Written around the year 1375, The Cloud of Unknowing was written as a letter of advice to a young novice just setting out on the path of contemplation. The author, believed to have been a country parson, writes in a personal, direct style, hoping to share his knowledge of contemplation with the young would-be monk.
The theme of the Cloud of Unknowing is of turning one’s attention within, away from the mind and its objects. The attention is turned inward upon itself, and since it is now focused on nothing the mind can understand, sees only a ‘cloud of unknowing’, a seeming nothingness. For most seekers, this can be frustrating, if not impossible, for it gives no immediate reward, or even an object or image for their mind to grasp. To simply aim one’s attention at its own source is to look back up the ray of one’s awareness, where the mind and ego cannot go. This also takes the attention off of the body and its desires and fears, along with the senses and outer environment.
For when you first begin to undertake it, all that you find is a darkness, a sort of cloud of unknowing; you cannot tell what it is, except that you experience in your will a simple reaching out to God [a naked intent unto God]. This darkness and cloud is always between you and your God, no matter what you do, and it prevents you from seeing him clearly by the light of understanding in your reason, and from experiencing him in sweetness of love in your affection.
“When the thought and the mind goes away, all you are left with is the real part of yourself…. In the quiet, there is a sense of eternality and unconditional love.”
~ Bob Fergeson
The sense of eternality marks the work of photographer, mountaineer, and spiritual teacher Bob Fergeson. Set among the Rocky Mountains, Bob’s story weaves the passions of the creative life and a love for the outdoors into a compelling narrative of a spiritual search. From his childhood attempts to capture moments of ethereal, quiet beauty with a Brownie box camera, Bob’s life careened towards a crushing encounter with alcoholism, then flowered in a time of self exploration through painting, drawing, and dreamwork, led to years of spiritual disciplines, and culminated in a final encounter with Truth that left him weeping on a Colorado mountainside.
Whether you frame your quest as a search for God, truth, enlightenment, awakening, certainty, or an aching longing to fill a void inside, you will find this feature-length documentary is more than just a film, it is a resource that you will mine for inspiration and advice again and again.
Stream Or Download The Movie:
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For the $9.95 budget version: mountainhigh.vhx.tv/buy/mountain-high-budget-edition
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for more info: http://www.poetryinmotionfilms.com/mountain-high.htm
Trick:Look carefully at what is actually happening in the course of a 24 hour day. We start out our day in a dream world in our sleep, then we go through the ‘death’ of waking up, and start another dream, our daily life. Even the seemingly simple act of walking from a room outside into the daylight is an enormous change, but we’re so asleep we no longer notice it, much less the changes in personality that automatically ensue whenever circumstance dictates. Through simple honest observation, we can come to see how tenuous and vague our waking life ‘self’ really is. This shock turns our attention within, and we find ourselves looking back at what we are looking out of, no longer obsessed with our image-creating mind and its desires and fears.
Trap: Bigger is Better. The all too common trap of sensual thinking applied to spiritual matters. That Nirvana or the Kingdom of Heaven is just being really, really high for a really long time.
Trick: What Goes Up, Must Come Down. If being exceedingly high is your definition of Nirvana, you’ll sooner or later find your corresponding version of Hell. Instead, develop a trustworthy memory, learn to listen, and observe your self. Try being aware, in the moment, of your motivations, your experiences, your very reasons for living. Learn to wield the sword of discrimination, rather than squirming about inside the oven of pleasure and pain.
Haven’t you cooked enough?
Here are three tricks to bridge the gap between our ego/idea of ourselves and our fact status:
When I first came across Bob Fergeson’s site and articles a couple years or so ago, two things struck a chord with me – his article on the Puer Aeternus and his description of ‘nostalgia’, the sense that I’d once been someone or had something or been somewhere that I no longer was.
The place or thing or person did not seem to matter as much as the sense of something ‘missing’, the longing of a ‘return’. It did not make immediate sense but I went back to the articles over and over.
There was something there, some truth I sensed but was not quite able to experience or realize. If there is anything different these last few years, it is that – the sense that I am finally on to something, close to something, something I’d given up on ever finding many, many times but never quite been able to get completely out of my system.
My life before that was much like anybody else’s – an attempt to get through life with the least amount of pain and the most amount of pleasure I could, trying to fit in and believe the same things that all the people around me did. The problem was that nobody was ever ‘right’ for very long… The other problem was that none of them seemed able to see that they were wrong, let alone admit it.
Everybody around me seemed to be frozen in place, like the colored blocks in the video game ‘Tetris’ that slowly descended down, down and fell into some niche, locked in by other blocks, never to move again.
For some reason that always scared the hell out of me. The only thing that scared me worse was that despite all my flailing around and so-called careful maneuverings to avoid that for myself, I seemed no more happier than they were. I could find no path out, no viable alternatives.
As a teenager I was drawn to true crime books and autobiographies of those that lived outside the rules, so much so that I would later ‘explore’ some of those options but find out they were no more fulfilling than any of the others.
I tried desperately many, many times to call off the search, pretend I didn’t care, lose myself in some other pursuit or endeavor, tried to buy into the bullshit, but eventually, every time, out would come the flashlight or flamethrower and out would go another illusion…
But then, every once in a while, I would catch wind of – something.
According to the Zen Ox Herding pictures, most of my life has been the first one – aimless searching, with the sound of cicadas droning in the background.
But then there was the second picture – the discovery of footprints in the dust and snow every once in a blue moon, just enough to keep me going on…
And then, during the last 4 or 5 years, finally, glimpses of the rear of the bull in the readings of some of the works of Richard Rose and the Tat Foundation, Eckhart Tolle, Byron Katie, Jed McKenna, etc., and the resonances they evoked within me.
But not much more than that until just a couple weeks ago.
Then, finally, I believe, I not only saw the whole animal but actually touched it, briefly – long enough to know it is real. The funniest, oddest, most wonderful thing about it was that suddenly a lot of things I’d read about it – ‘closer than close’, ‘the simplest thing’, ‘something you already are’, suddenly made sense. Laughingly so!
Am I ‘enlightened’? No, but I believe I’ve not only finally had a glimpse through the brick wall of the Secret Garden, but smelled and tasted the fruit.
I find myself now back at the wall, aware of what lies on the ‘other side’ (Ha!), playfully searching for another hole, another glimpse, feeling now as if it’s more of a ‘relaxing into’ that is needed than a ‘search’.
Whatever I had been doing was serving me. Robert Adams has said “Every desire every urge is a search for the Self. But we’re misdirected”. I’d agree as it seems my path has turned out to be one of reorientation. Finding my way now to a point that must be reconciled with myself. – Tim Howell
I started carrying a tape recorder about the same time as a camera, and for the same reason, to capture inspiration. And as the cameras, they’ve changed with technology. First was a cassette, then a couple of digital’s, and now the ubiquitous smart phone. They’ve been of enormous help saving ideas for writing, whether essays, material for a book, or just something I don’t want to forget on the grocery list. When I’m out walking or skiing, that’s when ideas/inspiration seem to hit, and getting them on tape before they fade away has been a life saver.
One of the many spots I associate with inspiration is shown in the blog post below: