Category Archives: the cloud of unknowing

One word

This week I want to share something with you that I found particularly interesting. I have been reading Laura Munson’s book “This is Not the Story You Think It Is…” and toward the beginning (actually in the 2nd chapter) there is this amazing excerpt that Laura shares with us. Perhaps you’ve heard of it before. Indeed it’s fairly reminiscent of a through-line in ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ (perhaps both ladies read the same author – I don’t know). What I do know is I want to share it with you now, as well as Laura’s thoughts and words leading up to the excerpt. From Laura:

“And then I remember an excerpt from a book that has seen me through hard times before. It’s called The Cloud of Unknowing. In it, an anonymous fourteenth-century Christian mystic writer asks us to choose a word. One word. And to fasten it to our hearts. That word, working in us, will bring us through the hardest times. Or so the anonymous writer promises. In my life, that word has been many things. God, love, hope, truth, joy, grace, beauty, wonder, surrender, freedom. Right now it is more simple than any of those things. It is not a deity or a goal or a state of being. It’s an action verb. It is simply: breathe.”

And here is the excerpt:

“Take just a little word of one syllable rather than two . . . Such a one is the word God or the word love. Choose which you prefer . . . and fasten this word to your heart so that whatever happens it will never go away. This word is to be your shield and your spear, whether you are riding in peace or in war. With this word you are to beat upon the cloud and the darkness above and beneath you. With this word you are to strike down every kind of thought, driving it down into a pool of forgetting. If any thought should press upon you, asking what you would have, answer with no word but this one. If your thoughts should offer, out of their great learning to analyze your word for you and tell you its meanings, say to your thoughts that you want to keep it whole . . . It is not a matter of analyzing or elucidating . . . No one can truly think of God. It is therefore my wish to leave everything that I can think and choose for my love the thing that I cannot think. God can be loved but not thought. He can be taken and held by love, but not by thought.”

For me, this is one of the most poignant and simple things I’ve read in a while. I have to admit, I have not yet read ‘Eat, Pray, Love,” but I did see the movie, and I spent the following few days thinking of my word. And then I picked up Laura’s book (which is a must-read), and the same suggestion was laid before me to ponder. And I urgently thought, “What IS my word?” “Do I even have a word?” “Am I a failure if I can’t come up with a word? One word?” Geesh!

The problem was I couldn’t come up with just one. I had several, actually, that felt ‘right’ for me. So – how could I choose? Was it: faith, light, peace, authenticity, or truth? What was my word? You probably know from previous writings that I refer to God in many ways, as God encompasses so much for me. So, I tried “God” on for size – and I still felt like I couldn’t settle on one word. And yet the author was so clear. One word. One one-syllable word. That’s all. How was I going to do this? And then I realized something. It wasn’t about the ONE word. It was about the act of making a decision, and holding it. For me, what mattered more than the word was making a choice. And once I settled down, stepped away from my mind and allowed myself the room to choose – you know what happened? I chose Me. I’m not sure it gets simpler than that. Me.

Some of you may think that odd – but it’s the most authentic, loving, peaceful, happy, light and divine word I can come up with. By choosing “me” and fastening myself to my heart – I have chosen to step into my own power. I have chosen to honor who I am as an expression of something Divine. And I have chosen to feel the freedom that comes with making such a decision.

In the end, it became much simpler than I was making it. There are so many words I could have chosen along the way to help me through difficult times. But they would be transient words, ever-changing in the face of challenges. The one word that would never change is simply Me. And for that realization I can honestly say I am incredibly grateful. Thank you, Laura. Thank you, Liz. And thank you anonymous Christian mystic for prompting me to make the choice.

In love and light,
Martina