Heart of Life/Coeur de la vie: Day/Jour II

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Heart of Life/Coeur de la vie: Day/Jour II

Morning again in Montreuil, a new day with cat and tea. Brilliant sun, impeccable blue sky.

Loved reading everyone’s posts from Day I. I want to hear more and more of your stories. Seems I can’t get enough, there’s so much to report. Keep it coming, in English, French, Portuguese, Flemish, German…!

Myself, I can’t stop thinking about a film I saw on Sunday, « The Square. » It raises so many basic questions about our world today and how we live in it. The main character is a curator in a contemporary art museum in Stockholm, which is presenting a new piece of conceptual art called « The Square. » The idea behind the work, he explains, is: « The Square is a sanctuary of trust and caring. Within it we all share equal rights and obligations. » Basically this means that within the artwork’s square (it’s actually a 4-meter-by-4-meter square drawn in the courtyard of the museum), we are all one.

I won’t go into the details of the film here, but this square is an illuminating proposition, pointing to what we are doing in our practice: Aspiring to see the differences (sacred/not scared) and embrace them all (nothing sacred/everything sacred).

We’re getting a taste of that here, following our retreat all together wherever we are, whatever happens in each of our lives at this very moment. We are discovering what we have in common even though every one of our lives is very distinct.

Another question comes up in this film: « How much inhumanity does it take before we access your humanity? » A Zen answer might be: « Not two! » Or, in other words, « Stop dividing people and things up with your thinking mind. »

Today, let’s look at how we divide and separate – me and the homeless person in the street, me and that woman who pushed in front of me in the Métro, me and the beautiful man at the café who I want to see me. When are you « inside » the square? When are you « outside »? What if there was no inside or outside?

By | 2017-10-31T08:19:40+01:00 octobre 31st, 2017|Retraites au coeur de la vie, Textes|27 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. Juan 1 novembre 2017 at 13 h 40 min - Reply

    We are so routined in setting up squares that we don’t notice it, assume as natural, comfortable, Me, Them. Is it there any square or are we building it up every now and them 🙂

  2. Hugo 1 novembre 2017 at 2 h 17 min - Reply

    Day 3 here in Perth, Australia. Day two finishes with a episode of « stranger things ». Isn’t everything a stranger, unknown thing? And because it’s Halloween, I ask myself: what scares me? Inside? Outside? No inside? No outside? What is…

  3. Nuno 1 novembre 2017 at 1 h 36 min - Reply

    Drawing squares, rearranging them, resizing them, building cubes, hypercubes, moving the sliding puzzle, endlessly, looking for some final picture I do not know, nevertheless, knowing it is constantly changing. A fight with space and against time. If the picture is always changing will I ever see it? If I do, for how long? Will I start over again? There will be more squares to come; another picture; another fight; another race. If all lines disappeared what shape would it be? A no-shape? Who would see it? Can a shape see a no-shape? Can a no-shape see itself? Isn’t a no-shape simply able to be without being? How? Why?

    Bang! y=ー( ゚д゚)・∵.

  4. Joanne 1 novembre 2017 at 0 h 00 min - Reply

    Hello to everyone. It is so exciting to hear all the same sitting and all the variations of our lives. For me, a rollercoaster, racing day, with so much inside it. Inside and outside. I’m often literally very inside because I have health reasons for being housebound, sometimes for weeks or even months. Inside my little square house today, I co-create something of Halloween with my son … Earlier I support my daughter with her ongoing claim for Universal Credit and with her specialist counselling appointment on skype. Outside, I practised shopping, with my new crutches, actually reverse shopping – as I took something back to the shop and left with my money. Ben, my husband, and I sat together pretty much in our usual way in the morning, with the finale of Netflix’s « Stranger Things » as part of the day’s sandwich. I sat this evening with hollow black Halloween eyes and a spider’s web painted on one cheek. I’ve never done that before! – a little outside of the box that I usually paint a little too close to my face. We have a spider’s web that runs from one side of our small front lawn to the other. I wonder how the spider threw itself with that first thread and I enjoy its incredibly spacious lifestyle. I noticed the spider was not in its web today.

  5. Eduardo 31 octobre 2017 at 23 h 44 min - Reply

    Very busy day. Six hours of classes with half motivated students. I jumped into the rectangular space of the classroom not ignoring the gap between the pre defined teacher / student rôles. I like the idea of the teacher as an advanced student. In one of the lessons, I wished the whole class could appreciate and be enchanted, as my reading brain always is, with the ambiguous meaning and the verbal music of Marlowe’s Faustus play. I let some of them read Faustus’ first monologue and by correcting their diction I come into contact with their own non English literary readind brain. That was my first attempt to bridge the gap, to overcome the dualistic classroom situation. I wish my students to become as perplexed as I continue to be in the reading of Faustus’s tragedy: a Renaissance scholar, phisician, law expert and theologian, frustated with his immense academic knowledge, who daringly sells his soul to the devil to become a “deity”, a “semi-god”. I’ve tried to make them aware of the tragic consequences of Fautus’ ego trip, but also of his immense courage in overcoming the limits of the established rational order. Is Fautus to be blamed because he bargained his soul or is he to be praised because he faced the dark side of his being? My students cannot answer this question. I myself am unable to do. We become one before this koan.
    P.s To deepen this koan I’ve suggested them to view the beautiful black and white / silent Murnau’s Fautus movie https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbtTMEtxty4

  6. Telma 31 octobre 2017 at 23 h 35 min - Reply

    Um quadrado do quadrado que compõem um quadro maior.
    Fora da vista quadrada que aspiro ampliada
    Com a dualidade pacificada.
    Sagrada, não sagrada.
    Não sagrada, sagrado.
    Insagrada inexistente nesta realidade onde vejo gente e poucos Seres.
    Onde estás Ser?
    No limite da minha capacidade de ver
    Vivo quadrada num quadrado
    Que só quando me sinto de fora existe e me faz sofrer.

    Telma, Setúbal

    Surpreendida pela imprevisibilidade da vida.

  7. Tomas 31 octobre 2017 at 23 h 33 min - Reply

    A long day today. Started with sitting together at home in Vesancy, France, then long day at work, noticing every now and then how I create separation between me and some people, always through stories, narratives of how they are or aren’t. The same happens, in some way, with Trump ( meaning I do the same with Trump by watching/listening to US news every day, kind of like a vulture or like a Roman going to see the gladiators in the Coliseum….) Today I was surprised while driving home and re-listening again the news/commentaries about the fall of Paul Manafort – I felt a sudden surge of compassion/bitter-sweet love/empathy! Compassion for than man that, just like I do with Trump, I so much enjoy separating myself from! (a diplomatic way of saying that « I so much love to hate »)
    Yoga session at home in the evening, followed by very silent, very empty sitting – weird feeling of no story, no narrative, empty….need to grasp at something quickly or otherwise disappear without a trace, silently, like I never was… a cup of tea will do, all is fine, all very silent

  8. M a j e d 31 octobre 2017 at 23 h 03 min - Reply

    21:50 sitting practice
    Stomach ache, fatigue and a diffuse suffering. It(s in this state that I put my self into the evening sitting practice with some difficulty. Focusing on my breath and on my stomach ache I embrace it and welcome it in my square. Fatigue and sleepiness increased. I had hard time staying awake. I invited sleepiness in my square and embraced it. I went more and more sleepy…
    Writing these lines before going to bad. Can’t beat sleepiness…

  9. lisa 31 octobre 2017 at 22 h 30 min - Reply

    so again… the same but different…
    on holiday in Damvix, Marais Poitevin, close to the cost, to La Rochelle.
    Being in and out of the square constantly, more out than in actually, with the others but with myself as well. Wanting things to be a certain way, wanting others to be a certain way, wanting myself to be a certain way. Rarely just being, fully, whatever is. it’s so complicated… or is it? maybe it’s actually so simple!
    happy, angry, divided up… observing this constant shift… until sometimes, things fall into place and these moments are complete, perfect as they are, sacred? or not… arent’ the tormented and didvided up moments just as perfect and sacred? because that’s what they are at that very moment?
    anyway, your comments are so rich and enlightening, thank you.
    Looking forward to being back in Paris and sitting with some of you Thursday.

  10. Carole Tonkinson 31 octobre 2017 at 22 h 23 min - Reply

    Hello everyone, a full square today. In a taxi home after a book launch in a beautiful chapel. The author played bowls and did sound healing and we ate Ayurvedic foods and drank tea. I felt tired but kept including, including. Hoping for more sitting time tomorrow. I felt a conscious embrace of people beyond my habitual square. Right now it includes the taxi driver and the DJ on the radio and the people we are passing in London and you all and my family waiting at home. Good night and thank you (and hi to Theo!-nice to sit with you again in such a short space of time).

  11. lisa 31 octobre 2017 at 22 h 13 min - Reply

    I just lost my text 🙁 something to do with the cookies… so this is a test, before i write again.

  12. Susanne 31 octobre 2017 at 22 h 08 min - Reply

    Good night from Hamburg
    Having my best friend for a night and day was great – she lives in southern Germany. Having the house just for myself afterwards was also great and I needed it after many days with family and friends. Cloudy day in Hamburg. Two walks with Caraldo, my wonderful companian-dog. We play frisbee on the big field – he loves it 🙂 – and I love watching him chasing and running like crazy behind the toy thats flying so fast, he catches it before it drops on the ground. He is beautiful and so fast 🙂
    Tomorrow morning school is waiting for me to teach art to my 10th class students – maybe only a short sitting period.
    Schlaft alle gut , Susanne

  13. Joël H. 31 octobre 2017 at 20 h 19 min - Reply

    The right post at the right place!
    Ecrit et posté par erreur sur le « Day1 » à 15h21, et recopié ici et maintenant:

    A Montpellier le ciel est aujourd’hui aussi bleu qu’hier. Mais mon esprit est plus clair pour le voir et l’apprécier car ses propres brumes se sont dissipées.
    Grands avantages et petits inconvénients de ma vie de retraité : seul responsable de la gestion de mon temps et de ma vie, j’ai plus de conscience de celle-ci, grâce à et par la pratique, mais moins de possibilités de me cacher dans l’action et/ou les autres lorsque la tempête vient à souffler…
    Le film d’hier soir, « Au revoir là-haut », apprécié par ma compagne mais trop désordonné, spectaculaire et agité pour mon esprit qui l’était encore…
    Ce matin : après mon zazen matinal, les éléments du puzzle de ma vie quotidienne se sont mis seuls en place. J’ai bien avancé dans la préparation d’un we de méditation Shambhala que je coordonne pour le 1er we de décembre.
    Maintenant, après mon petit somme « post-prandial » (pour ne pas dire sieste), retour devant mon ordinateur pour divers travaux de gestion, en conscience avec vous autres autour, sur notre petite planète et dans notre grand univers.
    ^^^, Gasshô

  14. Frédéric WEMBANDJU 31 octobre 2017 at 19 h 53 min - Reply

    Hello people of the square!
    Nice to meet you again…
    Last week I was in kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo) and heard a bird singing a clear rythmic song and was amazed
    today I realize that birds here in Pau in the south of France sing their own beautiful song!

  15. Filipa 31 octobre 2017 at 17 h 50 min - Reply

    Lisbon, Portugal. Sun shinning and a little too hot. It is always a very good opportunity to be in a retreat even one of this kind. I sometimes feel out of my own square. I don’t exactly know what this means. But it is what I feel. On my long morning walk I’ve realized I’m often like my mother. Trying to tell people what is best for them, and to give my opinion or help when it is not requested. And now that I am writing this I realize how this is related to the square, and how sometimes I push people out of the square. How interesting huh?

  16. Guillaume 31 octobre 2017 at 17 h 33 min - Reply

    Hello from Paris. Writing and deleting, again and again. I want to speak but I feel like I shouldn’t say too much. I’m confused.

  17. Perfect Way 31 octobre 2017 at 17 h 22 min - Reply

    The day started with green tea and invoicing. Sencha, was the tea, water not hotter than 60-70ºC as I was told. How one measures this, I wondered, maybe if I listen to the kettle I can put if off as the sounds become rougher and more troubled. It seems to have worked, as it usually does, when one stays with it, attentively, inside the square, locally.
    I am reminded of us all, sitting together, when mulling over inside/outside the said square… And how although we are all outside in our own lives, we also are inside this retreat together. Or we could say we are inside our own lives… it’s endless. Almost as if in/outside were sides of the same coin.
    Now I just learned that I am meeting a friend for zazen later today with yet more friends, aware and unaware of this retreat. In the midst of this day I get a feeling for « vast emptiness, nothing holy » again and again, and to the always there reminder « the perfect way is easy for those who do not hold onto preferences ». London skies are turning less bright now, as it is the laptop, almost no battery. Thank you all for your words.

  18. Lara 31 octobre 2017 at 15 h 38 min - Reply

    Hello dear sangria! London, training session on taxes and demergers. I am bored and therefore separate from the square. For once I cannot be one with what is going on here. The tutor is talking and I am writing this comment…

  19. Christine 31 octobre 2017 at 14 h 57 min - Reply

    This morning, I asked my father-in-law in a gentler way as usual to talk to the kids with more kindness when I heard him shout at them in his bedroom. Later he came to see me in the kitchen, somewhat apologizing and saying that as a kid, if he touched sth. in the room of his grandfather he was hit with a belt. He didn’t have a room on his own (he was raised by his grandparents as his mother was busy with her career), and slept in the living room on the couch. His toys were in the garage, which was the only place where he was allowed to play. His mother’s room he wasn’t allowed to enter, either.
    Compassion and understanding replace my being upset on his behaviour and I am grateful for my attempt to stay inside the square (and talk to him gently) which made this exchange possible.

  20. Theo 31 octobre 2017 at 13 h 44 min - Reply

    Hello everybody from Ubbergen in The Netherlands,
    Last week I had my first sesshin in 13 years,it was in the danasangha with roshi Catherine.
    To make the homecoming somewhat smoother I take the opportunity to do this 5 day Heart of Live retrait with you guys and roshi Amy.For me there where already 3 moments today where I seperate for sure, first was that I ran into a person who was already drunk,I had some judgements there,The second was in a bakery,I touched a bread with my finger to feel how hard it was,there was a customer who reacted quite angry when he saw that,although I apologized he kept going on,I don’t reacted anymore but put him certainly out of the squire.The third seperation I made was when I almost got runover by a car,I felt some anger there.

  21. Joy 31 octobre 2017 at 13 h 07 min - Reply

    On the first day of Heart of life, I had a very brief moment of clarity on time: that when time comes in pieces, not in accumulative form so that it doesn’t formulate a memory, it feels so liberating at the same time making me feel so vulnerable.

    Enjoyed very much keeping the intention of retreat throughout the day, being in the flows of the day and time as an abserver and as a passenger.

  22. Hugo 31 octobre 2017 at 13 h 01 min - Reply

    Hello from down under, Perth, Australia! It’s dark, Halloween night. Kids have knocked on our door. Ben also joined, he was the youngest. Running to see someone via Skype now. Will add more shortly. Here, always.

  23. M a j e d 31 octobre 2017 at 12 h 51 min - Reply

    11:55 pratique assise (tardive)
    Je travaille avec le carré, je l’ouvre à tout ce qui se présente à moi durant cette expérience : ma sensation de lourdeur dans le corps, les douleurs dans le dos, la colère qui remonte, les personnes qui m’ont menti qui m’ont fait du mal, le sentiment d’injustice, les gens dans la rue. Le rocher de mon corps se dé-densifie. Je suis éthique. Tout me traverse sans choc. Tout passe à travers moi. Au milieu de la foule je disparais. Où suis-je ? Je suis partout. Où suis-je ? Je suis nulle part !

    • M a j e d 31 octobre 2017 at 12 h 53 min - Reply

      correction : je suis éthérique (le correcteur auto a remplacé par éthique)…

  24. Daniel 31 octobre 2017 at 12 h 40 min - Reply

    Temse, belgium.

    It is raining outside, and I am inside my car on the parking area.

    Reading the post, it is as if my heart is more awake, vulnerable… it makes the rain so close.

    I feel supported by this practice. I know that you and me are practicing in another place, still it feels as one practice.

    I will go back to work now, trying to connect over and over with the ungraspable presence of every patient coming in. Inviting them over and over to share in being together.

    Fine day to all of you, Daniël

  25. M a j e d 31 octobre 2017 at 9 h 34 min - Reply

    Charleville-Mézières, Ardennes, France
    Il est 8:00 le réveil sonne. Je l’arrête. Je ressens les sensations dans mon corps, j’ai peu d’énergie, j’ai mal au dos. Je me recouche après tout c’est les vacances je retarde ma pratique assise à plus tard quand je me lèverai. Il est 9:00 ma femme se lève pour sortir les chiens, elle ouvre le store. Dehors c’est brumeux, il fait froid dit-elle. J’observe les sensations de mon corps j’ai mal en bas du dos, c’est certainement du à la pratique d’hier et aux deux séances avec mes clients hier. Je suis de mauvaise humeur. C’est quand je suis fatigué que mon humeur se dégrade et que je risque d’entrer dans des réactions automatiques.
    Je me mets sur l’ordinateur je marque ces quelques lignes sur mon journal et je me sens mieux déjà. Plus en contrôle je reste d’humeur égale avec ma femme qui m’interrompt constamment alors que je rédige ces lignes. Puissè-je rester présent et conscient. Ce matin tout est deux pour moi, moi et ma femme, moi et mes deux chiens, je suis seul dans mon carré et quand les autres s’en approchent je cherche à le défendre. Je me résous à autoriser tout le monde entrer dans le carré aujourd’hui et les deux chiens viennent se mettre en dessous de mes pieds. Ils sont les bienvenus, ils font partie de moi. Un premier enseignement ! A suivre…

  26. Christine 31 octobre 2017 at 8 h 59 min - Reply

    Hello everybody from Villegouge, a tiny village in the middle of the wineyards in Bordeaux region ! The leafs are turning yellow and the sun is shining.
    Interesting question for today. I am here with my in-laws and definitely feel often « outside the square » with their way of functioning and living together… So I will try to observe rather than judge and disconnect.
    Tonight we will go for a Halloween tour in the neighbourhood with the kids, they are excited and looking forward to it…
    Enjoy your square, wherever it is…

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