Henry Shukman

Spiritual Director

Henry Shukman has been trained by Zen several teachers, particularly the roshi’s Joan Rieck, John Gaynor, Ruben Habito and Yamada Ryoun Roshi, as well as by teachers and mentors in other traditions. He currently guides a wide range of students from all walks of life. He has received dharma transmission (inka shomei) from Yamada Ryoun Roshi, the abbot of Sanbo Zen, and is a Zen Master of the Sanbo Zen lineage of Kamakura, Japan. He is also a mindfulness teacher and is the Spiritual Director of Mountain Cloud Zen Center. Previously he had a career as an award-winning author and poet. His struggles as a youth, combined with a spontaneous awakening experience at 19, paved the way for Henry to develop a well-rounded approach to spirituality and meditation, under the guidance of his teachers – one that includes both compassionate concern for the sufferings of the world and the great liberative power of awakening as its foundations.

Featured Podcasts & Interviews

Waking Up / Making Sense Podcast with Sam Harris
The Koan Way and Original Love, two series on the Waking Up App
The Way of Zen: A Conversation with Henry Shukman

The Tim Ferris Show 
20 Minutes of Calm and the Strange and Powerful World of Koans
Zen Tools for Awakening, and much more

Upcoming Courses, Retreats and Recent Podcasts

Courses / Events / Retreats

Original Love: Samadhi, The Deep Clear Lake (Online only, recordings available)
6 week course: Sundays July 31– Sept 4, 10am–12pm MT
Weekend retreat: Saturday & Sunday, Sept 10-11, 10am-3pm MT
Registration and details, click here

Everyday Miracle with David White and Henry Shukman
The Zen of Poetry and the Poetry of Zen, August 27 10-11:30am Pacific Time
Join David and Henry in a conversation that promises to explore the ultimate vulnerability of being fully human. Register here.

MCZC Summer Autumn Sesshin led by Henry Shukman and Valerie Forstman
Sept 29-Oct 2, Virtual retreat only. Details here.

Recent Podcasts

Wisdom Podcast: Radical Simplicity
Henry Shukman and Daniel Aitken
Click here to listen

See below for more podcasts, interviews and other teaching venues

Henry’s Spiritual & Zen Background

Henry is a teacher in the Sanbo Zen lineage and has trained in various other meditation schools and practices. After a spontaneous spiritual awakening at the age of 19, followed by a difficult few years, he embarked on a long journey of healing and deeper awakening, guided by Roshis John Gaynor, Joan Rieck, Ruben Habito, and Yamada Roshi, international abbot of Sanbo Zen, who ultimately appointed him a teacher in 2010. Since then he has been leading a growing number of practitioners on the path of awakening, in Europe and the US. Henry has taught meditation at Google, Harvard Business School, UBS, Esalen Institute, Colorado College, United World College and many other venues. He has also been authorized to teach Mindfulness by Shinzen Young, and is a certified dreamwork therapist. His teaching base is Mountain Cloud Zen Center, Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he is the Guiding Teacher.

Professional background

Henry Shukman has an MA from Cambridge and an M.Litt. from St Andrews, and has written several award-winning books of poetry and fiction. His essays have been published in the New York Times, Outside and Tricycle, and his poems in the New Republic, Guardian, Sunday Times (UK) and London Review of Books. He has taught writing and literature at the Institute of American Indian Arts in New Mexico, has been a Royal Literary Fund Fellow of Poetry at Oxford Brookes University, and Poet in Residence at the Wordsworth Trust.

Personal background

Henry grew up in Oxford, UK, where his parents were professors. His early love of poetry led to an interest in Chinese Zen poetry, and ultimately to becoming a writer and poet for many years. In time it also led to his getting into Zen meditation, though his first practice was Transcendental

Meditation. He suffered from severe eczema from infancy into his 20’s, along with associated psychological problems, and meditation was a key element in a long journey of healing, in addition to various styles of therapy. He has written of his own journey in his memoir, One Blade of Grass: Finding the Old Road of the Heart, a Zen Memoir. (Counterpoint, 2019).


From a student:

I feel like Henry is one of the best teachers out there. I feel like he has the goods and he delivers the goods. Henry appeals to the heart/mind and mind/intellect. He is comforting, relevant, and interesting. I like the way that he is casual and down to earth while simultaneously teaching some pretty important things for personal well-being, happiness, and true peace.  Henry is funny, he keeps it light, and he breathes life into Zen as he relates it to real life. He lets us know that enlightenment is possible and guides us in rigorous practice while also letting us know how to take breaks and take care of ourselves. Henry’s teachings are pure, refined by the heart of his understanding and experience. It makes a difference when heart essence teachings are shared by someone whose actions come from their true heart.

Podcasts, Interviews, & Guest Appearances

The Tim Ferris Show 
20 Minutes of Calm and the Strange and Powerful World of Koans
Zen Tools for Awakening, and much more

Waking Up / Making Sense Podcast with Sam Harris
The Koan Way and Original Love, two series on the Waking Up App
The Way of Zen: A Conversation with Henry Shukman

First Human Podcast with Richard Atherton
Finding Zen with Henry Shukman (video)
Click here for the podcast

ManTalks: Henry Shukman with Connor Beaton
Zen Awakening: It’s Not What You Think

Orthogonal: Henry Shukman with Michael Hewett
Zen Graffiti, First Awakenings, and Integrating Unconditional Love

High Existence Podcast with Nic Stubbs
Healing vs Awakening, Zen Koans and the Antidote to Aloneness

The Kevin Rose Show
The Mysterious/Unsolvable Zen Koans

Being Well Podcast with Rick Hanson and Forrest Hanson
The Heart of Zen with Henry Shukman

Deconstructing Yourself Podcast with Michael Taft
Talking about Zen Koans

Buddha At The Gas Pump (BATGAP) with Rick Archer
Conversations with “ordinary” spiritually awakening people Episode 521: Henry Shukman

The Ultimate Health Podcast with Jesse Chappus
Henry Shukman on Experiencing a Spiritual Awakening

Henry’s MemoirOne 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 humurous 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.

Review blurb by Rodger Kamenetz
Henry Shukman’s autobiographical journey from childhood trauma to healing teacher, from the glamorous life of a successful young writer to the quiet of the meditation cushion, from the torment of eczema to the ecstasy of no-self, fascinated me all the way, in part because Shukman can articulate both inner and outer experience with poetic precision and nuance.  He manages to capture here how one might have a profound experience just this side of ineffable, and how it might become central to a person’s life. There is Zen wisdom here for those who want to learn more about Zen, presented in the most unpretentious way possible, with writing that resonates in the heart and mind long after it is read. You will meet in One Blade of Grass many great teachers, and one more who stands among them and shines with them all.

~Rodger Kamenetz, author of The History of Last Night’s Dream and The Jew in the Lotus

Recent Dharma Talks

Henry has a variety of dharma talks on our Mountain Cloud youtube channel. Here we’ve highlighted a couple talks to get you started:

Original Love: Henry describes love as the origin. This origin is primordial absence in Taoism or emptiness in Buddhism. It’s basically coming to the point where there is no thing, simply nothing at all. These are words are trying to label an experience of this very moment. Henry is calling it original love: an utter falling away of everything.

Zen is the Mind of Beauty: Henry reads a selection of writing and discusses the four jhanas – deep states of meditation absorption that make us recognize the wonder of existence.

Getting Started with Meditation, Guided By Henry

The practice of meditation can bring many benefits: greater attention and awareness, the settling down of our emotional life, a growing sense of goodwill and kindness, and a desire to be of help in this world. The latest brain-imaging technology is showing what meditators have sensed for millennia—that the brain circuitry associated with relationships, compassion, attentiveness, peace and joy is all amplified in long-term meditators.

Meditation practice can also help resolve our most deep-seated existential questions. Who am I? What is this world? What is life, what is death? Why am I here? What should I do? Traditionally, Zen offers a way to investigate these matters, and ultimately to resolve “the great matter of life and death.”

Henry created a series of video and audio talks for those new to meditation. They are ideal for newcomers and useful for those who need a refresher about meditation basics.

Listen to the first video talk, Fundamentals of Why We Sit.

Click here for Henry’s short Introductory talks.

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