Unknowing ~ An Ancient Path to Peace (Chronic Pain and All)

Chronic Pain often seems to force us to focus on pain, and only pain. Our mind (and spirit) start down a tortured path not of our own making it seems, as we move from the knowledge that the pain, which in most cases ends- has an ending- will subside, to the knowledge that, in our case, it is in fact, never ending.

We seek medical care, but at some point along this journey, we come to the realization that mastery of our minds and spirits

is an essential component of our pain management, our well-being…

Doctors can help, certainly, with medicines, procedures, surgeries, etc., but where these leave off we find ourselves alone with our pain. It becomes vitally essential to have coping skills that address and help with our mind and spirit’s (and our ego’s) internal dialogue with pain.

For some, this path has led to meditation.

There are many forms of meditation, a practice used to quiet the mind and take control over one’s thoughts, including the thoughts of and related to pain, but the Christian form, known as Centering Prayer, is rooted in a classical text,

The Cloud of Unknowing

The Cloud of Unknowing is considered a hallmark work of Western Spirituality and Christian Mysticism. It was first brought to light after a Trappist Monk, Father William Meninger discovered the ancient book on the shelves of his monastery.

An anonymous 14th-century book, it presents what we now know as contemplative prayer and teaches a spiritual process which allows “the ordinary person to enter and receive a direct experience of union with God.” The purpose of the text is to lead one to a state of peace where we come to know, or rest in and with, God. This is done, much as Eastern meditation advocates, by quieting the mind.

Written in Middle English as opposed to Latin meant that it was intended for lay-persons as opposed to the educated classes and clergy per se. The text outlines a form of prayer that makes the path to the spiritual, experiential knowledge of God straight-forward, utilizing direct, clear language.

The Practice

  • Begins with the “gentle stirring of love within us; love desiring God for God’s sake and not for his gifts.
  • Center all your attention and desire on him and let this be the sole concern of your mind and heart.
  • Do all in your power to forget everything else, keeping your thoughts and desires free from involvement with any of God’s creatures or their affairs whether in general or in particular.
  • Perhaps this will seem like an irresponsible attitude, but I tell you, let them all be; pay no attention to them.”

The anonymous author goes go to suggest that we…

  •  “diligently persevere until you feel joy in [contemplation].
  • For in the beginning it is usual to feel nothing but a kind of darkness about your mind, or as it were, a cloud of unknowing.
  • Return to it as often as you can, letting your spirit cry out to him whom you love.
  • For if, in this life, you hope to feel and see God as he is in himself it must be within this darkness and cloud.”

Through the process of “sitting” daily, for 10 or more minutes, we learn to simply quiet the mind, which in Centering Prayer fashion asks us to choose a word that connects us to our sense of God, the Love and Presence of God in our life (referred to as “The Sacred Word”) and to repeat it whenever we find our mind wandering (to pain or otherwise). We do this gently and repeatedly and over the course of time, in the cloud of unknowing we find, that in fact we can come to know peace, we are able to calm our pain-addled minds and spirits and simply…

“Be still and know that I am God.”

~ Psalm 46: 10


Author: ChronicPainDailyReflections

I manage a web-site, Chronic Pain Daily Reflections.com, created for and in support of those living in chronic pain. The site helps with the day-to-day spiritual, mental, emotional and physical needs of those with constant pain, whatever its source.