Last weekend I attended a self improvement seminar called "The Landmark Forum". In their language, you might say that "I participated in the landmark forum." Because of it, I honestly feel changed for the better. At the same time, I'm tired. Maybe from learning or from working hard or maybe because I feel energized and have been pouring my energy into my traditional work and into my primary relationships. So, needless to say, I've been offline for a few days.
I'd like to describe the experience I had with the forum. It's a funny organization in a number of ways. Primarily, it is controversial because it's seen by some as a "cult". I can't really speak to that since I don't know much about cults, but I find it hard to believe that this little program could be that. I have read that the content has roots in the 70's "EST" movement, and I think I read that it's been outlawed in some countries. Admittedly, there is a strong sales element to the workshop, and that it involves the recruitment of family and friends.
I believe that the curriculum of the forum takes the group of participants through a very deliberate and designed sequence of steps, which are designed to teach participants to look at their lives in a new way, or from a different perspective. Since we were instructed not to take notes, I didn't. So my recollection is just that.
Early on we were asked to describe what brought us to the course. I stood up and described my frustration with "always doing what I was supposed to do", ultimately living with a sense of resentment, reflecting on a history of choices which were made, not because I wanted something, but because I felt I should go in a particular direction. Then I wondered how I got there.
Even worse, I felt that many of my everyday efforts were not moving me towards things that really mattered to me. I wanted to realign my efforts with my personal priorities.
The next point that I remember was a thorough description of how, over time, the stories we have about important events tent to become our memories. A useful exercise is to distinguish between what literally happened and the story that has gotten built around it. We all create stories in order to understand and justify what has happened to ourselves. This is done in order to place experiences into how we already understand the world to be. (Our understanding is the product of past experiences and how we've changed our way of being in response to being hurt in the past.)
It's an interesting point to distinguish though, particularly for me, as I have spent countless hours trying to understand the perspectives of other people, that I ultimately, simply, do not understand. I've tried endlessley to write convoluted stories to establish some concrete form of "The Truth", but then agonized over my inability to get consensus among the real life participants...
The next thing to think about, was why we hold onto "our stories". Does doing so allow you to hold onto being "being right"? Ultimately, as they described it, the payout of holding onto the story typically revolves around avoiding taking responsibility in some form.
There were other lessons, too. For example, do you already think you know what people are going to say, or what they are thinking? Does that prohibit you from really listening to what they, or anyone else, has to say?
Do you do things in order to look good or avoid looking bad?
Much of the objective was based on letting go of these unproductive motivations and stories and looking into the future to envision how you want things to be. Do you want closer relationships? Do you want to accomplish something specific, or live your life in a particular way? Then articulate what that is, and in an authentic way, take action to accomplish what you want.
Personally, I found the weekend to be very useful. Taking the time to think about personal growth and real possibilities for the future was a good thing. And after I went through the exercise to disassociate some of my stories from the facts of what literally has happened, it was a lot easier to accept responsibility for many, many of the choices I have made over time. And although people will continue to judge me (as we all do), it seems a lot quieter in my mind, with the old stories, and blame and judgments keeping their voices down.
I'm just not interested in thinking about that right now.
So, I think it was a good session, for me anyway.