landmark forum | a secret society or a nexus for change?

a woman hiking on a mountain


What is the Landmark Forum? The Landmark Forum is an organization that makes some big promises. Promises like a total transformation. Promises like living a deeper existence. Having a life altering shift that will allow you to live more fully and with greater awareness and presence, big big promises.

This is what I was after when I went to Landmark and did my nearly 4 days, all day training in San Francisco several years back.

If you have heard about the landmark forum, then you might be curious or have been mislead, by what it is and what it isn’t.

The basic teachings are a streamlined curriculum for living, but the illusion around it gives it an aura of cult like status.

Landmarkians as I like to call us – oh we’re, “those guys.”

You know the chitty chatter of the know it alls making small talk and whispering things like, “She did Landmark.”

However little do they know that for some Landmark is the real deal. The difference between those who see incremental change and those of us who experienced monumental change in growth I think boils down to simply readiness and surrender.

I had my guard down when I showed up. I had hit rock bottom and was ready for real meaningful lasting change, all big promises aside.

And those promises at this point are neither here nor there, cause they lived up to all that was promised.

So to put it bluntly if you are looking for meaningful, effective, lasting change then Landmark is the place you may want to venture.

Part of the Landmark Promise is learning to live your full potential. The notion suggests we are only sort of getting by. We are not making the most of our lives.


So what is the Landmark forum? Here are some facts;

The Landmark Forum is a transformational self-development program that has helped more than 2.4 million people since its inception in 1991. Its founder, Werner Erhard, founder of ‘Landmark Education’s ‘The Forum’,’ and ‘est’ seminars, was influenced by Hinduism through Swami Muktananda, one of Erhard’s principal gurus.

Its philosophies are centered and perpetuated by the Human Potential Movement.

They use an experiential process of group communication called T-groups (or sensitivity training). These groups are usually facilitated by a professional who leads discussions about topics such as feelings, family relationships, educational or work experiences. Members then share their thoughts with each other through these discussions – they discuss among themselves how they feel about what’s being discussed and compare their opinions to those of the others present.


So for me I had the epiphanies I was not so casually promised. I did see the light. I did realize I hadn’t been living as powerfully and fully as I could. I saw that there were more powerful means to showing up.

I understood through the rigorous group work that there were indeed more powerful conversations and exchanges to be had.

I learned that even I, yes a communications expert and Mindfulness trainer could learn to listen better. Hey look there’s no perfect person and none of us are taught any of these critical life skills in school or by way of life.

We have drama. We have trauma. We have difficult people and situations in our life around each bend it seems. And not a single soul, class or teacher ever taught me how to maneuver this powerfully.

Sure my bookshelves had been stocked, overstocked with self-help books by all the self-proclaimed gurus that make all the proclamations and false promises of change. However a lot of what we find in these books is regurgitated jargon of how life is hard and we have to take on Buddhist wings and live in peace with all the constant change that life presents.

But not a single one gave me a real life practical example on how to show up so fully with all my senses on and just be there for another human being. I didn’t need anything in return. I didn’t need to have an agenda. I didn’t even need to respond. I could just shut up and listen. The whole evening or afternoon with this other person could be all about them. Yes. I know that sounds so far-fetched because of our innate need to speak and be heard, but it was ok to show up like this. It was encouraged and when I did it changed my life.

I showed up just like this for a loved one and realized all the love I had been missing out on. In an instant, in that very moment that day I decided to be all in for others in this powerful way the dynamics of this relationship changed. My bond deepened and I lead by powerful example and taught this other person the most powerful way to show up. And guess what next time we met up she did it for me. She had no agenda. She didn’t need to speak. She didn’t need to interrupt and she didn’t need to respond. And she listened to me in a way that my heart had never been heard. Now that is powerful.

And together as a powerful loving friends we realized the enormity of what we were doing and how we were loving each other in ways that we never had. My friend and I have come so far since I did Landmark.

I was shown a new powerful way of living and being and interacting and that continues working wonders in my life to this day.

I ask people questions, deep meaningful ones that initially stump them, but to my and their delight they are beyond thrilled to ponder for a moment and give me a genuine response.

They then in turn see the power of going deeper and conversing in this selflessly loving way and they ask me things, deep meaningful things no one has ever cared to ask and I am touched and moved to my core and we begin anew. Bonds deepen. Love unfolds and pours out of us and we are stronger, braver, softer for it.


Landmark encourages growth by teaching us this new way. We understand how we’ve been stunted by our childhood and traumas of yesteryear and how that creates a layer, a wall essentially between us and the world. You learn how to live in your power by showing up so dynamically for others you liberate yourself and ta-dah. Just like that you are presenting your heart to the world. You are liberated in this presentation because ultimately this is what we all want. We want to love. We want to be loved. And by golly we want to do it in the most powerful way.

You learn self confidence and self awareness and self preservation. You learn how you do best and how to draw out the best in others. You see yourself and how powerful you are in ways unimaginable. You see that you are capable well beyond any capacities you thought you had. You see your own potential and the potential of others by way of heart and connectedness to source and all of those around you.

Landmark is not a me, me, me based philosophy. It’s a me and everyone else and how can this shape me and those around me for the greater good. This is the power of the freedom to be authentically you that is pressed upon you.

You learn to focus inward and stop pointing the finger. When you get there this is no more, “he did this and she said that.” It becomes a, “how did I react. How did I handle that? How could I have done better? How could I have de-escalated that? Why did I react that way?”

It encourages us to get to the heart of each and every matter. We then begin considering things like, let me look deeper into that trigger and work on that. It’s about going inward and learning how to be your most awesome you. It’s about learning to accept your own shortcomings and those of others, but with the intent to do better cause now you know better.

It’s about learning to have the freedom to be at ease with yourself so much so that you put others at ease because again we are all connected.

Remember growth happens when not only you show up powerfully, but you lend that way of being to others and show them the power way forward.


Myths about Landmark vary. I’d imagine there are myths I haven’t even heard of and perhaps even more preposterous than the ones I have heard of.

No it’s not a cult. It’s not a shapeshifting organizations that feeds you false narratives for the purpose of elevating someone’s ego.

We all know that there are many myths about the Landmark Forum.

Some people say that you will be brainwashed or forced to conform, while others claim it to be a self loathing cult. NOT. The truth is that the workshop helps individuals find their true self and make decisions accordingly. It’s a safe place where critical thinking skills can be enhanced in order to elevate your confidence and become more of who you authentically are minus the guards and layers and way of learning to get what you truly want out of life.

Some people have called it brainwashing or a cult while others say that is offers an opportunity to find your true self and make decisions accordingly.

It’s designed to give you the freedom and power to feel at ease with whatever circumstance you are in. You learn to accept yourself and the situation for exactly what it is. It is from this kind of acceptance that you get to improve yourself and your life. It starts with deep inner self inquiry and then acceptance.


To put it boldly life became richer. I felt an immediate and innate shift and felt more aware, more alert, more present. I felt like I was really showing up for the first time ever in life. I was there. I was all in. Good or bad. It wasn’t always about me. Not that it ever was. I’m just not the self-absorbed type, but now even less so and in more powerful and outstanding ways.

One of the greatest things I walked away with was my understanding of life as – building connections and not just living. I learned in Landmark that we are living on the edge, not really living at all. I learned that I could live more powerfully, more dynamically.

I learned the power of listening. And the power of presence while listening. Just listening alone doesn’t cut it, but actually being fully present to what the other person is saying is how we show up powerfully. Check out my post on Compassionate Listening.

Anything less than this is just showing up and that’s mediocre at best.

I learned that my past didn’t define me and that my wounds could find healing and wholeness and that I could use those hurts to elevate my level of heart centered awareness.

And while this seems pretty awesome and the promises that were made were big, it was actually far beyond my expectations and I’m grateful.

In fact I’m thinking about taking an advanced course. The self work truly is a lifelong process.

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Sue Dhillon is an Indian American writer, journalist, and trainer.

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