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

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

Meditation this morning in our garden in Montreuil. Sitting in a red metal chair facing explosive flourishing of what we call « nature » – innumerable flowers in bloom whose names I don’t know, lush grasses, short shrubs and ferns, delicate young saplings, stronger older trees, some towering, others smaller yet grandly standing tall – fig, pine, apple, fir…

Surprised, and touched, by a young bamboo shoot (in the picture above) that seems to have shot up out of nowhere overnight amid yellow blossoms and rose bushes. What an expression of fullness! Moved almost to tears by an Italian laurel plant just beside me, its pale yellow flowers newly opened and so full of life. I suddenly feel that there is not « nature » and « me, » realize that like the abundant plants and singing birds and hot, brilliant sun, like the drifting clouds and polluted Parisian air, I am just another part of the whole that we deluded humans call « nature, » believing that we are separate from it. All is so clearly interconnected. All is so clearly beyond the grasp of my thinking mind. All is so clearly mystery and love. Sadness arises: What are we doing to the planet?

The words of the Zen master Robert Aitken come to mind (actually these words have been inspiring me for weeks): « Our task [as Zen practitioners] is not to clear up the mystery but to make the mystery clear. »

Later, during a Skype interview with a student, my alarm rings at 12h noon. We stop talking and sit together, hundreds of miles apart, for a minute of silence. The mystery then becomes clear again.

As I write this, I have all of you in mind and heart. We are 51 participants in this retreat, in at least 10 countries, on 3 continents. I’m grateful for the presence of each one of you as we delve into this mystery of our lives together. Please share with us some words about your day.

By | 2019-06-26T12:08:31+01:00 juin 26th, 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. A. Mouret 20 octobre 2021 at 5 h 25 min - Reply

    Toutes…, Matsuo Bashô

  2. Filipa 27 juin 2019 at 22 h 08 min - Reply

    Lisbon, Thursday evening (one day late, since yesterday the website was « down » as a few of us have mentioned). I had a tiring day, I love my new work and it sometimes gets me exhausted. Sure, it’s super tiring, but I guess there is something else… Maybe something I can’t see. I’d like to « …make this mystery clear » 🙂

    Yesterday I was surprised about that I was write about something, that I wish I wasn’t…

    I was deeply deeply deeply moved with an elderly lady, with her joy when she listened and sang to music I “played” for her. She has dementia, and is always in bed, and she sang, and cried and looked at me as if she was here…

    I was inspired to see how it is soooooooo easy to make a difference and contribute to someone else’s well being. Some smiles are soooooooo inspiring, they’re priceless and very hard to forget.

  3. João 27 juin 2019 at 9 h 59 min - Reply

    Cova da Piedade, Portugal
    Yesterday evening I was going to share some words of my experience in this Heart of Life Retreat, but the site was on maintenance. It’s been difficult to discipline myself these past weeks, and for the retreat, also, remembering to stop at noon, sitting, sharing words. Finally when I was going to do it, the site was down. I couldn’t help smiling.
    So much has been inspiring me this week, the unexpected wishes of good week Monday morning from the cashier at the supermarket, having someone to sit with yesterday on a place that I found recently, the luxurious growth of the plants that I and my kids have started planting in the veranda. It’s so inspiring, to see life blossom like that, and see everything around me in the same light. For some reason, the beggar who is always sitting in front of the grocery store comes to mind.

  4. Deborah Thomas 27 juin 2019 at 8 h 56 min - Reply

    Debbie, Stains outside of Paris, 9:36 am
    Such a pleasure to read about your woods and flowers. Comments blooming. I live on a street with a rooster who usually crows during my sitting. Rush of car tires, cock-a-doodle-dooo, beep beep. I’ve never seen him, but I have a daily connection with this sturdy old bird. I’ve been discovering Sharon Satzberg this week, a long time meditator with a very « every day » way of presenting the dharma. So, in between chores, I have Amy’s words of invitation to the present and Salzberg’s talks.
    I love the noon time rendez vous with all of us, all of you. Yesterday, I managed to miss it by 4 minutes, so I pretended I was in a slightly different time zone and did 12:04 to 12:05.
    I’ve been telling the people who call this week that they are on the Heart of Life Retreat with me. One said « excuse me » as if she was interrupting something. She was very pleased to hear that she was a retreat participant by proxy.
    As far as the planet is concerned, I have great faith in the young people. They’re motivated and resourceful. That lovely, young, Scandinavian girl, when asked what simple gesture we could perform for the future of our planet, said: « Carry a « gourde » rather than buying bottles of water that you throw away. »
    Peace to all of you, all of us for today. .

  5. Tiago 27 juin 2019 at 8 h 13 min - Reply

    Writing on this humid Thursday morning in a commuter train en route from London Bridge to Sevenoaks, England, amidst a handful of excited young boys and girls. As excited and energetic as my thoughts, I realise. On one hand I want to shut them off, on another I breathe with them and let go, one by one, at each moment. I am inspired by their free energy and excitement – we are all starting another beautiful amazing day of school, for them, and work for me. We are in this together though, no matter the shape and form the day takes individually and I’m moved to have seen that, with blurry eyes.
    Love to all,

  6. céu 27 juin 2019 at 6 h 46 min - Reply

    je suis la, même si en silence
    Lisboa le matin, je sort vers le sud, Setúbal, au marché…

  7. Camille 27 juin 2019 at 6 h 22 min - Reply

    Paris, soirée remplie de chaleur, j’attends que la température descende encore un peu pour ouvrir les fenêtres.
    A la journée lumineuse d’hier a succédé une journée remplie de réunions, de déplacements et de décisions complexes à mon travail qui ont fini par emporter ma bonne humeur. J’ai oublié la minute de silence ce midi, prise dans ma course, cela m’a énervé. Je rentre chez moi fatiguée, j’arrose les plantes sur mon balcon, notamment un pot sur lequel je veille avec une attention plus particulière depuis un mois car pour la 2ième année cette plante va faire des fleurs. L’année dernière, un seul bourgeon qui avait grossi plusieurs semaines avant d’éclore en une magnifique fleur orange. Cette année, 4 bourgeons!! Je me prépare avec envie au spectacle, en regardant grossir les bourgeons à chaque arrosage. Et ce soir, en arrosant mes plantes, je réalise que je ne serais pas là pour admirer les 4 magnifiques fleurs bientôt prêtes à éclore car je serai partie en vacances…La tristesse et la colère s’emparent de moi, j’essaye depuis 2 heures d’observer ces émotions, de les accueillir avec bienveillance, mais c’est vraiment difficile. Il y a des jours où le Bouddha m’énerve…c’est drôle, j’appuie sur  » post comment  » mais le site est en maintenance! une autre émotion à observer…nouvel essai ce matin

  8. isabela 27 juin 2019 at 5 h 05 min - Reply

    what is present for me today: happy national writing day in england! ; spread out kazhez ; a friend is angry again ; nico searching a bed, his phone dead, on, dead, mine on ; monday’s insect running in surprises moves touches inspires me ; night birds also ; stars also ; dreams ; lacking sleep ; sun ; birds ; white veil ; day 3 of arvon’s 5 day poetry challenge (editing doing the opposite of the usual surgery: putting silicone?) ; navy wrinkled linen summer dress ; amchiche, the grey tiger cat who lives with us is back after sleeping under the stars like a good kabyle and out again when i get my forgotten lunch ; wednesday’s road to work with akoua ; surprised moved touched inspired by a white flowers’ field among the red summer fields, sitting while accompanying suicidal thoughts, having to put my body and words to manage a violent crisis between two residents of the « severe behavioral disorders » unity, accompanying paranoid delusions, agressivity, anxiety at noon, hallucinations, families freezing facing « dementia », caregivers suffering ; being surprised by a resident’s kidneys ; poetry workshop for those « with » « dementia » and « mild behavioral disorders » cancelled today ; internet bug ; having my holidays accepted (portugal: retreat, family, beaches soon!) ; lunching outside with akoua, us being bitten by almost invisible insects ; « is smashing pumpkins your favorite group? » on the phone with a friend who saw billy corgan live, perfect, « what a chance! », with marc, who says monday is the last tai chi class, this monday i had to work till late and it was qi gong and wing chun, my favorite classes ; ligne r (souppes-château-landon-paris, buying my ticket back from vienne, the friend is calm again) ; i’ve never sweat in paris as much as this ; paris-lyon sending a mail to pénélope aka les frontalières, exchanging messages with an old trainee who is now a psychologist near lyon, share, fernando!, editing the poem about my kidney, edited ; lyon-vienne ; vienne-estrablin ; one beach towel to swim before the acceptance and commitment therapy training tomorrow at 44 degrees, « du jamais vu ! », no raw food! ; one peach in a plate with one knife ; pénélope’s rainbow answer, forever inspired by her engagement in the neurominorities’ cause, totally in for her meetings on this theme soon in paris ; inspired by the « same » comments ; a shower

  9. José Eduardo 27 juin 2019 at 3 h 22 min - Reply

    It’s late evening and as I was preparing to write a few comments, something went wrong either with my computer or with Zenscribe web site. It is intriguing that my wish to communicate with the retreat group is now electronically impossible. So I resort to a pure spiritual mode of communication. I read in the afternoon Amy’s teaching and a sentence kept reverberating “What are we doing to our planet?” This question was somehow present at the monthly evening meeting I’ve attended today with the reading group of the public library of Vila Real. The book under discussion was an anti-epic narrative “Voyage to India” by the Portuguese writer Gonçalo M. Tavrares. In its disenchanted, nihilistic tone, it is, in my view, a great literay work with many references to other texts, namely to Joyce’s Ulysses. The main character, Bloom, moves ambiguously between material cynicism and a vague illusory expectation of finding his salvation in a mitified spiritual India. In many aspects this anti-Bloom stands for the western predator, that after having colonized, in the past, vast areas of the world, aspires, at present, to satisfy his spiritual appetite with mystified promises of religious exoticism. Without any explicit moral message, the narrative depicts, without any compromises, the “poluted” moral state of our insatiable materialist way of life, perversely attempting to find satisfaction in a pseudo search for spirituality.
    The conversation among the members of the reading group, while recognizing the great merits of this work, ended with a generalized sense of distress due to its pessimist message on the dark nature of mankind
    Meeting now Amy’s question, I’ll say the obvious: the present world state of affairs is a reflection of mankind’ s mental state of affairs. The task of awakening is immense-and endless. How to educate or open up for cosmic love a singular brain (these data are from a reliable source) with 86 millions neurons (a grain of sand corresponds to 100.000 neurons and 1000millions synapses), each one performing 1000 nervous impulses per second and connecting dozen of thousands of times with other neurons through the synapses? How to potentiate wisdom in a singular brain: (i) whose information runs at the speed of 431 kilometres an hour; (ii) that creates a day, on average, 50 thousand thoughts (the notion of “thought” needs, anyway, clarification), generating between 12 to 25 watts of electicity, “enough to light a led light of low voltage” ; (iii) whose memory capacity is of 4700 millions of books or 670 millions of web pages; (iv) that performs 1016 processes per second? All these data mean that every singular human brain is 30 times more powerful than the quickest world supercomputer , the IBM Sequoia , and that the Japanes computer oK, another very poweful machine, takes 40 minutes to process the data that the human brain does in one second.
    Our species possesses indeed a most powerful organ that can be instrumental to gain wisdom and nurture compassion or to create hell and commit suicide, that is able to destroy the whole nature or to compose music as “On the Nature of Daylight” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_YHE4Sx-08
    Sorry for this too long message.

  10. Rita Marquito 26 juin 2019 at 21 h 15 min - Reply

    Since the Botanical Garden, in Coimbra, opened up the wild (wildest?) area — the woods full of bamboos, a little old church, a bunch of decorative blocks of stone with beautiful figures from an ancient chapel, of São Bento —, its with huge joy that I cross it almost everyday going to work and back home again. How lucky I am. My home is on one side of the garden, and the office at the other… door. From home I go up the hill to slide into the woods. On the other side I design.
    Then, at the end of the working day, its all the way up until I reach the huge iron door on top and then the kindergarden… and I keep on going up.
    This garden seems like a tunel of time. And another dimension comes up, wherever the direction I’m going. Oh!
    I walk, I slide, and I come home light.

  11. Florence 26 juin 2019 at 21 h 11 min - Reply

    Réveil très matinal, je me suis levée à 5h, plus sommeil simplement l’envie de m’asseoir et d’écouter le bruit de la ville s’éveillant.J’aime ces matins de silence. Le ciel se colore peu à peu déclinant du rose au blanc laiteux racontant la pollution parisienne. Je me suis sentie joyeuse, tout à l’intérieur dansait et ma journée s’est calée sur cette joie. j’avais chaud, très chaud, je me suis assise à une terrasse et j’ai regardé passer le temps sans effort. Je me sentais bien, étrangement bien dans tout ce brouhaha et ce tumulte. Un jeune homme est passé avec un énorme bouquet de fleurs. Cela m’a fait sourire et rêvasser aussi. Du béton, du bruit, des fleurs. je suis rentrée tardivement de mon cours d’anglais. Ce soir dans mon appartement les fenêtres sont ouvertes laissant circuler un vent qui rafraichit, au loin une personne remplie le container de bouteilles, des klaxons énervés se répondent, des gens parlent forts. Il y a trop de bruit, je me sens envahie et la fatigue de ma longue journée commence à se faire sentir.

  12. Manon 26 juin 2019 at 17 h 36 min - Reply

    Début de soirée dans l’appartement que je partage avec mon compagnon, Weil am Rhein, Allemagne
    Je viens de revenir de chez mes grands-parents. J’ai quitté la fraîcheur de leur maison sur la colline pour la chaleur extrême de la ville. Je sue a grosses gouttes mais je suis contente de retrouver ces lieux du quotidien. Mon compagnon ne devrait pas tarder à rentrer de la rédaction ou il travaille. Je l’attends sur le canapé. En bruit de fond, le ventilateur que j’ai tout de suite allumé en rentrant. Je me sens très émue par cette journée. Un long skype avec Amy, mes adieux à mes grands-parents et ce soir une lettre d’une amie, H. qui m’attendait sur la petite table du salon. H. a joint à son courrier un poème que j’aimerais partager avec vous (je vous écris la traduction française). Le poème original est en allemand/ Mondnacht de Eichendorff. Traduction de Catherine Reault-Crosnier.

    C’était, comme si le ciel
    avait embrassé la terre,
    comme si dans la clarté des fleurs,
    elle ne pouvait rêver que de lui.

    L’air s’étendait sur les champs,
    les blés ondoyaient gracieusement,
    les forêts bruissaient doucement,
    la nuit était claire d’étoiles.

    Et mon âme étendait
    largement ses ailes,
    volait au-dessus des campagnes calmes,
    comme si elle revenait chez elle.

  13. Hugo 26 juin 2019 at 15 h 44 min - Reply

    10:26 PM. Victoria Park, Western Australia.

    A rainy night. Cold. But I’m lucky. Writing these words in a room I call my office. With a yellow wall. Think of others sleeping rough tonight in Perth. Sad. My son sleeps. My wife too. I hear the cars passing on the main road.

    This evening was a strange one. I got home. Happy to see my son and wife. Then rushed to see a client. And learned to say goodbye in Romanian with her. « Ta ». Listening is a great opportunity to stay in the moment. To be surprised, moved and inspired. Never know what someone will say and that’s wonderful.

    A friend ask me to go to his radio show. Today. So I left my client and braved through the wind and rain. He wanted to chat on air about wellness. About being well. About being. I shared my experience. And said that that was just my opinion. Nothing else. Not a supreme truth. And encouraged everyone to follow their path. Their own practice. Whatever this means.

    Now, reading this striking question: What are we doing to the planet? Immediately think of Trungpa Rimpoche words: “A great deal of the chaos in the world occurs because people don’t appreciate themselves.” Or our lineage Teacher Maezumi Roshi: « Appreciate your life »

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