Retreat notes, III (Back to the roots)

//Retreat notes, III (Back to the roots)

Retreat notes, III (Back to the roots)

Had to go to the office early this morning, so no sitting to start the day for me. Have to wait until tonight.

Which is exactly how my practice has always been, since the very beginning. And which is how this « retreat in the heart of life » came to be: It was/is a direct result of my own direct experience of my early years of practice, when I had two very young children and was living with my teacher and a few other students in the new Zen « center » that we were creating here in Montreuil.

Let me explain:

In those days, I had a baby son and a young daughter, a job and a partner, and we all lived in the « center, » with the meditation hall upstairs and my teacher in the room next door. I could not regularly sit or practice with the others, however, because I had children to feed and care for (sick or not), work outside the house plus work inside the house, a relationship…

I often had to sit by myself, either alone in my room long after the others had finished, or next to my daughter as she fell asleep at night (as someone said he did today in the comments!). Often I felt painfully excluded from the practice, isolated, so far, far away from my teacher (in the next room) and the sangha.

One morning as I sat alone, crying and feeling sorry for myself, I suddenly realized that THIS was my practice, right there, me on the blue carpet in my room with the baby asleep on the bed. How could I be excluded from this? How could I be isolated from this? I was always in the heart of my own practice!

More and more I learned from that experience, deepening the realization that my practice was in fact not difficult: I didn’t have a choice, there was no other place or way for me to practice than right where I was, in the heart of my life.

Which is true for all of us, whether we see it or not (sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t).

This week, may we realize it all together.

By | 2015-10-03T16:44:21+01:00 février 16th, 2011|La pratique Zen|18 Comments

About the Author:

Enseignante Zen et poète, Sensei Amy “Tu es cela” Hollowell est née et a grandi à Minneapolis, aux Etats-Unis. Arrivée en France en 1981 pour étudier la littérature et l’histoire, elle y est restée, s’installant à Paris, où elle élève ses deux enfants et gagne sa vie en tant que journaliste. The Zen teacher and poet Amy “Tu es cela” Hollowell Sensei was born and raised in Minneapolis, but came to France in 1981 to study literature and history and has lived in Paris ever since, raising her two children and making a living as a journalist.


  1. swiss fake uhren 23 juillet 2013 at 3 h 38 min - Reply
  2. Antonio 17 février 2011 at 17 h 48 min - Reply

    JHC wrote one day:
    From the begining
    there is nothing to be sought.
    Already whithin
    is the complete solution.

    there is non sense in traveling.
    Non sense in seeking to get
    from a learned teacher
    the wisdom you already posses.
    … … …

  3. Geert 17 février 2011 at 15 h 43 min - Reply

    Some of this comments are really striking. I can only bow to thank and affirm…
    Reading them, I was thinking of the Verse of the Kesa that is recited at sesshins : "vast is the robe of liberation". This robe to me is a symbol of our awareness we ‘put on’ every time we take the courage to dive into our own present lives fully. No thinking of me or you, no theories about a big ME or small me, just timeless and spaceless omnipresent life that has allways been and will ever be and the ordinary miracle to be able to share it here and now.
    Grateful greetings, Geert.

  4. Sophie 17 février 2011 at 15 h 09 min - Reply

    "He looked at his own Soul with a Telescope.
    What seemed all irregular, he saw and shewed to be beautiful constellations:
    and he added to the Consciousness hidden worlds within worlds".
    Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Note books.

  5. Juan 17 février 2011 at 14 h 35 min - Reply

    Not every day I manage to seat,
    on the good days there is mind no mind;
    on the bad days I stand up and and get to bed or to work, as I didn’t manage the wandering of my mind.
    Sometimes my daughter coughs and/or wakes up, and I need to go there.
    Most of the times I feel the lonelyness, the isolation. Those feelings go away after a shared moment when I feel I am there, here and now, when I realize that it’s not my time but our time.

  6. Antonio 17 février 2011 at 12 h 22 min - Reply

    what is this anguish in the palms of my hands???

  7. claire 17 février 2011 at 11 h 58 min - Reply


    Thank you Amy Sensei and every one else, for sharing about your experience, this is also what I came and am coming to realize more often now, whenever I feel frustrated or excluded. Who else – other than myself – has the power to exclude me from my practice? How could I be excluded and by whom if not by my own limiting view of what practice is or should be?
    The more I accept and realize that my whole entire life IS my practice, the smaller the gap between me and myself.
    Many times during the day, I re-connect to our common intention here in this retreat, I re-connect to each of you that I have never met- for the most part- and to whom I feel nevertheless connected. Thank you all for this shared sacred space. Each one of your practice strengthens mine. Each of your intention affirms my determination.
    Love and Great Joy

  8. Lisa 17 février 2011 at 11 h 30 min - Reply

    Hello all,

    Eventhough I couldn’t formally sit last night, I was sitting all the same… in a beautiful theater, Les Bouffes du Nord, listening to beautiful and inspiring music, Fado… and closing my eyes, feeling the connection, letting in this music which sings of suffering, love, hope… about our lives here and now. Listening with the heart.

    Thank you.

  9. Ana cristina 17 février 2011 at 11 h 03 min - Reply

    Yestarday: rain, wind, hail a storm. My neighbor had a stroke. He is suffering. My daughter returned to school, bad cough, hard day. I sat only for15 minutes. Good!

    Today: less rain, wind and hail and some sun, I’ll sit as long as I can. Good. With you, alone, in the heart of life.

  10. tu es cela 17 février 2011 at 10 h 24 min - Reply

    I was thinking about you this morning, Corinne, sitting just as we sat Monday when you helped us start this retreat in the heart of life. Wanted to say how I, too, appreciated our exchanges through the weekend. Thanks for joining us — not only in Europe, but in Asia, Oceania and Africa, too!

  11. Luisa 17 février 2011 at 9 h 37 min - Reply

    Did not sit in the entire week but present at every moment and felt the deep connection while reading your comments.
    Busy week, moving to Lisbon, new home, paper work to fill, busy schedules, but I recognize that if I would persist on the idea that I had to sit for many hours, I wouldn’t be in my present moment which is busy, with many things that I don’t like doing (like paperwork), so I am present to my present moment. With you.
    Love and gratitude for Amy to set this big encounter 🙂

  12. corinne 17 février 2011 at 9 h 02 min - Reply

    This morning, sitting alone in the zendo of GenjoAn Sangha I felt the presence of all the participants of this "all-over-Europe-Sesshin". It was heartwarming and so much of a support. Every morning anew uncovering the heart until we can feel and share its fragility, tenderness and love.
    It was so encouraging spending time with you, thank you Amy Sensei!
    Corinne Sensei

  13. Amour partagé Sophie 17 février 2011 at 7 h 25 min - Reply

    zazen, and you are here with me:
    I go in the country you are, I say your first name,
    so I sit with each of you
    travelling worldwide
    travelling heartwide,
    and I bow…

  14. Peter 17 février 2011 at 0 h 01 min - Reply

    A day of writing a research grant proposal, reviewing papers, meetings.. all things to do with career.
    How often do I become embroiled in such things and deceive myself they are "important"?
    About 2500 years ago, the pre-Socratic philosopher Empedocles described the human condition something like: we spend our lives being blind, deaf, and we bump into things and become easily convinced of their importance, and like a puff of smoke we are quickly gone.
    So I cannot blame the pressures of modern society for that deception.

    Later that evening, our sangha met for weekly zazen, and I told of this wonderful unfolding experiment, so the reaches of this virtual retreat are tangibly extending…

  15. ann 16 février 2011 at 22 h 30 min - Reply

    thanks Amy-

    this morning i was sitting in a hughe waiting room of a hospital.
    Fysical damaged people comming and going.
    it hit me how we are used to take everything so much for granted: we can stand, we can sit, we can walk – run…
    What a miricale it is to be able to move! To do all this wonderfull things we can do!

    We were there together.
    I could feel so fysical the fragility, perishableness of all of us.
    The suffering, despair, courrage, the joy even, the resignation – all passing…
    this are we –
    diferent – yet the same – all examples of human – more or less happy embodied consiousnes.
    what a miracle it is just to look at us. All of us. Just everybody is so precious…

  16. Christine 16 février 2011 at 22 h 28 min - Reply

    My sister dropped in this morning with her one year old son, playing with my son on the floor. Later an old friend came for a coffee, was good to see him. Rare and precious moments shared with friends and family. Tonight, sitting next to my baby who fell asleep, sharing moments of stillness with you. Thank you, sleep well.

  17. Fabrizio 16 février 2011 at 22 h 19 min - Reply

    That’s what I’m discovering these days, I sit with all the time I waste before doing it, with all the shit and sorrows and fears, and this sens of frustration running through my head. That’s my life, right here, right now. And more than this.
    Thank you so much

  18. terre d'éveil 16 février 2011 at 19 h 53 min - Reply

    Thank you Amy for sharing
    this is my life
    this is our life
    as I experience it this week
    more than ever
    there is no separation
    (although it can feel so different)
    thank you all for sharing

    love Tjeerd

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