Landmark Forum: One Weekend to fix your LIFE?

Published in the The Irish Mail on Sunday -( Sun Feb 18, 2012)

One Weekend to fix your LIFE?

By: Nikki Walsh

The Landmark Forum – or ‘group therapy on speed’ – is a three-day course that claims to permanently improve your life. Does it work, asks Nikki Walsh… and what does it actually do?

It is a Friday morning in a hotel in Dublin. More than 150 people have gathered in one of its conference rooms to attend a course, known as the Landmark Forum. A man, the forum leader, stands up and asks if there is anyone in the room who would like to talk about their life. One by one, people take the mic. They might talk about the difficulties they are facing in work, an unresolved relationship they have with a parent, or a conversation they need to have with their partner. The forum leader reflects back on what they have said, challenging presumptions or fixed ways of thinking. There can be tears, anger, denial. More and more people stand up. Later that evening — the course ends at 9 or 10pm — they are sent home with an assignment. They must write a letter to someone they care about or make a call to someone they love. The next day there is more of the same, and the next.

This three-day — and one-evening — course is run by Landmark Education, set up by a group of personal development professionals in 1991. Working on the fundamental principle that people have the possibility not only of success but also of fulfilment and greatness, they created a series of programmes using a model known as ‘transformative learning’, which gives people an awareness of the basic structures through which they know, think, and act in the world. From this awareness, it is possible to create a shift in thinking and it’s this shift that is the essence of Landmark.

It’s big business: since the company was founded, it has become a global brand with programmes in more than 125 cities, and a revenue, in 2010, of $75m. Every year 175,000 people participate in their courses, and the Landmark Forum, their flagship course (and often a necessary preliminary to other courses), costs €400. But does it work?

Mike Power, 44, did the Forum in the spring of 2005, on the recommendation of his girlfriend. ‘I thought it was going to be a lot of American mumbo-jumbo nicey-nicey stuff,’ he says, ‘but I was curious and I told myself to park my cynicism at the door. I’m glad I did. They were the three most empowering days of my life. By Saturday I was up at the mic, talking about stuff I didn’t really talk about. Since then every area of my life had improved. Before I went there, I wasn’t able to hold down a longterm relationship, but my girlfriend and I are still together, and what we have is magical.’

How does this change in thinking happen? Ruth (not her real name), 37, is a mother and teacher. She attended the forum last year. ‘I told myself before I went I was not getting up to the mic. But by Saturday I was compelled to go up. I realised I had all this stuff I hadn’t worked through, and the need to get it out there was urgent. It’s liberating going up to the mic: you get coached and you have breakthroughs you just don’t get talking to other people in your daily life.

What I really took from it is the fact that life doesn’t have any meaning. We create that meaning and attach it to all kinds of stuff. These meanings must be challenged. Once you strip your life of these meanings, you get clarity. I became aware, very quickly, of the limitations I’d imposed on my life, and how fixed my view of things had become.’

Could much of this be put down to the intensity of the experience? ‘It’s not called group therapy on speed for nothing,’ laughs Ruth. ‘If you take 150 people and put them in a room for a 10-hour stretch, get them talking, make them see the flaws in their thinking and the effect it has had on their relationships, then you have a huge release of cathartic emotional energy.’

David Cunningham, a senior programme leader of the Landmark Forum, explains how it works. ‘Landmark Education gives you access to what you don’t even know that you don’t know,’ he says. ‘Things happen as we’re growing up. We have school experiences, experiences with money, experiences with success, experiences with failure. And as children and young adults, we make decisions based on those experiences. Decisions about ourselves like “I’m good at this”, “I’m not good at that”. Decisions about circumstances in life: “this is possible”, “that’s not possible”. Decisions about other people: “people like this about me”, “they don’t like that about me”. And it’s the decisions we make, what we add to those life circumstances, that colour or limit our choices.

‘What affects us today are the conclusions we have drawn about those events. Although we can’t change the past, we can change what we decided about the past. Then the cascade that leads to real breakthroughs can start.’

And the effects of these breakthroughs can be startling. People find themselves reconciled with parents, exes and friends. They have conversations they have wanted to have with their families for years; they meet people or get promoted in work.

Olivia Seery, 67, a Sligo-based mother of four and a medical scientist, did the Forum in 1998. ‘I had become utterly disillusioned about my work. I was so overworked, my health was deteriorating. I wasn’t sure I could go on. But watching people take the mic, and listening to the forum leader work through their thinking, I realised it wasn’t the job that was bad; it was my attitude to it.

‘After that, my work changed completely. It was like having a completely different job. I realised I was making a difference, and so were my colleagues. I could see the value of it and that was a good thing.’

Once a person has completed the Forum, they can attend seminars, included in the fee, that help them to reinforce everything they have learnt. From there, it is possible to do an advanced course and a self-expression and leadership programme. Some go on to become Forum leaders themselves.

Ruth clarifies that it is not a cure-all. ‘People who are really fragile or have been recently diagnosed with a mental health condition or people on medication might find it difficult. Now I have done it, I have a few friends — not many — I would not recommend it to. But then again I think that people only go as deep as they need to go. Perhaps there is not a right person for Landmark but simply a right time to do it.’

The friendships formed on these courses seem to be incredibly enduring. ‘You can talk to the friends you have made through Landmark in a way you just can’t with others,’ says Mike. ‘There’s a real honesty to it all that is lacking in day-to-day life,’ Olivia agrees. Older friendships benefit too. ‘You forgive,’ adds Olivia. ‘You put the past back in the past and when you do that, you begin to live life in the present and take action in whatever area of your life you choose.’

The effect it has on family relationships can be life-changing. ‘I was able to be with my mother in a whole different way,’ says Olivia. ‘When she died, there was nothing left for me to say to her. She was at peace.’ For this reason alone, claims that Landmark is cult-like make people who have attended the Forum laugh. ‘Well, as one person said to me on the course,’ says Ruth, ‘it’s the only cult that sends you back to your family.’

And its effects stay with you. Mike was diagnosed with cancer just as he was turning 40. ‘It was a real shock. It came on quickly. I had to have eight months of chemo, but I was able to handle it. That’s what Landmark gave me. Inner strength. I just kept telling myself I was connected, that I was powerful.’

‘I’m glad I parked my cynicism at the door. They were the three most empowering days of my life’

The next Landmark Forum takes place in Dublin this May; landmarkeducation.ie

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23 Comments

Filed under Landmark Education Ireland, Landmark forum Ireland

23 responses to “Landmark Forum: One Weekend to fix your LIFE?

  1. Tom Hoover

    Terrific Story about the Landmark Forum.

  2. Rick

    Just Remember – There’s Nothing to Fix. So, take the word “Fix” in the Title Lightly. :-) and <3

  3. Michael

    Gave me the opportunity of community everywhere in my life! Peace after a vein blockage to my Heart and Heart Therapy ! Anything is possible! Go for what you want!

  4. Gwendoline

    I loved my Landmark Forum, I got to see how all my limitations were based in being slagged and teased by my darling brothers growing up. I took it all so seriously and during those 3 days I really let it all drop away. I found the experience wonderful.!

  5. Suzanne Alford

    As a qualified Life Coach who has attended many self development programmes, this is easily the best set of self-development programmes out there! Its worth more than the sum of its parts. It saved my life! It’s powerful, its confronting (you confront yourself with yourself) – the exercises are typically designed for you to see a microcosm of yourself very quickly, then you learn how to deal with yourself and your ways/behaviour patterns and bypass them and its just brilliant!

  6. Cathy Tutty

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I was unhappy in a job I did not want, living for a paycheck and hopeful that I would at least survive my life. After completing the Landmark Forum, I rediscovered my passion for LIFE and also learned that it really did not matter what I was doing. It only mattered who I was while doing it. I can find joy in some of the most unique things now .. much to the surprise of many of my closest pals. What an incredible opportunity .. to transform life in the moment!

  7. Glenn gannon

    This sounds just like the philosophy i decided to live by twelve years ago it really works

  8. landmarkeducation

    Reblogged this on Landmark Education Graduates and commented:

    Great Story About Landmark Education in Ireland

  9. sanjay gautam

    very good article specially for those who have recently done the forum and came to know about their limitations in life…..this is amazing. Should be mandatory for everyone.

  10. Jenny Rees

    Excellent article about Landmark, especially the comment about cult accusations.

  11. Barbara La Valleur

    Landmark’s Education has profoundly impacted my life, my relationships and my joy in being alive. Thanks for an article that fairly represents insights into what people achieve out of this education. Excellent!

  12. Katie Kennedy

    Great to hear about the Landmark Forum in Ireland. The course is well worth it. Love the part about the cult that sends you back to your family!

  13. Sudheer

    A new context, a new experience. May it be relationship with some one, job, money, power and the whole experience of life itself. Its magic, beyond personal logic. Adding life to life. That’s what Landmark Forum has been for me since 2006 :-)

  14. rob

    Is there a link to the original article?
    I can’t find it online

  15. Extraordinary, life transforming experience, as the Advanced Course has been as well and this weekend’s Direct Access in Perth, Australia. Just do it and ignore the little voice in your head telling you all those things it has made up from past experience and other people’s opinions. The most transformational, life changing experience.

  16. Sunita

    excellent article!!! Landmark Forum explained very well explained. I also did forum in 2008 subsequently completed the curriculum.. My thinking, attitude have changed a lot.

  17. NACIPUCHA

    landmark is the place where i got the tolls to save my business, and open a new one, unite my family, gave me confident and full self expression . I am so glad i listened to my best friend , who invited me to landmark october, 20, 2010. I recomended to all my friend and family

  18. Landmarked! Just a great way of being. Be in action, be powerful,be unstoppable, be unreasonable, but be happy; love the life you lead, lead the life you love.

  19. I finally participated in the Landmark Forum in the early 1990s and my life hasn’t been the same ever since. It met my expectations and more. I am much more creative in solving issues in my life, but the most unexpected outcome was that I have not had a single migraine headache since that time. I didn’t do the Forum hoping that would occur. I had frequent, put me to bed in a dark quiet room headaches up until that time. Just the time given back to me is outstanding! I continued taking other courses from Landmark, became an Introduction to the Forum Leader and also an Intro Leader for Teens and Young People. The young ones are so fun to work with! My whole family has participated.

  20. Pingback: PRN: Landmark Recognized in Ireland « prnwidget

  21. Thanks for sharing this. It’s great to see more balanced articles circulating about the Forum so people can be honestly informed and inspired.

  22. Every participant observed added benefits throughout the assessment.

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