My new book, a novel, “Leela’s Gift” has been released. In fact it can be viewed at http://lulu.com/spotlight/JLevine1. It will soon be (early August) available at amazon.com and many online venues where book are sold as well as in book stores (remember www.indiebound.org and independent book stores). “Leela’s Gift” is the story of a luminous inner spiritual  journey. It is set in New York and high in the Himalayas near Darjeeling in northern India. The novel uncovers archetypal and highly relevant spiritual teachings. East meet west in Leela. The book offers teachings on meditation and yoga,  practical paths to freedom from the often dispiriting and desperate quality of our contemporary lives. The novel intertwines Leela’s journey with modern philosophy  and primal wisdom and is infused with some of the inner teachings of Buddhism and the Enneagram. “Leela’s Gift” tells a story as old as the human heart.

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© Janet Levine 2010

Coming soon to online and brick book stores.

Seven years ago, one July, on a clear but cold winter’s day on a beach in Nature’s Valley, South Africa, one of my sons asked me. “What is your next book?” (“Know Your Parenting Personality” had recently been published.)  I replied that  I would like to write a novel somehow using the personality types of the Enneagram. He thought it was a good idea and we spoke about it a bit. Through many twists and turns “Leela’s Gift” took on a life of its own and became much more than the sum of its parts. I am pleased it will shortly be available (by August) for readers who love fiction and who love to delve into the depths of spiritual and philosophical matters.

In the beginning after two years of working on several drafts , my ex-agent did not like the structure of the material. Two more years, and two more drafts, she still did not like the material. So we agreed to part. Over another year and because certain characters refused to leave my mind and insisted on being in the book,  I rewrote it to incorporate them. I shared drafts with a group of readers, had it professionally edited and hit the slush pile over another year in scores of agents’ offices. So hard to be flushed out of the slush pile, I share great empathy with every writer who tries. But the manuscript idea did grab many agents and I do have a publishing record so “partials” and “fulls” went flying across the virtual world of the wide web.

The problem is I like to be on the cutting edge, I like to write hybrids, I like to break new ground. This is true of everything I have done in my life, from my anti-apartheid activism to how I live my life to my writing. So my manuscript did not fit a “niche”, a “genre”, it is an original. The New York publishing cartel does not take chances on “originals”. I am not a product of the American grad school MFA pipeline.

Agents “loved the writing” “appreciated the material” “enjoyed the well-developed characters” but (and the following are by far the two most common responses) “…I do not have time for a special project like this” “…I can’t give a project like this the attention it deserves to see it published.” What is it agents do, if they don’t have time to be an agent? “No publisher in New York will even ask to read it” one honest agent told me, and when I inquired why, he said “Traditional publishing is in paroxysms of decline and panic and does not know how to save itself…”

Okay…so now what? An agent-friend for over twenty years, semi-retired now, agreed about the decline, “We are in a revolution in publishing, self-publishing is not defeat, it is an exciting avenue to amazing new ebook and other markets. You don’t know how many other authors, well-known, well-published authors can’t find a traditional publisher and I have suggested to them: self-publish. So, yes, do the research, self-publish, you believe in this work, don’t you?”

I believe in this work.

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Below you will find a photo of peonies that bloomed in my garden this morning. For some reason this is a once in three years occurrence so I greet each bloom with excitement. They are among the most beautiful peonies I have seen, and the scent is intoxicating. I have been a gardener for as long as I can remember. Growing up in a suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa, I remember my mother at work with her roses, about 50 bushes of various varieties, secateurs in hand as she deadheaded, debudded (to leave only one rose on a stem) and carefully removed aphids and other undesirable pests. My grandfather who spent a third of every year with us always wore a fresh rosebud in the lapel of his suit jacket. When I was an adolescent I was given the rock garden as my provenance and loved to plan and plant and move rocks. My nemesis was the snails who shared my rock garden. Johannesburg, situated on a plateau at 6,00 feet, and with a temperate climate, dry heat and usually reliable summer rain, is an Eden for gardeners. There is one drawback, cyclical drought and with it watering restrictions, so every seven years gardeners watch their hard work, manicured lawns and the beauty they created wither and die. In the suburbs drilling for artesian water sources was a flourishing business.

As a young wife and mother I had first a pocket garden with an almost sub-tropical micro-climate due to a sunny vantage and thick white washed walls. Around giant strelitzes,  avocado and mulberry trees the carefullly designed borders flourished. Later I had almost an acre in which to garden and loved every inch of the rich loam in which whatever I planted grew with vigor and beauty.

When we moved to the Boston area many years ago I had to re-examine everything I had learned about gardening. Our first home was a three hundred year old carriage house set on an acre of land. We had hundred year old giant beeches on the property. The land itself had been neglected for years, but with care and attention a garden will emerge with alacrity from underneath the undergrowth and weeds. As I uncovered flower beds, dug and sowed, the garden returned to some of its previous glory. From spring to autumn we ate fresh produce from the rescued and resuscitated cold frame beds. I planted strawberries around the swimming pool, hosta in the shady areas and a riot of day lilies wherever I could. I learned to accept the cycle of the year, and reluctantly return my gardening tools to their permanent place in the garage each November. Come February the catalogs arrived and soon I would have spindly seedlings growing under lights.

I planted myself in American soil in bringing that garden back to life.

Now I have a much smaller garden again. It is all I want to manage. For me little else in life compares to the satisfaction of caring for a flower bed of rich dark soil where every plunge of the weeding fork or hand spade reveals not only the roots of the weed but wriggling earth worms too. Then you know you have an arable patch and the result is glorious peonies like these.

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As the June 21 summer solstice heralded the summer months many of us pulled out road maps to study the routes for our summer vacation trips. Do we want the scenic route through the mountains this time, or the quicker drive along the highway? Or maybe even we should try the third option we have always wanted to see­—the coastal route—even if it adds half a day to our drive time. Do we want to stay in a quaint B&B overnight and spend a few additional leisurely hours or does the hermetic and generic motel chain feel right for this trip? We compute miles and hours, consult Google maps for directions, maybe ask the AAA to compile a customized route map so we will know where to expect the road blocks and construction areas. Some of us call ahead and reserve rooms knowing we do not like to drive after dark, or for longer than eight hours at a stretch, or take a chance on a room being available. Others like to be spontaneous and stop along the way whenever and wherever highway exhaustion hits. But having a map, a route and a plan seems to be common sense and practice.

The Enneagram (e-model) maps the territory of our inner consciousness. We know that maps are never the territory, yet we all use them, as they certainly help us find our way; for none of us can drive blind fold! So why live the journey of your life blind fold when you have maps such as the e-model to point out directions to you? The e-model is the EEE of self-awareness—Expanded horizons, Expertise at knowing yourself and others, and an Explanation for what motivates our behavior. We are all traveling along the highways and byways of our life’s path—and the only sure direction we know is that of birth to death, an involuntary journey and none of us knows how long it will take. There are many such maps as the e-model and they put before us options so we can make wise choices about how to live our lives. We would all like to learn warning signals when we are about to go off the road, or how we can avoid accidents. Fortunately you can check out the e-model map (it comes with directions) at www.janetlevine.com

Have a wonderful summer filled with journeys and discoveries.

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Please read the previous blogs as this is a continuing series. Now that you have taken the Student Inventory (TPI) on www.janetlevine.com and discovered that you are an Attacher,  Detacher or Defender your curiosity is piqued and you want to know more about the model.  This blog answers some of the most common questions I am asked by young people when they first encounter the E-model.

In Greek ennea means nine and gram graph or model. The Enneagram is a dynamic flow model of consciousness. Each of us defaults into one of nine positions arranged equidistantly on a circle. At each of these positions (called a Point) clusters of characteristics cling like pins on a magnet and contain the motivations for our behavior. (You can see a diagram of the model on many web sites. Do a simple search on the Internet.)  However, no two people who are the same Point are in any way identical, so the E-model describes the  nine behavioral clusters to the nth degree thus accounting for each and every individual difference. The E-model does not place people in boxes.

On the circle each Point is joined to four others, the two on either side of your own, called wings that flavor your E-type,  and two others on the lines that flow toward and away from you; these lines are depicted as arrows and they are arranged  in a triangle and a hexagon. The direction of these lines describe shifts in consciousness such as when you are under stress or when you feel secure. Furthermore (this is a complex model) there are two hidden arrows that join four of the Points, so everyone has one part of their personality in each of the head, heart and body-based triads. (Hence my name for the TPI or Triads Personality Inventory). The TPI explanation on my web sites describes the Triads.

The origins of the E-model are still somewhat sketchy. For many years it was thought to have Sufi (esoteric Islamic) origins, then, research even further back revealed that it may have originated in the work of the post-Alexandrian Desert Fathers in Egypt, and more recently some claim Vedic origins for the model (myself included), and that is as far back as we can find any record of our ancestor’s thoughts.

Many philosophers and philosophical traditions have developed systems of nine forms and a tenth called unity (in the example of the E-model–a circle). Plato devised his model of the Divided Line and placed his  nine Universal Forms at the top level of cognition. The mystical Jewish Kabbalah with its nine sefirot encompassed within the form of a human body is another dynamic system that explains consciousness. (It has alignments with the E-model.) In the 12th to 16th centuries, neo-Platonists and Christian Kabbalists added important understandings to these models.

The current iteration of the E-model has been sculpted since the 1960s by psychologists  and others in the United States and elsewhere in professions and disciplines that explore the human mind and consciousness. As a baseline they used the Diagnostic Survey Manual (DSM) knowing as they did so that the DSM describes pathologies while the E-model descriptors draw a bell-curve of normal to high-functioning people.

Shorter answers to your questions–the nine E-types are evenly distributed among females and males worldwide. No E-type is better than another they are equally valid. There is no E-Type that is “better” for you as a partner. We all have to work hard at all our relationships

We are born with our E-type. We cannot change it, but the characteristics do ameliorate with age. For most people age 15-25 is when the E-type  is most flagrant. Knowing your E-type brings you immediate compassion and understanding for yourself and others.

How will knowing your E-type help you? Stay tuned.

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