The Landmark Forum: A Review.

Truthbomb by Danielle LaPorte

Truthbomb by Danielle LaPorte

Last weekend I attended The Landmark Forum. Before launching into this adventure I had heard many mixed views, strong opinions, both positive and negative, and read several critical articles. There’s a lot of really interesting writing on Landmark and varying opinions that I strongly encourage you to look into if you’re interested. One post by Jenny Sansouci does a particularly good job of outlining the structure and format of the Forum and debunking some of the common misperceptions. I’m not going to focus this post on critiquing Landmark’s structure. Yes, Landmark is a large corporation and some of the three-day long conference is oriented around marketing further courses to you. Yes, it’s intense and a very different learning experience from what we are used to. Yes, the Landmark Forum leader can be abrasive at times, but I never felt as though it was from a place other than kindness. Yes, people cry and get upset.  And yes, you make a lot of phone calls. But what I really want to dig into is what I got out of it. Because I got a lot out of it. And it was definitely worthwhile for me. And no, I’m getting nothing for writing this post other than the opportunity to put together some of the puzzle pieces for myself.

The Stories We Tell. 

Everything we experience in life happens to us. And those experiences, in the moment, affect us in a multitude of ways. We often react to those experiences by telling stories about them. As an example, “my dad left me” is something that happened, fortunately not to me. But the story we might tell about that becomes “I’m not good enough” or “I’m unloveable”. We then continue telling ourselves that story throughout the rest of our lives and applying it to other situations. It makes us push other people away because we think “Im not good enough”. Landmark, through transformational learning, teaches us to recognize that these stories are not what actually happened, and to let them go.

With this more objective lens we can start to see what is true in the world. We stop reading into what people say. We stop making assumptions. When you ask someone to go for coffee and they respond “I’m too busy to hang out” you might jump to the conclusion that they don’t want to spend time with you, or you’re not worth their time. But in reality, it just means “I’m too busy to hang out”. Great. No hurt feelings. It’s such a relief to be able to hear and see everything at face value and just accept it without question. And in being able to receive what people say and do that way, you can start to do it yourself.

I went into The Landmark Forum with the hopes that it would help me develop my courage and authenticity muscles. I really want to work on mustering the courage to speak my mind, say what I want and need, and to be my truest most complete self. The ability to just say things as they are, without embellishments and assumptions, without trying to read between the lines, is a relief. It’s freeing. It means being a person of greater integrity, something I really value and am so grateful for.

The Landmark Toolbox. 

Landmark provides a multitude of concepts and tools that, once explained, seem so obvious. But throughout the course of the weekend, they are presented in a way in which they start to become second nature. The Forum covers the idea of ‘rackets’, which are basically equivalent to complaints about the world around us, and why we form them and how to combat them. They discuss how we often choose these rackets over other attributes like self-expression and love.

They help you find your three strong suits, or “ways of being”, that you most commonly apply or automatically resort to. We develop these at different stages of our childhood and adolescence to cope with challenging situations. I dug deep on this one and figured out that mine are: Compassionate, Hard-Working and In Control.

When I was six I saw my dad cry for the first time, and it was my fault; I had acted out in a cruel way to my parents and it made my dad so sad. In that moment I realized I needed to carry myself with a greater level of compassion. And that has spread through my life in many ways. In high school, I struggled with bullying and rejection. To hide from that I buried myself in homework and taking on activities outside of school with a vengeance. I put on my “stay busy” mask and became an incredibly hard worker to avoid the feelings of exclusion. And a couple of years ago I experienced serious anxiety and panic attacks whenever I felt alone. This is something I struggled with for a long time and I will probably discuss in greater detail in a future post. It took a lot to get through that, but one method was to learn to organize my life in a way that meant that I had control over it.

Strong suits are usually good, positive attributes. But they can also come back and bite us or put road blocks in our way. I love that I’m compassionate but it means I struggle to say no, often put others first, and don’t always stand up for what I want. Being hard-working is something that I appreciate immensely, but sometimes it gets in the way of living the life I really want to live. And being organized and in control allows me to be highly productive and prioritize what I value, but sometimes I yearn for spontaneity.

We learn that there is a difference between making a decision and making a choice, and that we should always aim to make choices rather than decisions. When you make a decision it is based directly on the circumstances or options at hand. When you make a choice, you look at the circumstances at hand, consider them, and then choose freely. Even if you don’t have options and a circumstance is forced upon you and out of your control, this gives  you the agency to accept what you cannot change, and then to move on from there, creating a new possibility given that circumstance.

We learned about how to deal with breakdowns, when things don’t go our way or obstacles arise. It’s all about keeping your eye on the end goal: “Courage! Joy! Love!” or whatever that looks like for you. What’s your big game? I know mine is something like “Live a loving, courageous, joy-filled, grateful and connected life. Do what you love. Find a career of your dreams. Be of service to others. Carry your light and love wherever you go and share it generously. Find true love, start a family, settle down.” Problems will come up. We won’t always get what we want. But we learn to stop making it all about those individual problems and instead to realize that when issues arise, they’re just a part of the big game. Nelson Mandela was behind bars for years, but he was never imprisoned. Don’t let your problems keep you small. Be the big you that you are all the time, even when the going gets rough.

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This is it. 

But above all, we talked about how to cease the moment, to live in the now. We realized in a really impactful way that the past is in the past, and it’s okay for it to stay there. In fact, for us to live a truly fulfilling life that’s exactly where the past needs to be. And we came to realize that the future is a blank slate. It’s an empty canvas and we can create whatever possibility we want in that space. From this point, witnessing all the stories you have told, all that you have let get in the way, accepting that, and moving forward, you can be and do whatever it is you want.

But you have to do it now. In this moment. Not in the future. It’s not about going on a diet next month, or getting a promotion next year, or confronting a coworker tomorrow. It’s about living and breathing and being those things right now. Down the road I would love to be doing environmental and social justice organizing work while strongly emphasizing the need for self-love and self-care. But that’s not a tomorrow thing. That’s something I can actively do every day, right now. I want to be loving and connected. So in every conversation I’ll bring that intention with me and put it into action. I want to have financial freedom. So right now, even though my bank account makes me nervous when I look at it, I’ll stop living in a mentality of lack, and I’ll feel abundant, now. I’ll stop saying “I can’t afford this” and I’ll start saying “I’m so grateful for…”. It’s all about creating what you want starting right now, in this moment.

We create possibility by what we say. The words that come from between our lips and the conversations that we have in turn create the life we live. We use language to build our relationships, state our intentions, and paint whatever future you want.

What could you do right now that would be actively creating the possibility that you want? What could you say, and to whom? Speak your authenticity. Shout your truth. Holler with integrity. State your intentions. And whisper your desires.

Truthbomb by Danielle LaPorte

Truthbomb by Danielle LaPorte

TGIF.

Thank God It’s Friday? Nope. Truth Gratitude Inspiration & Faith.

This is based on an exercise by Brene Brown (hero!). Every Friday she used to write a TGIF blog post in which she would outline what she’s trusting in, what she’s grateful for, what she’s inspired by and how she’s practicing faith. I’ve modified this a bit by changing the “trusting in” portion to “what’s true for me”. But starting next Friday, I’m going to try and introduce this new practice and I encourage you to give it a shot too.

Here’s a sample of what I mean by these four areas.

What’s True for me:

I know that the thoughts I cloud my mind with, and the stories I tell myself, the interpretations and assumptions I make, and the expectations I have are not real. I know that beyond that, if I can get past that, there is an inner voice, a connection with spirit, or God, or love. And that is what is true. That layer beyond.

I feel it in many ways. Sometimes it’s a strong pull by my intuition. Sometimes it’s a quiet reminder of what is real. Sometimes it’s a deep wave of energy flowing through me, a connection with something greater than myself. I can literally feel it coursing through my body. In those moments, I can set aside my ‘monkey mind’ and reach out to what is real. It is that deep, calm, unstirred ocean hiding beneath the rippling, tumultuous surface that is true for me.

What I’m Grateful for:

I am grateful for the relationships I am building in my organizing work. They are deep, and meaningful, and I am learning so much from the people around me. I am so grateful for the knowledge that is being shared and for the strength and support I receive from the people around me, even those I do not know very well.

I am grateful for the feeling of rain drops landing on my face as I run through the city streets at night. I am grateful for the music beating in my ears and for the pounding of my feet on the ground. I am grateful for the strength in my body to continue to put one foot in front of the other. I am grateful for the strain and the ache and the sound of my beating heart because it reminds me that I am alive.

What Inspires Me:

I am always so inspired by the people around me who are so committed to the work that they do. Whether their contributions to the world and community are big or small, I am constantly driven to rejoice at the beauty of dedication and passion. Every time someone else feels empowered or excited to dive into something new, and I am privileged enough to witness that, something lights up inside of me. I am inspired by your passion, whatever it is for. Let it shine; in doing so, you’ll light others up too.

How I’m practicing my Faith:

Every morning I get up and say a little prayer from A Course In Miracles, “Where will you have me go? What will you have me do? What will you have me say? And to whom?” I love this simple request for guidance. Usually I will follow this prayer with a meditation to allow whatever comes to come and set a strong, open, willing, accepting intention for the day.

TGIF. (Actually, it’s Saturday. But better late than never!)

VEG out.

Just like we need veggies for our bodies to stay healthy, we need to veg out for our minds too. Now, when I say “veg out” I don’t mean sitting around and watching mind-numbing TV shows (although I’m totally down with that occasionally). What I really mean is some serious soul food to nourish your mind.

This is a practice I try and do every evening in my journal before I go to bed. It only takes about ten minutes, and it can be revolutionary. So here’s my challenge to you: every night before you crash, sacrifice ten minutes of TV watching time, book reading, paper writing, Facebook creeping, or whatever else you might be doing, and VEG out.

VEG out. It’s a three part practice.

1. Value – Write down three things that you value about yourself or three ways that you have added value to someone else’s life. Make them specific. Instead of saying “I value my passion” say “I value how dedicated and committed I was today to working on completing my project and I’m proud of the result”. Here’s an example of a recent set of self-values for me:

1. I value that I can speak in public, in front of hundreds of people, and love every minute of it and feel so inspired by my courage.
2. I value that I have committed to doing yoga regularly and have maintained that commitment to myself.
3. I value that I am working on becoming a really good active listener and that this has helped nourish many of my relationships.

This exercise was introduced to my practice by Kate Northrup, author of Money: A Love Story.

2. Ego – Take an inventory of your ego, and then forgive. Make a list of all the times fear, judgment, negativity, or an inability to forgive or be grateful got in your way today. Take a few minutes to reflect on your day and take note of the times that you chose fear instead of love, false assumptions instead of trust, selfishness instead of generosity, or judgment instead of gratitude. Write them all down. And forgive yourself. Release all of those past actions. Let them go. And start fresh tomorrow, with a commitment to love, gratitude, and forgiveness.

This exercise was introduced to my practice by Gabrielle Bernstein, author of May Cause Miracles.

3. Gratitude – Make a list of three things you are grateful for (or more if you’d like, although I know once I really get rolling this list can be endless). Be sure to pick specific things and write down the reasons why you are grateful for these things. For example, “I am grateful for Lily because she makes me feel so heard when I tell her things that are important to me” or “I am grateful for the sunset I saw this morning when I was running because it helped keep me motivated to run and set a calm and peaceful start to my day”. They can be big things, or they can be small things. Just make them specific.

Seriously. Give it a shot. Tonight before bed, take some time to VEG out. Maybe it won’t be in the way that you’re used to, but it’ll be worth it. Once you commit to a practice like this, stick to it, and you’ll start to see shifts in how you see the world. Little by little.