The Cloud of Unknowing and the Greening Power of Contemplation
with Carmen Acevedo Butcher
Saturday, August 26, 2023
“You were made for contemplation, and everything in the universe conspires to help you with it. And contemplation will heal you. . . . Love’s kindness will teach you.”
–Anonymous, The Cloud of Unknowing
Contemplation, as taught in the classic Christian text The Cloud of Unknowing, is not time-consuming. It’s all about longing. One of the most practical, useful guides for exploring relationship with the Divine and our true, loving self, these letters by an anonymous, likely a Carthusian, monk are penned to a spiritual companion, likely a woman, and maybe even Julian of Norwich.
Anonymous starts with the bread-and-butter practice of lectio divina, or sacred reading, and he teaches contemplation simply, calling it “a gentle, joyful, humble stirring of love.” His down-to-earth language reminds us to “be the tree, and let grace be the carpenter,” compares contemplative practice to a falconer’s training and a “leash of longing,” and imagines a game of hide-and-seek, to make this sometimes frustrating practice accessible. As any kind teacher does, he inspires confidence in our own abilities to become calmer, more self-compassionate, and more seasoned contemplatives who want to alleviate the suffering in our local and global communities. How can we make this joyful contemplative practice a part of our own lives? How do we fit contemplation into our busy days?
Join us on August 26th. We will consider these questions through close readings, chanting, journaling from writing prompts, lectio divina, and Centering Prayer, exploring ways to bring the easy practice of contemplation into our ordinary days. Recognizing that so many of the issues of Anonymous’s time mirror our own, we will especially discuss how The Cloud of Unknowing helps us live in touch with Love’s wisdom, moment-by-moment, cultivating self-compassion, compassion for others, and peace within ourselves during the very real stresses of our world.
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Your Guide for the Journey
Carmen Acevedo Butcher
Carmen Acevedo Butcher is an award-winning translator, poet, workshop leader, and member of the Abbey of the Arts Wisdom Council. She has been interviewed on the BBC’s Compass, NPR’s Morning Edition and Dante’s Old South, and many others. Her Cloud of Unknowing translation received a 46th Georgia Author of the Year Award, and Martin Laird calls her translation of Brother Lawrence’s Practice of the Presence “the new standard.” Carmen holds degrees in Medieval Studies from the University of Georgia, was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of London, and teaches in the College Writing Programs at the University of California, Berkeley. She lives in the Bay Area, and is working on a chapbook of poetry. Visit Carmen online.
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