Busted Halo

Practical tools for your personal spiritual life from Phil Fox Rose.

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September 29th, 2011

I often hear people talking about living in the present moment as if it is a struggle, some cosmic game of attempting to grasp something that is fleeting, illusory. They say things like, “the moment I have it, it’s gone.” While this is true and can be frustrating, the last thing present moment awareness is about is grabbing serenity. I have always liked the metaphor of the river (borrowed from my Christian contemplative practice of centering prayer) in talking of the flow of thoughts. Imagine the stream of consciousness as a river, with boats and debris representing thoughts. You’re sitting on the bank of the river watching it. Normal awareness has you looking at each individual boat-thought, following it down the river with your eyes — and to strain the metaphor, getting on it and opening hatches — then suddenly shifting your awareness to another boat and so on. If your mind is particularly cluttered, you can feel overwhelmed by all the boats you have to look at and it can feel like that classic I Love Lucy skit with the conveyor belt at the chocolate factory, like you’re falling behind and they start slipping by. There can be a sense of panic that a thought that’s getting past you without attention is important and you’re missing it.

Present moment awareness is simply sitting on the bank and watching the river, not the boats. Boats cross your field of vision and you do see them, but you don’t follow them with your eyes or get on them. They’re not out of focus, but you don’t focus on them.

September 15th, 2011

My last column, about waiting patiently for a late bus, provoked some interesting comments and reactions (on the site and directly) that tease out the bigger issues involved. While I wrote about waiting for someone who’s late, two commenters brought up the flipside of the same time management coin — what to do when you’re going to be late yourself through no fault of your own. Fellow Busted Halo contributor Ginny Moyer wrote…

August 11th, 2011

You have just enough time left if you act now to join me in the Million PALA Challenge — a national campaign to get people active. (Sign up and join us at “Team Busted Halo” or group #935845.) This challenge has been going on for a year, and I’m sorry about the last minute notice, but you still have time. I learned about it just recently from Kevin Sorbo, whose organization, A World Fit For Kids, is an official partner of the presidential program responsible for the challenge, and signed up myself….
To complete the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) challenge and receive an (emailed) PALA certificate “signed” by co-chairs Drew Brees and Dominique Dawes, you have until

July 14th, 2011

One of the things I notice whenever I spend time on retreat at a monastery (as I did a few weeks ago) is how much I enjoy the regular meal times, with some of the same food choices day after day. This is not… the way I live my life. Which makes me wonder: Why don’t I do the same thing at home?
At the monastery, breakfast is one hour after I wake up — 1 hard-boiled egg, 2 slices of toast with orange marmalade. Lunch is four hours later; dinner, five hours after that. The food for lunch and dinner varies, but it is what it is. You eat what you are offered.
Here’s how I eat at home a lot of days: I’m running late in the morning, so I leave the house without breakfast. Sometimes I eat a fruit and nut bar on the way to work,

June 2nd, 2011
Reviving an abstinence tradition that never really went away

A few weeks ago, when the bishops of England and Wales decided to reestablish the practice of abstaining from meat on Fridays, I had been thinking about the issue already after seeing friends struggle with the few Fridays of Lent. I have abstained from “meat” on Fridays since becoming Catholic. (I put meat in quotes because seafood is allowed.) Since Vatican II, this practice hasn’t been required — one well-meaning friend even suggested I was being disobedient by doing it — but when I discovered during my conversion that the tradition was not eliminated but just made non-mandatory, I said to myself, “I think I’d like to do that anyway.”

Meat-free Fridays were a given from at least the ninth century, but it seems that when things were loosened in the 1960s, Catholics said a collective sigh of, “Well, glad that nuisance is over,” and started eating meat seven days a week. The Church never removed the requirement that one do something penitential every Friday (abstinence being one option), but many Catholics I talk to don’t even know this. I’d like to join with the English and Welsh bishops in suggesting a return to the tradition of meat-free Fridays.

May 26th, 2011
Spending time outside is nurturing for you spiritually and physically

Making sure to fit nature into my life, and encouraging others to do to the same, is a passion of mine. As a writer, it’s easy enough to stay holed up indoors in a room in front of my computer all day, but my encounters with the divine in nature helped form — and, it would be the right word choice to say, nurture — my spiritual path. Nature continues to ground me in my connection to the spiritual dimension of reality.

The fact that I live in a city, without any outdoor space of my own — no backyard or balcony — doesn’t mean it’s difficult to make this happen. There are parks all around, and just a walk in the sun down city streets can be enriching. For example, after working in the office, I often go to a park and spent a little time birdwatching or just strolling.

And contrary to all the neo-Luddite moaning out there, technology is now making it easier to stay connected with the non-technological world. Many of the advances in recent years have focused on untethering people from their desks. I am writing this column on my iPad; not only can I write it but even file it while sitting on a log in the middle of the woods, or on the grass in a city park. (OK, well, as long as there’s an AT&T signal.)

May 4th, 2011
A look at the responses to bin Laden's death

I was going to stay quiet on the whole issue of the public reaction to bin Laden’s killing, but after an hour or so of Facebook chatter on Sunday night, I put up a post on my wall expressing my frustration that people were gloating and cheering, reminding them that the issue is not whether he deserved punishment — I had no doubt that he was an evil man who had done unspeakable harm to the world; I lived in lower Manhattan on 9/11 and saw the attack and inhaled the smoke for weeks and lived with its aftermath — I just asked people to reconsider cheering over a death, any death. I had intended that this brief remark be my only statement on the issue. But the reaction to my post and those of other friends caught me…

April 20th, 2011
An Easter meditation

I always go to the Easter Vigil. I don’t do it out of duty; I do it out of love. My own baptism happened at a vigil and my appreciation for the gift of life that was given to me brings me back every year. But more importantly, the vigil reminds me that renewal is not only for those being baptized — it is available to all of us, any time. Easter, among other things, is about what is often translated as being “reborn” or “born again,” but is more correctly rendered as being “born from above.” As Pope Benedict powerfully conveys in his new book, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week…, resurrection is not resuscitation, it’s “about breaking out into an entirely new form

February 25th, 2011
A look at the discussion about lying sparked by the Lila Rose videos

An interesting thing has happened because of the debate over Lila Rose’s tactics in going after Planned Parenthood. A serious discussion has erupted across the Catholic blogosphere about the morality of lying. As some of you will remember, I have written two columns here before about lying: “Radical Honesty” about two years ago and, last summer, “Are Affirmations Lying?“
I have enjoyed and been educated by the healthy debate among moral theologians and other deep thinkers, which was kicked up in part by the wonderful article here in Busted Halo…, “Building a Culture of Lie,” by Dawn Eden and William Doino Jr. I am not a theologian, but find the subject fascinating

February 10th, 2011
Helpful tool or digital distraction?

As Ginny Moyer’s recent article here on e-readers and the reader responses showed so eloquently, you’re either comfortable with digital replacements for technologies or you’re not. To me, while they have their limits, for sure, I love their benefits. For example, my iPhone and iPad are loaded with digital study bibles from Olive Tree and the iMissal app for daily readings and the hours. (I’ve also sung the praises of the amazing handwritten Saint John’s Bible and my home is filled with books.)
There’s a new iPhone app, Confession: A Roman Catholic App, from Little iApps, that’s been making quite a stir this week. Since I’m always looking for tools that might…

January 27th, 2011
Facing questions of direction and purpose

The other day, I was reading a biography of Fr. Isaac Hecker, founder of the Paulists, and it was describing the American challenge into which he was born: unlimited freedom of choice leading to a groundlessness — children weren’t expected to follow their parent’s career choices; people didn’t spend their whole lives in the same community and learn to live with and love their neighbors for better or worse; the authority of people and institutions was not recognized automatically. But what the American of 1850 saw as groundlessness would today seem stodgy and limited. Comparatively, we live in a world of almost complete lawlessness. This makes the desire for a sense of purpose —…

January 10th, 2011
Walter Parker (1939 - 2010)

When my neighbor Walter Parker passed away in October, I knew the following: he was one of the sweetest people I’d ever met; he spent a lot of time in front of our building shooting the breeze, or just enjoying it; and he had some crazy-sweet deal on his rent. That was about it. Walter was my neighbor for 15 years and occasionally we chatted, usually about the building or the weather, or something equally innocuous; often I would just nod and say “hi” and he’d do the same.
But when I attended his memorial service at Grace Church, I was startled to discover that Walter was a prominent and active member of his church community and a serious student of the Bible.
My first thought was, “Oh, what…

December 26th, 2010
They block us from our full potential -- are you willing to let go of yours?

In my recent interview about the spirituality of being on time, I talked about the fact that the spiritual answer is not just to behave, but to change oneself interiorly. Of course, that’s beyond the scope of this column, but I want to talk in this column about one aspect of what needs to change: character defects.
In twelve-step recovery programs, there’s an inventory process, where the person identifies those recurring patterns or tendencies that have caused them trouble — things like dishonesty, self-seeking, and envy. (Opinions vary as to the benefits of listing specific versus broad defects.) The Sixth Step then says, “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects…

November 29th, 2010
A daily review can help you stay on the path

It’s remarkable (though not really) how easily we can forget the emotionally charged things that happen in a day. The problem is that if we aren’t resolving them we aren’t really forgetting them. Take this example: a few weeks ago, I was having a delightful weekend day in the country. After brunch with a friend and an invigorating hike in the multi-hued autumn woods, followed by a relaxing evening preparing a home-cooked meal and curling up with a fun movie, I prepared to do the examen thinking it would be awfully quick, since it had been such an uneventful and pleasant day. Five minutes later, I found myself immersed in the recollection of a phone call I had gotten but not picked up during brunch,…

October 17th, 2010
Letting go of the desire to be God's enforcer

Recently, I sat next to a woman on the long bus rise to the country who spent an hour on the phone tracking down the owner of the hair salon she’d been at earlier that day. (We’ll put aside for this discussion that you are asked not to use your cell phone on the bus unless it’s an emergency, out of consideration to your fellow passengers.) Once she got the owner, she launched into a detailed complaint about the service she’d received from a stylist, firmly suggesting that the stylist needed to change her approach to customer relations and that the owner needed to appreciate the importance of good customer service in retaining clients. But instead of the thirty-odd words I just used, she lectured…

September 26th, 2010
A simple prayer with a powerful message

“God, grant me the serenity…” You’ve probably heard the Serenity Prayer, whether while attending a 12-Step meeting as a member or guest, or from watching a movie or TV show with a representation of one. Recited by Christians, non-Christians and “spiritual-but-not-religious” seekers alike, the Serenity Prayer is part of our culture. This is due in large part to its adoption by Alcoholics Anonymous, from there spilling over into many recovery and self-improvement activities. Its genius is its brevity — how it says so much that is important in so few words.
But it can also become meaningless through repetition, so I want to devote a column to sharing this wonderful…

September 7th, 2010
Get to know the Word of God

The other day I was reading in Acts 8 about Philip the Evangelist, my namesake, along with some study bible commentary on his history. Even though I was named after him, I have never read these passages before. I finally did because recently I began using a plan to read through the entire Bible in a year. 
I’ve led Bible studies, attended college-level classes on scripture, and heard hundreds of sermons about Bible passages. But until now I’ve never read it all — only the “popular bits.” Of course, I’d heard a sermon or two about Philip’s meeting a eunuch on the road to Gaza and baptizing him, but until now I’d never read about the rest of his travels or learned about…

August 22nd, 2010
Phil Fox Rose responds to readers’ questions and comments sparked by his column about gossip

My last column, about gossip, seems to have struck a nerve and inspired a lot of discussion. Since I assume that for every reader who leaves a comment or writes an email, another bunch have that same issue but don’t say anything, I decided to devote another column to the subject, highlighting questions and comments some of you raised.
Several readers asked variations on a very important question: Yes, but is this… gossip…? followed by some scenario. Let me start by reiterating something: there are situations in which it’s appropriate to talk with someone about a third person. Deciding which situations those are is where we must use discernment.
Here’s what reader Frances said by email

July 25th, 2010
Can the concept of affirmations be reconciled with radical honesty?

A reader, Janice J. Holladay, LPC, raised a great point the other day after reading my old column on radical honesty. She had just read a book about affirmations and said:
“It seems that trying to fight a self-defeating belief system with something one knows is just a lie is not the way to go. The book suggests that you say/believe it anyway even though it’s “not yet” true. I just don’t see that lying to oneself ever serves any purpose, and we all do it enough anyway.”
I have been asked variations of the “Are affirmations lying?” question many times, and it is a common source of confusion for people new to spiritual and self-improvement work.
My answer is: It depends.…

July 6th, 2010
Currents tapes a segment with Busted Halo columnist Phil Fox Rose's Centering Prayer group in New York

Watch the video from when Currents visited the Centering Prayer group facilitated by Busted Halo columnist Phil Fox Rose, then read on for helpful tips about Centeering Prayer and meditation.

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