Heart of Life/Coeur de la vie: Day V

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Heart of Life/Coeur de la vie: Day V

On this « last » day of our retreat, I’m wondering how everyone is doing and what everyone is doing, what you have experienced this week, with the vows you made and all the rest. If we were sitting here together in Montreuil, I could ask you. But we’re not. So the best we can do is sit where we each are with these words, as I wonder how and what you are doing.

Actually, saying that’s « the best we can do » makes it sound like there is something « better » to do. But there isn’t! That really is the best: stay local, start where you are, work with the ingredients you have at hand. You are always in the heart of your practice and your life. Every wild flower is exactly in its place. The perfect way isn’t difficult, a Zen poem goes, it just dislikes picking and choosing.

That is something I have learned (and keep learning!) throughout years of « Zen practice » in thousands of different places and circumstances: a zendo (meditation hall) is not some particular place; it’s where you are. Practice is not some particular activity; it’s what you are doing.

And yet here we are nearing the « end » of our « retreat. » But we won’t really be ending anything except a formal grid that we established to give us some support. But neither life nor the practice is the grid.

This week, I’ve tried to keep the Genjokoan close to my heart, in the heart of my life. What does that mean? It means that Zen includes all the activity of our life. For me, the week has been full of football (like Céu, gosto de futebol), immigrant children being separated from their parents, summer’s arrival, la fête de la musique, my old cat’s arthrosis in her hips, work on texts, planning and organizing for future activities, sitting, studying, writing here, doing laundry, cooking, cleaning the shower, answering emails and more and more and more. That’s been my practice, that’s been my life. Living in every moment. That’s Zen, that’s life.

Now I’m looking forward to hearing what you’ve been doing, living every moment, always in the heart of your life.




By | 2018-06-22T12:29:44+01:00 juin 22nd, 2018|Retraites au coeur de la vie, Textes|20 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. Geert 25 juin 2018 at 21 h 43 min - Reply

    Kortrijk Belgium. A late post as the weekend was filled with activities. Saturday morning : going to work. Recruitment day for the choir of the academy for music, drama and dance where I work. What is work? It is just lovely to be amongst singing young people. I enjoyed it. In the afternoon, together with my daughter Emma helped a friend of hers moving away from his studio in Gent. His mother passed away recently and a few years ago his father committed suicide. The mother left debts for the children. His life is so determined by these dramatic events. And yet… he is so courageous. In some way I was hopeful an trusting.
    The whole situation moved me… and also tired me… His room was four floors high with only a spiral staircase and no elevator. But eventually all went well and very natural. We got the job done in three hours with four people. We ended up by eating an ice cream 😉
    Sunday I went for a « Medicine Walk », an Indian traditional ritual. Walking,wandering around from day break till night fall. No food, only water and a clear goal. In my case a track leading from where I live to « Our Lady of St Sixtus », a trappist monastery situated at the country side « in Flanders Fields » (where the poppies grow), a region that was heavily affected by the second world war. The abbey is world famous for its trappist beer. I wanted to honour Brother Marcel, who was a monk in the abbey and who was like a caring father to me in my early twenties. He died in 2006. He was a most lovely person.
    So, 35 km of waking was quite challenging but all ended up well. Went off at 5:30 am and I reached West Vleteren at 16:00 pm. The route went along places that were meaningful to me. There I sat down and took a break and listened, remembered, prayed, offered smouldering sage… Most of the time I was in the heart of my whole life. And in the heart of nature ; the smell of hay, the herbs, the landscapes that were lighted up by the brilliant sunlight. The warmth of the sun, the smooth wind. Meeting a lot of animals along the road ; rabbits and hares, partridges and pheasants, a heron, ducks and wild geese, horses, cows, goats and sheep… Crossing biking couples with children, cyclists, other walkers..
    Being at the grave of Brother Marcel moved me to tears. A mix of sadness and a deep gratitude. The last time I was there was together with my wife when we knew she had leukaemia. A year later she died from the treatment : graft versus host disease as it is called. She was treated with bone marrow cells of her brother but instead of curing her it killed her.
    So this week was very intensive to me. A lot of what happend to me has been triggered by this Heart of Life retreat. Thank you Amy Roshi for the initiative! I am grateful I could share it with everyone of you. I was inspired by your writings. So thanks to all of you. May all of you be blessed and may your Lotus grow steadily in the muddy water of earthly life. May it open up on the moving water of circumstances, cherished by the warmth of the sun.

  2. Patrícia 25 juin 2018 at 15 h 12 min - Reply

    What an eventful retreat week (and weekend) it was! With hectic days and slower days. With lonely days and “oneness” days. With sunny days and rainy days. All what I am in a week. It finished with a live concert of Beethoven 9th Symphony. 200 singers, an orchestra, full audience, friends, all sitting, practising, living, transcending together, within each one´s “role”. This time “Ode to joy” crashed on me like a tsunami of emotions. The perfect representation of last´s week retreat/practice/life for me.
    Grateful for this opportunity, for all the words, all the sharing, all the silences, all the hearts. Grateful for life.

  3. Joy 23 juin 2018 at 14 h 56 min - Reply

    Vesancy, last day of retreat. Hardly any sitting accompanied this retreat but I am conscious of the retreat throughout the busy week which makes a huge difference.

    Looking back my vow-which is to write about my fear- surprising to see that my fear is just about current facts of my life: who I am and where I am in my life.

    I will work on it. To accept, not to resist and eventually love what I am what it is.

  4. Tomás 23 juin 2018 at 6 h 55 min - Reply

    Vesancy, France, close to the border with Switzerland. Managed to keep my vows most of the time – I really didn’t connect to any news on my phone (neither of course the endless Trump drama show”) neither checked unnecessary emails on my phone – and because of this vow every time my fingers automatically slipped to the email/CNN/BBC/etc icon APP I was reminded I was in retreat 🙂 Amazing how dropping this well ingrained habits opened so much time & space & quality of being, and how so much less conflictuous I was during the week. Kinder, lighter and joyful. As for my other vow – writing everyday about appreciation/gratitude – while I failed to write, I did remember to connect with gratitude everyday, some days more present, some days less. Most rewarding retreat, even a couple of days I failed to check in the blog to see what was Amy’s message if the day (so had to catch up the next day). But all in all it was a wonderful support to pera tive-life being part of the retreat 🙂 Dogen’s words the second day felt a bit dry until “include all” sprung up and that’s how I tried to live genjokoan throughout the retreat, “including all”, resisting nothing, complaining about nothing. Than all for being there, it was very supportive, very helpful! Much love to everyone 🙂

  5. Filipa 23 juin 2018 at 0 h 58 min - Reply

    I feel happy and sad. Proud and ashamed. Tired and relaxed it has been hard to find a good time to sit this week. Im on holidays, my whole routine has changed, and it seems harder. Yesterday I Had to move my cushion (zafu) and haven’t found a good place yet… I know I could do “better” but this is what I’m being able to do now. At least I feel I’m more or less aware of what is going on… Thank you Amy Roshi and fellow retreaters. A wonderful and special experience once again ❤️

  6. Isabela 23 juin 2018 at 0 h 37 min - Reply

    no céu frio canarinho estridente plana,
    ondas quebram na praia,
    navios fazem cruzeiros,

    tartaruga angorá sai,
    tigrada angorá vem aguda —

    você se lembrou de deixar
    venezianas fechadas

    « e o inverno no leblon é quase glacial »
    discreet music
    flauta de bambu

    pára-brisas desembaçando,
    vidro traseiro já
    manobra mais fácil,

    sou cortês
    com a viatura,
    que entra na rua onde moro,

    tronco no mesmo lugar quase,

    no céu
    de lápis de desenho brancos,

    na minha frente
    carro lento demais,
    minha cólica! ultrapassar,

    na minha frente
    carro bêbado,

    até o estacionamento
    do mesmo asilo de ontem quase,
    num estacionamento incômodo,

    se apresenta:
    máquina de café,

    na sala dos convidados
    de segurança
    contra incêndio,

    à minha janela
    teias abandonadas,
    tartaruga angorá de pescoço branco
    entre lixo,

    cabeleireira se apresenta,

    protejo você do sol,
    pela primeira vez entre morangos,
    gato preto!,
    chocolate não!,
    mão dada.

    você não quer mais saber dela.

    cantamos cantigas

    soa demais,
    para escutar andorinha
    poder pegar
    minha chave.

    esperança de domingo

    minha fome!
    do resultado:

    levo minha blusa ao rio,
    preto descansa,

    você se aproxima
    que eu chegue

    se formando

    que carro pegou fogo
    bombeiros estão lá,
    minha fome!
    nem tanto
    minha fome!
    volto pelo mesmo caminho
    da primeira volta de scooter,
    outras penas atropeladas,
    esse cheiro de antes,
    instalação de obras,
    peça de carroceria,

    tigrada angorá quase no mesmo lugar
    da ida e volta de ontem,

    tartaruga angorá sai
    da caixa

    cinza fria pula
    soando a meditação
    no mesmo lugar quase
    no horário do vídeo
    (minha rede social é outra),
    barulhos são rajadas de vento,
    zumbidos graves menos,
    agudos mais
    olhos queimando,
    soa a meditação

    passando muito rápido,

    como fora,

    dentro os gatos
    na gulodice

    no céu
    de borracha

  7. Jennifer 22 juin 2018 at 23 h 34 min - Reply

    Kept my vows…..I needed to do it. A part of me wanted to slide into my old habits. But my vows kept me vigilant. Thought are a bit jumbled. Not sure what I want to say or how to say it…….thank you for this retreat week…….very powerful.

  8. oscar faria 22 juin 2018 at 22 h 10 min - Reply

    Lou Reed last interview:
    the sound of wind
    brings love death a heartbeat

    (vows accomplished)

    rigor of beauty is the quest

  9. Hilde 22 juin 2018 at 22 h 06 min - Reply

    Thank you for the supporting retreat! A very good excercise. Will be continued, although vows were more difficult than i thought. Maybe i’ll have to adapt them a little bit. Nice to discover that even complex ‘horrible’ tasks turn out to be quite ok, if done with attention.

  10. gary 22 juin 2018 at 20 h 15 min - Reply

    thirty-six degrees, et
    le soleil punishes my heart.
    How to move lightly?

  11. Manon 22 juin 2018 at 19 h 14 min - Reply

    Weil am Rhein, Allemagne, 20:06
    Aujourd’hui, je ne suis pas à Tübingen mais à Weil am Rhein où habite mon copain. Nous nous retrouvons le week end. C’est très beau de se revoir. Comme il vient de déménager, l’appartement est encore très vide. Un canapé, une table, un lit et essentiellement des cartons. Mais cela ne paraît plus si vide que ça quand nous y sommes à deux! Mon copain vient de jouer quelques airs de guitare et a subitement tout arrêté parce que la radio annoncait un concert de violon de Mendelsson qu’il aime particulièrement. Voilà notre vie ce soir: nous deux, Mendelssohn et les chips!
    Bon week end à tous

  12. Joanne 22 juin 2018 at 19 h 13 min - Reply

    At the end of our retreat, I am grateful for this chance to be together. I don’t see many people in my life, not in person, but it has been a busy week for me, full of more activity and people than usual, including all of you. Seeing so many people was wonderful, fascinating! The week has been natural, sometimes a bit frantic, sometimes restful, each thing coming along. And I keep on arriving here in my life, with everyone, and everything just as it should be, exactly. My « vow » to eat vegan meals just did itself because it was the right time. Thank you to my friend Zoe for her support. I sometimes still anticipate struggle that doesn’t need to happen. I have enjoyed revisiting manifesting Genjo Koan all over the place! My children have missed watching tv with me a little this week. So now, I look forward to my son setting up the talk on his tv and a we will all share this. I am grateful for my family’s love, and for them being on this retreat this week and each day. Thank you Ben, Rosie and Jacob. And thank you Roshi Amy x

  13. Susanne 22 juin 2018 at 18 h 56 min - Reply

    Just read your words, Amy, from today. What is moving me and bringing tears in my eyes is this: that my life, the life I am living every single day, every single moment, every single night, every single … is my practice, is my way, is where my love is, is where my energy goes and is what my alarm clock wakes me up to every morning. This is where I am. This morning, for instance, I opened my front door, my foot on the doormat – and then my eyes went into the 7.20-morning-sky and I thought: « how rich this life is » and stepped into my car and off she goes – to school 🙂
    Oh oh

  14. joa 22 juin 2018 at 18 h 50 min - Reply

    Paris. I had vowed not to eat sugar during these few days. I’ve noticed how I had to stop myself when, mechanically, my hands were drawn to sweets and cakes. But after this moment of witnessing, it hasn’t been hard to give up on this habit.

    There were moments in this week where I felt grounded, focused on what I was doing, just doing it, and other moments when I felt out of balance, waiting for people to call, frustrated and something angry by various aspects of my life. Sometimes, as I would notice this and bring myself back to the moment, these unwholesome states seemed to loose consistency.

  15. céu 22 juin 2018 at 18 h 43 min - Reply

    Mais um dia em que consegui ir nadar como me propus fazer todos os dias da semana.
    Thank you all for your practice and for sharing it with us! It felt great to have your support during these days.
    Foi uma óptima companhia estar convosco durante estes dias e ainda conseguir fazer tudo o mais necessário; amanhã estarei de novo no mercado de Telheiras, até breve

  16. tiago 22 juin 2018 at 18 h 15 min - Reply

    London, nearly 6pm by the time a start writing this. Bedroom upstairs and the warm sun bathes my left hand as I write these lines.
    It has been a challenging week in the heart of life! I hear the washing machine spinning our clothes and feel how the past days have been just as furious and not at all what I had expected, in this retreat in the heart of life. I know things never go as planned but it was quite a shock to experience just how completely opposite the week unfolded. Yet, breathing in I put two parts of a large plate together, breathing out I hold the two parts so that they keep a good alignment. In the madness of this week, instead of being swept by worries of unfinished work and missed deadlines–at least most of the time–I kept the focus on the action present to me and the next and the next. It has been very tiring but I didn’t despair; the body does complain and asks to go slow.
    So, how was the week different from the week before? I could say nothing was different but yet… Getting back to my vow to greet a stranger everyday, I’d say I’ve been more aware of the « stranger » unfamiliar » « wild » aspects of this « me ».
    Thank you all for your practice and for sharing it with us! It felt great to have your support during these days.

  17. Adrien 22 juin 2018 at 17 h 19 min - Reply

    A young man died yesterday at the river in Pont-de-Barret. He couldn’t swim and drowned. I heard the sirens, possibly even as I was writing yesterday’s post, and thought to myself I’d never heard a siren here before. Several options crossed my mind and I let it go. This morning, death (&laundry).. So I went for a swim an hour ago, to go there, to « pay my respects » as they say, to feel this young man who died here yesterday, at 19, where I swim almost everyday. Just as I was swimming, someone I’d met through neighbors of mine a couple of days ago walked past on the other bank. I said hi, he said hi back, walked a little further, looking around, not planning to swim it looked like. So I swam up to him and mentioned the dead boy. He was there, told me exactly what had happened, he had even tried to bring him back to the surface but hadn’t managed, he’d thought about it ever since and had come back to.. he didn’t really know, neither did I.
    So here we are, here I am, letting go of things within, and without. Laundry dries quick outdoor in the sun, planted all kinds of freshly out of the ground plants in a friends vegetable garden today, gave water to his young chicken, went shopping, should I get a new toothbrush? Good food, whistling prayers at the river, sharing perspective, letting go, life and death together, beyond. Off I go to an exhibition opening, ceramics. Is it the end?

  18. Adriano 22 juin 2018 at 16 h 41 min - Reply

    Just that.
    The best we can do.
    One of the most challenging retreats in the heart of life. In the same way, nothing special.
    Walked, sitted, sleeped, eated, attended the needs of others, attended my needs.
    Just that. All that is contained in that. Our life.

  19. lisa 22 juin 2018 at 15 h 53 min - Reply

    4.37pm, at work, the sun is warming my hands as I type. My office is on the 1st floor looking out on a courtyard, the sun shines in about 15min a day in the summer, it’s important to appreciate everyday ray of it, with sincerity 🙂
    It’s been a busy week as pretty much avery week really, but I’d vowed to take time and try to sit everyday, and I did. Even yesterday… at 11.50pm! i’d had an early start so hadn’t managed to sit before work, came home a bit late and after dinner, we decided to have a walk in the neighbourhood to celebrate summer with the fête de la musique! We got home at around 11.30 and i remembered my vow. At first i felt lazy, sleep calling me, but still I decided to sit for a bit… and it was great to take the time to just be at 11.50pm !
    I can now hardly see my screen, the sun is so bright… and I have to get back to work and continue my practice. Tonight will be sitting at the center and tomorrow again, and again and again, every day.

  20. Frédéric WEMBANDJU 22 juin 2018 at 15 h 17 min - Reply

    Hello everyone,

    Why leave the retreat…
    An old saying:
     » After the enligthenment,
    The laundry. »
    Love you all

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