and then cried again. I didn’t care that people starred at us (Coal Harbour seawall on a sunny Saturday afternoon). I didn’t care about my investments. I didn’t care about anything. I GOT MY DAUGHTER BACK INTO MY LIFE.
We had ice-cream, and I walked her back to her friend’s place. I kissed her and told her I loved her. And I told her that I’m saying that because I feel that way (and I feel it with all my heart).
What I went through in those three days of the Landmark forum was the best experience in my life. It totally shifted my life. I closed the chapter of 41 years of my life, and I’m starting a new chapter with a blank, white, clean sheet of endless possibilities.
I paid $595 for “nothing” and in return I received “everything”. What I got is priceless.
I never tried Red Bull, but I must tell you that on the last night I didn’t walk back home. Yes, I got wings!!!
I have to stop here. I emptied the Kleenex box.
I’d like to thank my wife for asking me to participate in the Landmark forum (and for seeing the things that I wasn’t able to), to give a huge thanks to the Landmark staff (especially to Roger Smith, who is truly an extraordinary man), and to also thank Malcolm Cairns (the owner of the company where my wife works) for recognizing the value of the Landmark forum and sharing it with his employees. And I’d like to thank my friend Vince for helping me to share this story to all of you on the Internet who’ve just read it, for recognizing my excitement and happiness (and fixing my grammar mistakes). And finally, to the 117 other people who attended our forum (especially you, Cindy) I feel touched and honoured to have shared, encouraged, laughed, and often cried, about those powerful, intimate emotions–thank you all so much!