drama_masks I am in London, one of my favorite cities on earth: the history, the buildings, the English people, everything about this place charms me. I love the big taxis that I have a challenge getting in and out of, but once I’m in, they’re big and roomy and the drivers are pleasant and chatty in that lovely English way of speaking (clearly, they don’t think it’s an accent — they speak “Proper” English, the Queen’s English!), and I listen and just swoon with delight!

I’m here for a Landmark Education course called “The World is Your Stage.” It is affectionately called, “the acting course”; and, yes, it is sort of about acting, but more about who you’re being in the world. I’ve been doing Landmark Education courses since 2005, and they are ALL about who you are being and the possibilities your way of being opens up for you in your life. This one happens to be through the lens of acting.

One of the leaders of the course is Werner Erhard, the man who created Erhard Seminar Trainings in the 1970’s, better known as EST. I didn’t do the training then. Transcendental Meditation, or TM, was also introduced to the United States at that time, mostly by The Beatles, who studied with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and I decided that was more for me than EST — no weekends in a room without bathroom breaks for me! Those are the stories I heard and I thought, “What kind of course makes those kinds of demands?” I didn’t even hear the stories of the breakthroughs people had about their lives — because I didn’t want to; I didn’t think my life needed a breakthrough — my attitude was “Who needs that?”

The answer to that is, I did. My ego was so firmly entrenched that anything that spoke of growth and change was a threat to me. TM was so calming — I didn’t even do it for the spiritual value; I did it for the peacefulness it gave me. I meditate to this day, but it now is part of my spiritual practice.

My life went on: I lost a baby, I had a baby, I left the fashion business, I left my husband, my son left me — with the cat — and I suffered from depression for many years, trying every medication under the sun to get me to a place of “normal” so that I could actually function in life.

I finally did the Landmark Forum in April, 2005, and then continued with LE courses after that because every single one provided some amazing breakthrough, some fabulous shift for me. By that time, Werner was long gone — “run out of town,” so to speak, by a horrible “60 Minutes” segment that accused him of some not very nice things, which caused quite a stir. Those accusations were later refuted and retracted — he never did any of it, people recanted, the IRS admitted they were wrong, all of which never made the front pages, but was buried in the back of the newsfeed. The harm was done and Werner sold his company to his employees, who changed the name to Landmark Education, he left the United States — and for a very long time, no one heard from him.

Still, I wondered at those who spoke of Werner with such love and devotion that it almost landed for me as “guru-esque” — something that has never appealed to me. I wondered, “how could a person have been so vilified by one segment of the population and loved so profoundly by so many others?” I was curious about him, but no more than that.

Last November, when I went to hear Werner speak on a new model of Leadership at NYU’s Skirball Center, he wasn’t on the stage 5 minutes before I got the charisma, the love, the sheer power and Being of the man — and I saw why everyone loves him so much — and I remember feeling what a disservice “60 Minutes” did to the rest of the world to reduce him to some I-don’t-know-what. What a cowardly thing to do in the name of news! They robbed the rest of us, for a short time anyway, of the love and devotion that Werner has for humanity — his commitment to what’s possible for human beings. At the end of that evening in Skirball Center, I was so touched and moved and inspired by him to live a great life, a life that in some measure could do what he has done for millions — which is to be the thought leader that he is… to make a contribution to people. His love for us just beamed out over the audience in the way I felt when I remember Martin Luther King, when I went to Sai Baba’s ashram, how I feel when I get my hugs from Amma.

And, now this weekend: To see how much he loves people, up close and personal. LOVES US. Every minute was a moment spent taking us to another level — to see what life could be for us: joyful, fulfilled, all of it. The way he’d kiss someone on the forehead or on top of the head, like a father comforting a child or rewarding a child was so touching. You know he means every word out of his mouth. His commitment to us was palpable — is palpable. And, he can spot bullshit a mile away — and dismantle it. One of the distinctions of this course is “I am loved,” which, for me, landed as spiritual. AND, I know — I mean KNOW in the deepest place in my being — that one of those who loves us simply because we are human, just the way we are and just the way we’re not — is Werner Erhard. It was an honor and a priviledge to be in the room with him.

Since the course was over on Sunday night, I’ve been through a range of emotions: loss, sadness, regret about some of the things I’ve done in my life; on to getting complete with those items, either by writing about them, or crying as I looked out my window at my view of Parliament and Big Ben; and got for myself that all these things I want to do — and don’t, all these dreams I have for myself — and don’t move toward them — these are all now integrity issues for me. I gave my Word to myself about so many things — writing my book, losing weight, having a relationship, getting rid of all my clutter — and I just haven’t done what I said I would do, and so I’m out of integrity with myself that I don’t live the life I want to live.

I thank Werner and the other leaders of that course, for having me see what there is to do now in the world; to see now what is possible for me in my life — simply by Being who I really am.

I think people are afraid of people who love so much, who contribute so much, who are not afraid to disrupt the status quo and shake things up — because then they might have to change, too. Not because Werner makes them change, or rather, transform; because, after being with people like this, you can no longer be satisfied with a small life — it’s simply not fulfilling. What is possible appears before me as my destiny as one who is already my Greatness — I, you — we just don’t know it yet. Werner reminds us — and that can be very threatening. Just as Martin Luther King was threatening, just as Gandhi was threatening — in fact, just as Christ was threatening.

After this weekend, I realized that not finishing this book I’m writing would not only be playing small, but it would be a cop-out in life. This “playing small” is now an integrity issue for me.

I’ve been with people who play big. I’ve been with Werner, who plays BIG. And, what he taught me is: that playing BIG is here for ALL PEOPLE.

Now, I am one of those people who loves him and is devoted to him. And, happy to be that.

Deliciously yours in the LOVE that is All, Linda

The header picture above is the view from my room here in London. I hear Big Ben chiming as I lay in my bed and think about what I’ve learned here, how I’ve transformed here, how my future rolls out in front of me as the beautiful future that it is!

 

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and ”Spiritual Chocolate” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you

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