One of the major experiences I had this summer was called the Landmark Forum. I did this workshop in the beginning of June and was completely amazed by the experience. And I’ve wanted to share my experience with all of you for a while, but I have procrastinated. Part of the reason was because I have been super busy this summer, juggling many different things, but to be fully honest, another reason for me putting off this task for a while was that it required a certain amount of vulnerability on my part that made me feel somewhat exposed to some extent. As a doctor, I let my patients tell me about themselves; it is somewhat critical for my job. I may give a few tidbits about myself, but nothing quite as detailed as what I’m about to tell you now. But I have made a commitment to myself and to a few others on telling my story about Landmark, and I intend to keep that commitment. So here’s my story:
A year ago, I joined Toastmasters, a club focused on improving our public speaking ability. A fellow member invited myself and the other new members out to lunch with the rest of the club. As we were all sharing more about ourselves, John told us about this workshop he participated in called the Landmark Forum. It is a program that occurs worldwide that focuses on intense personal growth. It is about making transformations in any area of life in which you are unsatisfied with or feel as though it is holding you back, whether it’s business, work, health, or relationships with family, significant others, or co-workers. It is 3-day long weekend seminar that includes a Tuesday evening session. What could be accomplished in these 3 days could maybe take a year, possibly even longer, to accomplish in therapy or counseling.
John mentioned how he initially decided to go to grow his business, but what he really got out of it was the understanding that he had been being a jerk in his marriage. He admitted if he continued with his behavior before the Landmark Forum, his marriage could of possibly ended in a divorce. But instead it saved and strengthened his marriage to a level he didn’t even know was possible. He also told us of another story about a 60-year old man who had never been married before, and after the forum, the miraculous happened…he got married. This sparked the flame of interest for me. Because my brother, Jimmy, who was about to turn 27 at that time, had never had a girlfriend before, and I knew it was because he had self-confidence issues holding him back. So after hearing John’s stories, I went home and emailed my brother about it with the link to their website.
We carry on with life as usual. Then in late December, my brother calls me to tell me that his friend who did the Landmark Forum told him more about it, so he decided to finally sign up. He does the Forum in January of this year. In the midst of his forum, he calls me to tell me he has been inauthentic with me. And the fact was that when I suggested he do the forum back in September, he hated me for it. It made him feel like a failure because thus far in his life, he has not been able to figure out what he needed to do to have a romantic relationship. But he realized that I was only coming from a place of love and caring and that I wanted him to find happiness in his life. From that moment on, I could tell that something shifted in him. His energy and mood changed over the months and became more positive, excited, fearless and completely open to possibilities. He loved the forum so much that he went on to do the Advanced Course and the Self Expression and Leadership program.
Even though his main goal was to have a romantic relationship, he also committed himself to working on improving the relationship dynamic within our own family. In my family, we don’t really talk about our feelings nor do we talk much to each other in general. And somehow Jimmy has been improving the communication and connection between each member of the family.
In April, Jimmy asked out a girl, whom he had actually met in his Toastmasters club in California. She was a guest. She said she had other plans for the date he suggested. The old Jimmy, would have crept back into his cave feeling rejected and too afraid to put himself out there again. However, the new Jimmy is focused on just having fun and adventure and creating new possibilities. So when a new possibility arose where he had an extra ticket to a concert, he knew he could invite one of his many friends, but who he really wanted to invite, was that girl. And so he mucked up the courage, to ask her out again and sure enough, she said YES. They had a wonderful time and they continued to go out and have more fun adventures. What was even more amazing and magical was their ability to have deep authentic conversations. We’re talking like 8-hour dates of just talking. However, the biggest fear Jimmy had was telling her how he’s never had a girlfriend before but he knew he needed to find out what was on the other side of that fear, so he told her. Do you know what happened? She appreciated it and was perfectly okay with that. Girls like it when guys are open, vulnerable and authentic. And Jimmy felt completely free after getting that off his shoulders so now they can continue to create fun adventures.
After Jimmy told me about his experience, I was so excited and happy for him. However, secretly I was also jealous (which I did admit to him when I went through the forum). There he was having deep authentic conversations left and right, and here I was in a relationship for the past several years and we would have a deep conversation once in a blue moon. So I decided to finally register myself, and twisted my partner’s arm, so he registered too. We did the forum together in June.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a wonderful loving relationship. I also enjoy my job and business. So for a while, I didn’t exactly feel like I needed Landmark. I had already made a ton of revelations about myself and did a lot of work and self-growth through counseling, therapy, meditation retreats, etc. years ago. I felt like I was in a pretty good place in my life so I didn’t really pursue Landmark until I saw the massive transformation of my brother, and thought who knows, maybe life could get even better than I knew was possible, and it did.
One of the things we discuss in Landmark is how everyone knows what they know. For example, I know how to drive a car. I know that I know that. I’ve been doing it for years. People also know what they don’t know. For example, I know I don’t know how to perform brain surgery. I know I don’t know that so I’m not even going to attempt something like that in the slightest. However, people don’t know what they don’t know, which is a whole giant spectrum out there, full of possibilities. And Landmark did bring to light some of the things I didn’t know that I didn’t know.
I had to set my ego aside and acknowledge that there is could be more I could learn and gain from participating in the Landmark forum, and it was absolutely true.
Day 1, was going great. I raised my hand and got up to speak. Listened to stories. But slowly through the day, I became irritated with Andrew. We weren’t sitting next to each other because the forum recommended changing seats each session to sit next to different people. I would glance over at Andrew frequently.
Not once did he go up to speak. And when the forum leader would ask a general question to the audience, he would barely raise his hand. In my head, I was thinking, “He is making no effort to participate. He’s not enjoying himself because I dragged him here. He doesn’t care about strengthening our relationship. He’s not going to get the most out of the forum.” After the long day, the forum ends at 10pm, so Andrew and I go to Chili’s to discuss our experience. I tell him what I noticed about his behavior and he gets annoyed and says, “I was actually enjoying myself. I don’t like to feel pressured to raise my hand when you are looking at me, and now that you say that, it makes me feel less inclined to get up and speak.” So I’m like, okay fine, you don’t have to, whatever. I don’t like being a nag.
Day 2. In the morning, I sit next to this woman and we get the opportunity to share about conversations we had the night before. I tell her about how Andrew and I came here together and how I was getting irritated with him for not speaking because he won’t get as much out of the forum. And she says, “He sounds like me. I might have to do this forum a few more times before I get the courage to speak up.”
Light bulb clicked. Wow. I realized, I had no judgment around her not speaking up, but I was judging Andrew left and right because of the story I created about him over the years. “He doesn’t do this and that. He’s not trying. And so on and so forth.” So that evening, after the forum, I tell him my realization and how I understand he needs to learn things at his own pace, and there is no right or wrong way to learn. And we do get in a deep authentic conversation and it might have been one of the best conversations we had ever had.
The other major realization I got of the forum is when you take off the filter you have about a person, such as ‘he’s mean and rude,’ ‘she’s a b*$@h’, ‘he’s emotional unavailable’ it opens the door for endless possibilities and allows those people you perceived in a certain way to be something different, to have other ways of being. Because we all have different ways of being. We all exist on a spectrum. Sometimes I’m nice. Sometimes I’m not so nice. If someone catches me in my not so nice moment, and has no other background information about me, they might call me jerk. And if they see me again, they might be thinking, ‘oh that jerk.’ And in turn, I can see that person being stand-off ish around me, so I begin to act cold around that person, even though most people who know me, know that’s not who I am most of the time.
For my entire life, I viewed my father as a stoic, emotional unavailable man. And my perception of him was that he was a ghost father, that he was there, but he wasn’t really there. He didn’t participate in my life, such as going to my swim meets, or taking me shopping. He didn’t seem to care. But that was the story I created about him, which might not have been the real case. One of our homework exercises was to write a letter, so I decided to write a letter to my father and rather than blaming him for our lack of closeness, I took ownership of the situation and explained how I created this story about him being emotionally closed off. Sunday night after I get home from the forum, I read him the letter over the phone. He cries. He is more expressive than I could of ever imagined or thought possible. And in that moment, I realized wow, this man is not emotionally unavailable at all. It’s been there the whole time. I just needed to open my eyes and realize that I don’t know what I don’t know. Even though I live across the country from my father now, after the forum, I feel closer to him than I ever did when we used to live together when I was growing up.
After completing the forum, I went on to do a 10-week integrity seminar series through the Landmark organization. Since then, I have had both various breakdowns in my life as well as breakthroughs. But ultimately, I feel like my relationship with my significant other is stronger, as well as every relationship I have with each of my family members. It was an incredibly powerful and valuable experience. I highly recommend everyone do it at some point in their life. And in terms of health, because I am in the business of health, maybe you’re thinking how is this related to my health? Believe me, IT.IS. If you don’t think the relationships you have with the people around you doesn’t affect your health, think again. As you may know, I am a big believer in the mind-body medicine, and how mental and emotional wellbeing influences physical wellbeing and vice versa.
As part of my integrity series, I get to invite guests to join me and receive a free introduction to learn more about Landmark. The next one is particularly special and will be occurring on Monday, August 28th from 7-10pm. I highly encourage you to come, and if you do plan to, please RSVP to me. However, if you would like to come, but cannot make this particular date, I do have 2 more sessions left, occurring on September 11th and October 2nd. To be perfectly clear, I get absolutely zero rewards, perks, commission from you attend an introduction or registering for Landmark. From my own experience, and seeing the changes in my friends and family, I stand behind it completely. I would love for you to experience it and see the possibilities open up in your life.
If you want to know more about the program, you can go here: http://www.landmarkworldwide.com/
These workshops do occur worldwide, but the closest one is here:
Landmark – Washington, DC
6295 Edsall Road, Suite 203.
Alexandria, Virginia 22312
I recommend this program for all my patients, friends, family or anyone wanting more out of life.
In good health,
Dr. Alice Fong