The time was June 2023. I was sitting in front of my laptop trying to work and no one was at home. Suddenly, tears started rolling from my eyes. As if that wasn’t enough, I started screaming my lungs out. Within a moment, there was no voice. Only my mouth wide open and me trying to scream, as if I was trapped!
I had signed up for The Landmark Forum which was to happen 15 days after this incident. Every night I remained wide awake thinking – this was my last chance. What if this doesn’t work too? I don’t know if there is another option to get myself out of this trap. I was scared!
Until now, I had tried counselling and meditation! It helped me cross some barriers. And, all days weren’t bad, some were. All relationships weren’t screwed, some were. All moments were not filled with anger, some were.
So, what was actually wrong?
I was agitated. I had chronic low back pain. I felt distanced with people. I felt no one loved me. I lost my interest in building my career. At the slightest provocation, I’d feel “Why am I always wrong and everyone else is so right about everything?”.
I wanted to go back in time. Be the same healthy, ambitious young girl I was. Minus the stress of that young girl that got me in this situation.
This situation impacted my family and I knew I needed to work upon myself.
“Embrace each challenge in your life as an opportunity for self-transformation.” ~ Bernie S. Siegel
That is when the Landmark Forum happened to me. It exposed me to my own blind spots (things I did not know about myself), and thus opened up every area of my life – career, health and relationships.
I got to know how ‘what we deduce from our experiences gets filed into our future’. I discovered that the source of my stuck career was the thinking – ‘I am incapable’, derived from a certain childhood incident. I also discovered that I grew up as a hard-working and highly disciplined child in order to impress my father.
Knowing the source helped me invent new possibilities in relationships and other areas that weren’t working well. It changed my outlook towards life. It changed the way I communicated with people. Let me tell you a little bit about how all of this unfolded for me in the three and half days of doing the forum.
It is a conversation created in a step-by-step fashion by the Forum Leader, people share the areas of their life that aren’t working. The Forum leader helps us look at these situations from ‘distinctions’. The result is to get answers that you could have never figured out without those ‘distinctions’.
Here are the 10 things that I learnt from The Landmark Forum –
Being in the forum, I had a profound feeling of inclusivity. I was seeing myself in others who were sharing their life. This created a feeling of oneness that cannot be otherwise experienced unless you are in a state of deep meditation. A life lived making judgements, analysing, blaming and manipulating people around us, seemed useless.
2) There is no good no bad
I would often regret anger, hatred and envy. I realised that no emotion is inherently good or bad. Every emotion arises from a deep-seated thought. For example, I realised that the root of jealousy is an underlying thought that ‘I am incapable’. Once I recognised this, emotions started making sense. I could easily acknowledge my emotions without getting overpowered by them. This gave a sense of me being the creator of my own life.
“The domain of possibility doesn’t exist; we need to create it in order for it to exist. Happiness, fulfillment, regard, satisfaction are all states that exist only as a possibility. So is everything else that’s of any value.” ~ Laurel Scheaf, Landmark Forum leader
I came across the concept of ‘human being as a possibility’. I could understand why resolutions hardly work. Creating a possibility of living a ‘healthy, long and an adventurous life’ is much more inspiring than ‘I will exercise everyday from now on’. New actions emerge by creating a new possibility, rather than mere changing of the past actions.
4) Complaints into Possibility
In one of the seminars after sessions, we did an exercise – ‘listing down all the complaints we have, as we go about the day’. As a week passed, 15 pages of my book were filled with complaints. This was true of every other participant. And then we worked to convert these complaints into possibilities that opened up a whole new way of looking at life. Now, every nagging complaint in relationships, health, career, got converted into a possibility. Life is exciting when you live it out of possibilities!
“No one ever cleans the mess in the house. It’s me who cares, everyone else just makes the mess,” was my constant complaint. One day, our family got together at the dinner table and we created the possibility of being a ‘sparkling family’.
A sparkling family not only shines outside but also inside. A sparkling family not only shines outside but also inside. A family that keeps the outdoor (read ‘house’) and indoor (read ‘mind’) clean. As you see, the beauty about creating a ‘possibility’ reflects in several areas of our life.
5) Standing for the other
Until the forum, I knew how to mind my own business. Realising that others’ goals can be my goals, was a complete game-changer. My relationship with others had a different meaning. I started living life with others, like real human beings. Not living life in isolation.
6) Living life out of ‘priorities’ versus ‘everything matters’
I lived life without prioritising – prioritising career over few relationships. While building one area of life, I would lose sight of the other areas of life. The balance was missing. Being associated with Landmark has empowered me to live a life out of ‘commitments’, not my emotions, thoughts and feelings.
There is nothing more and less important than the commitment I give to myself and other people. When I live a life out of commitment, whatever I give my word for becomes most important. Not what I ‘think’ is important.
“Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of another person. You can call it compassionate listening. You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty his heart.” ~ Thích Nhất Hạnh
I realised that I hardly listen to people. With the constant chatter going on in my head, it is appalling how bad a listener I was. This chatter would create filters, bias and judgement. No wonder what I said landed completely differently than the way it was supposed to go. I learnt to listen to people, really listen while minimising the constant chatter.
8) Developing people skills
I learnt effective communication. Most times, we are so engrossed in making stories before we actually arrive at a point. We avoid getting straight to the point, because we are already thinking about the reaction that we will receive from the other person. I got that effective communication means coming straight to the point followed by demanding action. This isn’t easy.
9) Life is empty and meaningless
I realised that operating from the space of nothingness gives me power to give my 100 percent to everything. When life is meaningless anyway, the power lies in creating my own meaning. There is no need to search for the meaning of life or its purpose on the outside or within. Because it is meaningless. And you can create just about any meaning that you want.
10) Living an authentic life
“The possibility of fully being ourselves occurs in proportion to our being authentic. Living with a pretense, or being afraid that some aspect of ourselves might be found out, precludes any real freedom. Being authentic requires courage.” ~ Joe DiMaggio, MD, Landmark Forum leader
It taught me to live an authentic life. It gave a structure to discover and deal with my inauthenticity. I would define this experience as ‘meditation on the court’.
Lastly, for those who’d like to know about what happened to the low back pain. The clear difference that the forum made was to turn my aggression into acceptance towards my low back pain.
To accept that a part of my body needs help, needs rest and needs compassion. I have had triggers even after the Landmark Forum, but it doesn’t stop me mentally and emotionally. It might have to physically rest but picking myself up has become a lot easier!
(Everyone should do The Landmark Forum once in life. It is the shortest possible route to transforming our outlook towards life. If you would like to know about this 3 ½ days course, do get in touch with me.)