Jacques Castermane: Another Path to Wisdom

- through Sophie Solere

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He prefers the word wisdom, which has, he says, a taste of here below, to that of spirituality. Following in the footsteps of his master Karl Graf Dürckheim, Jacques Castermane has been proposing, for forty years, a Zen for the West, a path of self-transformation that has its roots in this thousand-year-old tradition.

André Comte-Sponville, who has been with him for twenty years at the Dürckheim center, where he gives philosophy lessons from time to time, mentions in the preface to Wisdom exercised, “his always benevolent lessons, his humanity so warm, so simple, so true” rooted in “forty years of spiritual and bodily exercises, forty years of silent meditation, attention and openness to what is. »

Jacques Castermane was born under the exercise star. As a young adult, he practiced aikido before teaching it. He is passionate about this martial art in which there is no confrontation, no opposition. One fine day, while demonstrating an exercise called “randori” with a partner, he had a disturbing experience. “Suddenly it happened! I was "one with". At the risk of being judged harshly by some psychologist or philosopher friends, I must say that, at the heart of this experience, I was… my partner, that my partner was… me! In this other way of seeing, I was an integral part of an event. At the center of this event and, at the same time, detached from all the components of the event. Calmly embracing the situation, without the slightest desire to succeed, to win the fight and without the slightest fear of failing, of losing the fight,” he wrote in his book Wisdom Practiced.

His first meeting with Karlfried Graf Dürckheim (1896-1988) was made in 1967, during a conference he gave in Brussels. “As soon as he spoke, I was very touched by the fact that he seemed to be what he was saying. Unlike the other speakers who spoke of wisdom and serenity, he gave me the impression, by the way he was there, of being someone who is calm, serene, confident,” insists Jacques Castermane.

Two years later, he left Brussels, abandoned his job as a physiotherapist, to come and live with him in the Black Forest, follow his teachings and become his disciple. He discovers that the journey that Dürckheim proposes, which aims for inner peace and balance, passes above all through experience and through the body. By constantly repeated exercise which is a way of liberating the being and all that hinders it. "Something to surprise the Western man who thinks that the only approach to himself ("know thyself") and to the world passes through the understanding", he slips into a half-smile.

One day, Dürckheim said to him: “You are tense in the shoulders! ". To which Jacques Castermane replies: “Yes, my shoulders are tense”. He interrupts her immediately: “No, by expressing yourself in this way, you are talking about the body you have. It is the man who is tense in his shoulders. It speaks to the fact that you lack confidence.” It is therefore not a question of doing a massage of the shoulders, a therapy directed towards the shoulders, but, as a person, of freeing oneself from this “counter-action” installed in the shoulders. “And that changes everything. Work on the shoulders becomes therapy for the whole man, a gesture of trust,” adds the author of the book. How can one be Zen?

In 1981, Jacques Castermane founded the Center Dürckheim in Drôme. A place dedicated to exercise, experience and spiritual life, in which he has been transmitting, for forty years, the Way that his master traced on his return from Japan. So that everyone can awaken to their essential nature. There, he offers retreats in silence, to free himself from the tumult of thoughts, practice deceleration and become familiar with another way of living everyday life. And sesshins of three to six days which allow an intensive and regular practice of meditation. “Jacques is my master, but he is also a friend. Someone who constantly shakes us up in our certainties, ”points out Jean-François Machet who met him for the first time in 1992, at a time when he was, he tells us, badly in his skin. “He is a mountain, a man of staggering density. Someone very accessible, both direct and attentive who accompanies us in a personalized way”, underlines Nadine Van der Tol who has been visiting the Dürckheim Center for four years. She says she now lives more fully in the present moment and has reconnected with joy, this little flame that children experience (much) more spontaneously than adults and which forms our true substance.

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Sophie Solere

Sophie Solère is an economic and social journalist who has been interested for years in the environment and interdependence. She works for Buddhist News, a media platform dedicated to Buddhist spirituality and wisdom. By practicing yoga and meditative dance, Sophie discovered the power of spiritual journeys, which offer so many paths to (re)find yourself. She is dedicated to sharing inspiring stories and valuable advice on spiritual practice and the environment with Buddhist News readers.

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