A Maplewood writer shares her Landmark experience.
heard about the Landmark about 10 years ago. An
acquaintance mentioned she had just completed a course.
She revealed that while taking the class, she realized
many things about herself, including the fact that she
was in love with a mutual friend.
I was shocked. I could not imagine them together.
Surprise, surprise. They have now been happily married
If you're wondering what I am talking about, allow me to
explain. Landmark is an international organization that
offers courses that are geared towards self discovery.
Confused? So was I.
Landmark came back to my attention a year ago. I was
conducting an interview for a profile I was writing for
Patch. I always ask people where they get inspiration
for their business or their life. This particular person
mentioned they had taken a Landmark course but said it
was "off the record." My interest was once again piqued.
A quick Google search on "Landmark" was quite the eye
opener. Words like "cult," "scam," "criticism" and
"brainwashing" were connected with the program. But the
friends that I knew did not seem like they had been
scammed or involved with a cult.
Around this time, I met a Maplewood mom who had taken
the class and said it had changed her life. When I asked
for more details, she was somewhat vague and said it was
"hard to explain." She encouraged me to check it out for
myself and assured me I would find it helpful in my
At the time, I didn't think I had any major issues.
Sure, I was not happy with my parenting skills and, yes,
I wanted to be more successful in my writing career, but
I didn't feel there was anything major wrong with my
When my friend invited me to attend an introductory
meeting at Landmark, I agreed to go. Even though I
wasn't sure what was going to transpire, I did expect to
get a hard sell. Through the grapevine I had heard that
Landmark really, really, really wants graduates to
encourage their friends to enroll in the program. It
made sense to me when I learned that they do not do any
advertising, yet they get thousands of people to enroll
in their programs every year.
I got exactly what I expected: a hard sell. While I did
hear from graduates about their amazing experiences, I
was also encouraged quite a few times to enroll in the
Landmark Forum, their introductory course. I was
interested but I wanted to talk it over with my husband.
I am a tough native New Yorker and I did not succumb to
the pressure. Another downside was that I was not
terribly impressed with the teacher who led the meeting.
Even though I was intrigued with the feedback that my
friends had given me, I still wasn't sure what to do. I
decided to post on Facebook and Mothers & More. I
received all sorts of interesting responses. Many talked
about the hard sell. One friend mentioned that she did
not have firsthand experience, but she had the sense it
was "culty." Others recommended different types of
coaching programs. One friend mentioned there was a very
long thread on maplewoodonline.com. I checked it out and
as I expected, it was not pretty. One Maplewood friend
admitted she had taken their courses, along with her
husband. The fact that she openly admitted it was
surprising. I received many private responses from local
Maplewood residents who had taken many courses but I
thought it was interesting that they did not share it
with the public.
Every single response, aside from one, said the course
changed their life in some aspect. I was sold.
When I learned about the hours of the classes, I knew it
was going to be intense. My class, The Landmark Forum,
met on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 9 am until 10
pm, followed by a 3-hour class on a Tuesday night. In
addition, they offer 10 weekly three-hour follow-up
group classes. Talk about intense!
I decided to take the course that met in New York City
as opposed to their South Plainfield location. As I
walked into the building near Penn Station, I was
excited and nervous. I did not know what I was going to
face the next three days. I worried that I was going to
hate it or not get my money's worth. I had shelled out
$470 for this course. Side note, the usual price of the
class is $550 but due to the economy, they have lowered
the price for the time being.
Soon, the room was filled with 130 students. I saw young
adults to seniors and everything in between. What I
later learned from my peers shocked me, saddened me and
changed my entire world. Now that I have gone through
the experience, I can see why my friends were not able
to provide me with the details that I wanted to hear.
Everyone goes into the course with their own situations
and experiences and everyone walks out of there with
their own unique experience. No one learns the same
exact things yet everyone benefits in some capacity.
I consider myself to be an intelligent person so I knew
the work was going to be intense. What else can be
expected from a class that lasts 13 hours a day? Despite
the rumors, students are allowed to leave the room to
use the bathroom or have a snack. You are given snack
and meal breaks. No one forces you to do anything you
don't want to do.
So what happens? There is a lot of talking. I mean A
LOT. The class is led by a Landmark Forum Leader. My
leader had a great sense of humor, which definitely
helped ease the intensity of the class. I can say that
by Saturday afternoon, I felt like a different person. I
realized something about myself that once I realized it,
I felt like a weight was lifted off my chest. The odd
thing is that I never even knew that the weight was
I learned why I was reacting to my children the way I
was. I learned how my parents' relationship affected my
current life in ways that I never thought about.
Throughout the day, students are encouraged to call
people in their lives and talk about what was going on.
During a break, I called my dad to share something I had
never shared with him before.
Since the class ended, I continue to get revelations
that surprise me. Just last night I had a heart-to-heart
conversation with my mother in law. If you know me, you
are aware of the challenges I felt in our relationship.
I said things to her that I never thought I would be
able to share with her. It was amazing.
I have also been able to use the tools that I learned in
the class in my career. I am approaching my career
differently and that makes all the difference in the
world. One participant in my class told me he had gone
into the course without any issues. He loved his life,
his girlfriend and his career but his entire family had
taken the course and he wanted to learn their language.
On the Tuesday meeting, he shared that he had applied a
tool that he had learned in class during an important
business meeting in order to get the answer that he
wanted. I thought that it was incredible that what we
had learned could be applied to every aspect of our
My family and friends have been amazed at the new me—or
the different me. I have also been met with skepticism
and wondering how long the different me will last. All I
can say is that I refuse to go back to the old me and
since I am now aware of things that I was not aware of
before, I don't think it will happen.
I highly recommend this class.
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