Heart of Life/Coeur de la vie: Day III

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Heart of Life/Coeur de la vie: Day III

It’s a lovely morning here in Montreuil, all bright sun and blue sky, butterflies fluttering and bees buzzing in the garden around a multitude of flowers in bloom. I’m reminded of a little pond in my friend Corinne’s garden, shown in the photo above, where lotus flowers were blooming in the sunlight. When the sun goes down, the flowers close, and they don’t blossom when the water in the pond is renewed by a hose.

The lotus flowers came to mind, I think, after I read what many of you had to say about my post yesterday: What I wrote was confusing to you. My example was just not clear enough! And confusion was not at all what I had hoped for. I am always hoping to help us all experience simply, freely, directly the whole of life. So my apologies for a less-than stellar effort yesterday.

Let’s try again today with lotus flowers.

Lotus flowers grow in still, muddy water, yet they are not « stained » by the mud. In his commentary on Dogen’s Genjokoan, Bokusan Nishiari writes that « the reason lotus flowers are not stained by mud is that they are free within mud. If they remove themselves from mud and go to a field, they will become dried out. But what would happen if the lotus flowers are stuck in the mud? Then they cannot give forth their fragrance. Now look! Being separate is not good. Being attached is not good. Not being separate and not being attached is called going beyond. »

What does that mean for us? It applies directly to the life/practice situation we are exploring this week. If we remove ourselves from the mud of our daily lives, separate ourselves from things as they are – taxes, work, family, love, war, happiness, joy, despair, pain – how would we live? We would become « dried out. » But if we become stuck in that mud, if we are attached and caught up in the muck, how would we live? We would not give forth the « fragrance » of our being. So what do we do?

« May we exist in muddy water with purity like a lotus, » we chant at the end of our oryoki meals. Instead of « purity » we could say « freedom, » because that’s what purity means in this context. And « muddy » means not crystal-clear, not without cracks and bumps, just like our lives. So what a marvelous reminder this is for us: May we exist in the muddy water of our daily life with freedom like a lotus. And that freedom lies in not making the endless separations we make, such as between « life » and « practice. » Everything you do and are is life, everything you do and are is practice. As Suzuki Roshi wrote: « The secret of all the teachings of Buddhism is how to live in each moment, how to obtain absolute freedom moment after moment. »

In this moment, I must stop writing: It’s time for my Portuguese lesson. Meanwhile, please keep telling us here about your days!

By | 2018-06-20T11:05:00+00:00 juin 20th, 2018|Retraites au coeur de la vie, Textes|18 Comments

About the Author:

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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.

18 Comments

  1. Debbie 21 juin 2018 at 11 h 24 min - Reply

    This is my first retreat in the heart of life experience, and I’m finding it really softens up the « blows and arrows » of everyday annoyances. Leaving Wild Flower Zen Center last night, I found a « new  » new way to get home faster – I live outside of Paris and getting in and out of the city is like the job you do before you get to your job. It’s work and quite a demonstration of the survival of the fittest theory, the fittest being those who are still standing once the bus or metro empties out.
    So, I’m all excited. I have finally licked the situation I think to myself, and the beginning goes pretty well. But just as I’m feeling like the Queen of the Public Transportation Conundrum, counting my breaths, smiling even, the path begins to meander, the bus isn’t showing. I can sense myself flagging. The retreat isn’t working. Zeb sucks, etc. and so on.
    But since I’ve been counting my breath all day, enough awareness arises to show me that whether I’m winning the prize for Best Way Home or sitting unconsolable on the ledge at the bus stop, I am free as a lotus, if I choose to be.
    Wising you all a breathy dayof retreat in the heart of life.

  2. céu 21 juin 2018 at 6 h 38 min - Reply

    Bom dia!
    Hoje não vou nadar, coisa que prometi fazer todos os dias desta semana.
    Vou fazer o mercado biológico de Setúbal e o meu espanto quando acordo e vejo chuva e trovoada. Vai correr tudo bem, as pessoas vão gostar de ter os seus alimentos como sempre, e nós vamos estar debaixo das tendas enquanto a natureza faz o seu percurso…

    how to obtain absolute freedom moment after moment

    boa aula de português, Amy

  3. elizabeth 20 juin 2018 at 23 h 40 min - Reply

    What a day …found out that the selling of my dream ,,,,,,,, house and business was going on after so many years .
    Broke down last night after I heard the news but today it does not feels real,
    But in relation to real problems of life and death this is just small and I am so blessed with people around me
    Sleep in peace everyone

  4. Isabela 20 juin 2018 at 23 h 23 min - Reply

    tudo azul

    gatos vieram
    ficaram,
    foram

    você esqueceu de abrir as venezianas,
    volto
    abro,

    fluorescência

    « tudo sem força e direção »

    « você precisa saber da piscina »

    « essa cor que azuleja o dia »

    flauta de bambu

    dogue alemão

    outro cão

    quase no mesmo caminho de segunda-feira
    pela primeira vez numa quarta-feira

    no horizonte camisa do uruguai suja de terra

    um pássaro plana, voa

    fazendinha à venda

    borboleta lilás

    você não quer mais descer,

    seu nome não está mais na porta,

    tenho que encontrar
    logo
    música
    pros seus zumbidos

    quase a mesma mosca de segunda-feira,

    você diz que três pedras é o máximo sobre si,
    aceita empunhar minha pedra polida
    dá coceira no seu nariz
    água-marinha,
    labradorita,
    fecha o fecho.
    também preciso descarregar,
    em casa descarrego.
    me dá amazonita da Rússia
    para meditação,
    lê propriedades
    leio,

    entro no conselho,
    não vem,

    meditamos
    mais leve
    do peito à garganta

    meditamos
    locus niger
    supra-renais,

    vou,

    gatinha cinza brincando,

    um caminhão de fertilizantes

    em vez de pedras,
    muro de concreto nas obras vizinhas,

    portão aberto

    até o asilo de ontem
    pela primeira vez numa quarta-feira à tarde

    vocês no coreto
    você ri pela primeira vez quase

    falamos jardim,

    quer me mostrar suas provas,
    mostra

    camisa do uruguai limpa

    medito no mesmo lugar quase
    no mesmo horário
    peixes pulam
    carros atrás
    meus olhos são águas-vivas
    tigrado cinza
    é o guardião do tempo

    como fora com vocês
    falando de Madeira
    o cão abre a porta
    para a gatinha tigrada
    nublando
    quente

  5. elizabeth 20 juin 2018 at 23 h 18 min - Reply

    What a day …after so many years my life work house and business is sold .
    Last night I broke …what am I doing for what is that stupid money ?
    I still do n,t know but I survived this day with a lot of help of good friends and what am I complaining ?
    There are so many people with real problems .
    Good night .

  6. Jennifer 20 juin 2018 at 23 h 16 min - Reply

    Today nothing gelled. Felt stuck in the muck. Couldn’t curb my dissatisfaction. Would not have minded to have experienced the transcendence of the lotus. Hard to find the middle way. Being stuck and deeply accepting it.

  7. Telma 20 juin 2018 at 22 h 31 min - Reply

    O despertador tocou no quarto maior deste T2 em Coimbra e o sono não queria libertar a alvorada.
    A alvorada em mim desprendeu-se.
    Um copo de água com limão, a primeira ida à casa de banho e sento-me.

    Ultimamente, sempre que me sento, ocorre-me a pergunta: Estarei a fazê-lo bem e terei evoluído na minha prática?
    É que hoje como noutras manhãs, os olhos cerraram, e a contagem silenciou-se…
    Ao som da taça levanto-me, faço duas vénias e vou florescer por aí reconhecendo desde já a lama que há em mim. Muita…

    Consigo ser tão eficaz que me dou ao luxo de ver no trabalho cerca de meia hora de jogo de futebol da selecção do meu país. Sem grandes emoções mas vibrando discretamente. Regresso ao meu posto de trabalho e tudo está calmo… nada para fazer, tudo para sentir e estar. E chega então… o tédio.

    Navego pela web por páginas cheias de fotografias de belos pratos que abrem mais ainda o apetite do tédio!
    Consigo ultrapassar o tédio e regresso a casa a pé sob calor com fundo negro a prometer trovoada. Subitamente ocorre-me ir trabalhar para a biblioteca. Mais uma vez eficaz. Regresso a casa e sento-me…

    Mais uma vez a dúvida… Estarei a fazê-lo bem? Porque continuo a tentar e a achar que chegarei a algum lado?
    « The secret of all the teachings of Buddhism is how to live in each moment, how to obtain absolute freedom moment after moment. »

    Tem sido difícil escrever. Escrevo em Português, o silêncio é a resposta às minhas palavras e respostas são sempre tudo/nada claro/escuro…

    Já vivi metade do valor da esperança média de vida para as mulheres em Portugal. Que criei eu? Quem pára para apreciar o meu crescimento na lama? quem vê as pétalas que me parecem cada vez mais encerradas? Para onde florescerei? Com esta nova consciência, com este novo Ser (que tantas dúvidas me gera por me ser estranho e novo).

    Por mim tinha dharma talks ou orientações da Roshi todos os dias.
    Mas o caminho é solitário em comunidade, duro e suave, lamacento e brilhante.

  8. miguel 20 juin 2018 at 22 h 28 min - Reply

    in the woods, colares, portugal
    heat and drops of water falling as in slow motion.
    when i can´t go forward, attaching myself, and i can´t go back, escaping, separating myself, i transcende myself; and life and myself are simply living in the fragrance of itsellf

  9. gary 20 juin 2018 at 21 h 54 min - Reply

    Full summer seems to have arrived in the southwest of France. No wind today but with the same color-bleaching sun. Hot enough that our heat-loving cats chose to stay in the house.

    A day more like Mondays, with constant ricocheting between demands. And the question — is the freedom of the lotus just a licence to do what we want? It doesn’t feel like that (especially from Dogen).

  10. Manon 20 juin 2018 at 21 h 45 min - Reply

    Tübingen, Allemagne – 22:44
    Assise à mon bureau, j’épie les bruits de la nuit. Les voitures qui passent dans la rue sous ma fenêtre, les voix étouffées de quelques étudiants autour d’une table dans le jardin. Des pas dans le couloir. Je viens de regarder avec une amie un film sur une compagnie de danse israelienne. Une heure de danse moderne. Je suis si touchée par la puissance qui émane de ces corps que je n’ai pas de mots. Elle transcende tout. J’ai l’impression de voir tout d’un coup le lotus libre dans la terre. Puis tout m’échappe.

  11. Geert 20 juin 2018 at 21 h 20 min - Reply

    Mud and lotus : relative and absolute : beyond this conceptual perception, they are One at this very moment in this very life of mine, “like two arrow points that meet head-on”

    Stopping to see my delusion « in the mud of life » as (mere) delusion and thus as failure, ending up the pursuit of “so-called enlightenment”, which is in fact my narrow-minded, delusive and selfish conceptualisation of it

    Enlightenment must be ultimate trust, surrendering a deep and almost eternal longing for acceptance and compassion toward myself, toward my beloved and hated ones, toward all living beings in all times and all places. Over and over, endelessly

    Sometinmes, words can fit together like pieces of a puzzle. I just re-read the Precious mirror Samadhi because words from it came up reading the words of Amy Roshi. I would like to share some of the lines which, for me, fit in this way…

    Naturally real yet inconceivable, it is not within the province of delusion or enlightenment
    (fflowing, boundless, free…)

    Turning away and toucing are both wrong, for It is like a massive fire
    (It is neither “this” nor “not this but “within and beyond”)

    It is like facing a jewel mirror ; form and image behold each other –
    You are not It, in truth It is you (turning the viewpoint from “me” to “It” – the spark and the Fire, the drop of water and the Ocean)

    Communing with the source, travel the pathways, embrace the territory, and treasure the road. Respecting this is fortunate ; do not neglect it
    (Live this reality, never give up searching, trying and asking-praying)

  12. Guillaume 20 juin 2018 at 19 h 41 min - Reply

    Paris. The day is coming to its end, but the sun is still bright and high in the sky. This week is very busy, with work, going to Lyon tomorrow for a day that will start early and end late, attending a friend’s PhD. defense, painting some walls in my soon to be home, reading and writing on the blog for the retreat, sitting, eating, cleaning, sleeping during the time left. I could be overwhelmed by all of this. But I don’t need to. During a retreat, there is no time for me, there is always something I need to take care of, be it sitting, eating, working during samu, cleaning myself, and sleeping. There is no gap. This week is the same. Every moment is a moment where I need to take care of something. There is no need to rush, just to do. Don’t be slow, just do. I vowed to make every moment a moment of caring. When I take care of what needs to be taken care of now, I don’t need to fear being overwhelmed by activities, because there is never too much nor too little to do. The key is stop looking for the moment when I can finally stop doing, stop caring, stop paying attention and rest.

  13. Perfect Way 20 juin 2018 at 19 h 40 min - Reply

    Yesterday’s post nearly killed me, here in London where the four seasons keep passing by day after day.
    Yesterday the thought of quitting the retreat was very persistent and nearly took the whole of me. I began writing an email in my head « Dear Roshi, I am quitting the retreat in the heart of life… » and reading my words I wondered what was I in fact quitting! Was it the retreat? or was it Life itself?
    Yesterday I had a 14-hour-workday after a couple of the busiest weeks I have been in the year, only now beginning to slow down slightly, little by little, minute by minute.
    Yesterday I did not sit, I did not think about the vow to greet a stranger, I did not go outside, I did not write how the day went, I did not do any other than work, work and work. I did find a « stranger », though, the « stranger » inside who wanted to quit the retreat.
    Instead of quitting the retreat-Life I found myself taking a few breaths – Keep breathing and carry on, as the slogan goes. There was « work » in working; there was « worry » in worrying, and breathing-in there was no work and no worry. Once focused on what simply laid in front of me the retreat-Life simply went on its own.

    Today, London, the four seasons persist. And here I am.

  14. Filipa 20 juin 2018 at 18 h 21 min - Reply

    In the south of Portugal, Algarve, dark, chilly and rainy like any other autumn day… wait, it’s actually spring and almost (few days) summer… 🙂 lovely
    These surprises, the “mud” in the summer “freedom” feels so wonderful. I’m sorry I won’t be able to lay in the sun and warmth, reading my book and swimming in the sea, and at the same time I feel like welcoming the surprise the rain has made us.
    Had an early meeting and haven’t sat yet. And anyway the retreat and the practice have been present, even when I went to the supermarket and ate meat for lunch. I can always come back to remember I’m in the retreat. It helped me accept and calm down the anxiety I felt with all the rush in traffic (while going shopping). I said to myself it’s anxiety and there is actually no real threat, I’m safe and it’s “just” anxiety… and it faded away.
    My bother is home from the hospital and resting. I feel grateful for that. And so so grateful to share all this with all of you who are there, reading and “doing”/“being it”. Thank you. It is a wonderful and hard to explain thing.

  15. Hilde 20 juin 2018 at 16 h 36 min - Reply

    Mud and lotus: yes, a struggle from time to time. Sometimes forgetting about the vow, disconnected from the retreat, sometimes really well in the mud, doing my tasks and job with consciousness and freedom. For a few hours, I felt so privileged: caring for my garden with full attention, doing my housekeeping in the same way. Now a bit nervous writing this comment: not feeling that comfortable with the english language and my comment. But I will try, struggling with mud and dedication and lotus.
    I also see paralells, as it comes to lotus and mud: my relationship: till now for us both a wonderfull combination of freedom and connection; in my job: totally disconnected yesterday: I had a conversation with one of mine arabian students about women and mariage, and we were so far away from each other, my norms and values appeared to be completely different than his. I felt so disappointed. Today the opposite: talking with some arabian students about soufis. Cennected again.

  16. Lara 20 juin 2018 at 16 h 01 min - Reply

    Stavanger, Norway. I vowed to stop talking to myself out loud, something I do since I was a child. Usually I have long conversations with myself as if there was another person with me… or I think out loud. My mind is so present it is not satisfied with thoughts, it has to voice them! Usually I do this when I am in the shower. My partner hears me talking and ask to whom am I talking to. I say no one, just myself. I wanted to stop doing this for a while because it disperses my energy. So this week I decided to give it a serious try. It has been going well, except that sometimes I forget and say a few words out loud, only to remember that I made a vow. Because of the vow it is much easy to stop it. Until next time… I just need to keep going. This morning I had a shower in silence. It felt so good. Just feeling the water on my body, the smell of soap the warm touch of a soft towell. So koselig, as they say in Norway!

  17. Joanne 20 juin 2018 at 14 h 16 min - Reply

    Last night I read again Dogen’s Genjo Koan, beautiful! All, just as it is, no disagreement. I feel the presence of this shared retreat, grateful. It had been a turbulent day. This morning, I was heartbroken with compassion for myself. A disabled middle aged woman, carer for her husband and two young adult children living at home, today I feel heart-wrenching, tender compassion for my own situation, as the local City Council in Southampton decide to stop funding some of my social care. I saved money for specialist Ehlers Danlos syndrome treatment in London, for painful slipping rib syndrome and breathing difficulties. The City Council now need this money back. I feel the choking tears of a lost fantasy of longed-for increased wellness … a sudden void in which a dream already popped. I wanted not to wear a rib belt. I wanted a stronger spine, a different breathing pattern and less pain, and to sleeeeeeep! Later, staying just here, just so, I can eat my vegan meals with ease, feeling refreshed and safe, but I slowly identify in myself a watchful, animalistic mothering ferocity of spirit, vowing to be a strong voice for my children’s needs, some kind of innately majestic energy rising entwined as, within and beyond mud and lotuses.

  18. Hugo 20 juin 2018 at 12 h 41 min - Reply

    Day three. What to say? Here in Perth, another lovely Autumn day. Cold but sunny. Our street has so many trees. Oak trees, to be more precise. They remind me of Portugal. At the same time they fill the roof gutters. Cleaned a little. And then I remembered I had a meeting. Rush rush. With a coffee for the way. Ups, just broke one of my weekly vows. That’s okay. Move on. While radiant outside, I had to stay and sit for the entire day. Sitting and reading. Sitting and marking. Sitting and giving grades to my students. Moments of enthusiasm. Boredom. Why am I doing this? I could be doing something else. Similar thoughts. Like a few years ago. Maybe more than 10 years ago. In Paris. While doing a retreat at Dana centre. I recall leaving and going with Michael and prepare food for homeless people. Well, time to go and watch Portugal game 🙂

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