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Background photo: Anne Ku at Ilp, May 2001 after an afternoon of swim, sauna, and steam.

Bon Journal

All shook up

It's the third day of the Landmark Education Forum recommended by my friend and ex-colleague. Amazed at his transformation from an already optimistic self, I decided to take this three-and-a-half day personal development course out of curiosity.

On the first day, I was, needless to say, very skeptical. I was late by only a few minutes and the room was already packed with over a hundred strangers. I had trouble understanding the Swiss accent of the coach, who eagerly proclaimed herself to be daughter of a Swiss farmer and a grandmother with step-daughters. Secretly I hoped she was only present for the introductions as I didn't plan to waste my STG 225 on interpreting her English.

After spending two hours explaining what the course was all about, the coach asked us a question which included a word that didn't make any sense to me. She asked us to raise our hands if we were not "enrollable." Now, she had explained what "enrollment" was, but not "enrollable". If enrollment meant "getting it", enrollable would mean "the ability to get it." While I would and could commit myself to whatever it takes to eventually "get it" - I wasn't sure if I had the ability to get it.

On this point, I raised my hand and asked to clarify this point. I asked, "Why didn't you just ask if we were open, willing, and committed to taking this course rather than if we were enrollable?" What I thought was an innocent question turned into a serious debate to which she asked what I did for a living. I said that I had to make sure my readers don't get stuck on a word and that everything is explained clearly.

Apparently I came across as a tough cookie, if not a vindictive one. In my retort, I unknowingly revealed the student activist side of me and the quest to prove that I was right.

Ironically, we later spent a good deal of time identifying situations like these, when we wanted to prove we're right but by doing so did not improve our relationships with others. The coach's message was essentially this: if we give up being right, the world will be a better place.

On the second day, my defenses were lowered. What's the point of being right? Like others, I discovered my "inauthenticities" --- stop pretending that you're not pretending. I also saw the need to "complete" relationships.

The authenticities shared by other people blew me away, for what the eyes can't see, the hearts bleed. So much pain and suffering lie beneath the stoic faces!

After I got up and gave my declaration, the coach said, "You have touched, moved, and inspired us." What did I say? I merely discovered the meaning of commitment and the reason why she had to ask us if we were enrollable on the first day. In the process, I learned to respect the coach.

2 March 2003 Sunday

In a sea of 150 strangers,

you can't tell what lies beneath.

Only when they get up to tell their story,

do you realise their pain and suffering.

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Anne Ku
writes about her travels, conversations, thoughts, events, music, and anything else that is interesting enough to fill a web page.