My Landmark Forum Experience :.

Warning: I am writing this because I want to give everyone the opportunity to have a similar life changing experience and I feel the best way to give you this opportunity is to share with you my experience, exactly as I had it, with all the details. However, the following material is very personal and if you do not want to hear the good and the bad about my life, don't read on. For those that are still interested, here we go!

Well, you already know the set up. Actually, I also went in to this weekend to prove to myself that I was already "perfect"; that I didn't need any fixing: little did I know how false AND true this really was. The first day I sat through 15 hours of listening to other people explaining their problems. People were speaking about their problems in their marriages, their ex's who they can't stand to be around, their parents that they haven't spoken to in years because their mother never accepted them because they were gay, etc, etc.

The first break came and during this break they asked us to do one thing, "During this break, your job is to meet 3 people and ask them what they are doing here and tell them why you are here." And now, a little bit of fear sets in. (**When you see italics, you are reading what my mind was thinking at that exact time.**) Awe man, I hate doing this. Why would any of them want to talk to me? I really don't like bothering people. But it would be cool to meet some people. Man, listen to myself, I am really afraid of this, "I don't want to bother other people". Why would this be bothering other people? They are all supposed to do the same thing as me. Hmmm, maybe there are some underlying problems in my life that I don't know about. Ok, get over it and go meet some people. It took me the whole break, but I managed to introduce myself to 3 people. Most of the people attending this program were between 35 and 60, with a few older and a few between 18 - 25. I sat their listening to them and thinking, man all these people are so much older than me, they have really had a lot of time to mess up their lives. I really don't have any of these huge issues, I haven't lived long enough to have these problems. This program probably won't work for me.

I could have given up right there, but a friend of mine who had done the Forum gave me one piece of advice and that was no matter what happens put 100% into this weekend; do everything they tell you to do; be as involved as possible; be one of the few, of the 160 people in the class, to go up to the front and speak about your problems in front of everyone. But I can't go up in front of everyone and talk about my petty problems. They just don't compare to everyone elses. But, gosh darnnit, I paid just as much as everyone else did for this program and I didn't spend $410 to do this program half-assed. So, up I go. The only thing that has really been bothering me a lot lately, is a relationship (or lack of relationship) between me and this girl who I really like, so I talked about that. Basically, I met this girl, she is amazing, I can't stop thinking about her but there is a catch. She *seems* (of course, one never really knows for sure) to like me a lot, but she has a boyfriend (don't worry, I kept my ethics, nothing ever happened between us). But even though I know the right thing to do is to stop pursuing her and let her live her life, I can't help worrying, but what if she is THE ONE (even though I don't really believe there is a THE ONE, I believe you make someone THE ONE). Anyway, back to my thought process at the time. What if she is THE ONE, and I am letting her go without a fight? Now, most of you know me and know I am not one for relationships and I know this about myself so there are lots of things going through my head. What if I do get her to break up with her boyfriend and then a few weeks, months, or years later I decide I don't like her? Can I really be monogomous? It sure feels like I can right now, but will I feel the same way in a month, in a year? You can imagine the headaches I was giving myself. Well, little did I know how little all of this thinking really had to do with the situation at hand and how much of it had to do with the past. Anyway, I tell this to everyone thinking, I can't believe I am telling all of these people this. Everyone else is talking about relationships that they have had for 10 - 20 years and I am whining about a girl I met 3 months ago. After a while of him asking me questions (the Forum Leader speaks in a very Socratic format, questions, questions, questions), he finally poses one thing to me, "Look back in to your childhood, ages 3 - 7, and try to find something in your life that might have affected you and made you really enjoy the 'challenge of the hunt'." Ages 3 - 7, come on, I can't remember that far back. I mean it, I don't remember most of yesterday, let alone anything from back then; and from what I do remember of my childhood, it was pretty much perfect, but $410, ok, I will try again.

Friday passes, I get about 5 hours sleep and I am back early Saturday morning. Saturday was a good day. We sat and talked and listened a lot. Many times just by listening to someone else, you could see yourself in them and learn from them. Often there would be questions posed by the Forum Leader and everyone in the room would know the answer except for the person who was being directly asked because the question dealt directly with their life. It is amazing how much we can learn from someone else but it is even more amazing how many times we forget to apply this knowledge we learn when it comes to our own lives (examples later). Anyway, there were several different "excercises" we went over during Saturday and one of the big things for me was looking back upon my life and finding 3 defining moments. One between the ages of 17 - 25, where it was the first time I realized I was on my own. The 2nd between the ages of 11 - 15, where I might have told myself, "I don't fit in." And the 3rd between the ages of 3 - 7, where I might have told myself, "There is something wrong with me." Well, the first one was easy. The first time I felt I was on my own was when I decided to become a dance teacher and my dad said, "You better find a day job." Of course, I always knew that he was just trying to look out for me, but at the time, little voices inside my head said, "He doesn't think you can do it. He doesn't believe in you. You have to do this one on your own." When I realized how I had reacted to this, I believed that every day after that I had been pushing my father, farther and farther away from me (little did I know this had been happening for many years before this incident). We were not enemies, we loved each other, but our relationship was father and son, and friends but certainly not best friends. This was a good breakthrough for me at the time. It made me realize that I did not have the relationship that I wanted with my father. I had never tried to make him one of my best friends. After this breakthrough, I was told to call my father and talk to him about this. I decided I would do it at the next break.

The next break came. Well, you know, I haven't really had a great relationship with my brother either. Maybe, I will call him first. He will understand what I am going through because he just did the Landmark Forum himself. So I called my brother. Now it is time to call Dad. Well, I really should call Mark. He is the one who told me about the Landmark Forum and he told me to call him and keep him updated on how it was going. So I called Mark. Now it is time to call Dad, and Oh my gosh, I am sweating. I am totally nervous about calling my dad to talk to him about this. This really must have been a problem that was seriously holding me back in my relationship with him. Well, just do it. So I called him and... Thank God, the answering machine, I will just tell him to call me back. Ok, I guess I should call the home phone too. So I called the house and... Thank God, It's Mom! "Mom, tell dad to call me when he gets home." Phew, that was easier than I thought it would be. Why am I stressing out about this so much? Anyway, I started talking with someone else who was thinking of calling her dad. She said that she knew she should but she hadn't yet. She was about 45 and she had a lot more time to grow apart from her dad. Now since I had just tried calling mine I was feeling quite confident and ballsy so I told her, "Well, what are you waiting for? Call him right now!" Then she said, "I can't do it NOW. There is only 5 minutes left in the break. I wouldn't have time to tell him everything." I replied, "So? Just tell him that you have been wanting to call and talk to him about something and you only have a few minutes. The sooner you start, the sooner you actually do it!" She said, "I know" and then MY phone rang. It was MY dad. Now, I normally wouldn't have taken this call with only 5 minutes left before break was over (funny, how my tendancy is never to take the good advice when it is compliant with MY life) but given the last conversation, I felt obligated. I told my dad what was going on, it was hard, I cried, but at the end I really felt that I was on my way to having a complete relationship with my father (oh, I didn't even know the half of it). The end of the day came and our homework for the night was to go over the three life defining moments for us. By now I had one... What were the other two? I laid in bed that night thinking about it and eventually came up with the middle one, where I didn't fit in. Still what was that first one? What happened to me when I was between 3 and 7? I can't remember that far back. That is impossible. And I fell asleep.

Another 5 hours of sleep and it is time to get up and go. Sunday morning I arrived to the Forum and I was exhausted. I was so close to dozing during the first session that I had to get up and pace the room in the back to avoid falling asleep. A part of me was ready to call it quits and go home. I had already learned a lot and I had basically gotten my money's worth by improving my relationship with my dad, but the other part of me said, If you quit now, you will always wonder if there was more that you could have learned. Boy am I glad I stuck around. A few hours later, I had a huge breakthrough. I remembered my childhood; I remembered a life defining moment at around age 5 - 7 that made me think "There is something wrong with me." When I was about 5 - 7 years old, I remember one of my neighbors invited me over to his house to play. He was probably 10 - 12 years old at the time. I don't remember everything but I do remember that he asked me to play with his penis and he wanted to play with mine. Well, at the time, I was too young to even know what this thing was for, so sure why not! So, I did. Afterwards, I did not know why, but I definitely felt like I did something wrong. I "knew" I couldn't tell anyone about this and I started to think, "Why did I do that? There must be something wrong with me." This thought came back to me for the next couple of years until I managed to block this whole incident completely from my memory. Once the memory was gone, it was really gone. I mean, I remember times when I heard someone else talk about when they were raped (not that my situation could really be called rape) or had something similar to this happen to them and I remember saying to myself, "Wow, that must be really hard to live with. I am really lucky that nothing like that ever happened to me." I really blocked this whole incident from my memory, well, all except the feeling that "there was something wrong with me". I still thought THAT, but I didn't know why I thought that (now I do).

Well, if I had remembered this incident at any other time of my life, other than during the Landmark Forum, I would have immediately tried to forget about it again. In fact, now that I am thinking about it, I do remember a couple of times in the last 20 years that I remembered this whole incident. Once or twice, this memory flushed back into my head, and when this happened my immediate thoughts were, "Don't think about that. That was a horrible thing I did. God, I can't tell anyone about that. What would mom think? What would dad think? They would be so ashamed of me." So the thought came and passed within less than 30 seconds and again I would forget about it for another 10 years. Thanks to the Forum, this time my attitude was different. At first when I recalled the incident that happened 20 years ago, I went right into my old way of thinking, Oh my God, I can't believe I forgot about this. This is such a breakthrough, wait until I go up to talk again and tell them all this... whoa, I can't tell all of these people this. There are some cute girls in this program (not many my age, but a few). They would never want to have anything to do with me if I told them I did this stuff. They will think there is something wrong with me. Come on Andrew, forget this ever happened, forget, forget... Hmmm, is this an example of me thinking that my life is different because it is happening to me and not someone else. Did I almost not listen to the advice I would have given to someone else that had this happen to them? My advice certainly would have been, "Who cares. I mean, yeah, it sucks that it happened! But it doesn't mean there is anything wrong with you and there is nothing you can do about it, so get over it. Just be happy with where you are now!" But this is really a lot harder to understand when it is happening directly to me; Plus, this advice almost never even entered my mind... And then the Forum's way of thinking took over. Man, listen to me. I am acting so silly. I have listened to everyone else's stories and I have never once thought, "Oh, that person is damaged." I might have thought, "Wow, that really sucks that this happened to them." but I never thought anything bad about them as a person. I never let what happened to them affect what I thought about them. Why would anyone else act any differently towards me? I can TOTALLY tell all of these people about this incident, in fact, I want to tell people this revelation. I want to get this secret off of my back, I don't want to pretend to forget it happened. Now, I use to hate talking in front of large groups of people (unless I am teaching dance) and the idea of telling everyone this whole story would normally have terrified me. But for some reason, I was not scared. Sure, I got nervous when I actually stepped up to the microphone, in fact, it was totally scary... for two seconds... until I realized I was scaring myself and decided not to do that anymore (another thing I learned from the Forum). Wow, you mean, I have control over whether or not I am scared of something? Is this really possible? Apparently it is! And so are a lot of other things I didn't realize before I did the Landmark Forum.

Although remembering this incident was a big part of my Landmark Forum experience, it certainly was not the most important thing I learned this weekend. The biggest thing I learned from the Forum was how much control I have over my life and how I have created where and who I am today; and maybe even more importantly, I learned that I have created where and who I am not today. I am not here because of luck and other circumstances. Sure there have been obstacles in my life that have made me choose certain paths because they seem to make the most sense, but I was the one who chose those paths. The paths did not choose me. Of course, I have always known this is "technically" true, but at the same time, did I really really know this and believe this and live my life as if this was true. Hell no! (excuse the language, but that is exactly what I am thinking) Hell no, I didn't live by this, not back then. Now I do! In fact, now I cringe when I see this happening in other peoples lives and it happens EVERYWHERE! Is it still happening in my life? Definitely, but I am much more aware of when it is happening now and it is sooo much easier to change things when you know they are happening. It really feels like I can achieve whatever I want in my life and I can really see how I have previously been holding myself back from achieving certain things I wanted. Everyday since the Forum I feel I learn a little more about myself. It feels as if I condensed 10 years of self discovery into 1 weekend and my speed of learning has been increasing every day since then. Basically, I am happier than ever before. It is really hard to explain how much of a difference this has made because it is not like I have concrete evidence that my life is "better". I don't have more money, a better job, a girlfriend, etc. But I am happy with what I do have and where I am. I am no longer tossing and turning wondering what I should do about the girl that has a boyfriend. I know I should back off and let her live her life. I have chosen to do that and I am happy with that decision. I no longer feel like I need to hide things from my parents, I can tell them everything, they ARE my best friends. And if I ever come across anything that I am not happy with, I am confident that I will be able to change that very easily. I feel this really has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me. So in conclusion, if you feel there is a part of your life that you would like to improve, or you would just like to see what other possibilities are out there for YOU, then please check out and find the program nearest you. I wish you all the best!

Take care,

Andrew Sutton

» back to top

» back to top

Dance Ninjas

JOIN MY FACEBOOK GROUPS! Dance Ninjas | Dance Teachers Learning