We Had the Experience but Missed the Meaning IV
The antidote to all these false paths can be summed up in a single word: behold. It is arguably the most important word in the bible, and the most important aspect of the shifting of attention I have described. It is no accident that Julian of Norwich sums up her Long Text not in the catchphrase "all shall be well" but rather, "seke to the beholdyng." Beholding sums up everything the bible teaches, everything about seeking the divine over which millions of words have been written, and reservoirs of ink have been spilt. Beholding is our covenantal reciprocity with the divine. It is the means by which God, who is beyond being and time, allows us to hold him in being and time, even as he is holding us in eternity. The major theme of The Cloud of Unknowing is not unknowing but rather beholding: the author uses the word thirty-five times. The Cloud-author is trying to teach the reader not to be fooled by or trapped in lesser "beholdings"—that is, experiences—but to seek the beholding.
There is a lot of talk these days about the "new monasticism," which is neither new nor monastic; about fluffy "spirituality," about self-indulgent "contemplation." We need to remember that in sharp contrast all this self-seeking exceptionality, God works through the ordinary. Meister Eckhart gives us a word here: "If you are doing anything special, you're not seeking God."
Simply having the intention of silence, and reinforcing that intention by eliminating as much noise from daily life as possible—but without being artificial—will teach us more than any "experience" staged by a celebrity guru. Cultivating the unself-conscious habit of reaching for the silence of the heart beneath words, beneath everyday tasks, at the core of relationships, the environment, our own minds, will bring more illumination than reading a thousand books.
Sit in the cell of your heart and "seke to the beholdyng," and all the rest shall be added unto you.