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

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

Already deep into afternoon here in Montreuil, and, amid a heat wave, I’m wishing everyone a fine day.

Had a night of restless and little sleep, troubled by the thick heat throughout the night and by a mosquito that bit me time and again. I’d like to think the mosquito was satisfied, even if I was left itching and tired.

When thinking of this retreat that we are doing this week in the heart of our lives, I’m surprised to realize how present is my own experience of living so long ago with my young family in the Dana Zen community with my teacher, Genno Roshi. Those 6 years were one continuous retreat in the heart of life. And that experience gave me the basic grounded groundlessness to live in the heart of my life wherever I am. Which is what we are all testing for ourselves this week.

(For more on my story and the origins of the Heart of Life retreat, here is a link to a talk in French that I gave Friday night June 21 in Paris: http://wildflowerzen.org/paris-21-juin-2019-quest-ce-que-la-retraite-au-coeur-de-la-vie-2/)

The way to « respond appropriately » to whatever arises, I learned during those years, is to meet life’s situations without attachments to ideas about yourself, the others, and the situations in general. It requires acting without attachment to the results of your action. You just never know! If I had been attached to results, I doubt I would have left my elegant apartment in Paris, taken my small children and moved in with my Zen teacher. I certainly would not be writing these words now.

This morning, I was touched by a lovely meeting I had with her, Genno Roshi, in her garden (which is next door to mine). Nothing special, just easy conversation in the cool shade, like we have had so many times before throughout our more than 25 years of practice together. I think it was the « ease » of « nothing special » that touched me.

Now, after lunch, I’m inspired by this very moment, writing these words for you, not knowing what may result from this very simple action, so easy and not special.

By | 2019-06-24T14:38:56+01:00 juin 24th, 2019|La pratique Zen, Retraites au coeur de la vie|13 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 25 juin 2019 at 11 h 59 min - Reply

    Already end of day II in Victoria Park, Western Australia.
    Meal in my stomach. Celebrating our 8th wedding anniversary. Find some old photos and send them to my wife. I look different. She looks different. Who were we? Who are we now? No kids then. One now. More to come?
    How to respond appropriately? Easy… Hard. Just natural like breathing.
    Keep breathing.

  2. Telma Veras 25 juin 2019 at 11 h 20 min - Reply

    Modigliana, Italy
    On vacation.
    Too much hot here. Spend the 1st formal day of retreat at home. In the afternoon, when the light is pure gold and all turns beautiful the three of us went for a walk – raggi way.
    My body wake and felt so good.
    We reached the top of our world and celebrate it drinking and eating.
    Then return home. Preparing dinner for the family. Eat outside in the garden. How i love to be surrounded by green by teres by nature.

    Everything special, but nothing special and all for free. The ease of the day fruit of the intention to live with truth and loving.
    Thank you.

  3. Adriano 25 juin 2019 at 8 h 12 min - Reply

    Vila Nova de Gaia. Returning to work today. I was absent for 5 weeks due to illness. Funny how we are fragile.
    For the last 5 years I have been working in a two centuries old building. People told me that in the past it was the house of a very important family to the city. The building stayed, the family is no more.
    I arrive to my work place really early in the morning, almost no one in the streets, nor in the building. In the back there is a beautiful garden, I took some time just being there, just breathing. I was amazed by the numerous birds flying around, singing, going about their life. It came to my mind, early in the morning, before the frenetic daily rythm of man, birds are there. I was touched how they adapted to survive, surprised how little we cared about them, yet they found a way.

  4. Susanne 25 juin 2019 at 7 h 52 min - Reply

    Hello from Hamburg, yes, the heat wave is here and we will have the big summer party for about 1800 people at my school today which I have been busy organizing for the last weeks – so I am a bit nervous and excited how it will all be going. What is going on there for me? I had to be in control of so many details that I had to communicate to more than 100 teachers and now, today: did I think of everything? what might I have forgotten? Is there enough decoration on our 5000 m2 big school area? Will all the students be there that promissed to help today before all the guests, parents, friends are coming?
    Right now, sitting in my kitchen, birds twittering outside in my flowering garden, I am thinking: so many wonderful collegues, they will all do their best! If something is missing we will be fine anyway – I cannot control and I dont have to – I have done my best and now it is in other hands. I am giving it to itself.

  5. Amanda 25 juin 2019 at 7 h 20 min - Reply

    Hello! Yesterday I hiked 20 km and than worked in my garden, I went to sleep as I was so tired. But I did the exercises mentally and I read your lovely responses this morning. Going to today’s hike (Snogeholm, Skåne) and doing the exercises. see you later!

  6. céu 25 juin 2019 at 6 h 11 min - Reply

    Bom dia a Tod@s
    Só tive tempo de ler o ensinamento da Amy e estar presente aqui um pouquinho,
    nothing special

  7. José Eduardo 25 juin 2019 at 1 h 44 min - Reply

    Reading Amy’s words on her restless night, it come straight to me the lines on insects of the XVIII century zen poet Kobayashi Issa, translated by R.H Blyth’s , the author of “Zen in English Literature and Oriental Classics” :
    “Do not kill the fly / See how it wrings its hands / See how it wrings its feet.”
    This is perhaps easy to say, but most difficult to practice as anyone who sits in zazen does know when a mosquito or a fly persist in their buzz and willing massages. But even more difficult is to allow insects to sting one’s own body in the way Issa humorouly wrote:
    “I am sorry my house is so small, / But practice your jumping, / Please, Mr. Flea.”
    I’ve said that Amy’s words have come straight to me and that’ s literally true, since what I have done the whole day was to edit an essay I am writing on animal rights in which I’ ve quoted the second of Issa’s poems.
    So I had quite a solitary day devoted to writing on animal rights. Apart of my wife, the only beings I’ve met with today were the two cats that live with us and someone who passed by to fetch a package of cat food to be dispatched to Switzerland.
    The sitting schedule allowed me nevertheless to alternate between quite, silents moments and the buzzy thoughts on the subject I am working on. But seeing clearer, perhaps it was not as a solitary day as that. A permanent non evident web of interconnections is always at work precluding absolute sense of loneliness and separeteness. Sometimes the intricate fabric of this web becomes evident. That is why Amy’s words reflecting her physical experience of yesterday night with an insect can resonate with the lines based on the experience of an eighteenth century Japanese poet that I’ve come across today on my essay on animal rights.
    The track of “Suzanne Vega Solitude Standing” is perhaps another way of illustrating this

  8. Miguel 24 juin 2019 at 23 h 30 min - Reply

    in the woods, near the sea and the village of Colares (Portugal). Today i felt moved and inspired by the ease of « nothing special » that Roshi wrote, and by something that a teacher told:  » my mind is vast as the space but my attention to beings is thin as a grain of powder ». How the ease of not going after our compulsive desires, free us to just be in the present moment and respond in accordance to the circumstances.

  9. isabela 24 juin 2019 at 23 h 01 min - Reply

    what is happening for me is inside my cloud of ideas, the day 1 exercice of arvon’s 5 day poetry challenge. i don’t know how to put a photo here and i won’t make a facebook or twitter account to send them my cloud, so i make a linear list of what’s inside it: lacking sleep ; write a witchcraft so that sara has the job after her interview today in edinburgh!!! ; an insect on the wall, my pillow’s side, what’s its name?, a colleague said it’s dangerous, or something like this, killing it ; changing pillow’s side ; the insect disappears ; money transfer to buy the train ticket for my act training starting thursday ; 3d secure pay bug, at 2 am, a man, not only a machine, answering my call, this surprises me, he says there’s only one derogation for the bug thing he doesn’t say is a bug thing ; dreams ; mobile online while i sleep waiting for news from nico, who is sleeping on the streets of london and his battery is dead, can someone help? ; waking up heavy ; sun ; birds ; cloud ; train ; whistle ; having to explain the bug thing feels heavy ; getting my car off its place is « difficult », other cars on the side, table and chairs on the back ; easier with neighbor’s help ; doing thursday’s way today, picking up akoua, the togolese trainee ; my neighbor now in front of me listening to loud rap and smoking at the car’s window, « but » he was helpful ; in the way to work, summer landscape with so many priorities on the right, this surprises me too, headache, shooting competition advertisements and an animal, what animal?, ran over ; i forget my yoga mat to body scan in the car, go back to take it ; hi gwladys, the trainee from sarthe ; so noisy works at the nursing home, the polish workers with no ear protection, with luce, the psychomotrician, we have to move the residents from all the automatisms ; closing all the windows and blinds to protect them from the dog days ; accompanying a resident anxiety and being moved, touched by her love for her husband, the medical power against her ; phoning the psychiatry for news, the medical power against and with us ; a resident is sleeping so much lately ; happy birthday you all! ; finally news from nico, worries, nice meetings, poem reading, jokes, the future of london’s street markets, not ready for zen, he writes ; sleeping at the face part of the body scan, feeling light since ; the resident who is sleeping so much lately shouts her pain ; wonderful nature imagery from amanda, who is in this with us!!! ; hydration tour ; accompanying a resident depression ; sitting in a parkinson’s anxiety-akinesia crisis ; no hunger, no food buying ; sultry weather ; confirmation: it’s indeed a bug thing ; hunger ; inspired by the book of my very first tutor of the poetry school, on poetry and films, inspired by the poems and feedbacks of the contemporary chinese poetry course, other clouds responses, your responses here ; so happy for you, filipa!!! (i don’t know how to comment your comment); so happy fernando is in this with us!!! ; write another magik for sara, who has another interview tomorrow!!!

  10. Lara 24 juin 2019 at 18 h 43 min - Reply

    Hello, from Stavanger, Norway. I was surprised by the richness of the colours I saw today when I was walking. The sky was grey but the bushes had many different types of green. It was beautiful. I was inspired by the rejection I got to a job application to practice non-attachment. Just observe my feelings about it. And I was touched by reading all the cards my friends wrote to me lately. So many loving words.

  11. Filipa 24 juin 2019 at 17 h 56 min - Reply

    Lisbon, between sun and rain. I’ve restarted work today after very intense holidays. I love my new work, with elderly people. I thought it was impossible but here I am now. Working with them everyday… :’-)

    Today I had great news that while I was gone two of them have died, they were in great pain and I really just could be with them… I’m relieved with this.

    I’m surprised to see how fast the elderly I work with got to trust me (I’ve only worked for 4 intermittent days with these groups).

    I’m deeply touched by their smiles when they see me and when I see them :’-)

    And I’m deeply deeply inspired to see how little is necessary for another human being to feel touched and loved. I want to learn and find news ways to « respond appropriately » to whatever they bring to me and sometimes it’s so hard to see their pain and not being able « to do anything to help…» I want to learn to « respond appropriately » This gives me strength! 🙂

  12. Florence 24 juin 2019 at 17 h 09 min - Reply

    Bizarrement c’est une semaine très active pour moi. Je suis en plein déménagement et j’ai beaucoup de choses à faire. Dans cette diversité de choses à faire, à ne pas oublier, à planifier, j’ai pensé oui cette retraite est juste. Ce temps sera ma retraite de déménagement.

    Ce qui m’a surprise ce matin : c’est un homme qui ouvrait les volets de l’appartement en face du mien alors que celui-ci est vide depuis des années

    Ce qui m’a touchée c’est le sourire d’une amie lorsqu’elle m’a serrée dans ses bras
    Ce qui m’a inspiré n’est pas encore là.

  13. Manon 24 juin 2019 at 16 h 02 min - Reply

    Maison de mes grands-parents, en haut de la colline, Obernai, à une trentaine de km de Strasbourg
    Je suis arrivée ce matin chez mes grands parents par le train partant de Bâle. J’ai pris trois jours de vacances pour me reposer des dernières semaines intenses à l’hopital. J’aime retrouver cette grande maison pleine de souvenirs de vacances avec les cousins-cousines et le chien toujours aussi fou. Je suis assise dans le canapé avec le livre Unsere Seelen bei Nacht, traduction allemande de Our Souls at Night de Kent Haruf. La maison est très calme. Ma grand mère est partie faire les courses, mon grand père lit le journal. Le chien dort.
    – ce qui m’a surprise ce matin: un lezard fuyant sous mes pieds sur le quai de la gare
    – ce qui m’a touchée: ma grand mère occupée à faire mon lit avec le moins de plis possibles « parce qu’on dort aussi bien que le lit est beau »
    – ce qui m’a inspirée: lire les posts des personnes participant à la retraite heart of life de ce matin

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