The power of being fully present

Terugblik op de retraite met Joan Hailfax Roshi door Monika Jio Winkelmann 


Monika Jio Winkemann is zen practitioner, poetry therapist, groupleader, Zen Peacemaker from Bonn and part of the not-knowing-sangha.

“How do we actualize the best of us, in a world of agonies of all kinds?” I wrote as entry in my notebook. To find new, fresh, deeply reflected answers given by a wise woman, Zen master and author, in dialogue with an international Sangha: that has been the motivation to register for the retreat very early, this time.  And, of course, I wanted to experience Joan Halifax live!

fully present
There is a woman, a wise woman, aged 76, who has taken the plane, probably two planes to Holland in order to teach. She is doing this every two years for already quite some time.  And she would afterwards fly to Kathmandu and further, on a trip through remote regions in the Himalaya, to serve people living there. If she is able to live her vows like that, wholeheartedly, in excellent physical and mental health: I am able too, friends of mine are able. It is not about imitating her and doing exactly the same, but to mobilize a similar spirit: of trust, faith, healthy altruism, loyalty to vows, values, people, countries. This is the power of vision and being fully present.
There are skillful means, upayas, we may adopt. We train them until they become our nature, inseparable from us. We listened to koans and to short summaries of chapters of Joan’s new book.  We sat in silence, walked in silence, ate in silence. We worked silently somewhere on the property. We sat in circles, smaller and bigger ones, sharing from our hearts: to comment on the koans. What do they mean to me, concretely, in my life? This is the power of the Buddha-Way enriched by ways of community-building.

pastedGraphic_1.pngpower of the circle
I learned, yes, it is a practicable way, also in Zen, to reserve some time to investigate a koan and in a council. I liked that work particularly well. I appreciated what a group may contribute to deepen the understanding of an ancient story, carefully put together in order to challenge the zenstudents.  I learned from anyone else in the room, listening to their voices, how close we may get to one another by just listening, and bringing in our ingredients. This is the power of the circle connected to the power of ancient upayas.
I experienced lived interconnectedness with women from a variety of continents, even in our dormitory, which was most beautiful, heartwarming, connecting, joy-giving. This is the power of closeness, belonging, of friendship.
I could testify to how creatively and warmheartedly both the women, Joan Halifax Roshi and Irene Kaigetsu Bakker Sensei would appreciate all those who had helped in making the retreat possible, keep it running smoothly, as well as any other supporters from Upaya Center or other Sanghas or from wherever they were coming. This has been done more than once!  At the end of the retreat, I could witness how tenderly, full of “esprit” and respect, Irene Sensei was expressing her gratefulness to her teacher and the co-teaching Frank de Waele Roshi. I love such care, humbleness and solidarity!
Learning that this spirit infects all others with love and care. This is the power of shared gratefulness.

  • Foto’s:
    – Monika en Roshi Joan, foto Monika Winkelman
    – Kanzeon Cadzand, foto Monika Winkelman