"I didn't know who I was." In 1993, Amy Hollowell, originally from Minnesota, USA, worked as a full-time journalist for a prestigious American daily newspaper, the International Herald Tribune, in Paris. Mother of a little girl, her marriage is not going well. “I was a little distraught. I went to see a psychotherapist who told me about a course where the question "Who am I" was discussed? During this stay in England, I had an experience of what is called awakening. Let's say I saw all things as they are. It was extraordinary, but I didn't know what to do with it…” A person he met during the course recommended that he practice meditation. “I was 34 years old, I was a party girl. I never imagined doing this in my life. I talked about it to my therapist who explained to me how to practice. I started alone in my living room. I loved ! »
His search leads him to meet Roshi Catherine Genno Pages, Zen master of the White Plum Asanga lineage, founded by Roshi Taizan Maezumi in Los Angeles in 1967 (see box). “I thought I had already understood everything to my initial question, following my first experience of the unity of all things. But she assured me that my experience was nothing extraordinary and that it was just the beginning: it was a relief for me. Amy begins practicing at Roshi Genno's apartment, before several people join them. In 1995, his master bought a house in Montreuil, which became the Dana Sangha community. “I lived there with her for seven years, along with my children, my new partner and a few other practitioners. »
"Changing my son's diapers was Zen practice"
“Our practice is entirely secular. For my master and me, it made no sense, in our Parisian life, to lead a monastic life. There was a daily meditation practice, but in the morning I couldn't do it with others, because I had to take my daughter to school, take care of my baby, and two days a week, which I go to work… So I had to learn that there was no separation, not only between me and others, but also between my life and my practice. Everything I did was practice: changing my son's diapers was Zen practice. This is what is intended with the koan : respond to the circumstances in which we find ourselves. It is at the very heart of one's life that one awakens. Here and now, as we are. »
Amy then quit working full time to devote more time to her family and her practice. She quickly became attached to the principles of wisdom and compassion: “Wisdom is seeing things as they are, their unity, rather than seeing divisions. From this naturally comes what is called compassion: an unconditional love. I see the other and I don't want him to suffer. I want him to be happy. Climate change, economic inequalities, terrorism, war, creeping capitalism… All these problems start from this illusion of separation, of duality. »
The interview with the Dalai Lama, a turning point
His relationship with others is disrupted. Amy engages with refugees, Porte de La Chapelle, in Paris, and distributes meals to the homeless. His practice of journalism is also impacted: “I interviewed the Dalai Lama in 1993. I had prepared everything, asked questions to those around me to find out what to ask, but, when I met him, I found myself telling him that I was a Zen practitioner and that I was there "like a pipe" between him and the readers. I hadn't thought of presenting myself like this at all. That moment was a revelation: I understood that the most important thing was not to have the best scoop, but to have valuable information and to present it in the clearest and most complete way possible for the reader. »
In 2000, Amy Hollowell began teaching Zen, before receiving the transmission from her master in 2004. “I didn't know if I was ready to take it on. The most difficult thing was to separate myself from my master, like a teenager must separate from his parents. I had to say no to her so that I could say yes to myself and continue to answer my fundamental question: "Who am I?" ". It is no coincidence that Roshi Catherine Genno Pagès gave it the pre-Buddhist name of “You are that”, which draws its source from the Tat Twam Asi of the Upanishads, in the tradition of the Vedas.
Poetry and the passage of time
Having become a master, Roshi Amy “You are that” Hollowell surrounded herself with a small meditation group in Paris, on Monday evenings. “Other people joined us and, simultaneously, I was invited to Portugal. I started going there three times a year and I founded the association Wild Flower Zen Sangha (1), in 2004, to teach Zen”. In 2016, Amy created the Wild Flower center in Paris to welcome new practitioners.
“In 1993, I interviewed the Dalai Lama. I had prepared everything, but when I arrived in front of him, I found myself telling him that I was a Zen practitioner and that I was there “like a pipe” between him and the readers. »
She also devotes herself to one of her passions, poetry. In his collection We here (2), the verses, which refer to the weather, news or daily life, scroll like thoughts, visions, sensations. However, Amy Hollowell sees no separation between her practice as a poet, a journalist, a Zen teacher, a mother of two children, a human being: “Poetry is my way of expressing all of this in words. There have been Zen poets for ages, especially through haikus”.
At sixty, after 26 years of practice, Amy Hollowell still wonders: “What would have happened if I hadn't met Catherine and Zen? It is possible that I never would have known that it was not about me, but about others, and that my life would therefore be narrow and poor, without the richness of sharing, without the experience of the abundance of every moment. But I might also have followed other paths… Who knows? And it doesn't matter to me to know, because what is today is marvelously perfect, just as it is.