my landmark forum weekend: a lululemon ambassador’s experience

A mega Landmark Forum in Bangkok (image via ilovepossibility.info)

It’s common knowledge that Lululemon encourages, and pays for, staff and ambassadors to attend the controversial Landmark Forum, a weekend personal development seminar. IAYB friend and Montreal-based yoga teacher/Lululemon ambassador, Bram Levinson, attended a seminar with an open mind and a critical eye. This is what he learned.

It’s 9am Monday morning, and I’ve slept in (as much as one can do with a new puppy) for the first time in four days. My head is still buzzing from my weekend at the Landmark Forum, and when I look back at my post from last week, I have to say that it ended up being everything I thought it would be. But if I thought I really had a grasp on the big picture, I was absolutely wrong. The forum needs to be experienced first-hand to actually see that regardless of what its detractors may say, this organization is helping, guiding and re-directing people. And ultimately, opening their eyes.

It really is about empowering every single person (regardless of the usual demographic classifications we use to separate ourselves from each other) to become complete and whole, to face their fears, and to show them how those fears and obstacles that have often paralyzed them from living/growing/loving/expanding/sharing/hoping are based in the decisions that their 5-year-old selves made long ago.

Landmarked for life

Now don’t get me wrong – I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I had many moments throughout the weekend where I asked, “What have I gotten myself into?” At times, I questioned if experiencing unpleasantness was necessary in order to learn something. But when was being challenged and held accountable for your choices and actions ever comfortable?

Our forum leader was strong, matter-of-fact, and hell-bent on getting results for the people who were in attendance. Albeit robotic at times, she was adamant in her mission to have us open our eyes to the areas and aspects of our lives and behaviours that we weren’t aware of – the ones that often are visible to others who then point them out to us, much to our disdain. Her mission was to empower us to create new possibilities in our lives, to step up to the plate in order to touch, move and inspire others so they could do the same and have it ripple off into the world.

Much of what happens in Landmark comes from its participants, and by the end of the weekend, I felt a definite complicity with others (spending 39 hours together over 3 days will do that). Participants (whose ages ranged from 15-84) are encouraged to share their personal stories with the group. Through this sharing of personal stories, the rest of the group sees their own lives reflected back at them, complete with the stories we have told ourselves which have dictated the choices that direct us to where we find ourselves. Those stories, when we actually stand back and examine them, are all based in the mind of who we were as a child when every new thing that occurred in our lives imprinted itself, and understanding that one concept is massively enlightening to many.

The truisms that Landmark is based on aren’t new to many of us, but to others, seem revelatory: change is futile and accomplishes nothing, and personal transformation can only occur through acceptance of what is and why it is. The destructive force of gossip was addressed, as was the power that language has to change our lives; the cost of avoiding responsibility is one’s own vitality; we are in denial as a race of human beings about the fact that we are inauthentic; and our actions are what matters and that opinions and talk are worthless without some sort of doing associated to them.

The concepts of success vs. fulfillment (which ironically, I wrote about a few weeks ago), and that other people’s battles are theirs to fight were huge ones for me, but the one that seemed to speak to everyone was that we should see what happens as what happens while letting go our of interpretation of it. A lot of important insight was on offer, and to many in attendance, this was the first time they had ever been encouraged to think about anything other than the usual superficialities of daily life. It was incredible to see these people wake up, and even more satisfying to see myself do the same to many things I had simply agreed to not address in my own behaviours and patterns.

The exploding bullshit meter

One element that almost had me heading for the hills (and had my bullshit meter practically exploding) was the selling/business aspect of the experience. There were several moments throughout the weekend where the forum leader spoke about other seminars and programs offered by Landmark, and since another seminar was already paid for with the cost of the weekend we were experiencing, registration sheets were handed out to everyone to enroll themselves in. The pressure tactics were subtle, but at no point were we told that registration was optional. We were guided through filling out the form and when I handed mine in blank, I was then approached the following day to discuss which seminar I would register for. I politely declined, but knew that a more vulnerable and less self-assured person would have caved and would have gotten brought further into the organization’s programs.

When it came to other programs offered, we were given a choice, but told that we could take a few minutes to sign up after the forum leader described the benefits of the programs. This was done in full view of everyone else, so the ones who chose not to sign up were exposed to the ones who were full-steam ahead, which I felt put undue pressure on people to sign up for fear of standing out from the crowd.

This may have just been how I personally felt about it, but looking around the room, I saw I wasn’t alone. I felt that the business side of it all could have been dealt with through transparency instead of spin. I would have felt more respect for them if we had been told that yes, Landmark is a business, and that their product is worth paying for, but that to maintain the integrity of the business, they wanted to tell us about what was on offer. With that said, giving people the option of signing up with a bit more privacy (during breaks, after the day ended) would have spoken more to me.

To sum up, I found that this past weekend refocused and enlightened me in many ways, all for the better. For many who have already connected to something greater than themselves, what Landmark teaches might sound redundant, but for others, an existence steeped in possibilities lies waiting at the end of their forum. I’m grateful to Lululemon for having given me the opportunity to experience Landmark first-hand, and am the better for it.

32 Comments

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  1. Well, I tried to read this with an open mind, but I’m not convinced. First, the reference to people who have “never been encouraged to think about anything other than the usual superficialities of daily life” before is a little alarming. Does he mean that this was the most supportive environment they’ve ever had for this, or that they never actually thought about anything that’s not superficial before. Either way – not good. OK. Then they’re together for 39 hours, with a high-pressure leader getting them to publicly expose their deep psychological issues to a group of strangers. This is probably cathartic, but sounds unhealthy to me. Then, they’re subjected to high pressure sales tactics, including built-in triggers for shame and feelings of public humiliation, to do MORE LANDMARK. Sound creepy, really. There’s many better alternatives out there than this.

    • In response to Carol, I’d say that many of the people who were there over the weekend seemed to be struggling to deal with their issues while mainly trying to slog through their day-to-day existences…but I agree…not good…I definitely agree with you that there are way better alternatives to the forum, however, by the end of the weekend, as Adrianne mentioned, people were visibly and positively affected by what they ha undergone over the 3 days. What works for some may not work for others, I suppose…

      • Hi – I’ve done a bunch of Landmark course about 10 years ago – I’m curious to know what would be “way better alternatives” to it, as you put it? It’s pretty unique and is not common sense at all, it HAS to be experienced, it cannot be thought about or discussed without actually taking part.

        People voicing theit opinion on what they think it will be or might be like is akin to someone writing a critical art review of an art show they haven’t actually attended.

    • Carol, may I ask, where does your research come from? You seem to have your own take on it but have not participated in The Landmark Forum. Is that correct?

      And how can you suggest better alternatives out there than The Landmark Forum if you have not done it?

      People perceive themselves as skeptics and thinkers but really are just followers and true believers and believe whatever they read on the internet if it matches some thought they have. Carol, I am assuming you formed conclusions or beliefs on information that exists on the web.

      “Then, they’re subjected to high pressure sales tactics, including built-in triggers for shame and feelings of public humiliation, to do MORE LANDMARK. ”

      Where did this come from?

      it is shocking (to me) how individuals hand their thinking over to anonymous comments and views on the internet and how individuals then proceed to regurgitate what they read on some unmoderated website. It is all about conformity on the internet and finding opinions that match our opinions, no one has to experience anything anymore and can still perceive themselves having substantial important views and opinions on it. It is a sad state of affairs in my opinion.

      • Pat – My reactions were primarily to the post itself. But yes, you are right, they were informed by information that I had read about Landmark on the web. Not to mention, a deep rooted skepticism toward hard sell, high pressure, for-profit spirituality (in the end, probably that most of all).

        • Carol, thank-you for being straight and up front about your sources.

          While Landmark Education is a for profit enterprise, a business and a successful one at that, and you may not be saying that Landmark Education is “for-profit spirituality”, I would just add that Landmark Education has 100% nothing to do with so called “spirituality”.

  2. I’m not saying Landmark is for everyone — or that it is perfect — but for 3 days and $500, I cut through my own B.S. much faster and deeper than I did in 2 years of marriage counseling. I saw others undergo HUGE life-changing transformations. Addictions. Abuse. Excuses. Relationship Issues. It was phenomenal.

    In fact, what I liked about the seminar after the course was that you could then SEE that the changes people made the class were REAL and PERMANENT.

    I hope they start softening up on the hard sell, because the course would sell itself through word of mouth and referrals. Even though I didn’t like that part, I got a ton of value from attending.

    I still remind myself of the experiences. and anchor some of the thoughts when times get tough. If you’ve been struggling, and life isn’t working, it is absolutely worth going.

    • Landmark isn’t for everyone, I agree 100%…we will never find one thing or approach that will appeal to everyone, so for the people like yourself that have benefited from it (and you are definitely not alone), it’s definitely a useful tool and as you put it, “Absolutely worth going”.

  3. Funny thing about the business side of Landmark and how this culture approaches growing and presenting it’s programs. Over the years, I have watched people have issue with it on line and in courses and in conversations at bars after an event. But for myself, it was always just people talking, I always just said no. I never saw anyone, not one “less self-assured person” “cave”. I think this made up sympathy for weaker small er people then ourselves is all made up to make us feel better t about ourselves and is just some scenario people imagine or project onto others. People have the total freedom to decline and stay anonymous and most people do. People are bigger then we imagine, they are not frail little flowers with no life or gumption or direction of their own.

    While little weak powerless others “caving” sounds plausible in stories on the internet , I have never seen it happen once, and I have been participating at Landmark for many years.

    • Then the weekend in Montreal must have been a huge digression from standard forums, Pat. When we were being instructed on how to fill out the registration form (???) for the seminar, a woman asked if she could wait until Tuesday evening to decide whether or not she’d like to sign up…she was told that the reason we were being asked to make a decision then and there, the 2nd day of the forum, was to get us to commit to something whose outcome may have been uncertain, but the act of honoring that commitment would bring valuable lessons. To add to that, I found myself declining a Facebook invite yesterday from the forum leader (again, ???). So while your first-hand opinions seem to back up your experiences, they absolutely do not for what I have.

      • Bram, I do not see others as helpless and weak and smaller than me. Big people (adults) choose for themselves. On the internet, why is it so often some other over there who are portrayed as the powerless ones in these stories and never the authors of the story? It is because the authors of the story knew that they themselves had the freedom to say no to any invitations made there or anywhere in life, so they have to say it was some little old lady over there to sell the bit.

        • And that rationalization is the same perverted crutch as a rapist who blames his rape victim that it is the victim’s fault for letting him in.

        • Rose are red, violets are blue

      • “I found myself declining a Facebook invite yesterday from the forum leader (again, ???).”

        The above is is just pure silliness. 1. Landmark Forum leaders do not request Friends on Facebook (one call TO the Landmark World Headquarters and you could clarify that for yourself if you were actually interested.)

        Corporate Headquarters
        Landmark Education
        353 Sacramento St., Ste. 200
        San Francisco, CA 94111
        Phone: 1-415-981-8850

        2. Facebook generates friend requests all on it’s own for all I know. I have received Facebook “friend” requests from people I know for a fact did not send it to me and they had no knowledge that the request had been generated.

        • You seem quite determined to have me interpret my own experiences in a way that would satisfy you, Pat…I’ll leave the conversation with that said and wish you well…

          • You may perceive your experience exactly the way that you say it was, I was just challenging what you presented. Now why I am doing that is beyond me, one just gets hooked into the internet and starts arguing about all kinds of things – such a waste of time IMO.

            Thank-you for wading into the exchange.

  4. The thing about the Landmark Forum is that it is a business, but the people leading the seminars are generally volunteers working without pay. It seems really odd to me that this organization charges so much for their seminars but none of the money is going to the person who is teaching the seminar. Why is that? That would make sense if it was a cult. I have not been able to think of other reasons.

    • Charges so much? When I did it 10 years ago in London the forum was about £250 and the Advanced Forum £500.

      £250 for 3 days of intense life-chaging experience? How on earth do you think that is expensive? It’s peanuts! Not to mention the prices includes 3 MONTHS of once a week follow up evenings to keep you on track.

      You go see a therapist of some sort, the very least it’ll cost is £50 for 1 hour!

      I have done several bootcamps/courses since then in more specific skillsets – smaller groups for sure but I paid $1500 for one, almost $3,000 for another. These were 2 days courses that honestly did 2% for me compared with my Landmark Experience.

      One of my main complaints with Landmark is that afterwards, nowhere else will you get that kind of dedication to your personal change. Others don’t care, they take your money and if they can help great, if not, it’s your fault. Landmark…. No one gets out without “getting it”!

      I’m not kidding. Just do it and you will see.

    • HI DavisMcDavis

      The course leaders do get paid for their time quite well ( I mean none of them are going to be millionaires from it but still!! they get paid fine). The volunteers on the courses choose to be there and are absolutely not obliged to do it in anyway however they basically get a lot out of being around the courses and effectively “doing” them again for nothing.

      Landmark does have a strong culture of having people who are in the programs do more programs however this is never for anything other reason than to assist people in their own path. Landmark is and always has been very open about what it does and also what it makes. The centres are not ‘flashy’ and they are frugal with their spending as they do not make a lot of profit on courses ranging from AU$600-975 for a weekend right up to AU$825 for a year couse. Having done a degree that cost me over $40k !!!! as well as personal development and speaking and business courses from AU$2-10K I can definitively say they are not expensive.

      It’s a very fair system and a great program. Of course people being people there will always be haters and those who miscontrue or abuse the technologies and that in many ways is just life. There are many great takeaways from the courses. I can say that again from experience being happily married and with some fantastic results in my finances and career as well as being much better equipped to volunteer and manage my time so I can raise money for charity and create events for charity which is something I never did before. It’s great and yes not everything is for everyone.

      Hope this insight and experience assists in some way.

  5. “My boss recommended this course to me and I signed up for it. He has been my guide since a year now and I admire his knowledge and his subtle behaviour. I have also attended a lot of motivational and personality development seminars and lectures, which did not really help. The introductory session was inspiring but the only question I asked was “”Do the after-effects last?””
    The course was short and meaningful. It was extremely encouraging as well as healing. I wasn’t really expecting such a great experience and a lifetime transformation within three days. It’s astonishing how well organised and apt this course is! One of the best things about the Landmark Forum includes the fact that they do not stretch one topic for hours and hours to make it boring and finally uninteresting. The coach is particular about how much time does one topic need. They make sure the concept and the doubts are clear before moving on to the next one.
    For personal discussion, we could visit the coach before and after the seminar as well as during the breaks. The volunteers were extremely helpful and humble. The content of the course was very normal but was put up extra-ordinarily. Topics such as Life is empty and meaningless, blind spots, rackets, taking up responsibilities; integrity as well as Looking good were covered. Many participants came up to the mike and fearlessly shared the challenges they were facing in their relationships or life in general and achieved a breakthrough.
    I enjoyed the Forum thoroughly and will be attending the advance course as well.”

  6. I was in the middle of a session and my counselor invited me to the Landmark Forum introduction session. It was the cure to all my worries. I was always the obedient child, a topper in school and a workaholic; just like my parents taught me. I never had a chance to do something on my own and never had the heart to go against the rules. In the Landmark Forum, I realized that I have been living a robotic life; which was useless and disheartening. It took a lot of efforts for me to get out of the shell and face the world. I went to a renowned school, had a caretaker at home and ended up in my father’s business, whereas I always wanted to become a pilot. I realized I am just going to live each day in one particular schedule and die, without any accomplishments of my own. Ever since that breakthrough, I have been volunteering for Landmark and attending the courses. This is now an escape from my monotonous routines and schedules. I am trying to discover myself and my interests. I recommend this course to each one of you because it has given me a new life and it can be of help to you as well.

  7. Life is all about vivid experiences and complications. But honestly, I never knew life could be soo much fun until the Landmark Forum. I was a studious kid and was very introvert, now I am much more confident and expressive. I do not fall for “Looking Good” anymore. I am very happy and satisfied in my life. Things have now taken a turn and I am so very extrovert now. My father has done the Forum too and now we attend sessions as well as do volunteer work together.

  8. I wasn’t lying when I confessed that I have made a tone of wrong decisions in my life but Landmark Forum was the one who got me out of all of them. I went to the introductory course with my friend and she couldn’t do the course due to her marriage. I anyway went ahead and learnt soo much in the 3 days. Many breakdowns followed and were terrifying at first but synced well later. It’s all about accepting the fact and putting efforts for the change. I would recommend all of you to do this course for good and efficient results as well as a carefree life.

  9. I wasn’t lying when I confessed that I have made a tone of wrong decisions in my life but Landmark Forum was the one who got me out of all of them. I went to the introductory course with my friend and she couldn’t do the course due to her marriage. I anyway went ahead and learnt soo much in the 3 days. Many breakdowns followed and were terrifying at first but synced well later. It’s all about accepting the fact and putting efforts for the change. I would recommend all of you to do this course for good and efficient results as well as a carefree life.

  10. “Have you ever just done something with no intentions and thanked your stars for the rest of your life for it? I have.
    Landmark Forum was recommended to me 5 years ago by my math tutor. She sponsored the course for me and I did it anyway. After that weekend my life has changed completely. When I look back, I was a very insecure about myself. I have found a newborn confidence and now I have the power to come forward and face the world unhesitantly. I am so much more expressive and happy now. I find myself very creative and always surrounded with friends. I also wanted to become an organiser for my college and now I manage most of the things thanks to the Landmark Forum. Also most importantly, I would like to thank my coach, who never let me feel let down or demotivated. He kept me going and helped me make a difference in my life.”

  11. I am a born dancer and believed that this could be the perfect profession for me. I grew up learning various forms of dance but during my teenage people called me feminine and said I was not good enough. They teased me and I was belittled; after this, I just stopped dancing. I ended up doing business studies but couldn’t find myself a good job. I clearly wasn’t happy with my profession and did the Landmark Forum. After the weekend I finally had the courage to pursue dance again. It’s been a year now & I am a dance teacher, I am happy and so are my students. I make a whole lot of money and have started going out with this amazing woman. My life is better now all because of the forum.

  12. Life is all about surviving the odds, but while preparing myself for all the tough time, I certainly forgot to enjoy my present. I have an extremely pretty wife and an even beautiful daughter, but despite a family, I could never feel happy at home. IN the office I’d worry about the tasks and projects but even when I came home, I would be carrying the burden that would mess my life up. Along with innumerable arguments and fights & my daughter and wife drifting away from me, I was extremely bothered by this situation. Landmark Forum made me see things from their perspective, I realized they fought just because they missed me & I always gave my work the most priority! Now since a past few months, I have been giving them their share of my time and we have dinner together and discuss our day, which has almost changed the entire household atmosphere. Thanks to the Forum that brought happiness back into my life!

  13. Landmark Forum taught me that life is an extremely beautiful experience! I always lived on my own and moved out in the early years of my teenage life. I found myself very sad and lonely most nights. But now after the Forum, years later I tried to get back with my family. Although the assignment was extremely scary, I felt so much better in the latter half of the course. I feel like life was always incomplete up until now. I learnt the literal meaning of life and happiness during the Landmark Forum.

  14. My life was really messed before the Forum. As a student, I failed in a few subjects and was into depression. I couldn’t see through these problems and my coach helped me out. I was impressive and full of self-doubt. I did not want to go to the college and face the fellow students. I also started having a few clashes with my parents. This was all a jumbled mess in my head and I started getting panic attacks. I eventually saw the therapist one a week but regardless of all the efforts people took, Landmark saved me. I have enrolled my parents into the upcoming Forum and wish to have a bright & happy future.

  15. I saw a huge change in the life of my best friend who took the Landmark Forum. I too wanted to feel the difference in my lifestyle and attended the course during the weekend. I have learnt to deal with the most difficult situations in my life. Life has become so much easier since then and everything makes sense now. I have lived very smoothly since my Landmark Forum. I dealt with all my issues and am very grateful to my coach.

  16. Although this course is very taxing, I felt purified. This course is very famous and has created difference in the lives of many people, and pursuing it was one of the best decisions I took. They talked about a lot of topics which were impactful in my life. I started to take things a little seriously and have been focusing on my goals since I did the course. Along with being confident I have been feeling independent. I have become a support for myself. I had a few issues with my elder sister and her family but I have been overlooking their flaws and accepting them for who they are. My coach helped me gain breakthrough that have perhaps changed my life.

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