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The Cloud of Unknowing - Printable Version

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The Cloud of Unknowing - myotch - 09-04-2017

So, I've been considering some form of meditation. "Mindfulness" is something that has garnered cultural and medical acceptance over the last few years, but I was unsure because of the Buddhist origins, eastern worldview, etc.

I've had some personal success with the (Gospel) Mysteries meditation of the Rosary. The successes are a more dedicated prayer life, even if more meditatation than the prayers of my Fundy youth. I believe the practice in some small ways has helped great improvement in relationship to others, attitude, etc.

I've needed something different, in addition to the Rosary. I can multitask with a rosary - drive, walk...get disrupted and come back to it later.

But I need something to stop the voices, mundane voices, abusive voices, entertaining voices, and the background of numbers, data, visuals, looping videos that are all constantly playing in my head, all at once, an ever present cacophony of audio-visual stimuli swirling in my gray MATTER. So, came across "The Cloud of Unknowing", an obscure Christian mystic text written in Chaucer's English from the Middle Ages. It's basically a how-to of contemplative meditation, where the object is to know God not by his movements and machinations or fullfillment of my prayer intentioms, but by the love without which we wouldn't be able to know God at all. As a meditation, it has but two mantras, "God" and "Love", only to be used when actual thoughts start invading the contemplation.

Has anyone tried this or something similar? Any believers who have a habit of mindfulness meditation?

The Cloud of Unknowing - Rulebreaker - 09-04-2017

Hi myotch!
I am a believer who started mindfulness meditation recently (within last 6 months). I think your Cloud of Unknowing meditations sounds intriguing.

I have been using a free app called 'Simple Habit'. There is a lot of free content but you can (of course) also pay for premium content. I have not done that.
I have trouble with relaxing. I worry a lot, think wayyyy too much, and obsess on solving a particular problem at hand. I have had some health problems this year that have really amped up my anxiety and I needed another way to calm them. I spoke with a couple people - one a believer- who practices meditation. So I decided to go out on a limb and try it. I found it really helpful. I usually only did about 10 min a day. I unfortunately got out of the habit over the busy summer months and want to get back into it. I can feel the difference having broken the habit.

As far as the religious side- I know what you mean about mystical eastern religions. I faintly recall preaching against such things as yoga and mediation. But the type I did, I didn't see anything evil about it. It just combines breathing techniques and visualization to refocus and relax your mind. I wasn't trying to seek some evil inner light being or whatever. Lol. I really like the guided meditations but once you feel you have the concept of mindfulness down, you could always meditate on a verse or word as you described above.

If you give simple habit or another type of mindfulness a try, I'd love to hear what you thought.

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RE: The Cloud of Unknowing - myotch - 09-04-2017

Rulebreaker, thanks for contributing!

When you were "in practice", what did mindfulness meditation do for you? Was it centering, or something more.

My brain tells me buddhism doesn't have a patent on breathing, yoga doesn't own the rights to stretching. It's the spiritual components that are excess baggage to me, inasmuch they would interfere with my own religious observances. So, stretching good, focusing on my chokras is bad; getting stuck with needles for pain relief is good, realigning my xi is probably not for me.


So, the layman's advice for the Cloud was - start small, say 5 minutes. I'm a try-harder, so I did 7. Clearing my thoughts was easier than I thought, and before I knew it, I was thinking 7 minutes was way too short. Maybe not enough time to "center", maybe it's something to build up to. Dunno what I was expecting, but there was a small feeling of serenity afterward.

As I study it some more, I might have better insight on how it works, if it helps to "feel small in the face of God's omnipresence", etc. Today, I just felt a sense of the dark and the void.

The Cloud of Unknowing - MyKneesAreShowing - 09-04-2017

I haven't done this but I probably should. My brain never shuts up. I'd be interested in how this works for you @myotch if you care to keep updating.

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The Cloud of Unknowing - Rulebreaker - 09-04-2017

Myotch- I felt more calm and better able to control my thoughts and resulting anxiety.
This was especially helpful when going to bed. I have trouble falling asleep. My mind always races. A bedtime meditation always helped me relax and turn down the thought volume. I've even woke up hours later with my headphones in. Haha.
I was also able to apply certain techniques from the guided meditations into daily life situations.

I must be honest. I haven't studied mindfulness very much. I just used the guided meditations created specifically for specific things (sleep, anxiety, depression, sickness, etc) . I liked having someone guide me through with suggestions for visualizations and what to focus on. Most of it consisted of breathing, visualization, and focusing on the present - your body, sounds of the room you're in, etc.
I did consider buying "mindfulness for dummies" tho. Lol.

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RE: The Cloud of Unknowing - myotch - 09-06-2017

So, day 2 was yesterday. Decided to go to the church we are visiting, and try the meditation in the Adoration chapel.

It was probably a mistake. My mind wandered to all that was around me: 4 people in a chapel, each breathing, one intermittently crying; the chapel itself is lush and beautiful and ornate; the Church's insistence on monastic silence was actually distracting, it made the crying woman almost deafening, the breathing noises chaotic.

My own sinuses betrayed me, too - a humid and overcast day with rain coming in caused my sinuses to inflame, and my inhalations whistled and gurgled through my head.

The mechanics of the meditation weren't effective - noise and movement will inevitably come, so the guidebook says to "let" them, and then push them from the mind with the "word". My whole meditation time was a non-rhythmic repeating of the word as needed.

Still, I ended up feeling....less, if that means anything. I was able to take a serene little walk afterward. My mind wasn't racing over the millions of things. I don't know if I was more focused yesterday, but I was mentally prepared and motivated for some dronish filing work today I was dreading.

The Cloud of Unknowing - Rulebreaker - 09-06-2017

When I meditate I need a quiet place where I am alone. Although I have used the techniques when I'm in other situations, to actually practice the meditations I need that. And the guided meditations I do suggest a quiet comfortable setting. Maybe that would help?

Not to say you can't use the book, but have you considered trying the guided meditations? I think it could help with really "getting the hang of it" I guess. I would have been lost if I didn't have that helpful voice. I'm no expert by any means, but I feel like you shouldn't be frustrated by it- but rather feel helped or at least neutral.

Ps- your post inspired me to start my meditation habit again! Here goes my day 2 Smile

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RE: The Cloud of Unknowing - myotch - 09-07-2017

There's no guide per se for this particular meditation discipline.....That's not exactly true, there is a course at a Trappist monastery. And one of the monks travels for training sessions. But there isn't a guided meditation from, say, youtube or a podcast, I don't think. There are primer courses, which are lectures. Lectures have often inspired great meditation - I get so bored, I can practically see Nirvana from my house. Or daydream that Nirvana is my house band. Or something.

It would seem the preferred Catholic method is lectio divina, meditating on a passage of Scripture or a respected book like Aquinas's Summa Theologica, through "read; meditate; pray; contemplate". It6's supposed to enlighten the practicer to the love inherent in the Scripture.

Here's a kind of layman's explanation of CoU:

RE: The Cloud of Unknowing - Workin' Mama - 09-07-2017

This may not be what you are looking for, but martial arts such as karate promote mindfulness. I've been taking karate classes, and while we don't practice any type of meditation in class, the training has helped me to develop self-discipline and control my thoughts and emotions more effectively, because it requires a lot of focus to perform the techniques well. We also do deep breathing exercises, and a kata that involves tensing and relaxing the entire body in coordination with deep breathing. Karate has even helped me as an abuse survivor; sometimes when I am kicking or punching I begin to imagine what it would be like to beat up my abuser (and also the abusers of people I care about).  But then I get so angry that I can't focus well and start making sloppy mistakes, sometimes even completely missing the bag when I kick. So then I have to step back, simmer down inside, and refocus. The self-discipline aspect carries over to life outside the classroom, and helps in my daily battle with chronic anger -- or should I say, chronic pissed-off-ed-ness.

RE: The Cloud of Unknowing - myotch - 09-07-2017

Interesting. I took a little Tai-Kwan-do in 6th grade, lots of military hand -to-hand in the Corps.

There is something to the exercise.

The workload concerns me. Cardiac patient and all.

Side note: a preacher friend of mine once considered giving up martial arts because of the influence of eastern religion. He still throws people around for fun, though. 4'10" and military chaplain. Another side note: he was anti-Potterverse, too.