Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Step Back in the River and Taste the Fresh Water

The venerable maxim ‘You never step in the same river twice,’ popped into my mind as I drove south on Lincoln Blvd to LAX.  Originally, I imagined a nostalgic trip, a type of pilgrimage to honor the teacher and the teachings.  Upon arriving at a non-nondescript office building was the first surprise of the night, the organization occupied a whole floor.

Escorted by a new friend from Australia, we went to the meeting room.  It contained one hundred chairs arranged in a semi-circle facing the platform, with its four white and chalkboards that outlined the ‘work' or agenda.  Two high director’s chairs completed the scene.  Almost a replica of (except for the modernized chairs and the white boards), the room where I did the original ‘training’ back in the seventies.   Not much had changed. 
As before, the seminar leader began the evening by welcoming guests with a thumbnail description of the seminar.  Well-dressed in a suit with an open collar shirt, he personified an educated, intelligent, and confident professional.  Little had changed in this culture in the over thirty years, since I had last participated.  In spite of name changes, retirement of its founder, sale of the the intellectual property, and myriad attacks in the mainstream media, the core of the training survived intact.  More than I can say about my own body and spirit.  But that is another story.  

What brought me here to this meeting?  My Australian friend had traveled over six thousand miles, specifically to continue his education with this organization and to immerse himself in the rich stew of the consciousness/ spiritual community of Santa Monica/ Venice.  He was committed to reinvention.  What could have been the draw for him to come so far I wondered?  Initially, I had politely declined his invitation, not wanting to go through the high pressure sales pitch/ enrollment process I remembered from the old days.  Then at lunch one day he said with a big grin, ‘You know mate, I forgot that as a graduate you are eligible to sit in on the seminar.’   

Werner Erhard on his directors chair
Mulling it over, I decided that the time had come to revisit the origins of my personal spiritual path begun so many years ago (1979 to be exact).  I have long considered the training as the turning point in my personal growth path.  My inner life was kick started with those two weekends .  Connections made after that first experience led to meeting an Indian guru and then a new age television minister and one seminar led to a workshop which led to a retreat and so on.  Personal and spiritual growth became a pillar of my life.  Suddenly over thirty years had passed.  I retired from my career in education and began a reinvention process.
Life review is common after significant transitions such as 'retirement.'  Where did I come from?  What did I accomplish?  Connecting the dots of one’s life.  So, when this friend invited me, my notion was that it might be fun to go down memory lane for an evening.  Maybe a bit like going to one’s old high school or first summer camp.  Remember the good things and taste a bit of the old emotions.   But subconsciously, I felt something needed to be completed.  Some strings needed retying.   

Sitting in that familiar setting and format, I felt like I had been on a long trip in space and returned to earth but time had stood still.  I was older and a bit wiser but the scene was the same.  The chalk boards on the stage announced the intended results of the seminar and laid out the agenda for the evening.  One highly verbal older woman reported she had been doing this work for over thirty years.   She gave it credit for the three degrees she had earned and declared her intention to publish her book, at last.  A young woman shared her challenge in getting her new husband to understand her.   Another person declaimed about her cranky neighbor.  

The normalcy and commonsensical nature of their dilemmas was striking.  Not in an obscure ivory tower way, nor in a god soaked church, but simply human and down to earth living.    Real people with practical projects and goals in the world. The supportive and clear thinking of the seminar leader impressed me.  He did not play around with platitudes and vague concepts. Very real and practical coaching.

What does it all mean to me?  In this highly transitory era where computers get updated daily and even the laws of physics are provisional, personal growth workshops have a short shelf life.  In spite of the highly trendy nature of the human potential movement of the 70s somehow Landmark has survived and prospered.  Standing alone after all of its peers have long since died, Landmark (the successor to est) is over forty years old. Is it a cult?  Not to me.  Money is not requested nor donated as in ‘spiritual’ settings.   It is straight; pay for the seminar or if indigent get a scholarship.  No coercion, no usurping of your decision making, no handing over your money.
Dip into the river and taste new water
My journey to the past demonstrated that the lessons I learned back in the day are still relevant.  My experience was different because I am different, but the message was the same.   Tell the truth about your rackets, complete the past, make and keep your agreements, and live from intention.  Timeless technology that lives on.  The trip to the river that night was not a journey down memory lane but a taste of the flow of my life. 

Our experiences and education of years past are not necessarily dead and gone.  They can be revived and applied in this stage of life.  Consider a reconnection with old programs, teachers, schools, places, and activities and see if you can find the pearl of great price?  That pearl is eternal, never decays, and in fact grows bigger in the incubator of a life lived with on purpose. 

1 comment:

  1. Excellent! Yes, I remember Landmark Forum. I took it back in 96-97. Wonderful memories and the experience of a lifetime. Thanks Ran!