This particular course seems to have generated a lot of discussion on Divya’s blog (http://www.nimbupani.com/) and there is a huge post on it at Soldier’s blog (http://chaoticthots.blogspot.com/, I dont know who this is btw!). After reading through the post and the comments I’m intrigued. In this post I am not going to look at every aspect of the forum which has generated the discussion but specifically what Divya says it does.
Now, I have never spoken to Landmark employees about my problems with their course and my knowledge of the course only comes from the blog post and its comments. However, I have attended a course on self actualization (or self help or whatever it maybe, semantics not important here) by one Swami Sukhabodananda in India. I attended this course simply for the experience i.e. with no expectations or predispositions as to what it can do. And i thinki would attend the Landmark Forum (money permitting, i’m still a lowly undergrad!) simply for that reason – just a new experience which has the potential of being helpful.
My understanding of what the landmark forum teaches you
Mainly from Divya’s comments, the forum tells you what you did not know you didnt know about life. (Yeah, that sounds slightly complicated). Let me instead paste the part of Divya’s comment which is relevant.
“Landmark is precisely not a self help course. Self Help course starts from what you know you dont know (for e.g. you know you cant do Karate kicks). And from what you dont know, using those self help books you try to “know” them (by reading “Karate for dummies”). If only you could do that, all of those who read those self-help books (like Getting Things Done) would have stopped procastinating and would have gotten into action. But why do they not help? The first thing Landmark Forum Leader talks in an introduction is, NOBODY NEEDS LANDMARK FORUM. It is not a faith or a cult or a drug that is required for salvation. It is simply a disucssion to provide a new angle to your life that you have never seen before. And you wont understand it precisely because you dont think there can be any new angle to your life! “
I have a few questions:
1) Can another person tell you what the new angle to your life is?
2) Can this new angle be the same or atleast thematically similar to the 900 odd people (or whatever the number, again semantics dont matter) sitting in the room?
3) Do people really want to know the new angle?
Each question merits some explanation.
I am of the opinion that its quite difficult for a third party to really tell you whats wrong with your life or what you need to do to make it better. This sounds too much like what a shrink does and even he/she needs to spend time with you to know your life inside out to make suggestions, doesn’t he? This ofcourse might be just me being a skeptic. But the question needs to be asked.
Here comes my biggest problem with the “new angle” and teaching you “what you didnt know you know” idea. I dont think that a new angle to life can be common to a group of people. And i am assuming here that there is not much one on one interchange, that the lecture or philosophy is common to all the participants which seems to be the case with halls being rented out for the seminars etc. How can this new angle be common to so many people? Especially people from different backgrounds, different social status and particularly different goals in life. Even if this angle is a general philiosophy or approach to life i do not believe that it can be common. There are different obstacles that each individual either puts up himself or faces through the course of his life. The kind of disparity over here is just too immense to be dealt with by a general “technology”.
This is a particularly pertinent question because of the mixed reactions that participants of the forum seem to display. I believe that sometimes we refuse to acknowledge certain things simply because we dont want to deal with them. The reasons for these are manifold; it might be because we dont want to acknowledge their existence or because we are scared we might not be able to deal with them. But whatever the reason ultimately, its about a personal choice we make as to whether we want to face a certain problem or not. Ofcourse i submit that in the spirit of honesty, openness and maybe even a desire to improve we need to acknowledge certain obstacles that we ourselves might have created for our success. Its also probably the healthy thing to do.
But I would humbly submit that the reason a few people face such mental turmoil after the forum is because they didnt believe that they could deal with those problems in the first place. Its also arguable that that very fear is a more important thing to conquer which the forum doesnt seem to accomplish and doesnt claim to either. The thing is its very difficult for these people to realise where their real fear stems from and the forum by bringing out all the obstacles only makes it worse for these people. Therefore I believe that the forum is only for a certain set of people.
To round off, I still believe that the forum can be good. Not only because several participants swear by it but simply because i do not wish to dismiss it on personal prejudice or expectations. I also agree that most people dont NEED the forum so i would submit that to base it on need is not the best way to decide. But i do have problems with the expectations that the marketing of the forum generates. If you go in expecting to reach the moon and they only manage a tree top its still a big fall. I would submit that its best to go for these things with no expectations and an open mind. Which ofcourse is difficult when they charge 750$ for it.