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Phil Fox Rose :
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Phil Fox Rose is content manager of Busted Halo. He's a writer, editor and content lead based in New York and writes the On the Way blog at patheos.com. He is coordinator for the New York City chapter of Contemplative Outreach, helping promote centering prayer, which has been his contemplative practice for nearly 20 years. Phil has also been a political party leader, videographer, tech journalist, punk roadie, software designer, sheepherder, stockbroker and downtempo radio DJ. A common thread is the process of learning about stuff, figuring it out and then sharing that understanding with others. Follow Phil on Facebook here. Or on Twitter here. philfoxrose.com.
June 21st, 2010
Deepening your personal relationship with God through conversational prayer

I had always been fine with the “God is everything” and “There is that of God in each of us” kinds of conceptions of God, but I was finding it hard to turn my will and my life over to a concept or The Universe; and I was being told that it would really help if I could learn to relate to God in a more personal way. I’d always struggled with the idea of a God personal to me. I’d always rejected anthropomorphizations as childish.

Then a wise spiritual friend I admired, Shana, made a suggestion. She came from a rural area where people drive everywhere, and she told me how, when she was learning this herself, she’d buckle the passenger seat of the car and talk to God as if he was sitting there. Though I lived in the city without a car, I’d spent plenty of years in car culture and this visual helped me with imagining how to approach praying in a conversational way.

And praying conversationally changed my conception of God. They fed each other. As I prayed “as if” God was a person in the room with me, I found it easier to feel comforted by God’s presence. As I felt comforted by God’s presence, it became easier to relate to God any time, anywhere — to just stop in the midst of a situation and have a few words with God.

Of course, Christians have always had the person of Jesus to pray to, but I wasn’t raised with any teaching in this area, so that idea was foreign to me. It may be easier to imagine for some. But even if you can easily relate to the idea of praying to God as a person, praying conversationally, and out loud, can still seem strange or silly.

June 7th, 2010
Protect the silence in your day and consider a silent retreat this summer

“Words are very
Unnecessary.”
— Depeche Mode

There is not enough silence in the world. More than ever before, daily life consists of a near-constant bombardment of noise and messaging.

When I am introducing people to Centering Prayer meditation, the first challenge for many is the simple weirdness for them of being silent and in silence, “alone” with their thoughts, for more than a few minutes. Between cell phones, iPods, the radio on at work or in the car, and the TV flipped on the moment they walk in their door, they manage to keep background noise going all day.

The paradox with meditation and other forms of silent prayer, and especially with silent retreats, is that even though they are formless and goalless, they achieve something wonderful — something potentially transformative: they create space, physical and mental space, to become more open.

That space, made most apparent by silence, can be an uncomfortable place to be. Why is this? Why is the weirdness threatening for some? One answer is that offered by Fr. Jim Martin in his latest book, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Anything:

We may fear silence because we fear what we might hear from the deepest parts of ourselves. We may be afraid to hear that ‘still small’ voice. What might it say?

Might it ask us to change?

This is the great power and the great challenge of silence: it can reveal truth. Or more accurately, it takes away our ability to run from Truth.

April 22nd, 2010
An Earth Day reflection on the link between environmentalism and faith

One of the first and key places I encountered the spiritual ideas that eventually led to my baptism was Estes Park, high in the Rockies, amidst Birkenstock-wearing radical environmentalists. It was an interesting time for politics in the late 80s and early 90s and I was looking for new ideas. So were lots of people, and they were talking with each other and reading each other’s books despite divergent backgrounds. Some were grassroots activists, some academics; some were pragmatic, some utopian. There were communitarians and Greens, libertarians and socialists.
I came upon something new (to me) there, something I’d never heard of before with my atheist/Protestant upbringing: natural law.…

April 12th, 2010
What Works columnist Phil Fox Rose is interviewed about being on time on NET TV and responds to reader comments

Recently, I was interviewed for the show Currents on the NET TV network about the spirituality of being on time. Watch the video right here on this page; I’ve queued it up to my segment in the show. So that seems like a good enough reason to revisit my column, “Being On Time.” I was surprised (though I shouldn’t have been) when this became one of the most popular What Works columns.

It was a delight to do the interview with Nathalia Ortiz, and to see the co-anchors discussing the subject with her afterwards. Their comments, her questions to me, and the popularity of this column all underscore that so many of us struggle with being on time, and we want help!

Much of the feedback has been about realizing you are bothering others. So let me focus a little more sharply on the issue of selfishness. But before I do, let me stress that I’m not encouraging you to beat up on yourself. We are all selfish a lot of the time. What I’m encouraging is greater awareness.

Selfishness can take several forms. Many people who are late have a mixture of them.

Self-seeking is when you choose your own gain over the interests of others. It’s self-seeking behavior to maximize the productivity or convenience of your own time at the expense of other people’s schedules. Doctors, for example, do this on purpose, because their time has so much monetary value, and, well, they don’t care about yours — and, as with the chronically late, typically they get more and more behind schedule as the day progresses. (If you haven’t already figured this out, book doctor’s appointments in the morning, when they still might be close to their schedule.)

March 29th, 2010
Devoting a day to faith, family, friends and food

When I was growing up, Sunday was a day for leisure and family. My atheist father did his version of worship: reading the Sunday New York Times from cover to cover while listening to classical music. We had special breakfast meals. (My favorite was ham and cheese pancakes.) In the afternoon there was sports on TV or tinkering at hobbies, and then at night we watched classic Sunday night TV together — especially Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and The Wonderful World of Disney. Sometimes, when my older siblings were still around, we played family board games.
A day of rest has been part of the human routine since, perhaps, its beginning. You need look no further than Genesis 2:3, where God takes a deserved…

March 15th, 2010
Renewal is possible at any time

The vernal equinox, Easter, Passover and the Iranian New Year are approaching. And this column marks the one-year anniversary of What Works. So I want to talk about renewal, fresh starts. (But first, thank you from the depths of my heart for being a part of this joyful process with me this past year.)

So, fresh starts. There’s a simple little saying you hear around self-improvement circles all the time: You can start your day over at any time. It’s a very useful tool: If you are aggravated and feel like the day is off-track, just pause, take a break for five minutes, walk around the block, say a prayer or meditate, and start again.

It seems a harmless enough little aphorism, but behind it is a huge spiritual principle. We are not controlled by the past. We aren’t controlled by the last sentence we said — we can apologize for its harshness, or acknowledge a lie and correct it — and we’re not controlled by career choices, moves or other huge life choices we’ve made — we can look at the present situation and decide what is best now (for ourselves and those around us) and do that.

We often think we are controlled by the past, though, and this is the cause of terrible suffering.

March 1st, 2010
A challenge to work on everyday acceptance

Acceptance is the answer to all my problems, because if I’m in acceptance, I have no problems. OK, that takes care of this column. See you in two weeks…
If only it were that easy! This simple concept is found in many spiritual traditions and it seems we need to be reminded of it every day. In my last column, I talked about acceptance of reality, acceptance of the limits of human existence. Here I want to talk about everyday acceptance.
That jerk who cut you off on your commute this morning? It doesn’t matter. Just missed your train? There will be another. That woman at the office who plays little power games with you? Let her play. The churchgoer who isn’t as righteous as they “should”…

February 16th, 2010
A closer look at the benefits of meditation for Christians

In a famous exchange, Dan Rather asked Mother Teresa of Calcutta what she says in prayer and she replied, “I don’t say anything. I listen.” Rather asked, “Well, then when you pray, what does God say?” She said, “He doesn’t say anything either. He listens.”
I often describe meditation in this way: Imagine you and a loved one on the couch, each sitting quietly, not talking, just being in each other’s presence. Not thinking, simply loving. You don’t need to talk.
Meditation in the Christian tradition is sitting in the presence of God — not expecting answers, just being. And like sitting with a loved one, this simple act is heartening and strengthening.…

February 1st, 2010
The freedom of commitment

I know where I’ll be every Monday and Tuesday evening, and on Sunday mornings. And I know what I’ll be doing first thing every day. This is in stark contrast to a half dozen years ago. Then, the only thing you could count on from me was that I’d probably be alone in my apartment, though I probably wouldn’t answer the phone. I had no regular weekly commitments. Not a one. When I was invited to social events, I didn’t RSVP; I’d just show up or not — that way I could decide at the last minute. My decision was usually no. This change happened gradually, but it is the result of two large events — renewed sobriety and a radical deepening of my spiritual life — and one simple…

January 18th, 2010
A New Year's challenge: Enhance your connection with God

Fra Angelico's The Conversion of St. Augustine (my patron saint)

I’ve been taken aback these last few weeks by all the retrospectives and their universal declaration that the “aughts” were an awful decade. Objectively, it’s hard to argue as they trot out disaster after disaster, setback after setback. And when pressed, I recall that as the decade began I had a six-figure salary at a high-flying dot-com, millions to come with the genuinely likely public offering, and a beautiful girlfriend. I had none of those things within a few years. But I need to be reminded of the losses and setbacks and derailed career, because my perception of the story line of the decade is entirely different. For me the aughts weren’t awful; they were awesome.

You see, for me the key events of the decade are: reclaiming my sobriety, my conversion and baptism, and feeling and answering the call to return to writing, with a new focus on spiritual work. The past decade has in many ways been the most joyous of my life. It has been a period of spiritual growth, of expanding community, and of a radically increased sense of usefulness and purpose.

There’s an obvious connection here. As I said in my column, “Losing your footing and finding the ground“, losing the material things that define our lives can shake us into adjusting our focus, our priorities.

But mine is not a neat and tidy conversion story of: “My life was pointless and painful, then I found God, and now everything is rosy.” For me, the life stripped away by the dot-com bubble burst and 9/11 did matter and, in many ways, was good. I looked forward to going to work every morning and figuring out how to bring more music into people’s lives. My work was both creative and challenging. I lost a good thing. And the same was certainly true of my relationship.

December 31st, 2009
(1930-2009)

Did any among us not grow up with Disney? Children of the 40s marked their years with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo and Bambi. For boomers, it was Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, One Hundred and One Dalmatians and Jungle Book. By the time I came along, Disney’s animated features had lost their spark. But my family gathered around the family TV set every Sunday night at 7:30 to watch The Wonderful World of Disney… — a collection of animation, feature movies, TV dramas and nature documentaries. This brew, rich on American stories like Davey Crockett, helped shape my worldview. For children of the 80s and 90s, Disney animated feature films

December 13th, 2009
Making the best of a bad situation

ww18-alcoholic-parent-inside-The_Drunk

Are you going home for Christmas with trepidation because it means dealing with a drunken parent? Are you not going home for Christmas because, after years of discomfort, you’re not willing to put up with it anymore?

Ever since I first wrote about alcoholism and addiction in the What Works column (Am I An Alcoholic?, Spiritual Recovery), people have asked about a parallel issue — when a friend, family member or partner is an addict or alcoholic. It’s too big a topic to cover in a single column, so for this family holiday, I’ll tackle the most relevant part of it: a parent who’s an alcoholic or addict.

Before my parents passed away, Christmas meant visiting their home. And, among other things, dealing with my dad’s alcoholism. My dad was usually a pretty harmless drunk, getting gradually mellower and eventually passing out. But occasionally he would get rageful instead. And though he never resorted to physical violence, that is all too common a result when alcohol simultaneously fuels anger and loosens inhibitions. (Being of a mix of pilgrim and pioneer stock, my parents’ form of punishment was not violence but shunning — the silent treatment — which could last for days.)

But family holidays meant more drinking than usual, and it meant my dad stayed up and engaged. This combination meant an “incident” or two — of anger or inappropriateness — was likely.

November 30th, 2009
The spiritual value of not running late

This is one I still struggle with. A lot. I’m in no way an expert in getting places on time. But I’m much better than I used to be. And the reason I’ve improved is that I’ve come to understand more and more how it’s not just about time management. If you’re a chronically late person, it can carry behind it a lot of other issues — disrespect, dishonesty, creating chaos, self-centeredness, to name a few — and it bothers other people more than you realize.
There are so many reasons to be on time. The most obvious is that running late is stressful. It adds to the anxiety in your life with no change in outcome. Whether you’re early, just in time, or late, once you’re…

November 4th, 2009
A follow-up as the debate enters its final stage

Thousands of you read, responded to and shared my August piece about the health care debate and Catholicism. We are now in the final phase of the Congressional process and some things are clearer than they were then. Catholic Church leaders wanted undocumented immigrants included in the bill. They are not. Sadly, the Church stands almost alone among organizations in this country in its concern for the undocumented. They wanted universal coverage, and to the surprise of many, it looks like it will happen.
But, though the House bill does not fund or encourage abortion services, the bishops and most Catholics wanted specific language keeping abortion out of the bill entirely, and making it impossible for a future…

November 2nd, 2009
An unassuming little tool in my spiritual first aid kit that can have a big impact

I want to share with you a little method with a big impact: the Welcoming Prayer. This unassuming little method has helped me many times. What’s your first impulse when you have a “bad” feeling? If you’re like me, it’s usually to suppress it. But we all know that doesn’t work. What you focus on sticks around. This is one of the big lessons you learn through meditation. If you try to suppress a thought, it becomes your entire focus. Worse than before.
But while a regular meditation practice can inculcate a balanced relationship with your feelings and emotions, with the serenity that comes from that, sometimes you need help now, in the field. You can’t exactly sit down on…

October 19th, 2009
Letting go of our burdens

We’ve all heard the jokes. Ever since the term “baggage” entered popular use thanks to the 80s inner child movement, it’s been both a warning — “I have a lot of baggage” — and a punchline.
Example: A few weeks ago on Jay Mohr’s sitcom, Gary Unmarried…, before he meets his ex-wife’s new boyfriend, she says: “And I really like him, so please don’t make that joke about how his strong grip will come in handy when he’s carrying all my baggage, OK?”
The broad definition of baggage is: something from the past that continues to weigh you down.
Christine used the word “fraught” in last week’s excellent column

October 4th, 2009
You won't miss anything important

what_works-no_news-inside

I don’t mean to put anyone out of work in this difficult economy — I even have several friends in this profession — but I implore you to turn off the news and leave it off. Mainly, I want you to turn off the local news, where “if it bleeds, it leads” and the priority, after titillating you with gore, is to scare you — because they thrive if we think we have to watch or we’ll die.

There are a number of reasons I recommend turning off the news. First, life is stressful enough already. Who needs this? Second, if you are powerless over something, there’s usually no benefit in worrying about it. Third, exposing yourself regularly to the ugliest aspects of society darkens and coarsens your view of other people, which takes you away from compassion and love, and thus away from God. It undermines your spiritual fitness.

Rather than helping us better to mourn — to see the suffering in the world with an open heart — watching the news regularly hardens our hearts. In order to face so much suffering with no option of relevant action, we detach from it; we tune it out, if you will.

September 20th, 2009
Stop wasting so much time figuring out what to do

I was on a retreat this weekend, and do you know what one of the little pleasures was for me? Coming to the dining room at mealtimes and being presented with a single option — simply accepting what is offered. Why is this lack of choice a comforting treat rather than an annoying limitation? Because having to choose from dozens of options — having to decide what to do every minute of the day — can be exhausting, and stressful. And, like the dinner menu, many of the decisions we face every day are entirely unimportant.
I live in New York City. More than any other single place on this planet, perhaps, it offers lots of options. This can be exhilarating, but it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. On any given…

September 7th, 2009
Discernment is about uncovering what you already know

I’ve written several columns here with suggestions that are rather directive — get enough sleep, use the downturn to find your calling, meditate regularly… and then there was my column about not saying ‘should’ and ‘have to’.
“Um,” said a reader after the ‘don’t should’ column, “How do I know when to make a change and when to go easy on myself — how do I know when to apply which principle?”
It’s a great point, and I’m grateful to be called out on it. It’s all well and good to say we should live in the now and accept God’s plan as it unfolds, but that doesn’t mean we should be passive. Using…

August 23rd, 2009
A Catholic convert calls on his Church to be a positive force in extending health care to all

People of faith are not of one political party or the other — not all conservative or all progressive, all right or all left. But most people of faith believe as a core principle that we should love one another and care for one another — that this is how we express Divine Love.

Can we agree on this: Can we agree that it’s a scandal that tens of millions of Americans live in fear of getting sick, because of the ruin it might bring to their lives? And that many of the rest of us are only a layoff away from the same situation? This is not a statement of rights. This is not an argument for exactly how to extend to those people the security of universal coverage. But can we agree that it is for the Common Good that this be done?

It upsets me how little I’ve heard from religious leaders. Most notably, what I’ve heard from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. While the bishops have gone on record multiple times in favor of universal coverage, their recent focus on attacking the current proposals gives the impression they are hostile towards the whole effort. I know the bishops want universal coverage. I’ve read the urgency of their words on the subject. But that’s not the message that’s reaching politicians or the general public.

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