A great workshop can change your life after three days. Landmark Education runs the most powerful ones around the world.
I disliked my first Landmark workshop called ‘The Forum.’ I attended it in January 2013 in New York City. The only Landmark space I am familiar with is the one in New York – a windowless basement filled with uncomfortable chairs. It’s not a stretch to feel like you are being held hostage down there. The temperature is comparable to a meat locker; I wore a down jacket and ski hat throughout the process. The hours are long, and the breaks are short. Pack a big bag of nuts, fruit, and a water bottle.
The person who hosts the forum is called the “Forum Leader.” Their unwavering energy and confidence will blow your mind. Overall, the support staff is fine. They smile a lot and use Landmark jargon, which can co-sign the cult story for people who are looking for data to confirm that belief. They encourage staying in the room, except for allotted breaks. This made me claustrophobic immediately. They even recommend that you only pee on breaks, which are two to three hours apart.
Landmark’s sales tactics are not subtle. Pressure is applied to sign up for the next course starting the second day. I was one of three participants out of a group of 1,000 who refused to sign up for the next workshop, called ‘The Advanced Course.’ They bank on the fact that most people won’t step outside the campfire. I believe it’s an opportunity to get in touch with the pleaser in you and the pushback that can accompany a firm “No.”
So why am I even writing about this unpleasant place and experience?
The weekends I have spent in the NYC Landmark basement rewired my brain. No other work I have done has been that effective in such a short time. Three days and 36 hours were all it took. Feel-good weekends full of trust falls, and affirmations are a lot more enjoyable short term. You may even fondly remember that type of weekend a year or two out, similar to how you would a fishing trip to the Bahamas. Within weeks though, you will revert back to your default setting. Our settings are powerful. Rewiring your reptilian brain is not a comfortable process. Your ego fights for its survival. I felt as though I was going to die in that first Landmark workshop. Now I know that something was dying – the part of my ego that was messing up my life.
I walked away from the Forum believing that I would never step foot in 317-A West 33rd Street again. So why did I end up returning to attend three more courses?
A month later, then a few months later, then a year later, I noticed that my headspace and internal dialogue had shifted entirely. I will write about some of the distinctions I learned at Landmark in later posts. Overall, my limiting narrative was gone. Without it, something huge felt possible, and I wanted to find out what that something was, so I signed up for The Advanced Course a year later. During my third Landmark course, The Self Expression and Leadership Program, I created a transformational program of my own called “Change Your Story, Create Your Life” (post to come). I went on to teach “Change Your Story” in a Juvenile Justice home in the Bronx with five friends for the next two years. CYS was one of the most magical experiences of my life.
Whenever I meet someone who has completed the Forum, I know they are a force. It takes something way above mediocrity to commit to a weekend in that basement. All Landmark graduates share a bond. Most people complain when they are there and walk away with significant breakthroughs. Whatever bothers us in our regular lives shows up in the Landmark room. If we hate authority (yes, that’s an issue for me) then all the Landmark employees can be perceived as controlling. If we like judging people, we scan the crowd and make up stories about everyone seated near us. It’s not a Landmark issue, just a blank space in which we cannot escape our own patterns.
And In all the Landmark courses I attended, I peed whenever I wanted to.