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

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

Good morning from Montreuil.

Quietly awakening here with some green tea and the cat, thinking of all you other retreat participants (those who signed up to join and those who didn’t): We’re all in this together. I like that thought.

But wait a minute… Who is « we »? If I expand my notion of « we, » where does the inclusion stop? I have to include Trump voters? I have to include Trump? The gypsy lady who I bought bread for yesterday? Bashar al-Assad? The guy who pushes in front of me in line at the store? Islamic fundamentalists? Jehovah’s witnesses ringing at my door?

And what is « this »? Sure, it’s this crazy little thing I call « life. » But what is that, really? It’s incomprehensible, unfathomable, surreal, so simple sometimes, so terrible and complex at others…  It’s escaping me at 7:15. Or is it? How can my life escape me when I AM my life?

Remind yourself of that today and see what happens. You truly can make art out of anything!

By | 2016-11-27T23:35:50+00:00 novembre 28th, 2016|Retraites au coeur de la vie|17 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. Filipa 1 décembre 2016 at 0 h 30 min - Reply

    Writing from Lisbon. Two days late I know. But even though I am late writing I wasn’t late living it. I thought of the retreat during day and even though I had no idea what it was about for that day I was there. I was busy preparing my apartment for construction work. Opening and closing boxes putting things away trying to prepare. I only sat for a few minutes in the morning but it was what I felt I could do (but that didn’t avoid the feeling guilty for not sitting longer…). I’m here now. With you. We are here together

  2. MM 29 novembre 2016 at 3 h 00 min - Reply

    Expectations: don’t let me misunderstand!

  3. Sónia Martinez 29 novembre 2016 at 2 h 01 min - Reply

    Today i planned to meditate in a garden near my job, so that i could escape early from the traffic. Then when i was arriving there was so much traffic to the way of the garden, and all clean to the job way. So i went with the flow and went to the job. I went to the cafeteria asked for breakfast and sit outside. And suddenly there i was, in sitting in my company, with a beautifull day and the sun.shinning on my face. I realised that i wanted to go to the garden as if i had to be in a ideal place. Well the ideal place to sit and be with me is just where i am. There’s a space that i can create in everywhere, everytime. So i sit there, in my working place, not hidden just there cause my life happens just where i am. At lunch i drove to make some shopping and i wondered about the ‘we’. I realised that , in potencial, the whole world can be in this retreat, because i am and you all are, and the persons that we deal, and so the persons that those persons deal with…so really in potencial the whole world can be in this retreat ( México and Alleppo are already too 🙂 ) and then i asked my self: and if the whole world is in this retreat, what is it so different of every other days in my , in our, life? The Counscioness, the Counscioness that is happening…but if i put that counsciness everyday…i’ll be in retreat with the whole world everyday…and what is that so diferent from every single day of my 35 five years, haven’t my life being a retreat all along? The Counscioness that is it.

  4. Eduardo 29 novembre 2016 at 1 h 59 min - Reply

    After midnight in Portugal / Vila Real. I’ve just read the 12 commenatries to Amy’s questions and I’ve felt the flow, collective answer it has generated. The world keeps moving both according to the regular and precise Newton’s laws and the uncertainty principle governing the subatomic dimensions of matter. The paradox of life, manifesting itself as bliss and suffering, is perhaps deeply embedded in the very heart of nature. This morning , while driving to my classes, I had the chance to listen to the radio broadcast of the first movement of Beetoven’s 5th piano concert. After the, peaceful unbounderied early morning sitting, I was one with that vital music. Was I allowed, did I really deserve to feel its overwhelming bliss, kowing that bombs were falling at the same time in Aleppo and innocents were suffering the effects of the cyclical madness of human violence? Is a lotus flower a momentous but ephemeral offspring of the prevailing, eternal muddy water surrounding and nourishing it?
    Thanks for all your support.
    J. Eduardo

  5. Lisa 29 novembre 2016 at 0 h 28 min - Reply

    It’s past midnight here, but 5pm where I was just about 30 hours ago, in Mexico. A bit weird engaging in this retreat here and now when my body clock tells me it’s then and there ! But is it really?!
    It was a welcome surprise to hear about the retreat the day before it started, no time to ask myself whether to do it or not, just jumping into it, fully,,, even if the day passed so quickly, rarely aware of the retreat going on until I finally sat down with all of you in our new Center, trying to count my breath, fighting jet lag!
    Good night

  6. Cristina (Ocean of Generosity) 28 novembre 2016 at 23 h 50 min - Reply

    Here all together, with you, without you, in this retreat, alone, with others, yes I can, yes I want.
    Who is « we »?
    Good night from Esposende , Portugal

  7. Guillaume 28 novembre 2016 at 22 h 57 min - Reply

    Tired and cold.

  8. ECA 28 novembre 2016 at 22 h 50 min - Reply

    It has been ages since I last sat, I had another baby and have since moved continents and cultures. Someone once asked me how I meditate, my response was that I sit when I have time, but I prefer to practice throughout the day — finding mindfulness in my stride to work, delighting in the differing sounds of my feet on asphalt, concrete, and then earth. Looking to the sky to enjoy the fall color display on the tree limbs. At work I find and follow my breath in the moments I wait for my computer screen to illuminate, papers to print, models to run, and even in the flow of conversations with colleagues. I reflect on the statement ‘you can make art out of anything’ and could not agree more.

  9. Elizabeth 28 novembre 2016 at 22 h 40 min - Reply

    This morning I was so eager to read the message of Roshi Amy!
    And so happy to start with you and me this day and week and lifetime .
    In this flow also the dentist looked great as he could see me instantly!
    At our weekly zen sit session this evening we decided to postpone our be one meditation week end
    and that felt right….it is of such a great value to be « together »
    Thank you all
    Love from Coimbra

  10. Elizabeth 28 novembre 2016 at 22 h 31 min - Reply

    This morning I was so eager

  11. Tiago 28 novembre 2016 at 18 h 55 min - Reply

    Evening. As in any first day of sesshin I am having trouble connecting, or simply failing to be aware of this « new situation ». This life unfolded as usual: wake up, breakfast, clients called, deliveries had to be done, reactions not so positive as expected, having to deal with it, a cup of tea. Looking back on my day I recall these events; having been through it I as hardly aware of them.
    It is great reading you all on this journey together — there is immense power in togetherness even if we live in different countries. Door bell rings.

  12. isabel 28 novembre 2016 at 18 h 05 min - Reply

    Only now at 17:01 i know that am in the Heart of life retreat, such a joy in the midst of great turmoil. Having a pause and connect with yours and everyone’s elsewhere hearts.
    Last days i’ve been preparing a speech for an inter-religous meeting on behalf of Portuguese Buddhist Union and it was such a joy to meet all these diversity and open heartedness.
    May all sentient being be happy and find the causes of happiness, be free from suffering and the cause of suffering.
    Wish you all well

  13. Manon 28 novembre 2016 at 16 h 25 min - Reply

    Ce matin, je me suis réveillée avec un léger mal de tête. Je suis partie courir pour m’éclaircir un peu, le long de la rivière qui formait un long bandeau argenté. Dans la forêt, les feuilles étaient encore blanchies par le gel que le soleil faisait brillait. C’était très beau. Je me sens triste depuis que ma petite soeur m’a dit qu’elle n’était plus joyeuse. Sa tristesse fait partie de moi. L’après midi s’achève, le soleil brille encore de ses derniers rayons.

  14. Evi 28 novembre 2016 at 16 h 18 min - Reply

    In my other Sangha we also just had the topic of „We“. Very interesting. I guess, we all struggle just, how „we“ as Buddhists and „I“ as an individual deal with this difficult times.
    Yesterday I read a blog by a young journaist, Zouhir al-Shimale, from East Aleppo. He wrote: „the bombs fall down on East Aleppo now every day again. The attacks get stronger than ever. But the worst now is the hunger.“ Tonight I invited four friends for a dinner and it will be delicious. Zouhir wrote: „While every minute the bombs hit the ground, I always think of her [his mother].. when I see the crying mothers with their dead babies in their arms“. And I read Thomas report of last night and my eyes get wet. If I am „we“ with Thomas, then I am „we“ with Zouhir. I physically feel the people at Standing Rock in the Sioux reservation living a peaceful public disobedience to protect all of our water and environment from greedy oil oligarchs. They are standing directly across from police forces in full fight battle dress. I think of all my friends in the US, many of them falling under one or the other category of Trumps despotism. I just can hope they are safe. I think of the election in France and Germany, hoping we will not run in the same direction.
    To not despair myself, I think of inspiring people and what they have in common: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Etty Hillesum, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, The Scholz sisters, The Dalai Lama…
    What they have in common for me: they were all religious people, they actively and loudly stood up for their values, even against their personal fears, even when their lives were threatened or they got killed for it.
    “We” for me is not, we are all the same and get along, and it is not a mushed summary of individuals. “We” is also resistance and rebellion against unjust. I am grateful for my precepts, I am grateful for my vows as a guidance. I am deeply grateful having a refuge. As a practitioner I ask myself, how I can be with my fear and not act it out as unwise as many do out of a victim identification? What is my victim identification? Do I feel subconsciously that I a victim of Trump, the AfD or FN? How can I give my anger a constructive direction, so it reduces suffering and does not add to it? What can I do now, so I don’t have to lie on my death bed and have the impression, I was a bystander when the crimes started to become obvious. In times of globalization, none can say we did not know.
    I have no answers to these questions, I just know, I have to go through all of this, also through impotence to help Zouhir, knowing he is dying of hunger right now. The only thing I can do is to promise him silently, that I do care of him and that I will face my fear and stand up for the real victims of our times.

  15. Tomas 28 novembre 2016 at 14 h 34 min - Reply

    Hello everyone! I was surprised to find myself in retreat much earlier and intensively than I thought. Baby boy Maru woke up several times during the night. At 3:30am I found myself in the retreat, holding him and rocking him back to sleep. Such a vivid sensation of being in retreat. I wondered what would be Roshi’s invitation for the day. At that moment was holding Maru, for sure! Not even an inch of me wanting him to go back to sleep fast so that I could also go back to sleep. In fact, totally holding him in a kind of timeless moment, finding myself with a new koan out of nowhere: « Holding every baby in the world »! Then we both got back to sleep, to awake again at 5am, and then at 7am, after a couple of diaper changes and milk bottles, and a full change of wet baby pajamas….a lot happening so early…Then at 8:35am we woke up Joy and all 3 of us sat together, also with all of you (!!!), until 9:15am. Baby Maru siting on my lap playing with whatever he could grab. Beautiful morning here in the mountains, beautiful sunlight. Everything very quiet inside. Contentment. Love. Beauty. The work day about to start. Life 🙂

  16. Hugo 28 novembre 2016 at 13 h 04 min - Reply

    My son is an early bird. Actually, he wakes up the birds. We get out of bed. Breakfast and fun games. Hurry, also. Job calls. In the highway, traffic is like kihin. I pay attention. We are all together. We have always been. Being in retreat makes all the difference. But what is different? A friend sends me a message: I wake up and have an idea about myself. It’s lunch time and I have changed so many times. We are all together… In this uncertainty. In this marvellous week.

  17. Óscar Faria 28 novembre 2016 at 11 h 13 min - Reply

    home is a perfect place to begin. i just sat. surrounded by books and the sounds of a city awaking up. i notice the passing of buses: the sound is heavier and the house sometimes shakes. the sky is blue and the light clear: a sunny autumn day. shadows in the buildings and the green of the trees complete the urban landscape. porto is changing a lot, because of tourism. in my street there is a renewal of the old houses. everything changes.

    last days i’ve been working on the phrase: « il faut continuer ». it’s from « the unnamable », by samuel beckett:

    « I’ll go on. You must say words, as long as there are any – until they find me, until they say me. (Strange pain, strange sin!) You must go on. Perhaps it’s done already. Perhaps they have said me already. Perhaps they have carried me to the threshold of my story, before the door that opens on my story. (That would surprise me, if it opens.)

    It will be I? It will be the silence, where I am? I don’t know, I’ll never know: in the silence you don’t know.

    You must go on.

    I can’t go on.

    I’ll go on.”

    this is also a perfect place to begin: the silence.

    greetings to all the participants,


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