Thursday, April 30, 2009

A few brief reflections on the Landmark Forum

Completed the Landmark Forum last weekend. It had been a long time coming. Friends have encouraged me to do the Forum for almost 5 years. Despite a lot of pressure, I really wasn’t ready until I was ready.

At long last, and in a state of fairly intense emotional distress (or was it, as our Forum Leader identified it, self-generated drama?) due to divorce grief and raging fibromyalgia symptoms, I limped in and tearfully took my seat. Here are some thoughts on the experience…

For starters, it is a little hard to imagine that “transformation” is going to take place in a dingy corporate room with seats in rows and fluorescent lighting over the course of 3 13 hour days and an evening. The setting is especially humorous in contrast with the myriad wellness, retreat centers, and yoga studios the majority of personal growth courses I have taken have occurred. No statues of the Buddha or Kuan Yin, no prayer flags or sage green walls, no Nag Champa burning, no Trees of Life or pentacles, no yoga pants. Instead, a herd of folks dressed in business casual hover in the back of the room to “assist” in passing out name tags, manning the door, and writing copious notes while our brusque and dry-witted Forum Leader and coach, Jeff presided.

I won’t go into the content of the Forum. There are some highly valuable tools and perspectives offered that truly free up the mind and heart to live more peacefully, joyfully, to “create new possibilities.” If the proof is indeed in the proverbial pudding, I feel as a trained researcher that I can safely say that my participation in the Forum resulted in my walking out of there on Sunday night in far better shape than the condition in which I entered. I genuinely and heartily recommend checking it out. I am considering doing the Advanced Forum in the near future.

Another benefit of having completed the Forum is that it gives me a common paradigm and "language" with which to communicate with the many other Landmark grads in the community. While I don't know if I am gonna walk around saying "got it" every time somebody explains something (I personally found it a little patronizing) but I do like the phrase "get complete", as awkward as it is, to explain a process of truly resolving an issue and leaving it in the past in our relationships. I dig rackets and strong suits, too. Really fascinating, insightful material that you can return to over and over again to work through stuff.

However, that said, a number of things turned me off.

1. For starters, their infamous business model. No money spent on marketing. Just precious HOURS devoted to pressuring participants into inviting their loved ones to come do the forum Yuck! Disliked being pressured by my friends to do it in the past. LOATHED being pressured to invite others in the context of the Forum itself.

2. I don’t know what their programs look like when they teach them in Non-Western countries, but from my perspective, the underlying set of assumptions the whole model is predicated upon is classist and a monument to white privilege.

Consider as an example of this, the point in the Forum where the Facilitator/Coach is running around the room in circles demonstrating the futility of getting a college education, a meaningless corporate job, and getting married because it’s the “next thing to do” or because one is concerned about how one “looks”. Not the reality of MOST people.

Consider also the relatively high cost of participating. While it is a low price from the perspective of the number of dollars per hour for the quality of the material, it is no trifling matter for most people around the world to come up with the kind of cash Landmark costs.

3. My time and energy are precious to me and I have already spent WAY too much time in my life sitting in uncomfortable chairs under migraine-inducing fluorescent lights. Not really how I want to spend my weekends.

I really appreciate the “freedom to create new possibilities” that Landmark has offered me and I prefer to spend my money, time and energy in transformative processes that are holistic in approach, include embodiment practices, and operate within liberatory frameworks. Starting Holistic Peer Counseling System training next. Which, as India Turner, teacher facilitator of this work is the "yin" to Landmark's "yang". Check out the website here:

Feel free to share. I know I am treading on some beloved and sacred ground to many Landmark fans, here. My apologies in advance if this was in any way offensive. That was not my intent.

Monday, April 27, 2009

April Mix

The content of a mixed cd I made recently. If you are a fan of the mixed tape or cd, I urge you to check out my ex-husband's website, where a whole community has catalyzed around their shared love of this craft...

I made this mix for my new friend, Ross in Portland...

1. Dylan- Oh, Sister: Gorgeous song, fiddle and harmonica sublime, Emmylou Harris, interesting narrative. 'nuff said.

2. Jose Gonzalez-Heartbeats: Heard The Knife's original, first and got so hooked. Thanks to Gwen for her awesome holiday mix, which included it. This cover is lovely and fits nicely with overall vibe of this mix.

3. Iron and Wine- Jezebel: Last year on New Years Eve I had a Radio 8 Ball ( reading from Andras Jones, the proprietor thereof. Without much further commentary, suffice it to say that this song spoke to me on a very personal basis. My curiousity was piqued regarding the historical figure known as Jezebel and I did a bit of research on this infamous historical character.

In brief (and very likely somewhat inaccurate and a bit biased) summary, Jezebel meant "woman of Ba'al, or God in her native tongue. When she married and moved to Israel, her beliefs ran counter to the monotheism of Judaism, where she ended up in a showdown battle to the death with the historical figure who would become known as the prophet Elijah. In Hebrew, her name translated to "woman of dung". Ultimately, she lost and was thrown out the window of her room and eaten by dogs. She was in fact, a very loyal wife, but a “pagan” through and through. Interestingly archeological evidence indicates that in ancient Persian culture, images of women sitting in windows connote whores. Thus, she precedes the Magdalene as an "occult" sacred whore figure whose power, beliefs and practices ran counter to the general Judeo-Christian patriarchal project. Picking up on a theme, here?

4. John Lennon- Oh, Yoko: Always liked this song, but it isn't an all time fave or anything. It popped into my head recently and inspired this whole mix, rather mysteriously. I was a die-hard Beatle-file as a youth. Always been fascinated by John and Yoko’s relationship. The intimacy of “in the middle of bath, shave, etc" is an example of their comfort offering listeners this window into the very personal fabric of their lives in a way that no other rock stars of their caliber have ever offered -Their great strength and ultimately a factor in his demise... Dylanesque harmonica!

5. Mirah & Spectratone International- “Share This Place” -Community: Love the bass and the harmony on this. Check out for details on this multimedia collaboration…

6. Mirah & Spectratone International- “Share This Place” -Gestation of the Sacred Beetle: SI is quasi-chamber orchestra featuring a Turkish Oud and Middle Eastern percussion, both of which are musical passions of mine. Love the Oud. It may be my favorite instrument on earth. This song has a poignancy that gets me. Saw them perform this whole show at the Henry Art Gallery in November. Got to meet Mirah, too. It was cool:)

7. Joni Mitchell: Hejira: She is a lifelong shero of mine. This is one of my favorite songs of all time. Evocative imagery, Jaco Pastorius on bass. I think, dare I say it, that she may be the greatest lyricist in American popular music... Feel free to debate on this point.

8. Neko Case- Knock Loud: One of the most incredible songs I have ever heard. Love alt-country Neko, but the rawness of this one just kills me.

9. Dylan- Buckets of Rain: Favorite Dylan song on favorite Dylan record.

10. Broken Social Scene- Stars and Sons: Oh, such a yummy song. The bouncing quarter sample! This song is featured in the BSS soundtrack for the film, Half Nelson, which, incidentally is awesome, if you didn't see it. MMM, Ryan Gosling...

11. Brian Eno- Golden Hours: Used to listen to this record (Another Green World) a lot on the drive between Ann Arbor and Detroit when I was in grad school at Michigan many moons ago. I still see the dead dogs on the side of the decaying highway exit in poor beleaguered Detroit whenever I listen to this, despite its lilting electronica and Robert Fripp guitar solo...

12. Joan Armatrading- Cool Blue Steel Stole My Heart: This is my all-time favorite song by her. The refrain always gets me.

13. Marc Bolan- Jeepster: Mmm. Marc Bolan. Unplugged!- Acoustic Warrior...

14. Jim O’Rourke- Good Times: Love this whole EP and Loose Fur, too. Not so into his experimental stuff. He writes such consistently beautiful songs and such dark, twisted lyrics.

15. The Roches- Hammond Song: Another Robert Fripp guitar solo! Love the family dynamics depicted in these lyrics: "We'll always love you, but..."

16. Crosby, Stills, and Nash- 49 Bye Byes: Ok, i sometimes think of CSN as a "starter" record because so many teenagers discover it early in their rock education. But that may be a bit unfair. There are some classics on it, SJB, Helplessly Hoping, The one that is clearly aimed at Joni Mitchell after her romance with Graham Nash ended (there is a mirror image of it on her third album, For the Roses. Can I remember the names of either songs at the moment- no. sorry!) and this song, which never ceases to wound my heart.

17. Sarah Siskind- Lovin’s for Fools. Heartbreaking. My friend, Brandon posted the You Tube video of her performing it with Justin Vernon, the lead singer of Bon Iver and Bill Frisell. Heard it once and instantly fell in love with it. Here is the video:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Out of chaos...

Got divorced in September. Still kinda reeling from it. Keep thinking I am getting it together when another wave hits. Simultaneously experiencing career identity confusion. The world is chock full of fascinating options. What can I say? In the meantime, I need to commit my time and energy to a path. As a single mom, my time is limited and precious. Feel like my energy is going in too many directions at all times. Time to reel it in, but still not getting that gut level "YES" in any direction I am looking. Maybe it hasn't come along yet. Maybe its a mash up of what is already here. Don't know.

Doing the Landmark Forum this weekend. Part of me is hopeful for the transformative experience respected friends, family, and colleagues report having. Another part of me is wary of their corporate style, rumors of "brainwashing", etc. We shall see how it goes. Perhaps I will report back...