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

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

Please forgive me: For some reason this post did not appear this morning! So only getting it online this afternoon. My most humble apologies:

Good morning everyone. I’m coming a bit late to the game today; I gave myself a brief much-needed break…

It’s another superbly clear and cold day here in Montreuil. From the house, it looks like the plants at the back of the garden are frozen. The plants nearer to the house, less exposed to the elements, don’t look frosty but they are motionless and stiff. Yet one plant is still flowering! My husband says it’s an « anémone du japon » (which he planted a few months ago) and he is as surprised as I am to see the delicate white flowers still blooming in the chill this morning.

I come from the great north region of the United States near the Canadian border, where winter is severe and ice and frost is plentiful and common.  Every Dec. 1 in my youth (secret: my birthday) was bitterly cold, but the mountains of snow were an unending delight for us children. I don’t remember being bothered by the cold; it was just what it was. So today, perhaps nostalgic, I want to see the frost up close. Before breakfast, I put on my coat and shoes and venture into the garden. The cat is delighted and runs out the door with me.

How wonderful it is to step into what I had only been looking at from a distance! There are far more red berries scattered on the ground than I thought. The grass, too, is frozen. The leaves of the bamboo stalks seem to be weighed down with the cold. The pine tree planted after my transmission 12 years ago stands tall, unswayed by winter’s edge. But below it, the little shrubs and bramble are covered with frost. While the vine climbing the back wall is surprisingly vibrant and green in the brilliant sunlight. 

I would not know any of this if I had stayed in the house. Of course, all of it was there, but if I keep myself separate and distant, I can’t see and experience it. Look around today and try taking a step closer – to yourself, to others, to whatever arises.

Thanks for joining me in this adventure. I’m looking forward to hearing from you all again today.


By | 2016-12-01T15:24:33+00:00 décembre 1st, 2016|Retraites au coeur de la vie|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. céu 2 décembre 2016 at 9 h 43 min - Reply

    trés bien caché (le secrét)

  2. céu 2 décembre 2016 at 9 h 41 min - Reply

    Happy birthday, Amy,
    I wish you always beautiful mountains of snow

  3. Helena 2 décembre 2016 at 9 h 31 min - Reply

    Happy Birthday!

    Once I was at a concert in a house and I was at the door, leaning against its frame and some one told me  » Lady you are always at the door » and at that moment I realized that that is the way I go through life, from that moment on I always try to remember and enter.


  4. Sónia Martinez 2 décembre 2016 at 3 h 35 min - Reply

    Happy B-Day Amy!!! Wish you a Great New year of Life!
    Life is giving me the opportunity of integrate more who i am ( inclue my practice of sitting ) at the same time i’m in a group. How can i have my own life, practicing what is important to me AND be IN the Group? How can i step forward to be closest to me and to others, at the same time? Is wonderfull to experience it. Other time i would feel guilty to go meditating 20m and not being with the group. So i wouldn’t meditate or if i do it , i would feel so distance from the group that i would separate me from them ( was the way that i would live the guilty that uncounsciously i would feel).
    Now i feel that wanting to experience both is more about responsability and confidence for my choices..and then let life adjust naturally. There is time for everything and naturally space and time is created if i respect and love both – me and others. Being more close to me and to my way of life, alows me to be more close to others and their way of life. I’m loving this my new reality of living, feeling, think, Seeing diferent, about this kind of experiences that life brings. I really feel more free to be who i’am and love and be loved at the same time.

  5. MM 2 décembre 2016 at 2 h 03 min - Reply

    : )

  6. margarida 2 décembre 2016 at 1 h 48 min - Reply

    Muitos parabéns querida Amy, que este novo ciclo seja auspicioso!
    since yesterday i have this thought in my mind « can we lose our Buda nature? » and now, knowing that there was a text attached to the picture that somehow stayed hidden it seems to me as a private answer, like a joke 🙂 and what a great joy to listen more than the silent…when i saw this morning the post only with the picture a felt intimidated by it, Oscar your invocation to e.e cummings touches me so much 🙂 Eduardo of course Amy has a powerful connection with us! Did you have doubts? everything is connected and not random 😉
    love you all
    Ps muitos parabéns para ti também querida Lisa!
    Morning Star

  7. Juan 2 décembre 2016 at 1 h 25 min - Reply

    Many happy returns Amy!
    Today I sat for a few moments and was interrupted by Constança to play. After breakfast we went outside to contemplate the warmer sunny day, take care of the garden, clean up the mess from the Bunny. then make lunch, homework, Piano, spelling, seeing a movie, reading, playing, dinner, take Constança to bed.
    Ahh, what a long day to serve the others, nature, family, life… a retreat in the heart of life.

  8. João Pedro Tapada 2 décembre 2016 at 0 h 48 min - Reply

    Greetings from Almada (Portugal).
    Happy birthday, Amy!
    Saw the post early this morning and it was just the picture, and that’s what I took the post to be. Only now on coming back do I learn that there was a text. Anyway, in some sort of unexpected coincidence, the picture took me during the day to places and experiences of my earlier years, just like in Roshi’s text. The multitude of leaves already fallen, dead, the grass, alive, the branch on the upper left that divides itself in three, all of them unbroken, and the other one close to them, seemingly broken, some of all of this in the light, some further to the back, gradually towards the shade. All this simultaneous coexistence of apparent opposites, all came together in a couple of verses from a song I hadn’t heard in decades and to the sounds of which I cried: «All that is now / all that is gone / all that’s to come / and everything under the sun is in tune / but the sun is eclipsed by the moon.» As I read it, the last verse merely falls in place with all the others, contrasting and at the same time flowing with everything else.

  9. Eduardo 1 décembre 2016 at 23 h 59 min - Reply

    When I saw Amy’s picture without a text, I first thought “This must be a koan”, a silent message to be contemplated, perhaps a code to awake those of us who have been practicing this peculiar zen way of dissolving/overcoming the predispositions of our habitual mindset. Deluded with what turn out to be a wrong interpretation, I first thought to answer by rephrasing a line told by the poet’s character Tom Harrisson in the movie Mindwalk : “The leaves speak, I am silent”. But, after all, there was a text. The teaching that came with it helped me today to deal more intensivily with my father’s compulsive silence. He suffers from alzheimer in a very advanced state and therefore, among other disabilities, he is unable to phrase a coeherent single sentence. He just bubbles a few words without knowing their meaning. Like a child, he can mecanically read capital letters but he doesn’t understand the content of their articulation. He is living already for one year in a nursing home and, to share some time with him, I tend to pick him up almost every holiday and every week end . Although I owe him quite a few fundamental lessons, we never have been able to communicate easily and deep affection has never been cultivated between the two of us. I don’t know how a mind whose brain circuits are fading away still operates and what kind of thoughts and images it can still perform regularly. For someone with dementia, I guess the conceptual framework of mind activity must be seriously damaged and his/her stream of consciousness must be reduced to visual images without content. With my father, I am sure he doesn’t even understand the nature of the kindred link that binds us two. But it happened more than once that when I’ picking him up at the nursing house his visual expression seems to recognize me as someone he likes and enjoys to be with. Or so I think he does. Anyway, since months ago the experience with my father’s silence has become very moving. I’ve become aware that at the end of his life, affection and simpathy, as deep, embeded manifestations of our human nature and closed kindred relationship, have come to the fore. It is with his no-mind state of being that I have been able to learn to communicate and nurture affection and love for him. Today, the awareness of his presence was indeed very closed. Sorry to have been so personal, in your birthday, Amy. Now, a friendly hug of congratulations.

    P.s you surely must have some karmik connection with this country: today is a national holiday commemorative of the regaining, in 1640, of the Portuguese Independence from the Spanish rule… Is this Buddha’s humour?

  10. Filipa 1 décembre 2016 at 23 h 34 min - Reply

    I did take the challenge and (un)intentionally got closer. To me and to new friends. It was quite a simple and surprisingly nice experience. It took a lot of energy but I was really there and this means now I’m tired. I’m missing someone I can’t have close. So I’ll accept that for now. Ps. Happy birthday Amy! Wish you had a wonderful day***

  11. Tiago 1 décembre 2016 at 23 h 24 min - Reply

    Happy birthday dear Amy!
    I skipped sitting today. I’m working away from London, in Somerset, where my friend and coworker likes early mornings of work and late evenings of laughter. — Hearing it closer, the sound is better…
    Although I’ve been here before its like the first time again: everything is the same yet all different, covered in white, washed in mist and dressed in silence. Ester the dog and Harry the horse greeted me in the evening as i stepped out of the warmth into the glacial cold.
    An email from a dear friend closes the day and welcomes a new. A bientôt!

  12. ECA 1 décembre 2016 at 23 h 18 min - Reply

    Happy birthday! I hope it was wonderful.

    Another long day. I am fighting sleep and I think I will just go ahead and let it win. Goodnight all.

  13. Cristina (Ocean of Generosity) 1 décembre 2016 at 23 h 05 min - Reply

    Dear Roshi, happy happy birthday.
    Today and yesterday with a looooot of work, trying to force me to write some words.
    Reading all the posts that have been written by all of you I feel connected to you.
    Thank you for supporting me.
    We are in winter but here in Esposende still smells like autumn, where is the cold? A great storm is coming ….
    Good evening, and a big hug for you all.

  14. Guillaume 1 décembre 2016 at 23 h 03 min - Reply

    I don’t really know what to write today. Earlier today looking at Amy’s then empty post, and wondering if it was intentional or not, I thought it would’ve been funny if everyone had answered with empty comments of their own. And I thought it would all have made perfect sense too. Words of emptiness to speak of that which can’t be talked about.

    Happy birthday Amy and Lisa!

  15. Óscar Faria 1 décembre 2016 at 22 h 33 min - Reply

    Happy birthday, dear Amy!

    Today Christmas lights were lit in Porto downtown. Thousands of people in the street. A big metallic tree in front of the city hall covered with leds, which lights up in an sequence till the upper end, where the star is placed. Every year I have the sensation that the brightness of the lamps is getting weaker. I have the memory of my childhood, when the trees were covered with electric bulbs: the quality of the light was so amazing. Now, there are too many shadows, perhaps due to the ersatz products. Nothing is taken care properly: there are lots of distractions and everything seems to run down, although all the visible signs seem to indicate precisely the opposite of this idea.

    Before leaving home, I notice the sounds of the seagulls that repeatedly invade the dining room and the kitchen, in the back of the house. The sirens of ambulances, fire trucks and police cars sometimes mixed with the noise of the seabirds. Sometimes I can smell the ocean, but it’s near presence is announced everyday by the two species of seagull that cross the sky in front of me: the yellow-legged gull (larus michaellis), which call is “a loud laugh which is deeper and more nasal than the call of the herring gull), and the lesser black-backed gull (larus fuscus), that has a call that is “a ‘laughing cry’ like that of the herring gull (to which this species is closely related), but with a markedly deeper pitch). »

    Now, writing these lines, I wonder what the gulls might thing about this sudden enlightenment of the town. Perhaps they exchange loud laughs and cries or maybe they just decide to move away to darker areas.

    Looking to the photo posted today, I could not stop reminding myself of a poem by E.E.cummings:


  16. Evi 1 décembre 2016 at 21 h 18 min - Reply

    Dear Amy,
    happy happy birthday,
    Since a long time I was present again when someone else took his last breath. I’m softened, tender, vulnerable. I miss his wife and two great young adult kids. It was like the title if my book: a « Story of intimate Relationship, care for the Dying once told differently. »

  17. Elizabeth 1 décembre 2016 at 20 h 35 min - Reply

    Dear Amy Rochi how long ago it was your birthday and our first meeting in Coimbra
    at my first Zen retreat . And meeting so many fine people.

    The bus ride today from Coimbra to Lousa took more then 1 hour and I enjoyed every minute of it
    watching the landscape changing and breathing in -out ……

    The day is almost passed so I wish you many happy other days !
    And I must confess that I missed your mail this morning and was a bit worried.

    So thank you for your message .
    Love to all

  18. Miguel Carmo 1 décembre 2016 at 19 h 48 min - Reply

    a butterfly,
    kissing a flower
    blossoming in a cracking stone in the meddle of the river.
    intimacy with us,
    intimacy with the world dancing in the reflection of a quiet river

  19. Madalena 1 décembre 2016 at 16 h 11 min - Reply

    Dear Sensei Amy..

    Congratulations :).. Do hope/wish you enjoy it, your today’s birthday, as much as you did in your youth..

    Lovely words full of hope, joy and hapiness are those you used to describe your garden. What a wonderful gift your husband and mother Nature are oferring you today, white flowers from « anémone du japon ».

    Thank you so much for sharing with us all your wisdom, strenght and gratitude..

  20. Rita 1 décembre 2016 at 14 h 38 min - Reply

    Hello dear brothers and sisters. This morning I went for a walk in the neighborhood under a grey sky. Rain came along too. Some shy tears came to my eyes and the wind seemed as strong and wild as tender. The long path was filled with lots of yellow and brown leaves of the linden trees. When I go there, I always remember the « Unter den Linden » in Berlin. (among the lindens)
    As I walked over the leaves, so present in that path that I couldn’t avoid them, I could feel and see the brightness and splendor of the life cycle.
    Love you all. Rita, Coimbra (Portugal)

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