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

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

Good morning from Paris, a bit « late » again. And again, thank you all for your participation in this retreat, each in your own way. And thank you for the many kind birthday wishes you have offered me. Please contribute again today; it’s all so beautiful. (I’ll try to post again tomorrow, too, just so we can have a place for « closure, » as it were.)

It has been a profound and rare pleasure to meet you here this week, to offer my words and receive yours. Now, today, on what is « officially » the final day of our retreat, what might be the appropriate words? I hope you will tell me!

I love that the accidental late posting of my words yesterday, with only the image appearing for hours, led to so many different reactions and interpretations. How wonderful! I could never have planned that! That’s life, as we say: never knowing what will arise, even when we think we know, and never knowing what will arise from what has arisen… I love to remember what James Joyce said about his writing process: « I’m like a man who trips on something in the street. When I bend down to see what it is, I realize that it’s exactly what I was looking for. »

Pay attention today to what you trip on. You never know what you might find.

By | 2017-04-04T06:58:11+00:00 décembre 2nd, 2016|Retraites au coeur de la vie|18 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. Eduardo 3 décembre 2016 at 4 h 57 min - Reply

    From Vila Real de Trás-os-Montes (behind the mountains), from a inner land, somehow mystified by its archaic / rural way of living, a last (?) and late post on the final day of this formal/non formal retreat. Today I triped on a duty which turned out to have been experienced as a non-duty, i.e. as something that had simply to be done: to finish the writing of a buddhist overview on “Laudate Si. On care for our common home”, the Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment and human ecology. I don’t feel very confortable when I’m asked to present a buddhist point of view on any subject, since I don’t regard myself as having the required scholarly knowledge, not to mention the right spiritual qualifications to do it. But when I have to do it, I’ll do it anyway, the best I can. To soften my own doubts and uncertainties on this subject, I once asked Amy how did she feel about her zen buddhist commitment,, how did she process the spiritual transmission given to her, how did she deal with people’s expectations about her performance as a zen teacher, how did she go on as a lay buddhist practicioner. She unexpectedly answered that she felt as the rugby player who, after receiving the ball, has no other chance than to move with it as far as possible, before he may hand it out to someone else. So, today I felt I had to hold the rugby ball and run with it as far and as good as possible. Very briefly: I think the Pope’s diagnosis on the present environmental and cultural degradation, with its causes on man’s greedy exploitation of the natural word, and its remedy on a “ecological conversion”, adopts the same kind of therapeutic method of the Buddha’s teaching when he diagnosis universal suffering (dukha) as having its cause in ignorance and greed, and its remedy in nirvana. The Pope’s text on the environmental crisis is a crack in the dogmatic catholic religion. That’s how the light comes in.

    Canticle of the Creatures by Francis Assisi

    Praised be you, my Lord, with all your creatures,
    especially Sir Brother Sun,
    who is the day
    and through whom you give us light.
    And he is beautiful and radiant
    with great splendour;
    and bears a likeness of you, Most High.
    Praised be you, my Lord,
    through Sister Moon and the stars,
    in heaven you formed them clear
    and precious and beautiful.
    Praised be you, my Lord,
    through Brother Wind,
    and through the air, cloudy and serene,
    and every kind of weather
    through whom you give sustenance
    to your creatures.
    Praised be you, my Lord, through Sister Water,
    who is very useful and humble
    and precious and chaste.
    Praised be you, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
    through whom you light the night,
    and he is beautiful and playful
    and robust and strong”

  2. ECA 3 décembre 2016 at 1 h 59 min - Reply

    Geneva: For me there seems to be a process in every stumble. Initially there is a mixture of shock, embarrassment and disbelief that somehow the very earth opened up and swallowed my foot. Then my rational brain takes over and I conduct a rapid fire assessment of how this could have come about… was I not looking? how did this catch me by surprise? And the last step is a recentering and learning event. I can’t say my recent stumbles have been particularly pleasant, in fact, there have been a few painful ones, one in particular is seared into my mind and is perhaps just too painful to write about. But in the weeks following the « stumble », there has been a beautiful recentering that has helped me better connect with my daughter, her needs, and has inspired me to see the world more through her eyes, the eyes of a child. I am taking more time to enjoy shared laughter and the beauty of simple things, like her welcoming me home after a long day with an enthusiastic smile and frantically excited wave from our dining room window.

  3. Filipa 3 décembre 2016 at 0 h 51 min - Reply

    Still in Lisbon! After reading Amy’s post I thought… but what will I trip on today? And as the morning went by nothing happened and I thought again « Oh what a pitty nothing interesting is happening… ». I went for my walk. And felt sad and tears rolled down. I’m not home since Tuesday, and for the past few days I’ve stumbling upon stuff from the past. Important and meaningful things I’ve never realized, I really had no idea they existed. The fact of being back « here » helped me realized they had existed… curious. So I’ve been stumbling upon hard stuff, hard and useful. Now I know where some « things » come from. Good to know. Even tough I have no idea of what to do with that information. It feels like a burden now. Thick and heavy (like the sky today). But it’ll change, I guess so… every changes. Right? 🙂

  4. MM 3 décembre 2016 at 0 h 33 min - Reply

    Coincidences happen, grab the chance…

  5. André 3 décembre 2016 at 0 h 33 min - Reply

    A belated happy birthday dear Amy! This time I have participated of this retreat in a more silent way. It has been a very busy week, but whenever I can I come to the blog at least to read Amy´s word and everyone´s comments. Thank you all.

  6. Telma 3 décembre 2016 at 0 h 29 min - Reply

    Greetings to all from me at my beautiful house in Coimbra.
    Happy birthday Amy, wish you all the best! Thank you for making the heart of life retreat a real thing.
    I apologize, but i’ll write my message in portuguese…

    … porque se cada vez mais acho difícil fazer-me entender na minha própria língua, será ainda mais escrevendo numa língua pouco dominada na escrita. Mas lá estou eu a arranjar assuntos que desviem atenção do que É. Este retiro foi antecedido por um nascimento. O meu círculo de vidas ganhou um elemento. Mas onde há vida há morte. E por favor não temamos o termo morte, nem a morte em si própria, que não passa de sinônimo de transformação. A minha semana heart of life começou com uma transformação. Uma transformação que me puxa para o lado mais frio da cama em noite de inverno…
    Fiz coisas que esperavam há algum tempo por acção, matei expectativas sem criar outras em seu lugar, cansei-me, chorei, lutei comigo, perdi e ganhei batalhas… E continuo em guerra, embora o meu coração e alma gritem por paz…
    Ganhei medo em abrir a porta e sair lá para fora.
    Dou melhor quem sou ao anónimo no anonimato.

    Hoje fui à baixa no final da tarde… Estava vento fresco gelado como gosto, as iluminações de Natal estavam ligadas e lindas, e o meu passo era ritmado sem pressa. Sem pressa para chegar.
    Na volta dei de caras com a lua. Eu vivo no mesmo universo que ela, e eu só existo porque estou aqui e não nela.

    Estou constantemente a tropeçar em mim. Eu sou a maior pedra no meu caminho e está difícil contorná-la. Como afastar o que somos? Para sermos quem achamos ser? Não seremos já o que somos, ou serei eu cega a duvidar do que outros vêem?

    Take care,


  7. Elizabeth 2 décembre 2016 at 23 h 31 min - Reply

    Was it Aristotalis who thought that we could become ourselfs only with the other(s)?
    But what are we /I? And what to become ?
    Alone we can do all sometimes together even more !

    The spot on the kitchen wall happen to be ( after a closer look) a worm and I moved him to the plants outside.
    Sitting was a few this week awareness in the heart of life a lot
    Thank you all
    Bjs from Coimbra

  8. Guillaume 2 décembre 2016 at 22 h 44 min - Reply

    One retreat ends, another starts. Tonight in Paris we’ve just started the week-end retreat that’ll last until Sunday. And after that? The real retreat will begin. The one that doesn’t even call itself a retreat. I’m glad I can do this over and over again.

  9. Óscar Faria 2 décembre 2016 at 20 h 50 min - Reply

    Pierre Soulages, 19 June 1963, 260×202 cm, oil on canvas. The painting posted today is made by an artist whose work appears in the aftermath of Second World War. I see his activity as the accomplishment of a mourning task, an offering “to the innumerable people of the dead”, as once Jean Genet wrote about the creations of Alberto Giacometti. In his first visit to Japan, in 1958, Soulages discovered zen philosophy and calligraphy. One day, he asked to himself: “Why black? The only answer, including the ignored reasons lurking at the most obscure of ourselves and the powers of painting, is
    – Because.”

    A coincidence: the date that gives the title to the painting is my father’s birthday – he was born in 1939.

    In the afternoon, I went to see a documentary in the context of the “Porto/Post/Doc” festival. “Ascent”, by Fiona Tan, a montage of more than 4000 still images of Mt. Fuji from all eras. From this beautiful visual essay, I retained a death poem:

    “A small night storm blows
    Saying ‘falling is the essence of a flower’
    Preceding those who hesitate”

    After arriving home, I discovered that it had been written by Yukio Mishima.

    Il faut continuer…

    • ann 11 décembre 2016 at 16 h 23 min - Reply

      Tank you for reminding Fiona Tan to me. I used to follow her work earlier – for it has so much presence, silence in it.
      Thanks for the Mishima poem too. Didn’t know he wrote poems too – know only the books.

      il faut continuer…

  10. Tiago 2 décembre 2016 at 20 h 49 min - Reply

    Sat on the 18:19 south west train from Crewkerne to London Waterloo, catching up on emails and on breath after a couple days of intensive but pleasurely work, in a place where all was white and green.
    Reading Amy’s words only now, I’ve immediately tried to recall if I had tripped on anything today… though I haven’t fallen on the icy road, there were the worlds of thought and memory I’ve stumbled upon to which I’ve had a closer look, only to find corners and crevices I’ve not paid too much attention lately.
    As I’m writing this, an old man sits next to me. He has a part of a flute in his hands and is completely, fully, looking at it! Cleaning the keys, tightening it’s minute screws, smoothing the pads, redoing it all again and makes noises of dissatisfaction. His friend opposite, smiles back at him with love.
    What this HOL retreats do, for me, is that they call my attention to what is. They are a reminder, an intention, a looking glass into life, which is always there, but which so often goes by unnoticed.
    Thank you All for these many moments of « paying close attention » together.

  11. Geert 2 décembre 2016 at 16 h 46 min - Reply

    Dear Amy Roshi, how can I write in an appropriate way what I would like to say ? Let’s start here : I could feel melancholy in your writings over the past days. But it is as with the berries : if one does not go out wandering in the garden and does not pay attention properly, they might not be noticed. Melancholy is a well known feeling to me. It has a flavour of relieving pain, birth pain… Perhaps melancholy is one of the manifestations of our human cracks through which te light can enter.
    Another thing I noticed is that sometimes we find it so hard to share the deepest of our being human with words. I can connect to that feeling. Many times, I get lost or struck in – or confused by my own words or others’ words… whereas silence or a smile, a child’s look or a tree, the sound of wind or the ocean and so many other non- verbal manifestations can be immediatly clear and profoundly revealing. So writing is a hard job and truly an art. And yet, trying to write down how we experience life is so important and beautiful, no matter how poor our words may seem to be. This is one of the things I learned from this “Heart of Life retreats”, thanks to your initiative and so many people’s efforts to share their lives in this great experiment. The expression and sharing of how life really is to me and reading how it really is to all of you, here and now, is not only in but also – and perhaps mainly – beyond our words. The living spirit is hidden in them. This is so precious…
    Finally, I can honestly tell you and all the nice people sharing this HOL retreat that what was and is in and through and beyond and in between your words has been and is truly inspiring to me for many years now. So I want to deeply express my gratitude for sharing your life as a written piece of art and a masterpiece of writing art, called “zenscribe”, over those years. May this “louange” be a late birthday present.
    All the best to all of you!

  12. Christine 2 décembre 2016 at 15 h 46 min - Reply

    Hello from Palaiseau,
    when I saw the picture yesterday without words I, too, thought it was intended and a silent instruction. It made me think of the master who just raised his finger as a teaching. Yet, I found it difficult to write something… if the teacher doesn’t say anything, how can I ? And so I didn’t.
    This morning on the way home from school I had a nice chat with two mothers I hadn’t spoken to yet and who were asking if my son was doing better. He had been crying a lot in the mornings when I had to leave him at school. There are a lot of things I’m not really happy with in this school. The rigidity of the teacher doesn’t fit well with the overflowing energy and great sensitivity of my son. There was a deep connection and understanding with the other mothers on how children suffered from the roles and labels some adults put on children.
    Then I was teaching a childbirth class for a couple. The mother was very touched by a little film I showed about a birth where the older child recieved a gift once the baby was born. She already has a girl and a big gift for the big girl and a small gift for the baby are already prepared. It’s such a big thing when a child becomes brother or sister and she felt that deeply when she saw this child unpacking his present.
    Soon I’ll pick up the kids and the noise will come back in the so far silent house.
    I bow to you all.

  13. ann 2 décembre 2016 at 15 h 06 min - Reply

    A late happy birthday to you Roshi Amy! – I only found this place now.

    Thank you so much for this initiative. And thanks to all of you joining it.

    At home. Strugling today more then ever. I long to know things – or things come to me as if i know them – or as if i am able to know them – and even when i realise this is an illusion – i always get trapped in it over and over again.

    In poetry when i write things i know – it feels not real. Not good. Not fresh. Feels conceptual second hand.
    When as yesterday – and sometimes – i could only listen – the words – word by word just came to me – reveal themselves as out of the fogg – discovering them “tenderly” – invite them in – a mystery. Sometimes i don’t even understand it immediately. But after a while it becomes clear. The the right words.
    It’s all there in the whole –  » in the cloud » – and it always is – if we are connected – if we don’t interfere – everything is. If we trust.
    But sure: today i wanted it to be as good, as fresh… my terrible thinking brain took over… and sure it gets as bad as it gets.
     » I trip it  » –  » as on the street » : This is real . As real as it gets. And i guess : “Just what i needed. “
    « So Real » as Jeff Buckley sings.

    As allways today i constantly get trapped – I want to know – or i think i know something…. i think… but only « over and over again ». And most of it i am sure i can not even see. « In the heart of daily practice. »
    “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.”

    Still – seeing a video of trump in these trumpian times ; anger and sadness overwhelm me – and i feel so powerless: how can i relate tot this? Trump helping me a great deal not to make firm concepts about anything: about him – by changing the whole time….
    I guess he must be a buddhist teacher…

    i just read someone else also quoted the end of Nameless of Beckett – i also sended it to you some days ago Roshi but on the old mailadres.

    « …..It will be me
    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.
    one has to go on
    i will go on.”

  14. Manon 2 décembre 2016 at 14 h 48 min - Reply

    Résidence étudiante, Tuebingen, Allemagne
    J’aime tellement lire tous ces mots.
    Fin de retraite ? En sesshin, c’est le moment où l’on parle de nouveau qui m’émeut le plus. J’en pleurerais de parler de la pluie et du beau temps. Parce que tout ce qu’on partage est d’une grande beauté. Les nouvelles météo en font partie.
    A la fin de la retraite de rue, je me suis assise dans un fauteuil en lisant un livre et en mangeant des fruits frais qui m’avaient tellement manqué.
    Fin de la retraite heart of life ? Vivienne et Helga, deux de mes douze colocataires cuisinent en écoutant de la musique à fond. J’entends leurs rires depuis ma chambre. J’aime bien les écouter. Je suis en train de réunir les pièces nécessaires pour un contrat de travail, un job étudiant pour gagner quelques sous.
    Fin de semaine ? Je me réjouis d’être en week end.
    End of ?

  15. marlene 2 décembre 2016 at 13 h 50 min - Reply

    Bonjour. Le dernier jour de retraite et pourtant … sans réseau pour savoir de vous et sans rien pouvoir vous dire est- ce que j’étais en retraite? Les derniers quatre jours ont eté vécus …comment?
    Je viens de le savoir, haujourd’hui, le matin à Lisbonne,quand j’ai peut lire le post de Amy (Vème jour et IV) et réaliser que tout le temps j’ai été en retraite avec vous. Vos mots, par moyen du réseau finalment trouvé , me font savoir de vos jardins (et j’étais avec toi dans ton jardin le jour de ton anniversaire quoique c’est haujourd’hui que je te souhaite bon anniversaire,Amy), de vos enfants, de vos chats, difficultés pour trouver le « bon » moment pour s’asseoir … Et je me retrouvais aussi dans mes moments -in the heart of life comme vous:.le moment ou j’ai eté assise -la mer devant moi- sentant la lumiere, lair salé dans le visage, les couleurs de l’eau et sachant aussi que je le partageais dejà vec vous–quoique à la fin du jour le reseau ne me permettait pas ….
    Et maintenaint je suis dans le train,sortant de Lisbonne -avec Miró, le chat de ma fille-. Je vient d’écrire tout ça . Un peut fatiguée de tant de mots ….
    Le voyage durera encore une demi heure. Le temps de respirer avec le paysage et la marche du train..( on est en retraite…. )
    Merci à tous.

  16. Tomas 2 décembre 2016 at 10 h 44 min - Reply

    Now that the house is quiet again, need to hurry to the office. Let’s see what I’ll stumble upon 😉

  17. Tomas 2 décembre 2016 at 10 h 43 min - Reply

    Vesancy, France. Sitting again as family the 3 of us here in the mountains. A very « dynamic » sitting, mostly watching baby Maru playing in front of us, craing everywhere, grabbing everything. 30mins of being very close to him. « Coming closer ». I’m loving these sittings with baby every morning. Sometimes there is quietness and silence, contemplation of nature and the day awakening outside in the garden, and mostly « contemplating baby play » meditation 😉 Another great opportunity to be close, in a lovely way!

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