Michel Oltheten

MichelMichel Oltheten (1954) started to practice zen meditation in 1993 in The Hague with Cees van de Bunt. That same year he met Catherine Genno Pagès Roshi and asked to become her student. In 1995 he and his partner Helen Pelder together received lay ordination (Jukai) from Genno Roshi. From 1994 onwards, when Roshi opened the Dana Zen Center in Paris, he began to travel between The Hague where he lived with Helen and their three children, and the Paris Zen Center. The frequency of these stays in Paris increased steadily and he would spend several weeks and later months a year there. In the Netherlands he worked as the CEO of an industrial organisation and later as therapist and counsellor. With Roshi's permission he and Helen started an affiliated zen meditation group in The Hague in 2001. This group gradually developed into the Zen Heart Sangha, with Michel as spiritual leader, and became an independent organisation in 2010. In 2011 Michel stopped working as a therapist and became a full time dharma-teacher-in-training under the tutelage of Genno Roshi. In 2014 he received dharma-transmission (shiho) from Roshi and became a fully authorised teacher in the White Plum lineage (see the page about our lineage). He teaches the practice of just wholeheartedly sitting (shikantaza) and the practice of Koan study.

"Our practice is not about getting rid of our passions, desires, our frustrations and fears, etc. These are actually very workable and useful. It's about working with whatever is present in our lives. It's about seeing all these thoughts and ideas, the feelings and emotions with an open heart. Most importantly, it's about looking through them and concentrate on seeing the one who is experiencing it all, asking again and again:

"What is this Me? Who am I?".

Through courageous self-inquiry we will inevitably find out that "me" is in fact very unfixed, ungraspable, fluid, which can feel very uncomfortable, even frightening at first. But if we courageously persist, “me” becomes more and more transparent and the vast spaciousness becomes visible, within which the self and all things appear and disappear again. This is really who I am, and it includes and welcomes all things and phenomena. As our fixed and limited perspective is let go of, the utter unfixedness and openness of me and all things become visible and vast reality emerges as Me.

Eventually, meditation is about expressing this wide openness through our very own life, so that it might work in other lives. "I am ME", having been reduced and expanded to "I Am", evolves and becomes "I am You" and then "Me and You". This is what we call intimacy. Now we can really relate."

Michel Plein Ciel Oltheten

Zen Heart Sangha