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

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

So now I’m having to write this entry and post it Wednesday night, before going to bed, because I have to set off early Thursday morning for my work at the refugee center.

Which means I can reflect on the day that is now ending, hazy moon high in the sky: quiet holiday in France, only two of us sitting in the zendo tonight. Not sure what is Halloween, what is All Saints Day and what is the Day of the Dead. But it doesn’t matter really. I spent the day at work on a translation, with a few Skype meetings in between, and coming and going in my mind Bodhidharma’s radical statement about Zen: « A special transmission outside the scriptures/Not based on words or letters/Directly pointing to the heartmind. » This speaks to me and has always spoken to me, corresponding to my own experience.

I’m reminded of it often when I go into my garden, where, at the back, is planted the pine tree that I received 13 years ago during my official transmission ceremony at Vajradhara Ling in Vimoutiers. All during that week, the tree sat on the altar in its little pot as I bowed and bowed and bowed. It was not even a meter high when I brought it home and planted it in our garden. For quite some time, several years, the little tree seemed to struggle and we weren’t sure that it would make it. And then at some point, I don’t know when, it began to grow stronger and taller. Now, as can be seen in the photo, it is taller than the neighboring buildings.

This tree keeps reminding of impermanence, of the basic teaching that nothing is static, everything is always transforming. Whatever arises — tall tree, short tree, no tree — I just need to see it and welcome it as it is. That’s the special transmission outside the scriptures.

Look around today: Impermanence? Special transmission? Life just as it is?

And keep sitting, keep coming back, keep reading and writing here, in the heart of your life.

By | 2017-11-02T00:38:27+01:00 novembre 2nd, 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. sarah 3 novembre 2017 at 21 h 05 min - Reply

    impermanence, who’s checking in on it?
    presence – on reflection – can i be lost in presence – can I be so present that I AM not there, or am i actually infact just basically not here. whatever, being absolutely engaged and present with a person, each person is WONDERFUL.

  2. Theo 3 novembre 2017 at 7 h 33 min - Reply

    It is fridaymorning,I was too tired yesterdayevening to write a comment,went to bed early right after sitting.
    So I woke up early this morning,Iam excited because I will see my girlfreind today after two weeks again.
    The only thing that is permanent in life is the impermanence of it.But to go really with the flow of the heart of life we must trust it and let go our patterns who we developed out of fear and try to controle life.
    That is why Iam practicing and every time I sit I give some water to this seed of trust so it can grow.
    The sun is coming up, I look out my window and enjoy my beautiful view,it seemes like that it will be a very promising day.

  3. Eduardo 3 novembre 2017 at 3 h 00 min - Reply

    A rainy day here in Vila Real, Trás-os-Montes, Portugal. After a long and severe Summer / Autumn drought, drops of water finally begun to fall down this morning for the felicity of many, including myself. Due to weather conditions, the sun, as a symbol of happiness and prosperity, was replaced by the rain. Not even symbols are permanent. But we tend to believe they are, maybe as an unconscious way to perpetuate our hopes in our personal, collective immortality. In the hindu epic Mahabharata there is a famous passage in which the character Yudhistirhe is put to the test by a lake – a manifestation / avatar of the Dharma. He has to answer rightly to a set of questions upon which depend his own and his brother’s lives. To the last one, “What is the greatest wonder?”, his response is: “Every day death strikes all around us, and we live as if we were imortal”. He is saved together with his family because he is able to see through the mechanism of self and collective illusion. Are we willing to fully acknowledge the impermanence not only outside but also inside the square of life?

  4. Nuno 3 novembre 2017 at 0 h 36 min - Reply

    I woke up one hours before time. That always annoys me. Too late to get back to sleep. I read todays’ post. Sounded nice. I go to work on my Vespa. It was raining a bit. I liked it. I entered the office. The post went into oblivion. Couldn’t manage all the things I had in hands. All seemed to be not working. Went for lunch far away. Entered a bookstore to buy a book. Bought five. I am certain I won’t read none of them. After lunch things were even worse. I left. I flashed back through some of my defeats and my vitories since childhood. It all turned out okay. No, it was not a day to forget. I will probably remember it more. I can only taste victory if we know what defeat is. And once I win I smile when looking at those defeats. And if I feel defeated now, I know I will win at something, sometime, someday. Almost 50 years taking care of this tree. It has some scars, some missing branches, but other unexpected branches too. That’s what makes it unique in its form, and like all others in it’s essence. If all things were alike, would I be able to count them? I would be comparing them with what? All things alike would mean one thing only. One thing only, would mean nothing at all. That would mean none of us. It’s much more fun the way things are. Even if tomorrow I think otherwise, I will think like this once again. And if tomorrow goes exactly like expected… it’ll be like if it never existed.

  5. Juan 2 novembre 2017 at 23 h 44 min - Reply

    Yesterday I was so present, today I’m blasé.

  6. Tomas 2 novembre 2017 at 23 h 44 min - Reply

    Just finished sitting, after a looong day and a busy evening packing for tomorrow morning’s train ride to Paris to join the sitting/reflection day of practice this Saturday. All 3 of us going to Paris, a city where my wife and lived. As one, as two, and now visiting as three 🙂 Life changing, growing up, changing, growing old…. lively life just as it is, all so sweet 🙂
    Recalling s conversation some years ago with Amy in Paris during a poetry reading by Norman Fisher in some cave-bar in Paris: « Everything is the transmission, the transmission is everywhere »

  7. Helena 2 novembre 2017 at 23 h 34 min - Reply

    Viseu Portugal

    Impermanence is waking up in the morning and then suddenly is dinner time. Where did time go to? When I was a child a day had 24h, 15/16h to normal daily routines and 8/9h to sleep.
    Now, feeling is the day has 8h and I rush everywhere for normal routine tasks and still need to find time to sleep and enjoy life…
    Going to get the cats in and going to sleep. And then 5 minutes again morning again!!!!

  8. Perfect Way 2 novembre 2017 at 22 h 48 min - Reply

    My other half washes the dishes as I write these words. Since the clocks went back an hour here in London, days are shorter and darkness feels our flat earlier also. In a very concrete way I see impermanence in every thing I do at work–I am surrounded by broken porcelain and glass that once was a whole vase which is now in pieces. And before being an expression of one’s sequence of moments, it was mud, sand an soil and water, transformed by fire and wind. Transmission occurs when I see this interconnectedness, perhaps. Holy vase! Holy tools! Holy day-after-day! Holy feeling very unproductive today! Yay!

  9. Daniel 2 novembre 2017 at 21 h 57 min - Reply

    Gent, België

    In being with ‘impermanence’ today, it was as if all that I subconsciently cherish as ‘permanent’ or that I hold on to in a sometimes harsh way, came floating to the surface.
    My tendancy to look away, a sense of feeling down in live… examples of aspect of myself that I tend to identify with. It is as if in being with impermance these aspect (or my identification with them) melt in a bath of warmth and liquid being.

    A special transmission occured today, in the loving and caring of our little daughter who is sick. Directly pointing to our intimate connection. I was stumbling over several tendancies and fears in myself, I was taken by neurotic thoughts and projections… and our love was not hindered by all these.

  10. Telma 2 novembre 2017 at 21 h 45 min - Reply

    Eckhart Tolle no seu « A new earth » reproduz o conto de um rei que, farto de si próprio e da vida que se divide permanentemente entre felicidade e desânimo, pede a um sábio a solução. Dispõe-se a pagar a maior fortuna. O sábio assume a possibilidade de ajudar o desolado rei alertando para o preço demasiado elevado.
    Quando regressa à presença do rei, o sábio apresenta-lhe uma caixa orçamentada e esculpida em jade. No interior um anel com a inscrição « Também isto passará ». Antes de qualquer classificação feita pelo rei ele deve tocar o anel e lembrar-se da inscrição.
    A impermanencia ao ser reconhecida conduz ao não apego, que associado à não resistência e ao não julgamento constituem a tríade de uma vida verdadeiramente livre e iluminada.

    No dia 1 de Julho passei a usar um simples anel com a inscrição « também isto passará ». Um lembrete.
    Hoje, praticamente não o toquei… Hoje estive muito longe de ser livre quanto mais iluminada. … E no entanto sei que o momento que vivo já deixou de ser este que agora vivo. Nem assim, sabendo que tudo é impermanente, consegui gerir emoções, controlar expressões, aceitar a violência gratuita, os exercícios de poder, as vastas distâncias entre vidas próximas à minha.

    Antes do dia amanhecer acordei com um sonho repetente, tento falar, grito e ninguém ouve. Premonitório ou não hoje engoli o grito que já tantas vezes tentou escapar. Terei de repetir uma e outra vez. Voltar uma e outra vez. Calar uma e outra vez, na esperança de um dia me libertar do anel e ser o anel.

  11. Carole 2 novembre 2017 at 19 h 23 min - Reply

    Hello all, I don’t have much inspiration to share, but I’ve been with impermanence today. It’s been a very busy day–meetings at work with some inspiring authors (I’m a publisher), lunch with someone on my team who I am mentoring and developing, a celebration for an author here at the office on publication day, prosecco, a toast, books signed–the thing that was an idea now a beautiful new book, also impermanent. Home to my family–my fifteen-year-old son growing like the tall tree in Amy’s garden. Hard to imagine he’d be bigger than me, but he is. Full life. Thank you. I will sit with you in the morning. Tonight is family time.

    Love, Carole

  12. Lara 2 novembre 2017 at 17 h 27 min - Reply

    Hello, from Aberdeen. Chilling morning to walk. The streets are so empty it does not look like a weekday. It was good. I could hear my own footsteps and hear the silence.

  13. Joanne 2 novembre 2017 at 16 h 43 min - Reply

    I went to the theatre last night. The seats were sunken down low and I couldn’t manage to sit on them because of collapsing ribs. The seats and I collapse together. No other seating arrangements could be made because of health and safety issues. The seats are over 50 years old, I was told. I am over 50 years old. I was given my money back for the show … Echoes of returning shopping … A friend returns some birthday presents because she doesn’t have a use for them. We have grown apart. I feel she is really returning our friendship. Everything going back to its source. The chosen returns include a copy of The Hidden Lamp that originally she specifically asked for. The impermanence of relationships comes to mind. A sense of things spiralling around, shifting, changing. A tree surgeon had to cut our magnolia in half for it to continue in good health and a manageable size for our tenancy agreement . Its bare skeletal branches stretch out powerfully, in a cloak of earthy browns.

  14. Filipa Pico 2 novembre 2017 at 15 h 37 min - Reply

    Lisbon, Portugal. It feels good to be here. I feel somehow connected to you all. I’ve sat yesterday evening and this morning, I feel as a consequence of being in retreat, with you. On my morning walk, at the park, with the huge trees I felt the urge to touch one of them (as sometimes happens) a huge, huge beautiful Eucalyptus, and even took a picture, of these small round holes it had. Like perfect imperfections. My fingers fit there and it was like me and the tree were together. The square and the familiarity with my life keep coming to my mind. Don’t know what it means, but is sure is good to be here with all of you. I really appreciate it.

  15. Hugo 2 novembre 2017 at 14 h 13 min - Reply

    What to write? What to say? We’re making a cake now. To take it to our friends. For the weekend. Chocolate maybe. Or something else. Flour. Sugar. Cocoa. Oil. All separated. Then together. Mixing! Mixing! Like my son says. He’s asleep. I just had a coffee. With some soy milk. I didn’t used to drink coffee. Or coffee with milk. Now I do. And I love it. At the same time my legs are itchy. Too many mosquito bites. From yesterday evening at the city farm. Before posting this comment I read it to my wife. She laughs. And says I have to write some final words to connect all of this. I just fart.

  16. Adriano 2 novembre 2017 at 13 h 47 min - Reply

    Impermanence. By wildfires, around 100 people died these last months in Portugal. The last event in october took around 40 victims. The drought, the hot air and wind helped set the country on fire, alongside with other facilitators. Then the next day rain came. But at that time almost all fires were already extinguished. a bitter flavor… a reminder, that nothing is under control.

    Today its raining. a storm is expected. nothing serious, but then again, what to expect?

  17. M a j e d 2 novembre 2017 at 12 h 06 min - Reply

    Charleville-Mézières, Ardennes, France. Le soleil joue à cache-cache dans le ciel avec les nuages. Deux pies picorent dans la gouttière à la recherche de graines. Un moineau posé sur une branche du rosier toujours en fleurs même à cette période de l’année. A l’intérieur brouillard mental épais empêchant toute visibilité.
    Il y en a des séances de pratique comme celle-ci où je rase le bitume, léthargique, dans le brouillard dense de mon mental qui se pose comme un casque en fer autour de ma tête et dont je ressens la douleur et la lourdeur. Apathique sans énergie ni courage pour aller au delà-de ce voile qui me sépare de mon propre souffle, de mon souffle de vie. J’observe la déception, l’agacement en moi, je gâche non seulement le temps de la pratique assisse mais je gâche tous ces instants précieux qui passent sans être vécus. Soudain une partie de moi crie à l’intérieur avec une forte charge d’énergie et d’une manière silencieuse : « j’ai besoin de nouveauté, j’ai besoin d’impermanence » besoin de sortir de ce casque du mental qui emprisonne et qui empoisonne la vie et la vitalité petit à petit. Quelques respirations sont prises avec présence : Comment transmettre par écrit le silence ? comment transmettre le fait d’être juste assis ? comment transmettre par un écrit permanent l’impertinence ?

    • M a j e d 2 novembre 2017 at 12 h 11 min - Reply

      Le correcteur automatique n’aime pas l’impermanence, il la transforme en impertinence 😀

  18. Tania 2 novembre 2017 at 11 h 42 min - Reply

    It is a real practise in itself for me to write here on this blog!
    Pondering on what to put down…’just do it’ as Nike tells me.
    Last night I went out for a leaving’do’ , something I would generally avoid. I chose to go and had some open and lively discussions about yoga, breath work, Japan ,all sorts. I did not feel stuck in habitual patterns . Always transforming.
    I read this morning ‘ if you plant a seed and give it the right amount of nutrients , water and sunshine it will grow strong , but if you don’t it won’t. Still the Dharma doesn’t depend on rise and decline , sprouting or withering.’
    Which made me think of the planted pine tree 13 years ago.
    When I went to sit this morning I used my insight timer app. Settled myself on a chair looking out onto my garden, which I have been tending to over a couple of years and especially one tree which came to me as a stick , a magnolia tree. I look at it now and it has leaves on its stick, no blossoms as yet and I still tend to it.
    When the gong went on my timer I realised I’d been waiting to start, and I realise time and time over I don’t need to wait for the gong to sound to start practising….and yet it helps..
    The app told me that over 6,000 people had been sitting at the same time

  19. Joël H. 2 novembre 2017 at 10 h 42 min - Reply

    Impermanence, le post que je venais juste de finir d’écrire s’est brusquement volatilisé.

    Plus le temps de tout réécrire, tous ces instants précédents sont définitivement passés.

    Pas complètement oubliés; alors ce qu’il en reste dans mon esprit de maintenant, pressé et un peu agacé, je vais quand même essayer d’en laisser une trace, une illusion, sans style.
    Cela parlait :

    – d’échos au post, hier soir, d’Amy,

    – de sa présence fédératrice diffusant à travers les digits électroniques matériels, des connexions entre nous immatérielles…

    – de ces coeurs de personnes physiques peu nombreux mais des nombreux coeur-esprits reliés…

    – de son pin chez elle comparé à celui devant mon bureau…

    De la vie que j’apprécie de partager avec vous


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