A few weeks a go, I got a call from my friend Samsam. He was at the pool-side on a beautiful Sunday and he was going on and on about something called The Landmark Forum. Now, I’m a fairly suspicious person, so while he went on and on, I hmmm-ed absent-mindedly and waited for the catch. There’s always a catch. This time, it was the price : 13,000/=. I brushed him off with a vague response, but as soon as the call ended, I Googled Landmark. The results were not reassuring.
Samsam is a stand-up sort of guy, and I trust his judgement. He’s an interesting mix of quirky and sensible, so whenever I need advice or a good laugh, he’s the one I call. We’ve spoken a lot over the last few weeks because I’ve been dealing with some heavy personal issues, and the conversation always came back to Landmark.
At some point, I got convinced that it would actually be a good idea to attend, but I was broke. Samsam suggested I try raising the deposit first, and I said yes, just to shut him up. Five minutes later, I received an unexpected payment that was the exact amount of the deposit. Ooooookaaaaaay. In the next three days, I
raised borrowed the rest of the forum fee and took a day off work. While filling the registration forms, I panicked because it suddenly seemed like more than I could handle. But I was sure this was something I needed, so despite being terrified and worried, I showed up at The Heron on Friday.
When I signed up for Landmark, I thought it was a self-help course. It’s not. It’s about getting life to work. Not just my life, but everyone else’s lives as well. In the week before the forum, I’d made a list of all the areas in my life where I needed to fix stuff. Then I realized the forum would only last three days, so I started crossing off issues until I was left with my most urgent need – how to make more money. So I walked into that room on Friday expecting quick and sensible get-rich scheme.
For the first few minutes, I was incredibly sceptical. I mean, I know I’m a barbie and everything, but I kept thinking Kenyans don’t go to motivational seminars! That’s stuff you see on TV. I shook my head and wondered what I was doing there. I was especially miffed when I was told I couldn’t take notes. I mean, note-taking is my thing!! How would I remember anything without writing it down? Besides, I have the attention span of a beetle. If anyone talks for more than two minutes, I zone out. It’s why I can’t handle groupwork or audio books. It’s also why I scribble a lot during meetings. I’m not taking minutes – I’m trying to stay awake.
Within minutes, I was paying rapt attention to the forum leader. He explained that the forum would be different at different points, saying sometimes we’d be excited, other times we’d be bored, other times we’d be trying to punch through walls. And he was right. Several times during the forum I wanted to run out screaming and never come back. Other times I wanted to dance around the room hugging everybody. Every evening when I left the forum to go home, I was so lost and confused that I was sure I wouldn’t come back the next day. But in the morning something would always happen to tip me over and I’d show up.
For me, there were three key points in the forum. Firstly, we complicate life an awful lot, but it’s basically made up of two things – the stuff that happens and the way we interpret the stuff that happens. No event can make you unhappy. Only your interpretation of the event can do that. For example, if an expensive glass drops and breaks, that’s not sad. But if a glass falls and I start thinking I’ll get in trouble over it, then I click into panic mode and end up depressed. It’s not the broken glass that made me sad – it’s how I translated it.
Secondly, human nature exists in two gears. We either complain about stuff, or we look for answers. If we find the answer we’ll probably turn around and complain about something else. Whatever you’re doing in life, you’re either complaining about a situation, or you’re trying to figure out how to resolve it. Granted we have thoughts and feelings and emotions, but we simply use them to interpret what has happened, complain about it, then look for a solution. It’s an endless and sometimes joyless cycle.
In my own life, I imagine that I have all these problems. Things like never having enough money [no matter how much of it I actually have], trying to raise my daughter right in a crazy world, struggling to meet all my responsibilities and on and on and on. I realized a while back that my whole life is about feeling I’m not good enough, trying to prove that I am, and then convincing myself that I’m not and starting all over again. I didn’t know why I felt that way. I figured it’s just the way I am.
At the forum, I had a tense first day as we talked about life and family and relationships. The reason I feel unworthy of love, friendship, money, wealth, comfort, happiness is that I had convinced myself that my parents didn’t love me. I mean, if your own parents don’t want you, then who can? I built that into rackets like I’m unlove-able, I’ll never find anyone to love me, I’m not worth anything, I’ll never get anywhere in life, I’m a failure. It made me get into relationships, situations, and even jobs that reinforced how unloved and unworthy I felt, and I’ve done a lot of stupid things because of it.
The forum solution was to admit they love me, then call them and apologize for being a spoilt brat my whole life. Once I discovered that, I got upset. After all, I had all this proof of how my parents didn’t love me, right? They did this and that and that. And what about all my exes? They did this and this and this. It’s obvious that I’m unlove-able, and if anyone pretends to love me, it’s because they want something. Duh!
But as part of the forum activities, I called my parents. I told them I realized they do love me even though I don’t necessarily feel that way. They may not show their love in a way that I recognize, but they gave me life, took me to school, fed and clothed me, that’s called love. I may not always agree with their will for me, but I acknowlegde that they want the best for me. They want me to be happy. So I called them and apologized for all the anger and resentment I’ve been carrying around. I thanked them for loving me, for being my parents.
I expected the confession to have a dramatic effect on my life, but I didn’t feel any different, and I said so at the forum. David Ure – the forum leader – explained it was because I didn’t think my call made any difference. The second he said that, I realized that I use that phrase at least five times a day. I tell myself not to do or say certain things because I’m convinced that nothing I do makes any difference! It’s kept a lot of doors closed in my life. The next day I started doing things even though I thought it ‘wouldn’t make a difference’. By the end of the day, I had gotten a deal that will now earn me an extra 15,000 every month, so yay! All because I made a simple phone call that ‘wouldn’t make any difference’.
I had explained to my daughter that I would be in class all weekend, and on the first night, she woke up to ‘check my homework’ just like I do with her every weekday. On Saturday morning, I woke up to shower and she got out of bed and said she’d fix my breakfast and pack my lunch while I showered, just like I do for her every weekday. These are things I thought made no difference, and I was immensely touched to see that they really did. I spend a lot of time feeling like I’m not a good mother, but after Saturday morning, I’ll never doubt it again. I’m doing okay. In fact, I’m doing fabulous.
I’ve been on a mental journey the past few weeks, reading Approval Addiction and Conversations with God and reviewing my lessons from Manifesting Change. Yes, I’m New Age. Sort of. There’s been such a difference in me that my princess asked me why I’m in such a good mood. She’s convinced I got a raise or something. Anyway, all my readings said if I wanted to do or be something, all I had to do was pull a Nike and just do it. Act as if. Fake it till you make it. Even The Secret says if I want to be rich, all I have to do is act like I’m rich, believe it, visualize it, give thanks for it, then sit back and wait for it to happen. It just didn’t tell me how, and that’s immensely annoying. It’s like those people who say ‘When you’re sad, just stop feeling sad and feel awesome instead.’ Where’s the instruction manual?
At the Landmark Forum I learnt how to make things happen. I need to be authentic, choose integrity, and be my word. Here’s how it works. Every time I say I’ll do something, I should make sure I do it. If I keep my promises – all my promises – whether I feel like it ot not – then my word means something and I become my word. If my word can be trusted, then it becomes powerful because whenever I say something, I do it. Whenever I say something, it happens. Then all my ‘wishes’ can come true when I say them! It’s not an easy way to live, but it does work. I promised to make a phone call and I did, even though I didn’t think it would make any difference. That call brought me 15K just like that! Think what other opportunities I could get by simply doing what I said I would do. Anything is possible!
I worry a lot about being late for work, and I wondered why it bothered me so much. After all, I get to the office before everyone else, most days I make it on time, and the few times that I don’t, I’m only ever a few minutes late. Plus, I have a good reason – I have to walk my baby to school!
Here’s the part I didn’t say. I didn’t say I worry so much about being late that every morning, I whine, snap, and argue about how we should hurry up or else! What should be a beautiful bonding process ends up being a trial for both of us. By the time we’re leaving the house, we’re ready to punch each other. Most times we calm down as we walk, I apologize, and we end up giggly and happy by the time I kiss her goodbye at the school gate. Once in a while, she stays mad and the teacher calls to ask why she’s so moody. I don’t get to work on time on purpose. It’s just an accidental routine that often leaves me pissed off and resentful at everyone from my baby girl to the makanga. I constantly threaten that if she’s not ready in time I’ll leave her behind, even though I know I never will.
After the forum, I sat my baby down. I said I didn’t like the way we fight every morning, and that if we wanted to be early so I could get to work on time, we just had to wake up ten minutes earlier. We agreed that if she wasn’t ready by a certain time, I was free to leave without her, and this time, it wasn’t an empty whiny threat; it was a promise. After all, the school is only ten minutes away, so she can walk on her own quite easily.
I was sure she would be whiny about getting up earlier, but she was so excited she said we should try for fifteen minutes instead, and this morning, for the first time in almost a year, we had fun getting ready for school. On the outside, nothing has changed. I still get to work earlier than everyone else. But inside me, a whole world of possibility is open because I know I’ve chosen to get to work on time, keep my word, and be my word. For a while now, I’ve wondered how I’m going to achieve all my dreams. Now I know. By keeping my promises and being my word, whatever I say will come true! And when I don’t keep my word, I won’t make up excuses, no matter how good they are. I will simply admit that I haven’t done what I said I would, and fix it.
It wasn’t always this clear. For most of the forum, I walked out of the room during breaks convinced I wasn’t coming back. By the last night of the forum, I was so lost and disillusioned that I wanted nothing more to do with it. But I kept coming back because I had made a promise to finish the course, even though I didn’t want to. That’s what is opening all these doors in my life.
One important lesson I’ve learnt is to pay more attention to what happens than to how I interpret it. I have a big problem with that because I have an analytical nature. I’m stuck in questions about who I am, how I got this way, why I am the way I am and so on, and the forum answered all those questions beautifully. But what makes life work is not knowing how you tick. It’s knowing that stuff happens, realizing that you build yourself around how you interpret this stuff … then stopping the interpretations. Or at least ignoring them.
Being sad about a broken glass doesn’t solve the problem, but buying a new glass might. So to make life work, don’t hide inside your thoughts and feelings. Get out into the real world and live! Don’t sit there worrying and panicking and shaking because the glass broke and you’ll get in trouble. Go out and get a new glass! But also, make sure you explain that you broke the glass, that you’re sorry, and that you’ve replaced it. That’s called integrity, and it makes your word count.
What if you don’t have money for a new glass? Work out a system to replace it. Give up one of your own glasses. Wash dishes or run errands for a week in exchange for the broken glass. Give the person a plastic cup instead. Do something! But don’t just sit there crying, worrying and panicking over broken glass. That just leaves you miserable and the person is still missing a glass, so nothing is solved.
I could go on and on and on, but here’s the thing. Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. It’s also the last day of this month’s Landmark Forum. At 6.30 p.m. graduates of the Landmark Forum will be at the Hilton Hotel in Nairobi taking our final class, and you can all join in! Come and see what the forum has done for us, and what it can do for you. Don’t worry, the Tuesday session is free, and you get to spend Valentine’s Day at the Hilton, so you really can’t lose.
The session includes an introduction to the Landmark Forum so you can find out what it’s really about. If you’d like to know more, you can call 0722782997. No, that’s not my number *cheeky grin*. I’ll answer what I can in the comments, so if there’s any way I can help, feel free to ask. Oh, also, there’s a website.
Landmark is helping me to make my life work, but unless everyone else’s life gets better as well, then the world stays just the way it is. I like being happy, and I like helping people to be happy. This forum is one way that I can do both, and you can see for yourself that it works. So, tomorrow, 6.30 p.m. at the Hilton, will you be my Valentine? I’m hoping for over 5,000 dates, so bring a lot of friends. The more the better!
Addendum – 7th August 2015
It’s roughly three years since I attended the Landmark Forum. I ended up doing two more courses – the advanced forum and a weekly seminar that I didn’t complete. I got an email from a friend today. She was considering landmark, and this post convinced her to try it. I’m not sure how I feel about that, because I’m not in the ‘landmark’ space anymore.
I’ve considered taking down this post, but I’d like to leave it here, because it expresses how I felt at the time. Clearly, I don’t feel that way anymore. I’m currently in therapy for clinical depression, and I’m still dealing with some of the issues that I thought I had resolved at Landmark. I’m not going to bad-mouth my experience, because I did learn a lot from it. I’ll only say I’m not in the landmark space anymore, and if you are, good luck to you. It certainly is an interesting place to be.
♫ Into the Ocean ♫ Blue October ♫