Retreat in the Time of Coronavirus

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Retreat in the Time of Coronavirus

So here we are, in the midst of fear and uncertainty, stress and anxiety, wondering what to do in this unsettling time for us all. Because you’re reading these words, you have already made a great decision: to stop and sit, take a breath, and seize this challenging moment for what it is — a wonderful teaching in the interconnection and interdependence of all beings and things and an occasion to heighten your awareness about yourself and the whole vulnerable world.

Because I did just that — stopped and took a breath and looked into my heart and the increasingly disturbing uncertainty all around — we are beginning this online retreat together.

I was supposed to be leading an « in-person » retreat in Portugal starting today. But concerned about the coronavirus in general and feeling a particular sense of responsibility toward our hosts in Portugal and their well-being and safety,  we made the decision to cancel that in-person retreat. Once that decision was made, it became clear that we would of course maintain the retreat, naturally adapting it to the evolving situation.

The result is that many more people are now able to join the participants from the original in-person retreat. Thanks for joining us. And we’re all plunging together into uncertainty, putting into practice that most basic of our precepts: not-knowing. I couldn’t be happier!

Try to follow the meditation schedule, either at the scheduled time (in your time zone) or whenever you can, and join the dharma talks via the Zoom link:

Finally, there’s never been another moment like this moment. So please add a comment here to let us know how you are experiencing life in the time of the coronavirus.

May all be well for all.

By | 2020-03-13T16:24:15+01:00 mars 13th, 2020|La pratique Zen, Retraites au coeur de la vie|27 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. Alexis 20 février 2022 at 21 h 53 min - Reply

    Oublié ici, qui coupe,
    Le ciel.
    Comme, de l’autre côté, par des terres
    retournées. Le ciel que je n’avais pas vu repose
    sur la terre en volute.
    Ou éblouit.
    Après le lever froid, à l’autre jour.
    Je heurte le jour qui brûle parmi les murs évanouis.
    à ce qui demeure, et que récolte, comme tu fais demi tour, une face, encore.
    (André du Bouchet)

  2. Mouroulet 9 février 2022 at 15 h 27 min - Reply

    This saturday, wish to give a real but implicit paramita of the gift to Mr Pasteur. Christine Ann Evans announced, during a symposium in Angers in October 2019, that Simone Weil yearned for France as Antaeus for the Earth. (-tshoo!-).

  3. Joanne 18 mars 2020 at 11 h 10 min - Reply

    Such a lovely comforting thought Tiago, that we are here for each other as the retreat « ends ».

    I have been learning to live in my house, not going out much, and socialising very little, for some years now, hardly going out because of health issues. Sometimes I have felt so much pain and loneliness. But it is only an idea of separations. Nevertheless, I am someone who needs comfort and contact, and who can then care more for others and the world through this. I have taken very great comfort from the presence of those online who remind me that we all sit down in our lives together with all things wherever we are. I read as much as makes me feel well, I follow various groups and have wholeheartedly joined with some fellow practitioners, far away but heart-close sanghas, connecting in ways I wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t been disabled, and also this sense of fully embracing our way of silent sitting and bringing ourselves to our lives as we are.

    Thank you Tiago for reminding me of our closeness in practising, in just living, our closeness and support, nourishment and care, across all boundaries and barriers. Just sitting brings you all here!

  4. Tiago 17 mars 2020 at 11 h 23 min - Reply

    Even as this retreat ends I am drawn here for peer support and comfort 🙂 Thank you all for your shared words and feeling. May we all be well! Love to all.

  5. hugo 16 mars 2020 at 9 h 20 min - Reply

    And it feels that this retreat has no end… Another day in Perth. More cases. More anxiety. Uncertainty. There was some rain last night. Now is clear. A couple of clouds. I’m lucky to have a huge window at my work. I see the movement. Of people. Cars. Clouds. My thoughts. Colleagues coming and going. Doors opening and closing. The swipe cards beeps. A team member that leaves earlier. Struggling to cope with all this « negativity », he says. Every place I turn, it’s there, he adds. He leaves on his bike which I can see from my window. Not coming tomorrow, need a day off. Do what you need to do, I say.

    • A. Mouret 7 février 2022 at 11 h 11 min - Reply

      thank-you hugo-

    • Alexis 7 février 2022 at 15 h 38 min - Reply

      rue Robert-Cahen, marche; rude cercle de pierre. retourner à Briançon?

  6. Jennifer 16 mars 2020 at 1 h 32 min - Reply

    I haven’t been motivated to practice for years. Thinking I missed my window, I resigned to never again feel the longing for truth of what I am that had dominated so much of my life. The Coronavirus has stopped me. Curious how opportunities arise with the stopping, the notice of this home retreat, a gift of another. What intrigues me again is what does it mean to be aligned with my soul. To not act from confused thinking but from something much deeper and more fundamental within. My regret if I died would be not really knowing what this alignment is and how it would manifest in my life.

  7. Joanne 15 mars 2020 at 15 h 51 min - Reply

    Thank you Amy for this space to connect together.

    It is a confusing and challenging time, such strong experiences everywhere. I feel so much for loved ones affected in different ways – a collapsing of organised care for a frail elderly family member, a dear family friend likely stuck in a country where they just had surgery and who is struggling to plot a route to get home across several continents, vulnerable loved ones with existing physical and mental health conditions, friends who are nurses and family members who are doctors already working so hard.

    Here where I am in the UK, we are just waiting. Outside it rains. The more I feel anxious, the more I send love and all kinds of wishes outwards. The more I appreciate what this day is. I am so grateful for this life, for all of us, all of you.

    The fears run their course. I fear this great unravelling virus and I am in awe of its scale. There is a bewildering majesty in Mother Nature’s twists and turns, in the scale of the reactivity of our human natures, but I am uplifted by our kind hearts intending to connect and already connected.

    My neighbour suddenly sings powerfully and purely, something operatically, outside in the downpour. He sounds wonderful. He has a fantastic voice.

    I sit calm, having been spending my day typing reassurances and jokes to my brother, the carer of our elderly mother in her hospice bed in their home, comforting those closest to me who are panicking, sewing something that needed mending, … and with a deep soft raw openness under the heavy waiting. Fluttering stresses continue to blow around sharply.

    I’m so grateful for the internet and for all our wonderful human hearts.

  8. Hugo 15 mars 2020 at 15 h 31 min - Reply

    Thank you all for this opportunity. Without the coronavirus I wouldn’t have had the chance to participate in this unique retreat. May our time together, may our words, listening, presence be fruitful for all.

  9. Mateus4455 . 15 mars 2020 at 14 h 26 min - Reply

    This retreat of « quarentena » is taking me back to old memories when things were at a slower pace. And these memories are good. Like the feeling of being a child where everything is possible. And I also like the idea of this civic responsability of having an attitude that is not necessarily for my own good, but staying home for the sake of society and everyone else and people who bennefit from not being contaminated such as older people or peolpe who are at a higher risk of being contaminated or whatever.
    And because this retreat at the Heart of Life feels like its happening even in those moments when I forget it, there is something humble about going back to that feeling of zen and practise and sitting that reminds me that its all ok – the crisis, the virus, the colaustrophobia, the hipocondriacal…
    In spite of everything, it feels unavoidable that everything always goes back to the beggining. Or returns to the beggining -The childhood memories, the essence of zen, the crisis that we are going through… and of course, this retreat.
    May all be well

  10. José Eduardo 15 mars 2020 at 14 h 05 min - Reply

    Two death poems by haiku poets

    My companion in the skies
    of death
    a cuckoo

    (Fufu, died on the seventeenth day of the fifth month , 1162, at the age of sixty-one)

    Rise, let us go –
    along the path lies
    the clear dew.

    (Fujo, died on the twentieth-seventh day of the eighth month, 1764, at the age of fifty-two)

  11. Valérie Duvauchelle 15 mars 2020 at 11 h 27 min - Reply

    Thank you for this opportunity .
    For me It feels I was waiting this moment for quite a long time . I had been emotionally very tired of a schizophrenic behavior of knowing it all and not being able to see any changes . Although contemplating silently this state allowed me to fully be under the process.
    But today I feel so joyful that without even coming from a problem solving carbon idea the situation, by itself , is able to give air to earth and with that a chance to start a regenerative process ( us included)I can see that the change we were expected since a long time are actually happening : people are helping each others, smiles increase among people and the all society adapt.
    It is fascinating to realize that we did not have to do anything but just to feel in our heart and flesh the reality of interconnectiveness through news. It is also fascinating to see how people adapt because contrary to tv images I only see calm and dignity in shops.At the same time I feel deep sadness for us not to able to embrace in the solidarity loop yemen people who are litterally dying. But the process have just started ..and I can already feel how right behavior is coming from contemplating the uncertainty as it is , how it align most of people become regarding their priorities even though it is by forced walking ( marche forcée):)

  12. Geert 15 mars 2020 at 11 h 24 min - Reply

    Good morning to all of you, I would like to share a few words with you. When I plunge into my feelings, I can notice I don’t feel anxious nor angry. I feel sad. I feel sad and my heart is touched when I see and feel all this fear around me. What is my ultimate fear? It is I will die… sometime, somewhere, somehow. I am quite confident I will not die from Corona. But I am not so comfortable with the idea having to die anyway. Why am I afraid of dying? I am afraid to lose contact with my beloved ones, that my attempts to live and to love will have been in vain, that I will be forgotten, not loved beyond this border, that perhaps I am nothing… Death is the greatest challenge in my life, the ultimate uncertainty, the summit of not-knowing. It shakes my emotions.
    And I have the feeling that this is also what scares people so much nowadays. Corona can be dangerous for some people, eventually it is threatening our very lives. It is scaring and we want to fight against that.
    It made me reflect also about our health care. At least I live in a country where high tech medical care is supposed to be an evidence and accessible for everyone. But honestly, has anyone ever examined the costs of highly specialised medical assistance and treatment? And have we ever noticed how hospitals are overloaded with patients who need these treatments to be able to survive? It is very appropriate and logical that people count on this amenities in order to be able to be(come) more healthy and live longer.
    But this also has shades. We all know the phenomena of aging of population. We all know the consequences of a stressing global economy. We all see and feel the consequences of the world being raped for temporary money gain and wealth. It affects the very core of our own lives, all of us.
    And despite our goodwill and huge efforts, even the most wealthy nations have serious budget deficits. Corona will only make this worse. There is a crack in the walls we build around our castle.
    It makes me feel that perhaps something is wrong about my expectations… I am expecting all this for my-self and my beloved ones. But what about people who even have no food or no housing facilities…? If all is one in space and time, my care has to be for them (also). And for the future generations, for the persistence of life, for a healthy planet, for healthy, conscious and happy people caring for each other. Corona is telling something about all this to me. It is a great call, a challenge. Who am I? What can I do here and now? How am I dealing with all this?
    And I am grateful for that and for sharing this with you and for your sharing with me and for your support in meditation and life practice. My deepest wish is all of you may be healthy and well but also fearless and confident.

  13. Hugo 15 mars 2020 at 7 h 05 min - Reply

    Perth, Western Australia. 1:55PM. Quiet, overcast arvo. Yet, humid and hot. We went to the beach in the morning. Still lots of people walking, surfing, running, cycling. Some also at cafes. I paused and tried to pay attention. To everyone. To myself. Tension. It’s not the same as it used to be. Yet, there were three kids birthday parties happening at the park. When my son turned one we celebrated his anniversary there. How time flies. He’s now 5. March 2016 to March 2020. I’m not touching my face as I sused to touch. Or when I touch or intend to touch I pause. I pay attention. What a wonderful mindfulness exercise like Roshi mentioned yesterday. Here, on the news our Australian PM just announced that all ship cruises are banned from entering the country. That everyone who arrives down under has to quarantine for 14 days. Citizen, resident, tourist. Everyone. Cases continue to grow on a daily basis. And in the streets people are still shaking hands. Kissing. Hugging. It’s in our culture. Automatic pilot. Not sure what will happen. But I noticed that when all this started a few weeks ago, I mindfully decided to be more courteous, slow down, let people pass in the road, at the shops. And smile more. Let rush and more attention. This week my son came home with a school drawing. Himself and a description: I want to smile more. What a beautiful intention. Let’s all smile more in these times of not knowing.

  14. Tiago 15 mars 2020 at 0 h 12 min - Reply

    Hello all. Here in the UK, I feel anxious and restless; uncertain of each way to go, what to do, whether to follow the government’s advice or not, worried for my loved ones who are less healthy… I look at these feelings and let them rest on my hand; the worrying mind wants to drop these feelings, push them away, make a hole in the ground and cover them with dirt. Practice tells me otherwise and I am grateful for the teaching. Pema Chodrun suggests that we « use all the unwanted things in your life as the means for awakening compassion for yourself and others ». It’s hard work but I know it’s possible.
    Thank you, Roshi, for this Retreat! May we all be well.

  15. Joana 14 mars 2020 at 21 h 24 min - Reply

    I am writing in a train. I was supposed to be on a shooting but it got cancelled. I am not mad or sad. « it was just beyond my control », I am trying to rationalise. I’ve spend the whole week preparing for these days, do I really believe that nothing goes to waste? I think I do. I have asthma and I feel vulnerable, but that’s not so different from what I felt when I was a child. And yet it’s totally different. I feel selfish but also so connected to everyone else… To this virus that has no borders… I am so grateful to be able to take part in this retreat.

  16. Jennifer Doniach 14 mars 2020 at 20 h 23 min - Reply

    Not running around as I normally do in my life, I’m settling down. Slowing down. Sinking into a quietness. Not a bad thing. I’m staying put and working in my garden. Really seeing my plants. Still surprised how quickly life can change.

    • Hugo 15 mars 2020 at 6 h 44 min - Reply

      we have been doing heaps of gardening and cleaning too. frangipanis are flowering and they smell awesome 🙂

  17. Hugo 14 mars 2020 at 13 h 53 min - Reply

    It’s raining in Perth, Western Australia. The shops are depleted. The rain smell is amazing. So intense. We finished dinner. People are eating more fruit and veggies because of coronavirus. Aussie farmers are having a good week. Earlier this morning a pollie know by his anti refugee approach became unwell and is positive. I saw so many friends wishing him all the worst. I decided to sit and include him, my friends, everyone in my metta practice. Do you wanna guess who came to and sat with me? Coronavirus! I open my heart and let him be. I noticed ‘he’s’ also trying to survive and do his best. He then left. Like all other guests. And my heart was…
    Thanks for this opportunity and for an amazing Zoom talk this evening in Perth.

  18. Maria 14 mars 2020 at 4 h 48 min - Reply

    It’s been very challenging times. It’s like a wake up call to know where i stand in my practice. What comes naturally and can i deal with it?
    For a long time i wished that the whole world would slow down. I even got to wish for a crash upon the internet for at least one month to make us all reeducate ourselves and relearn how to live differently than we do. Slow down, be more connected to nature and to each other, spend time with our loved ones, not depend on the image, on what people/society expect from us etc…

    Then this huge crisis arrives and we slow down.
    I try to reevaluate my priorities. Maybe i’ll go buy my trees later, maybe i’ll finish the garden later and for now i stay home, leaving only to buy groceries. Maybe in a while some products will be missing… and that’s tolerable for a while. But then i start to fear the possible scarcity. As i fear a deep financial crisis, unemployment, and all the social phenomena that comes with it.

    At the same time i feel very angry that i have to go work! It’s my health that is in danger. Getting inside an airplane with 200 people, some of them sick. I get angry that money still rules more than anything. And i’m angry at the people who are completely irresponsible about this pandemic and ignore it by making their lives as if nothing was happening… like traveling around.

    And i realize all those feelings and i would love not to have them at all but i do! So what do i do with that?

    I also notice that somehow this physical isolation is bringing us closer as humans. At least many of us show, manifest or even talk openly about the need to unite efforts and be as One.

    Well i feel like a rollercoaster!
    Thank God the internet still works!

  19. Helena Pereira 14 mars 2020 at 1 h 47 min - Reply

    I am overwelmed with all that is happening and although I understand the need to take caution at the same time nothing makes sense! I will avoid places with people but still will try to go out into nature.
    In a strange way it is funny to see humankind so scared and not noticing that all other natural life, species are not affected by this, just us. How ironic is that?
    Enjoy your retreat

  20. Telma Maria 14 mars 2020 at 0 h 42 min - Reply

    I work at hospital.
    I will have to show up everyday, even my holidays to celebrate my anniversary have been cancelled because i have to show up everyday. I have to go and say to uncertainty « i’m here, i don’t fear you ». And i don’t. I don’t fear it because i know it will pass, because i love this uncertainty for all the possibilities it brings to awake me and others, because it gives me the possibility to serve and to give meaning to my job, because it gives me the opportunity to practice my practice – acceptance, silence, peace and being.
    Time won’t slow down for me, oh how i wish i could be having the opportunity to slow it down and sometimes stop… But while i walk to and from hospital, as today, i will see spring blooming and birds announcing it hidden by colourful little flowers, breathe lighter and fresher air, and most of all i will realize the sound of nature while breathing and living because Nature is one with all and with covid-19. Nature don’t panic, Nature embrace and keeps doing what she knows best – BEING.
    I’m grateful for being part of this historical turning point of evolutionary path of human being.
    Thank you all.
    Corra tudo bem a todos.

  21. Nina 13 mars 2020 at 23 h 08 min - Reply

    Hello everyone, I am really glad to be sharing this grounding practice with you at this time of profound uncertainty. If anyone is interested, Zen blogger Leo Babauta and Zen teacher Susan O’Connell will be giving a free talk on fear and fearlessness streamed live at 7 pm Paris time tomorrow (Saturday) here: I know that this conflicts with tomorrow’s meditation schedule but it may fit in nicely with the retreat.

  22. Hugo Jorge 13 mars 2020 at 22 h 46 min - Reply

    Waking up in perth, western Australia, where we have been seeing and experiencing the impact in shops and in public events. I was supposed to take today 10 young people from my municipalite to a tedx youth even. No longer. My son had a Brazilian Jiu Jistu class. No longer. What is the sitting schedule and what are the zoom times? In appreciation

    • Joa 14 mars 2020 at 9 h 14 min - Reply

      Hi Hugo, so here is the schedule (Paris time) :
      Saturday and Sunday, meditation 8h30-9h30
      Dharma talk at 12h30, meditation 19h-20h

      Meditation 8h30-9h30

      For the Dharma talks you will need to click on this Zoom link and follow the instructions that appear:

      It’s nice to read you.

  23. Carole 13 mars 2020 at 22 h 16 min - Reply

    Thanks, Amy. This feels timely and helpful. I have been sitting with the rug pulled out from under me, in the way Pema describes. And I have been doing metta for people affected. It feels nice to join in this together remotely. Connected.

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