Retreat in the Heart of Life, Day V

//Retreat in the Heart of Life, Day V

Retreat in the Heart of Life, Day V

The day looks like this so far: breakfast, lunch, Skype appointment, laundry and dishes to wash, the rain outside, a cup of green tea inside, catching up with email traffic and administrative duties, now preparing to head out for the rest of the day elsewhere (not at « home, » that is).
I’m still reflecting on the « home economics » and « existential ecology » of not wasting my natural resources. Seems I’m a compost pit, in fact. Also feeling very much like the time, place, situation, activity in which I find myself is the « teacher, » much like what Bernie Glassman says about Auschwitz.
Reflecting, too, on the comments about this « heart of life » week feeling or not feeling like a « retreat. » My first question for us, then, is: What is a retreat? When we say it feels like or doesn’t feel like being on a retreat, we have some idea of what a retreat is and feels like. Usually it is related to a past experience of sitting together with a group for a day, a weekend, a week, or more.
But what if the retreat did not depend on particular, organized circumstances, on a pre-arranged situation? What if rather than imagining that you participate in a retreat, or go on a retreat, you realize that you ARE the retreat?
This, after all (and it seems like a contradiction), is exactly what retreats are organized to help us realize…
Like tomorrow, the final day of our retreat, when we will come together in Paris and share a day of sitting (in retreat). Please join us wherever you are.

By | 2015-10-02T20:32:19+01:00 octobre 2nd, 2012|Retraites au coeur de la vie|9 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. Nuno 25 novembre 2012 at 16 h 17 min - Reply

    A very interesting experience. Feeling/knowing that we were practicing together this week reminded me that we are practicing together always, but I forget that. I also learned that I do not practice enough. How much is enough, then? I don’t known, but it is more than what I do. It’s easy to practice zazen by scheduled, or thinking I am practicing zazen, but bring it into my daily life 24/7 is hard. I knew that, but I never stopped to really think about it. By engaging myself into this retreat I felt that I need to do more. I procrastinate my practice leaving it for the zazen periods only, that’s what. Zazen must not be like driving. Yes, I am somewhat aware of my driving when I am driving, but I can drive without be fully aware. So is my practice. I might be able to sit without flinch and never lose count of my breaths (which I don’t, by the way). So what, if when I get my but of that zafu I am no longer practicing? Now I feel guilty. Should I feel guilty? Probably not, but I do. Why? Because I can do more, I want to do more, I need to do more. And why is that? Do I want just to inflate my ego by "being" an awesome practitioner? Or do I feel that is just something I "must" to do? Ah! I still don’t know exactly. When I do, I will tell you, or maybe not.

    Thank you all. Gassho.

  2. Tiago 24 novembre 2012 at 19 h 36 min - Reply

    When I saw your announcement about this retreat in the heart of life I was thrilled!!! I was so happy I wanted to tell everyone how happy I was… That tells something about attachment doesn’t it? attachment to concepts or ideas or situations or ideas of ideas of… The last month has been a big uncertainty – as it is the next one and the next – always looking for a job, sending applications, telling people how amazing and great I "is", selling myself out. Me me me me me!

    To me these days were a "call to arms", a call to this moment, here. The retreat was/is here but not the idea i had of what it should be, though.

    Thank you all for your presence and for sharing your days. It is not an end, nor a beginning, it’s as always is. Now. As I heard Sensei say once "if you don’t want to leave, do not enter".


  3. Tomas 24 novembre 2012 at 18 h 47 min - Reply

    Just got home after a full day of sitting that kind of marked the ‘end of the retreat’ but…it hasn’t ended, it can’t end, it is endless!…retreat-life/life-retreat goes on, up&down, down&up…what a rollercoaster!!! 😉

  4. Tomas 24 novembre 2012 at 18 h 44 min - Reply

    Just got home after a full day of sitting that kind of marked the ‘end of the retreat’ but…it hasn’t ended, it can’t end, it is endless!…retreat-life/life-retreat goes on, up&down, down&up…what a rollercoaster!!! 😉

  5. ceu 24 novembre 2012 at 17 h 46 min - Reply

    I’ts raining outside. I feel like a wurm in a compost pit. To think and to read about compost its very usefull for answer the question waht is a retreat. So many metafors of waht we do are inside textes about making compost……
    One of them "a retreat its to sit togheter and to make the 50º/70º temperature to make compost"
    yesterday I was at a birthday party from a friend of me, I dance the night until 7. I slleeped, and I wake up thinking I must read about how to make compost.
    I was all the time with you all making compost. When I was dancing too, all the time it was a "liaison".
    Thank you to give me this image. Next step its to make a compost pit at home.kisses

  6. j 24 novembre 2012 at 1 h 15 min - Reply

    Been thinking about that "being the retreat", even when sitting. I feel it is not really a surprise to hear Amy say it. I suppose that the idea of "being the retreat" is a response to the persistent feeling most or all of us have (judging from the commentaries one reads here and from the conversations we have with one another) of not doing things the "right" way or of not doing what we think we are supposed to do: "I haven’t been sitting lately" (because one thinks one is supposed to sit), "I was not paying attention when this or that was happening" (because one thinks one is supposed to pay attention), "I am not present most of the time" (because one thinks one is supposed to be present). In a way I can’t really explain, "being the retreat" seems to be an answer to that.

    Someone here mentioned Trungpa and someone else mentioned the moment being the teacher. Trungpa says it somewhere: when asked whom, since he had to leave Tibet, leave his masters, were his masters now, he answers that the moment is his master. I understand that intellectually (I think), but living the experience of it is something else.

  7. Geert 23 novembre 2012 at 23 h 54 min - Reply

    The situation is my teacher … and I am the retreat… definitely, but am not allways aware of that (a huge euphemism!). This week, allthough, I am.
    Accompanied my mother moving to a retirement home today … very painful experience, my heart broke allthough I know there are no other reasonable, realistic options considering her situation.
    Expecting my dearly beloved wife to be home tomorrow after being hospitalized for over two months. Third hospitalisation in six months of time. Chemotherapy, radiotherapy and a stem cell transplant as a treatment for leucemia. Am so glad that she’ll be home again. Hope and uncertainty alternate when I think about her and our future…
    Going to the funeral of my brother-in-law’s mother, also tomorrow.
    She was a nice, simple woman. Her grandchildren adored her and are so sad about her passing away.
    Our elder son going on weekend as a scouts leader with his young cubs. A great experience for both leaders and cubs, a kind of playful retreat it seems to me …
    Had to discharge a dance teacher in our school of arts this week. Sad story of personal problems leading to not taking responsability for the students. Tried many times to correct the attitude… in vain, became unworkable. Am sorry and sad not having been able to help her reveal her qualities, am sincerely worried about her.
    These are the situationsI had to deal with ; my teachers, my retreat in the very heart of life. So different from the ‘real’ Frandeux intersangha retreat I experienced in April… but in some way very similar due to the intensity, dealing with issues that matter, issues of joy and pain, hope and doubt, courage and disappointment, life and death… My ‘participation’ to this initiative was and is very meaningful and helpful to be aware of all of that…

  8. Christine 23 novembre 2012 at 19 h 16 min - Reply

    Did some renovation works in the apartment today. It went from having an ideal image of what we wanted to have to facing the difficulties of really doing and not only imagining it with all the unperfections that come along. Then by doing it getting some practice and better understanding and so finally obtaining a result not that bad. No time for sitting, unfortunately. Trying to be the retreat, hmmm.
    Have to stop writing, my son wants me to read a story. Good evening everybody !

  9. Tiago 23 novembre 2012 at 17 h 41 min - Reply

    Being the "retreat"… i’ll give it a "second" thought.

    Meanwhile, curry scents come through my door as Jean starts cooking dinner.

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