One Blade of Grass
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.
The essential meditation guide for the twenty-first century: renowned mindfulness teacher Henry Shukman replaces the concept of original sin with original love, teaching us to tap into the love that shapes our world and can transform who we are.
“Henry Shukman shows us how to come home again. He’s been a teacher for me, opening doors of insight and inner freedom.”
Rick Hanson, Ph.D., author of Buddha’s Brain
“Shukman can articulate both inner and outer experience with poetic precision and nuance.”
Rodger Kamenetz, author of The History of Last Night’s Dream
Image: Vulture by Clare Dunne
The rabbi says it’s good for the departed
if religious texts go down
into the grave with them,
so the soul feels less estranged
in its new circumstances.
Down they go, old volumes of scripture
like Victorian ledgers bound in leather,
thudding on dad’s coffin lid
amid the shovelfuls of earth
we mourners are pouring in.
Earth and leather; paper and wood.
Each time another hits,
somewhere in the old Poland or Ukraine
a hasid rocks more fervently,
a zaddik rises from his prayers.
The man of learning,
the man of reason that he was,
is going home now
to a land of unreason, to something like
the lost Lublin or Simferopol,
a land of upside-down hills
where God’s black-coated children
dance arm in arm with the trees,
or gaze from high window
at fires in the sky.
He has no choice: the stay
in the flimsy house of logic
is done. The college can have him
no more. All the trees this blustery morning
are sending him off.
Beside the grave shaft, the heap of earth glistens,
still wet with its own slow life
somewhere beneath the skin of turf
down near the water table,
from which it has briefly risen
into our strange air.
Image: Owl by Clare Dunne
When we were nine or ten and used to play
at dying — hands clasped to the chest,
Goodbye, beautiful world, I love you! —
we didn’t believe it could ever really be done.
Say goodbye to everything? A gunshot wound
in “Alias Smith and Jones” could set us thinking —
please please don’t die — or a feathered mess
that had been a pigeon squashed on the road.
Even Divinity class, that final sponge of vinegar
on a speartip. Goodbye, beautiful vinegar.
Now, under the shag of decades, after so much
contact with things, it takes a morning like this.
Snow has fallen, a light crust. On the white field
green trails zigzag where the horses wandered,
a crazy scribble shows where they fed.
There they are now, two statues stooping.
All the ewes are sitting, thawing their grass.
Puddles crunch like caramel. Little snowfalls
crumble down a hedge. The silver-birch
trembles in its own twigs’ shadows.
And under the rusty chestnut I walkthrough a rain of crystals. There isn’t much to say.
This is a day that decides by itself to be beautiful.
This field is a bride. How are we to say goodbye?