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

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

This is the first day of our retreat, the morning of the last Monday in October. Here in Montreuil, I’m having some tea with the cat before heading into the activities of the day — sitting, Skype appointments, paperwork, Portuguese lesson (sim, é verdade!), more sitting. After the time change here in Europe, sun is up earlier than I had expected.

And I’m starting the week with just one stroke. That one stroke says it all, it’s the full expression of one singular moment. Nothing else is necessary. Then I wonder: What else is an expression of one singular moment? I look around. Then I feel that a better question might be: What is NOT an expression of one singular moment? What does it mean to be the « expression of one singular moment »?

When a student asked the great Zen master Joshu what was the meaning of his teaching, Joshu replied: The oak tree in the garden. When Stephen Dedalus (in Joyce’s Ulysses) is asked what God is by the headmaster of the school where he teaches, he indicates the boys playing loudly outside and replies: A shout in the street. And then of course Bodhidharma famously replied to the emperor questioning him about the essential teaching of Buddhism: Vast emptiness, nothing sacred. Which is another way of saying: Infinite diversity, everything sacred.

Have a look around today and ask yourself again and again: What is « sacred »? What is not « sacred »? Then tell us all about it.

By | 2017-10-29T15:55:29+01:00 octobre 30th, 2017|Retraites au coeur de la vie, Textes|35 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. Joël H. 31 octobre 2017 at 15 h 21 min - Reply

    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

  2. Juan 31 octobre 2017 at 11 h 39 min - Reply

    Braga, 5:30 am, woke-up, So soon! Daytime savings. I’m not sleepy: « Thank You Life for giving me more time to seat. » Fuzzy, many thoughts, calmness, there’s place for all even the Koan 🙂 6:20 Refreshed, I stood-up, switched off the alarm clock not to wake everybody. Oh the sun is so high, the day is so bright. Engaged my normal work day, At the end of the day, time to chat with a friend, to be very present in the moment, feeling good. Back to home, some Family time, everybody is absorved in their routines. Sacred? Life 😉

  3. Adriano 31 octobre 2017 at 11 h 00 min - Reply

    Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal
    Monday had a different start. I went to work later than usual, Not used to get traffic along way to work or even anywhere. But today was different. spend an hour in traffic. eyes on the road, sometimes the landscape, the cars the drivers, people sneaking from a lane to another speeding up just to stop a few meters ahead.

  4. Susanne 31 octobre 2017 at 9 h 33 min - Reply

    Hello from Hamburg, sitting again after so many months 🙂 ! So wonderful to know you all sitting, being in your lives and me being here in my life, here with my dog waiting to being walked, my best school friend sitting with me at the kitchen table having tea. We are having an extra holiday in Germany today because of Martin Luther, so could make it for the Paris morning time.
    How wonderful it was yesterday to prepair the cussions, zabuton, candle, water, incense, gong – thanks for this practise!

  5. Lenna 31 octobre 2017 at 6 h 32 min - Reply

    Morning from Estoril/Portugal,

    What a blessing to be part of this group, Having a late or early start on the retreat yet, here it goes…

    … Sacred is the soul of leaves in me, the soul that sings through my children’s smiles, the joy that I find in their eyes, the leaves that fall from the trees, the delicate flight of butterfly, the sun that everymorning insists to rise, the wind that blows on my face, the voice of a perfect stranger, the chance to restart again, the will that we feel to live

  6. Eduardo 31 octobre 2017 at 1 h 56 min - Reply

    Is there a way to post a Dussaud picture ? Thanks for the tip

  7. Eduardo 31 octobre 2017 at 1 h 49 min - Reply

    23.23 almost finished this sunny and droughty day in northeast Portugal. In the afternoon, I listened to a conference on the French photographer George Dussaud and his work on Trás-os-Montes (Behind the Mountains) region. His black and white pictures with their chiaroscuro contrasts required a silent cortesia that unfortenately was not shared by a great number of the members of the audience. Restless students had difficulties in quieting their minds to listen to the words of the speaker and to see the images of the photographer. The pictures of the rural Portugal of the 80s taken by Dussaud are light years away from the globalized world-images of our times. I wondered if the audience was able to apprehend the sacred quality of those photos. Is the world being dessacralized, is sitting meditation enough to ressacralize vast areas of mindset indiference and generalized numbness ?
    Thank you everyone, wherever you are, for helping me to try to give a Molly Bloom yes to the latter question.

  8. Alberto Pereira 31 octobre 2017 at 1 h 49 min - Reply

    Gosto da vida
    Quero viver
    Sinto tristeza
    Por o não saber fazer

    Porto – Portugal

  9. Nuno 31 octobre 2017 at 0 h 25 min - Reply

    Monday is my day off. Nevertheless, I had a meeting. Mindlessly, I forgot about the retreat. Then I remembered. Then I forgot it again. Like counting breaths. Ping pong. My mind conspires. To help some people I will hurt others. I am rarely here. Time flies. The sun sets. The twilight looks amazing. I take out my dusty zabuton. I sit. The curtains look like a concrete wavy wall looking at me. I, too, am the concrete wall looking at me/itself. Am I? My mind wonders, on fire. Each time I come back it all seems a insubstantial dream. Are memories dream-like too? If I stopped dreaming would I remember it? If I stopped remembering what would be real? Can anything be without being on a dream? Isn’t the entire reality an unstoppable dream unfolding? Who was the first dreamer? What was it’s first dream? How did he know it was dream? Compared to what? … Catch-22 … 42 …

  10. Delphine 31 octobre 2017 at 0 h 08 min - Reply

    Bonsoir Roshi Amy
    I live in Paris, for the first time participating to a WildFlower
    retreat, or at least trying to…
    See you on tuesday evening

  11. Madalena - Esposende 30 octobre 2017 at 23 h 51 min - Reply

    Very pleased and honored for being part of this retreat, It took me a while to find a « meaning » (if there is one) for sacred.. Then I thought that every expression/creation from the Divine is sacred..

    When I was a little girl, I was told that sacred was everything that « concerned » God (the Divine).. But isn’t HE everywhere?? I look forward for that day, I may see HIS reflection, in every single piece of the Universe…

  12. Helena 30 octobre 2017 at 23 h 39 min - Reply

    Viseu, Portugal

    Ao ler o texto de manha, olhei para o céu azul e senti o calor que fazia lá fora pensei que o que é sagrado são as nuvens que teimam em aparecer, a chuva que não cai. Será que o que não está presente pode ser sagrado ou só o que presenciamos?
    Um rezo pela chuva.
    Abraço a todos

  13. Ben 30 octobre 2017 at 22 h 36 min - Reply

    Something was a little different about today. I did actually stop a bit more, be a bit more present and aware than usual, and Joanne and I took the luxury of meditating for longer than we normally do. So thanks. Just knowing that there are other people on this earth practicing as well gives me yet another boot up the bottom. It’s a good boot, though. Thank you boot. A nice soft boot, it didn’t hurt. Should I rewrite the drivel that I’ve just come up with?
    It’s a beautiful but cold, sunny day in Southampton. My head felt too full for most of the day, but now it’s less full. I’m not going to think about what is sacred or not; it’ll only fill it up again.

  14. Sophie 30 octobre 2017 at 22 h 19 min - Reply

    « Sacred Sacré, not sacred pas sacré », tout d’abord j’ai été saisie par cette proposition dès ce matin… et tout au long de la journée, seul « sacré » était présent, peut-être comme si « pas sacré » n’existait pas? Il me semble que chaque instant est sacré, chaque goutte de vie est sacrée, intrinsèquement. Je l’ai senti en filigrane, en diffus, toute cette journée à découvrir des merveilles dans le Gers grâce à des amis…cependant peut-être le sacré peut-il se vivre de manière plus concentrée, plus précise, plus habitée. Hier soir la mère de mon ami chez qui je suis reçue, 91 ans, vive et valide, conduisant encore sa voiturette, me dit que depuis toujours elle met deux tabliers sur elle, en plus de sa jupe, même si elle n’en a pas besoin, et en y repensant aujourd’hui: sacré…

  15. Joanne 30 octobre 2017 at 22 h 16 min - Reply

    Hello! At the end of the day, after sitting, after rejoining my two teenagers who enjoy a great deal of tv at the moment, I look again at the messages here. Right in the middle of caring for my two fabulous disabled children, right in the middle of continuing to watch the promised couple of series on Netflix for Halloween with them, right in the middle of caring for my own spinal and rib hypermobility, right in the middle of everything crazy and busy and fast … the sacred slow motion of gratitude.

  16. Frédéric WEMBANDJU 30 octobre 2017 at 21 h 42 min - Reply

    Hello dear sangha !
    Sitting in the heart of life…
    Seated this morning I found some peace.
    Then the rest of the day my projections of what I want come back
    again my heart is pounding, my head full of everything like and dislike
    love and doubt and when I realize it sometimes I laugh…
    Love you all

  17. Filipa Pico 30 octobre 2017 at 21 h 32 min - Reply

    The first day is always sooooooo hard… I’ve realized both flowers and water are sacred to me. Or maybe I mean nature in general. I’ve met someone today, who might represent also something sacred: the life that I am choosing for me. Haven’t had the motivation to look for the not sacred today, but tomorrow, the not sacred might come to me.

  18. Tomas 30 octobre 2017 at 21 h 01 min - Reply

    Lovely setting this Heart of Life retreat. Every time I was able to remember I was on retreat, everything slowed down, became so lively, cooking lunch at home in Vesancy, going out on errands in Gex, passing by the office in Geneva (and although inside the office old habits kicked in fast and made me forget again the retreat, there was a background of easiness), going home. At home before dinner played with our 19-month old son – sacred moments of just being here – with the retreat and the sacred/non-sacred question enlivening (and « enloveling ») each moment 🙂
    My wife and I just finished sitting now. Sacred day today, every moment of it 🙂

  19. Carole 30 octobre 2017 at 20 h 04 min - Reply

    In London, I started the day sitting after packing my son off to school, husband to work. I took the day working from home today, greeting each of the 254 emails in my inbox as a perfect expression of the moment. Preparing lunch, playing with my dog, negotiating with the men installing the floor in the house–all of it felt unhurried and complete today. I looked everyone in the eye today: the lady at the pharmacy, the man in the grocery store–I took time to smile at everyone. Every day is a good day, lived like this. I’m finding it easier to be in the retreat frame of mind, having finished a sesshin yesterday. Thank you for this opportunity and it’s lovely to connect and be supported by you all. Now a quick sitting before supper. Will be joining those of you who are sitting on Paris time now.

  20. Joa 30 octobre 2017 at 19 h 53 min - Reply

    Noisy-sur-Ecole, 7:30 PM

    Hello everyone,

    It’s so nice to see all of your names from various places around the world. It’s so inspiring to be connected to a community of practitioners, whatever your practice is!

    I’m writing from our house in the middle of the forest, peaceful and joyful. Logs are burning in the fireplace. It’s warm and cosy.

    I started the day very early, with my writing routine, still filled with the energy from the meditation and writing retreat I’ve just finished with Roshi. Later on, I had to focus on my professional work for couple of hours, sitting at my desk facing the trees. Then I went for an hour-long run in the forest by myself. Didn’t meet anyone. All the colours of the trees and the plants were absolutely gorgeous. I love autumn – and I love all the other seasons for all its specificities. Then my wife and I drove an hour South to have lunch with friends in the house they are renovating. Wonderful time with them. And back to our house and my work.

    I’ve appreciated every moment of this day, taking each one as it came, plunging completely into it. Seamlessly. Blissfully.

  21. óscar faria 30 octobre 2017 at 19 h 39 min - Reply

    all day working in a presentation related with my phd about the portuguese painter and writer álvaro lapa (1939-2006).
    he loved james joyce. and he wrote through the finnegans wake. he was also a close friend and we loved to talk aboud zen, surrealism,hanshan, milarepa, the pure land…
    in 1989,lapa made a exhibition with william burroughs, in lisbon. he wrote a poem, « telegram », to him. the last verse is:


    writing from porto, with seagulls and coffee and books around me.

    p.s.: mulligan, from ulysses, says: « The sacred pint alone can unbind the tongue of Dedalus. » this is perhaps the key to solve the labyrinth. or not, we never know.

  22. Lene Keersmaekers 30 octobre 2017 at 19 h 37 min - Reply

    Gent, Belgium. It was nice to be on retreat in my own life today! So good to remember…because I always forget…
    I spend my days the last 9 months taking care of our little daughter. And today I realize even more she is so so so sacred. When she smiles with her 2 small teeth, when she drinks from the breast and when she just shits (I feel so proud to see how she just shits when she needs to shit ☺). And my taking care of her is so sacred.
    And it is also so simple, so natural.
    The more I ask myself what is sacred, the more I feel simple things are sacred.
    It’s like simple is sacred and sacred is simple.
    But what is then not sacred? Aha! Interesting, this simple (sacred) question!

  23. Joël H. 30 octobre 2017 at 18 h 20 min - Reply

    Vailhauquès, closed to Montpellier, south of France, in the office of my house.
    Finally I found the good place to write in Coeur de la vie and not in Back home as i did this morning…
    A few words because we are going to the cinema with my wife to see « Au revoir là haut ». I want to sit before, in order to stabilize my mind, quite agitated today.
    Happy to feel you here and there, before, now and later this week.

  24. Majed 30 octobre 2017 at 17 h 59 min - Reply

    17:50 in Charleville-Mézières in the french Ardennes. Waiting for my client to come. I have some time for me before he arrives. I feel tired and my body wanting some rest. I sit and take some breathing space releasing all the weight of my body on the couch wile being attentive to the sensations in my body, the need to let go my body plunge in the couch without resisting it. I’m aware of my breath in my body. Some minutes later I feel the freshness and the energy circulating in my body, where is the fatigue ? It’s no longer there. I go on my computer and check the zenscribe blog, what is sacred ? Every breath is sacred, every cell in our body is sacred, everybody is sacred, my client is sacred, and the session we will ne doing is sacred,… But if everything is sacred, everything is equal so at the same time everything is non sacred,… Everything just IS.

    • Majed 30 octobre 2017 at 18 h 00 min - Reply

      I didn’t read my post after writing… I let it BE as it is…

  25. Adrien 30 octobre 2017 at 15 h 07 min - Reply

    Vieussan, southern France
    The sound of the river in the rocks, or is it the other way around?
    the swimming pool water pump, the sun soon behind the mountain
    the wind in the bamboo, through my jumper
    the birds chirping, the cloudless sky
    I still haven’t finished my presentation on healing and altered states of consciousness
    and here I am, alive in the wind

  26. Tania 30 octobre 2017 at 14 h 50 min - Reply

    Hello from London .
    An early morning sitting this morning before waking my son for school. Welcome to your life.
    Preparing breakfast with our cat Prince looking for the mouse that he bought home in the middle of the night. Welcome to your life.
    Walking to work over the glistening ricer Thames, passing fellow participants with a nod and a smile. Heart of life.
    Meetings, seeing clients, eating lunch of rice and salad, reading zenscribe. E
    Deleting my post with a press of a button and rewriting it.
    Each one full expression in a singular moment.

  27. Daniel Langmans 30 octobre 2017 at 14 h 09 min - Reply

    I ask myself, what does it mean ‘sacred’? What does it mean, when all is sacred? Does it oppose not-sacred? To me not.
    And I think of yesterday, driving back from a friend, my wife in the car reading the first mail of Amy Roshi out loud and my daughter of 9 months in the back of the car, sleeping. I wondered then, what does it mean that everything is practice? It made those moments in the car more intense, more intimate, more alive.
    I love these questions!

  28. Hugo 30 octobre 2017 at 12 h 22 min - Reply

    7:17 pm. Perth, Western Australia. Night is here. Quiet. We had dinner already. Inside, in another room, mum is putting the little one to sleep. My belly is full. Black beans. And brown rice. I love simple meals. Sometimes. And watermelons. So juicy. Like this one on top of the bench. What’s sacred? I look to the fridge and there is quote there: « We all stand on sacred ground. » I put my feet down, touching the wooden floor. And feel connected. Feel that I am. All grounds.

  29. Perfect Way 30 octobre 2017 at 11 h 20 min - Reply

    London. First frost after the summer and suddenly I need an extra layer of clothes and warmer socks. Morning light came earlier than I expected, also. Lists of things to do start piling up on my mind–important project must be finished today, delivery tomorrow, meeting client at some point in the week, emails after emails, bureaucracy, bills, lover next door. The day is unfolding in front of me at each moment. Not holding to each moment is the key.
    I read Bodhidharma’s reply to the emperor as « vast emptiness, nothing holy » which then reminded me of A. Ginsberg’s poem: « Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! (…) The world is holy! The soul is holy! The skin is holy! The nose is holy! The tongue and cock and hand and asshole holy! / Everything is holy! everybody’s holy! everywhere is holy! Everyday is an eternity! Everyman’s an angel!(…) »

  30. Mateus4455 . 30 octobre 2017 at 11 h 04 min - Reply

    Hi there. It’s actually the first « sunny but chilly » morning of the sesason probably here in Lisbon after a less happy period in Portugal with wildfires and drouts filling the newspapers. So its good and fresh here to sart the week. Wishing everyone a good day to kick off their own retreat.

  31. Guillaume 30 octobre 2017 at 10 h 30 min - Reply

    First day of the retreat. I sat at home this morning, then had breakfast, a fresh and sunny bicycle ride, and am now sitting at my desk at work. What is sacred? What isn’t? The subtle humming of the traffic through the closed window. The keystrokes of a colleague working in front of me. Another one passing through the open space and saying hello. Problems for this one who is getting laid off. And a lot of suffering, not only because he is loosing his job but because of his denial of the whole situation, of the part he plaid in the long process that led to where he is, where we are, now. His disbeleif is both heart braking and revolting.
    A breakfast, a bike ride, the sun, colleagues, denial, all typing this comment for the first day of heart of life retreat.

    • Guillaume 30 octobre 2017 at 10 h 33 min - Reply

      (I forgot to mention that I am in Paris)

  32. Tomas 30 octobre 2017 at 10 h 24 min - Reply

    Got up this morning, a beautiful sunny morning in Vesancy, a little French village at the foot of the Jura mountains, near the border with Switzerland. Remember the retreat and sitting, checked if there were already some posts online and went out of the room, already hearing the sounds of baby play, planning to sit « after » meeting my wife & son. My wife tells me let’s sit together. Yes, of course….I realized I was starting MY retreat, not OUR/EVERYONE retreat….was not including them, was not including everything in my little plan in my head to go sitting « alone ». It was a great sitting together, holding hand, baby playing, sunshine nature, INCLUDING EVERYTHING 🙂 First lesson of the day for me!

  33. Lara 30 octobre 2017 at 8 h 52 min - Reply

    First day of the retreat. it’s 7:00 and I am having my breakfast in a coffee shop in London. The streets are still empty and it’s quiet outside. In half an hour it will be busy with cars and people moving on with their lives.

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