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

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

Getting an earlier start on my post this morning, Day IV of our retreat, because of the shape my day is taking. I have a meeting at 10 a.m. far from home and I don’t want to be late – I don’t want to keep the others in my team waiting or cut precious time from our discussion. So now it’s fruit and tea for breakfast in front of my computer, writing this text for you.

Thanks again to everyone for your diligent practice and enthusiasm, for your presence here, with comments, or not, wherever you are. We’re all in this together. Keep going! Remember to stop for a minute at noon.

Today’s course, social action, grows naturally out of the courses of spirituality and livelihood, as Bernie notes: « Once we begin to take care of our own basic needs, we become more aware of the needs of the people around us. Recognizing the oneness of life, we naturally reach out to other people because we realize that we are not separate from them. »

(« Le plat de l’action sociale se développe tout naturellement à partir des deux premiers mets, la spiritualité et les moyens d’existence. Nous nous mettons à prendre à charge nos besoins élémentaires, et nous devenons plus sensibles aux besoins de notre entourage. Reconnaissant l’unité de la vie, nous allons tout naturellement vers les autres, car nous réalisons que nous ne sommes pas séparés d’eux. »)

In another post (Day II), I mentioned Dogen’s call to study the self. He then adds that to study the self is to forget the self. Forgetting the self means to become the whole universe, the one body. Bernie illustrates this with the example of the left hand and the right hand. If one hand receives money, the other doesn’t try to steal it. The two hands don’t compete, they don’t hurt or ignore each other. You and me are like those hands, different but part of the same one body.

I often tell a story about when I started teaching Zen, under the supervision of my teacher, Genno Roshi. At one point, I went to see her because I was having difficulty. It wasn’t easy, I told her, I was frustrated at times: people weren’t « getting it, » I told her. She calmly nodded, and then said, « Amy, you have to meet people where they are. » Of course she was right. I was seeing me and the other as separate, which means I wasn’t seeing the other at all; I wasn’t seeing that the separation between us was illusory. I wasn’t seeing that we are all interconnected, that we’re all one body.

On the previous days, you’ve begun to see this interconnection. Today, take a closer look at the other. Which means to take a closer look at you. And then tell us about both. Bonne journée!







By | 2018-11-15T08:51:50+01:00 novembre 15th, 2018|La pratique Zen, Retraites au coeur de la vie|14 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. Susanne 16 novembre 2018 at 20 h 42 min - Reply

    Heute haben wir die 500 Mandelhörnchen gebacken, wir 10 Frauen, in meiner Schule. Ich bin ziemlich kaputt und müde mit all dieser Organisiererei, auch wenn es mir Spaß macht. Ich war noch nie in meinem beruflichen Leben so sehr mit meiner Arbeit verwachsen wie in diesem Jahr. Es freut mich unendlich, endlich bin ich da, wo uch sein will, lebe all mein Potenzial und meine Lust. Heute war ich ein wenig an meinem Limit. Und als Sonja mich bat, für etwas Weiteres die Verantwortung zu übernehmen, war es mir zuviel und ich habe gesagt, wie belastet ich bereits bin, dass noch mehr auf mich zukommt und ob sie das eventuell tun könne. Sie sagte dann, sie habe auch noch ein großes Ding zu organisieren und ich konnte sie sehen und auch ihre Grenzen, weil ich zuvor mich gesehen habe. Ein guter kurzer Moment. Thank you Roshi for your text. And thanks to all of you. Susanne

  2. catherine 16 novembre 2018 at 19 h 01 min - Reply

    I once read, or heard, from another human being, is that what separates us from apes is empathy. An ape can point to a banana, or for another utilitarian purpose, but only humans will point to say, « Look at that beautiful landscape. » I’m not sure this is scientifically correct, but the image does strike a cord of empathy and interconnectedness with me. Even if there is also one-ness with the rest of nature as well…

  3. Filipa Mora 16 novembre 2018 at 18 h 04 min - Reply

    Filipa, Porto (Portugal)

    Yesterday was a good day and full day.
    Started early, so many beautiful colours around, the trees and the sky…and the clouds.
    Practice, study, writing.
    And I write for so long that it was impossible to post here, too much. Not the right amount, neither « the context ». Such a good practice. Remember to be humble. I felt ashamed for not being assertive and not keeping the eye on the ball. And it’s ok, also.


    « If we look into one cell of our body or one cell of our consciousness, we recognize the presente of all the generations of ancestors in us. Our ancestors are not only human beings. Before human beings appeared, we were other species. We have been trees, plants, grasses, minerals, a squirrel, a deer, a monkey, and one-celled animals. All these generations of ancestors are present in each cell of our body and mind.
    We are there’s continuation of this stream of life. If I hold a leaf in my hand, what do you see? » (Thich Nhat Hahn)

    Thank you all for this « interbeing ». *

  4. Joa 16 novembre 2018 at 10 h 15 min - Reply

    For once, I didn’t spend much time home on Thursday, thus didn’t manage to find the time to write down anything. Started the day at the Center, sitting. I’m glad I can sit with someone in the morning and share silence. I noticed how the noises outside, which have been very loud lately due to construction work in the street, are reducing in intensity as days pass. I noticed my preference for silence and quietness while sitting. Yet I can recognize that when it was very loud outside, I could also enjoy witnessing all the thoughts arising due the noise. And I would go back to my breathing, asking myself: what is this sound before it becomes a sound?

    Now, it’s Friday morning, and I have a long list of tasks to do. I take it one by one.

    I enjoyed my day yesterday. Meeting with people, developing new projects, listening to others’ projects. All of these projects had in commun that it was about sharing, whether it was music, food, meditation or something else. It seems that we have this urge to share others, to connect with others, to share who you are. And this sharing cultivates joy.

  5. Isabela 16 novembre 2018 at 2 h 10 min - Reply




    ginger tiger cat sleeping one eye opened,

    tree trunk shadow after the cyclonic tree trunk shadow
    asking for the first time if tomorrow afternoon i’ll be here
    seashell wax
    « yes ! »
    « good! »
    « you try to feel good ? »
    « no! i don’t know! »,
    « you are cold on your hands! »
    feeling it lukewarm,
    — It’s cold outside !
    — Have you been outside ?
    surprise explosion on the face
    — Let’s go?,

    putting beaujolais nouveau costume, another hat,
    — I’m ok — doesn’t looking like

    taking you by the hand to dance the dance I’ve danced till yesterday,
    not knowing knowing how to knit knitting for the baby of my sister i don’t have will have in japan,
    talking to you
    putting ourselves we hold the hand like weights on a balance
    remembering myself my dear teachers of acceptance and commitment therapy
    putting ourselves we hold the hand like weights on a balance
    remembering myself my dear teachers of acceptance and commitment therapy

    waking up and walking to print forgetting to wake up,

    tasting beaujolais nouveau sober
    eating with myself
    and families
    — I have to get closer to the psychologist!
    — Are you questioning me?
    — I notice you don’t eat like us!,

    i write myself i’m cured i wasn’t sick and i write myself fascists messages on whatsapp
    i write myself he’s cured
    i write you

    — I’m not ok — looking like,

    — Catharsis-tic
    — Is Brazilian?

    — Don’t lie to none is the rule! Sneeze!
    — Petechiae
    — Isn’t Brazilian (?)

    — I make myself to you a summary of how it works
    it’s an abstract
    not the work
    i’m here to hold my hand your hand
    next friday
    same hour,

    my polish male eyes smiling,

    i’m dazzled by the sun turning my back to it,
    — No excuses!
    — Short steps at walk therapy.

    — Water!
    what water give?,

    — No geometry!

    i’m ninety
    — Happy birthday!
    — Cold keeps young!

    i answer an old mail,

    a board
    like a cinema sign
    to write a peaceful sentence
    i search on the mobile not on me,
    — We are at their place.

    — There’s no cure!
    and no disease.,
    i smile with your mouth,

    « … so she spills it … »

    too late,

    my body?
    my body?
    my body?
    — Thank you for coming!


    i work at a supermarket after work,

    i’m a tiger cat with sore throat,

    can i please stop sending me fascists messages on whatsapp? thanks.,

    i sit,

    i write you

    i’m gray and ginger tiger cats fighting for fun

  6. Teresa 16 novembre 2018 at 1 h 55 min - Reply

    A day full of emotions. I’m glad I was aware.

  7. óscar faria 16 novembre 2018 at 1 h 49 min - Reply

    crossed the day with w.s. merwin’s* poems, conversations and translations, in this case the book « sun at midnight », by muso soseki.

    in a interview with david l. elliott, the american poet says: « Dogen, for example, refused to call Zen ‘Zen’. I mean he called Zen ‘Zen’, but he kept saying, «We must not even think of this as Buddhism. It is the awakened way that we are talking about. We’re talking about being awake». And I think this is really the link between that kind of experience and the poetry of Bashô or any real poetry that is not simply decorative. One is trying to project and articulate an insight about experience itself – about the experience of being. »

    (*w. s. merwin was poet laureate of the united states – 2010-2011 and has studied with the diamond sangha lineage of robert aitken, roshi)

    i decided to paint my nose in red

    Nadie puede abrir semillas
    En el corazón del sueño

    [No one can crack open the seeds
    In the heart of the dream]

  8. Alberto Pereira 16 novembre 2018 at 1 h 15 min - Reply

    Sentar nem pensar
    A mente não pára
    Não me está a deixar

    A « culpa » não é dela

    É do espaço e da boa-vai-ela …

    (Acabei de fazer 30 minutos de prática)

  9. Filipa 15 novembre 2018 at 23 h 53 min - Reply

    In Stuttgart.
    Don’t understand the “challenge” for today.
    Had a strange long day. Can’t do anything really right now. Tomorrow it will surely be different and hopefully better. I’ll do my best….

  10. Rui 15 novembre 2018 at 23 h 41 min - Reply

    Porto in “São Martinho Summer time “ mode (in Portugal we call this hot days of November in the religious/profane celebration of Saint Martinho as S.Martinho Summer).
    A sunny day with lots of good circunstances who gave a special flavour to this retreat of life. But the best was reserved for last:at home when i was making the Christmas tree with my son he told me he wanted to talk to Santa Claus to ask him for a small boat for Christmas.
    Well…I just phoned a friend of mine, told him what happened and asked him if he could phone to my son(who has 4 years old)pretending he was Santa:) Some minutes after my son was talking with Santa…Well, you can imagine the conversation and the look in his eyes (the only thing in him that moved in his body:)
    Well…Self,myself, yourself, everyone and no one…All those are in the smile of a child…

    Have all a good siting and night

  11. Beginners Mind 15 novembre 2018 at 23 h 20 min - Reply

    I hasn’t been easy to sit with the long +12 hours at work, and after also family requiring attention… but that doesn’t matter, social action is everywhere, in every interaction, when I take notice of my actions, the effects on others, and I practice compassion.
    Yes, it’s not all milk and honey, I get frustrated, angry, impatient, but the practice gave me the tools to be aware and not hold. They’ve taught me in school « Think global, Act local » but here and now is not with mind but with heart.

  12. Tiago 15 novembre 2018 at 22 h 22 min - Reply

    London. Chaos. Taxman. Friendship. Brexit. Trip… quadruple chaos! Fear. Ignorance. Uncertainty. Fear. Anger. Shouting.

    …and breathe. Slowly letting go.

    I have been sitting consistently every evening now, which didn’t use to happen. Sitting for a long while after such a day I look back at the other/s I encountered. I actually feel compassion — yes compassion — for Theresa May. We don’t often agree on much. But forgetting about the self, letting go of our differences, seeing « with eyes unclouded », one has to admire the Woman. She must have known her Deal was going to be rejected on first reading it to the other MPs. Yet, she went and spoke and answered. That’s either bravery or lunacy. Either way, I can’t even imagine the weight she carries on her shoulders.

    There are ignorance and uncertainty still. But I feel lighter in the heart.

    It’s been a pleasure to sit with you all these days.

  13. Ivone 15 novembre 2018 at 20 h 47 min - Reply

    Connecting. So easy, so difficult… Sometimes, everything seems very simple: we see the other, we think we understand him/her, we feel the empathy and it feels so simple and so good! but suddenly, when emotions take control (difficult emotions) perspective is gone. Everything changes, colours get darker, sounds turn rough, all perception changes and it’s really difficult to return to this peaceful, sunny place, we all have, deep in our heart. It’s being a difficult Outumn, but being more attentive and feeling the connection with you all, thinking we are all looking for the same thing (looking for ourselves within us and in each other) brings me a strong refreshing assurance that life is a beautiful experience of the wholeness and suddenly, everything fits in. Everything is in its place and I (we all) can breath and rest. Thank you all for these unique moments

  14. Cricha 15 novembre 2018 at 10 h 16 min - Reply

    Cricha from Lisbon. I’ve been sitting morning, afternoon night, . I’ve been in touch, reading your posts, practicing, connecting. Thank you. Me in other, other in me, i’m the other, the other is me: early steps. Oneness: always felt it, not sure how to live it, don’t really know how to keep connected. Characteristics in now: doubt, emotional, humor, running away/ returning, taking care of my daughters/ wanting the father to take the responsibility with me (sometimes in the way that i would do it!). Livelihood: work: enough for now, less than a part time (health and safety coordinator in construction), I like it, haves the problem that i have to move away, to where the constructions are (from family, being present, take responsibility) and i can’t. So i only accept work in Lisbon District, in a short future, it will be not enough for my expenses. Sometimes miss being at work, relating with other people. The other: it does feel that he wants the same as me, how can i take it in, in balance? For now, i’ll keep sitting, practicing, connecting. Perhaps it will bring me clarity, perhaps it will bring me love, openness to receive and giving kind of compassionate love, it seems…

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