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

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

Good morning, fellow retreat participants. This is our « last » day in the heart of life. Give it all you’ve got!

What a funny concept that is: « the last day in the heart of life. » D.T. Suzuki said that concepts like that and conceptual thought in general are like scaffolding that we construct around our moment-to-moment experience of the endless work-in-progress of things as they are, « just this. » We’re all accustomed to seeing scaffolding (échafaudage en français) in front of work-in-progress construction sites everywhere. There are even decorative pictures and advertisements adorning all that scaffolding.

That is also what we do all the time in our lives, constructing ideas (scaffolding) and embellishing them more and more, until we can’t even see anymore what is the work-in-progress we’re masking.

So what is that work-in-progress? And what is the scaffolding you build?

Now as I sit at my desk, on Friday morning with the cat and tea once again, I’m recalling my work-in-progress yesterday at the refugee center here in Paris. (In honor of that place, I’m posting a photo of it here.) I spent much of the time at the center’s clothing « store, » handing out new clothing to the young men who needed it. Everyone seemed to want something; I just kept giving and giving and giving as they just kept coming and coming and coming. We joked and laughed together, it was a fine afternoon, and when it was time for me to leave, I left. I said goodbye and went home. But they didn’t go home. I try not to forget that. And I try not to build scaffolding around that tragic fact and what it says about our world.

By | 2017-11-02T23:35:24+01:00 novembre 3rd, 2017|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. Hugo 7 novembre 2017 at 12 h 58 min - Reply

    Driving south. We get lost. And upset. In the middle of all of that. This. A kangaroo that jumps in front of our car. The brakes are working well. He slides. And I’m glad I missed him. He was a big one. Then the sunset. Beautiful. Vanishes away everything. Bring that light into all emotions. And I jump. Into something else. Like the kangaroo.

  2. Adriano 5 novembre 2017 at 18 h 00 min - Reply

    Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal
    Another day of another retreat in the heart of life… most likely the first, the last… or just the only one that could be. Is there a difference between everyday life and the retreat? If yes… why? If not… why not? Scaffolding: why we do that. but then again why not?

  3. Susanne 5 novembre 2017 at 0 h 13 min - Reply

    Two times of sitting with you together in Paris – in the morning and late afternoon. Thank you again…. Wonderful sunny day, tons of beautiful autum leaves ready to being raked in front of my house. Love this work with the leaves. On our walk, Caraldo (Mr dog) and I saw at least four capital more than 100 years old trees that the last storm had knocked down on their knees. Impressed by the incredable power and beauty of nature, the dignity of an old tree that might have been planted long before even my grandparents were born in 1902 and the simplicity of a heavy storm – that takes and shakes and pulls this grandgrandmother tree and finishes a long old story dans un coup de main (not quite shure if this word fits well) . Evening meal with my mother in her « pub » , a greek restaurant, our kind of jour fix, that I try to make possible once a week. Today she was better than a few weeks ago with her 87 years – I am pretty much aware that she is still « here ».
    Hope to see you soon in Paris 🙂 … and thank you for sharing Mitsuko with us! Love, Susanne

  4. Alberto Pereira 4 novembre 2017 at 22 h 45 min - Reply

    Mais um dia, menos um dia. Não, não se trata de equação matemática. Mas da reflexão sobre a preciosidade da vida. Hoje recebi a notícia que uma colega de turma da minha filha e sua mãe tinham sido atropeladas ontem à noite. Apesar dos ferimentos, felizmente estão bem.
    Por momentos, enquanto recebia a noticia a minha respiração parou, não queria acreditar, mais uma vez nego aquilo que é inegável. A impermanência da vida.
    Desejo que melhorem e fiquem bem.

  5. Eduardo 4 novembre 2017 at 1 h 50 min - Reply

    This morning zazen was done, as often happens, together with one of my two cats, the siamese Jeremias. He likes to sit on the blanket covering my Burmese crossed leg posture. The first time I practiced this way was with my youngest child José Maria, nineteen years ago, when still a baby. My posture perception is of not having an extra body weighting on my legs, but of being one extended and (once and awhile) breathing body. I don’t know how to name this heterodox posture, zenbaby/zencat ? I guess the zencat posture is my way of relating to the non human animal universe, Jeremias bridging the gap. In this case, who is scaffolding who? Or am I and Jeremias leaving scaffolds behind and diluting ourselves in the great void of just one being?
    This afternoon I resumed my voluntary reading work with the male detainees of Vila Real prison. After a half successful experience with Victor Frankl’s “Man’s search for meaning”, I felt I had to shift into a viweing film program . I started it with “Shakespeare Behind the Bars”, a very poweful and beatiful documentary on the rehearsals of the Shakespear’s play “The Tempest performed by prisoners in a USA high securaty prison ” . I stopped for comments in every scene that required an extra explanation and let the detainees spoke freely about the impressions the movie was causing on them. The documentary scenes alternate between dynamic rehearsals and the prisoners’ self testimonies about their life stories and the reasons why they ended up in jail. It tis impressive how some of them let their scaffolds fall down and corageously spoke to the camera about their crimes, their guilt feelings and inner existential dramas. Today we watched less than half of the movie. But that was enough for the Portuguese detainees (I don´t know why they have been condemned for) to have been able to grasp the meaning of Prospero – “The Tempest” main character – sentence: “We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”
    Tonight I just want to thank you all, and most specially to Amy, for having supported me in this retreat. And for those who like Mozart, I would like to share this energetic and most joyful piano concert performed by the Japanese piano player (and conductor) Mitsuko Ushida and the Camerata Salzburg (2001).
    Deep Gashô
    José Eduardo

  6. Juan 4 novembre 2017 at 0 h 50 min - Reply

    The early sun had a reddish tone, clouds come and go, also the rain. The sun plays hide and seek and goes to bed earlier than expected. The week went by faster than expected.

    I read the Day V initial post in the morning, and since that I had the scaffolding image in my mind.

    Are they supporting the structure of the eternal work-in-process that we call life or are they hiding the not so nice, dirty, noisy details we don’t want to show? Are them the border of the square we establish as comfort zone? How do they stand to impermanence? Do we need them?

  7. Joy 3 novembre 2017 at 23 h 59 min - Reply

    I resisted Tomas’s invitation to sit yesterday fearing that my raw feelings of emotions would surge uncontrollably, subcuming myself to the feeling of vurnarable, shamed and belittled.
    Sometimes though rarely in my life, it is hard to face the reality of my life, wanting to escape as far as I can and as much as possible.

    What is at stake? What is the matter?

    Without even knowing that, I am bing fearful. For what and for why?

  8. Filipa 3 novembre 2017 at 23 h 52 min - Reply

    Lisbon, Portugal. I see them both entangled the work in progress and the scaffolds (I didn’t know this English word, funny, had to go to the dictionary). I can’t clearly see what the scaffolds are, or maybe I know, but I don’t really want to see them yet. I’m not ready yet. Or am I? I’m afraid of change and even with this fear that exists, there is a big work in progress, one I clearly see and that I have been meaningfully doing. So things just take time. There will come the day when I’m ready to name the scaffolds. And maybe do something about it. We will see. It was a pleasure to be here. Thank you

  9. Susanne 3 novembre 2017 at 23 h 04 min - Reply

    Thank you for this week – all of you. I needed this kind of push of this retreat to start sitting again in my house. I only had a few morning-sittings, these were the best. In the evenings I felt more restless on the cussion, not really able to sit still. I « saw » the Wild flower ZEn room and Amy sitting on her cussion, sitting with me, felt all of your support whilst we were all sitting together. Powerful, interconnection – makes life so easy ! Hope we do this again soon, would be good. Doggy is sleeping, tired from frisbeeing, Sophia, my daughter (26) came back, is putting her feet under mums table for a while 🙂 love to have her – big mature talks, new intimacy between us.
    Feeling gratefull. NO MO SAN MAN DA MOTO NAN

  10. Joël H. 3 novembre 2017 at 22 h 21 min - Reply

    Hier impermanence, aujourd’hui scaffolding, et demain ?

    Un autre concept, un autre mot que nous pouvons faire éclore ou simplement attraper au vol pour nous accompagner dans notre journée de demain et qui pourra nous accompagner et nous aider à être demain encore un peu plus au coeur de notre vie.

    Mais en comptant sur nos seules propres forces qui sont énormes bien que parfois bien cachées…
    Mais sans compter sur l’aimable aide et profonde présence d’Amy.
    Mais sans votre présence à vous toustes qui étiez présent.e.s (je m’initie à l’écriture inclusive que Joa m’a fait découvrir la semaine dernière) avec moi tout au long de tous les instants de cette semaine.

    J’écris « vous toustes » et « moi », mais en fait nous ne sommes qu’un seul corps-esprit. Illusion de la séparation…

    Etudier la Voie (=Etre au coeur de la Vie), c’est s’étudier soi-même.
    S’étudier soi-même, c’est s’oublier soi-même.
    S’oublier soi-même, c’est être un avec toutes les existences.
    Réaliser l’unité de l’ego et de toutes les existences signifie oublier l’ego et toutes les existences…
    Dogen (1200-1253)


  11. Frédéric WEMBANDJU 3 novembre 2017 at 21 h 33 min - Reply

    Hello everybody,
    The last or the first…
    I saw the sun rising this morning with awe, listen to the birds singing all day
    the wind whistling through trees of magnificent red leaves
    Flocks of bird and the immaculate sky brought tears to my eyes
    The moon is shining, in a few hours it will be complete
    But tomorrow I’ll accept the caress of the rain and the cold wind on my face
    love you All

  12. M a j e d 3 novembre 2017 at 20 h 20 min - Reply

    Pratique assise dans la chambre d’hôtel. Je me suis installé sur le lit. A peine j’ai démarré la pratique mon chien s’approche du bord du lit et me colle sa truffe en remuant la queue. Je me surprends à « échafauder » des interprations et des jugements à son sujet « il ne va pas me laisser tranquille, il va pourrir ma pratique.,, ». Je lui demande d’aller sur son tapis. iIl fait le tour de l’autre côté d’une manière très disctète et de nouveaux « échafaudages » surgissent « il pense être malin mais il ne m’aura pas, qu’est ce qu’il est têtu,… ». Je le fais descendre. Dans le hall surgissent des voix d’un groupe de personnes étrangers parlant fort. Les « échafaudages » fusent « ils ne vont pas me laisser dormir cette nuit, ils n’ont pas de respect pour les autres clients,… ». Je prends conscience que ce ne sont que des suites de sons (que je ne comprends même pas) et que j’echafaude des théories autour…
    À l’ecriture de ces lignes j’observe des « échafaudages » sur à quel point j’ai apprécié cette retraite et comment puis-je continuer ma pratique et la renforcer (m’organiser à venir à Paris lors d’une prochaine retraite, …)
    Thank you for all of you. I really appreciated our retreat.

  13. Carole 3 novembre 2017 at 19 h 43 min - Reply

    Hello everyone, Thank you for your presence this week. The work-in-progress theme resonates strongly for me. It is so helpful to remember that each thing is just that–not a fixed thing, not something to judge myself on or cling to. Just letting it go. I spent some of the day at a tech conference with Mo, an author I work with, who happens to be the chief business officer of Google . A the conference there were remarkable tihngs–a man whirred around flying on a jet pack (really), virtual reality and art displays were everywhere, But Mo’s talk was about kindness really–being more human and kinder in what we write online, on social media in particular. He said in the era of machine learning, where machines will be learning from humans and co-creating our future, we need to model kindness. We need to show ourselves as human, we need to demonstrate the importance of compassion–to ensure its value in our technological world going forward. I loved that. And here on this retreat, maybe the scaffold comes down a bit. We share where we come short. For me, I haven’t done as much formal meditation as I had hoped. I opted to watch Stranger Things with my family, to bake cookies for my son. But the weekend is here and I will try to join those of you sitting together in Paris. I appreciate the presence of everyone here and what you’ve opened to and shared with us all. My heart feels wider tonight. I look forward to next time. Thank you.

  14. Christine 3 novembre 2017 at 19 h 24 min - Reply

    I realize that I write more easily when I’m in a good mood. As if unpleasant feelings didn’t have the right to be communicated. Today and yesterday were a bit complicated, there was some fighting and my husband was in a bad mood. Today we came too late to walk the dogs, or rather, the neighbour had left earlier without telling us so we met when he came back. The boys were disappointed, but at least they could play a bit with them.
    I would love to join you in Paris tomorrow, but I’m 500 km away and it’s my oldest son’s birthday. He will be 9 years old tomorrow. Can you imagine ? Impermanence is no where more visible than in kids, isn’t it ? I still remember coming with the baby to sit with you when he was a few months old…

  15. Mateus 3 novembre 2017 at 16 h 58 min - Reply

    One thing is for sure I feel. Which is that of meetings. Wether meeting situations, issues, people, the rain, the sun…
    Its seems, espescially on retreat, tha « meetings » are always happening, and, are made of these soft rythmic circles: A whole ocurrance that leaves no trace of ever being isolated from every other thing there is, ever. And of course … righ now, right here.
    I am meeting MY GRAND MOTHERS CAT!!! There is a whole story behind it when I found an old friend this week. I used to go to school with him as a child. And by then, the teacher had to give away the kittens from her cats breed and I took one for myself that soon ended up at my granmother, and my friend (Joao) took another. So when I met my friend now, « while in retreat », the whole cat story emerged from a place in time that seemed frozen for so long. (By the way, I’ve always wished I had that super abillity to hibernate certain things, certain periods of time so they could come back alive at the exact right place and time, although I might have felt that a little bit during last nights sitting). And so it was with the cats. Mine is still there, at my grandmas. Black and white and with that envying still and erect posture that any zen student would aspyre. His is still in the Alentejo.
    DARN! The cat was allways there (thanks to my grandma). Joao has never ceased to be my friend, and so, things just met. We had a laugh. I missed Joao.
    This was my zen practise this last week, excluding some other practises and lessons that came along of course.
    Im sure we all met so many things. We might not even be able to manage to escape meeting all these things, maybe. I dont know.
    And I hope Ill still have the time and patience to write some more before the retreat is officially over.
    Hope this text isnt too long to take my fellow friends too far away from presence.

  16. Joanne 3 novembre 2017 at 12 h 14 min - Reply

    This morning I appreciate the structure of this retreat space. I am touched by its form – that it is, all of you are, right here, direct, and yet not right here. I appreciate this retreat passing by. I appreciate its stillness and its speed. Thank you Amy Roshi. Thank you everyone. I embrace all the self-scaffolding in which I dwell, with rawness and tenderness. I accept my need for a lot of structure, my choices just as it all is, its seamlessness. I give generously to myself the acceptance of where I am. I do not leave my space, but I practice with all of you with so much love, in life’s many diverse frameworks, all of which are dissolving. I too allow barriers to come down to feel deliberately and fully life’s full and precious presence.

  17. Perfect Way 3 novembre 2017 at 12 h 04 min - Reply

    London. Today the Bonfire weekend begins. Over the next 2-3 days fireworks will lit the skyes remebering that day when Guy Fawkes and his comarrades tried to blow up the Parliment and were caught by the authorities.
    It is interesting to compare the puting up scaffolding with telling a lie–it could serve a purpose on that moment, it might even be a protection, but eventually the lie is untold so that things as they are become clear, without artifice, effortless.
    When is it then, that scaffolding must be put down? when which work is done? Corinne Sensei has said once, « who are you protecting? »
    Sat in the morning with the garbage collectors and construction works sounds on the background. A bright blue sky and warm air coming out of the heaters. Skype after and a late breakfast, not usual for a Friday morning. Meeting a client in a while with yet another broken lamp, which he says has sentimental value and he’d like it repaired and whole again.
    In this moment it doesn/t feel like the last (day) of anything.

  18. Theo 3 novembre 2017 at 11 h 18 min - Reply

    How I scaffolding my life?Well with every thing that seperates me from this moment,such as my thougths,my ideas,my beginningless greed,anger and ignorance,my fear of being rejected.
    My life is my practice to dismantle this scaffolding and to see deeper and deeper ,with the help from my teacher,that Iam this vast space that includes everything.
    My teacher is not only my zenteacher roshi Catherine ,but everybody and everything that confront me that Iam scaffold my life and are not ln this moment.
    Thank you roshi Amy for creathing this beautiful practice,and I thank all the perticipants of this retrait for your efforts and reflections.

  19. Joa 3 novembre 2017 at 10 h 49 min - Reply

    I’ve been so busy in the past few days, doing one action after the next in what looks like an endless stream of responses. Receiving mails, answering mails. Driving somewhere where I am expected. Buying products someone asked me to buy, preparing events, writing a contract because someone needs it. On and on and on.

    I’ve been so busy that I didn’t even take the time to post anything here since Monday. So I take a moment and write down few lines here – another task!

    None of this work ever seem to end. The whole day appears like a work-in-progress session, where tasks are unlimited. I finish one project, I look up, I see more coming that require to be taken care of! So I try to stay focused so that I don’t feel overwhelmed. Taking one task at a time, mindfully. Sometimes I feel peaceful about it, sometimes I stress out.

    What am I constructing out there, if I’m constructing anything? Am I hiding anything?

  20. Óscar Faria 3 novembre 2017 at 10 h 38 min - Reply

    the ast days in lisbon, walking, seeing exhibitions, defending a paper in the university, meeting friends and also going to the movies.
    wednesday, in window display, i found the verses of leonard cohen: « there is a crack in everything. that’s how the light gets in ». later, in the afternoon, i was moved by the title of a photo taken by sharon lockhart – the image is of a blind young girl running into a forest: « when you’re free, you run in the dark ». i ended the night in a moroccan bar with some close friends: marlene, irene, fernando, who is not only a poet, but also a good storyteller: in that night i loved the way he told us how he ended in the tangier house of ysl, with rachel moyal, the owner of the famous librarie des colonnes, after a meeting with paul bowles…
    yesterday, i saw a very good movie, « the other side of hope », by aki kaurismäki.
    I take this note from the plot: « A Syrian refugee, whom the authorities have decided to send back to Aleppo, is found and hired by the Restaurant-owner. The Syrian is looking for his sister, whom he lost on the Balkan route. They all try together to help. »
    finally, i leave here a loose translation of two verses by fernando luís sampaio (the title of one of his book is « hotel pimodan », famous place in paris, where baudelaire lived for almost two years):
    « Solitude is a way
    to keep the heart clean. »
    « A solidão é um modo
    de manter limpo o coração. »

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