Two weeks ago, I took a course called the Landmark Forum. Landmark Education has been circling around the periphery of my entrepreneur and personal development networks for years now, and having finally dismissed the personal and outsider obstacles and experienced the course for myself, it’s proven to be a game changer in my life for the better. In the process, though, it’s brought up a few things here and there, stories and patterns of behaviour that don’t necessarily give me the warm and fuzzies as most personal growth courses do (although there have been a lot of those, too).
I strongly recommend Landmark if you’re into personal development and you are willing to approach the experience with openness and faith in the instructions and the process. I don’t recommend it if you’re still grappling with major devastating issues, if your boss paid for you to go to it, or if you’re overly analytical: it’ll be a waste of money and everyone’s time if you’re not there in a state of authentic willingness to experience what it’s about. It never ceases to amaze me, the people who will sign up for the Forum, or karate, or a writing class, devote their time and money to showing up, and then fight the teacher tooth and nail as if they’re back in Grade 9 math class.
Obviously, I’m in the former category, but this isn’t about Landmark, it’s about what I’ve found about myself and my life since then…
Tonight, I find myself working a night shift (and yes, my boss told me that it’s perfectly kosher to blog so long as I respond to the after-hours emergencies for which this shift exists), and just thinking about these bits of personal programming that the machine part of me – that is, the one that operates from ego, that runs computer-like programs of behaviour learned throughout my life that are so automatic that I have to become completely present to the moment in order to see them for what they are – has been running.
I have a story that I’m not where I’m supposed to be at 33. In fact, I have many stories. What’s happened in my life has been a series of events that, without stories, add up to my being here, writing these words at this job on this night. The multitudes of stories I have built around these events string and intertwine and connect and conflict in a great frayed tapestry that is my life as I’ve perceived it to be. I see people I know who buy houses, have babies, complain about jobs they’ve stayed at for years that were precisely what they went to school to study, and the story tells me that I’m doing it wrong.
Then I look at the entrepreneurs, the activists, the artists, the people who are more in line with what I am about: I see them making a full time committment to their causes and crafts, even if it means poverty or otherwise not having all the material goodies or creature comforts….and another story tells me that I’m doing it wrong. I don’t know how to make it “right”. I don’t think it’s about making it “right”, but just finding what I can about where the disempowering story comes from….then dropping it. That doesn’t seem easy….or so the stories go.
I have a story about my family that says I don’t belong, and have never belonged. Blood and shared history are the only things that connect me to my uncles, aunts, and cousins. I have always been different, or so the story goes., and that it was wrong for me to be different from them. I remember a time when I was a teenager and I dropped into my aunt’s house where one of my other uncles and a couple of my cousins were playing cards. I suggested playing a game – I can’t even remember what it was – only to have my uncle tell me “Sorry, we’re not playing the white people games over here” in a squealy, computer nerd voice designed to ridicule. I remember the rejection, the idea that “Jody, you’re doing it wrong. You can’t behave like a Canadian. Who cares if you were raised here and this is the experience that you know: you’re Trinidadian”, even if it wasn’t conveyed in those terms.
There is love in my family, and for me from my family, but “love” is a distinction separate from “being understood”, or “accepted”. I can never get that from my family, especiallly now that the trajectories of years and divergent experiences, the manifestation of “acceptable” careers and ways of thinking, have made me a very different individual, someone who deviated from a norm that was somehow expected to survive immigration and exposure to new lands and beliefs. Who I really am and what I really believe was made invalid in the eyes of some of my family members long ago, a validation I’ve long since found in the friends who I consider more family than family. For that, I’m judged once again by some of my family members for wanting the simple experience of belonging somewhere and being accepted for who I am at the same time, and choosing the people who provide that experience for me over those who don’t. Or so the stories go.
I feel unattractive and out of shape. I have a story about that that says that my mother, because of her own attention to cleanliness, detail, and her penchant for drawing my attention to myself and state of being, inadvertently cultivated a self-consciousness in me about my body, my appearance, my weight, my health, what I eat, that’s been dysfunctional since childhood. I can’t lose the midsection weight, I rebel against diet plans because she’s been telling me what to eat and not to eat and “oh, you’re eating too much! You’re going to get fat!” and who is she to tell me those things? Don’t tell me what I can’t do. I don’t approach dating with as much confidence as I have in the past because I don’t feel attractive, I don’t feel ready, I don’t feel complete or acceptable as I am physically, and getting divorced certainly didn’t help…..or so the stories go.
There’s so many of these that it becomes like counting sand. It gets paralyzing, not in the devastating way that a crisis does, but more a quiet feeling, that of just staring at the bedroom ceiling in the mid-afternoon listening to instrumental music and being present to the existence of the machine-mind and its programming. Just watching it whirr and click and buzz and feeling apart from it at the same time that it is, in fact, also me.
I was warned that this kind of bubbling up of insights and rackets and origin stories would happen as a result of the Forum, no less than by people I know who I look up to, who became great mentors in large part thanks to the Forum. I have a business to continue building, a novel to write, a body to exercise and nourish properly, and these require effort, the kind of motivation that comes when somehow you’re present and yet also absent the awareness of the whirring, clicking, and buzzing of the constructed self.
But I don’t want to do anything. I barely want to be here. I feel that I’m waiting for the new start that’s slated for Monday to do everything else, because Monday is a new routine in a new place at a new time. The more I tie two or three new beginnings into one single one, the more likely all of them will meet with success and consistency. Or so the story goes.
I think I will need a weekend away somewhere soon, just leaving southern Ontario altogether. That will solve this malaise. Or so the story goes – this doesn’t stop, you see, the awareness of the program, that I am still hooked up to the Matrix.
There’s a part of Landmark’s experiential teaching called “Already/Always Listening” about the loudness of one’s mind, the judgements, the assessments, the analysis, the fears of looking bad and the indulgence of a sea of outsider opinions that all keep us from being present to possibility. I don’t know how to turn it down now. I did then. It was so easy in the room, and so hard when it’s just me here. Online contact doesn’t help. Phone calls don’t help. I need to be in that room again, or in an otherwise safe space with others who have been where I’ve been. Or so I tell myself now: a new story being perceived and created simultaneously.
What can I create for myself? What new realm can I live in, a state of being that’s independent of past, but that’s also a future being lived right now? What possibility do I choose to create right now, in this state of awareness? Right now, simply living in possibility, being here in this state, is enough….but it means I’m not *doing* anything. I’m allowing the machine-mind to continue its programming while I watch, allow it to drive me to work, to take me through the motions of tasks, to give the people I love the impression of increase when I speak with them, to work as a professional, to say the right things and do the right things that get me the results I want in the moment (my strong suits, another kind of program)…..but with some residual guilt, what feels in this infinite star space like a distant echo from a tiny, far away corner of the ultra deep field, telling me “you need to get your business moving”. Or “Overlife isn’t gonna write itself”. Or “Convergence isn’t going to sell itself”.
But then, this, too, is the voice, isn’t it?
This blog has helped, this little exercise in practical madness. I may be writing more of these in the future. It’s entirely possible, and it’s from possibility that we can transform ourselves and the world, or at the very least, time spent in an empty office on the nightshift, alone under the cold winter stars.