Heart of Life/Coeur de la vie: Day I

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Heart of Life/Coeur de la vie: Day I


Quiet morning here at my desk, except for the rumble of the street-cleaning truck, first ear-splittingly loud and then slowly fading as it makes its way up the avenue. After an initial fright, the cat is finally not bothered, sleeping soundly now on the chair behind me, breathing peacefully in and out. So it goes, the way of all things.

Meanwhile, after sitting, I’m considering how to « formally » start our retreat here. We’ll be using Dogen’s Genjokoan as our thread throughout the week. And a phrase from the introduction to a book of commentaries on Genjokoan seems a good beginning: « Don’t just do something, sit there; don’t just sit there, do something: being and doing as one. » That’s our program for the week (and for the whole of life)!

At the World Cup last night in Moscow, Mexico beat the defending world champion, Germany, 1-0, stunning the football world and causing an « artificial » earthquake in Mexico City as fans there celebrated. That’s the power of joy! The Mexican coach had told his team before the match: « Play for the joy of winning, not the fear of losing. »

So what are your joys and fears today, what is your life today? I hope to read you all here in the « commentaries. » You can write in whatever language you choose — no need to use English just because I do. Write from your heart, from the heart of your very own life today, Monday June 18 2018, in your city, village, country, house, office. Tell us about your day of « being and doing. »

Thanks, and à bientôt.


By | 2018-06-18T08:13:15+01:00 juin 18th, 2018|Retraites au coeur de la vie, Textes|28 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. Erica 20 juin 2018 at 0 h 49 min - Reply

    @ Adaptation Futures in Cape Town, South Africa. I am afraid of failure and what that might mean for my children.

  2. Filipa 19 juin 2018 at 21 h 51 min - Reply

    Filipa from Lisbon and in the south of Portugal.

    I’m writing in the kitchen. Hardly any light, as I enjoy the most. Waiting for the rice to cook. Feels quiet and a comfortable place to be. Just like home (and I’m not actually home).

    I’m writing Tuesday, since Yestderday I didn’t sit. I felt lazy and sorry for myself with all my troubles. Not being able to remember about the retreat. Bothered with my Briother being ill and me not feeling understood by people closest to me. Inside there are things that hurt. And there is a lot o light and hope I’ll be able to look and them and deal with them the best and most truthful way possible.

  3. Patrícia 19 juin 2018 at 15 h 48 min - Reply

    Started the day in a clinic. Had an appointment with the cardiologist.
    As I hear my heart´s sound (pum, pum, pum) and watch the image in the monitor, I realize how unfamiliar it looks to me. That heart, my heart. Yet, it feels familiar.. I never see it. I can´t touch it. I rarely hear it´s sound, But it´s there. Always.
    On the train, on my way to work, I try to be aware of my heart. To feel it´s beat inside me. Pum, pum, pum.
    I look at the people sitting in the carriage, sitting in our retreat, and I start to imagine their own hearts, beating inside their bodies, like mine. What they might look like. What they might sound like. Some are old, some are young. Some beat slow, others beat faster. Pum, pum, pum. Pum, pum, pum.
    Today, all around me, hearts pumping life, separately and together. Pum, pum, pum.

  4. elizabeth 19 juin 2018 at 13 h 20 min - Reply

    fighting with the computer ,not able to find this blog only now !
    Why am I so disturbed by that?
    Want to find quietness again ..Go to sit and watch right now at the middle of the day !

  5. Adrien 19 juin 2018 at 11 h 10 min - Reply

    Pont-de-Barret, Drôme, 12.03PM
    Fly didn’t let me sit in peace this morning, or was it me? Even now as I write, it sits on my hand, arm, shirt..
    Yesterday I heard that acceptance can lead to response rather than reaction. So easy to react to a fly, a mosquito.
    The river was fresh and the warm banks sunny. Wind dried me up and hopped from stone to stone.
    Little girl wanted to save a dying dragonfly, I accepted that too.
    I’ve Been Doing this all my life!
    Thank you/ A

  6. Luisa 19 juin 2018 at 10 h 00 min - Reply

    During this first day I ended up forgetting the retreat and only came back at the end of the day, almost on day 2. Great learning to me. It doesn’t matter how many goals I set to myself. It is the attention I put to follow them.
    Great learning indeed and I started day II already meditating 🙂
    From Porto, Portugal

  7. Guillaume 19 juin 2018 at 9 h 23 min - Reply

    Paris, one day late.
    I didn’t take the time to write yesterday. I’m in a busy week, but I really just let myself get dragged away by work. I decided I would take 5 minutes to catch up today.

    I’m working from home today, sitting at my desk facing my wide window, the roofs of some depots below and Montmartre in the distance. The light is gray and the sound urban, distant traffic noise and a circular saw buzzing. The five minutes are over and I will get back to work. Chaque chose en son temps. All in good time.

  8. Hugo 19 juin 2018 at 6 h 35 min - Reply

    Perth, Western Australia. Noongar Country. Aboriginal Land. « Balai ». Lookout. Beware.
    Life is precious. Unique. No one can live life like I do. Maezumi in my heart. And the rain. Drop. Drop. Drop.
    Sun rays coming. Warm face.
    Beautiful houses. Wow! New roads.
    Row row row your boat. At the gym.
    Gently down the stream
    Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
    Life is but a dream

  9. fario 18 juin 2018 at 23 h 55 min - Reply

    My day passed as usual but with unusual feelings. After a long pause for about 3-4 years today I started to run. It was hard and awesome at the same time. When I tired and stopped I found myself in the middle of a long bridge, unknown place with wonderfull views. I went through the bridge and decided to get home via other way without google map. It was great trip and think it is good a beginning of my first in life retreat.
    Thank you all who shares their thoughts and your experience.

  10. Jennifer 18 juin 2018 at 23 h 54 min - Reply

    Today two of me existed—the doer and the observer. At the airport saw my aggressive tendencies arise. Push, get, survive. Felt the wave of disappointment, criticism arise. Do I act them out or let them silently return from from where they arose? Very strange to feel in retreat mode but to be in my life.

  11. Telma 18 juin 2018 at 23 h 09 min - Reply

    Coimbra, no quarto mais pequeno de dois, escrevo no meu velho computador iluminado apenas por um candeeiro de secretária modelo mais simples e barato IKEA. Através da parede que está no meu lado direito oiço a vibração de um rádio ou TV do vizinho. No quarto só se ouve o bater dos meus dedos no teclado e o som da ventoinha tentando refrescar o que aquece mais e mais a cada momento. Os pés, calçados por uns chinelos havaianas daqueles com a bandeira do Brasil, estão frios. Os joelhos aquecidos pela manta que uso durante o zazen lembram que afinal o Verão que parece ter chegado ainda esconde algum frio.
    Já sinto sono, mas a tarefa que já devia ter feito permanece por fazer e adio a minha viagem para a cama. Hoje, foi o dia seguinte às férias. Hoje foi difícil levantar-me. Teve de ser devagar. E quando cheguei ao trabalho houve lágrimas mudas e invisíveis aos olhos dos outros mas visíveis à minha pele… Queria estar em qualquer outro lugar menos ali…
    Mal acordei acrescentei um voto aos de ontem. O novo voto dilatou o tempo, deu nitidez à acção, permitiu emergir a delicadeza e compaixão pela pessoa de quem quero abdicar e que confunde quem sou sem corpo. O silêncio é bom mas incomoda, revela, amplifica sinais. Amplifica o medo. Como alguém diz, revela-se o medo de viver e não o de morrer.

    This retreat is one fo my favourite’s. The reason for loving it so much is the feeling of belonging. As a human being it makes me happy « being » but more often i’m doing. Doing and Being is a big conflict to me, as everything i guess… To be a human being is to connect, to see, to care… and i feel disconnected, invisible but cared by special human beings. Am i half human being? Am i good even with feelings of jealousy, or guilty or shame for being so mean to my one self?

    I realise that music and TV when silented/disconnected offer me not time but a amplified experience of the heart of my life.

    Thank you all for my feeling of belonging.


  12. M C 18 juin 2018 at 23 h 07 min - Reply

    Charleville dans les Ardennes 23h55 derrière mon ordinateur dans mon bureau à la maison. Avant de me coucher je partage ces quelques lignes. Pourtant je n’avais pas envie de le faire car je n’ai pas eu l’occasion de faire une pratique formelle assise comme j’aime, mais quelque chose m’appelait pour écrire. Ce premier jour de retraite a été un mix d’expériences. De la peur avec laquelle je me suis réveillé ce matin et à laquelle j’accepte de vivre, à mon trajet dans le bus contemplatif après la lecture de quelques lignes d’un ouvrage de Roshi Suzuki, où je trouvais les autres passagers et passants « beaux » et que leur lumière transparaissait à travers leur masque extérieur. Au travail il y avait un incident avec un collègue difficile. Je me suis trouvé en plein milieu d’une situation que j’appréhende d’habitude. Je suis resté calme malgré mon état de fatigue et d’aversion au collègue et ses comportements et pour tenir mon voeu de retraite du mieux que je pouvais je me suis donné de la compassion. De retour à la maison, lors d’une pratique informelle c’est plutôt de la compassion envers le collègue qui a émergé en considérant la souffrance qu’il causait à lui même et autour de lui. Durant le match de foot j’ai observé également des variations émotionnelles qui m’ont traversé de la tension, à la tristesse, de la joie à la déception. Une journée se termine, une autre naitra avec son lots d’événements, d’imprévus et d’émotions… Tout coule comme une rivière que reste t-il à la fin ?

  13. Isabela 18 juin 2018 at 23 h 00 min - Reply

    totalmente nublado
    me preparo pra ir ao emprego quase como sempre (os gatos vindo comer, beber, higiene, pão) hoje escutando aluê, que você me deu anteontem
    no caminho quase a mesma paisagem (aglomerações de nomes úmidos, flores selvagens brancas, amarelas, rosas, azuis, lilases, vermelhas, laranjas nas bordas de cereais extensivos, montes de terras reviradas, um corvo em cima, mata), hoje um carro lento demais, detesto ultrapassar,
    até o trabalho de estudante de espíritos num vilarejo do centro da frança, hoje meu celular vibra desligando cedo demais
    da janela do consultório, brisa no parque
    até voltar pra antiga fazenda onde moro,
    me preparo e vou pro tai chi quase como sempre
    você é uma rajada de vento na minha bochecha,
    no parque apresentamos e corrigidos formas,
    volto quase como sempre,
    medito na mata ao lado de casa, num banco frente ao loing, indo você veste uma camisa da seleção, durante um pescador vem e vai, o gatinho ruivo muito falante, um peixe pula quando é a hora. como fora.

  14. Tomas 18 juin 2018 at 22 h 58 min - Reply

    Already feeling space opening as I dropped news and the media drama, social media, and unnecessary looking at work emails on my phone at home (in the morning, int he evening)…fantastic….more time and availability to see & feel what’s around, within a kind of dynamic silence…more easily noticing the internal chatter and more easily dropping it…there is also a taste of seamlessness to it, this life without internal/media/internet chatter!! And overall lightness 🙂 And with less chatter I also notice I’m less judgmental of others, more kind

    Decided during the day to add another vow (cultivate gratitude and write every day a line about what I am grateful about (« counting my blessings ») and was happy to see it already in the beautiful long list of vows, noting someone else with a similar vow 🙂 Also felt connected with everyone else’s vows in a kind of way, difficult to explain, mysterious, lovely & sweet 🙂

    Today I am grateful for this beautiful sunny & windy day, for being able to feel the magic in the wind, for being able to play & spend quality time with my 2-year old, for seeing him sleep peacefully at the end of the day 🙂

  15. Adriano 18 juin 2018 at 22 h 58 min - Reply

    Started the day very early as usual, 4:30 in the morning I started my practice.

    Gave up of something, learned something new.

    Choosed to take a walk today nearby a water course. Stopped to watch each flowet in the river banks.


  16. Miguel 18 juin 2018 at 22 h 48 min - Reply

    great challenge to see everyone like (if) they were/are in a retreat with me/us.
    today i manage to sit at the same time, different place, with the ones in Paris. It gives me a sense of connection to remember that i am in a retreat and then bit by bit releasing it to everytime everyplace.
    at this moment i’m asking myself how much can i mistreat myself, without seeing it and call it another thing,
    saúdo-vos, companheiros do amanhecer crepuscular

  17. lisa 18 juin 2018 at 22 h 40 min - Reply

    Biking back home after the Monday evening zazen at the Center in the company of a perfect crescent moon in the still blue sky, warm air, a feeling of summer. Reading your posts, thinking of my vow, being in this retreat, in my life with whatever comes, be it laughter, annoyance, sleep, not being hungry but eating, feeling pain in my stomach… watching the cursor blink as i wonder what to write next. Not knowing… stop…

  18. Cidreira 18 juin 2018 at 22 h 09 min - Reply

    Põe quanto És no Mínimo que Fazes

    Para ser grande, sê inteiro: nada
    Teu exagera ou exclui.
    Sê todo em cada coisa. Põe quanto és
    No mínimo que fazes.
    Assim em cada lago a lua toda
    Brilha, porque alta vive

    Ricardo Reis, in « Odes »

    Grande, grande, Fernando Pessoa.

  19. Joy 18 juin 2018 at 20 h 30 min - Reply

    During this retreat, i decided to write about My fear, a predominant feeling of my life these days. The act of writing about this feeling itself is already fearful as I realized how powerful it becomes by putting it in words.

    Since this morning I felt that there is a monster in me that I have been feeding.. Very well nurtured big fat monster.

    All along I thougth I was fearful for death, but just to realize that all along I was fearful for life.

    This life, the reality where I am is the biggest source of my fear. The one that I have been try to escape through every single means I have.

    Confront it. Confront life. Give kisses to it.

  20. Manon 18 juin 2018 at 19 h 06 min - Reply

    Tübingen, 20h00.
    J’écoute depuis ma chambre mes colocataires chanter dans la cuisine. Hannah à la guitare, Ivo au violoncelle. Le violoncelle a la voix des anges. Joie de la musique, joie de vivre ensemble. Je continue de réviser mes cours de médecine générale pour les examens de fin de semestre. Un peu de fatigue. Les moments de la journée semblent se fondre dans ma tête les uns avec les autres. Le violoncelle s’est tû.

  21. joa 18 juin 2018 at 18 h 47 min - Reply

    During this first day, I’ve cultivated the art of just doing one thing at the time: not taking a shower while listening the radio – just taking a shower; not working while listening to music – just working; not walking in the street while talking on the phone – just walking. The day went peacefully, in the midst of the construction noises outside and the millions of things that could have gone another way!

  22. Hilde 18 juin 2018 at 17 h 53 min - Reply

    Today, I enjoyed helping people by teaching language skills, hoping it will bring them further. Also loved seeing a friend I didn’t see for a few months. Fear: humans not being able to deal with cultural differences, not understanding/respecting eachother and failure of integration.

  23. Perfect Way 18 juin 2018 at 17 h 50 min - Reply

    A frustrating and angry start of the day here in London where a grey windy morning has transformed into a sunny windy afternoon.
    Woke up already with work in my mind and felt torn between going to sit or starting to work immediately, thinking how stupid of me to leave all the sitting cushions downstairs when I needed them upstairs and giving it all up — « the hell with that » so I sat in bed for 10 minutes, enough to boil my frustration and get up into the shower.
    Began to work and focused totally on what needed doing — forgot about the retreat, the vow, even forgot to come here and read the teaching.
    By lunchtime, I stopped.
    And stopping and thinking of the early hours of the day compared to the morning that had just gone, I thought of Fernando Pessoa (Ricardo Reis) « Be all of you in each thing. Put everything that you are in the least you do » [in Odes.]
    Not much different from the »being and doing » quote above, is it?

  24. Lara 18 juin 2018 at 17 h 26 min - Reply

    Today it was all about waiting. Waiting in line to register at the police, waiting to have a Norwegian ID number only to find out out that I can’t have one until I have job which means that I basically can’t do anything in Norway until I have it. And then I was put on a waiting list for a Norwegian language course that starts in August…

    But that is ok. I focused on my breath while I was waiting and notice my surroundings. Notice the people also waiting for their time to register.

  25. Beatrice 18 juin 2018 at 13 h 04 min - Reply

    Being and doing. What’s the difference? Persistent headache. Like a cloud on top of my head. Is the sun still here? Yes. No. Just behind the clouds, maybe. Show me joy on a cloudy and rainy day. Who’s asking? I do not have a name.

  26. gary 18 juin 2018 at 12 h 47 min - Reply

    In the middle of sitting this morning, there goes the doorbell. And again. And again. Life knocking in the form of a worker come to install a new drain in our yard so we don’t flood the neighbour’s workshop anymore in heavy rain. I grumped internally about my spouse not being up to unlock the door. And then realized i needed to not just sit there but get up and let life in. And then go back to sitting and deal with the frustration riding my thoughts.

  27. céu 18 juin 2018 at 12 h 39 min - Reply

    Hoje, depois de sentar 30 minutos, às 7 da manhã, fui nadar e andar como exercício essencial para a manutenção da minha coluna na vertical.
    Fui, lá onde o Tejo e o Atlântico se juntam sinalizados pelo Bugio. Que privilégio!
    às 9horas voltei a Lisboa e comecei o meu trabalho. Fiz uma pausa agora para dizer olá a tod@s que estão por aqui. até breve

  28. elizabeth denninghoffstelling 18 juin 2018 at 11 h 37 min - Reply

    After a late short sitting I found out a dear friend became grandmother .Just 2 weeks ago one of our best friends died suddenly .
    We were so sad and happy we have known him and now we are happy with the new born baby.

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