Existential Funhouse

June 13th, 2007 at 11:24 am (life in general)

(Update late 2010 – since doing the Forum more than three years ago my interest in Landmark Education has dropped way off, though it’s still always interesting talking to others who have done it or who are still active in it and hearing what they think of it. I did two other Landmark classes after the Forum but frankly they were very unsatisfying in comparison, and in fact the last one I took was very unpleasant and anxiety-provoking. I don’t really regret doing Landmark, though my bank account is a little smaller. However, would I really recommend it to anyone? No, not really – unless you really really love this sort of thing.)

I haven’t been online much this last week because I was busy over the weekend doing the Landmark Forum. It’s an intense three-day seminar that’s designed to make you look at your life and how you’re living it. It grew out of the est workshops that were started by Werner Erhard back in the 70s. It’s a fairly controversial program. A lot of people have taken it and say it has had a powerful and positive impact on their life. Critics, on the other hand, have accused it of being a cult or of using mind control techniques. A friend who took the seminar earlier this year introduced it to me and I was curious enough that I reluctantly signed up for it. I did it in “Robert” mode.

It is very intense: three 12-hour days in a row. And it’s designed to be confrontational and to really make you look at your shit. I’d have to say it was one of the most intense things I’ve done in a very long time. I resisted it a lot and had many ups and downs over the weekend, more downs than ups, to be honest. But last night there was a short wrap-up evening session and it really brought it all together for me. Before last night I was feeling a little bit freaked out by it.

The funny thing is that there really isn’t much that you need to “buy into” or understand when you’re doing it. It’s certainly not a religion, and although they present many concepts or “distinctions,” as they call them, there’s no pressure that you have to agree or accept anything. It’s also very much concerned with your relationships to friends and family and other people, which leads me to discount the cult charges. Cults are groups that tend to separate people from their families and from others, and create an insular and structured group that has the “right answer.” The Landmark Forum on the other hand is nearly obsessive about your relationships with others and about making even stronger and more authentic connections with other people.

Would I recommend it? If you’re drawn towards this kind of thing, then yes, I definitely would. It’s an experience that’s hard to put into words, and what each person gets out of it is unique. You could write down a long list of the “distinctions” that they present but without the experience of being there it’s just not the same thing at all.

Also, it’s quite expensive – $450 dollars. But having finished it I’d have to say that the money is now a non-issue. It was a really wild up and down ride, but I’d do it again just like that.

Oh, and the gender and kink stuff weren’t even much of an issue over the weekend. I told a few people what I do for a living but I could have not brought it up and I don’t think it would have made a difference to the experience one way or the other.

Some other links and perspectives:

Landmark Education on Wikipedia

Landmark Forum on the Skeptics Dictionary

1 Comment

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