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Talking about Zen Koans, with Henry Shukman

Henry Shukman

Zen teacher, author, and poet Henry Shukman talks with host Michael Taft about Mountain Cloud Zen Center, Henry’s series on the Waking Up app, meditation for awakening vs. meditation as a “band aid,” the role of psychotherapy in spiritual practice, the power of working in the “old way,” the path of working with Zen koans as the journey of a lifetime. 

Henry Shukman is a teacher in the Sanbo Zen lineage, and is the Guiding Teacher of Mountain Cloud Zen Center, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Henry is an award-winning poet and author of several books, including One Blade of Grass, which details his spiritual journey. And is excellent. His struggles and traumatic experiences as a youth, combined with a spontaneous awakening experience at age 19, paved the way for Henry to develop a well-rounded approach to spirituality and meditation – one that includes love for self and the world as its foundation.

Henry Shukman at Mountain Cloud Zen Center

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5 thoughts on “Talking about Zen Koans, with Henry Shukman”

  1. I was disheartened by Henry Shukman’s response to Michael’s question about negative psychological consequences of meditation (retreats). I thought he failed to appreciate how meditation is usually presented as universally positive, how most people look to it to make their lives better, rather than as a way to wake up, and how negative the consequences can be, even if rare. He might be awake, but in this area he seemed to lack any real compassion. Disappointing.

  2. Henry Shukman is an amazing guest and speaker. I wasn’t immediately convinced. When he kept repeating “What is the price of rice in Luling these days?” I found it irritating. But the next day (while swimming actually), his voice repeating this phrase came back to me over and over, along with the similar phrase “This is it”, and the meaning just blew open in my mind. I let myself hear it again several more times with mounting joy. It felt so absolutely true. The feeling lasted only till I finished my hour of swimming but I later recorded what little of this experience I could find the words to express. It still seems like a glimpse into the kinds of realizations Shukman talks about as beginning the path, so I think I need to find a Rinzai teacher. Thanks again for this amazing interview, Michael.

  3. Michael, can you please normalize the volume of the voices in the podcasts? Your voice is a lot quieter than Henry’s, and when I raise the volume to hear your voice Henry’s becomes too loud.

  4. Thanks for this – Henry seems like a wise and thoughtful individual. His comments about suitable paths appropriate to personality types and life history rang true. My own path was long and winding, from interests in theosophy and other so-called New Age spirituality in my adolescence, to Aikido in my adulthood to my current practice of Theravada Buddhism, none of which seemed to have predictable, even in retrospect. I hesitate to advise, if asked, what path a person should choose – I think being prescriptive about it can lead to discouragement, boredom or even actual psychic damage.

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