This week I find myself in the north-east kingdom of Vermont at a retreat center near St. Johnsbury. Over the almost thirty years since I came to this country with my American born husband and South African born children, I have stayed every several years somewhere in the Green Mountain state. Together with the Pacific northwest I find it to be the most beautiful and, dare I use the word, spiritual, of all the states in our presently troubled Union. Lush shades of green everywhere and from here, now, where I look from my porch when I raise my head from my laptop, I see a valley of grasses and bushes, a line of magnificent trees, tops of mountains and a blue sky traversed by slowly moving cloud galleons. Yesterday on a short walk across the fields (beware of ticks) I saw a groundhog, a woodchuck, and a doe. Nothing remarkable, except they were not scared, they did not run off until I could almost touch them, and that is unusual. The perfectly sculptured doe stared back at me with queenly curiosity. Even the monarch butterfly stayed motionless so I could take a photograph, as well as a black, white and blue beauty called The White Admiral.
My retreat cabin measures seven by nine feet, scarcely room to fit a single bed. It has many small shelves, a desk that folds away and drawers under the bed. It reminds of a small yacht cabin carefully designed to make use of all the space. I have electricity and an internet connection but no plumbing. The outdoor privy, thirty feet from the cabin, opens to the fields and the sky, the world is mine. This is like camping in a thin wooden and not a canvas shell (or whatever the modern hi-tech tent material is called).
Essentially I am here to write, and delighted to have this time and this space. It is so important for me to immerse myself in my rewriting, to come to know my characters and their story, as if they are here with me.
Yet like Transcendentalist Thoreau, who after a session in his cabin or a walk in the woods at Walden Pond, would return home to Concord for lunch; I enjoy going to the main house to take my meals with the hard-working and friendly staff. We have a young chef who creates wholesome and delicious vegetarian meals from the center's own garden. I trust the concoction of my own fiction will be as easy on the reading palate and as digestible as hers.
, ralph waldo emerson
Lotus pond, Lumbini, India ©Janet Levine 2007
One of the Buddha’s profound teachings is that the greatest prayer is patience. Nothing to do, nothing to say, nothing to think, but simply to be, and be patient. Let’s examine this further, what is patience? According to the Buddha’s teachings, patience is a mind structure that accepts the truth of a situation as it is. It contains all the meditation and self-awareness practices you have undertaken in order for you to arrive at this patient point that is the eternally present moment and from where you can see cause and effect, the subjective conditioning we bring to all our psychological states and interactions, our understanding of the ephemeral nature of change and nature of duality in this realm where we live our lives.
From this vantage point we can understand that to experience insult and distress without resentment and to persevere is not wimpish behavior but an act that arises from self-knowledge and courage. The stance manifests our understanding of objective truth. From a negative point of view, it seems that patient endurance is to tolerate an adverse situation. However, in reality, endurance is not in a cowardly way blindly accepting what happens. Once we have glimpsed objective reality beyond our relativism we can be proactive, yes proactive, by being patient, and not expending energy on emotions of anger, fear, resentment and blame. A mind-state of patience is effortless, a state of clear understanding.
, mind structure
, ralph waldo emerson
Generation E is my name for the first generation of adolescents of the first decade of the twenty first century. Generation E is synonymous with you who are learning ecological and environmental awareness, utilizing educational methodologies designed to help you function in a new world of technology with almost unimaginable advances in (for instance) health care, and training you in management skills and practical strategies that will (for instance) one day eliminate world poverty. Other Generation E young people are laying the seeds now to become life-long learners. For as Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great Transcendentalist philosopher, said, “Humankind’s greatest ability is the ability is change one’s mind.” To open one’s mind too.
But among these intellectual pursuits do you yet know where consciousness resides? Is it situated differently if you are Indian, or Zambian, or Peruvian, or Irish? Of course not! Generation E and the E-model can inculcate mutual understanding as never before on our planet, Earth, this place we all call home. The E-model breaks down barriers of self and others in a remarkable way. It gives us understanding and compassion. It is a momentous step forward in redefining the nature of plurality in our world.
I have taught the E-model to young people and those who teach them from universities in Helsinki, Finland to the dusty townships of Port Elizabeth, South Africa. I have taught the E-model to students and teachers in Canada, and England, and in schools and colleges across the United States of America. Wherever I teach there comes that moment when peoples’ eyes light up in recognition and a journey begins to truly know themselves. An Organizer girl in South Africa may use her task-driven attention in different ways to the Organizer young woman graduate student in a business leadership course in Helsinki, Finland. Or an Organizer young woman at a community college in Pueblo, Colorado, will avoid failure, as will an Ivy League bound young person in New England. Organizers everywhere will recognize their drive to complete tasks at all cost, the competitive nature of their inner selves, their avoidance of failure and their sense of entering a deep hole of “now what”, when the task is done, and the goal attained.
Generation E you are primed for adventures in self-awareness. Like most of us though, you do not know who you are, and what makes you behave the way you do. Take the first adventurous step, investigate the student inventory on the website www.janetlevine.com. Become conversant with the E-model, and help break down the racial, ethnic and national perceptions that divide us. Learn a new vocabulary and understand a comprehensive behavioural context. Imagine a world in which we all know our E-type. I have that vision, and like a perceptual tsunami, I know what a positive wave of consciousness it can generate.
, Generation E
, ralph waldo emerson
, south africa