"If you've ever wondered how a messed up kid like you or me might master the wisdom of Zen, One Blade of Grass is the adventure for you. It's great company—and after reading it, you might recognize that you're further along than you imagined." —David Hinton, editor and translator of The Four Chinese Classics and author of The Wilds of Poetry
One Blade of Grass tells the story of how meditation practice helped Henry Shukman to recover from the depression, anxiety, and chronic eczema he had had since childhood and to integrate a sudden spiritual awakening into his life. By turns humorous and moving, this beautifully written memoir demystifies Zen training, casting its profound insights in simple, lucid language, and takes the reader on a journey of their own, into the hidden treasures of life that contemplative practice can reveal to any of us.
"This heartfelt and beautifully written memoir provides one of the most insightful, informative, and honest accounts of Zen practice yet to appear in English." —Stephen Batchelor, author of After Buddhism
Buddhist and poet Shukman (Archangel) shares his journey into Zen in this stirring but slow-moving memoir. Shukman reflects on key moments of his life to unpack his emotions and frustrations, opening with the dual traumas during his youth of his parents' divorce and his extreme eczema. Later, while traveling in South America, he experienced a confusing and profound spiritual moment he could not explain. In the ensuing years, he attempted to recreate it with transcendental meditation before trying Zen meditation. He recounts his fitful attempts at practice and breakthroughs alongside his romantic experiences and professional travel writing assignments. Initially, Shukman yearned for enlightenment, but resisted taking the step of dedicating himself as a monk. He eventually attaches to the Sanbo Kyodan lineage and progresses by working through the traditional koans. He closes with the beginnings of his time as a teacher at Mountain Cloud Zen Center in New Mexico. While Shukman's lovely prose excavates his past to reveal evocative feelings tied to his fears of inadequacy, the overly deliberate narrative tends to drag as he lingers on mundane details and events for too long. This memoir will resonate most with readers wanting to understand the slow, rocky process of practicing Zen.
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One Blade of Grass
Once you start reading this memoir it is difficult to put down. Others might struggle to express mystical experiences in words; however, the talented Henry Shukman is clear. His chronicle is enjoyable and deeply heartfelt.